Recently I just had that Fire Emblem itch and decided to go ahead and scratch it. I know it is a significant time sink to actually see the game to completion so it was always daunting but I figured I would at least give it a good shake so I could sate my curiosity. I’m happy to say that I am definitely enjoying my time with it so far but as someone who started on the GameCube with Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance, it’s kind of striking to think just how different this game is from classic installments in the series. Even just the ability to walk around the school and do things other than the traditional strategy RPG style we’ve come to expect from Fire Emblem is so unique to the series, and while I’m sure the day-to-day activities would be lost on some classic fans, these elements in games are right up my alley so it works out! Just different than what I’m used to in this particular series! I look forward to more time with this game, for sure!
Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune on the PlayStation 3:
It’s crazy that it has actually been almost 15 years since this first Uncharted game came out and I am just now playing a game in the series for the first time ever! And honestly, as much as I have heard such incredible things (about later parts of the series especially), I probably still wouldn’t have ever gotten around to it on my own. The reason I decided to finally get around to it in reality is because I was assigned to play it as part of a little series of challenges we do on my gaming community’s Discord called the “Gents Challenge”, where usually everyone is paired up and your partner picks what game you are challenged to finish before the deadline out of the list of games you have provided. This time around the challenge was different in that everyone’s games were essentially decided by random draw. So I had a completely random assortment of games on my list and the two games I was assigned were Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune and Resident Evil 6, both of which were on the lower end of games I was looking to play soon, in all honesty. But it was just the push that I needed and I have been thoroughly enjoying this game! I love the style of the game which even to this day feels so unique compared to how most games present themselves. You will definitely hear more of my thoughts on an upcoming video we will be recording for Tarqaron, so look out for that as well!
Content of the Week:
Survivor: Guatemala Review – Tarqaron
No season of Survivor on Tarqaron ever feels truly complete until the season review, where we can tie up any loose ends, give our final thoughts, and provide some closure for the experience with this nice proverbial bow to top everything off. That’s exactly what this review was for us and since Guatemala feels in many ways like the redheaded stepchild of Survivor seasons there was plenty for us to get into and have a lot of fun with!
Zach’s thoughts on Survivor 43 Ep. 2 – Tarqaron
While the premiere for Survivor 43 didn’t immediately hook me because of its “more of the same feel,” I really feel like they kind of knocked it out of the park with the second episode. I think a lot of it was also thanks to the 90-minute episode, which I so so wish was the norm for Survivor, in addition to some things that were executed well and lots of fun character and strategy moments to complement it all.
Just last night I witnessed what I believe to be the best finale in Big Brother history, with the most iconic final two speech and most satisfying winner in Big Brother history as well. I truly don’t think I’ve ever rooted for someone as hard as I did towards the end of this season, and it happened to produce the most unlikely winner and the most incredible underdog story the show has ever seen! I’m thrilled with the outcome of the season and am grateful for the mold being broken in such a meaningful way.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild on the Nintendo Switch:
I have been making more progress with my replay of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and I have been enjoying it for sure! Still very much at the early stage of the game having just passed through Kakariko Village and having only completed a handful of shrines at this point. I don’t know whether I will see this second playthrough all the way through or not , but I am definitely going to continue to enjoy my time with it for as long as I’m feeling it!
Renaissance by Beyoncé:
Though I’ve always had this sort of unspoken respect for Beyoncé and her music, I’d never really taken the time to listen to much outside of the mainstream hits and never listened to an album of hers in its entirety… until now. My girlfriend and I listened to this album together for the first time a week or two ago and we’ve been enjoying it a lot ever since! Personally I think my favorite song continues to be Cuff It, but I’m pleased with most of the songs overall and am honestly impressed at how seamlessly they transition into each other if you listen to them in the proper album order! As someone who appreciates and loves music, I’m always eager to listen to and appreciate more!
The finales of Survivor are always a fun time where you really get to see the narrative of the season either stick the landing, stumble a little bit at the end, or completely fall on its face and I always look forward to enjoying these old-school finales with Alec. Not only do we get to see the jury grill our final two but I also get to see Alec’s reaction to the ultimate winner of the season. In some ways Guatemala is like a redheaded stepchild of old-school Survivor and you will see some of those ways explored in our comprehensive season review this week.
I even mention in this video that reunion episodes tend not to be my favorites, or even very memorable in general, and this one was really no different BUT like always there are little nuggets of live tv weirdness that make it worth it. As I’m writing this, Blake’s comments during this reunion stand out for me at least, and I’ll just leave it at that…
Pinocchio (2022) Review – Tarqaron ft. Rusty
Quite a while ago at this point, Alec, Rusty, and I said that we would make it a mission of ours to go through the live-action Disney remakes as well as tackle any new releases that come our way and somewhere along the way we lost sight of that. Of course, naturally, Pinocchio would be the one to bring us back together and hopefully get back on track. We spent nearly an hour talking about this movie and I’ll just say that not much of it was positive but we enjoyed talking about it at the very least!
Zach’s thoughts on the Survivor 43 PREMIERE! – Tarqaron
While the overall public discourse that I’ve seen tends to lean towards a positive reception of the premiere, I’ve got to say that while I was happy for Survivor to be back, I still am very much hesitant to enjoy some of the new norms that have been established over the last new seasons. Additionally, while I was happy with the editing I found myself underwhelmed by the episode and its more of the same vibe overall. But as always I will keep an open mind and enjoy the season as it is another season of Survivor, after all.
The only games I enjoy watching competitively are Super Smash Bros. Melee and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, and my favorite event for both of them is always the Summits, where some of the best players in their respective games are brought together to duke it out while producing content in a unique environment. The fifth installment of Smash Ultimate Summit delivered on all fronts, with plenty of intense game-five sets and dramatic upsets that made for exciting results and entertaining gameplay all around. I always eagerly await the next Summit and that’s no different for the next Melee one on the horizon!
The Walking Dead on AMC:
So I’ve been behind on the latest season of The Walking Dead for some time now, but this past week I’ve really been making some decent progress towards catching up. For the final season (season 11), they split it up into three parts, each with eight episodes, I believe, with the final part to be released soon. But I had previously only made it into the first part and am now in the second part after watching a few episodes and I have really been enjoying it! At this point I’ve watched through the tenth episode of season 11, and that one especially saw a significant change in the feel of the show and although I’m still behind by several episodes, it has been a refreshing change of pace and I look forward to seeing how things shape up later on!
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild on the Nintendo Switch:
As much as I absolutely adore this game, I haven’t played it since its initial release and sank only about 30 hours into it before leaving it behind for the time being. I had been meaning to revisit it for some time now, in anticipation of the previously unnamed Breath of the Wild sequel (now officially titled Tears of the Kingdom). There was plenty left for me to do in the base game and I never even touched the DLC at all! So I’m hoping to get to as much as I can, but I did start over with a new file because it has been pretty much five years at this point and I figured it would feel like a practically brand-new experience for me at this point anyway! So while I’ve put very little time into this so far, I’m looking forward to reliving the magic of this game again.
Content of the Week:
Survivor: Guatemala Ep. 13 Reaction (The Curse of the Car) – Tarqaron
This was a fun episode to have in the mix! The episode right before the finale can tend to not be one of the most exciting episodes in the world and although the end result of the episode tracks with that, I think there’s a lot of fun character moments and personality to counteract that and make it a memorable episode.
Survivor 43 Pre-Season Spectacular – Tarqaron ft. Rusty
It’s really cool getting to jump back into that modern Survivor mindset with my pal Rusty. Given all of the factors involved in the last two seasons I am cautiously optimistic, but overall know I will have a good time because it is ultimately more Survivor at the end of the day! It was fun doing this draft and going through some weird pet peeves that the cast has.
Now ZACH ranks ALEC’s favorite things! – Tarqaron
Yes, Alec stole my idea for this video because of course he would. It was fun being on the other end of it and I anticipate us having fun with more fun and unique tier list templates in the future as well!
Of all of Nintendo’s “gimmick” accessories, the one used for Ring Fit Adventure just might be the most impressive one yet. I’ve only played a few hours at this point, but I’m already impressed by all of the different ways it is being utilized and I truly believe people should be talking about this game more! Ring Fit Adventure really gets you moving, and not in a “shake the Wii Remote and Nunchuck” kind of way. The game allows you to actually exercise while also giving you a fun RPG story mode to go with it. Especially for someone who is not nearly as active as they should be (like myself), this seems like a perfect starting point for exercising while simultaneously just being a fun game with plenty of content to enjoy! Definitely worth the $70-80 cost if you any of that sounds enticing to you at all.
Big Brother 24 on CBS:
This week of Big Brother was particularly notable because of an entertaining double eviction episode which saw perhaps the hardest working person all season go home without disappointing with his exit in the slightest. It’s always great to see someone fighting until the bitter end and giving us an iconic exit, so I’m thankful for this as a memorable week of Big Brother in 2022.
IT’S MR. VIDEO on YouTube:
So this past week I’ve been addicted to Mr. Video’s Game of Thrones reactions on YouTube. I literally forgot how much I loved the large majority of that show until I decided to start watching his reactions and I have been reliving Game of Thrones in its prime along with him. It’s bittersweet because the last season of the show literally soured me so much on it that I forgot why I fell in love with it to begin with and I tend to forget that it was literally my favorite show of all time for several years. With all that being said, I still have yet to check out House of the Dragons, so maybe that will help to soften the blow taken by how Game of Thrones ended? I’m not sure, I’ve heard good things, but hopefully I can judge for myself soon and you might see that on a Weekly Highlights post here soon enough.
If absolutely nothing else, this episode is worth a watch just to see some of the most iconic parting words in Survivor history. It’s exactly the kind of exit I love to see from someone being voted out on Survivor, and all in all it’s a beautiful blindside to behold.
Alec ranks Zach’s favorite things! – Tarqaron
So every year, Alec and I each get to pick a video, any video, to do in honor of our respective birthdays. So I was tossing around some ideas, mostly centered on reviewing one of my favorite movies or an offbeat movie that we might not review otherwise, but this fun little idea popped into my head and I couldn’t shake it. I put together 50 random things that I love, which included anything from video games to movies to foods to activities, and I made Alec rank them on a tier list just for the heck of it! I thought seeing him have to compare practically incomparable things would make for a fun video and it did not disappoint! And spoiler alert: Alec may have just stolen my idea for this week’s video in honor of his birthday as well, so perhaps still more tier list shenanigans to come!
Rob Has a Podcast has been my main podcast of choice recently, though there’s almost never a time in the year when I’m not enjoying them regularly, since they are my main outlet for extensive Survivor and Big Brother content on YouTube. I’ve been enjoying their coverage of Big Brother 24 and their daily live feed updates so much that it’s probably actually the case that I’ve spent more time watching their coverage on YouTube than I have watching the actual show they’re talking about. I’ve been enjoying following along as Taran Armstrong in particular breaks down the season and its players in detail along with other fun podcasters.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate on the Nintendo Switch:
The Super Smash Bros. series of games has been a constant in my life ever since its inception and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is no exception. In fact, I’ve invested more time in this game than I have in any game I can recall, period. I’ve put over 750 hours into this game to date, and I don’t see it slowing down any time soon. More than anything this game has become my comfort food, essentially the game that I go to as a default and one that is a go-to for when I just want something to keep my hands busy or keep me occupied as I’m listening to a podcast or watching a YouTube video. I’m glad to have it for that and for that reason alone I tend to regularly enjoy it on any given week more than any other one thing that might be highlighted here.
Fable II on the Xbox 360:
I admittedly haven’t put nearly as much time into Fable II this week as I was hoping to, but I just had to highlight the developments which have been made this week. I don’t know what came over me, but I just suddenly had the urge to try out the evil side of being a “Hero” in this game. So I kill a couple of people in the friendly town of Oakvale and next thing you know I get a little carried away and I’ve slaughtered the whole town… I didn’t feel good about it, and, well, ever since there has been a never-ending stream of guards coming from the neighboring towns. So not only did it not feel good and it devoid this town of any meaningful life, but now it’s inhibiting my ability to even play the game like normal. I have yet to play since, but hopefully I can establish some sense of normalcy again and put myself on the righteous path of repentance after all. I’ve always thought about going the bad/evil/renegade routes in these sorts of games but I’ve never been able to go through with it any significant way, and maybe this is why…
Survivor: Guatemala Ep. 11 Reaction (Everything Is Personal) – Tarqaron
This episode wasn’t necessarily the most impactful of the season, but it still made for a fun episode and it was especially satisfying to see Gary calling Judd out at tribal council for “not lying” and seeing Alec’s reaction to that moment.
And now we’re playing TARQARON Mad Libs! – Tarqaron
This was a lot of fun. My brother gave us another great custom-made Tarqaron-related gift to enjoy, and this one being two whole books of Tarqaron Mad Libs will allow us to have a fun series of videos to enjoy as well! It’s always fun being able to reflect on Tarqaron’s history and our hundreds of videos we’ve put out over the years and my brother continues to give us more fun ways to do just that!
Hello everyone, welcome to a new weekly series I’ll be doing here on my website. Unlike my weekly blog series that I did for months last year, this series won’t focus on my personal life but rather will allow me to highlight the different games, movies, shows, books, and musics I enjoyed from the past week as well as elaborate on any content I posted as well. This does not mean I have included everything I enjoyed from the past week, but rather specific highlights that I thought were most worth mentioning! These will be posted every Monday and I encourage you to leave a response if you have any opinions on anything I highlight here throughout the week! Feel free to leave a comment here or reach out to me on Twitter @_Zach_Archer_ ! I love talking about these kinds of things so I’m happy to add another outlet for me to regularly do so.
Highlights of the Week
438 Days by Jonathan Franklin:
This is actually the first book in years that I actually sat down and read through in its entirety! Despite always having an interest in reading more, the flashier trinkets like video games and YouTube videos tended to distract me and keep me from really committing to a good book, but now that I’ve had some extra free time on my hands I don’t intend on stopping after this one. This was actually a real-life story I knew about before, but I was so curious to read about in more detail. 438 Days follows the grueling 438 days that a man named Alvarenga survived lost at sea with nothing but his survival abilities and seemingly endless miles of ocean around him. It’s truly unfathomable to wrap your head around just how long 438 days is to be in even just one place in general, let alone stranded at sea in a survival situation. I highly encourage you to read this if you’re interested at all in hearing about this incredible survival story.
Fable II on the Xbox 360:
My relationship with the Fable series is an interesting one. I have always been a fan of the series, but weirdly enough, I have only beaten Fable III and have yet to make significant progress on the first two despite starting them over multiple times and enjoying them both. But for some reason I was feeling that Fable itch once again and I’m going to try to stick it through to the end this time. I guess I’ve accepted my non-linear relationship with the series and so I’m going through Fable II next, it was just calling to me more. So far I’ve been enjoying it, but as tends to happen with this series, I spent a few hours the other night getting distracted winning over many of the townspeople in Bowerstone, getting married a couple of times along the way, and as such haven’t done much in terms of progress recently. But the next time I play I plan on focusing up and moving forward with more of the story proper.
Big Brother 24 on CBS:
Watching Big Brother has been an annual tradition for my family for so many years that it is just a regular part of each summer at this point. This season has been delivering in a lot of ways because it has been a rollercoaster of ups and downs and despite a really rough start to the season it has picked up and led to some interesting dynamics, even in spite of a couple of awful twists imposed by the producers. This season is also the first one I’ve been able to enjoy and discuss with my girlfriend, so that has been a plus, too. Hopefully the endgame proves to be just as interesting and gives us more to enjoy.
The Lucky Ones (Deluxe) album by Pentatonix:
Recently it kind of slipped my mind that I hadn’t given the deluxe version of Pentatonix’s latest album quite the love it deserved. I had listened to it a few times, sure, but not as much as many of their other albums for sure. I’ve since realized that the additional deluxe tracks are some of my favorite Pentatonix songs period now, with You’re Out standing out to me this past week especially. Truly a treat to enjoy, and one I’m sure I’ll continue to appreciate for quite some time.
Content of the Week:
Box Art Battles! – Episode 6 | Tarqaron ft. Ryan
This episode was a lot of fun. As always in Box Art Battles!, we got up to a lot of fun shenanigans as we navigated a variety of video game box art. Most notably I feel like Winning Post 7 really defined this episode in a lot of ways, lest we forget the moments we shared.
Jamie’s parting words were almost too iconic not to be referenced in the title, especially after the dramatic downward spiral that we witnessed from him throughout the past few episodes. I know Alec was happy to see them finally actually go through with voting him out and I don’t blame him; it was a much needed change of pace. Had a fun time with this episode for sure!
Belle Review – Tarqaron
This was definitely an interesting anime film worth highlighting, and I knew there would be a good amount to get into, but I certainly never expected Alec to get so heated about one minor critique I made in the video (especially since we were more or less in agreement about everything else). Watch for yourself and let me know if I was really being that unreasonable with what I said, because it really took me by surprise.
This game was everything I wanted it to be and more.
Bug Fables: The Everlasting Sapling is a video game that was released on the Switch, PS4, and Xbox One back in 2020, but I just now got around to really sinking my teeth into and finishing in 2022. This game was always high on my radar because it takes direct inspiration from the Paper Mario games of old. To truly understand the significance of that key element it might be worth checking out a post I wrote a year ago about The Rise and Fall of Paper Mario in my, and most of the fans’, eyes.
Bug Fables is almost shameless in how much of its DNA is really derived from Paper Mario. But it’s admirable in a sense. Paper Mario fans have been asking for a return to form for almost two decades and finally someone comes along and says fuck it, we’re going to do it ourselves. So this perfectly scratches that itch that fans have been so longing to scratch. From the action commands in the turn-based battle system to the puzzle-solving using unique abilities and from the same paper aesthetic to the same badge/medal system, Bug Fables borrows a lot to give fans exactly what they’ve been dying for all these years later. Frankly, I’m not mad at it. If Nintendo wants to refuse to deliver on fans’ expectations then naturally that was going to leave the door open for someone to do so. And we have good ol’ independent developer Moonsprout Games to thank for giving it to us.
And that’s not to say that Bug Fables is just a Paper Mario clone and nothing more. The amount of influence and gameplay elements taken directly from the first two Paper Mario games is undeniable, to the extent that this might as well have been another entry in that series. But it does it with such heart and a lot of care put into every aspect and oozes a ton of charm on its own as well. From what initially seems like it will just be an excuse to do a lot of bug puns and bug-related names, they actually take the whole bug aspect and use it to really flesh the world out quite well with everything from unique character designs to fun dialogue and an engaging story.
Needless to say I was hooked from beginning to end and while of course there are things I would like to improve on or change if they were to make a sequel in the future (fingers crossed), that’s not really what I wanted to highlight here. The main takeaway is this: Paper Mario and Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door are two of my favorite games ever and I’ve been endlessly disappointed with the direction the series has gone since then. Bug Fables: The Everlasting Sapling gave me a burst of that joy I felt when playing those two games and I am so, so grateful for that. The attention to detail and heart, with a breadth of content too, make it clear that this was a love letter to true Paper Mario fans and one that I will cherish forever!
I stumbled across Pentatonix back in 2015 and it’s kind of wild to think about how much such a seemingly insignificant event has impacted my life since. Not only did it reawaken a love and appreciation for music that I didn’t really know was there, but it was a big part of what drew people in to my YouTube channel to begin with and led to many more opportunities and friendships as a result. They’re the only artist I’ve attended any concerts for and I’ve even met them a couple of times. They’re really the only artist I’ve ever actually been a part of the fan community for and that allowed me to meet a lot of cool people and then go to PentaCon in Texas where I met even more cool people (and even got to be on a panel there!). I don’t think anything will ever truly match my love of them around the 2016-18 time period and being very active right in the middle of the fandom during that time but I definitely still have a love for the group and the music that they continue to put out, and I probably always will.
After Avi left the group in 2017 I knew I would continue to support them but I always had this feeling that their music would never quite live up to the quality that it was when he was there. But I’m happy to report that I continue to be impressed by their albums, and in fact their most recent albums are some of their best ever. Their We Need a Little Christmas album, which they released in 2020, was stellar in spite of me previously feeling like maybe they should take a break from doing so many Christmas albums before they completely run out of material. Their latest album, The Lucky Ones, had no business being as good as it was. It’s a rarity that I don’t feel the need to skip any tracks in an album, and The Lucky Ones does that effortlessly. They managed to capture such a unique vibe with this album that is unlike any of their albums before it (and starkly different than their self-titled album back in 2015 which is their only other all-original album thus far). It’s this unique tone, in conjunction with the fact that all of the tracks seem to lead into each other so seamlessly, that makes the album so easy to listen to without skipping a track.
Happy Now is a song that I fell in love with as soon as I heard it for the first time back in concert before it had even been released. It’s a really feel-good song that has a fun energy to it. As their first original song in quite some time when it was released as a single, it really set the tone for things to come.
I feel like I’ve grown particularly sappy over the past year, so the message of Love Me When I Don’t really resonates with me now and it’s really important for that reason. Overall as a song I don’t know if it’s necessarily one of my favorites on the album but it’s nice enough and I tend to be partial to Kirstin’s voice so I like that she has such a big role in it for sure.
Coffee In Bed is a really nice, chill jam. The blend of Scott and Mitch as the leads works really well for the vibe they’re going for, and the backing vocals add a really nice flavor to the sound that sets the song apart from the others. It’s a nice vibe to ease you into the album.
Remember when I said that I tend to be partial to Kirstin’s voice? Well Be My Eyes certainly delivers on that front and again delivers a song with a sound that is quite unique from every Pentatonix song before it. It’s one of those songs that doesn’t break from its formula too much once it starts and more or less relies on that same sound throughout but the sound is so magical in a way that I don’t really mind it. There is also a nice little build-up towards the end of the song that I appreciate as well.
A Little Space is pretty wild, and it’s definitely a jam as well. It has such cool groove to it, and it really allows some of the other voices in the group to thrive, like Kevin, for example, who also provides a whole other layer to the song with the really cool vocal instrumentation. I love the whole vibe of this song and it’s one I can always jam out to for sure (the music video they released featuring ATEEZ was a really cool version as well).
Again, the songs really flow into each other well throughout the whole album, but it’s the cool subtleties that really set them apart and give them each a unique sound. Side feels more mellow than a lot of the other songs, but it provides a nice little contrast halfway through the album, and is really effortless for Mitch’s vocal prowess. As much as I love to hear Mitch belt out with his wild vocal range, this is a nice, warm side of his voice that is refreshing to hear every now and then for sure.
Scott and Mitch are the driving force of Bored, as they are a lot throughout the album, but they again combine to make a cool blend that works well, especially when combined with some cool vocal effects and the backing vocals from the others that compliment the sound as well. Overall this is perhaps the most repetitious of any of the songs in the album but it still works as part of the overall album’s vibe.
For whatever reason Exit Signs just really stands out to me. It’s another mellow song that isn’t exactly a fun vibe like Happy Now but it’s weirdly alluring. And hey, it’s a whole lot of Kirstin, so that’s always a plus. But I just really love the feel of the song overall and much like a lot of the album, it’s one I can just really chill out while I’m listening to it. And for what it’s worth, I love how Kirstin sounds particularly at the end of the song when she really goes for it. It adds a lot!
Never Gonna Cry Again is the obligatory “wow, this is a cappella?” song of the album, where it just feels so full and stylized that you almost forget this is all done with just their voices. Mitch thoroughly kills it with this one. Such a cool sound.
Oh, hey Kirstin, nice to hear you again. This album gives a sufficient amount of Kirstin love, never gonna hate on that. But as I listen to It’s Different Now, and as I’ve listened to each song as I type this, the realization is finally setting in that this album is super chill, so I could see how it might not be everyone’s cup of tea. You very much have to bring a similar chill energy for the album to work for you. It’s not the most hype-inducing album in the world, so you really have to be in a certain place mentally to fully appreciate it. But heck, I love It’s Different Now all the same, I guess I’m matching that energy pretty well right now.
The album comes to a close with The Lucky Ones, which I feel like is a really good song to have the album named after because it really captures the tone and vibe quite well. I almost feel like a more up-beat song would be more fitting to book-end the album with Happy Now and take us out of our more somber vibe we have going on, but this is still a really cool song so I’m fine with it. Maybe a good song to end on in the sense that it eases us out of the album rather than leading us to expect more.
Overall I really love their latest album, which makes me all the more excited for everything they have planned for the future. It captured a style unlike anything they’ve done before, and is so wildly but pleasantly different from their first album of originals that they could go in any number of directions for their next album. The fact that they were able to come out with such an excellent product during these times we’re living in is particularly impressive and just reinforces my faith in their vision moving forward.
Tonight I decided to talk about what was historically one of my favorite series of video games ever: Paper Mario. While there certainly is a “fall” referenced in the title of this blog, make no mistake… Paper Mario as a series is beloved to me. Few video game series bring me as much joy just to think about. But the unfortunate reality is that I always have to preface my love of the Paper Mario series in saying that my love is for the older games in the series rather than the newer ones. I equate it a lot to a feeling that many Star Wars fans have when talking about the original trilogy versus the prequels. It’s almost a 1:1 comparison for me, really. The first three (Paper Mario, Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, and Super Paper Mario) correspond almost perfectly to the original trilogy. Paper Mario on the Nintendo 64 is the equivalent to A New Hope in that it is a true gem and you can’t go wrong with the one that started it all. The Thousand-Year Door on the Nintendo GameCube is like Empire Strikes Back in that it is the GOAT and really perfected what made the series great. And lastly, Super Paper Mario on the Nintendo Wii is most like Return of the Jedi in the sense that it is the more off-beat of the trilogy and slightly more contentious than the others, but appreciated nonetheless. Although the correlation isn’t quite as direct, the newer trio of games (Paper Mario: Sticker Star on the Nintendo 3DS, Paper Mario: Color Splash on the Nintendo Wii U, and Paper Mario: The Origami King on the Nintendo Switch) would be viewed similarly to the prequel trilogy of Star Wars films in that they are so different stylistically from the first three and, in my opinion, lose a big part of that original spark and can’t compare in quality as a result. Hopefully that comparison is as apt for you as it has always been for me.
For me, the first two in the series stand head and shoulders above the rest. The Thousand-Year Door has always been my favorite but the original is almost equally timeless and is up there with some of my favorite role-playing games. The worlds, characters, dialogue, music and presentation of both games just ooze charm and in many ways can’t be rivaled in my eyes. Super nostalgic, for sure. At the time of Super Paper Mario‘s release, I definitely expressed my concerns with it in that it was quite a departure from what I wanted from the series and was a far cry from the legendary status of TTYD, but in retrospect and juxtaposed with what was to come, I have a much greater appreciation for it. It isn’t exactly what I want when I play Paper Mario, but it had its own charm and certainly had no shortage of clever writing, with a surprisingly detailed story and fun (but different) gameplay. That being said, I and many other Paper Mario fans naturally hoped the series would see a return to form with its next installment, and remained optimistic for the future.
Everything changed when Sticker Star attacked. Years had passed since SPM‘s release, and naturally hope for a revival of the series was dwindling. But lo and behold, Nintendo bring Paper Mario: Sticker Star out of the woodwork and raise fans’ excitement, only to have it come crashing down with an unbridled rage. Was it really that bad? Well, it is MAYBE a decent game by itself, but it is a horrible Paper Mario game, and that is a trend that the series will continue to have to date. The greatest artistic crimes it commits include completely disincentivizing battling enemies while taking out the really fun battle system of the original games as well as completely taking away the unique character designs and fun dialogue that made the Paper Mario series so special. It’s almost as if Nintendo had no idea why their fans took a liking to the series to begin with and just assumed they liked the haha funny paper gimmicks, so they decided to go all in on that. If you like being paper and that’s all you want from a Paper Mario game, then this is the game for you. It has it in spades.
Color Splash came along a few years later and while it was a noticeable improvement, it immediately reeked of Sticker Star in presentation as well as some gameplay elements. There was still no incentive for battling enemies, really, and the worlds were full of exclusively Toads rather than unique character designs. The dialogue was alright, I guess, but doesn’t even remotely resemble what fans have still been dying for since TTYD. I do want to point out that I thought Color Splash was genuinely a fun game, but it just doesn’t have any of what I want from Paper Mario. It’s an insult to fans to call it that just because Mario happens to be made out of paper in it. Get it outta here. Full disclosure, though, I barely played any of The Origami King, but from all that I’ve seen of it, it doesn’t in any way remedy the problems that I’ve had with the series since TTYD, so even though it may be a swell game in comparison to the previous two, I’m fine batching it in with the prequel trilogy here. At some point I’ll get around to playing through it, for sure, but for now I’ll stick to Bug Fables (an awesome indie game that shamelessly rips off the best qualities of the original games- almost like a spiritual successor for the fans).
I can only hope this isn’t the end of the Paper Mario story. There have been persisting rumors over the years of a true return to form for the series, but I continue to be disappointed, time and time again. One day, hopefully, I can be a Paper Mario fan with pride once again.
My love for television has continued to grow through 2018, and as such you could say I accomplished the most in this department. The following are all of the seasons of television I watched in 2018, which totals at 37: