My 12 Favorite Games Of All Time: ‘Persona 4 Golden’

My 12 Favorite Games Of All Time: ‘Persona 4 Golden’

When I originally bought my Playstation Vita back in 2015,  I was already well aware of many of the most highly recommended games. Danganronpa, Freedom Wars and Dragon’s Crown were amongst their ranks, but no game had higher praise than Persona 4 Golden.

Before I first played Persona 4 Golden, my experience with the franchise was extremely limited. I remember seeing gameplay clips of Persona 3 on G4’s X-Play back in the day, and beyond, that my only experience with the games was from two of my best friends.

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They had both become huge fans of Persona 4 in the few years prior, with one of them also falling in love with Persona 3. As such, I had a fairly decent overview of what the Persona games were all about. I would often listen to them gush about how great the games were, or even watch them play through bits of it. Fast forward to a PSN flash sale in 2015, and I’m suddenly playing Persona 4 Golden for myself.

It actually took me quite a few hours to really get into the game. The opening felt a bit too lengthy for me at the time, but in retrospect, I know that this was a necessary step. It does a great job of setting up the story, world and characters, so that the main narrative doesn’t have to waste time once it gets going.

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I can’t exactly remember at what point in the game things finally started to click for me, but I do remember being absolutely enamored with just about everything it had to offer. Persona 4 Golden is equal parts dungeon crawling, turn based jrpg, and high school life simulator. At times you’ll be grinding shadows to prepare for the next boss encounter, while at others you’ll be getting in one more study session before your exams.

What makes Persona 4 Golden so special is that both halves of the game are engaging. The combat system is a fairly standard turn based affair, with the key to victory being exploiting enemy weak points. The variety comes in the form of choosing which Personas you take into battle, as well as being able to adapt to different situations on the fly.

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Many people would argue that the high school life is the best part of the game. I already mentioned studying for exams, and I couldn’t be more serious about that. Persona 4 Golden made me stress about getting good grades more than I ever have in real life. Outside of academics, you can also take part in extracurricular school activities, and develop your bonds with your friends.

Persona 4 Golden has a mechanic known as social links. Essentially, there are a number of characters that you can form a special bond with in the game, and take part in their personal story arc, and doing so with your party members actually helps with their skills in combat.

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Persona 4 Golden has a really strong narrative, but what makes me truly love the game is the cast of characters, more specifically, your party members. Yosuke, Chie, Yukiko, Rise, Naoto, Kanji and Teddie, these people didn’t feel like just video game characters to me, they felt like genuine friends.

None of them are trope-y, one note or stereotypical, they are each fully fleshed out people, each with their own dreams and sets of problems. On the surface, Yosuke feels like just a comic relief character, but he actually deals with serious issues of guilt and self doubt. Another example would be pop idol Rise, who struggles with the realities of being a celebrity. Examples like this can be given for every character, making them much more endearing and relatable.

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It’s rare that video games make me feel anything other than just the sensation of having fun, but Persona 4 Golden managed to do just that, and on multiple occasions. Hanging out at Junes with my friends was super familiar and comforting.  Going on a vacation to a ski resort, and getting snowed in with my girlfriend Chie was strangely romantic, and I adored checking in on Nanako and Dojima.

One moment that will always stick with me is Persona 4 Golden’s Inaba culture festival. As I stood with my friends and watched the fireworks illuminate the night sky, a feeling of profound sadness washed over me. I should’ve been overjoyed to be sharing such a special moment with these people, but I finally realized that my time with them would soon come to an end.

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I didn’t want to leave Inaba. I didn’t want to stop living with Nanako and Dojima. I didn’t want to stop making memories with my friends on the Investigation Team. Even as I inched closer and closer to the final boss, I just wanted time to stop so that I could enjoy my days with the people important to me.

It’s those types of moments that make Persona 4 Golden so special to me. No other game has given me the same warm feelings that this game has, and that sentiment rings especially true for the happy moments. Another one of these would be getting to visit Inaba just a few months after moving back home. 

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It was a nice surprise to see how much the crew had changed. They were still recognizable as my friends, but each of them had attained a new level of maturity and personal growth. Whether it be Naoto embracing her femininity, or Yosuke gaining the confidence to carry on, I was extremely proud of each and every one of my friends.


Just thinking about Persona 4 Golden makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside. Even the game’s rural setting gives me a strange sense of comfort and familiarity, and I always find myself having flashbacks to specific moments that happened in the different locales. Not only is Persona 4 Golden one of my favorite games of all time, but it is one of the best experiences I’ve had in entertainment, period.

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Shantae: Half Genie Hero: Pirate Queen’s Quest’, Risky Waters

Shantae: Half Genie Hero: Pirate Queen’s Quest’, Risky Waters

Last year’s Shantae: Half Genie Hero was a fantastic little adventure (and felt especially great on the Vita). It had fun puzzles and platforming challenges, tons of collectibles and a myriad of cool power ups, not to mention a really funny story. Pirate Queen’s Quest is a downloadable expansion to the original game, one that puts players in the role of Shantae’s swashbuckling rival, Captain Risky Boots.

Pirate Queen’s Quest shows us what Risky was up to during the events of Half Genie Hero. Her goal is to complete an invention known as the Dynamo, a device that will allow her to open a portal to the genie realm. To this end, Risky and her crew are on the hunt for five special components.

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It is important to remember that Pirate Queen’s Quest isn’t a totally new game, rather, it is a very familiar romp, but with a new pair of boots. Risky visits largely the same areas as Shantae did in Half Genie Hero, right down to the boss encounters. The major difference comes in the form of Risky’s pirate tools, new level gimmicks and new collectibles.

Risky lacks Shantae’s animal transformations and magic skills (as well as her sweet dance moves). She instead has access to a number of pirate weapons. Risky starts her adventure with a scimitar and three firearms, namely, a pistol, a homing rocket launcher and another pistol that has a spread shot.

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Risky eventually gains access to a pirate hat that allows her to glide, a cannon that gives her additional jumps, a grappling hook that can be used to reach higher places, and an orb that permits underwater travel. Having such a rich array of tools at your disposal means that Pirate Queen’s Quest scratches that same Metroidvania esque itch that Half Genie Hero did. Revisiting older levels to discover new routes rarely gets old if done correctly, and this expansion nails it.

Risky also has a different method of upgrading her abilities. Instead of buying upgrades from the shop using gems collected in the stages, Risky can only level up using dark magic orbs found in treasure chests. Because of this, defeated enemies drop firearm ammunition instead of currency (they still drops hearts as well).

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At first I didn’t like this approach to upgrades, but I gradually grew to appreciate how it further incentivised exploration and revisiting old levels. Risky’s pirate tools are just as fun to use as Shantae’s transformations, if not more so. They avoid the issue of having one skill feel too similar to another, as each tool serves a different purpose. Additionally, each tool is assigned to a specific button, meaning you don’t have to stop and toggle through item wheels (though I personally never found this to be an issue in the original game).

The majority of the levels are extremely similar to the way they were in Half Genie Hero, meaning the adventure will feel very familiar to fans of the original game. In order to spice things up, developer WayForward introduced a new level gimmick that takes advantage of Risky’s new moves, and tests player’s reflexes and timing.

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Each level has these grey, floating eyeballs that usually spawn a purple platform upon being hit. Other times however, they will change the terrain of a particular level, an example being the sand platforms in Tassel Town. The game occasionally throws floating rings into the mix as well, which Risky can latch onto with her grappling hook.

Pirate Queen’s Quest strips Half Genie Hero down to its bare essentials. The story, while present, is sparse when compared to the original game, and the hub town has been entirely omitted. When you aren’t in the levels or on the world map, you’re lounging in the captain’s cabin, with the only available options being travel, saving your game or asking for a hint towards progression.

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There are less cutscenes in Pirate Queen’s Quest, but they are just as well written. Risky’s snide remarks about her Tinkerbat minions got a few chuckles out of me, and I loved the various explanations for why she is fighting the exact same bosses as Shantae. In particular, the cutscene following the Tassel Town’s boss was really clever and unexpected.

Folks looking for an entirely new adventure will be let down by Pirate Queen’s Quest, but that also isn’t what the game promised. Rather, it aimed to provide a similar experience, but with new tricks and approaches to level traversal. As someone who loves doing basically the same thing with classic Sonic games, Pirate Queen’s Quest was a great time for me.

 

Disney Animated Canon: ‘Bambi’

Disney Animated Canon: ‘Bambi’

Historical facts for this essay were drawn from the bonus features of the Walt Disney Signature Collection release of the film, as well as this fantastic article written by Johnathan North of the Rotoscopers.

The final film in Walt Disney Animation’s Golden Age lineup is none other than Bambi. Bambi was originally released in 1942, but Walt Disney had actually planned for the film to be the follow up to Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Bambi turned out to have quite the arduous production however, so the project was put on the backburner so that the team could focus on Pinocchio and Fantasia.

Unlike the other Disney films of this era, the original story of Bambi was not a children’s book. Written by Austrian author Felix Salten, Bambi, A Life in the Woods was a distinctly adult novel, making it much harder to adapt into a story that is more in line with the rest of Disney’s catalogue.

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Bambi also presented Walt and his team of animators the challenge of accurately representing realistic animal movement patterns. Up to this point, Disney was known primarily for their cuddly and cartoony animals, and not so much for realism. As such, Bambi became the first film to utilize a practice that is still employed at the company to this day, and that is detailed research.

The animation team was given the opportunity to get up close and personal with many of the woodland creatures that are featured in the film. Walt had them study various elements of animal anatomy so that they could better understand their movements. Disney is quite famous for this level of authenticity, as they did the exact same thing with animal walk cycles and fur patterns for The Lion King, as well as the Swedish structures featured in Frozen.

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Watching Bambi’s movements in the film really drives home just how dedicated they were to being as realistic as possible. Bambi is just as lanky as any other newly born fawn, and way that the deer leap and bound across the meadows is very impressive.

Bambi was one of Disney’s greatest breakthroughs in what is known as effects animation. Elements like raindrops and lightning were of great importance to the film’s aesthetic. The animation team would spend hours watching water drip and breaking glass, all in an effort to better render these moments in animation.

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Another challenging task for the film were the backgrounds. Forests in real life are thick and obtrusive, making them a poor match for Bambi’s more cheerful moments. As such, the team opted for softer, painterly style backgrounds.

Walt himself wanted to the film to have a greater sense of depth than Disney’s previous efforts, and he used the 1937 short film, The Old Mill, as a test bed of sorts for new camera techniques (not unlike what was done during the Silly Symphonies),  giving the film a much more realistic framework.

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The story begins with the birth of a young fawn named Bambi. Almost the entire forest shows up to witness the first moments of the soon to be prince of the forest, and Bambi quickly makes friends with a young bunny named Thumper (and later, an absolutely adorable skunk named Flower).

The major narrative themes of Bambi are growth and discovery. Bambi doesn’t embark on some grand quest across the land, he is simply a young fawn learning his place in the world, and of the responsibilities that will one day be his.

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Eventually, Bambi is forced to learn the harsh realities of the world beyond his comfy little thicket. Humans are the primary antagonist in Bambi, and hunting season is an especially harrowing time for the residents of the forest. The hunting element is an important footnote in this film’s history, as it was actually disparaged by real world hunting organizations for its portrayal of the sport.

One of the most famous scenes in the film is the death of Bambi’s mother. As she is enjoying spending time in the meadows with her son, she notices the presence of humans. Without hesitation, she instructs Bambi to race towards their thicket, but she is unable to join him.

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Disney’s history has no shortage of tragic moments, and this was perhaps the start of them. What I find really interesting about her death is the way in which Bambi reacts to it. As humans, we typically go through a period of mourning for our loved ones. But as an animal, and one with great responsibility, Bambi is forced to continue his growth without the aid of his mother.

Bambi is somewhat of an oddball in Disney’s Golden Age, as it was not as critically lauded as its predecessors. Disney’s audience was conditioned to expect whimsical fantasy stories from the company, but Bambi, although still upbeat at times, was much more grounded than say, Pinocchio or Dumbo.

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Bambi was also not financially successful. World War II prevented the film from being released in European territories, cutting off a significant area of profit for the company. And again, many critics did not like that the film was not a fantasy, even Walt’s own daughter!

But Bambi has proved itself to be a film that earned the respect it rightfully deserved. Subsequent re-releases of the film allowed it to become profitable, and in 2011 it was inducted into the National Film Registry at the Library of Congress for its resonant message of nature conservation.

I feel that Bambi was a great film to cap off Disney’s Golden Age. As a fan of animation and Disney history, I really appreciate just how different it was compared to its sibling films, with its greater emphasis on realism. Bambi is a great film, and I’m certain that it paved the way for more mature storytelling and theming in animated films.

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Anime Series Review: ‘Akame ga Kill!

Anime Series Review: ‘Akame ga Kill!

Watching Akame ga Kill was a very interesting experience for me. I remember catching a few episodes of the English dub when it premiered on Toonami a few years ago, and it seemed pretty cool. So when I went to my first A-Fest in 2016, I decided to start collecting the manga.

At the time of this writing, I own all of what has been released in English for both the original Akame ga Kill, and the prequel spin-off known as Akame ga Kill Zero. As such, this is my first time watching an anime where I was already familiar with the manga’s storyline.

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At its core, Akame ga Kill is a story about death and corruption. Our protagonist is a plucky young boy named Tatsumi, and he is joined by his two childhood friends on a journey from their quaint little village to the capital city, a place full of opportunities. Things quickly turn for the worst however, as the brutal death of his friends is used to teach Tatsumi the harsh realities of the world.

Tatsumi is eventually recruited by a group known as Night Raid, a gang of assassins who operate in the shadows to change the corrupt empire. In order to carry out their missions, most of Night Raid is equipped with powerful weapons called Imperial Arms, or Teigu.

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Teigu were forged in ancient times of war, and are extremely diverse in appearance and abilities. Night Raid member Akame wields the katana Murasame, a blade that can kill with only a single scratch, while Bulat, and later Tatsumi, can call upon the armor of a dragon named Incursio.

Other Teigu manifest as an emotionally charged firearm, a deadly binding thread, and even a visor that can read minds and conjure illusions. Teigu are really cool in concept, but they leave a bit to be desired in terms of execution. Due to a combination of  Teigu diversity, and lack of balance on the writer’s end, Akame ga Kill’s power scale is all over the place.

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Some Teigu are rather simple (Murasame, Lubba’s Cross Tail threads), while there are others that allow the user to heal from having limbs severed,  and even raise the dead to do their bidding. Having such a plethora of unique fighters is at times, a good thing, but it left me feel a little confused at the staggering difference between weapons.

General Esdeath is at the heart of the power scale issue, as she is so absurdly overpowered that most fights involving her are a joke. To be fair, I think her being as strong as she is was done to establish just how intimidating the task of overthrowing the empire truly is (not to mention the fact that she is essentially half Danger Beast), but this was something that stuck out to me about her.

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Akame ga Kill also somewhat suffers from the Naruto problem of having ninja that don’t adhere to our traditional idea of ninja (which for me is, admittedly, based heavily on Western stereotypes). The only genuine assassins in the show are Akame, Lubba, Chelsea and occasionally the wielder of Incursio. Aside from them, no one else’s Teigu are really suited for assassination tactics, meaning missions that don’t specifically target weaker foes usually result in all out brawls.

Akame ga Kill’s biggest problem is that it often feels rushed. The manga was still running when the anime premiered, so a few changes had to be made here and there. The first half of Akame ga Kill’s 24 episodes are pretty accurate to the manga, and have a nice, consistent pace. But the latter half show’s that 12 episodes was not enough to cover the story that was trying to be told.

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Everything moves way too fast. Certain story beats were either omitted or heavily altered, death scenes are rushed and not given room to breath, and worst of all, a handful of characters are criminally underdeveloped.

The minister’s son, one of the main antagonists in the manga, is only in about two episodes, and Esdeath’s group of Jaegers are given so little screen time that they may as well not even be there, the major exceptions being Kurome and Bols. This is especially disappointing as a manga reader, as Wave became my favorite character because of his great story arc.

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My biggest issue with Akame ga Kill, both the manga and anime, is its name. I know this is extremely petty, but it has always bothered me that the show is named after Akame. Don’t get me wrong, I think she is a great character, but Tatsumi is the one the story centers on.

In addition, Akame isn’t any more or less important than the rest of the cast, which made it really confusing for me when the anime’s openings and endings billed her relationship with Kurome as the emotional crux of the story.

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In spite of the negative critiques I’ve given thus far, I don’t think Akame ga Kill is a bad show. With the exception of the statement about the show being rushed, most of my other complaints were just me nitpicking. In all honestly, I just think the show is pretty average, but almost painfully so.

I love the cast, but I’ve seen much better. Some of the fights have a cool action shot here and there, but they are mostly just passable. Are you seeing a pattern here? Akame ga Kill is a fairly standard experience, overall. The best things about the show are the music (special mention to the second opening song, Liar Mask), and the animation, which, is sharp, fluid and brimming with color. The show is also genuinely funny when it wants to be.

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Akame ga Kill was a fun watch for me, mostly because I’m willing to accept its flaws in order to enjoy what was presented. It has some interesting ideas, but it never develops them in a way to make the show truly stand out. Fans of the manga will probably find the show enjoyable, especially if you’re someone like me who actually prefers when the anime adaptation isn’t just a carbon copy, but I’d be hard pressed to recommend it to somebody who wasn’t already interested.

Oh yeah, as is customary for me to say at this point, Mine is best girl. Though she just barely beats out Chelsea.

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A Word On Video Game Trophies And Achievements

A Word On Video Game Trophies And Achievements

Note: For the sake of clarity, and because I’m a Playstation gamer, I’m going to be using trophies in place of repeatedly saying both trophies and achievements for the bulk of this piece.

It’s kind of crazy to think just how much trophies and achievements have grown since their inception. What started as a simple, but innovative extension of normal gameplay has evolved to feature entire communities regarding the system, with some of the more notable ones being Achievement Hunter and PSN Profiles.

As the trophy and achievement ecosystem has grown, so too has the line that divides those that love them, and those that could care less. Because this is the internet, I think I deserve to give my two cents on the subject.

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So what exactly are trophies? In short, they are virtual rewards for completing some sort of game specific objective. Examples can range from something as mundane as completing the tutorial, all the way to defeating a game’s final boss. A fairly simple concept, one would think, so how could something so seemingly harmless possibly be divisive?

Various trophy and achievement driven communities have cultivated over the years, leading to the creation of people that are known as trophy hunters. These are people that love collecting trophies, and have a small sense of pride when it comes to the task.

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On the other side, there are people who actively hate the entire system, and I’ve personally never really understood the vitriol. My stance has always been this: trophies are there for the people that want them, and you can just ignore them if you don’t care. In fact, the consoles even allow you to completely disable trophy notifications.

The primary reasoning I’ve seen these people give is the fact that they’ve seen others behave rather obnoxiously when it comes to comparing trophies, something I jokingly do with my friends. I’ll give them a good ribbing when I find that I’ve earned more trophies than them in a game, all while casually ignoring the ones they’ve beaten me in.

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There are hunters out there that do take the hobby a bit too seriously, and genuinely mock those with low trophy levels and gamerscores, but I’ve seen less and less of these people in recent years. Just because you love collecting platinum trophies, doesn’t mean you can insult someone for not having any, nor should trophy hunters be disparaged for loving them.

Because trophies and achievements are entirely optional, I don’t think they should really detract from a game’s overall experience. However, I’ve found that a really good trophy list can actually add to a game’s enjoyment.

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A great personal example is Infamous: First Light (best Infamous game by the way). I adore that game’s challenge rooms, and going after the related trophies made me really appreciate just how finely crafted that game is. Most of the Ratchet & Clank games also have really great lists, with many of them asking for 100 percent completion, with a few jokes sprinkled in for good measure.

A good trophy list can also ask you to play the game in interesting ways. Earlier this year, I obtained the platinum trophy for Shantae: Half Genie Hero, and two of the trophies involved speed running the game. If it weren’t for those trophies, I’m certain that I would never have attempted a speed run, but doing so gave me quite a bit of knowledge on some of the game’s finer tricks and nuances.

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Sadly, most trophy lists are bad. Many of them are generic afterthoughts (complete chapter 1, get your first kill etc.), or just really uninspired (most of the Uncharted games, sadly). Even worse is when a game has hidden trophies with cryptic or unintuitive requirements. Trophies, even hidden ones, should be possible to unlock by playing organically, not going through oddly specific situations.

I know I said that trophies should never negatively influence your perspective on a game, but it is rather disappointing when developers clearly don’t put in the effort to make an interesting list, especially with how big the communities around these collectibles have gotten.

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A good list doesn’t even have to be one that is challenging or engaging. There have been a handful of games that have opted for humorous and meta trophies, as opposed to serious ones. Portal 2 is probably the best example, with many of the trophies being pretty oblivious to the fourth wall. Undertale is a great recent example, as it turns the simple task of picking up items into a sort of running gag.

Almost as much as I love collecting trophies, I love looking at my friends’ collections. I often compare my list to those of my PSN friends, and I use them to gauge what they are playing, how much they enjoy a particular game, or how much progress they’ve made in the story.

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Trophies and achievements are there for the people that want them, and can easily be ignored by people that don’t. There are a few developers out there that genuinely do try to create interesting trophy lists, something I wish many more would attempt. Much like any community of like minded individuals, the trophy community is often a really fun and inviting place to be.

I love trophies, short and simple. They’ve challenged me to play games in ways that I wouldn’t have otherwise, and have given me added enjoyment with numerous titles. I consider myself a proud trophy hunter (though my platinum collection is paltry compared to many others), and I don’t see that changing anytime soon.

Disney Animated Canon: ‘Pinocchio’

Disney Animated Canon: ‘Pinocchio’

The Walt Disney Animation company was on top of the world after the success of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. The film was a technical marvel and a critical darling, and Walt Disney and his team truly showed what animation was capable of. Looking to further innovate in the field of animation, Walt used the profits from Snow White to build a new studio, and upgrade most of his crew’s equipment.

Walt Disney was a man who was simultaneously able to live in the moment, and look forward to the future, so while Snow White was in production, he already had his eyes set on the company’s next feature length film, 1940’s Pinocchio.

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Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was the result of years of experimentation in animation techniques, musical sequences and narrative, all culminating in the first ever feature length piece of animation. It is a historically ambitious film, but the studio sought to achieve even greater heights with their follow up film.

Pinocchio really demonstrates just how much Disney learned about feature length production. Walt specifically encouraged his team to come up with as many ideas as possible, hoping to foster an attitude of unbridled creativity. As such, Pinocchio takes the audience to numerous fresh and exciting locales.

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In the opening scene, Geppetto the craftsman is dancing through an intricately detailed workshop with his latest puppet creation, all while being accompanied by his little black cat, Figaro, as well as Cleo the goldfish. Later scenes will show Pinocchio as a member of a traveling stage show, on a whimsical, yet haunting island and even in the belly of a whale.

Pinocchio’s structure is borderline episodic at times, almost as if you could divide the film up into a mini television series. This is largely because the original story of Pinocchio, written by Italian artist Carlo Collodi, was told in individual trades, until they were later compiled into a single book.

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This is also shown in the number of one off characters that are featured in Pinocchio. The silver tongued Honest John, the ill-tempered and greedy Stromboli, and even Pinocchio’s naughty friend Lampwick, it’s commendable just how well Disney was able to fit such memorable characters into a rather tight story.

Disney’s adaptations are quite famous for hitting many of the high points and key characters from the source material, but softening them up a bit to make them more appealing (though many Disney films do retain the darker elements of the original stories). Pinocchio is the first major example of this.

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Collodi’s Pinocchio was a cocky and brash mischief maker, while the Disney rendition is a sweet but naive little boy. As I said before, this was done to make Pinocchio, the character who was the crux of the entire story, more endearing to the audience. This was so imperative that at one point, Walt halted production on the film in order to perfectly capture the look of Pinocchio.

Many of the original characters sketches of Pinocchio were much more rigid, wooden and, well… puppet-like. The character would eventually be given more rounded, human like edges, while still retaining the look of something made from wood.

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Another thing that separates the two Pinocchios is the character of Jiminy Cricket. In Collodi’s story, Jiminy was an almost insignificant character, one that Pinocchio actually killed with a brick (he would later return as a ghost). But Disney decided to depict Jiminy as Pinocchio’s conscience, a guiding voice on his shoulder to show him the right way of doing things.

Jiminy doesn’t actually give Pinocchio too much advice, and Pinocchio is usually easily convinced by people like Honest John to do the exact opposite of what he was told. This may seem at odds with Jiminy’s role in the story, but I feel that Disney was aiming not for Jiminy to hold Pinocchio’s hand the entire way, but to represent what it means to be good and virtuous, and I found this to be very effective.

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On the surface, the Collodi and Disney takes on the character seem worlds apart, and in many ways, they are. But in actuality, both characters share the theme of temptation. Thematic elements such as fame, fortune, cigars and alcohol are prevalent all throughout Pinocchio, with the pinnacle example being the Pleasure Island segment, (formerly known as Boobyland).

Pinocchio eventually gets swept up with a horde of other little boys, and sent to a seemingly wonderful place known as Pleasure Island. Here, the boys are given unlimited freedom. Cigars and pitchers of beer are easy to find, there are houses that exist exclusively to be torn apart and pool halls are a common sight. However, Pleasure Island isn’t all fun and games. The island’s true purpose is to turn delinquent boys into donkeys to be captured and sold.

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The scenes depicting the boys transforming into donkeys are genuinely unsettling. As a child, this was one of the few things that I was frightened of, and as an adult, the animation still manages to elicit chills and beads of sweat out of me.

The look on Pinocchio’s face as he witnesses his friend Lampwick sprout ears really shows the power of an animator’s hands, and I especially love the way Pinocchio discards his cigar and alcohol with utter disgust. As a whole, Pinocchio’s animation is positively breathtaking, so much so that it’s almost hard to believe that only a handful of years separate it and Snow White.

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Most of the film’s characters are cartoony and exaggerated, and this gave the team quite a bit more creative freedom. But even the film’s one realistic character, the benevolent Blue Fairy, shows the fruits of Disney’s efforts when it came to animating the character of Snow White.

Pinocchio also has an extremely cool set piece in the form of Monstro the whale. This sequence involved some rather arduous technical skill, as animating water is notoriously difficult. But the team didn’t cut any corners in this regard, as watching this gargantuan whale dive in and out of the ocean, and knocking Pinocchio and Geppetto all over the place was very impressive.

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Pinocchio did wonderful with critics, and was even the first Disney film to be nominated for the Academy Awards for Best Score and Best Song with “When You Wish Upon A Star”. But the film’s critical success did not reflect its box office numbers. Pinocchio was not nearly as profitable as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and it cost about twice as much to produce.

But in spite of its financial failings, Pinocchio is still regarded as one of the best Disney films of all time. The film has no shortage of iconic moments. Pinocchio’s nose growing when he tells a lie, the Blue Fairy, Jiminy Cricket,and especially Pleasure Island *shudders*, all of these moments have managed to stick with audiences decades after Pinocchio was released.

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Pinocchio may not have been the follow up to Snow White that it needed to be in terms of financial success, but it more than made up for it by just how lovingly crafted the entire project is. The film perfectly encapsulates the idea of Disney magic, right down to it’s famous song about wishing upon stars. Anything your heart desires is sure to come to you, so long as you believe with all of your heart.

Game Review: ‘Uncharted: The Lost Legacy’

Game Review: ‘Uncharted: The Lost Legacy’

Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End was the final chapter in the journey of Nathan Drake. Nate may be retired, but that doesn’t mean the treasure hunting world is any less active. The Uncharted franchise is rife with hidden treasures to be discovered, interesting locales to explore and most importantly, cool characters to follow.

The Lost Legacy started life as a downloadable expansion for Uncharted 4, but quickly evolved into a full fledged retail release due to Naughty Dog’s ambitions. Having said that, the game doesn’t feel like any less of an Uncharted game than the previous entries, but it doesn’t often aim to be anything different.

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Uncharted: The Lost Legacy follows the unlikely duo of Chloe Frazer and Nadine Ross as they attempt to uncover an ancient Indian treasure. These two women are fairly different, with Chloe being much more similar to Nathan Drake himself, while Nadine is a pretty forward thinking person, with an almost trademark short temper.

Lost Legacy’s story does attempt to draw a few parallels between the pair, the biggest example being their family issues and sense of responsibility. However, their relationship isn’t always told so gracefully. Chloe and Nadine don’t have any sort of established friendship, so they don’t quite have the chemistry of say, Nate and Sully.

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I feel that Naughty Dog was attempting to give them a more professional relationship that eventually turns into something more genuine, and in that aspect, they succeeded. But for most of the adventure, you won’t really find the type of dialogue that is more typical of an Uncharted (no shortage of quippy remarks though).

Chloe in particular really shines in The Lost Legacy. Previous games have built her up as the sort of woman that just does things for financial gain (plus the perk of traveling the world), but her journey in this game is a much more personal one, which made me care just a bit more about the overall narrative.

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In many ways, The Lost Legacy reminds me of the first Uncharted game, Drake’s Fortune. Each of the Uncharted sequels took Nate and co. on globetrotting adventures, while the original game focused on one island. Lost Legacy does the same thing. There is only one central island, but there is plenty to see and do. There are various areas on the map that can be explored for story progression, treasures and an optional side quest that unlocks a really useful trinket.

One chapter of the game takes place on a wide open map, similar to Uncharted 4’s driving sections. For me, this was the weakest and most boring part of the game. The area isn’t huge, and you’re given a map to help, but it had a level of nonlinearity that I don’t expect from this series. I appreciate the team wanting to make a more open ended Uncharted, but it didn’t quite resonate with me.

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Puzzles in The Lost Legacy aren’t ever too brain taxing. For the most part, they are simple affairs that ask you to form an image out of jumbled pieces, or turn dials and switches in a certain order. But there is one really cool puzzle that requires the movement of one set of statues, in order to form two distinct pictures, and I found this one to be the most challenging, but also the most fun.

Uncharted has never had really deep shooting mechanics (though I do think they are better than most people give them credit for), but the games have always done a great job of masking this by putting you in unique and challenging situations. If you simply hide behind cover and shoot the entire time, you’ll probably end up dying quite a bit.

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Constant movement is the name of the game. Most environments give you plenty of cover options on the battlefield, meaning you should always be finding new spots to take out enemies, stock up on ammo, and gain better vantage points. The Lost Legacy also borrows the stealth and enemy tagging features from Uncharted 4, making stealth a highly viable option.

Another way in which The Lost Legacy keeps you moving is the set pieces. There are only a handful in the game, but each of them is fun and engaging. The best set piece by far comes at the end of the game, so I won’t spoil it here. However, I will say that I believe it is one of the best in the entire series.

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Uncharted: The Lost Legacy isn’t a new generation of Uncharted, nor is it attempting to be. Plain and simple, it is more Uncharted. It takes the foundation and mechanics of the previous game, and gives us a new story. But more of the same isn’t always a bad thing, especially when you remember that this is one of the most critically acclaimed franchises in modern gaming.

The Lost Legacy is a game for Uncharted faithfuls. It lets us explore the world of Uncharted in the boots of a fan favorite character, and a much welcomed newcomer. The game rarely does anything new or exciting, but I still had fun experiencing an Uncharted “side story”, and I’m definitely open to more of these games with different characters.