Sure, nerds around the world may be united in their excitement for Star Wars Battlefront–but for me, it has been a time of longing for simpler times: 1995. In 1995, Han still shot first. Heir to the Empire was still canon. And Star Wars: Dark Forces was about to blow the mind of my 10 year old self.
While LucasArts had created a brand new engine for Dark Forces, it was essentially Bungie’s Marathon… except you killed Stormtroopers. Plus, it introduced the world to Kyle Kataran (who may or may not be a canon character now?). In other words, Dark Forces was awesome, with cool characters, slick level design, and enough nostalgia to fuel numerous sequels…including one of the best Star Wars games ever, Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast. It was no Knights of the Old Republic, but it was damn good.
Once or twice a year, something reminds me of that this movie happened. Today, I was reminded of it when I saw an original NES for sale on Craigslist.
I was only eight years old when I first saw the Super Mario Bros. movie. Imagine my excitement: not only were they making a movie about that awesome Mario game I spent so much time playing, the good guy from Roger Rabbit was playing Mario. As we first popped the movie into our VCR and the familiar NES music played over the opening credits, fading into whacky cartoon with talking dinosaurs narrated by Dan Castellaneta (aka Homer Simpson), I was immediately confused.
And that confusion never ceased during the entire 100 minute runtime.
I probably watched the film a dozen times as a kid. I never quite understood what it had to do with the video games that I loved so much, but I tolerated it – maybe even strangely enjoyed it. Now as an adult, I enjoy it for other reasons, mostly because I get a kick out of its campiness, how bizarre the entire script is, and the complete disaster that it turned out to be.
A meteorite somehow splitting the earth into two parallel universes. Dennis Hopper as an OCD, greasy-haired King Koopa. Giant “de-evolved” goombas. Fisher Stevens. The silly backstory for why Mario and Luigi were two Italian plumbers saving a princess.
Imagining the studio execs coming up with all of this as a means of capitalizing on Nintendo’s popularity is even more amusing.
Even more interesting are the almosts of this movie. Roland Joffé (The Mission, The Killing Fields) was the first to propose the film in a studio meeting. Danny DeVito and Harold Ramis were in talks to direct at one point. Tom Hanks was once on board to play Mario with Hoskins being brought on due to being a “more profitable” actor. Oh, the what-ifs.
As it would turn out, the film would bomb making less than $21 million back of its $45 million budget. Critics and gamers alike slammed it. And since then, Hoskins hasn’t spoke very kindly of it or its duo of directors. “The worst thing I ever did? Super Mario Brothers,” Hoskins said in a 2007 interview with Guardian. “It was a fuckin’ nightmare. The whole experience was a nightmare. It had a husband-and-wife team directing, whose arrogance had been mistaken for talent. After so many weeks their own agent told them to get off the set! Fuckin’ nightmare. Fuckin’ idiots.”
You know what, though? The movie is right here for you to watch in its entirety. See if you can resist.
Since I first heard it was happening, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim has been my most anticipated game of the year, promising a return to the vast world that ate up my life in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. When I first bought my Xbox360, Oblivion was among the first round of games I bought, taking it on faith that I’d enjoy it, since I hadn’t played any of the previous Elder Scrolls games. I ended up spending over 120 hours on the initial playthrough, and being completely unready for it to end when I finished. I’ve even restarted it a few times just to spend more time in the world of Tamriel. Of course, I’m cheap, so I didn’t get the expansion packs right away – in fact, I didn’t get them until a few weeks ago, when Xbox Live had an amazing sale on them, and I didn’t get to finish them before Skyrim came out. I’ll get back to them, but for now, my life belongs to Skyrim.
So far, I’ve only scratched the surface of Skyrim‘s world, so this is not a review, but just a catalog of the some first impressions of the game so far. I’ve put in roughly ten hours, and have completed only a very little bit of the main quest line. I tend to like doing the other things first, so I’ve done a lot of little tasks like clearing out a cave of bandits, sorting out an unhappy love triangle, recovering a family sword, those kind of things. You get those just by wandering around and talking to people – it’s amazing how many people need stuff done for them! There are also larger, multi-part side quests, and I’ve done a few of those as well. Then there are guilds and factions you can join, each of which starts its own questline. I’ve joined two of those so far. If you’ve played Oblivion and all this sounds familiar, you’re right. This game is essentially exactly like Oblivion from the general design to the branching questlines and random tasks to the hack-and-slash combat. If you’ve played Oblivion, you already know whether you’re going to like Skyrim or not. I haven’t been disappointed one bit – it’s like being back in the world I love with updated graphics, slightly better combat, a face-lifted menu system (which I quite like, actually, compared with Oblivion‘s), and what promises to be an even bigger world.
As you may know, Row Three has long had a sister site called More Pop, where Row Three contributors talked about music, books, television, video games, basically whatever pop culture stuff we wanted to that wasn’t film. With the end of Lost, which generating our most active threads over there, it’s gotten harder and harder for us to maintain on a regular basis and we’ve made the decision to go ahead and shutter it. HOWEVER. We still have other pop-culture stuff we want to talk about besides movies once in a while, so we’re resurrecting the idea as a column over here. Might be weekly, might be less, but never more. We’re still very focused on movies, and that’s never going to change. But once in a while, we’ll bring you our thoughts on video games, music, books, and more, and then open up the comments as a forum to talk about, basically, whatever the hell you want to. This is the space for all those things you never quite knew where to talk about before. Post it here.
To kick things off, I was going to talk about playing Deus Ex: Human Revolution, a game I’ve been dying to get pretty much since it was announced. The first Deus Ex game for PC was really a watershed moment for me as a gamer – I’d been playing Myst and other adventure games (which I still love, don’t get me wrong; I’d like nothing better than for that style of gaming to make a comeback), but then a friend gave me Deus Ex, my first FPS/RPG of any type, and I was hooked. Without it, I probably wouldn’t be a gamer at all now.
But what actually happened was Gamefly (the Netflix of video games) finally sent me Portal 2 after weeks of waiting, and I’ve been consumed with that for the past two weeks. The first Portal game was a sliver of an add-on to The Orange Box, Valve’s combination of their previously-released games Half-Life, Half-Life 2 and Team Fortress. But it was Portal that got all the word of mouth in that set, thanks to challenging puzzles, a witty script, a catchy song, and one of the most memorable AIs of all time.