Thursday, July 28, 2011

Web Work Review: Sailor Moon R Abridged

Out of all the popular and "well-made" abridged series on the Net, I have to say that Sailor Moon Abridged by Megami33 and company is my least favorite.  It's weird because I'll admit they do a lot of good things with their show.  Their complete overhauls of their characters are fun to watch, except when they go too much or too far, they take some potshots at the English dub (if not nearly as many as something by, say, 4Kids), and their actors are more often than not very, very good.  What leaves a bad taste in my mouth might come off as silly, but I can assure you it is serious business for me: the music selections.  Whoever does the editing for that show apparently runs under the assumption that it's good practice to pick and play song snippets based only on taking that segment's lyrics at face value.  For example, If a scene takes place in a burning building, a less-experienced music supervisor would set it to "Great Balls of Fire", "Ring of Fire", or "Disco Inferno", and I can guarantee you those songs weren't written with being trapped in such a scenario in mind.  Even if they were, having the music tell you what's going on in front of your eyes is corny, noobish, plus you run the risk of the whole song having a meaning unbefitting of the moment it's been appropriated for.  This is a phenomenon known as "Isn't It Ironic" and, if you haven't gathered by now, it's one of my pet peeves..  So given that this is how I happen to view the whole of Sailor Moon Abridged, I did not have fond memories of their take on the Sailor Moon R movie after the first time I saw it.  But would a second third fourth fifth run-through change my opinion?

NB: As we go through this movie, I would like to remind everyone that I will placing most of my critiques against what the SMA team did themselves to the source movie and not to the movie itself, so the plot of the source movie will be glossed over for the most part. 

So the opening credits sequence deptics the civilian scouts visiting a flower park, and - is that the Japanese theme song in the background?  Hm, we might be in for a better show than I thought.  Also of note are the credits themselves; the footage used keeps the original Japanese opening credits (superimposed with added credits from a fansub), but Mina, being the space case that she is, can not only see the credits on the fourth wall, but assumes from them that their action is taking place in... Korea.  I warned you, this kind of character derailment is one of the things I really like about SMA.

Then the plot barges in, and we meet our villain Fiore, who in this version is portrayed as a former gay partner with Tuxedo Mask / Darien ten years before, no matter how much Darien (and Serena) try to deny it.  Also, get used to hearing the phrase "ten years"; they're trying to turn it into a meme.  They next day, the civilian scouts discover a mess of dead unconscious zombied bodies littering the streets of Tokyo Tokyo, USA, due to a flower monster born from a magical dandelion planted that night.  It's at this point where the scouts transform, and, well, the leitmotifs this show's editors use for the transformation sequences have never rubbed me the right way.  They're all songs related in title only to each Scout's element or character trait.  This movie happens to introduce new transformation songs; will we have any more luck here?  ...NO.
  • Sailor Moon: "Candy Store" by Hyper Crush.  Need I remind you that fat/bulimia jokes are a big thing with here in the abridged show.
  • Sailor Mercury: "Don't Trust Me" by 3OH!3.  Specifically, the part that goes "Shush girl/shut your lips/do the Helen Keller/and talk with your hips" because, you know, she's so quiet and almost no one in-series can hear her.  Protip: I hear the real Helen Keller wan't mute.
  • Sailor Mars: "Fire Burning" by Sean Kingston.  She uses fire magic.
  • Sailor Jupiter: A remix of "Somebody Told Me" by The Killers.  In SMA, Sailor Jupiter is a male-to-female transgender, so they must have thought that taking the line "[...]you had a boyfriend/who looked like a girlfriend" literally was a good idea.
  • Sailor Venus: "LoveGame" by Lady Gaga.  Her powers are usually interpreted as love or heart-themed, as per her namesake goddess.
So yeah, not funny all around.  Oh, and Moon's late to the party (claiming that she was distracted by a buffet left unattended), so after transforming she discovers the other Scouts were knocked out (with Mars enjoying the pain).  The monster proceeds to finish off Moon, but is blocked twice by Tuxedo Mask.  His second defence leaves him all but dead (complete with a slow-motion censor sound), letting Fiore and the monster take him up to wherever.  Something else about this series that's always bothered me, particularly around this scene: their censorship is inconsistent.  For example, s??? doesn't get censored but bulls??? does?  Either censor both or neither of them!  ...Preferably both.

But before they can do that, Luna and Artemis give the scouts some exposition, and Mini-Moon gives some well-wishes of her own.  Perhaps I should explain: Sailor Mini-Moon first appears in season 2 of the original show, and the original movie was set at the end of that season, but the SMA crew didn't get that far at the time.  Thus, in their version of the 'verse, Mini-Moon makes her debut here in season 2's movie.  Don't worry; we're given explanation that she is the daughter of Serena and Darien in the future (after a seven-year food-induced coma).  Woah, this is heavy.  Serena is none too pleased at the sudden announcement, particularly in this interpretation.  Also, why does Mini-Moon only talk in baby-like giggles?  Is she really supposed to be a baby in this continuity?  Please, she had better get some more characterization in the series proper.

So the scouts fly off to invade the poorly-CG-renered asteroid (this was 1994; it's not SMA's fault) and discover Fiore, his pet flower monster, and Tuxedo Mask, trapped in a crystal prison filled with... vodka.  Which is a healing substance on Fiore's home planet.  So... space vodka?  They should so use that on DBZ Abridged.  Back on topic, Fiore tells the Scouts of his plan to take over the world by littering it with his seed.  ...That's supposed to be flower seeds, people.  I really, truly wish you don't know what else the could mean by that, I said in sincerity mode.  Then again, they run with that joke for a long time, so the more innocent of you would have to live with it.

A wave of flower monsters rises up to face the Scouts, and after yet another "seed" routine, the Scouts make short work of them.  Mars even calls out her attack with "Mars Spinning Bird Kicku!" apropos of nothing.  No, seriously, her attack doesn't even remotely resemble the Spinning Bird Kick.  Even the one from that one awful movie.  But the flower monsters make one last stand and the other Scouts, sensing the danger, push Moon out of the way before getting swallowed up by the seed... beasts.  I apologize.  Fiore takes advantage of the situation by stealing Moon's energy in exchange for letting the other Scouts free.  Tuxedo Mask breaks free of his healing space vodka crystal prison (stacking adjectives make it awesome) and albeit drunk, protects her from being killed in the process, by throwing a fateful rose at him, killing the monster.

But wait!  The asteroid they're on is about to crash into Earth, acheiving Fiore's goal of destroying the planet after all!  But not if Moon's crustal has anything to say about it; it triggers the power of love which revives her to consciousness, dematerializes Fiore, and re-dresses her.  In the face of all this stress, Megami33's voice remains cool, calm, and collected, cementing her status - and my opinion - of her as a talented little actress.  And - what's this?  They're playing music from the actual (Japanese) soundtrack?  This is just a torrent of awesome!  The SMA crew is treating this epic scene with the dignity and respect it deserves!  I HAVE SEEN THE LIGHT!! AND IT IS --

"Let's shift into turbo!"

And with that, the music suddenly cuts to the theme song from Power Rangers Turbo.  Oh, right, because she just said the word 'turbo', and it's in the title, too...



FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUI forgot my lines.  ..."That's it, I'm taking this review into maximum overdrive"?  I'm not writing that!

Well, there you have it.  This has got to be the worst example of careless music selection in the whole of Sailor Moon Abridged, made even worse by the fact that they interrupted the crowning music of awesome from the source movie while doing it!  And let's not even get into Power Rangers Turbo's widely-held status as one of the worst seasons of that franchise!  You finally really did it...  You maniacs!  You blew it up!  ...The moment, I mean.  And what's up with the credits, with that "Sailor Earth" dance?  I'm not sure of the rules, but is it possible to have a Big Lipped Alligator Moment in the credits?  Phwew, I'm way past the point of caring.  You may now exit your browser.

Looking back on this "movie", I don't hate it as much as I did after the first time I watched it.  I guess the shock of the ending has worn off, although I still maintain my point that it was a boneheaded move to bait and switch the soundtrack like that.  It's times like these that make the project come across as the work of a pre-teen AMV maker.  Although looking at the franchise in macrocosm, that would be an unfair comparison to make, since they put a lot of work into other aspects of the show, particularly the character redefinement.  So, sorry if I'm spending so much time discussing what may be viewed as a minor or non-issuee to many others out there, but by Sabrina, it's been bothering ME.

The Call: 3 inappropriate background songs out of 5 (C)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Game Review: Paperboy

  • Publisher: Mindscape
  • Developer: Tengen
  • Release: NES, December 1988
  • Genre: 2D Action
  • Players: 1-2 alternating
  • Rarity/Cost: Common / US$5-10
It may be a lost art these days, but one of the hallmarks of any worthwhile spoof movie is the ability of its writer(s) to see the potential for humour in mundane, everyday activities. I'll get into that more when I actually review something from the genre, but for now I'd like for you to imagine applying that concept to a job like, I don't know, a bicycle paper route. This is the basic idea behind the video game Paperboy. This game originated as an arcade machine made by Atari Games (as discussed previously, they were separate from Atari's home console division) in 1984, notable for employing an exercise bike-like controller, letting you pedal and turn the handlebars to control your character. As was the usual routine in the 80s, a slew of home ports of Paperboy were released for home consoles and computers. I will be focusing on the 1988 release for the Nintendo Entertainment System (which, unlike other Atari Games/Tengen titles, got a licenced release by Mindscape), as it has nostalgic value for pretty much my whole family.
Getting your angle right is part of the challenge.
Your mission in this game is to ride your bike down the street and throw newspapers to subscribing households. When starting up a new game, you are randomly assigned 10 out of the 20 houses on the block as subscribers (colour-coded in light blue/yellow/white); the other 10 are non-subscribers (colour-coded in dark red). To successfully deliver a paper to a subscriber's house, you have to throw it onto the front doormat, or into the mailbox for more points. You can adjust your aim angle by pedaling faster (Hold Up) or slower (Hold Down), and while the ideal angle is frequently difficulty to get down pat, I'll accept that as part of the challenge. When your supply of papers runs low, find and pick up a bundle to restock. Any subscribers you miss will become non-subscribers in the next round, and if you run out of subscribers, the game is over. You can get one back by delivering to all existing subscribers.

Each round ends with an obstacle course, serving as a bonus section. This dirt-road maze of jumps and walls is controlled by a time limit, which determines your point bonus should you finish succesfully. The time limit in this section always used to spook me as a kid; however, there is no penalty for running out of time, and even crashing doesn't cost you a life as it does in the main section. There are also blue and pink target objects lining the paths here which, along with many, many objects in the main areas, can be knocked over or broken for points. (For the longest time I had no idea you could knock over these targets, since they resemble oversize tires and car batteries.) Some of the traps, such as moving ramps and gates, highlight the game's worse-than-optimal hit detection, but again, it's a good thing that the training courses are penalty-free.
The Training Course is less stressful than the time limit suggests.
Paperboy is weird, at least for an American game. The traps littering the roads and sidewalks include breakdancers who seem to be stuck on their backs, tires and lawnmowers that move on their own, miniature tornado funnels, and even the grim reaper. It's a shame that the less-than-exemplary quality of the graphics make some these things hard to make out. For example, I always used to think the aforementioned grim reapers were just old ladies, what with them shaded entirely in gray apart from black dots for eyes. And the baby blue/yellow colour scheme they chose for your character is just lame. Now, I know the NES's colour palette is limited, but the likes of the Mega Man series -- which got its start before this -- had far better graphics and art direction than this, which would be passable on Atari's old systems. The music is rather minimal and bares only a passing resemblance to the arcade version's tunes, and some of the sound effects come across as weird, especially the one that plays when you pick up extra papers.

Going back to take a formal, in-depth look at Paperboy, I was surprised to discover as many flaws as I did. While the controls, far from perfect as they may be, are easy enough to handle with practice, the only way to describe the graphics is that they were beaten by the ugly stick. That said, it's still a fun and challenging title if you're looking to kill a little time, and if you think about it, it presents a novel take on the shoot-em-up genre. It is, long story short, flawed yet engaging.

Control: 3 newspapers out of 5
Design: 4 newspapers out of 5
Graphics: 2 newspapers out of 5
Audio: 2 newspapers out of 5
Value: 2 newspapers out of 5
The Call: 65% (C)

P.S. I am sorry to report that Paperboy does not work on most after-market "Famiclone" consoles. When tested on the Retro Duo and FC Twin (both reviewed in my description of Famiclones), the game would boot up, but would not read any controller input no matter what. Coincidentally, most of the other Tengen-published games, including the unlicenced "black cartidge" titles, suffer similar compatibility issues, so I wonder if there's a connection. For futher discussion on the topic, read my review on their version of Pac-Man. So, if my review has enticed you to try out Paperboy, be sure to have your old "toaster" control deck in working order.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Music Review: Drops Of Jupiter (Tell Me)

Today, 22 July 2011, marks the one-year anniversary of the founding of the Strawberry Dragon Project blog!  ...Okay, so the first thing I published on that day was only a mission statement, not an actual review.  But the first review I did (on 7 August) was for the song "Hey, Soul Sister" by Train.  In that review, which I still regret and intend touch up a little more, I mentioned how I hated their other biggest hit, "Drops of Jupiter (Tell Me)".  The reasoning for my intolerance of the song was complex; the only way I could describe it was "[...] anything that makes me visualize the Muppets in a poorly animated chorus line can't be good".  Well, I suppose I could temporarily get that image out of my head, and prevent you from suffering the same, by watching the music video.  Anything to help me out as I give you pleasure through my pain on this, the first anniversary special of the SDP!

Now that she's back in the atmosphere
With drops of Jupiter in her hair, hey, hey

Hmm, space symbolism seems to be the name of the game here.  Those of you for whom Sailor Moon comes to mind, believe it or not, you are luckier than I.  ...Then again, if I try to take the lyrics word-by-word, I can't pin any hidden meanings onto each example.  Like "drops of Jupiter"?  What's that supposed to be?

She acts like Summer and walks like rain
Reminds me that there's time to change, hey, hey
Since the return from her stay on the moon
She listens like Spring and she talks like June, hey, hey

For some reason, the vocal rhythm of these lines seems to go out of sync with the piano running the backbeat.  Throws me off every time.  Fortunately, once we throw in the drums and other instruments starting with the next verse, we will cease to have that problem.

Tell me, did you sail across the sun?
Did you make it to the Milky Way to see the lights of Vega all faded
And that Heaven is overrated?
Tell me, did you fall for a shooting star?
One without a permanent scar
And did you miss me while you were looking for yourself out there?

Okay, so the central message of this song is that our man's lover has returned from some trip or other.  With the lyrics being buried neck-deep in thematic elements, it's hard to tell if his welcome wishes are sincere or sarcastic, like how "Good Riddance (I Time of Your Life)" is the latter.  Or so it would seem, but Pat Monahan claims the song was really inspired by the death of his mother.  Still, I suppose this is the sort of song which lends itself to alternate interpretations.  Oh, and with his voice as... blurry as it is, for the longest time I mis-heard some of the lyrics, which I have written and crossed-out for your convenience.

Now that she's back from that soul vacation
Tracing her way through the constellation, hey, hey
She checks out Mozart while she does Tae Bo
Reminds me that there's room to grow, hey, hey, yeah.

...Really?  You're name-dropping Tae Bo?  First of all, that name's a trademark, so even if you had to pay licencing fees and did so, it's just so... jarring.  I don't know, I'll explain it later.  All I know is I've dealt with it before.  Second, who does aerobics to classical music?  Of course, assuming someone does that in real life, I'd really have no choice to respect that, you never know.  Oh, and way to date yourself!  Wasn't that fad already on its way out the door in 2001?

Now that she's back in the atmosphere
I'm afraid that she might d??n bill think of me as

Back on the subject of mondegreens: before I learned what the FCC does, I thought some songs on the radio cursed a lot more than they did, and despite involving a "mild" word that would get a pass on American airwaves, this happens to be an example of that phenonemon..

Plane, no train, no Plain ol' Jane told a story about a man
Who was doing pretty fly stuff Who is too afraid to fly so he never did land.

That's not the way I heard the story.  I seem to recall Mr. Play-It-Safe's flight crash-landing as he thought, "Well, isn't this nice".

Tell me, did the wind sweep you off your feet?
Did you finally get the chance to dance along the latter-day light of day
And head back to the Milky Way?
And tell me, did Venus blow your mind?
Was it everything you wanted to find
And did you miss me while you were looking for yourself out there?

The problem with mentioning dancing is a song is that everyone envisions the idea of dancing differently.  Let's just say when I picture it in my mind, the dancing involved is just... awkward.  I won't force my mental image onto you; I just wanted to get that off my chest now that I've had some time to think about it.

Can you imagine no love, pride, deep-fried chick chicken
Your best friend always sticking up for you?
Even when I know you're wrong
Can you imagine no first dance, freeze-dried romance
Five hour phone conversation?
The best story soy latte that you ever had, and me?

...WHY is the bridge one of songwriters' favorite places to ruin songs.  Heck, Train did it again in "Hey, Soul Sister", with their "so gangsta, I'm so thug" line.  And here we get fried chicken and soy lattes name-dropped for seemingly no reason whatsoever!  It's hard to describe why that sort of thing gets to me, maybe it throws off the innocence that pop music is supposed to take you away to?  I don't know.  Going back to the point of the song, with, well, mostly the other things he listed, I suppose he's reminding the other woman of what they missed while she had gone off doing whatever... or whoever.  You ever think of that, huh?  You ever think she could have had an affair without telling you?  Yeah, Mark Sanford says hi.

So in summation, this song is pretty stupid, if not at the level set later by "Hey, Soul Sister".  The core sentiment is pretty... pretty, depending on how you choose to interpret.  If you chose to sing or play it as a love song, your significant other would be less likely to slap you in the face for insulting her intelligence.  That said, it falls apart in more places than one, but like I said, its problems don't dig in quite as deep as some other songs that are out right now.  If I am able to face my fears and admit that, then the exorcism I set out to perform on my self must be a success.

The Call: 2 planets out of 5 (D)

Friday, July 15, 2011

Game Review: Demon Sword

Demon Sword
  • Publisher: Taito
  • Developer: Taito
  • Release: NES, January 1990
  • Genre: Action, Platformer
  • Save: Password
  • Rarity/Cost: Common (US$5-10)
In the history of video games, the turn of the 1990s was the age of the ninja. Think about it: we had Ninja Gaiden, Strider, two Shinobi games, two Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles games, Demon Sword -- hey, wait a minute!
That guy's not a ninja! That's just some discount Conan the Barbarian! Ah, but here's the thing: in the game itself, you definitely control a ninja -- I can tell. His weapons of the trade are a sword, shuriken stars, and various types of magic. He soars from tree to tree in a bamboo forest in monster jumps. The bosses he faces, as well as the settings in which he does so, are also taken out of Japanese mythology. No, my good sirs and ladies, the cover-up will not last so long as I'm around.

Perhaps I should explain. A little while ago, it was the "norm" for media being exported from Japan to America and Europe to have any Japanese cultural elements removed or replaced with things more recognisable. This is how we get such classics as rice balls in anime being passed off as powdered donuts. Call me an otaku, but... I just don't see the point of going through the trouble. Yes, it could be to avoid assumed culture shock, but they could just as well pass it off as a new cultural experience for the kiddies to learn about... in a cool way. Fortunately, this trend seems to be over, no matter what 4Kids says. Shows in the mid-2000s, such as Power Rangers Ninja Storm (2003) and Naruto (2005) proved that you could successfully market shows to children while keeping Japanese cultural elements intact. ...Either that or the American cover artist and manual writer(s) didn't play this game themselves.

But enough about my ranting; let's talk about the game itself. Demon Sword is an unofficial sequel to The Legend of Kage (1987, NES), another ninja game. The plot stars the warrior Victar, whose titular sword must be re-assembled to its full power to slay an oppressive demon overlord. ...Or, based on what I could translate from Japanese Wikipedia, it stars the unrelated warrior Ashura, a descendant of Buddhist mythology figure Acala, who must save the Emperor's daughter from being used in a sacrifice by said overlord. Whatever; the backstory isn't really referred to in the game itself, apart from a few minor cutscenes. Victar Ashura ...ah, screw it, I'll just refer to him as "you". "Your" weapons are the titular sword (A), an endless supply of shuriken (B), and fire, lightning, and wind magic (Select). Starting out, the sword deals twice the damage of your stars, but has an abysmal range of only a few pixels in front of you. However, both the sword and stars' performances are upgradeable.
Magic and upgrades are hidden in bonus rooms.
In each of the seven levels, no matter where you go (apart from bosses or bonus rooms), you'll be assaulted by an infinite stream of enemies, and most bosses take a huge amount of hits, but it's important to take them on so you can collect items vital to survival. Red orbs fill a unit of your lifebar and black orbs extend it by one unit each, but for some reason they don't take effect until your lifebar drains. If you don't have the enclosed instruction book on hand, confusion will ensue. Keys open bonus rooms, where you fight minibosses for magic and shuriken upgrades, which reminded me of Kid Icarus. Other types of items let you survive falls into bottomless pits (which only exist on the first level...), shoot stars in four directions at once, and give you invincibility and a trail of shadow clones. Farming for items is an essential part of this game, because you get three lives, but once those are gone, your game is over, no continues, nothing. ..Or so it would seem.

Actually, there is a continue and password function in this game, but they're hidden by button codes. On the Game Over screen, hold Down and press B, A, B, and A to get your password and continue the game. To load a password from the title screen, hold Up and press A, B, A, and B. These codes may be easy to remember -- either one is basically the mirror image of the other, but the same cannot be said for the 17-character passwords. Fortunately, these passwords save your items and stats as well as position. And yes, these codes are included in the original manual, but like I said, these days you're less likely to come across them included with copies of the game itself.
You can almost leap tall buildings in a single bound.
The jumping and movement physics, while befitting of the "awesome" ninja archetype, take some getting used to from a usability standpoint. Your character's running speed is fast enough to give Sonic a worthy challenge (in some of his games, at least), and your jumping height (in case you haven't figured it out, you press the Up direction to jump) is beefed up to match. The downside of having such super-powered speed is that you run the risk of running into one of those infinitely-spawning enemies I mentioned earlier. Also something to be mindful of is that, while jumping in one direction, you can change your horizontal speed but can't turn around. This is a pinch of realism compared to the jumping mechanics of most other platform heroes, but drawing the line between realism and playability is a tricky proposition. You also have the ability to climb tree trunks and other vertical surfaces. While you still retain the ability to attack while climbing, the fact that automatically grab onto these surfaces while airborne hinders the flow of movement, in my opinion.

The Japanese release of this game is titled Fudō Myō'ō Den ("Legend of Acala") and shipped out in March 1988. Apart from the manual's backstory matching up with the game itself, there's a whole lot more content to be found compared to the American Demon Sword. There are more cutscenes with (Japanese) text, more types of magic and items, and six more levels, bringing the total level count to 13. ...Wow, that's almost half the content they ripped out of the American release, and I have to ask... Why? Granted, one of the cut levels was a graveyard, and in the 8- and 16-bit eras Nintendo vetoed the use of religious symbolism in games for their consoles, but I've seen examples getting around that. So... I've got nothing. On the other hand, the life bar from Demon Sword has been removed.  Taking one hit (without the right items to back you up) costs you a life, so even though the password system remains intact (without needing button codes to work), you'll need a lot more skill and patience to slog through this version.. While Fudō Myō'ō Den is superior for being twice as long and otherwise more fully featured, playing Famicom cassettes outside of Asia is a complicated affair, since cartridge converters are way hard to find, much less at a reasonable price. That said, don't feel too bad if you're stuck with the American version. It's still as much of a challenge as many games of the era were wont to be.

Japanese: 1 kanji out of 5 (Japanese version only)
Control: 3 missing levels out of 5
Design: 4 missing levels out of 5
Graphics: 3 missing levels out of 5
Sound: 3 missing levels out of 5
Value: 3 missing levels out of 5 (NA) / 4 missing levels out of 5 (JP)
The Call: 70% (C-)

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Top 5 Worst Hit Songs of 2011 (So Far)

To kick off the recent 3-day Independence Day weekend, I tuned into a countdown ran by local Top 40 radio station Q102.  The premise of this countdown was rather shaky, if I may say: the top 50 songs of the year so far - since the countdown occured on 1 July, essentially the mid-point of the year.  What, is our culture moving so fast that we can't even wait to the end of the year to make a countdown like this?  Iiit's a disgrace.  Call me a hypocrite, but with so much trash crowding the Billboard and other charts, I can't wait to do something similar either.  Presenting... the Top 5 worst hit songs of 2011... so far.

#5: "Don't Wanna Go Home" by Jason Derülo

It is 2011 now, and I thought we got rid of this... this... Jason Derülo by now.  To put it mildly and non-racist, I never liked him.  His first single "Whatcha Say" was a disaster on every level, while "In My Head" was better until you looked at the lyrics, and this song is... somewhere in between. The backbeat is sampled from the 1993 house hit "Show Me Love" by Robin S., and the chorus melody was sampled from "Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)", something you may have heard as a little kid in some form or another.  To be honest, the samples here aren't as egregiously used as in... that other song he did, but the real issue lies with his over-dependence on Auto-Tune, which is 'tuned' up so strongly that it makes the song a little painful to listen to.  Further proof that for all our sakes, Jason Derülo should leave the music business and never, ever return.

#4: "On The Floor" by Jennifer Lopez & Pitbull
2011 is apparently a comeback year for Jennifer Lopez.  After her debut as a judge on American Idol, that bane of my existence, she plucked up the courage to record a new album, the punny-named JLOVE?.  The big single from that album is called "On the Floor" and features guest verses by Pitbull, and despite the fact that I liked his first few appearances, I have to say his stock is falling fast.  His world-famous references include "I'm like Inception, I play with your brain" (Couldn't we have chosen something less popular?  Heck, I'd accept a Portal reference instead?) and "now back it up like a Tonka truck" (Um, Tonka trucks are little toys; I doubt backing up one would make much of an impression).  Even taking Pitbull out of the equation, which some radio stations do, J-Lo has some questionable lines of her own.  I don't know about you, but when I start hearing the same words over and over again, like "on the floor" in this example, I can't help but think about it literally or something, and that just takes me out of it.  Also, not that you sheeple would know this, but they built this track around a sample from "Lambada" by Kaoma, the French band who pretended to be Brazilian, and that in turn was a sample from something else.  Again, at least that's not the worst thing about this song.

#3: "E.T." by Katy Perry & Kanye West
The #3 spot on this list is an interesting case.  It exists in two versions, one with guest verses by Kanye West (released as a single) and one without (on her album Teenage Dream).  Whereas her solo version conveys a sense of innocent curiosity regarding "falling in love with a foreigner", when you throw Kanye's verses in, it just comes across as raunchy.  For example, he makes a joke about... probing.  Even his first line is, "I've got a dirty mind"!  Yes, thank you for warning us.  Still, because of how much of a difference he makes, I'm going to have to do something radical: I'm giving the solo version 2 stars out of five 5 and Kanye West version of 1 out of 5.

2: "The Lazy Song" by Bruno Mars
Given that the this list so far, much like the 2010s pop music scene in macrocosm, is dominated by club bangers, it may come as a shock that the two worst songs are anything but.  First off is... ah screw it, I'm too lazy to describe this.  ...Either that or I'm trying to procrastinate from dealing with the undesireable #1 spot, so forget about it.  So yeah, whatever talent Bruno Mars has exhibited on his previous outings is completely squandered here.  Let's just say that in a song this mellow, we don't need to hear about him letting the contents of his underpants loose in some capacity once in every verse.  Seriously, when I heard the line "I'll just strut in my birthday suit/and let everything hang loose", that just took me out of it.  Also reviewed by ToddInTheShadows.

#1: "Friday" by Rebecca Black
It seems we have all forgotten about this nightmare, and Sabrina be praised, I'm glad for it.  For those who are unaware of the time I reviewed it, I more or less said this song was 110 percent devoid of talent, and I stand by that.  And I'm not completely mad at the singer, despite the fact that she had her parents pay for her fifteen minutes of fame.  On the contrary, I sincerely admire how well she took all the negative criticism of what is ostensibly her creation.  The truth is that this is not technically her creation.  No, the brunt of my ire is directed at Patrice Wilson, the song's co-writer and the founder of Ark Music Factory, the vanity label which produced this and other tracks.  He knew what he was writing was insipid, or at least he thought it was catchy, and had the gall to claim that those of us who claim to hate it really like it on the inside.  Well Pato, you didn't count on critics like me, who took the time to analyze your bizarro-magnum opus and learned what makes it tick - and suck.  So, no.  I genuinely hate "Friday".  Hump yourself and die.  ...Or at least get a new job.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Dance Dance Retrospective: DDRMAX

We are not in merely Dance Dance Revolution territory anymore.  In October 2001, the franchise entered the sixth console generation with the sixth core series game for the arcades.  In fact, the proper title of the core series' sixth entry is DDRMAX: Dance Dance Revolution 6thMIX.  Given how much I'm treating this name change alone as momentous, will the game itself follow suit?  ...Sure, why not?

Seriously, what could make DDRMAX such a milestone in the evolution of the Revolution?  It all starts with a gimmick, albeit a gimmick that caught on quickly: ladies and gentlemen... the Freeze Arrow.  These are long green arrows which, instead of just stepping on, you have to step and hold your foot on the panel until it passes the step zone completely.  Successfully holding a Freeze Arrow for its duration earns you an "OK" mark and points, but taking your foot off the panel  too early knocks you with an "NG" mark, which doesn't break your combo, and a Groove Gauge penalty.  Higher-level charts mix it up by placing extra notes on other panels during a Freeze Arrow, which you must hit with your other foot.  From my experiences, arcade panels need a shot more pressure to keep a Freeze Arrow held compared to a soft home pad.

Going through the menus, MAX looks a lot like 5thMIX, sharing a color scheme dominated by soft blues/greens and rounded corners.  The second screen, however, is new: after your play style is confirmed, you get to choose which difficulty level you wish to start out on.  (At this point it's also worth noting that the difficulty names have been changed to Light, Standard, and Heavy.  This will stick for a while longer than the last time they changed those names.)  This menu is technically pointless; you can change your difficulty at will later on, just like you could since 3rdMIX, but perhaps new players won't know about that.  I know I didn't.  So with that out of the way, we are introduced to out music menu.  It's a lot like in 5thMIX with one glaring exception: the difficulty ratings have been replaced by the "Groove Radar", a five-sided chart displaying the chart's difficulty visually based on 5 criteria:

The Groove Radar indicates difficulty.
  • Stream: Average density of steps in the chart.
  • Voltage: Maximum density of steps in the chart.
  • Air: How many jumps are used in the chart.
  • Freeze: How many Freeze Arrows are used in the chart.
  • Chaos: How many irregular notes (8th, 12th, 16th), or "chaos steps" as I will now call them, are used in the chart.
Modifiers are still triggered by arrow sequences, but MAX introduces a much easier-to-remember method of controlling them.  Just hold the Start button on the console after selecting a song, and before the song plays, a menu will pop up displaying a list of all the modifiers.  In addition to the standard turn, visibility, and arrow options, there are some "new" items ("new" as in they technically first appeared in Solo 2000, should you be bothered to care).  Speed modifiers change how fast the arrows travel up the screen, ranging from 1.5x to an insane 8x.  Low speed modifiers can help you tell the arrows apart if the chart has a high Voltage rating, but using higher speed modifiers on a fast song can render the arrows unreadable, unless you want the challenge.  In the same group as Little and Flat, the Solo modifier re-colors the arrows depending on their timing, as in Solo 2000, hence the name.  As for completely new mods, there's Boost, in which the arrows accelerate faster on their way up the screen, Reverse, which causes the arrows to scroll down instead of up, and a function to turn Freeze Arrows into regular notes, much like what Little does to chaos steps.

DDRMAX runs on a brand-new engine, comparable to the likes of the PlayStation 2, and Konami chose to show this off during the gameplay.  The animated still images which comprised the background footage of the previous generation are replaced by computer-generated FMVs.  This new eye candy ranges in subject matter from more smoothly-animated shapes and text, to footage of the classic characters - who are conspicuously absent from this and the next few games.  They even replaced the previous announcer with an African-American - yet equally hammy - one, whose lines such as "U.M.A.! U.M.A.!" qualify as, for better or worse, crazy.  But in the end, you're still trying to survive and score points (the maximum score is now 50 million points plus a bonus, regardless of difficulty).

Gameplay with Freeze Arrows.
On a more troubling note, if you thought 5thMIX's song cuts were bad, MAX takes it even further; there are absolutely no songs revived from any other games from the series, apart from some 4thMIX and 5thMIX home version exclusives, which have nonetheless become more strongly associated with this game.  The songlist clocks in at a paltry 42 songs, the lowest since 2ndMIX, and is dominated by the trance and eurobeat, so if that's your thing, more power to you.  Notable debut songs include:
  • "So Deep (Perfect Sphere Remix)" by Silvertear, a licenced trance song.  With the new combo system, where jumps add 2 to your combo streak instead of 1, the Light chart tops out at 125 notes, Standard has 250, and Heavy has a whopping 500 max combo.  This gives the Heavy chart a distinctive - and stamina-draining pattern of chaos steps.
  • "Exotic Ethnic" by RevenG (comp. Naoki Maeda).  Following the tradition of the "artist" formerly spelled Re-Venge, this song utilizes Egyptian and Indian musical influences, a fast tempo (190 BPM), and charts filled with Freeze Arrows and (on Heavy) crossover patterns like in "Afronova".
  • DDRMAX also marks the introduction of the Extra Stage system.  By getting a AA grade on your final song on any Heavy chart, you get to play "MAX 300" on Heavy.  Not only is this the hardest song/chart in the game, but the 1.5x and Reverse modifiers are automatically switched on, and your Groove Gauge starts out full but does not recover.  Clear that with a AA, and you get to play the Encore Extra Stage, "Candy" on Heavy.  Break the combo or a Freeze Arrow just once here, and the song ends.  These two songs are initially locked, but beating them once as an Extra/Encore Extra Stage unlocks them for regular play (thankfully, other workarounds exist in the home versions).
    • The Extra Stage is "MAX 300" by Omega (comp. Naoki Maeda).  This hardcore techno song sets new records for speed (300 BPM) and difficulty (555 max combo on Single Heavy).  In fact, Heavy on this song is so hard, even I can't beat it consistently (usually only in the arcade, where I have a bar to lean on).  Take my word for it, or it'll stomp your stamina to the curb.  Also of note is during the middle of the song, when the tempo slows to a brief stop during a Freeze Arrow.
    • The Encore Extra Stage is "Candy" by Luv Unlimited (comp. Naoki Maeda).  This electro-pop song is loaded with Freeze Arrows on most charts and while it is a world easier than "MAX 300" (when the old ranking system was re-instated in DDRMAX2, the Heavy chart was rated at level 8), but as an Encore Extra Stage, you're expected to clear it without messing up.  Once.
The Japanese home port (May 2002) was the first title in the series released for the PlayStation 2, and boasts the same content as the arcade version, with the addition of two not-so-memorable songs.  North America also got a "port" of this game, simply titled DDRMAX: Dance Dance Revolution (October 2002).  The songlist for MAX USA is 71, although very few songs are shared between these versions.  Some of the big Konami originals from the original MAX are represented, but that's about it; the rest of the songlist is filled in by revivals from 4thMIX, 5thMIX, and the Club Versions, as well as brand-new remixes, Bemani transplants, and licenced songs.  While there are other changes to be discussed in regards to MAX USA, that will have to wait.  It turns out that MAX USA owes just as much to the original MAX as it does to the next game to be highlighted on Dance Dance Retrospective...  DDRMAX2.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Sticking Points: Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (Game Gear)

Sonic Month may be over, and the franchise may be settling into its third decade, but my adoration - and coverage - of the franchise will never end.  (Let's hope.)  With the wealth of material provided to us within these two decades so far, you may very well pretend that Sonic Month is still going on.  So, allow me to let you celebrate for real, by giving you the knowledge to beat Sonic the Hedgehog 2 for Game Gear and play it for all it's worth.  For this new installment of Sticking Points, I'll turn my focus towards those two aspects which contribute the most to this game's difficulty: the Chaos Emerald locations and the bosses.

Under Ground Zone
Chaos Emerald: In both Acts 1 and 2 of this Zone, there are two parallel paths: an upper and lower path.  You start out on the upper path at the beginning of both Acts, but if you fall to the lower level, there aren't any ways to get back up.  Your reward for sticking to the top in Act 1 is an extra life item, and in Act 2 the first Chaos Emerald.  Note that you'll encounter a mine cart on your way to the Chaos Emerald; to make the final jump, you'll have to bail out in mid-flight.
Boss: *sigh* ...We've hit our first sticking point in the first Zone already.  Basically, this boss is a robot pincer which you cannot harm directly, but rather let a series of bouncing metal balls hit it.  At least it could qualify it easy on the Wii version, where all the balls bounce low and are easily jumped over.  But on the Game Gear, the balls have three patterns: two that bounce high and one that bounces low. and those high-bounce patterns are way tough to dodge.  The best advice I can give you is to stand on the kink where the slope deepens, and react to the balls the best you can.  Oh, and Robotnik will fly in on his jet-car to deliver the final blow; jump over him and you win.  Good luck

Sky High Zone
Chaos Emerald: For the longest time, this was the hardest Chaos Emerald for me to find.  Long story short, it's in midair at the top of the level's midpoint.  Given the prevalence of hang gliders in Act 2, you would think this is the way to go, but believe me, it's all but impossible to get it this way, however there is a far more reliable, if roundabout, way to get the Emerald.
Along the middle of the entire level is a row of clouds.  At some point, you can walk on these clouds.  Jump off the right of this "platform" and onto a small cloud with a spring hidden on it.  Go right off of this and you should land on another cloud platform.  Jump off the left of this platform and try to land on another cloud spring (Hint: it's under the second-to-left column of a cloud).  Bounce right off of this and you should hit the second Chaos Emerald.
Boss: You'll start out this fight by facing two waves of small robot enemies.  Beat these and you'll fall through the clouds.  There are four little yellow nubs which spawn more of these monsters; break these and boss itself will appear: a long-necked bird robot.  Hit it anywhere, but avoid the fireballs it shoots, and if you fall behind it, don't let it crush you against the edge of the screen!

Aqua Lake Zone
Chaos Emerald: There are two pipe mazes in Act 2: one at the beginning and one in the middle.  In the second pipe maze, just hold Left all the way.  This will take you to a small room with the third Chaos Emerald.  One of the easiest to find, really.
Boss: A robot seal which inflates and bounces balls on its nose, then attacks you with them.  To deal damage, jump on one of these balls when it's blowing one up.  Easy, if a little tedious.

Green Hill Zone
Chaos Emerald: In the middle of Act 2, you'll roll down a slope and land on a platform with springs on it, surrounded by a wide field of spikes.   Hold Right and land on another platform of springs.  After bouncing off of that, hold Right for about... yay, three seconds to land on a high-up platform with the fourth Chaos Emerald.
Boss: The trek to this boss, which involves a lot of springs and spikes, is harder than the boss itself, a sumo-wrestling pig robot.  ...Yyyeeeah.  This boss will curl up in a ball and move in one of three ways: jumping, directly sideways, or down along the valley in the arena.  Jump over or run under the boss depending on how it moves - touching it even while curled up will kill Sonic - and attack it while it's upright.  You don't have too much of a window of time to attack it, but just don't try anything daring and you'll do fine.

Gimmick Mountain Zone
Chaos Emerald: Early on in Act 2, you'll go up a slope.  At the top, jump to the left and you'll go through a false wall.  Follow this path up and over to get the fifth Chaos Emerald.
Boss: A robot pig with retractable spikes on its back.  It will charge at you to attack; jump over it and it will hit the wall, causing its spikes to withdraw temporarily and some rocks to fall from the ceiling.  Dodge these and hit the boss before its spikes come out again.

Scrambled Egg Zone
Boss/Chaos Emerald: The boss is named Silver Sonic, and I shouldn't have to describe this any further.  It uses jumping spin attacks and dashes just like Sonic.  Hit it when it's upright, real simple.  If you have all five Chaos Emeralds before fighting Silver Sonic, it will give you the sixth Emerald upon its defeat, but if you don't, the game will end when you beat it, and you won't be able to experience the...

Crystal Egg Zone
Boss: Yup, it's Robotnik time.  You fight him in a small room looped by a pipe.  Robotnik's attacks include flower-shaped bullets that spiral out from the center of the room, lightning bolts that travel along the floor, and an electric flash which engulfs the entire room.  Fortunately, you're invincible when traveling along the pipes, so just be patient and you can win and rescue Tails.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Second Opinion: Star Wars Episode I

As I write this, I'm going through a little Star Wars phase, re-watching the movies and all that.  Not that Star Wars has ever really been my favorite or defining fandom, but I've enjoyed, if not appreciated, it in whatever form I've experienced it in.  And yes, that includes Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace.  I tell you what, it feels unsettling having been born too late to catch Star Wars in its prime, like most of its fans on the Internet seem to be.  Before seeing The Phantom Menace in theaters, I was only mildly familiar with the original movie, A New Hope, as well as Shadows of the Empire, the N64 video game which took place parallel to part of the original trilogy.  As time went by, I became more willing to accept at least some of the so-called flaws of the newer movies.  But the relentless three-part lambasting given to each of them by the Distressed Watcher really rubbed me the wrong way and, for my first experience with the guy, tainted my impression of him.  I won't be tackling his reviews of Episodes II and III, because in the case of II, I actually agree with him.  At best, that movie was kinda blah.  As for III, I thought it was kind of good, but it falls apart at the end.  But his comments on I shall not escape my wrath.  Let's hear what he has to say:
Part 1:
Part 2:
Part 3:
"It looks like Star Wars.  It sounds like Star Wars.  But The Phantom menace doesn't feel like Star Wars. [...] This is the Star Wars universe as a desolate husk, now devoid of all that made it magical and endearing.  Instead of character development, we get elaborate costumes.  Instead of a coherent plot, we get a mess of special effects.  Instead of visual integrity, we get an absolute mess, where every frame is stuffed to the brim with as much [...] as possible.  The space battle is no longer a carefully-paced struggle in the stars, full of suspense, but an incomprehensible jumble of lasers and ships. [...] The lightsaber duel is no longer a fight to the death with a real sense of urgency behind it, but a choreographed ballet, where every move looks practiced, polished, and sterile."

I said it with Sonic 4, and I'll say it again here: is Star Wars only supposed to be like the first movies?  Has the absence of new material for over 15 years since Return of the Jedi numbed fans' willingness to adapt?  Apparently, but that doesn't mean I have to play like that.

In the case of the space battles and Jedi duels being too overstimulating, as far as we know, this was George Lucas's intention from the very first movie.  In DVD commentaries and other material, he himself says he was limited by the filmmaking capabilities of the 70s and 80s.  By comparing The Phantom Menace next to the pre-existing sequence of movies, as if the long gap of time never happened, we can see this progression.  Moving from the Death Star battle in A New Hope, to the Death Star II battle in Return of the Jedi, up to the battle above Naboo in The Phantom Menace, each battle has more and more units on either side.  Apart from this being what I'm sure real-world armies would do in real-world wars, this was no doubt done to up the spectacle factor.  Whether or not it succeeds here is another story; they never focus on any of the pilots other than Anakin, who doesn't even know what he's doing.

The same goes for the lightsaber duels between various Jedi and Sith.  Having all the Force-fueled acrobatics you see here wouldn't make sense in the older movies.  In them, Obi-wan was old, Darth Vader was old and part-mechanical, and Luke is young and relatively untrained.  On the other hand, the prequel trilogy presents a world where the Jedi are active and at their prime, until... you know.  (Order 66 in Revenge of the Sith.)  As for whether or not it's better, I'll leave that for the readers, but as far as I can tell you're just throwing around those words as disapproval for the movie as a whole.  By hating enough of it, you start to hate everything else about it as well.  And that's no good.

"The witty quips of Han Solo have been replaced by the mirthless griping of Obi-Wan Kenobi.  The wisdom of Alec Guinness' Obi-Wan Kenobi has been replaced by the vacant platitudes of Qui-Gon Jinn. The naivete and charm of Luke Skywalker has been replaced by the high-pitched, sitcom-style [...] yammering of Anakin Skywalker.  Everyone in this movie is as flat as can be.  Amidala has no personality whatsoever.  Obi-wan is relentlessly like a PMSing Bantha."

I'll yield you this: the acting in The Phantom Menace was pretty terrible.  It seems as if nine-tenths of the cast was under-acting; Keira Knightley as the not-queen of Naboo has it worst in my book.  You know you're in trouble when you're out-acted by a battle droid.  And just to remind you that I have "standards", part of what made the original trilogy fun for me to re-watch was the playful bickering between Han Solo and... pretty much anyone else he came in contact with.

Going back to The Phantom Menace, it's a shame some of the better actors were horribly underused.  For one, there's Samuel L. Jackson as Jedi chief Mace Windu, although blessedly, he was given much more screen time in Episodes II and III.  And how can you not love a movie with a cameo by BRIAN BLESSED!?  ...Seriously, though, among the other actors, I personally enjoy Liam Neeson as Qui-Gon Jinn, whose stoic temperment attempts, with variable success, to evoke Alec Guiness's Obi-Wan.  More often than not he seems wise until you think about the suggestions and plans he makes, as evidenced by your "What Would Qui-Gon Do" segments which I'm not even gonna touch.  *sigh* And then there's the two most widely-reviled performances in the film, maybe the entire franchise, which I will take on one at a time:

"The Trade Federation aliens are slanty-eyed, ornately-dressed, imperialistic, and they talk in broken English.  Watto is big-nosed, cares only about money, and talks in a raspy voice.  Jar Jar is lanky, stupid, and subservient to his masters.  And the way he talks is reminiscient of a Southern black man in the slavery era."


Wow.  I had never thought about them that way, I said in sincerity mode.  And to think this movie came out of the 1990s, the least racist decade of all time!  I know George Lucas drew from classic film genres when writing earlier entries like A New Hope, but to draw from character stereotypes - and racist ones at that?  ...Now, to be fair, Lucas as well as Jar Jar's actor Ahmed Best (who is, himself, of African descent!) have gone on the record and stated that they did not have any racist intentions regarding the creation and portrayal of these characters.  And on a personal level, when I first watched this movie, I hadn't learned about these kinds of stereotypes, so I couldn't have made the connection.  Good for me.

While we're on the subject, I seriously used to like Jar Jar Binks.  Yeah, I just broke you.  His voice, high-pitched as it may be, just never happened to annoy me.  Speech quirks like his set of slang also seem to hit my funny bone for some reason.  He may also be clumsy, but at least his actions don't screw up the good guys too badly, like I wish I could think of some ideas...  Guess I've blocked them all out.  Good, because I really hate those kinds of things.

"[Anakin Skywalker's] every word is hollow and filled with 50s-sitcom style exclamations.  And he's a goody-goody. [...] How about making Anakin a real person with an actual personality?  Little kids are selfish, they play tricks, they disobey adults, they get angry."

You're right again.  Anakin, as portrayed in this movie, seems to be what we in the Simpsons fandom call "running for Jesus".  Basically, he does no wrong and goes out of his way to do good.  There are very few times when one can pull it off successfully, and suffice it to say this is not one of those cases.  What I think Lucas was trying to do was paing Anakin in such a positive light now so that his fall to the Dark Side of the Force - something we know will happen already - is that much more tragic.  Whether he succeeded or not I'll let you guys debate about, but context aside, he's just not that relatable.  Use character flaws wisely, budding writers, and you will go far.

"Metachlorians, metachlorians, meta-****ing-chlorians. [...] Finding out that the Force is really just a bunch of parasites in your bloodstream is traumatic. [...] Finding out that the Force, the mythical power Yoda spoke of with reverence, is really just a form of bacteria, is like finding out that pixie dust is fungus which grows in the brain, and stimulates a form of telekinesis whereby the subject can levitate their own body.  Science, especially pseudo-science, doesn't belong in a work of escapist fantasy, which is what Star Wars is."

OBJECTION!  ...Sorry, I was imagining this review as an Ace Attorney-style debate.

It's just that I have evidence that - first of all, it's 'midichlorians', not 'metachlorians' - midichlorians and the Force are two separate entities.  Apparently, midichlorians exist inside the body and can, in high enough amounts, somehow allow said persons to channel the Force, which exists outside the body.  Qui-Gon himself makes this distinction when describing them to Anakin, before leaving Coruscant to return to Naboo.  Certainly some of us have wondered how people in the Star Wars universe interact with the force on a technical level, and why some can do it and some can't.  Apparently... not enough.

I can understand the backlash to it all, though.  When viewers were first exposed to the Force in the 70s/80s trilogy, it was presented as this mystical... thing that could be used to do anything.  By not learning too much about the specifics, we came to have faith in it, and faith can't exist when knowledge fills in those gaps.  What I guess happened when those people learned about midichlorians was that their faith was shattered by fact.  It's just like in the Special Edition of A New Hope when they made Greedo shoot first instead of Han Solo.  It took away from the awesome (in both senses of the word) image projected by the character.

Going back to midichlorians, it doesn't help that a fictional entity without much explanation was explained in turn by another fictional entity without much explanation.  And I should probably take it as a sign that they're not mentioned again in episodes II and III.  Looks like even George Lucas can get the message sometimes.  But come on, who doesn't love a good power level count?  (Yes, Anakin's midichlorian count is 20,000.  Fill in the joke if you want to.)

"R2D2 was owned by Luke Skywalker's mom?  C-3PO was built by Luke Skywalker's dad?  These droids came from Naboo and Tatooine respectively and were both ultimately tied into the lives of Luke's parents?  Then, after decades of just kicking around in the galaxy, they fall into Luke's lap in A New Hope?  You know, there's some things I can chalk up to 'the Force binds destines together', and there's **** like this."

It's points like this, and later ones below, that make it obvious that you haven't seen parts II and III before making the videos for I.  R2 and 3PO were given to Senator Organa - Princess Leia's adoptive father - by Obi-Wan at the end of III.  She eventually takes posession of them herself until the beginning of IV, when she sends them out to Tatooine and meet the heroes of the next trilogy.

"The clear connotation of Obi-Wan's words [during his first meeting with Luke in A New Hope] was that Obi-Wan and Anakin were war buddies.  But in The Phantom Menace we see they meet in peace time and that Anakin is just an annoying little kid."

Ignoring Anakin's annoyance for the minute, they do indeed fight in the Clone Wars during Episodes II and III, and everything in between.  Just be patient.  Besides, you wouldn't exactly call the Trade Federation invading Naboo unprovoked "peace time", would you?  ...Okay, so that didn't happen on the same planet where they met, so forget about it.

"'Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to sufferring.'  That is the worst hypothetical causal chain in the history of hypothetical causal chains. [...] Furthermore, it's not even true!  Fear doesn't always lead to anger.  Fear sometimes leads to sound judgement. [...] Fear is good.  We evolved fear for a reason.  But Yoda never seems to acknowledge this fact.  He was more wise, and more emotive too, oddly enough, when he was a puppet."

It's ironic that you say that last bit, because the Yoda character was still a puppet during his appearance in The Phantom Menace.  I know, next to the all-CGI characters they created for this movie, it's weird, right?  But enough about that.  One could do far, far worse than that hypothetical causal chain... depending on the context.  And yes, the example you provided is a valid case in which fear can be a good thing.  But take racism, for example.  Fear is a possible underlying cause of racism, or hate.  We act out on that hate as anger.  And at least in the long run, the anger we have lashed out with brings us the suffering of not treating the other person like we should (or at least I hope).  Although I doubt Yoda was referring to racism when he said that.  No, it's probably just a transparent attempt to connect this film to the pre-existing trilogy, since we know what happens to Anakin already.  I see what you did there.

I don't have any plans to do a full formal review of the movie any time soon, so tentatively I'm inclined to give it 2 or 3 lightsabers.  While its technical quality is not up to the level of the 70s/80s trilogy, or many other outside films for that matter, but I just don't think everyone's complaints are entirely founded in anything but pure hatred.  That's certainly not what I walked in to these movies with.  For now, we can only hope that the passage of time will give rise to a generation that remembers this stuff more fondly than the vocal minority does now.

This is IchigoRyu.

You are the resistance.

1Michael Okwu (1999).  "Jar Jar jars viewers, spawns criticism".  CNN. Retrieved 2011 Jun. 29.  <>.

2Daniel Dinello (2005). Technophobia!: Science Fiction Visions of Posthuman Technology. Austin: University of Texas Press. p. 211. ISBN 0-292-70986-2.