So forgive the lack of images besides this sloppily-padded one:

Books are hard; a frequent refrain around here.

  • With all the games it's inspired and would-be spiritual successors from Bloodstained on down, playing this proved to me that there's just no substitute for Castlevania. It feels great to be back in its take on haunted-house horror, seeing new incarnations of old favorites. It's like catching up with old friends. Frankenstein? I haven't seen you in ages! Oh, you got a rocket launcher now?? Good for you! No other franchise does humor and references as deftly, I think. (Bloodstained handles this department with particular thudding "GEDDIT, GEDDIT?!" gracelessness.)

  • That said: this is one of the lesser Metroidvanias. For one, the "switch between partners" gimmick falls by the wayside as the game goes on, as it becomes less and less feasible to have an AI-controlled character eating up MP with the damage they take. Unfortunately, this means Charlotte becomes an afterthought, as she's markedly more fragile, has far fewer melee options, and requires constant menu futzing given that she can equip only one highly-situational spell at a time. Most of her spells are oddly directional in a way that's fine for a bonus attack but not for a main, making them more suited to spamming R and using them and her like an Option from Gradius than Jonathan's subweapons - and even that is less-desirable than saving your MP for Jon's better-directed arsenal in the final stages. By the end, I was using Charlotte only for morphing and poison cures, which is absolutely not what I wanted to happen.

It is the Year of the Tiger today, as celebrated by pandorkful in this piece, and may we all be as buoyant, in good spirits, and well-haberdashered as these two gentlemen. It does my heart good to see them like this, in their manga incarnations again, genuinely happy in their individual miens. Pandorkful has a Patreon, and it's a joy to get art like this, with the characters I love, for being a member.

Things have been hectic in my life as of late, and not a good hectic, not the getting-stuff-done hectic. I've been dealing with a local situation that I was considering sharing in detail here to seek advice, but it's too involved, and too depressing, to detail sufficiently to catch everyone up - and I think I already have a way forward, though it's just going to be a pain. But that's the new year, Chinese or Occidental: new beginnings, and resolutions.

Look at all those '80s rides.

In looking for who-knows-what on the internet recently, I stumbled across, from Hudson Valley (NY) radio station 101.5 WPDH and host Andrew Boris, a collection of vintage photos of the Poughkeepsie Galleria:

This was my mall. I so loved going there in the mid-'80s to early '90s, the great heyday of malls. Seeing this collection of photos was like revisiting one of my favorite childhood places - not even visiting what was left of the place last year could rival it. I now have to tell you about the stores in my mall.

Seaman was a perpetual "what the hell was that?" butt of jokes at Giant Bomb, but Dan Ryckert recently got the gumption actually to go through it, streaming it every day to its end. (Dan gets a lot of guff for the gaps in his education, but he has a genuine open-mindedness and curiosity about the world and his areas of interest that many of his critics lack.) You might have to skip/put up with some streaming carnival activities like eating gross jellybeans for donations and audience members playing rude SFX (some are pretty well-timed and genuinely enhance the experience, but this inspires lesser comedic efforts later on). The game, though, is genuinely off-the-wall, ahead of its time, and of its era all at once. Bonus: recognizing Jeff Kramer as the voice of Seaman before he would go on to play Francis York Morgan; he has a knack for offbeat, rambling characters. I hope Dan assembles his efforts into one supercut for historical preservation, but the VODs are as of this writing up on his Twitch channel. (A Seaman segment opens nearly every video starting with "Getting the Rust out" and ending with "I HOPE SEAMAN SHUTS UP OR ESCAPES".)

ETA: Now conveniently compiled and archived on YouTube, for the edification of us all!

I cannot make mention of Seaman without bringing up Japanese-PM assassination thriller Remote Control, where Seaman plays a crucial role in breaking up the protagonist's relationship:

“You know, I’ve been playing that game again,” she said, glancing over at the aging computer in the corner of the room. She had hauled it out of the closet not too long ago and taken to playing a game she had loved in college.

Aoyagi nodded. “Feeding that creepy fish.” The peculiar game involved nothing more than looking after a thoroughly unlovable talking fish.

“Well, the fish said something that hit the mark.”

“It doesn’t even look like a fish.”

“I know, but it said something after I fed it. It said, ‘Don’t settle for too little.’” Aoyagi couldn’t tell whether he was expected to laugh or cry. “And it hit me - it was talking about us, about you and me.”

“I’m not sure I like having my future decided by a talking fish.”

**********

Six months later, he went to a shop that dealt in secondhand computer games and on a whim bought the one with the creepy fish. Perhaps it was a form of rehabilitation, a way of testing how much of the hole he’d been able to fill.

At first, he was just going through the motions, tending the computer aquarium according to the instructions; but gradually he grew more intent on the game until, to his complete amazement, he was stopping people at work to tell them about the condition of his virtual fish. One evening at the end of the second week, the fish suddenly turned to look out at him.

“Don’t settle for too little,” it gurgled.

“You shit!” said Aoyagi, stabbing his finger at the screen. “That’s what you told her. That’s what fucked everything up.” The fish ignored him and swam calmly away through glowing blue pixels. “But you know,” Aoyagi muttered at its receding tail, “if I’d given her the smaller half [of the chocolate bar] that day, she’d have been mad about that instead.”

The fish ignored him, but finally turned back with a withering look. “Did you say something?”