Top 100 XBox 360 Review: #2 – Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (2011)

Still Impressive…But.

Its impact was a bit blunted this time — the game relies on the intrigue of figuring out the mechanics of the world and not the world itself. 

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Game FAQs Ranking:  #3
My Rating: cropped-smooth-star-e1545863035586cropped-smooth-star-e1545863035586cropped-smooth-star-e1545863035586cropped-smooth-star-e1545863035586cropped-smooth-star-e1545863035586

Video games rarely bleed over into a community event: they occur in palely lit rooms as a lone figure casts a backdrop from the saturated monitor light. Skyrim was a whole other story.

I never owned an Xbox360 or Playstation 3, but my new roommate did. I discovered Oblivion and devoured it quickly. He told me the next installment was just around the corner with the date being an easy to remember 11/11/11. When the day came, I woke up early (for my college days that is), and headed to my local Gamestop. Complete chaos. There was a line out the door, some in cosplay, as we all waited to get our hands on the next seminal event in video games.

Skyrim lived up to its expectations. I spent the next months/years exploring every nook and cranny. It has an amazing ability to get out of the way and let you do whatever ever you want. I cycled through all the possible combinations from Thief-Archer Kajhit to War Hammer-wielding Ogre. Betheseda has perfected the art of reward as you slowly nibble and navigate down an endless candy trail, always doing just “one more thing” for the next prize. Then you realize it is 2:00am. Yikes.

This time around, though, I learned something that lessened the game in my estimation, if even just by a little bit. The excitement and intrigue of this game did not come from the characters or story. The world is filled with thousands to meet, but they are mostly means to an end: to figure out how the man behind the curtain operates.

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Top 100 Non-Fiction Book: #51 – In Cold Blood, Truman Capote (1966)

A Superb Non-Fiction Novel.

The mostly true account with occasional machination is high-level storytelling. 

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The Greatest Book’s Ranking: #51/100
My Rating: cropped-smooth-star-e1545863035586cropped-smooth-star-e1545863035586cropped-smooth-star-e1545863035586cropped-smooth-star-e1545863035586cropped-smooth-star-e1545863035586

I tend to enjoy works that have multiple different angles. It allows you to soak up a little bit of everything with a discursive interest, never being bored. When the whole is made greater by the intertwining, distinct parts is when things become a work of art; In Cold Blood is that kind of book.

Capote is a masterful story teller when describing the abstract human psyche. He finds such concrete and relatable descriptions that the ineffable becomes intelligible. The setting of Kansas, with its isolation and bucolic life, bursts forth from the pages. The horrendous crime captivates even though we know the killers and the outcome. A switching narrative, between victims, perpetrators, and community, creates a complete 360 of immersion.

This is as close as you can get to a lived experience from a book.

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Top 100 Album Review: #19 – Astral Weeks, Van Morrison (1968)

Aimless Wailing.

Squalling and yelling on top of multiple layers of improvised classical, jazz, and folk.

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Rolling Stone’s Ranking: #21/100
My Rating: cropped-smooth-star-e1545863035586cropped-smooth-star-e1545863035586

There is a lady who sings international music on the sidewalks of Carytown in Richmond, VA. Densely-populated with shops and restaurants, she sings inaudible oscillating pitches while improvising on foreign instruments as the shapeless crowd passes by. As far as street performances go, it’s okay.

To my knowledge, she’s never placed an album on a top 100 list which makes sense. Her venue matches her output. Astral Weeks, absolutely similar with undecipherable yelps and forgettable compositions, would be right at home on the same city side-block as her.

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Top 100 Album Review: #23 – Innervisions, Stevie Wonder (1973)

Might Be My Favorite Album of All-Time.

I can’t find anything to debase — everything is perfectly as it should be. 

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Rolling Stone’s Ranking: #23/100
My Rating: cropped-smooth-star-e1545862962550cropped-smooth-star-e1545862962550cropped-smooth-star-e1545862962550cropped-smooth-star-e1545862962550cropped-smooth-star-e1545862962550

If I had to answer the impossible question of “What’s your favorite album of all-time?” this would be labeled Exhibit A in the evidence. Stevie Wonder’s Innervisions does everything well: it’s an eclectic collection of genres; it’s poppy, catchy, and weird all at once; it’s socially conscious and meaningful.

A deeply personal account that pierces your ego, it’s a rare piece of art where performer and listener almost overlap. Certain lyrics and measures cut me to the bone. The last time I remember someone being this open with their feelings on vinyl was Joni Mitchell’s Blue. The best part: it’s from a pop master, with every song sticking with you for days (or in my case, years).

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Top 100 SNES Review: #53 – Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts (1991)

This Game Did Me Dirty.

One play through was already enough of a wasted life, none the less two. 

Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts Title ScreenSydlexia’s Ranking: #53/100
My Rating: cropped-smooth-star-e1545863035586cropped-smooth-star-e1545863035586cropped-smooth-star-e1545863035586

The en vogue thing to say is that Ghouls n’ Ghosts was the original Dark Souls: both are bone crushingly hard and guides are almost worthless. Your only option is to Git Gud.

And get good I did. I overcame frustration and not once did I throw the controller in disgust. No matter how many times screwed and scorned, I stayed steady and plugged away. Reaching the final boss was going to be the height of my retro gaming achievement. Defeating the reincarnation of an earlier boss, I thought I had done it.

Then, the princess says you need a bracelet, a bracelet that she has hidden somewhere in the world. With this, you are thrown back to stage one to repeat all your trials and tribulations but on an even harder threshold.

I have been broken.

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Top 100 NES Review: #100 – Abadox: The Deadly Inner War (1989)

A Magic School Bus Tour of the Intestines.

This game made me ponder: what’s inside my bowels?
Abadox The Deadly Inner War Title ScreenSydlexia’s Ranking: #100/100
My Rating: smooth-starsmooth-starsmooth-star

You know if you stretched out your small intestines, they would be as long as 22 feet. While Abadox is only a measly six levels, it’s going to feel like it is much longer, just like your jejunum and ileum. That’s because during the space invasion through the gut of an alien, you will die many times by its angry inhabitants. I haven’t seen a GI system this upset since I ate a whole pizza and half a chicken in one sitting.

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Top 100 PS1 Review: # 7 – Chrono Cross (2000)

Thankfully, I Played This First.

Thus, the roughshod treatment of the beloved Chrono Trigger was unknown to me. 

Chrono Cross Ps1 Title ScreenApe’s Ranking: #7/100
My Rating: cropped-smooth-star-e1545863035586cropped-smooth-star-e1545863035586cropped-smooth-star-e1545863035586cropped-smooth-star-e1545863035586cropped-smooth-star-e1545863035586

This is my favorite video game of all-time. Just like its plot, I’m full of contradictions: it’s story is a mess, there are too many characters, non-boss fights are useless. While Chrono Trigger avoided pedantic discussions about time travel, Chrono Cross does the opposite by twisting so many convoluted plot devices in a knot that you could read gobs of timelines from fan historians and still not get it. I’ve never seen a sequel so irreverent of what came before it.

Thankfully during the Summer of 2000, I only vaguely knew about Chrono Trigger, so I was able to enjoy Chrono Cross in a vacuum. It’s a game of amazing atmosphere, music, and imagination. If you are able to float at a superficial level without trying to run everything to ground, you are treated to wonderful philosophical questions about free will, meaning, and fate.

Also, this is the best video game soundtrack of all time.

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