Pokemon 20th Reviews: Pokemon Blue

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Team:

spr_1b_008Dude the Wartortle

spr_1b_020 Fourval the Raticate

spr_1b_025Ash the Pikachu

spr_1b_051 Richard the Dugtrio

spr_1b_093 Reggie the Haunter

spr_1b_017 Nelson the Pidgeotto

So here it is – the first in my series of Pokemon game reviews in the lead up to the 20th anniversary games – Pokemon Sun and Moon. When I first booted up my freshly downloaded 3DS Pokemon Blue re-release, and eagerly picked my starter (Squirtle, obviously) I realised just how laced with nostalgia the first generation of Pokemon games are. I had to pick Squirtle, and I had to name it ‘Dude’, because that’s what I named my first Squirtle. My team looks remarkably similar to what it was back when I first played this because I naturally gravitated to the Pokemon I was nostalgic for. Bear in mind also that I played this game well after it first released, so my nostalgia for this game isn’t all mine – it partly comes from the social nostalgic feelings for these games pervasive in in pop-culture, instead of just from my own early 2000s childhood memories of playing this on my brother’s old Game Boy Pocket.

You may have noticed, then, that my team at the top of the page has something strange about it – not all my Pokemon are fully evolved. The reason for this is because I didn’t finish this game. I’ve finished this before, mind, but this time I couldn’t do it – by the time I was faced with the eleven floor Sliph Co, the rose-tinted spectacles had been forced away from me by a slow, annoying, ugly game that has been even more retroactively spoilt by the conveniences of more recent games in the series. This recent play-through reminded me of everything I’d purposely forgotten in the nearly 6 years since my last complete run of the original trio – no running-shoes, limited space in the bag, glitches, awful sprites and weird difficulty curves. I just wasn’t having much fun.

That’s not to say there wasn’t anything I enjoyed about Pokemon Blue – the core Pokemon game play is still there, and battling and catching Pokemon is still intrinsically fun, although somehow both simpler and more frustrating in these games. I also enjoyed how easy it was to get lost. Game Boy Kanto’s basic textured routes and sprawling, non-linear paths make it easy to find it difficult to get to where you want to be, and that appeals to my love of exploring the Pokemon regions. Besides, getting lost in real life or when playing a game, is always fun (unless you need to be somewhere, in which case, it’s just horrible).

Despite flashes of brilliance, and the initial pang of nostalgia that many a Nintendo/Game Freak game capitalizes heavily on, replaying Pokemon Blue started off my replay series on a slightly dour note. It’s impossible to look at this game objectively, either you’re blinded by nostalgia or, like me, you see it through the lens of more recent games that have improved on this in such a huge way that it dispels the oft-heard criticism that ‘Pokemon never changes’. Or maybe I’m just too lazy for old games…

Next time we’ll be looking at Pokemon Crystal, which I’ve already started playing (and (spoilers) am enjoying much more. I should have a few more posts before that, however. 

 

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ERASED vs The Whodunit

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Spoilers for all of ERASED follow. It is worth noting that I have not read the manga as of the time of writing.

ERASED has been somewhat controversial as an anime, something I admit I didn’t really see coming, at least not in such an extreme way as to divide opinions into what seems like two extreme camps. Being the awful fence-sitter that I am (why am I a critic?), I fall somewhat in the middle. Unlike some (click) I don’t buy that ERASED was bad from the start and no one realised it. The characters may not have been instantly gripping (although I did find Satoru’s jaded 30-something schtick reasonably refreshing), but the plot certainly was enough to make me watch the whole series, and the neat visual tricks may not all have served a story-telling purpose, but they were still important to make a dialogue-heavy, action-lite show visually interesting. I couldn’t, however, consider myself a staunch defender of the show, as you’ll see. Failing to fit into the love or hate camp, I’m going to try and side-step the issue of judging this show as a whole, and instead focus on the problems ERASED has with genre. 

Not fitting into conventional genre boundaries is not only not a bad thing, it often works to a show’s advantage. ERASED has elements of the thriller, and of the character drama, but like it or not, ERASED is primarily a murder-mystery. Or at least, that’s what I thought. You see, ERASED sets itself up like a traditional whodunit, then fails to ever follow through with it. Before I get onto this, I’d first like to clarify that this has nothing to do with the incorporation of other genres into ERASED. The mystery novel has often been a prime target for genre camouflage, where the author can work in elements of different genres into the mystery structure, while still managing both elements. As such, this post really has nothing to say about this show’s handling of characters (although I still find Satoru’s relationship with Kayo slightly creepy), instead, I’m more concerned with how ERASED handles expectations.

The big expectation, at least for me, was that ERASED would be a whodunit, and the reason I thought that was because ERASED tries hard in the first few episodes to slot nicely into that genre. We know (or strongly suspect) from episode one that the killer from the past, assuming them to be the same as the person who killed Satoru’s mum, is a man, but his face is deliberately hidden in the shadows. After this, Satoru goes back in time to solve this string of murders. Looking at my early notes, I wrote down how much I loved this idea as a function for a TV whodunit. As murder mystery shows almost always have their crimes taking place in the past, it is imperative to the viewer that the information is conveyed in an entertaining way – you don’t want a character going all Basil Exposition on you. Having our detective go back to the past, then, is a nice, neat tactic for getting round this issue while at the same time sneaking in some character development for both the detective and the victims (the latter of which is often rare in these types of shows).

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Gee, I wonder who the murderer is…

 Another nice tactic is more subtle and visual; we see the murderer has red eyes, and so whenever a potential suspect gets introduced, we see their eyes flash red – a small visual touch that could be used either to inform or trick the viewer. Another visual trick used is perhaps more traditional; the use of dummies to imagine how the crime might have happened in the detective’s head. It may be traditional but it works.

So now we come to the crux of it – all these techniques would be great in a traditional whodunit, but ERASED wastes them by making the murderer more and more obvious, and brushing over how the crime was done in a matter of minutes. Don’t get me wrong, I’m fine with a murder mystery where the murderer is revealed early on or is obvious, but that’s usually because the writer wants to focus on why or how they did it. But ERASED’s bait and switch has no real point to it; we never explore in any proper detail or heft how or why Yashiro did it, just some unintelligible spiel about hamsters and spiders.

In the end, then, the whole murder mystery element of ERASED could be easily removed from the show, and that’s not a good sign. ERASED sets itself up for a promising whodunit, that might take the back seat to a character drama, but would still carry some weight to it. Then, a few episodes in, ERASED gives away the big surprise, waits too long to officially reveal it, and forgets to give its villain any real motivation that makes sense to normal people. The final few episodes and scenes with Yashiro feel like a procedure, something that the writers knew they had to do, but didn’t have the heart to do properly, and that’s a real shame for the whole show.

 

 

Suits – Review

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‘No one mention how goddamn small this room is…’

Spoilers for all 5 seasons of Suits follow

Suits is awful. Suits is brilliant. Most people who’ve seen USA’s law drama can understand this sentiment. The 5th season of Suits just wrapped up in what I can only call a shocking final episode (Mike…), and I thought I’d reflect on the show for a bit so I can fully understand what makes me want/need to watch more of a show I know is so trashy.

Part of my attraction to this show comes from the premise. Mike’s position as illegal lawyer gives the show tension in every episode, by creating a large looming threat over the horizon that is teased every once in a while to ensure we haven’t forgotten Mike never went to Harvard, but only actually has any impact in season five, to the aforementioned shocking results. The constant overlaying tension makes anyone want to come back – anyone who’s seen the Danish/Swedish thriller The Bridge (i.e. the most tense show on TV) knows that tension draws in and keeps the crowd; we want, no, we need to see if Louis, or Hardman, or god forbid Woodall will find out about Mike and Harvey’s little secret.

Talking of Mike and Harvey, let’s talk more about… Mike and Harvey. The characters are another thing that make this show click, mainly because they’re all so over the top – to the extent that the one character who feels more real than the others (that’s really not saying much), Rachel Zane, becomes out of place in the heightened world of Suits. Mike is entertaining to watch because of his super memory powers and his classic banter with Harvey, who is entertaining to watch because he’s so goddamn good at his job, and also because when things don’t go his way he gets goddamn angry and says goddamn way more than it’s healthy to (Clicking this link may make God angry). Then we have Louis, my personal favourite, who is so goddamn (Ok, I’ll stop) over the top that it’s hard not to love him. And who could forget Donna, Harvey’s perfect secretary who would get annoying if only her one-liners weren’t so on point. And to top it all off, we have the seldom happy, always under threat Jessica, who just wants to save her goddamn (sorry) firm. Sprinkle in some fantastically hateable ‘baddies’ like the punchable Hardman or Fortsman, who is literally Satan, and you have yourself a supremely watchable cast.

The plot isn’t bad either, for the most part. Besides the whole ‘Mike didn’t go to Harvard law’ thing, the series throws all sorts of legal twists and turns at the viewer. While the law may not hold up under close scrutiny, it’s always fun to see well-dressed people spout off terminology you don’t understand and then slap someone (often literally) with a subpoena. The human drama is similarly unrealistic but fun. Standard TV tropes are pitfalls Suits is often more than happy to jump headfirst into, making sure not to mess up its tie in the process, which is a clunky metaphor for Suits’ sense of style, which is ever present in the sublime music choices and occasional stylistic shots and editing which make me happy inside.

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*clink*

Suits isn’t all sunshine and well ironed Hugo Boss, however, and the show definitely has its moments that make me question why I watch it.  I mentioned Rachel briefly before, who is one of the biggest mistakes this show has. No offense to Meghan Markle, but Rachel is so goddamn (fuck) dull. She doesn’t do anything to influence her own life, and seems to have little plot importance outside of being Mike’s love interest (although the two have a complete lack of on-screen chemistry). The same could be said of Donna, but the writers at least make her funny and seemingly independent through the use of plot points such as her affair with Stephen and her going over to Louis (although those both end with her back at Harvey’s side… ugh, bye-bye feminism). It’s certainly showing that the only time I liked Rachel was when she had an ‘affair’ with Logan Sanders, and even then, he started it, keeping her a pawn in the events of her own life.

The other glaring problem Suits has is with change. For as much as the show likes to threaten us with changes to its main characters, they never come; Donna gets fired…then comes back, Mike quits to become a banker…then comes back, Harvey quits…then comes back. I could go on for ages, and I’m willing to bet Mike will be back working for Pearson Specter Litt (the name of the firm seems to be the only thing they’re willing to change) by the end of Season Six.

But I still love Suits. And I don’t want it to change. Suits isn’t high art, and it shouldn’t be. ‘Trashy’ is an easy word to throw around, but it shouldn’t necessarily be an insult. I know the amount of work that goes into this show, and I love how easy it is to watch, how silly Louis is – all that shit. So why write a review about it then? I was bored.