Thursday, 31 December 2015

Sayonara, 2015.

More like The Nintendo Project Restalled, is it right? I mean, it's been a year without a proper post. I really would like to do that gonzo Ninja Gaiden thing someday, but for now I think the dream's over. Gosh, but what a year it was for old video games! The 30th anniversary of the toaster box itself! Not to mention the revival of the goddamn Nintendo World Championships. I almost wrote something about that. I think I'm glad I didn't, because I was going to tie in the mystical God battle nature of the last one with the fact that someone with a grand galactic name took second... but that's not her name any more, so it would not have worked out. The blog was active for the latter months of the year... when it became a Doctor Who blog. Because, you know, having ripped off the idea for this thing from Phil Sandifer, why not rip off the idea of abandoning it to talk about Doctor Who while I'm at it? With 4 hours of Newfoundland time left, I figure... why not look at some stuff I wrote this year? A trip down memory lane, one last stroke of the old ego before time's up. That sort of thing. Let's see what we've got.

Frezno's List Of The 2015 Thing

I just wrote this today, but it's a list of all the shit I really enjoyed in 2015. Mostly computer games, but there's one surprise in there. Well. Not really a surprise. Anyways, this is too fresh to historicalize, so check it and argue about my opinions and let's move on.

Metroid Other M: I'm Authorizing Use Of The Gameplay Beam

This article is one of two I did this year that were basically attempts for me to finally exorcise the dead horse's ghost of games that haunted me. Metroid Other M disappointed me proper, and I've snarked at it for ages ever since... but then something spurred a neat realization about it within me and I wrote this. I found it interesting.

Sexy Fun With The Socks Make People Sexy Podcast!

I'd be remiss to not mention how SMPS fostered an idiot with video game opinions and his words. This year they actually let me say those ridiculous opinions on the air in podcast form. I was on there three times this year (once more since that post, for the SnS Clubhouse) and each time it was an absolute blast. I adore the little friend circle I've become a part of via Twitter, as I adore all such friend circles I have become part of over the years. Thanks, you guys.

A Tribute To Satoru Iwata

We lost a mighty fine video game pillar this year, somewhat unexpectedly. I still can't look at all the loving fanart of him without tearing up. Fuck, even thinking about it has me still tearing up. Anyways, what came to light after Iwata passed away was just how goddamn integral he was to the history of Nintendo games; the secret code alchemist, ever tinkering away, making miracles. You don't know what you've got 'till it's gone, huh?

The Exorcism Of James Rolfe (The Angry Video Game Nerd Adventures And Me: The Final Chapter)

And this is number two in getting rid of a dead horse's ghost. A 3000 word screed about the AVGN Adventures game, the ad hominem nonsense that followed in trying to discredit me, and even wild number-based theories about how people decided to enjoy the damn thing. It was a white hot heat to write, and I'm still proud of it. AVGNA2 is going to be a fucking wild ride, whenever it comes. I'm ready.

Doctor Who Series 9 First Impressions: Face The Raven

I picked this one because I feel I was the most passionate in it. Of course, that passion was sort of tinkered with two weeks later and we got something better... but like that crying wrestling guy says, it's still real to me. Clara Oswald, man. Clara fucking Oswald. If I ever get to meet that Jenna Coleman lady in person... well, I'd better be talking about something else she did because who wants to hear about Doctor Who after you've been done with it? But I would want to tell her how much I adored her Clara, and how she made my favorite sci-fi show even better just by being there and being her.

Challenging The Status Quo Fills You With Determination

Undertale won my Game Of The Year spot. Big surprise there. The bigger surprise was it winning this poll. I really hope that in a year's time I still remember Undertale as fondly as I do now. Like I said, I'll remember 'cause I wrote it down. Still, this was an impassioned cry against the Status Quo. Which I should mention, I do still like. Just, I also like things to get shaken up every once in a while.

So that's 2015. I have at least two articles I can write on the back burner. One of them is even about actual Nintendo games! I do need to think of a new name for this blog space, while also making sure all the old shit redirects. If any of you actually want to RE-resume this big Nintendo blog... well, you've got my blessing at least. Maybe ask Mr. Sandifer about it. Also he has dibs on Zombie Nation. Hell, you can even do a Ninja Gaiden thing. It won't invalidate mine if I ever do it. Alright. See y'all on 2015. Hail Valya, fight against the Dread Beasts GREED and NOSTALGIA, and don't let yourself fall to the blade of Peko The Destructor. Did I cover all of my mythology? I think I did.

Peace out.

Sunday, 27 December 2015

Doctor Who Series 9 First Impressions: 2015 Christmas Special (The Husbands Of River Song)

(Hope your holidays were well! Now be careful, because as River says, spoilers. There are spoilers so if you didn't watch this go watch it. Also have a good rest of the year. We're gonna be... busy here before 2015 is done.)

That was nice.

This is actually the first time I've ever written words about a River Song story. From the looks of it, this is also the last River Song story. So I've pretty much shown up at the end of the party here. For the record, I like River a lot. Smug, snarky, confident women with a morally grey streak are the sort of characters I'm fond of, so I'm pretty fond of River. My only real grievance with her was basically with the way she was a proxy for Moffat puzzleboxes. OOH HOO HOO I KNOW A THING AND YOU DON'T, OOPS I TOLD YOU I KNOW A THING. But we're free of that now! We know who River is, we know where she came from, we know where she ends up! I endured the smug puzzlebox "teehee I know more than you" attitude because I was awaiting the reverse; a situation where the Doctor knows more than she does about her future events. Which, in a way, I guess we always had with her death and all... but the only real times we get him with more knowledge than her are... well, Let's Kill Hitler and this. And people hate Let's Kill Hitler. It's fine. This one was also fine and nice and a good Christmas episode. It was basically a romp.

The Doctor fits into an interesting role in this; he's basically River's companion, playing oblivious. So, he's mirroring a companion role, if you will. Nyeh heh heh. The degree to which Capaldi goes from going along with the events because it's River, to just plain fucking around while he has the advantage of being incognito, to letting his Doctorish tendencies be visible, are numerous. His over the top "bigger on the inside" freakout is fucking amazing and I love it. There are hints of him grieving over the "loss" of Clara, like the antlers or the mention that he hasn't had a laugh in a while. Last Christmas really was Clara's last Christmas, and I do still miss her, but the grief has been gotten over. Don't forget that three years ago when a companion left, the Doctor moped up on a cloud for months. Here, the Doctor is getting to have fun again. And with his old pal River, too! Of course, the fun has to give way to serious time eventually, but we'll get to that.

The villains are... well, a farce. Although getting your head cut off and put in a robot is pretty scary. Moffat has a thing for people who are living heads. He must love Futurama. NO ACTUALLY HE MUST LOVE MATT GROENING! Because the second joke I adore in this episode, other than Capaldi's TARDIS scene, is when River's going to give the King's head to Scratch and she's got the bag open and then he starts praising the King and she just zips that bag right the fuck back up. That's just a Simpsons joke. From the first season. In 1990. Moffat nicked a 25 year old Simpsons gag and it still worked, holy shit. Granted, he also nicked the "the restaurant patrons are actually all evil" gag from himself; it's the same as Deep Breath. This is basically a story with a lot of little ideas all bundled together in a holiday romp; those monks with the swords, the big robot that steals heads, a head in a bag yelling at you, a space restaurant for genocidal evil folks, and the Singing Towers. Which, y'know, let's get to that and head off because I ain't got no grand thesis statement to make about the rest of this episode. It was a lot of fun and the perfect way to unwind on Christmas night.

So, the end of River Song. At least, the supposed end of River. The Doctor accepts that this is his last Christmas with her, and finally takes her to the Singing Towers, gives her the nice sonic, and the implication is that the next time they meet, it'll be at the Library and he'll be David Tennant and not know what the fuck. At this point, they're basically equal; the Doctor only knows one spoiler ahead for her, and it's the big one. I like that a lot, somehow. At last, they're basically equals. One smug spoiler separates them; there's no big confusion on the part of either. River didn't know who the Doctor was for 45 minutes because she didn't know he could break the 13 regeneration limit. Moffat could, if he wanted to, slip in another River adventure if he or Alex Kingston really wanted. It's just like with Clara; I accepted Face The Raven as a great end to Clara, and then Hell Bent made it better. Husbands is a good ending for River Song, but it could be made better. They'd have to try really hard, though. For now, this incarnation of the Doctor is one who seems to have gotten better at letting go. Or maybe he's just had enough time to deal with the River thing internally. Either way, this is how it ends for them. A lovely Christmas dinner at the Singing Towers. So, then, does that end Doctor Who in 2015. Wowie zowie. I'm going to have to do a little ranking thing in the next day or so. Until then, this was fun and I liked it. Notably, it ends with no big plot hooks or trailers or whatnot. Doctor Who in 2016 is up in the air, and already the dire rumors are spreading. Oh no, it might not come out in September! Oh no, Capaldi might leave! We don't know what will happen, but as Matt Smith said, we're halfway out of the dark. Rewatch the new series. Delve into the old series. Read a book, listen to a Big Finish. Do whatever you like to pass the time until Doctor Who returns, because it will return. Someday.

And until it does, we'll be right here waiting for it. Living happily ever after.

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Challenging The Status Quo Fills You With Determination (Undertale & The GameFAQs Best Game Ever Poll)

(So, this post is about Undertale. There are probably going to be Undertale spoilers in here at some point. If you don't care about that, read on. If you would like to experience Undertale, it's only 10 bucks on Steam. Right here. There's even a demo you can try to see if it's for you. Please, give it a go. I know the Internet at large hasn't shut up about it since its release [and I'm guilty as charged, although I make sure to tag all my Undertale stuff on Tumblr] but it deserves the fairest shake you can give it. Right then. On with the show.)

So, every year over on Socks Make People Sexy, I post a Games I Played In 201X list. I keep tabs on what things I beat over the year in a little Notepad file, and come the last week of December I write words about which ones I liked. There isn't really a ranking, but something does get a "Game Of The Year" nod; usually because they make me feel something. 2013's was Ducktales Remastered, because it was the first time since Mega Man 9 where a retro throwback platformer made me feel genuine joy. 2014's was Dangan Ronpa 2, because I felt emotion upon my favorite characters either being murdered, or revealed as murderers or traitors. There's still two weeks left to the year, but here's your advance spoiler, straight from River Song: Undertale is my Game Of The Year for 2015. It made me feel genuine emotion, and I feel it's brilliant. It takes all the instincts and natural assumptions of old-school RPG play and throws the implications and morals of them right back at you. In something like Dragon Quest, you just go out into the wild and bludgeon Slimes with a stick. Why? For gold, yes, but also for the experience. Doing that makes you stronger. This is accepted standard in every other RPG out there, but Undertale holds a mirror up to it and moralizes this for what it really is: the mass murder of living things in the nebulous name of "progress" and "experience". Undertale, like Doctor Who before it, takes you by the hand and says "Throw down your weapons. There's another way.". You can run about destroying everything in your path, but the game's characters will pass judgement on you for doing so. As they well should; you're destroying not just random enemies, but denizens of a world! The bosses aren't just named NPCs, but their friends! You can turn back from this path at just about any time you like; the point of no return for being a violent murderer is surprisingly late. I took the path of pacifism, of complimenting and giving mercy to the creatures I found. It can be difficult to keep on that path, and eventually mercy only goes so far... but for the most part, I was the Androgynous Child Who Never Would. The ending of the True Pacifist run is a thing of beauty, in which you reach out to a lost soul, a soul who's caused you so much pain and grief... and forgive them. It's the Zygon Inversion speech in game form, how can I not love this? I'm not alone in that assumption, either. Undertale has exploded over social media. 93 Metacritic score. It legitimately seems to be one of the best games released this year... and it's a pixel art indie RPG which wears Earthbound inspiration on its sleeve, that takes like 7 hours to beat. Brevity! God, I love brevity! Undertale is beautiful, and wonderful, and a whole bunch of people agreed that it was one of the best games ever.

Which made what was to come all the more interesting.

For many years running, GameFAQS.com has run yearly Character Battle contests, in which people vote on who the best video game character ever is. Invariably, given that these contests were often held in the 2000's, the voting came down to the most popular characters. Link, Cloud, Mario. We of course know why that is; they're the three who navigated the transition from 2D to 3D with flying colors. Super Mario 64, Final Fantasy VII, and Ocarina of Time were massively influential, For a generation who were teens in the 2000's, these games would have been touchstones of their childhood. To badly quote Patrick Roesle, everyone who played FF7 for the first time in 1997 pissed themselves at least once during the game's opening. They were revolutionary, and ushered in new epochs of video game history... and thus have garnered much love from their fans. Not, it should be noted, undeserved love. I get it, I really do. I wasn't there for any of these games upon their release; I didn't get an N64 or a PS1 until 2005, but I know the feeling. In 1995, Donkey Kong Country 2 blew my fucking mind and it was God's gift to action platforming. In 2000, in a basement in Grand Bank, Newfoundland, I saw the opening to Final Fantasy VI and was utterly hooked on the concept of the JRPG. Chrono Trigger, Earthbound, and Mario RPG soon followed. We remember these games for a reason; because they affected us positively. Nostalgia can be a tool of good... but of course, there's always the dark mirror. The characters always won the polls. But why? Link and Mario have no real depth as characters; they're simply timeless heroes who fight for what is right. Admirable, yes, but not an in-depth character. Cloud at least has a little more weight going for him (ignoring his godawful loner phase in the Compilation media, but that's hardly the fault of 1997) but is he really the best game character ever? I would argue not... but he is the most popular. At the heart of it all, that is what the character battles are; a popularity contest. The games themselves battled for Game Of The Decade, and the final inevitably came down to FF7 vs. OoT... but the character battle itself was only upheaved twice in history. Once many moons ago when the joke vote of the L-Block from Tetris somehow managed to overtake all the others and win, and then again when the Internet rallied for Draven from League of Legends. So, rules exist to be broken. Many had a good laugh at that. What the hell's this got to do with Undertale? Oh. That comes now.

Recently, GameFAQs hosted a new poll: the Best Game Ever poll. People voted in what they thought were the best games ever, and a bracket of 128 was formed from those choices. So, the 128 best games ever. What sort of games have we got? As EJR Tairne pointed out on Twitter, not a whole lot of diversity here. 8 Final Fantasy games, 2 Kingdom Hearts, 3 Resident Evils, all five Metal Gear Solids, 5 Zeldas, 6 Mario games... there really isn't a lot of diversity here, huh? The only two games on the bracket to be released before 1990 were... Super Mario Bros. 3 and Tetris. So, you know, as an esoteric Nintendo game blog that leaves reason for alarm. Tetris, which probably does have a claim for Best Game Ever because it's actually timeless and can be played on like... every computer system ever made, lost to Pokemon. Generation 1 Pokemon. An important game, and a nostalgic one for me... but better than Tetris? I don't know about that. Well, because it was popular and still fresh in the minds of many at the time, Undertale got a slot in this bracket. Hey, you know, maybe it'll get pretty far, but we all knew how this was going to turn out; how it always turns out. The Status Quo was set in stone. FF7 and OoT were Quite Possibly The Greatest Games Ever Made. It would inevitably come down to them again, as it so often does. Undertale might get far, but then it would come up against a nostalgic classic and lose. Life moves on, the Status Quo of video games remains unchallenged, and we keep loving Undertale for what it did for us this year.

And then that didn't happen at all.

Undertale defeated Mass Effect 3. Which... well, okay, I guess. A lot of people were still sore that the ending of that series didn't stick the landing. Next match, Fallout 3. Undertale defeated that, too. Well... I don't know, maybe that was a weak entry in that series. Ah, here it is. Undertale vs. Super Mario World. You can't challenge a Mario game and win. Super Mario World is the start of the SNES era. This, according by Nintendo Project rules, is where the Great Golden Age began. Even Undertale, with its Earthbound homage aesthetic, holds some fealty to this kingdom. Here, then, is the great secret: I beat Super Mario World this week. It is a very good Mario game. It was, as herald of the SNES era, influential in what was to come. It is not quite one of the best games ever, but it is still very good. And so, Undertale fans from all over came together and made their claim. No. You do not get to win by birthright, or by mere influence. You started a Great Golden Age, but the world has moved on. You brought great nostalgia, but we believe that Undertale has affected us more; that it is better. Undertale fought Super Mario World, and won. What an upset! Next match. Undertale vs. Pokemon, Generation 1. The Tetris killer. The game that made the Game Boy relevant, and launched a billion-dollar franchise for first-party Nintendo. I thought for sure that this was it. Pokemon is just too popular to be defeated. Again, Undertale fans banded together. We said no. Pokemon was defeated, and Undertale was in the quarterfinals... up against Super Mario 64. Oh, there's no fucking way it's making it out of this one alive. Super Mario 64 ushered in an entirely new way to play games, adding an entire third dimension to the world and revolutionizing things. It was the vanguard of the 3D age, a cultural touchstone. Did you not hear Undertale? IT. SAID. NO. Super Mario 64 was defeated. The semi-finals. Undertale vs Super Smash Brothers Melee. At one point, Smash Bros was on top. I thought for absolute certain that was the end of it. The little game that could was all rallied out, and the Status Quo was coming back on top. Smash Bros. Melee, the breakout hit for the Gamecube. Still a competitive hit today, its sequels rejected in favor of the nostalgic favorite with its tournament-level play exploits. At this point, Undertale has smashed through two of the royal princes of Nintendo's first-party consoles. What's a third? It came back, and defeated Smash Bros. Melee. Final match. Undertale vs. Ocarina of Time, one of the Three Who Rule. One of their number was smashed by Smash (in a move that really surprised me), and the other stomped by Undertale. The final battle was set, and by now it seemed that the Status Quo had no fight left in it. Ocarina never gained on Undertale. Undertale won the Best Game Ever poll.

This is amazing. The Status Quo is fucking sacred. How in the world did this even happen? There were accusations. We'll get to that in a second, but I'm taking this as mostly genuine. Yeah, Undertale fandom on Tumblr and Reddit and whatnot were spreading the poll around and saying HEY GUYS, VOTE! That's just campaigning. There were accusations of botting and vote rallying and outright cheating on Undertale's part. They were thoroughly debunked by the admin. Undertale won, and its only claim to illegitimately winning is that it rallied for outside help. Which, the Smash Bros. community also attempted. So. It's time to have fun, and talk about the salt. The GameFAQs contest board was filled with utter fury and contempt at Undertale's rampant success and smashing the Status Quo. Part of this was probably that some part of the contest was an actual contest, with cash prizes to be won. Therefore, an underdog coming in and taking away the victory from the well-known Best Games Ever ruined a shitload of brackets and made for a bunch of losers. Oddly enough, that isn't quite the level of complaint I saw in my brief browsings of the contest board. No, I saw a much different kind of tactic presented; one very familiar to me. Why? Because it's been used against me there before, during the Angry Video Game Nerd Adventures fiasco. This, friends, is victory ad hominem. The logic dance goes as such: Melee and OoT are the Best Games Ever. They lost to Undertale. Undertale is not better than Melee and OoT. Therefore, if one can't beat Undertale in a vote contest, one must discredit it somehow. Then the victory is invalid, Melee/OoT are still the Best, and the Status Quo remains. Look, the exact same thing happened to me. I was an Irate Gamer fanboy/a 30,000 word vomiter/terrible at video games, so my 3/10 was invalid and AVGNA was still a really fun accurate nostalgic game that referenced videos people liked. Exactly the same thing happened with Undertale. So, let's review. I've been bookmarking choice threads over the past few days, in preparation for this writeup. In the next bit, I will present some of the invalidations folks have attempted to make, "supposedly" in the name of protecting the Status Quo.

Well, first off, Undertale isn't actually a video game. The thread I found where a "true gamer" stated the same has been deleted, so we'll have to settle with this declaration. If it isn't a game, it can't beat another game in a game contest, now can it? Undertale's only 5 hours long! You can't be the best if you're too short! Or if you're made in MS Paint, for that matter! This next thread is close to a reasonable opinion about how Undertale isn't as good as games that came out this year, but then calls people who relate to its characters "pasty overweight teenaged girls". So, in light of what killed the Nintendo Project, that cuts a bit deep. This one says Undertale voters either like crappy RPGs or are too young to appreciate OoT. Arguably the best game ever made. We are going to unpack that one we're out of Ad Hominemville, trust me. Hey, the Undertale fans rallying in support? Anti-Nintendo fanboys, with bots! Hell, I bet half of them haven't even played the game! Undertale is just a meme game. The pejorative "Undermeme" has been spread around the boards a lot. That post gets at one of the other big ad hominems: that Undertale is just a flash in the pan fan and nobody will remember it in a year, whereas stuff like Melee and OoT are timeless and will never be forgotten. Well, first off, someone's psychic. Second, I won't forget. I wrote it down so I would never forget. Now, for one of my favorites: Changing the rules to protect the Status Quo. Undertale "won", but OoT really won you guys! No. OoT lost the poll. It did not win this contest. Despite all the denial to the contrary. The real fun of this came immediately after Undertale won it all. The sudden classic Internet about face of not really caring. Because Bayonetta is coming to Smash, so now we don't care! Why, OoT didn't even try! You didn't win because it didn't bother to compete! After Undertale WON, there were some final bonus polls put up. The usual stuff you'd expect to see. Melee vs. Super Mario RPG, Chrono Trigger vs. FF6, Pokemon vs. Mario 64... and yes, FF7 vs. OoT. So, in a sense, the people who really did want it to come down to that now get the chance to vote for their favorite and have their non-Undertale vote. That's very gracious of the admins. Of course, it also leads people to gloat that this is the real final match and that Undertale lost and you can't do anything about it ha ha ha ha ha. REAL games in the finals! Like, good god. The pettiness and the desperation to attempt to discredit an indie game from being Best Game Ever is strong. That's not even taking into account the stuff like "Undertale winning is a crime against humanity" or "I'm quitting if Undertale wins over OoT". Maybe there's another explanation. There has to be some pathos besides these childish attempts to get your way and maintain the Status Quo.

Now to cite some of the nicer posts. First, this one.  OoT was very good, but is it really Best Game Ever? The call for change in the industry here is particularly important. Then we have this breakdown, which is very smart. OoT was a formative part of many people's video game experiences! It was amazing and incredible, and how in the hell could some indie game that came out just a few months ago possibly measure up without breaking the rules? It doesn't add up, and therefore the excuses come. So, the ad hominems come from a place of love. Love for the warm nostalgia of OoT. Weaponized nostalgia, the Dread Beast snarling its claws at anything daring to attempt to usurp the throne. Sorry, kids. The kingdom was toppled. In this one corner of the World Wide Web, the Status Quo was taken down for but one moment, and Undertale won. Now it's important to unpack just what this contest meant. There are two readings to it. It is either one big popularity contest to see which games the Internet and GameFAQs thinks are the best, or an objective attempt to rank the most impactful video game of all time. With that first reading, all of the salt appears to boil down to anger that the things GameFAQs thinks are the most popular games of all time aren't the hottest; a popularity contest where the thing you like isn't the most popular. I've got news for you. We're old. Entirely new generations of people are playing games and loving games. Sure, the classics of the 80's and 90's are getting remakes. OoT and Majora's Mask are on 3DS. Final Fantasy 7 is getting a big bombastic remake for a new crowd. Popularity comes and goes, and something can become more popular. No, it's the second reading that creates a more disturbing picture. There's a quote from Stephen King I read somewhere and really wish I could source, but it goes a little something like so. One of his most popular books is The Stand, published early in his career in 1978 (and getting an expanded edition in 1990). Many fans consider it to be the best book he's ever written, and I suppose a great deal must have expressed that to him at book signings or conventions or whatnot. Anyway, his quote is a mild lament that, despite continually putting out new stories and books, his fandom at large thinks he hasn't written anything as good as the thing he wrote in 1978. That line of thinking can be applied to the contest, and those mad at Undertale's win. They wanted a traditional bout, it seems. They wanted OoT to be crowned the Best Game Ever. That game came out 17 years ago. The Status Quo would have us believe that, in 17 years of video games, hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of game releases, an infinite number of fresh creative ideas and new spins on old favorites... after all that, we haven't made a video game as good as the Zelda game from 1998? That is honestly a disturbing and depressing thought. Our hobby has been stagnant for that long? Is that the future you're suggesting? If so, then I want no part of it.

Instead, I'll be over here with the Undertale fandom. The passionate furries and robophiles (>:3c) and SJWs who, for a period of time between 5 and 12 hours, entered a world of monsters and fell in love with the characters down below. Who decided to spare everyone, or murder everyone, or somewhere in between. The people who finished the game and decided that it was the best thing they'd played this year. Who then voted on an Internet poll to affirm that love, and rallied others together to show that love by winning a symbolic poll. By shattering the Status Quo that video games have just been marking time since the Clinton years, and that hopes and dreams can reign eternal. It's December 16th, 2015. Nostalgia still has a power over us all, and games like FF7 and OoT will still be well-regarded as classics. The original releases, and their enhanced remakes, will be played and loved and played all over again by many... but so will Undertale. It will not be forgotten as a flash in the pan. It will endure. It has transcended, and the masses have banded together in a form of revolution that would make Patrick Troughton proud.

Undertale is the Best Game Ever.

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Doctor Who Series 9 First Impressions: Episode 12 (Hell Bent)

(Spoilers abound. If you're "hell bent" on avoiding them, then go watch beforehand. On with the show.)

I shan't apologize.
When I did Before The Flood, I quoted Patrick Troughton. Now I'm going to quote someone who has nothing to do with Doctor Who (unless you believed those old rumors I read about in About Time Volume 5, that she supposedly wrote Kinda and Snakedance); Kate Bush. Take it away, Kate.

I mean that in a positive sense, as well! At this point, I know what I'm about. The episode could be 40 minutes of the most trite shit, but as long as it has superbly done emotional beats involving Doctor and companion I'd still give the fucker a pass. To the episode's benefit, we have like what? A half-hour of stuff that doesn't quite stick the landing? The Gallifrey stuff sort of works but also kind of doesn't, but then again Gallifrey hasn't worked since 1976. This is the best Gallifrey has worked since then, so that's fine. It's all a feint, a setup to the real meat of the story for me. Still, let's do our best to get through the Gallifrey stuff before enjoying the big old surprise dessert. We're back in that barn Moffat loves so much, the Day Of The Doctor/Listen barn. Turns out it was just on the outskirts of one of them Time Lord cities. And here I thought John Hurt dragged the Moment to some random desert moon to blow everything up. Rassilon is back, but he's not Timothy Dalton any more. I didn't even know it was Rassilon until those last lines. It could have been any crusty old ass who didn't like the Doctor. So Gallifrey broke out of their little Cup of Soup bubble right at the ass-end of the universe, and now they want to learn about the Hybrid because they're all scared shitless. Everyone's scared shitless of the Doctor, too; except Rassilon, but he gets his ass banished to the dying embers of the universe. He'll be back one day. Oh yeah, and the Sisterhood of Karn is here for... some... reason. That old lady from the Sisterhood is a fine actress and all, but... why? They don't really do too much. Moffat must really love The Brain Of Morbius or something. Oh yeah, and the Matrix vaults or whatever. Spooky shit. We've got scary Time Lord no-faces, a Dalek begging for death (hey, a Revelation Of The Daleks echo!) and even some Weeping Angels and a Cyberman. They don't do much other than spook. Is that all about Gallifrey? Oh yeah. The general regenerates into a black woman. An on-screen gender/race regeneration change. It's canon now, kids. Good.

Alright, look, I don't give a shit abut Gallifrey in this episode. It's not pointless or anything, in fact it's integral to the setup... but I don't give a shit. It's neat that we're back here after so long, but Doctor Who doesn't need it. What Doctor Who needs is a powerful emotional core, and whoa. Here we go. We're undoing Clara's death from Face The Raven, and using Gallifrey to haul her away from the raven right before she dies, Chrono Trigger-style. I mean, it means more Clara so I'm sort of okay with it. At least, at the point when this happened on first rewatch. Look, even the day after it happened I had accepted Clara's death as a fitting end for me. It was sad, but I was able to accept it. Many others were. The one person who can't, though, is the Doctor. Hence all this taking over Gallifrey stuff has all been a front, using his knowledge of the spooky Hybrid to get the Time Lords to play nice until he could pull Clara from the brink of death. Then he shoots the General in the chest and runs. He lost Clara once before. No. He won't do it again. He will not accept it, even at the risk of time itself unravelling. It'll sort itself out. It has to. He's owed this much.

What we get next is a lovely bit in which Clara learns all about the way the Doctor got out of the confession dial, and how long it took. The perspective that both I, and the Doctor, took from that was that his mental imagining of Clara was letting him be brave enough to keep his mouth shut and be ever defiant in the face of a trillion trillion deaths. Of course, when the real Clara hears that the Doctor put himself through unending hell and disintegration for four and a half billion years, her reaction is more along the lines of holy shit Doctor you fucking idiot why in the fuck would you do that to yourself? Clara didn't ask for that. She died, and he somewhat violated her last requests. He got angry, but he didn't take revenge on Me or the Time Lords. He took his revenge and hate out on himself, and as his best friend, she absolutely didn't want that. Nevertheless, she goes along with his new scheme, and we once again go about things as they started; the Doctor steals a TARDIS and runs away, Clara in tow.

Holy shit oh my god the classic series TARDIS console EEEEEEEEEEEEEE
Sorry. Bit of a moment there. Wow, does that thing look good. Well, from here shit kind of goes bad. Time and the universe are probably going to blow up because the Doctor doesn't want to lose Clara. There's some great Capaldi moments here, particularly when he goes to the end of the universe and proclaims that he answers to nobody now that the universe is a dying ember and Clara had damn well better live. Then come the knocks. She will knock four times, and the one knocking at the end of everything is Me. I do so love Me's speech to the Doctor about Clara's death, mostly because it's a reflection of what all us Clara fans are thinking. Yeah, it was sad and poetic and beautiful, but it happened, Doctor. Deal with it. Of course, the Doctor won't just "deal with it", and that ties back into the Hybrid talk again. Is it Me, who is human with a touch of Mire? Is is the Doctor, and is Moffat about to make the half-human thing canon? No. Of course not. This is Steven Moffat we're talking about, and there's always a subversion. No, the Hybrid is the Doctor and Clara, together. A roaming Time Lord, and a clever and competent human girl, who have taken on aspects of each other. Two dark mirrors, infinitely reflecting one another, their co-dependence and refusal to lose each other so powerful that it threatens the very state of the universe itself. All of this,set up by Missy, the Queen of Chaos, who laughs at the end of time. She's won. The Doctor has darkened himself, all in the name of trying to save his friend. Even here, at the end, though... he realizes his mistake. He took a thing to wipe Clara's memory. He'll scrub her mind of his memory and let her live. Indeed, the framing device for the story is Clara as a waitress in Nevada, while the Doctor tells her final story. Before this aired, the assumption was that waitress Clara was one of her splinters. Now, on first watch, the assumption is that this is what has happened. The Doctor has fucking pulled a Donna Noble on Clara. God damn it.

Except that's not what happens at all. Clara knows. The Doctor respects her enough now to tell her exactly what he's going to do. He's giving her the agency he neglected to give Donna... but Clara refuses. As is her right to refuse. Her past is her own. Besides, she's a mirror of the Doctor. She can do all the shit he can do, and so she pulls a Jon Pertwee and reverses the polarity. So the Doctor and Clara come to an agreement; if they go on, they will tear the universe in two. As wonderful as their friendship is, they can't keep infinitely reflecting each other, or the world will become as shattered glass. So, they play a game of mindwipe Russian Roulette and pull the trigger together... and the Doctor loses. He whispers some last advice to Clara, and with that, he loses his memory of her... except, he can still tell the story to waitress Clara. Or, does he lose his memory of her? He has some vague idea of who she was and the adventures she has, but I don't think he lost it completely. He just needed a little nudge to remember, and waitress Clara helps give him that nudge. One last act of being Doctorish before her end... or is it? Clara Oswald died on the trap street. I accepted that. It is an inevitability, and it has to happen. Eventually. Clara is okay with that too. She accepts the rules. Rules are a fundamental part of the universe... but they're flexible. There's wiggle room. Clara Oswald is a mirror of the Doctor. Just two short years ago, he faced a final and inevitable death. All of the rules suggested that he had to die on Trenzalore. Then he didn't, because that was more interesting. Clara is the same, and why shouldn't she be? She's the mirror of the Doctor. Why shouldn't she get this? Because her name isn't in the title? Because she's an ordinary human? Fuck that. Those are the rules for most of us, but here's our wiggle room. Once in a while, we can bend the rules if if would be interesting. That's just what Clara does here.

Clara Oswald will die in the trap street when she faces the raven. On our screens, she already died. Then she came back, because that was more interesting. She bends the rules, and pulls the ultimate mirror trick; she flies off with Me in an American diner that can travel anywhere in time and space. Clara Who has become a real and tangible thing, and an infinite number of stories can happen with the two before she goes back to face the raven. (Even the Doctor actually speaks the words "Clara who?".) I accepted her death two weeks ago. This is better, and it had me grinning like an idiot. Clara earned this. Many will complain about Moffat's special little snowflake getting special attention over all the other companions. We all wish for better companion exits, but not all of them can go out like this. I accept that. But, every once in a while, can't we have a little fun? We can't do this all the time, but we are owed. Just this once, we are owed our treat of something better. So Clara goes out into the universe, an immortal time traveller in her own right.

The bells of Saint John ring in triumph. On the distant world of Akhaten, the song goes ever on. In 1976, Emma Grayling remembers that ordinary girl she met. Robin Hood and his Merry Men compose an epic ballad to the Lady Oswald. Shona wakes up from a dream she had after falling asleep watching Aliens, a dream of riding in a sleigh with some girl. In distant corners of the universe, across time and space, Clara Oswald has changed the world. Across the CVE of our television screens, Clara Oswald has enriched us all. She earned a better ending, and she gets it as we wave her farewell. Companions come and companions go. There was a time when Amy and Rory were my favorites, and now I barely remember how and why I loved them. Writing about Doctor Who is how I keep my feelings at the time alive. As the Doctor says, stories are just memories that have been forgotten. So too, is the act of blogging about Doctor Who. It is a way of keeping the memories intact, making them stories. After all, we're all stories in the end. This is the end of a chapter for Clara, but more stories could be made. We'll never know, but these words are the way I keep my memories of Clara. A new companion will come. Maybe they'll be even better than before. I don't know. What I do know is that, thanks to my writing, I will never forget Clara Oswald, even as she zips across the universe. There's only one way to sum it up.

Run, you clever girl. I'll always remember you.

Next time: Spoilers, sweetie. It's Christmas.