During our trip to the outdoor sculpture garden, Grandma and I found a curly-tailed lizard running around in the grass. Only to later find an iguana hiding out by the entryway to their gated community!
The invasion of the lizards has begun.
That’s only half a joke, because I was told iguanas are actually overrunning the ecosystem in this gated community and it’s kind of a big problem.
This is the first time I’ve seen one, though. It was very cute.
After absorbing some fine ART, Grandma and I partook in another Iron Giant tradition: Going for ice cream.
Kilwins is apparently pretty well known for having a fancy blend of chocolates and ice cream made in-house.
Personally, I’m more of a Handel’s guy. But I had some s’mores flavored ice cream that was very delicious.
Once we got home the afternoon was a little more chill. I managed to get in the pool again for a while before the rain kicked up again.
And oh boy, the rain kicked up again this afternoon.
At one point I was genuinely afraid for my life. Until Sonic the Hedgehog came along.
But I’ll get to that later. Don’t want to conflate my dislike for the movie with my enjoyment of the day.
If nothing else the experience of going was worthwhile, even if the movie wasn’t.
We were going to a special restaurant for dinner until storm clouds rolled in. So we shifted plans and went to a less outdoors-y experience with Renzo’s Pizzeria.
Grandma and Grandpa say they’ve been going to this sweet little Italian joint for years, and I can see why. The pizza was very good.
As was the company. I got to hear the stories how Grandpa quit biting his nails (a request from Grandma when they were dating) AND how he quit smoking (thanks to a bet with someone who was supposed to lose weight and wound up gaining it).
Far From Home is steeped in Tony Stark, using the grief Spider-Man feels literally seeing his face in memorials everywhere to bridge us into the future. I was worried about the studio’s ability to hold my interest following its magnum opus, but that won’t be a problem if all upcoming MCU films are as fun and smart as this.
Unlike most of the MCU films I review, the stuff I love about Far From Home leans heavily into spoilers, so I’m going to hide specifics under a read more.
If you haven’t seen the movie yet, just know I highly recommend it.
I played the game early on in its life. Conversations were had around my elementary school lunch table, and I specifically recall playing during one of my trips to Dad’s office at CBS/KCAL (sometime between 2006 and 2009).
Like Realm of the Mad God, the game meant a lot to me growing up. I even thought about revisiting it a year ago:
Because I never did, I wanted to try and write something for July 4 this year. I looked up the website hoping to get some work in for a more fleshed out reflection.
I signed up for this particular new Naruto-Arena to give it a fair shot. It’s in an early build where all characters are available to test, and some key elements like character unlock missions are being implemented.
But it aesthetically nails the old look:
Right down to the statistical layout on the right side of the scroll.
It didn’t take me very long to come into a quick game. Though the transition into battle was rough, battling itself hit my nostalgia hard.
This remake replicates the way lingering technique effects stack beside each character, and the way your overall ranking changes their portrait’s accessories.
I also have to give this remake props for proving to me that over 10-year-old muscle memory is just as potent as ever:
I just did a quick game, but this new Naruto-Arena has a fairly fleshed out leaderboard to make up for features that are being implemented.
If I start to tackle ranked battles, who knows where I could get?
Though… I’m not sure how much time I’ll spend on this version of Naruto-Arena. It needs a little more time to gestate, and has received updates as recently as June 10.
I’d like to at least have the satisfaction of unlocking characters before diving in.
Yet I really can’t complain. It may have hit me hard to find out a childhood favorite closed without my knowing, but that loss clearly affected a host of other people too. Enough that some of them went on to try and revitalize it.
That’s the truly powerful thing about fandom: A strong sense of community forged in the small, unofficial details.
I’m glad I got to be a part of that for a time.
RIP Naruto-Arena. Sorry I couldn’t be there for your swan song.
The premise was simple: Throw a bunch of computers onto a tournament bracket and watch them fight. Alpharad and a few friends commentated the matches, providing insights into actual competitive strategies and general comedy.
It was fun and apparently so popular that he would have been a fool not to do more.
However, the CPU tournaments were clearly Alpharad’s bread and butter.
Over time they grew into more than just a showcase of computer intelligence. Jokes about certain fighters repeated to the point of giving them distinct personalities. Then came clever brand integrations by having his video sponsors “sponsor” the winners of previous tournaments like they were sport stars proving themselves.
Then the series grew further. Original characters were added via Mii Fighters that developed entire plot threads cleverly delivered by commentators on the spot.
I’m not sure how much was pre-planned or improvised based on genuine tournament results, but either way it was impressive to see a cohesive narrative emerge that culminated in an “Endgame” duel between light and dark.
In the lore, two years had passed. Thus, much of the first episode was spent doling out exposition about what had changed — from new Mii Fighters to the off-screen reigns of joke characters like Rosalina.
What stood out most about this structured direction is how much more planning and effort clearly went into the season’s pre-production. Everything down to anime-inspired intros that are just cringe enough to be great.
Whereas the first era of the CPUCS emerged from completely different roots and had to develop into something more, the second era is immediately running with the aftermath and presenting more foreshadowing for underlying story bits.
Yet I felt like this guy when I discovered that the blog not only exists, but has been used since May to create a more lived-in environment:
I too am now a big fan of Agent Naomi.
For what many would write off as a silly YouTube series about Smash Ultimate where cashing in is easy because no human interactions are needed for gameplay, this is an awesome bit of committed world building.
It shows how much Alpharad genuinely cares, and I can respect the hell out of that.
So if I haven’t convinced you yet, go watch the CPUCS.
I swear it’s more than just your average Smash Bros. series if you stick by it.
I’ve never played a DQ game or Banjo-Kazooie, but I know plenty of people who love those series and I’m happy to see them so happy.
Especially given the love and attention both fighters are getting. The Hero has multiple alternate costumes and a final smash featuring different protagonists from that series, Grant Kirkhope was involved in doing the music for Banjo…
Masahiro Sakurai truly is the king of reviving Nintendo history, and looping in Rare was a great way to include a fighter with die-hard fans who fits in the roster far better than Minecraft Steve or Master Chief.
Look at how hype the Donkey Kong characters are for Banjo and Kazooie
Look I played the first couple Olympic crossover games with my sister and they were decent minigame collections.
But the fact that this series is still going astounds me.
Some of you would probably prefer I put Cadence of Hyrule in this major slot since it looks cool and is only $25 bucks, which definitely entices me to buy the game when it drops this Thursday in spite of never playing Crypt of the Necrodancer.
Breath of the Wild is getting a direct sequel, bringing it in-line with Majora’s Mask and the Wind Waker series. A sequel where Link and Zelda are going to be traveling the ravaged Hyrule together and discover some demented shit.
The trailer was just an “in development” teaser, but they sure did succeed in making it emotionally provocative. I’m curious to find out more… Though a lot of that is based on hype from my friends’ speculations.
Which means I guess I have to go finish Breath of the Wild.
Damn you, Nintendo. Quit monopolizing my time when you’re about to monopolize my time with all these new games!
Those were the big ticket items out of this E3 Direct for me, but there were a lot of smaller things that piqued my interest too.
Nah is the headliner for this banner, and a fairly worthwhile one. Oracle’s Breath is undoubtedly a force to be reckoned with.
She and Yarne are also some of my favorite child units. Yarne and Morgan are top five Awakening ships for me, so I’m more than willing to pull for him — which is good considering he’s a speedy boi between the Solo, Wave and Galeforce skills.
Kjelle and Brady are less significant characters to me personally and they have weaker skill sets.
But I am a fan of Kjelle and Owain… Despite Owain going to Nohr and becoming Odin, who I ship with Camilla.
I like her with Severa too, yet Severa also goes to Nohr so it’s the same problem.
That returning trio in Fates really screwed up my shipping charts. Hopefully that doesn’t happen in Three Houses.
Also Cynthia is coming soon. I didn’t connect with her in Awakening, but I’ve warmed to her confident demeanor over time.
Her descriptive text in Heroes is a perfect example why:
Isn’t that amazing?
Luckily there’s a Forging Bonds event to give us some free summon tickets, because that should supplement the orbs out of this story chapter so I can save up for Lute… Or Genny… Or the summer units.
Book III, Chapter 8 — Truth of a Name
At the start of this chapter, the Order of Heroes continue exploring the destroyed Ask from Chapter 7. They want to find out what happened to it, as that may provide clues on how to stop Hel.
Along the way they encounter Líf twice. The first time he almost kills Alfonse, but is stopped by Sharena.
Don’t worry about that. Foreshadowing.
As is the second encounter where Eir tries to find out what memories were wiped away by her mother.
There are a few bland encounters with Awakening kids that conclude in a library.
The Order discovers that this Askr was destroyed in a future timeline when they teamed up with Embla to enact yet another deus ex machina Rite that makes Hel vulnerable…
At the cost of all the lives in both kingdoms.
Bodes well for whenever Princess Veronica and Loki show up.
After that exposition dump, the final battle features Líf as its boss. Once he is defeated Alfonse goes Sherlock Holmes on our asses and deduces:
Líf has actually been doomed future Alfonse all along! Which means that Thrasir is probably Veronica, both of whom became Hel’s generals after they died trying to stop her.
So I guess now we get a ‘change the doomed future’ arc.
Fitting set-up for a Chapter that features the Awakening children.
Intelligent Systems just had to schedule this update for the same day as Nintendo’s E3 presentation.
It’s clever. Pick up that search activity.
Unfortunately, staying up late to write this will make me less likely to catch the 9:00 a.m. presentation live. Not that I really mind as the video will be online, so I’m still planning on writing a post about my thoughts on that.
At least Fire Emblem finally pulled my head out of Stardew Valley.
Keanu Reeves’ 2014 action vehicle John Wick was lightning in a bottle.
Where Reeves was previously known in the genre as a trench coat wearing techno-superhero, the late 2010s has changed his action pedigree to that of a retired super assassin skilled in glorious gun-fu.
That film exhibited wonderful cartoony violence in a way that enthralled audiences. It was a self-contained story with a hint of mysterious flavor that could have easily stood on its own.
John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017) was less contained. But even if its script clearly acted as the middle man for another sequel, the film was magnificent in its world-building. It elaborated on the mysterious underbelly of the first movie in a way that created intrigue rather than spoiling the fun.
And it somehow kept up a high caliber of action at the same time.
John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum (2019) masterfully blends and elevates the action-packed precedent of the first movie and the world-building of the second to continue an experience warranting the fourth chapter it aims to establish.
Chapter 3 follows Reeves’ titular character as he aims to reverse his excommunication from the worldwide “High Table” assassin society after killing one of its leading members in a safe haven at the end of the second film.
Like Chapter 2, this movie immediately drops its audience into a story that services its past while introducing new elements.
Facing the consequences for one’s actions is the name of the game, as Chapter 3 establishes multiple times while audiences are introduced to more of the assassin underworld through locales like a training academy and a currency manufacturer in the ramparts of a medieval castle.
The movie embellishes John Wick’s brilliant universe, where gory street level duels are bathed in neon lights despite being planned by codified and cordial socialites in almost baroque meeting places.
The growing universe is enthralling for series veterans, yet I would argue Chapter 3 utilizes it’s exposition in a way that gives newcomers a fun experience unraveling how Reeves got himself into trouble. Like The Hangover, but with trained assassins.
Some of the fine details would be lost, but John Wick supplements its world-building with creative action to make the experience worthwhile.
The hyper-violence of this film is a spectacle. Within the first 20 minutes, Reeves beats a man to death with a copy of Dante’s Inferno and kills motorcycle-riding goons while galloping through New York traffic on a horse.
Yet that hyper-violence is perfectly balanced by enough realism to give confrontations weight and suspense. Wick is constantly battered, retains his scars and takes multiple pauses in the middle of firefights to reload. Every body and bullet casing hits the floor with satisfying clunks.
Not all of the action perfectly hits its mark. One at the midpoint in particular feels a little aimless as endless opponents come out of nowhere.
Though even less stellar scenes have high points, such as that rather aimless fight using Sofia’s dogs to great effect. Never before have I encountered uncomfortable mauling scenes with lovably good boys.
Cinematography and color in Chapter 3 also go a long way to make action more impressive.
For example, a later firefight is dulled by losing most hand-to-hand choreography in the face of near-invincible enemies. But the scene’s nauseating green palate emphasizes how uncomfortable the once-friendly setting is for Wick.
John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum arguably succeeds best in that it plays well to the strengths its predecessors while keeping things fresh.
Though a few of the action scenes aren’t as stellar as others, long-time fans of Mr. Wick’s exploits will not be disappointed. Especially if they love the assassin-filled world Chapter 2 began to reveal.
And even if I wouldn’t recommend it, Chapter 3 seems like it could work as a standalone flick. It certainly did for my Grandpa.
Trying to get my grandpa to look at the camera during our obligatory family movie selfie: A three part saga pic.twitter.com/DNnF7oNQLu
So I looked for things to listen to while playing, and my newest obsession has been a series on Pokémon typings from Lockstin & Gnoggin.
There’s actually a somewhat interesting history behind my discovery of this series.
The channel’s “Every Pokémon Type Explained” has been recommended to me by the platform a number of times. Each episode was recognizable from a uniform thumbnail with black borders around images of different Pokémon with clickbait-y text suggesting they should NOT be that typing.
It always seemed over-the-top for my tastes, so I never watched any part of the series.
Cue life lesson about not judging a book by its cover.
TerminalMontage is another fairly recent addition to my watch list, but became a favorite thanks to his “something about” series where the plots of video games are just torn apart with a goofy cartoon style and memes.
I enjoyed his style of commentary and seemingly well-calcified knowledge of Pokémon lore. Thus, I finally bit the bullet and started watching the typing videos I’d put off.
In essence each video takes one of the 18 types (minus two as of my writing this) and tries to divide each Pokémon of that type into categories of real-life equivalence. And yes, he does actually indicate which ones might not belong. Clickbait justified.
For instance the rock-type video divides monsters into living rocks or beings that adorn rocks, and further breaks down what kind of real mineral each Pokémon represents.
Meanwhile the ghost-type video (in lieu of real-world science) breaks down every monster into what mythological legend or ghost story they represent.
It’s a really interesting and analytical series about what many probably consider an innocuous franchise. I appreciate the depth and flashy style of editing that shows a lot of care on the production’s back-end.
As a result, that’s my recommendation for the day. I’m always a fan of pointing out great content where I find it… And I really don’t have that much else to talk about tonight.
But stay tuned.
Tomorrow I will complete my video game/YouTube/movie media trifecta with a review of a little movie I’m going to see called John Wick: Chapter 3.
When I say this is a post written almost purely out of obligation, I’m not kidding. Maybe it’s in contrast to my excited reactions for Berkut and Alm, but I can’t remember the last time a banner was this much of a dud for me.
When I first watched the video, I had no idea who I was looking at. Usually I’ll have heard of a character if they’re popular, but not this time around.
Meanwhile Pent and (Tempest Trial reward) Louise are from The Blazing Blade.
Both convenient gaps in my Fire Emblem knowledge.
Unfortunately, none of them have anything to their unit skills that stand out enough to make me care.
Thus, Fjorm is the only character I’m interested in because I know her and she has some interesting skills. She’s a flying healer who negates dancing and gives allies a grounded version of flier formation. That’s kind of cool!
At least she’s the main focus of the Paralogue story. So we’ve got that going for us?
Paralogue 34 — Bridal Belonging
It’s just too bad Fjorm’s starring role is undercut by vague generalities meant to push an unrequited love subplot that Intelligent Systems doesn’t even fully commit to.
Our story begins with the Order of Heroes taking Fjorm to the Bridal festival. She’s admiring all the dresses when one bride-to-be turns out to be:
A way cuter version of herself.
Damnit Heroes, stop making me want to summon for this one character on a dud banner. I need to save my orbs.
Alfonse suggests this Fjorm may from the future rather than just an alternate Fjorm. An idea that sets an entirely new precedent? I don’t think having future versions of your timeline’s self has ever been established before.
And I’d rather not think about the Back to the Future shenanigans that might ensure if the character is summoned under those circumstances.
We follow Bride Fjorm as she gets advice about love from the new units, suggesting she’s worthy if she unconditionally loves a person or would give everything to protect them.
She says there is a person she would do that for, and based on prior experiences I can surmise she’s talking about the player character.
But this Paralogue does everything it can to cut her off.
I guess it does that because once the final battle is over, Sharena offers to be Fjorm’s wingman after she refuses to tell Alfonse who she would “theoretically” love.
As prior experience suggests, Sharena also has a thing for the player character. Which means we’ve got a real drama-bomb building under the surface.
Because this wouldn’t be an anime gatcha game without all of the waifus being in love with you for no other reason than to incentivize spending money on your preferred smooch.
So that’s that. My cynical, bored take on 2019 brides in Fire Emblem Heroes.
I’m coming from the bias of ignorance, so if these characters are worth caring about let me know! I’d like to play through their games eventually, after all.
But for now, this is all I’ve got.
If nothing else it’s good to be back in the writing mood!
I’ll have more time to come up with things to write now that we’re in Summer Initiative take 2, but other than an official write-up on Graduation once I have my Grad photos I have no idea what I’ll be writing about.
It’s going to be a real grab bag. Look forward to that!