Sunday, October 21, 2012

Music Review: Holiday Rap

Holiday Rap
  • Artist: M.C. Miker 'G' & Deejay Sven
  • Album: non-album single
  • Release: 1986
  • Genre: Hip-Hop
  • Label: Rush Records, High Fashion Music
  • Writers: Brian Bennett, Curtis L. Hudson, Bruce Welch Lisa Stevens, Lucien Witteveen, Sven van Veen
  • Producer: Ben Liebrand

Since I'm apparently in the business of discussing non-American songs, let's try another.  This one, "Holiday Rap" has the benefit of having been performed in English, by the Dutch duo MC Miker G & Deejay Sven.  Its rise to fame was quite unlike that of "Gangnam Style", initially at least; after its release in 1986, it rose through the usual channels and hit #1 in multiple countries, including their native Netherlands.  It didn't chart in America, but it did peak at #9 in Canada, so close enough.  So how do I know this song even exists?  Like "Gangnam Style", I was only made aware of this song's existence because of YouTube, but this time around, it was another video doing the dirty work.  "Holiday Rap" was used in a scene from the 1990 Indian film Adhisaya Piravi, and that scene was uploaded to YouTube in 2006, under the title "Little Superstar".  The clip showed a little man (Should I call him a midget or not, I can never tell?  Or is he actually a kid?) dancing to the song as it the tape was being paused and played off and on, so yeah, it was a shoo-in for Internet recognition.  But enough paratext, let's look at the real thing.

As I did before with "Regulate", the lyrics below will be colour-coded by who's on the mic.  Miker G's lines are written in red and Sven's are blue.  Also, because of the song's rarity, the official music video is hard to come by, and what is available is a low-quality rip by some random user.  In fact, the guy who uploaded this copy (assuming it doesn't get taken down) wrote this in the comments: "No words can describe how funny this is .. and the best part is that they are serious."  So, we're dealing with some weapons-grade Narm here.  This oughta be fun.
We celebrate seven weeks Miker G and Sven
We took a holiday with all our friends
It was a time to relax and let your worries behind
Exactly seven weeks or something crossed my mind
Okay, this seems simple enough.  This is a song about desiring a vacation, of the Summer variety or otherwise.  Who can't relate to that.  And what better song to sample than "Holiday" by Madonna?  Wait a minute, they sampled a song only three years old at the time.  It was from a different country, yes, but it's just weird, eh?
It was the sign of the time we never forget
One morning our parents kicked us out of our beds
We told them it was stupid, don't play the fool</
But the answer was short: "You gotta go to school!"
Your heroes, ladies and gentlemen.
G's running up and down and everybody know
Rappin', rockin', poppin' in the street-kid show
"Rappin'"?  "Rockin'"?  "Poppin'"?  You do realise those are separate music genres, right?  You're just throwing words out there, words that taken alone might be used to look cool, but the more you use them, the more you embarrass yourself.  Do I have to bring up the Mike Posner Paradox again?
Miker G rocks the house and you know what I'm saying
Now when he's on the mic there is no delaying
I wish you would delay, so you might actually think about what rhymes you're going to spit.
Hey, check it out, these are the words we say
You scream with us: "We need a holiday!"
After hearing so many filler lines, I could use a holiday myself -- from this song.
We gonna ring-reng-a-dong for a holiday
Miker G and Sven we're here to stay
We gonna ring-reng-a-dong for a holiday
Hey, check out the new style we just play
Now we're at the bridge, alternating between Miker and Sven, and again, stop throwing around words!  You're setting a bad example for Pat Monahan.  (Oh [noun] did I seriously just link to my first review!?)
We are going on a summer holiday
If you want to go yo Sven
We're going to London and New York City
And we take a little piece of Amsterdam
The chorus is sung by both Miker and Sven together, and they give shout-outs to cities, specifically places they want to vacation in.  
In the bar "Rox", what happened to you?
Ain't about rocks
Eh, Navarre rocks
You must understand, with a song this rare, the lyrics haven't been maintained as well as with other songs.  So at times like these they could be saying anything, but no matter what, they're saying nothing worthwhile.  And for the record, the first possibility was the one I found on the lyrics I copied, and the second one I'm thinking was more likely.
Well, this is my partner with the number one jam
Famous in the boogie-box in Amsterdam
He's got ya there.  In a self-fulfilling prophecy, the song did indeed reach #1 on the charts in the Netherlands, France, West Germany, and Switzerland.  Still, you may have lucked out now, but next time don't count your chickens like that.
He's the fastest rapper and his name is Miker G
His rap is stronger than the sucker MC's
Well, let me show you what my man can do
Rappin', rockin', poppin' and the boogaloo, too
But anyway, no more delay
Just listen to the beat-box he will play
The song takes a break here for Miker and Sven to indulge in a little beat-boxing, much of which sounds like record-scratching.  Beat-boxing is a talent few may posess, but take my word for it: they're sounding like idiots right around here.
My name is MC Sven, I'm also DJ
I didn't like the schools, I took another way
Wait a minute, this line is most definitely being given by Miker G, so am I hearing this right?  Did he just call himself Sven?
Yo, like the Miker G so I used my voice
And soon I bought a big Rolls-Royce
There, ya see?  He just referred to his own name in the third person!  Was this verse supposed to go to the other guy, but they forgot about it before recording?  Ladies and gentlemen, they just didn't care.  Also, bragging about fancy cars.  This was not unprecedented; even the Sugarhill Gang did this in "Rapper's Delight", the first hit rap single.  But hearing it come from these dorks is insane.
That's right, my name is Miker G
You liar.
Bite [???] is the thing most rappers do
But I can write my own [noun] too
Whoa, I thought rappers weren't supposed to swear until NWA!
I can understand things most rappers say
'Cause rappin' is my thing and i do it every day
Before Busta Rhymes came along, that wasn't so hard.
I'm the number one rapper, yo, my name is Sven
I can rap more raps than a Superman can
Okay, how many times have these guys dropped their own names by now?  Also, I'm not aware that Superman could rap, let alone with great speed.  I'll have to ask Linkara about that if I ever meet him.
So I'm the guy on your radio
Also rockin' to the rhythm in stere-ereo
That wasn't a typo: Sven really did add extra syllables to the word "stereo", as if to grab your attention.  Now, these guys are from Europe in the 80s, and I don't know how the game is played there and then, but given another place and time, I'd accuse them of being marketing hacks, of being controlled from behind the scenes like bunraku puppetry.
And you don't stop that bodyrock
And you won't stop that bodyrock
Yo, spell my name right, I'm Miker G
M-I-K-E-R and G you see
And now we have that great hip-hop tradition: spelling your own name.  As a trope that was so common during the vintage rap era, this is but one demonstration of how little Miker & Sven are defining their own personalities.
Well, M is for 'microphone' and G 'genius'
Miker G in the house that's serious
Oh, so you were trying to be serious!  I'm glad we got that straightened out in the end.  True, there's no way that I would ever take this song seriously, but I was confused as to whether or not gravitas was your goal!

So that was "Holiday Rap", and to sum up, it's like a Sugarhill Gang song performed by Vanilla Ice, which trust me, isn't as sweet as the idea sounds.  For all their tough talk, Miker and Sven seem out of touch with what the rap game is all about.  But while they might be big-huge phonies, they're never obnoxious about it, which is more than I can say about today's rappers.  "Holiday Rap" is somewhere along the lines of "Ice Ice Baby" in terms of how "so bad it's good" it is, albeit a little more on the joke side, not that they'd ever admit it.  If you can handle one of those songs, you should certainly give the other a try.

Lyrics: 1 holiday out of 5
Music: 3 holidays out of 5
Performance: 1 holiday out of 5
The Call: 1 holiday out of 5 (F)

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Film Review: Die Another Day

Die Another Day
  • Publisher: MGM 
  • Production Studio: Danjaq / EON Productions
  • Director: Lee Tamahori
  • Producers: Barbara Broccoli, Michael G. Wilson
  • Writers: Neil Purvis, Robert Wade
  • Genre: Action
  • Release: 20 November 2002 (UK), 22 November 2002 (UK)

The Girls: Giacinta "Jinx" Johnson (Halle Berry), NSA agent. Another in a line of Bond Girls who share Bond's field of employment, Berry dodges the problems of this character type by playing Jinx a little more feisty, although prone to bad puns like the man himself. Fun Fact: Plans were made for a spin-off movie starring Jinx, but after the failure of such female-fronted actions films as Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle, Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life, and Berry's own Catwoman, the concept was scrapped. 3 out of 5. Miranda Frost (Rosamund Pike), Graves's publicist, and an MI6 agent, but secretly serving Graves. While she generally exhibits a cold personality, ironically enough, she exhibits sparks of brilliance before and after she has her night with Bond. Before, she affirms that she won't fall for his "sex for dinner, death for breakfast" routine (until she does), and the morning after, she taunts him for not being able to turn her to an ally. Oh wait... Stabbed with a throwing knife by Jinx3 out of 5.

Other Allies: Falco (Michael Madsen), Jinx's boss at the NSA and a counterpart to M. After hearing of Bond's unauthorised intervention in the clinic, he threatens M with taking over her office if things get further out of hand. At the end, he also has plans to spearhead a retaliation if Bond and Jinx fail to stop the North Korean advance. Bear in mind that one of the tenents of real-world North Korean propaganda policy is that the USA is fighting them via so-called puppet states including South Korea and Israel. Falco's role of overseeing the South Koreans would not help matters... at least if he had more screen time. 2 out of 5.

The Villains: Colonel Tan-Sun Moon (Will Yun Lee), an officer in the North Korean People's Army. After his introduction, he gets thrown off a cliff by Bond, but survives and adopts the identity of Gustav Graves (Toby Stephens), an adventuresome Richard Branson-type philanthropist who allegedly discovered diamonds in Iceland.  This plot twist is thrust upon us with no warning, and the loosest of reasoning on the part of Bond. Specifically, Jinx sees Zao using a sleep-therapy machine as part of his gene conversion, and assumes he brought it from the clinic in Cuba. Then when she next speaks to Bond, he tells her that he couldn't have brought it with him, and it stead it was already there, being used by Graves. Later thrown into a jet engine by Bond. 2 out of 5.

Other Henchmen: Zao (Rick Yune), Colonel Moon's right-hand man. For most of the film, he is bald and has a mass of diamonds studded into half of his face, which sounds silly in context, but at least there's an explanation. Take note of how, during Bond's period of torture, he had killed 3 Chinese agents at a peace summit and got caught by the South Koreans, which is how he got traded to bail out Bond. If this wasn't merely provided by an expodump from M, this would be quite intriguing. Fun Fact: His name, Zao, is not directly transcribeable in Korean. For those concerned, Korean lacks a sound the letter "Z" and the vowel pair "ao". ...Maybe he's really Chinese? Crushed by a chandelier dropped by Bond3 out of 5.

The Gadgets: Aston Martin returns to Her Majesty's Secret Service this time around with the Vanquish, featuring an optic camouflage system, motion-tracking shotguns, a heat-sensitive radar, and other accessories. The concept of an invisible car was too much for former Bond Roger Moore, who is well aware that he was the first Bond in space [1], but to its credit, at least they gave it an explanation which was based in scientific developments. Bear in mind that another film came out that year with an invisible car: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, although at least that had the excuse of using actual magic. Speaking of fuzzy science, we also have a pocket rebreather (from Thunderball) and a laser-cutter watch (from Goldeneye). 2 out of 5.

The Locations: North Korea (filmed in Hawaii and England), Hong Kong, Cuba (filmed in Spain), the United Kingdom (England), and Iceland.

The Theme Song: Performed by Madonna. A dance song with lyrics about destroying one's ego, something that James Bond always had trouble with, even in this era of deconstruction. Also, auto-tune. Fun Fact: Madonna also makes a cameo in the film as Verity, 007's fencing instructor, the first theme song performer to do so.  It's about as cringe-inducing as everything else in this movie.  1 out of 5.

The Opening Credits: Depicts scenes of Bond's 14-month period of torture in North Korea, overlaid with silhouette-girls made of fire, ice, and electricity. Also take note of the female officer in some shots, who looks over the "festivities" with disdain, almost as if mocking 007 for the way he's treated women over the years. 5 out of 5.

The Novel: Neither the title nor plot are derived from one of the Ian Fleming novels. The plot deals with two real-world problems: North Korea, and conflict diamonds. "Conflict" diamonds are mined in politically unstable regions, such as in western and southern Africa, and are sold to pay for warring factions, who usually go on to commit crimes against humanity. The trade of conflict diamonds is moderated by United Nations resolutions and the Kimberley Process (established in 2003). Given that North Korea would like nothing to do with the West and any institutions we've set up for the betterment of mankind, it is understandable, if not excusable, that they would prefer to ignore such regulations. For more information, listen to "Diamonds From Sierra Leone" by Kanye West, which samples another James Bond theme song, nonetheless.

The Plot: Our story starts in North Korea, where 007 poses as a conflict-diamond dealer and holds a deal with Colonel Tan-Sun Moon. His right-hand man, Zao, receives a tip via phone, informing him of Bond's real identity. About to be executed, Bond sets off a diversion, impaling Zao's face with diamonds in the process, and leads the colonel on a hovercraft chase. In the end, the colonel dies, but Bond is arrested by the NK troops. Cue opening credits. 14 months later, he is freed in exchange for Zao, who was since re-captured by the South, and MI6 is not pleased. M strips 007 of his licence to kill, but he abandons their custody and, with the help of a Chinese ally, follows Zao to Cuba. After spending a night with the NSA agent "Jinx", they separately investigate a gene-therapy clinic, where Zao is seeking to change his appearance and identity. Bond catches him mid-operation, but he gets away.

Back in Britain, Bond hears about Gustav Graves, who had discovered diamonds in Iceland, and matches wits with him in a fencing duel. Then he gets an invitation from M, who unofficially assigns him to a party held by Graves, at an ice hotel in Iceland, whilst sending agent Miranda Frost to the same. At this party, Graves unveils the Icarus project: a satellite equipped with a mirror to spread the sun's rays for worldwide crop growth and other benevolent purposes. 007 then starts snooping around the diamond mine (which is fake, by the way; the diamonds he "found" are really just conflict diamonds Graves is passing off as original), only to bump into Frost and sleep with her. After they have their fun, Bond heads back to discover that Jinx has broken in, only to get caught and tortured. Once he frees her, and she shares her motives, he does a spat of reasoning, and concludes that Graves is really... Colonel Moon, who had survived his fight with 007 and changed his identity at the Cuban clinic.

Bond goes to confont Graves on this discovery, when along comes Miranda Frost, who reveals herself as the one who warned Zao about him in North Korea. She has him at gunpoint, but he breaks out of there, taking off with Graves's rocket car. Then Graves chases him using the Icarus's secret weapon: a beam of high-intensity sunlight. Meanwhile, Frost traps Jinx in a room at the ice hotel, and uses Icarus to melt the place, flooding the room. Once the coast is clear, Bond returns, engaging in a car-to-car duel with Zao, and freeing Jinx.

Their next stop is the Korean DMZ, from which they steal aboard Graves's cargo plane. It is from there where he launches his plan: use Icarus to detonate the landmines buried along the DMZ, allowing his army to pass through and invade South Korea. His father, General Moon, tries to talk some sense into him, but Graves shoots him and steals his rank. Just then, Bond is discovered and shot at, but the shot misses and breaks a window, decompressing the cabin. Meanwhile, Jinx sends the plane on auto-pilot through the Icarus's beam, but is caught by Frost. They have a catfight with swords; Jinx wins. Meanwhile, Bond manages to toss Graves into one of the plane's turbines, cutting off the Icarus beam. With the plane breaking up in midair, he and Jinx escape in a helicopter, and spend the night at a Buddhist temple on the coast. You are now free to turn off your TV.

This movie has James Bond squaring off against the most evil sovereign state to exist in the post-Cold War period. How on Earth could you mess that up!? I'll tell you: by focusing less on the plot and more on cramming as many throwbacks as possible to every 007 film that came before it, as a "present" for the film franchise's 40th anniversary. Based alone on what I've written thus far, it should be obvious that the plot is copied over from Diamonds Are Forever (read here for a refresher if you don't believe me). But I've saved you countless seconds of reading by not mentioning all the other references, primarily in the department of subtle sight gags. (If you wanted to read them after all, might I suggest IMDB's trivia page.) It's a shame, too; the first half of the film had plenty of promise, what with 007 being captured in action and going vigilante upon release in order to set things right. But all those good ideas are wasted in favour of a big huge anniversary party. For shame. I hope Skyfall celebrates the big 5-0 with some actual dignity. 1 out of 5.

+ Sets up an intriguing plot.
+ Many, many call backs to the other Bond films.
+ The opening credits sequence (theme song notwithstanding).
+ Come on, it's got James Bond fighting the most evil nation since the Cold War ended! How could you mess that up?

How they messed that up:
- The plot is, in execution, a mess cobbled together from the other Bond films.
- The acting and writing is not very subtle, to say the least.
- The theme song is pretty annoying.

The Call: 35% (F)
IchigoRyu will return in
Casino Royale
[1] Moore, Roger. "Bye bye to Ian Fleming's James Bond?". The Times (London). 4 October 2008, retrieved 8 October 2012.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Music Review: Gangnam Style

"Gangnam Style"
  • Artist: PSY (Jae-sang Park)
  • Album: PSY 6 Part 1
  • Release: 15 July 2012
  • Genre: Hip-Hop, Dance
  • Label: YG, Republic (Universal)
  • Writers: Gun-hyung Yu, Jae-sang Park
  • Producer: Hyun-Seok Yang
On the week of Tuesday, 18 September 2012, a song sung entirely in Korean has achieved the #1 spot on the United States iTunes store. Concurrently, that same song also peaked at #2 on the Billboard Hot 100. And I have even confirmed rumours that the song in question has also been played on American top-40 radio. This was not supposed to happen. I'm not saying it shouldn't happen, it's just that since America's entertainment industries have grown self-sufficient over the years, any attempt by foreign media to make a break on our shores will get swept away by the natural forces of marketing. And I'm not a fan of that either; I want us to play nicely with the rest of the world. (That means buy more anime.) But as such is the fate of "Gangnam Style" by PSY, I was too in awe of this feat to not want to take a closer look.

Before I begin the review proper, you may be wondering how "Gangnam Style" could've possibly caught the attention of us Yanks. Welp, as always, the Internet is to blame. The song's music video received Retweets and other buzz from celebrities including Robbie Williams, T-Pain, Tom Cruise, Katy freaking Perry, and last but not least Britney Spears, whose attention led to PSY making an appearance on the Ellen Degeneres talk show. The way I see it, once you make it on network television, that's it, you've become a fixture of our pop culture. And I can't blame them for lavishing the song, and in particular its music video with all this attention. The song seems to have taken bits from some of our dance-pop songs of recent. The most prevalent influence is "Party Rock Anthem" by LMFAO, in particular the powerfully-sung bridge that breaks up the rapping between the verses and the minimalist chorus. Speaking of which, I for one keep confusing the bass track from the "hook" with the one that starts off "Blow" by Ke$ha. And the rhythm of the raps within the verses reminds me of... oh [noun], "Fergalicious" by Fergie. The video, at least from a purely visual standpoint, seems tailor-made for American audiences, almost to parody levels. You can follow along below:

Excessive wind with tiny bits of paper thrown about? 0:32.
Random explosion in the background? 1:08.
Gratutitous close-up of a woman's curvy hindquarters? 1:36 - during a yoga session, no less.

And let's not forget the dance that the video is making popular even as I type this. Basically, most of its motions evoke riding an imaginary horse. And yes, someone has played it on top of the imaginary-horse-riding scenes if Monty Python and the Holy Grail. My opinion is that the whole dance looks a little dorky, and the illustration depicting it on the single's cover do not dissuade me from that prejudice. But it's not a dealbreaker, and besides it's better than the last time someone tried to make a dance craze go viral, or for that matter the last time a song got famous through the Internet.

But "Gangnam Style" means a lot more to its intended audience of South Koreans, so I'll take that excuse to explain what the heck "Gangnam Style" means. A little geography lesson for you peoples: Gangnam is the name a district within the city of Seoul, and more specifically, its culture and fashion centre. See also: Shibuya in Tokyo, Beverly Hills in Los Angeles, SoHo in London, and... gosh, does Philadelphia have one worth mentioning? Gangnam boasts some of the most expensive real estate in the world, and with stakes that high, appearance is everything. Gangnam has given rise to a social class of girls called "deonjangnyeo", literally "soybean paste women", who show off their disposable income in public (i.e. drinking expensive coffee), only to make sacrifices within their private life (i.e. eating cheap ramen) [1]. But rather than make any comment explicitly disparaging or even endorsing this lifestyle, it's merely used as a metaphor in order to pick up chicks, as exemplified in the first verse, translated below:
A girl who is warm and humane during the day
A classy girl who know how to enjoy the freedom of a cup of coffee
A girl whose heart gets hotter when night comes
A girl with that kind of twist

I'm a guy
A guy who is as warm as you during the day
A guy who one-shots his coffee before it even cools down
A guy whose heart bursts when night comes
That kind of guy
So basically, PSY is saying to his romatic prey that she know when to restrain herself and when to act wild, and that he is capable of the same. I'll tell you one thing, it's nice that America still hasn't managed to export its permissive views on sexuality within popular culture. (I'm pointing at you, Enrique Iglesias.) Further dispelment of the machismo that we Americans have come to expect fom the dating game may be found in other lines such as "A girl who covers herself but is more sexy than a girl who bares it all" and "A guy who has bulging ideas rather than muscles". Don't get me wrong, I'm nowhere near opposed to fanservice of the female variety, but there are times when it's just not sensible, you know?

And who could he be trying to put the moves upon? Well, it just so happens that a clue resides in the one line that was included by enforcement of a ruling from the International Songwriters' Conference of 1992, which states that all popular music originating from an East Asian country must include at least one word or phrase of a Western language, preferably English. And this song fits the bill by using the words "Sexy Lady" within the chorus, occasionaly interspersed with its trademark "Oppa Gangnam style". Well, that's generic enough to work.

"Gangnam Style" works on so many levels. On its surface, it fits well into the dance-pop that has been clogging our charts for the past few years, but without being obnoxious. (I'm pointing at you, Pitbull.) But to those of us who have experience with the Korean language and the culture of Seoul, or to those of us (like me ^_^) who simply do the research on the song itself, it becomes so much more. It may not be setting out to fix the social inequalities which exist in and around Gangnam, but such quirks are referenced tastefully and provide a cute context for a "let's pick up chicks" type of song. That the rest of the world managed to take notice of it is a tribute to the positive power of the Internet. And I, for one, welcome our new Asian overlords.

Just kidding; he's gonna be a one-hit wonder over here, I know it.

Edit 12 June 2013: I was wrong.  Sort of.

Lyrics: 4 coffees out of 5
Music: 3 coffees out of 5
Performance: 3 coffees out of 5
The Call: 3 coffees out of 5 (C)

[1] Fisher, Max. "Gangnam Style, Dissected: The Subversive Message Within South Korea's Music Video Sensation". 23 August 2012, Retrieved 2 October 2012.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Game Review: Rocket Knight Adventures

Rocket Knight Adventures
  • Publisher: Konami
  • Developer: Konami
  • Release: Sega Genesis, 1993
  • Genre: 2D Action
  • Players: 1
  • Rarity/Cost: Moderate, US$10-15

It's been a long time since I based a review around an entry from TVTropes, so let's give it another shot.  Today, I will be discussing the "Mascot With Attitude" trope, a character type which came into being with Sonic the Hedgehog in 1991.  Many examples of this do their best to ignore what made the first Sonic games good, in favour of following at least three of these "marketable" traits: 
  1. Is a Funny Animal, usually with a Species Surname. (i.e., Sonic the Hedgehog, Spyro the Dragon)
  2. Comes from a Platform Game.
  3. Is Totally Radical. This can be as mild as using totally bogus outdated slang, or as egregious as giving the character a love of "extreme" sports, fast food, or anything else with supposed "youth appeal."
  4. Is quippy, snarky, and prone to making lots of really bad jokes. Bonus points if one of them is a Take That against Sonic the Hedgehog.
  5. Is competent and violent, but not to child-unfriendly levels. He's also not allowed to swear, but will do his best to anyway.
  6. A supporting cast which reinforces his status as coolest character in the universe. Look out for an older uncool antagonist, a sidekick with a case of hero-worship, a helplessly devoted and/or snarky love interest, or a rival that's almost (but not quite) as cool as the mascot.
  7. Advertisements for his games put a lot of emphasis on said game's "intensity," especially twitch-action and "speed".1
There is a right way and a wrong way to create mascot characters.  First, the wrong way:
I don't know what the [noun] Awesome Possum is doing,
and quite frankly I don't care.
This furry little fellow is Awesome Possum, and he starred in his self-titled Sega Genesis game, created by Tengen in 1993.  His schtick is that he's an environmental warrior trying to stop a certain Dr. Machino, whose crime is apparently wide-scale pollution without reason.  In doing so, Awesome Possum will take every opportunity to remind the player that he is extreme to the max, and all that [noun].  I call this the Mike Posner Paradox: if you have to keep reminding other people that you're cool, then you're not cool.  In-your-face attitude and in-your-face environmentalism...2  If you threw in some bad Euro-pop, you'd have the most embarrassing parts of the 90s rolled into one bundle.  Also his game sucks, and I might do a proper review on it later on down the road, but for now, I present to you the right way to make a mascot character.
The European box art of Rocket Knight Adventures.
In the same year that Awesome Possum was unleashed upon the world, Konami treated us with Rocket Knight Adventures, also for the Genesis.  It starred Sparkster who, ironically enough, is also an opossum.  But thankfully, the two couldn't be more different in practice.  Sparkster doesn't do any talking of his own, through text or voice clips, but he lets his actions do the talking.  Specifically, he takes it upon himself to ward off an invasion from a pig army, rescue the possum princess they kidnapped, and settle the score with his evil counterpart, Axel Gear.  As for his appearance, his design is more on the subdued and even cute side; I don't know about you, but his little suit of knight armour and jetpack just melts my heart.  Also it helps that he was created in Japan.  Nippon Ichi, mother[verb]ers.  Shame they had to change his face on the box art; compare the facial expressions Sparkster sports on the American box art at the top of this page, and the European box art directly below.  (And what do you know, there's another trope for that: "American Kirby Is Hardcore".)

Sparkster, blasting off from the left.
Oh right, the jetpack.  Unlike most of the wannabe mascot-led games out there, Rocket Knight Adventures and its main character are designed around a particular new mechanic, and a well-executed one at that.  Sparkster's weapon is a sword, which with each swing fires beams for a little extra range (think the early Legend of Zelda games).  But by holding the attack button, a meter on the top of the screen charges up.  Release the button when it's full, and he will use his jetpack in one of two ways.  If you're holding the directional pad, Sparkster will fly off in the target direction. In doing this, he can not only cross large gaps, but also ricochet off walls, a crucial tactic for climbing walls.  Or you can always release a charge without holding down a direction, making him spin around in place with sword outstretched, a nice defensive move.  Your impressive repertoire of attacks lends itself to strategy during boss fights.  The sword beams have a higher rate of fire and give you range, but do less damage.  The sword alone does loads of damage if you spam it, but you have to get close.  And a jet boost does more damage from afar than the beams, but you have to take the time to charge it up.  So, you'll have to experiment with the different moves, and hopefully find the methods that work best against each enemy you may face.

An homage to Gradius.
RKA already succeeds over its totally radical contemporaries through the presence and prevalence of these auxiliary mechanics, but the innovation doesn't stop there.  Some of the levels are flying shoot-em-ups where Sparkster zooms around in his jetpack and shoots the aforementioned sword beams.  One of these even features a mini-boss designed after one from Gradius.  But the game also innovates in more subtle ways.  A section at the beginning of Level 3 takes place in a crystal cave, with a sea of lava rising and falling at regular intervals (At least I think it's supposed to be lava; don't make me bust out any more tropes.), so you must reach higher platforms before the deadly flow crests.  Plus, there are rock formations in the foreground which obscure both you and the platforms, but whatever the lethal liquid is below, it's also reflective, so you'll have to follow a red-tinted mirror image of yourself in order to make these jumps.  It's tough to describe in words; all the more reason for you to check it out for yourself.  And while it's a brief passage, it's just one more example of how much the game throws at you.

Indeed, Rocket Knight Adventures has variety in spades.  The jetpack system and the many curves the game throws at you combine to provide a platforming experience like no other.  Maybe the physics are a little too slippery here and there, but that shouldn't detract you from witnessing this game and all it has to offer.  Both as a character and a video game franchise, Sparkster deserved better than he got, but what he did get was nothing short of sublime.

Control: 4 jetpacks out of 5
Design: 5 jetpacks out of 5
Graphics: 5 jetpacks out of 5
Audio: 5 jetpacks out of 5
The Call: 95% (A)

The Sparkster character was more successful than most of his peers, but he only received precious few sequels.  In 1994, there were two new games for the Genesis and Super Nintendo, both titled Sparkster.  Surprisingly, these are not ports of the same title; the SNES game lies in an alternate continuity.  (The one for Genesis was sold with the subtitle Rocket Knight Adventures 2 in Japan.)  Then the series lay dormant until 2010, when with the help of developer Climax Studios, Konami saw fit to release Rocket Knight, a download-only title for the PlayStation 3 and XBox 360.  All three of these games carry on the original's rocket-powered legacy with changes to the formula here and there, and are worth picking up.

...Wait a minute.  The Sparkster series gets a new game even after 16 years and, as far as I'm concerned, a virtual disappearance from cultural relevance.  Meanwhile Mega Man Legends 3, which is a spin-off of a recogniseable pre-existing series and, as such, at least has brand recognition, gets cancelled!?  There's only one way to react to that discrepancy:
...Or I could quit being such as a spaz and just enjoy Rocket Knight.  That'll work, too.

1 "Mascot with Attitude".  Television Tropes & Idioms.  Retrieved 27 September 2012.
2 I do support the not-in-your-face type of environmentalism, however, and I suggest you do the same.