Cat-A-Lyst (Alan Dean Foster)

Unfortunately, this book doesn't really have much to do with a cat. Oh sure, there's a cat in it. Three, in fact. Or maybe none depending on how you look at it? I love the big reveal at the end about the cats, as if the reader hadn't already figured it out from the second, or at most the third digression with the Monitor and Renegade. But for all purposes, it's about a movie actor trying to thwart the plans of vengeance hungry Incans from another dimension.

So okay, it's not really about a cat, but maybe I could still enjoy it as the movie actor's story. Except that Foster has a bad habit of throwing in a character who completely kills the story whenever they show up. In Love of Mother-Not, it was the old woman. Here, it's the slimy news reporter. I realize this character was meant to be grating, but she's so bad I couldn't focus on anything else when she was around, and the book only got good for the last quarter or so, when that character finally vanished.


Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (PG)

I was a bit surprised by some of the changes made here, like that Splinter was originally a rat, or Shredder being Darth Vader right down to telling a group of your boys "I am your father!", and no Bebop or Rocksteady, but it still keeps enough of the Turtles silliness that I can let that stuff slide. But as much as the movie doesn't want to be taken seriously, I can't ignore the preposterous final battle with Shredder. Throughout the movie, there's all these underlying themes about teamwork, and family, and how the Turtles have to fight together or get their butts kicked. So when Shredder shows up, what do they do? They go back to getting their butts kicked because they're attacking him on one at a time, and instead of getting their shit together they sit around while Shredder is beaten like, well, that, so that ball got dropped pretty hard.


RiffTrax Live: Reefer Madness (DVD)

While watching this, I would have bet money that this was done before the Christmas Shorts-Stravaganza. I realize these Live performances are a lot harder, what with the Riffers having to perform to an audience and no room for error, but the whole thing was less refined than the Christmas special. The Riffers kept flubbing lines (including a major screwup in the Frozen Frolics short where Kevin delivered a line at completely the wrong time) and others were delivered poorly. But then I double checked, and this was actually done in 2010, while the Christmas one was 2009. What happened, there? Kevin's little dance at the end of the Grasses short also fell completely flat, and while I having nothing against Lowtax or his daughter, those Something Awful cartoons were painfully unfunny, and it seemed like even the audience was responding to them with a big WTF.

As for the feature movie, well, it had its moments, but I couldn't shake the feeling I should have picked the non-Live version. The gasoline, grass, and Frozen Frolic shorts are all available as individual shorts, and while most of the jokes are the same (although the Live version of Frozen Frolics contains a Justin Beiber reference, which was changed to something less trite in the standalone Short version), the deliveries are a lot tighter, and I imagine it would be the same for Reefer Madness. And you don't have those awful SA cartoons.


Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: Secret of the Ooze (PG)

For all the hate this movie gets, I think its worst crime is not having any reason to exist. Well, I guess they wanted to explain the source of the mutating ooze in the movie canon since there's no Krang or Dimension X, but they could have worked it into something other than 90 minutes of pointlessness. The pizza delivery boy was a poor substitute for Casey Jones, and there's this one worthless scene where Shredder catches the turtles in a net and is gearing to drop them onto a rack of pitchforks and other pointy objects, when Splinter shoots them down. I thought he was going to drop the Turtles next to the rack, tell them to choose their weapons, and send out Tokka and Rahzar. Okay, that's cliche, but it makes a hell of a lot more sense than what was actually going on - that Shredder vowed to have the Turtles killed by "other freaks", holed Tokka and Rahzar up in a shed, and then decided to skewer the Turtles anyway. Super Shredder was even more worthless. He has a screen time of about thirty seconds, during which you can barely see him, and then he kills himself. Did they have an extra two minutes of film to burn, or did they just want to make a toy of him? And how did the ooze mutate his clothing?

And is it wrong that I responded to the Vanilla Ice scene not with outrage or embarassment, but indifference?


The Big O: Complete Collection (Anime DVD)

Known to the casual viewer as "that anime where Phoenix Wright stomps around in a giant mech", Big O is in fact one part Batman, one part Full Metal Panic, and surprisingly, one part SWAT Kats, to the point the first episode left me expecting Dastun to be Commander Feral without hair. Sounds like a winning combination to me!

It's a bit hard for me to write anything about the overarching plot yet, because this isn't the whole story and the set ends in a major WTF with a bunch of unanswered questions, presumably to be answered in Big O II. But what it does have is lots of spectacular giant robot and monster action that involves more than Big O punching the monster of the day in the face at the end of each episode. The two episodes that stood out to me the most were the one about the robot built to be a death weapon but just wanted to play the piano (which incidentally was a side-story in the Pluto manga), and... well, let's just say do not go into the cat episode expecting a happy ending. It wasn't as horrifying as the beginning of the episode led me to believe, and the moment before the big tear jerker is immensely satisfying, but yeah, don't get your hopes up.

The episode that started with Roger and Angel trapped in an underwater building felt like filler, but my biggest complaint is the Christmas special was retarded. I don't want to spoil it for any would-be watchers, but imagine if you will, you start out watching A Christmas Carol. But before Scrooge is visited by Marley's ghost, you accidentally sit on the remote and switch the station to a Dr. Viper episode of SWAT Kats. Then as the episode is reaching its climax, you accidentally switch stations again and catch the last few minutes of A Charlie Brown Christmas. To call it inconsistent would be an understatement.

Anal complaint time: The giant robots are called Megadeuses, or "mega gods". But I only learned that while reading about the show because everybody pronounces "deus" wrong - "deus" is pronounced like "day-us", not like "doose". So I thought they were called Megadeuces, as in "mega doubles", or maybe even "mega devils". The weirdest thing about that, though, is you could make an argument that it still makes sense. Although that's probably less foreshadowing and more the fact "mega day-us" doesn't roll of the tongue as well.


Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door (Gamecube, E)

The beginning actually has some inspired ideas, many of which let down by halfheared execution. Leading the swarm of critters around a tree didn't make the most of the idea, the wrestling league probably sounded better on paper because in execution it just drags on and on, and those between chapter bits where you play as Bowser either needed to be completely overhauled into something less pointless, or be removed entirely. Some ideas fared better, like the Twilight Town body snatching and the boss fight with Cortez, a multi-formed skeleton pirate that seems inspired by Kary/Marilith from Final Fantasy.

But shortly after that boss, there's this infernal bit where you scroll through a character telling his wife "I love you" one hundred times, and that's when the game went to shit for me. Following that is a boring train ride where you run from one end of the train to the other while solving asinine mysteries, a goose chase through practically every area of the game, and a final battle with a cheap bitch who kept confusing me. But I still beat her on my first try, so if I'd remembered to equip the Feeling Fine badges she would have been nothing. And by that point, the Action Commands and Stylish Moves weren't keeping the battles interesting anymore. Yeah, they add something to the battles at first, but after you've got the rhythm down, they're just busywork.

And no, and I am not making that "I love you" thing up. I was hoping he'd start saying it, but then you'd get to control Mario and go find his wedding ring, and he'd be wrapping it up when you came back. But nope, you get to sit there and push a button one hundred times.

One thing that really pissed me off is, on some occasions I had to backtrack through an earlier level, either for Star Shines, some fetch quest item, that white Bob-omb, or just every stinking time I had to return to the Thousand Year Door. But the enemies keep dogging you, even though there's no incentive to fight them. Sure, running is easy enough in this game, but there's the chance you'll start dropping coins for running from a worthless battle, and the enemies will keep chasing after you anyway. Either remove the enemies from old areas, or have them flee from you and be instakilled once you reach a certain level.

Man, if ten years ago you'd told me that one day I'd be saying RPGs should be more like Earthbound, I would laughed myself unconscious.


Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III (PG)

This is like somebody wanted make a version of Seven Samurai with the Ninja Turtles, so it's more like There's Only Four Samurai, And They're Actually Ninjas, And They're Turtles. Just a few hours after finishing the movie I was already forgetting it, except that the uncertainty of Michelangelo's fate at the end was the most anticlimactic thing I've seen since the final boss of Black Sigil. It's also great how they brought Casey Jones back, and then squandered him on some doppelganger bullshit for most of the film.

And what's with the new costumes? Three years later and they're not as convincing as they were in the first movie, and the new spots make the Turtles look like they have a skin infection. And since Splinter's only shown sitting or poking out a window, I have to wonder if they only made his upper half for this movie.


Gunstar Heroes (Genesis via Emulator)

It's time to confess that when I wrote my 20 Overrated Games Article, I hadn't actually finished Gunstar Heroes. I stopped playing after trudging through some highway level fighting off an endless swarm of clones for something like ten minutes before losing to that cartoon M. Bison, and wasn't able to bring myself to slog through the level again. So now that I have finished the game, in my first sitting since then no less, I'm going to say it belongs even higher on that list. This game is so mind-numbingly boring it actually made me angry, and you have so much health that, sans a couple of bosses, dodging is something you can try to do if you must, Captain Fancypants, but don't worry yourself too much about it.

The nicest thing I'm prepared to admit about Gunstar Heroes is Seven Force is still a pretty decent boss, but I don't know if I'm saying that because it's a legitimately remarkable boss, or if it's just remarkable compared the rest of the game. I was going to say the same for the defense system boss, but some time after I finished the game, I realized I had fallen for the game's trick of using a flashy special effect to make you overlook there's not a whole lot to the boss itself (or at least not its second and third forms. I guess the first form is still okay). The rest of the bosses - as well as the aforementioned defense system - are boxy/spherical robots, ugly cartoon humans, or boxy/spherical robots being piloted by ugly cartoon humans I could barely tell apart from each other. And the final boss (a boxy ugly cartoon human robot) not only looks stupid, he's only remotely difficult until you figure out where to shoot; then it becomes a matter of ramboing the fucker.

But the most tedious of the game's tedium is that in between bosses, you're fighting endless swarms of the same two enemies, a soldier and a flying lantern thing, for the whole damn game. They may come in different colors, or armored forms that require a few more hits to take down, but that's like saying River City Ransom had more than one enemy because some were wearing different shirts. And man, after that shooter level that plays like a lobotomized Darius, I almost want to take back every mean thing I ever said about the board game level.

Everything this game does, Contra: Hard Corps does miles better, which raises the question of why people don't turn to that when trying to prove the Genesis' superiority to the SNES instead. To answer my own question, either they got their asses handed to them by Hard Corps, or even they realize "You don't see games like Contra: Hard Corps on the Super Nintendo" doesn't make a whole lot of sense.

Now, while I did play this on an emulator I only did that because I don't have access to my physical copy. I played using an SNES controller through a USB adapter, but unless Gunstar Heroes can detect what controller I'm using and changes the level of suck in response I somehow doubt choice of controller is going to radically change my opinon of the game. And I only "cheated" with savestates once, and that was to save at the end of the freeway level before fighting M. Bison because like hell I was going to replay that godforsaken level again if I lost to him (and I did wind up losing to him the first time).