Tag Archives: Nostalgia

Review: Power Rangers

power rangers poster
via IGN

Power Rangers (2017)

PG-13 / 124 mins.

Action / Adventure / Sci-Fi

Starring: Dacre Montgomery, Naomi Scott, RJ Cyler

Director: Dean Israelite

I like to have fun at the movies.  There is a place for more complex and deeper stories, but a big fun, dumb action movie acts as tasty junk food from time to time.  The reboot of the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers, simply titled Power Rangers, is that type of movie for me.  It is a ton of fun and the cheesy b-tier action sequences will keep a grin on your face from beginning to end.

power rangers 1
Photo by Kimberley French

Am I the biggest Power Rangers fan?  Definitely not.  In fact, I do not have the same affinity that some have for the beloved Saturday morning TV show.  I have watched the show a couple of times in my youth, but it was not something that I truly cared for.  I understand the show on a basic level, but never went out of my way to dig deeper.  Because of this, my expectations for the movie were at an absolute minimum.  I also had a couple of beers before the feature, so this might have attributed to my liking of this movie.  Let’s face it…beer can help make a lot of things better.

One of my favorite things from the movie, as well as one of my biggest issues, are the characters.  The five unlikely rangers include Jason (Dacre Montgomery) as the Red Ranger, Kimberly (Naomi Scott) as the Pink Ranger, Billy (RJ Cyler) as the Blue Ranger, Zack (Ludi Lin) as the Black Ranger, and Trini (Becky G.) as the Yellow Ranger.  The cast gels well together and they are all really likable.  They are quippy and humorous, especially Billy, who often steals the spotlight.  What makes his character even better is the fact that he is on the spectrum.  Most movies are hit or miss with their depictions of characters on the spectrum, but Power Rangers actually nails it and produces a fantastic character.  Despite how likable this crew is, almost all over their backstories and character moments are botched.  The first half of the movie, the weaker half, mostly serves to introduce the characters and their backstories.  It plays like a glorified YA novel.  There were a lot of character moments, besides Billy’s, that just felt flat on their face and could not get back up. Becky G’s character missed the mark. Zack’s story? Ehh…. Kimberley’s backstory? Kind of unimportant…and the same goes for Jason’s. I just could not get behind their stories. They were either poorly written or just plain uninteresting.

power rangers 2
Photo by Kimberley French

But what about the other characters?  Bryan Cranston voices Zordon, the Ranger’s mentor in their endeavors.  There is also Alpha 5, Zordon’s trusty robotic assistant, who is voiced by Bill Hader.  The two do a great job with their respective performances, especially Hader who serves up some of the movie’s more humorous moments.  The final notable character in this band of 90’s cartoon characters is Rita Repulsa, played by Elizabeth Banks.  She acts as the main villain in the movie, and god bless her for it.  Elizabeth’s character ranges from serious to tacky, hamming it up for the majority of the movie.  I really liked her performance and thought it brought along its fair share of laughs, but I might have preferred her character to take a more serous tone, especially during the movie’s final act.  I thought some scenes lost their intended tone because of her.

Power Rangers takes some time to morph into high gear (sorry…bad pun) but the final act is where it begins to take off.  There are some nostalgic callbacks that will make any Power Rangers super fan giddy with glee and the action that ensues fits perfectly with the show’s attitude.  The final fight includes some great shots and it is especially hard to not get hyped when Kanye West’s “Power” makes its way onto the soundtrack.  It was a full thirty minutes of B-movie action that just made me smile.  Sure it was corny. Sure it was laughable at times.  Sure, I had some beers in me so maybe it was the alcohol talking, but I really enjoyed the final act. There was even a galactic bitch slap that left me dying of laughter in the theater.

power rangers 3
via IMDB

Power Rangers never takes itself too seriously with its lighthearted fare, which might be a negative to non-fans. However, the original series was just as corny, so for the reboot to mimic that style is all the movie really needed. If you’re not a fan of the Power Rangers, then maybe this is not the movie for you. I went into this movie not expecting to be a fan…but I walked out pleasantly surprised. This movie is not winning any Oscars…but it was big, dumb fun…which I need every once in a while.

power rangers score


Review: Unravel

via Wikipedia

Unravel (2016)

PS4 / Rated E

Puzzle / Platformer

Publisher: Electronic Arts

Developer: Coldwood Interactive

When this little indie game from Coldwood Interactive named Unravel was first announced at EA’s 2015 E3 press conference, it immediately caught my attention.  A very nervous Martin Sahlin, the game’s creator, came out on stage and proceeded to introduce us to the game, and its adorable little star, Yarny. (Seen below)  I remember being instantly intrigued with its mechanics and instantly charmed by the games irresistibly cute visual style.  It later went on to release in early 2016, but it seemed to be a game that largely flew under people’s radars…including mine.  After about a year I finally dipped my toes into what Unravel is all about and I was met with a very charming experience with some unique platforming elements that make it standout from some of its peers.

As I mentioned before, the game stars a small red, cat-looking creature named Yarny, who is made entirely of yarn.  Yarny is constantly in awe and wonderment as he explores the objects and environments around him.  The game starts you in a small house that includes pictures of different locations that are important to the homeowner’s life.  Yarny explores these environments and collects memories along the way, slowly telling the emotional and nostalgic stories of the homeowner and their family throughout the years.

It is a very gripping story structure that drives you through the game.  There no cut scenes and a scant amount of characters, but the whole story is told through pictures and mirages in the environments that you explore.  Some of these stories were a little tough to understand, but the game does a fantastic job at capturing the various moments and emotions that families experience, whether it is the happy moments or the sad moments.  It is harrowing at times and will most likely relate to your life in some way.  Unravel, despite its simple concept, has a way of resonating with players, making it a special experience.

via Coldwood Interactive

The game is made up of twelve different levels spanning environments like forests, mountainous hilltops, and snowy valleys…to name a few.  These levels require you to use Yarny’s body made of yarn to get pasts its various obstacles and dangers.  Yarny can create rope to swing across gaps, make bridges, and maneuver objects.  If that was not enough, Yarny also unravels (insert title card) as you make your way through the level.  If you are overzealous with your yarn usage, you will eventually run out of yarn and Yarny will be stripped down to his basic frame.  To combat this, there are various “checkpoints” in the levels that allow you to re-spool, giving Yarny more yarn to work with.  I did not find myself running out of yarn too much, but it does add another layer of complexity to the levels and their thoughtful design.  In terms of overall difficulty, the game is not too challenging.  There are moments where the game will get you, but death is never really a burden given the generous checkpoint system.  You also can warp back to the latest checkpoint if you find yourself stuck.

One gripe I have with Unravel’s mechanics are the floaty controls that sometimes make tougher platforming sections a little frustrating.  There were some moments in the game were tighter controls would have been more helpful.  There is a trophy (on PS4) that requires you to go through each level without dying and I quickly found myself giving up because the controls were not as up-to-snuff as I would have liked them to be.  There is also the tiny issue of freshness when it comes to the game’s mechanics.  Unravel does a commendable job, for the most part, of giving you new challenges that change things up, but this evolution in gameplay starts to taper off when you get to the later levels.  Due to the game’s simplistic nature, it is tough to constantly give you new ways of using the mechanics at your disposal.

via Coldwood Interactive

But let us talk about the game’s main attraction: just how darn cute the whole thing is.  There is an enormous amount of detail that went into the game’s visual style from the environments to Yarny himself.  Everything has a tactile feel to it and Yarny looks super realistic.  Coldwood Interactive most likely drew some inspiration from Nintendo’s games like Kirby’s Epic Yarn and Yoshi’s Wooly World.  The game’s score is also well done, meshing perfectly with the game’s heartwarming story of family and nostalgia.

Despite the few issues I had with the game’s mechanics Unravel still manages to invoke tons of feeling, something you do not see too much from puzzle-platformers.  The game’s eye-popping adorability is what pulls you in but it is the gripping and emotional story that convinces you to stay.  It is a relatively short, but powerful, experience that manages to do some cool things with its yarn-based mechanics.  Unravel is worth your time.  It is worth it alone just to see Yarny’s curiosity of the world around him.


Review: Stranger Things

stranger things poster
via Following the Nerd

Stranger Things (2016)

Netflix / TV14

Drama / Horror / Mystery

Starring: Winona Ryder, David Harbour, Finn Wolfhard

Creators: Matt Duffer, Ross Duffer

Netflix’s Stranger Things just screams 80’s nostalgia.  Literally every single corner of the show is just dripping with love for the era.  The show merges psychological thrills with horror, something that would fit perfectly in the 80s.  There’s even influence from guy like John Carpenter, Steven Spielberg, and Stephen King…in more ways than one.  In its concise eight-episode season, Stranger Things manages to layer on depth with every episode, delivering one of the most intriguing and mysterious stories of the year.

stranger things 1
via Dread Central

Mystery begins upon the disappearance of a boy named Will (Noah Schnapp) after a night of Dungeon and Dragons with his friends.  His friends, Mike (Finn Wolfhard), Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo), and Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin) are a group of AV-club misfits that gave me strong Goonies vibes.  After the disappearance of her son Will, Joyce Byers (Winona Ryder) starts to go mad, calling upon the help of town sheriff Jim Hopper (David Harbour) to help investigate the strange disappearance.  It’s only a matter of time before shady government agencies and supernatural events start to make an appearance, cementing the fact that something deeper and more nefarious is taking ahold of the peaceful town.

Making matters more interesting, the boys stumble upon a peculiar girl, simply named Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown), who seems to be the answer to everything that has been occurring.  She’s scared and keeps to herself, but her powers go beyond all understanding.  Her background is something of an enigma.  Over the course of the show we get flashbacks to her past which involves a lot of lab experiments and a dark past.

stranger things 2
via IGN

The best part about Stranger Things is the layered story that it piles on every step of the way.  The premiere episode is crazy by itself, but things take a plunge with each episode, whether it’s a new reveal or element key to the events taking place.  The show goes places, for better or worse.  Overall, the show does a good job at delivering a thrilling story but some of the supernatural elements are left out to dry with little explanation.  The various characters give some convoluted clarifications towards the latter half of the story, but they don’t always feel satisfying.  When I say the show goes places, it goes places.  Sometimes you just have to suspend disbelief in order to fully enjoy the story.  Despite this, the events wrap up brilliantly, yielding a satisfying conclusion, albeit a little predictable.

Winona Ryder is by far the stand out performance here.  She plays a distressed mom that is crazy about finding her lost son.  She starts off just like any other worried mom but as time goes on she plunges down a dark road of hysteria that involves talking to Christmas lights and putting holes through walls.  It’s not a good look, but Ryder does a fantastic job at portraying all of these emotions.  There’s also David Harbour’s performance as Sheriff Hopper.  At first I wasn’t sold as he seemed like he didn’t really want to apart of what was happening, but when we discover his backstory, things start to fall into place his performance gets better with time.  Even the child actors did a good job with their roles.  With child actors, their performances can be hit or miss, but Bobby Brown, Wolfhard, Matarazzo, McLaughlin, and even Schnapp did really well.  It’s also worth mentioning that Mike’s sister Nancy (Natalia Dyer), her boyfriend Steve (Joe Keery), and Will’s brother Jonathan (Charlie Heaton) all did fine jobs as well.

stranger things 3
via Dread Central

The presentation elements of the show are what make Stranger Things so appealing.  As I mentioned before, there’s a lot of nostalgia elements that give the show 80’s flair.  The title screen is an obvious callback to Steven King’s novels, mimicking the same font and look of any of his titles.  Jaws movie posters adorn the walls and songs like Toto’s “Africa” play in the background.  Speaking of music, the show’s soundtrack is on point, all the time.  The music is super synthy and the unnerving audio cues amp up the thrills.  Stranger Things is an example of perfect sound design.  Even the visual effects feel like they’re fresh out of the 80’s, which is good and bad.  The monster animations are cheesy and strobe lights apparently mask some of the effects-heavy scenes.  Perhaps it adds to the show’s character, but the effects feel out of place and kind of lazy in 2016.

What we have with Stranger Things is a love letter to shows of its ilk.  The 80’s influence is real and ever present.  The Duffer Brothers, directors of the show, have a great piece of television on their hands.  There’s already been a lot of talk surrounding the show, which makes a second season a good possibility.  I’m all for another trip back into Stranger Things but I don’t want the show to carry on past three seasons at most.  There’s value to shorter and more concise TV shows that tell one-off stories.  Stranger Things, which might be my favorite show of the year so far, has me dying to see more.

stranger things score

Review: Emily Is Away

emily is away cover

Emily Is Away (2015)

PC / Not Rated


Publisher: Kyle Seeley

Developer: Kyle Seeley

Most people this day and age at some point have probably found themselves in front of a computer with an instant messenger client open.  Before the age of texting and social media, there was a time where AOL Instant Messaging was one of the few ways to get in touch with high school friends or distant relatives savvy enough to use a computer.  Another familiar experience, one that most of us have probably been through, is the complicated high school crush relationship.  With a high school crush, you’re always teetering on the line between a boyfriend/girlfriend relationship or the friend zone, where anything you say could tip it all off-balance.

When you pair instant messaging of the early 2000s with conversations with a high school crush, you probably get a relatable experience, which is where Emily Is Away succeeds in its mission.  Emily Is Away is a small PC indie game designed by Kyle Seeley.  The game encapsulates the complicated and sometimes nerve-wracking nature of talking with a crush perfectly, using a deeply nostalgic Windows XP aesthetic as a wrapper.  It immediately transported me back to a time were punk-pop bands were the norm and Harry Potter movies were new and all the rage.

emily is away 1

The beginning of the game lets you pick a screen name, a name that you will use to talk and communicate with the game’s titular character Emily, who goes by “emerly35” online.  The short narrative journey takes place over five years, starting in your senior year of high school and ending with your senior year of college.  Over this time, you speak with Emily about a wide range of things ranging from music to parties, until you eventually get into some deeper topics like your relationship with her and other love interests in your life.  What you say directly affects your relationship with Emily in more ways than one.  Do you or do you not want to be with Emily?  Oh, she’s talking to another boy?  What’s his name?  Why would you want to be with him?  Do you really think he’s the right one for you?

High school crushes are complicated.  A lot of the times they are talking with other people and feeling of jealousy can rise from the dirt.  You don’t want to tell them what to do with their lives, but you desperately want to be with them as well.  The game captures these feelings perfectly.  It also hits home in a lot of different ways, thanks to the relatability of the scenario. Whether you like it or not, your relationship changes with Emily as you go through college and no matter what you say, the distance between you and her continues to grow.  The ending is pretty depressing, but it’s extremely powerful in execution.  It’s an outcome that you probably dread from the start, but it’s a part of life.  The game has different endings, but I’m unsure if you are able to get a “positive” outcome, no matter how hard you try, which is kind of unfortunate.  However, I think the negative endings work a lot better for the story and they give it more impact.

emily is away 5

All the other details surrounding your conversations with Emily are some of the best parts of the game.  Like I mentioned before, the game’s interface lovingly recreates the Window XP desktop. You have your messaging application that you use to talk with Emily as well as your “buddy list” that has all of your friends.  Before every conversation, I found myself reading through my friends’ user bios which usually consisted of song lyrics or other meaningful quotes.  Just like your relationship with Emily, your friends have changed too, and depending on the choices you make with Emily, you have the power to bring them closer or drive them away.  It’s a neat little aspect of the game that only garnishes the meat of the experience.  A part of me wishes that I could have talked with these other friends as well, but that would have only distracted me from the main conversation at hand.  It could have worked, but it would have been tougher to implement in a meaningful and enriching way.

Even details like your “buddy icon” that you select before every year (five years divide into five chapters or conversations) did a great job at putting you in the early 2000s.  The instant I saw the Harry Potter and Eminem logos that you could choose for your icon, I knew I was going to like this game.  There’s also plenty of hidden surprises that unlock different Easter eggs throughout the course of the game as well.  If you set your username to be “vaultdweller” for instance, you might get a special icon available for use.  Some usernames also trigger conversational cues that can add some variety to the conversations as well.  Setting your username to be the exact same as Brad’s (the boy Emily is talking to) can lead to a funny and confusing situation.  (Try it.)

emily is away 4

The short experience that Emily Is Away provides is extremely powerful and one of the most relatable games I have ever played.  Not only does it provide a deeply engrossing, and ultimately sad, story but it also hits all of the nostalgic beats of the early 2000s.  The game is essentially a friend zone simulator and it succeeds in every aspect of its execution.  I would have liked the game to be a bit longer so I could spend more time with the character of Emily, but I think the game is alright where it stands.  If you love sweating over what to say to your crush, then this game is most definitely for you.

emily is away score

Also available on Mac and Linux.

Review: Pee-wee’s Big Holiday

pee wee big holiday posterPee-wee’s Big Holiday (2016)

PG / 90 min

Adventure / Comedy

Starring: Paul Reubens, Jordan Black, Doug Cox

Director: John Lee

It’s been almost fifteen years since the quirky Pee-wee Herman took to the small screen for Pee-Wee’s Playhouse.  Actor and comedian Paul Ruebens has had small roles as Pee-wee here and there since then but the quirky and sometimes absurd character has been on hiatus for a while.  It’s almost felt like there wasn’t going to be another Pee-wee movie.  Leave it to Netflix to bring an old nostalgic property to the small screen.  Pee-wee has come out of retirement…to take a holiday in the new family-friendly comedic romp Pee-wee’s Big Holiday, only on Netflix.

pee wee big holiday 1
via Collider

Were fans calling for another Pee-wee movie?  I’m sure there were some fans hungry for another adventure with Pee-wee but it’s hard to say.  When Netflix announced that they were making a full-length Pee-wee movie I was like, “okay, let’s see what they can do with it.”  Not so surprisingly, Paul Ruebens still has it.  Despite his age, he slid right into the role of Pee-wee Herman perfectly.  He’s got the goofy laugh and rocks the numerous facial emotions that will instill nostalgic feelings in any die-hard fan.  He even has the looks.  I swear Paul Ruebens just does not age.

For his latest adventure, Pee-wee decides to step out of his comfort zone and go on a road trip to New York City.  Perhaps the film’s biggest draw is the inclusion of Joe Manganiello who plays himself in the movie.  In a bout of destiny, Joe meets up with Pee-wee at his café and inspires him to travel to New York City to attend his big birthday bash at his penthouse.  There’s a big hilarious bromance that brews between the two that can get a little weird at times.  Paul Ruebens and Joe Manganiello seem like the unlikely duo to star in a comedy but the two work well together and provide most of the feature’s laughs.

pee wee big holiday 2
via Coming Soon

We only really see Joe at the beginning and end of the film, so the bulk of the comedy has its spotlight on crazy Pee-wee.  Since this is a comedy of the road-trip variety, don’t expect Pee-wee’s first vacation to go smoothly.  He runs into a female trio of thieves that kidnap Pee-wee, kicking off his journey with a bang.  Pee-wee also runs into a farmer who has a whole handful of daughters that instantly gain interest in Pee-wee.  Not to be outdone, there’s also a community of Amish people that welcome Pee-wee into their home.  Pee-wee’s journey is never uneventful and it’s full of wacky surprises.  He eventually makes it to New York, only to get himself into more foolish shenanigans.

Pee-wee’s Big Holiday has a short run-time, clocking in at about an hour and thirty minutes, but Pee-wee’s antics start to wear thin as the film goes on.  Nostalgia takes the humor for a good while but even that can’t keep it floating for too long.  The humor might work well with the younger crowd, but it just doesn’t work that well in today’s day and age.  Pee-wee’s brand of comedy had its time and place but I’m not sure it flies these days.  The movie has its moments that made for some genuine knee-slappers, but I wanted to laugh more…I really did.

pee wee big holiday 3
via Nerd Report

The movie’s production value didn’t really help its cause either.  It was from the film’s first moments that I instantly realized director John Lee was working with a slim budget.  Normally I don’t mind low budget comedies, but there were scenes were I just laughed because of how silly they looked.  There’s a scene where Pee-wee is flying through the air and yeesh…it didn’t look too good.

Fans of Paul Rueben and Pee-wee will probably enjoy the serviceable comedy that is Pee-wee’s Big Holiday.  It operates a lot on nostalgia for the character, as well as the bromance between Pee-wee and Joe Mangianello.  However, it’s a road trip comedy that wears its welcome and starts to burn out.  Luckily Pee-wee made it to New York before the comedy started blow it’s tires, because that would have put a bad cap on an otherwise serviceable trip.

pee wee big holiday score

Review: Fuller House Season 1

fuller house poster
via Ruck Makers

Fuller House (Season 1) (2016)

Netflix / NR

Comedy / Family

Starring: Candace Cameron Bure, Jodie Sweetin, Andrea Barber

Producer: Kelly Sandefur

Oh Mylanta! That’s what the internet shouted upon the announcement that the original cast of 90’s sitcom Full House would be reprising their roles in the new Netflix comedy Fuller House.  The sitcom, which cemented itself as a cultural mainstay, holds a special place in a lot of 90’s kids hearts, so when the reboot was announced (with the original cast), I was pretty excited to return to everybody’s favorite San Francisco townhouse.

fuller house 1
via Pop Shifter

Let’s first break down the cast.  Almost everyone from the original makes it on to the show, including Danny (Bob Saget), Joey (Dave Coulier), Jesse (John Stamos), Becky (Lori Loughlin), D.J. Tanner (Candace Cameron Bure), Stephanie (Jodie Sweetin), Kimmy (Andrea Barber), and even Steve Hale (Scott Weinger).  Notice how the Olsen twins aren’t present on the billing?  Yep, unfortunately these two were the only main cast members to not make an appearance.  (Don’t worry, the show does a pretty good job of reminding you about that.)  There’s also some new additions in terms of the kids.  D.J. Tanner’s kids, Jackson and Max, are played by Michael Campion and Elias Harger (a big ball of energy) respectively.  Twins Dashiell and Fox Messitt play D.J.’s youngest, Tommy Fuller Jr.  Finally, the other primary character we see is Kimmy’s daughter Ramona, played (pretty well) by Soni Bringas.

If you’re from the outside looking in, you would probably expect that Danny, Joey, and Jessie would be present throughout the entirety of the series, but that doesn’t hold true.  Instead, Fuller House centers around the story of D.J., Stephanie, and Kimmy who end up inheriting the house from Danny who, along with the older crew, are moving out and doing their own things.  (Don’t worry, the likes of Danny, Joey, Jesse, and Becky make sprinkled appearances here and there!) The majority of the story focuses on that fact that the girls are now older, living more adult lives.  Relationships, parenting, and other adult things tend to be the new focus.  Also…a lot more boob and sex jokes, furthering the show from its predecessor’s squeaky clean image.

fuller house 2
via IB Times

Longtime and fervent fans of Full House should find bundles of things to love about Fuller House.  The show’s producers and directors did a pretty bang-up job of recreating the look and feel of the original series.  The interior of the house (albeit some minor changes) looks like a carbon copy of the house we have come to love and the actors fit right back into their characters with ease.  The new theme song, sung by Carly Rae Jepson, is pretty amazing and the show provides a good bit of flashbacks to the original.  Not an episode went by without some reference to the old show.  It made Fuller House fun to watch.

However, if you take away the nostalgia and present the show as it is…there isn’t that much there unfortunately.  The show leans a little too heavily on the nostalgia factor, sacrificing good writing in the process.  A lot of the humor is a little too on-the-nose for my tastes.  A good bit of the jokes fell flat as well.  There were some genuinely funny moments (D.J. Tanner and her plumber, the whole SF Giants episode) but a lot of the humor just wasn’t working for me.  There’s also a love triangle that develops between D.J. and two other guys that has its moments, but just comes off as cheesy and predictable in the end.  I’m not going to spoil the final episode, but let’s just say I predicted it from a couple of miles away.  It wasn’t the payoff that I was expecting.

fuller house 3
via Hypable

I enjoyed my time with Fuller House best when I just forgot about the parts that make it an average sitcom and instead enjoyed the heavy doses of nostalgia that it shovels at viewers.  I’m willing to bet that most people who will watch the show are coming for the nostalgia, so it should bode pretty well with fans.  However, if you take off the nostalgia-goggles and view the final product as a whole, it’s a show that has some issues.  Did I enjoy Fuller House?  Sure, for the most part.  Is it a good comedy?  No way, Jose! (Okay, maybe that’s a little harsh…but it’s not good) To no surprise, the show was just renewed today for a second season, so this gives them another chance to right their wrongs and put out a second season better than the first.

fuller house score
Fuller House

Review: Khalifa

khalifa album cover
via The Daily Loud

Khalifa (2016)

Wiz Khalifa

Rap / Hip-Hop

Taylor Gang / Rostrum / Atlantic

Today is the day that Kanye West’s new album, The Life of Pablo, releases to the world.  The album has been a storm of publicity, featuring everything from large-scale listening parties to Twitter rants.  Speaking of Twitter rants, Wiz Khalifa was on the other side of one of West’s social media rants which was sparked after the use of “kk” in one of Wiz Khalifa’s tweets.  It was a mess.  Maybe it benefited Wiz more than Kanye, considering Khalifa, Wiz’s sixth studio album, released around the same time as the Twitter feud, giving the album some publicity.

khalifa 1
via Rolling Stone

Khalifa, unlike Kanye’s newest project, pretty much flew under the radar in terms of publicity.  Wiz has been working on the album for a long time, releasing bits and pieces from the album here and there.  It was only a couple of weeks before the project actually dropped that we started to become aware of the album’s existence.  The lack of publicity for the album shouldn’t fool you however, as this is a solid album from the Pittsburgh rapper.

Wiz’s previous album, Blacc Hollywood, was pretty good…at least in my opinion.  The reaction was varied, with the most common critique being linked to the radio-ready pop sound that encapsulated the album.  It reflected Wiz’s career at the time, going from small-time Pittsburgh rapper to world-wide rap superstar, but a lot of people started to become fearful that Wiz was turning away from the sound that got him famous.  Luckily, Khalifa dials things back a bit and sounds more like the old Wiz Khalifa that we all fell in love with.

khalifa 2

The project gets off to a shaky start, but starts to pick up some steam with “City View,” a song that the Wiz has been working on since 2012, and “Cowboy,” a pointed song that delves into the gang violence that has taken place in the Pittsburgh streets.  There’s also “Bake Sale,” the album’s main single featuring Travis Scott.  It’s a marijuana-laced album that will make any Wiz fan feel right at home.

The album is at its strongest when we reach the last four songs (minus the actual last song) on the album, the first being “Most of Us.”  The song is a tough banger that serves as a edgier anthem for the Burgh, similar to “Black and Yellow.”  “Zoney” is the album’s most personal song, featuring the voice of Wiz and Amber Roses’ son, Sebastian.  It’s a solid song that ends with a heartwarming back-and-forth between Wiz and his son.  Sebastian mimics his dad’s famous laugh (“Do daddy’s laugh”) which gives way to one of the album’s best moments.

khalifa 3
via Zumic

“Lit” is another one of those “weed is good” songs with a nice beat, produced by guys like Dru-Tang and Big Germ.  It’s a two-part song that features two-different sounds.  The song also features Ty Dolla $ign.  It’s a classic Wiz song reminiscent of some of his past work.  Finally, the album (sort of) ends with “No Permission,” a song that he debuted last summer.  It’s another “old-school Wiz” sounding song featuring Pittsburgh’s own Chevy Woods.  The only reason why I say the album “sort of” ends with this song is because the albums actual final song, “iSay” is a bummer when matched up against the four songs that come before it.

When you talk to me about which projects rank the highest among Wiz’s work, I always point to his earlier stuff, but Khalifa is an album that feels nostalgic in a sense.  The album features production from a bunch of Pittsburgh names like Big Germ, TM88, ID Labs, and Sledgren who work to recreate some of the old-school Wiz sounds that got him famous in the first place.  The album might not compare to the rapper’s older work, but it’s the next best thing.

khalifa score

My Formative Gaming Experience

If you’re a gamer, I’m willing to bet that at some point you have stepped back and thought about where it all began; where your love for games first got its start.  It’s a natural feeling.  As humans, the feeling of nostalgia is super real and a common part of our lives.  As of late, I too have started to think about where it all started for me.  I started to pinpoint the one game that I can attribute my love of gaming to and after some thought, Chrono Trigger, Square’s beloved RPG, was the game that towered over all.

chrono trigger 1
via Lazy Tech Guys

Chrono Trigger certainly wasn’t the first game that I remember playing.  The Gameboy Advance is where I got my start.  Believe it or not, my younger brother was the person that got me into gaming.  He received his Gameboy for his birthday one year and I remember following him around watching him play it.  It got to the point where I decided I wanted on for myself.  The first game that I put a lot of time into?  Pokemon: Crystal Version for the Gameboy Color.  I spent countless hours, a lot of them past my bedtime, roaming around the Johto region amassing my collection of Pokemon.  It was Chrono Trigger however that really cemented me as a gamer.  It lighted a fire in me, one that still burns today.  I liked playing video games before Chrono Trigger, but it was the game that put me past the point of no return.

Let’s get a little more nostalgic.  My formative gaming experience, the one that got me into games, consists of three key ingredients, one of which you are already familiar with.  These three key ingredients include Chrono Trigger (the game itself), a GameFAQs guide for the game, and French Toast Crunch.  Yep, when I look back, it’s these three things that really stand out from my personal formative experience.

Chrono Trigger

chrono trigger 2
via Game Fabrique

I’ve already talked about how Chrono Trigger was the one game that got me excited about gaming, but why did I like it so much?  The game was unlike anything I had played up to that point, having it’s hooks in me from the very start.  You start off as main character Chrono who visits the Millennial Fair, where a demonstration of a time machine is going to take place.  While roaming around the bright and cheery locale, you start to make decisions that directly affect where the story goes.  For instance, I stole a guy’s lunch so that I could have those items in my inventory…it just seemed natural.  Little did I know, that decision I made was brought up again as I was sent to jail for the petty theft that I committed.  It was these small things that really engrossed me in the game’s story.

The game’s use of time travel was also mind-blowing to me as a kid.  As you progress through the game, you are constantly traversing time and exploring different eras of the game’s world, which is similar to Earth.  You go back to the Prehistoric times, where you pick up one of my favorite characters from the game, the fierce and confident Ayla.  You also travel to the future, which is bleak and depressing…overrun by numerous robots and other technology.  It was fascinating going through time and witnessing the changes that took place over the years.  You are travelling to the same areas, but in different eras…allowing you to pick up on the differences and similarities.  As a kid, this was the coolest thing ever.

chrono trigger 3
via Fan Games

Finally, the game’s combat mechanics where simple enough for a young kid like me to pick up, but complex enough to keep me interested.  The game utilizes an Active Time Battle system, where the characters you bring into battle have their own personal timers and once those timers run down to zero, you can perform an action.  The enemies have their own timers as well, giving the system an “active” feel.  It was simple enough for me to grasp, and kept me entranced for hours on end.  The inclusion of double and triple attacks involving multiple characters was pretty great as well. Learning and mastering these techniques was satisfying, especially when these attacks would do massive amounts of damage.

A Chrono Trigger GameFAQ Guide

chrono trigger 4You’re probably wondering why the hell I would use a guide for a game like Chrono Trigger. Let’s take a couple of things into consideration.  I was still pretty young at the time, so getting through an entire game like Chrono Trigger was pretty tough for me.  The game has multiple endings based on the decisions that you make and my first time through I got one of the worst endings.  It was also one of the easiest endings to achieve, as it doesn’t take much.  It was from that point forward that I decided that I needed a guide to get the good endings that I wanted.

chrono trigger 6

Without further ado, I hopped on my grandma’s computer and started searching around for what I could find in terms of a “guide.”  I was new to the internet at the time, so the process took over a day.  The internet was a weird and often foreboding place.  I finally stumbled onto the popular website GameFAQs, a place totally dedicated to providing guides to help players get through games.  After perusing the site for anything related to Chrono Trigger, I finally found a full guide that had everything I could ever want.  Walkthroughs, item descriptions, secret locations, enemy strategies, etc.  Everything was there.  The guide was almost 250 pages long…so I decided to print out the whole damn thing.  A lot of printer paper and ink (which was super expensive at the time) was sacrificed that day, but that sacrifice was well worth it.  I cherished that guide and I carried it around with me in its own special folder.  From then on, whenever I played Chrono Trigger, you better believe that my 250 page FAQ was right there beside me.

French Toast Crunch

chrono trigger 5
via Hello Quizzy

What does the wonderfully delicious French Toast Crunch have to do with Chrono Trigger you ask?  Well, nothing really.  That doesn’t mean that this snack was important to my experience though.  After reflecting on my experience with Chrono Trigger, I decided to go full nostalgia mode and think back to the one snack that I identify with that game, and French Toast Crunch was that snack.  Aside from being the best cereal ever, it was also my primary choice of snack if we had it in the house.  We would get cereal a lot, and whenever this cereal would arrive in the house…it wasn’t safe.  It would be gone in almost two days flat.  I can remember munching on bowls of French Toast Crunch while playing Chrono Trigger.  It was the only way to go.  No really, French Toast Crunch is really good.  I could literally write an entire article about why French Toast Crunch is so great.  It was a travesty when the cereal was discontinued.  Luckily, the people over at General Mills realized the mistake the made and recently brought it back into stores.  So, all is right with the world.

I have personally come a long way since my formative gaming experience, but it’s fun to go back and think about where it all started.  I still have fond memories of my formative gaming experience, involving Chrono Trigger, a GameFAQ, and a bowl of French Toast Crunch.  Nowadays I don’t use guides when I play games (unless I am going for trophies) and I don’t eat as much French Toast Crunch.  Sometimes that’s just how it goes.  However, it was these elements that really formed me into the gamer that I am today.

Thanks to Alexander Kubal, community manger at Man Crates, for the idea for this post.  They ship out great stuff in wooden crates that can only be opened with a crowbar.  Pretty cool stuff.  You can check it out for yourself over at ManCrates.com