Tag Archives: pop culture please

PCP: Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure – Phantom Blood

Watching Wednesday #10 – Wallowing Weirdness

This is about the first arc (well, the first half arc) of the 2012 anime adaptation of Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure. 

The short of it: True to its name, this weird saga starts with a relatively calm story of boy and his adopted brother. The next 40 or so episodes add in the bizarreness that makes this series so endearing and captivating. 

It really is hard to beat this series’ own description. It’s a bizarre adventure. It’s Aladdin finding the lamp, Gulliver finding the island, Ishmael boarding the ship.

JJBA creates this aura of intrigue, where sense is tossed to the side, absurdity is the new normal, and every step forward opens up three more paths.

Oddly enough, the first few episodes seem to be spot-on parodies of most anime/manga tropes with how generic they seem. I’m still not completely sure if it’s JJBA’s influence or its earnestness that makes these (possibly) unintentional parodies so funny. They’re not boring by any means, but they are far more grounded than the rest of the show.

And keeping with generic starts, it’s premise is simple enough. A boy, Joseph Joestar, finds a brutal rivalry with his recently adopted brother, Dio Brando. This manages to slide into a centuries long blood feud that claims the lives of thousands, thanks to a mysterious mask that turns its wielder into a monstrous immortal vampire.

Dio’s unflinching evil is by far the most compelling part of the series, followed by Joseph’s unyielding goodness. I mean, there’s a reason Dio’s an Internet phenomenon.

JJBA is like the world’s greatest roller coaster. It starts with this slow standard roll up to the top of a massive hill, taking the viewer along these benchmarks of insanity. As the viewer gets accustomed to these spikes of weirdness, they’re introduced to a new one, and then a new one. Every step up normalizes this impossible world.

And then, once it reaches the stratosphere, it comes flying down in this exhilarating exhibition of gravity’s weakness.

Plus, JOOOOOOOJOOOOOOOOO.

 

PCP: Dethklok

Monotony Monday #10 – Most Metal

Dethklok: Timeless

The short of it: Parody that outdoes its source material is rare. Not only does Dethklok successfully mock the quirks and ridiculousness of metal, it outdoes most metal bands in terms of talent and performance. 

The pilot episode of Metalocalypse portrays Dethklok as the world’s most popular band, with legions of fans willing to die to hear the band play.

Three albums (more or less) later, it’s actually understandable why their animated fans would go to the brütal slaughterhouse that is a Dethklok show.

The band is effectively just Brendon Smalls playing with himself. And the result is some of the funniest jokes about the genre delivered through genuinely great metal.

Pretty much every track manages to both kick ass and bring a grin to your face. You’ve got songs like “Dethharmonic,” with these gorgeous, orchestral strings backing this shuddering riff and it’s just beautiful.

And the song is just about not wanting to pay taxes. It’s funny on the surface level, but, like all of Dethklok’s music, makes this grander point about how dumb most metal lyrics are. Even though Small’s got wonderfully clear vocals, other metal bands’ muddled screeches and snarls disguise the utter inanity of most lyrics. And Dethklok is both pointing that out and saying that it’s actually fine– the pretentiousness and elitism that riddle the metal community are as silly as the eighteenth reference to Satan in a three minute song. If it sounds good, it’s good. If it sounds metal, it’s metal.

Dethklok, as a band, is impressive. Dethklok, as a comedic avenue, is impressive. Dethklok as a single man’s project is indescribable.

Well, maybe not.

It actually just takes three words.

Metal. As. Fuck.

PCP: Watch_Dogs

Fun Fridayz #9 – Free Fun

Watch_Dogs: Worth Watching, Dawg

The short of it: Despite accidentally boarding a machspeed hype train during its release, Watch_Dogs is an incredibly fun, complete game that looks fantastic. 

When it was first revealed at E3 a few years ago, people lost their minds. We hadn’t quite slid into our cynical echo chambers where we declare that anything that doesn’t look exactly the same as its promotional material to be lying garbage.

Many hypestorms later, it came to Games with Gold, and I’m absolutely loving it.

It’s a basic story of wronging the wrong guy– Aiden is a techno hacker wiz with gun skill and gristle, desperate to protect his sister and nephew from a mysterious badmandude.

As far as I know, he’s the greatest Aiden in gaming. The only other one I can think of is the dumb stupid force ghost Aiden from 2 Beyond 2 Souls, but still.

Of course, Aiden is a tad generic. He’s a low-talking white guy, with short, dark hair and scruff. But I can’t help but like him. His drive to protect his family is relatable, making his almost cringy lines about messing with the wrong guy actually touching and relatable.

It’s what’s really propelling me through the game. The progression system is satisfying, allowing the player to jump from hacking wallets to hacking helicopters, but it’s not an emotional motivator. It’s not what lets me look past the incredibly lackluster driving physics and obscene car camera controls.

Instead, watching Aiden’s willingness to become the type of guy he’s fighting against to protect his family makes me want more. His refusal to change and lack of desire to better himself is painfully relatable. He’s not taking the dark path like a hero willing to go the full length to stop evil. He’s just a really flawed guy watching out for his family.

PCP: Two Best Friends Play Silent Hill 2

Watching Wednesday #9 – Friends Forever

Two Best Friends Play Silent Hill 2: 2 spooky, 2 gud

The short of it: Although a bit less silly and a lot more informed, this playthrough demonstrates the other side of TBFP. While failing playthroughs of horrendous David Cage games are hilarious, the Best Friends have their brainy moments too. 

What’s that, imaginary inner critic that’s never satisfied? Upset there’s another Best Friends playthrough on PCP? Well suck it, this one’s also fantastic.

Silent Hill 2 can almost indisputably claim the crown of Greatest Survival Horror Game of All Time. This playthrough can do the same for the Best Mostly Serious TBFP Playthrough title.

Pat’s the star here, taking point on both the controls and the discussion. Years of admiration and research are evident as he manages to both informative and hype about the brilliant designs in the game.


The Best Friends have genuinely made me appreciate games a lot more. Whereas other channels kinda make me annoyed that I wasn’t recording for a funny moment, these guys make me like the little things I didn’t used to notice. Subtle gameplay nudges to direct the player, cool character designs, the concept of hype in general. It makes the medium so much more enjoyable.


The game alone is immersive, and the commentary’s almost hushed tone make this playthrough atmospheric. The deep fog and creepy environments add to this level of tense fascination. The guys’ resolution to keep quiet during the cutscenes amplifies the utter bizarreness of it all- the stilted performances and weird pacing of the conversations make it unsettling in a hard to nail down way. Of course, having Pat explain why certain actors sound they way they do or what certain things mean in the Silent Hill mythos answer the dozens of questions that are inevitable in a playthrough of this game.

It’s like watching a puzzle being put together with narration. Every step is another, “Ah!” as the picture gets clearer and clearer. Sure, occasionally they’ll force a wrong piece in it, but the explanation works well enough that it’s either interesting or funny enough to pass.

PCP: Lethal League’s Prototype

Fun Fridayz #8 – First Fun, Finished Fun-ner

Lethal League‘s Prototype: Dodge Baller

The short of it: It says something about a game when its prototype version is good enough to stand on its own. Tight controls and a fun aesthetic make this lil’ demo a brilliant argument for buying the full version.

Demos are usually great ways to give possible players a taste of what the full package involves. Sometimes it stumbles, like Prey’s Opening Hour, and sometimes it over succeeds, like Lethal League‘s in-browser prototype.

The game’s simple– don’t get hit. It’s dodgeball with a dose of dynamite, with ball speeds maxing out at a million miles an hour and special moves allowing players to add spin to the ball or teleport it to behind opponents.

It’s bonkers in all the right ways. I owe Best Friends Play for introducing it to me in one of their old Friday Night Fisticuffs.


But here I am, with my stomach in a semi-permanent Gordian knot from losing a paycheck or two in less than 24 hours due to a brutally timed rent/deposit/car replacement parts/car breaking and needing more replacement parts cataclysm.

I’m fine, everything’s paid,  but my bank account’s sore from being squeezed. So I’m squeezing blood from this turnip of a demo. Turnip meaning a highly nutritious and valuable product.


So I’ve restricted myself to the prototype version of the game until I’m back to breathing room financially. Fortunately, it’s more than a demo. It’s a fully challenging slice of Lethal League‘s full package. Out of the fifty or some games I’ve played against the AI, I’ve won exactly one. And that was with a fair amount of cheesing on half of the points.

Point is, this is such a fun little tide-me-over. It demonstrates mechanics first and foremost; rather than trying to entice the player with a plot twist or an extreme display of graphics, it lets the player feel how the core game works before the polish.

Plus, you get this hype track as you try to stop the unflinching robot AI.

PCP: Inside Gaming’s Chaser

Watching Wednesday #8 – What a Whiff

Inside Gaming’s Chaser:

The short of it: Before evolving into Funhaus, Inside Gaming provided some of the best tightly edited gameplay on YouTube. Add in an overdose of humor of both the dark and fart variety and a godawful game, you’ve got one of the enjoyable trainwrecks on the web.

The current-Funhaus-former-Inside Gaming’s history is kind of funny, bouncing from a Halo specific show into a gaming news show into a mix of news and brief gameplay to a primarily gaming channel with a hint of news. Fortunately, all these shifts have had little impact on the quality of their content, whatever it may be.

Every few months, I find myself looking back at some specific playthroughs and silly videos that genuinely made me laugh. Top among those videos are Inside Gaming’s playthroughs of the best worst games of the mid 2000s. And the top of those is arguably their playthrough of Chaser, a mediocre game that somehow manages to surprise players with how many ways it can be bad.

It’d be amusing enough to watch the game quickly devolve into a mess of bad design and worse implementation, but with Bruce and James behind the mic and Kovic behind the controls, it’s a downward spiral of game with the peak of game commentary.

Sure, their style of editing cuts out all the bits that are unfunny or boring. Instead of minimizing the strength of the overall commentary though, this strengthens it. By distilling it to their high points, the guys’ indirectly challenge the commentary of any other gameplay channel on YouTube. Yes, we know how brilliantly funny they are, but their condensed and cohesive playthroughs reveal the weaknesses of most other commenters.

PCP: Rain Come Down

Monotony Monday #8 – Vince’s Vivacious Victories

Vince Staples’ “Rain Come Down”: Fresh, Ain’t Fishy

The short of it: A master of delivery and lyricism, Vince is quietly one of the best artists in hip-hop. His upcoming looks to continue his trend of hitting it out of the park.

I’m a huge fan of Vince Staples. His debut album, Summertime 06, immediately impressed me and stayed on heavy repeat for a few months.

Honestly, I’m still not over this one line from “Señorita.” It’s the kind of line that makes me want to grab everyone I see by the shoulders and shout in their face, “DO YOU UNDERSTAND HOW GOOD THIS LINE IS?”

We crabs in a bucket / he called me a crab / So I shot at him in front of the Douglas

It’s quintessential Vince– it’s compact, catchy, and clever. There’s like, three layers of brilliance, and each one gets me hype as hell.

But this PCP isn’t about “Señorita.” It’s about one of his three singles for his upcoming album Big Fish Theory.

“Rain Come Down” is the longest of the three released tracks, and it’s easily my personal favorite. I was just walking around at work singing, “When the rain come down!” to myself. Ty Dolla $ign kills the hook, which is great considering the fact that Vince’s weak point is his hooks (everyone has to have a weak point, and I don’t think Vince is anywhere near, like, Tyga or something in terms of hooks).

It’s got the classic amp up outro that isn’t quite as good as the one on “Señorita” (damnit, I said this wasn’t about that song), but it’s still interesting. Same thing with the video– although Vince didn’t need a visual accompaniment since this is just the audio version, the imagery of the fishbowl in the rain is amazing.

The production is pretty classic Vince, with a bouncing bass accompanied by a spread of high hats that shows off his entrancing flow.

Admittedly, I still haven’t listen to his last project. Maybe it was burnout from the album, maybe his work was a little too consistent. But considering this track and his Gorillaz feature, I’m pretty excited to see what this big fish’s small pond sounds like.

PCP: YouTube Live

Watching Wednesday #7 – Weak Watching

YouTube Live: Live, Die, Replay

The short of it: It’s the fast food of media consumption: easy, quick, and someone else does it all for you. 

Alright, this is gonna be a weird one. Well, maybe not weird, but unorthodox. It’s not nearly as weird as my lame clause comma statement format, but still.

So I’ve become a huge fan of this whole creepily-automatic, “24/7 LIVESTREAM TV SHOW PLAY NOW” that pops up on YouTube Live. It’s everything from Fox News to Animal Fights to Family Guy. And it’s that last one that’s been occupying my free time.

It’s a bit of a twofold guilty pleasure. For one, it’s all pretty much garbage in terms of content (at least, for me, there’s like Nat Geo and fancy learnin’ stuff I ain’t clicking on). And it’s like lazy pirating, where I don’t like the content enough to seek it out on my own.

Look, I love Family Guy. Season one is absurdly good for a pilot season, and season two continues that trend. Although season three reveals that petering off into absurdity (c wut I did thur) that derails the next decade, it’s still a fantastic collection of humor and character.

Then it got worse.

But somehow, it got better. Despite a lack of a showrunner or truly funny character, the show reclaimed itself as a staple of network humor with its grasp of absurd and classic humor. Something as simple as one character greeting a background character is complimented by an extended meta-humor joke, resulting in a show that manages to both laugh with and at itself.

The end result is some random YouTube channel under an obnoxious name, either John Smith or PETER GRIFFIN LOL LIKE FAMILY GUY, streaming the latest episodes of the show. Despite being a chronological deposition of Family Guy’s humor, these channels end up being the most enjoyable background noise available. It’s like white guy white noise– there’s a cutaway you can chuckle at before the show cuts back to some trite “Character X discovers they can do Y” plot.

Basically, this is the best way to enjoy a show that started as both a copy of and modernized rival of The Simpsons.

Watch season one of Family Guy. But also watch the latest as a testament to how unimportant thinking is between laughing.

 

PCP: Raleigh Ritchie

Monotony Monday #7 – Music n’ Missandei

Raleigh Ritchie: A Raleigh to Really Rally Behind

The short of it: With a charming mix of melancholy and joy, Raleigh Ritchie’s music is almost always an airy delight. It’s downtrodden indie pop that plays with the genre as well as Jacob Anderson plays the Unsullied leader. 

Roughly four years ago, I downloaded a “Best of June 2013” tape from Sunset in the Rearview. It came with a bit of a melancholy tune by Raleigh Ritchie, who I assumed was just another British sadboi musician that’d never get the acclaim he deserved.

Three years after that, I was screaming at my TV, begging for my favorite secondary Game of Thrones character, Grey Worm, to escape his near-deadly encounter with the Golden Harpies. As soon as he emerged in the third season, I knew he was going to be on my “Please Don’t Die” list.

Lo and behold, it turns out Jacob Anderson is just brilliant as pretty much everything he does.

With the pseudonym of Raleigh Ritchie, Anderson creates ballads of hopeful heartbreak. His music is painfully honest. He gently sings of his sad dreams and struggles, his fantasies and nightmares, everything from his luckiest stumble to his worst mistakes.

It’s absolutely delightful hearing him bounce over the noisy sounds of tracks like “Cowards” before powering over the simplistic piano tune of “Stronger Than Ever,” (my personal favorite).  Everything’s brilliantly and uniquely produced, but they’re all outshone by Anderson’s crooning and lyricism.

I’m more than familiar with the sad said of indie pop and the evolutionary successor to emo, where every girl is a beautiful devil and every fault is your own. But Anderson uses these incredibly human and tender stories of how scared he is of, well, the scariest non-scary parts of living. Growing old, changing, losing the ones you love, he manages to encapsulate them all in songs that never hit preachy or whiny. His versatility with handling the most common of fears is as stunning as the visuals in his videos.

Everything just fits so well in his music. His consistency and experimentation should clash, but they’ve yet to do so. His versatility keeps him afloat, even in the face of the most challenging music possible: Dan Harmon’s freestyling.

Man this dude’s great.

PCP XL: Mortal Kombat XL

Fun Fridayz #6 – Man My Madness is Mad

Mortal Kombat XL: Mortality Shortener

The short of it: With a refreshing emphasis on character over classics, MKX is a brilliant reawakening for a series that just saw a decent reawakening. Stunted by wearied cheapness instead of challenge, its single player options end up less than they could’ve been.

I’m straight terrible at fighting games. Arguably, I’m bad at all games, but fighting games really reveal how godawful I am at every facet of gaming. Learning from mistakes, proper timing, understanding mechanics, everything. I just shell up and scream, bashing on buttons like down-down-up-left-right-select-x-x-y-start-down-bumper-bash-the-batteries-out would do anything.

But here I am, absolutely loving MKX.

For the past few days, I’ve been destroying my blood pressure playing through the surprisingly good (but not quite as good as Injustice) story mode as well as struggling to succeed against the easy AI in 1v1. It’s been fun, at least, until I hit the final boss and dropped down from normal to very easy. But I guess that’s classic MK, or even just classic fighting game, where devs create a super dope system for combatting others but consistently fail to create a final boss that’s challenging rather than cheap. Much like Shao Kahn in, well, every single iteration of Mortal Kombat, the final boss of MKX is the same ol’ 25 percent damage taking, unblockable chainable projectile dealing cheapskate that’s far less of a triumph to beat than a relief.

Yet, I still love it. Giving every character three styles almost triples the already decent roster. Netherrealm finally stepped up and made new characters that are genuinely good, in both design and play. Erron Black’s sick design allows him to stand on his own, while Ferra/Torr’s classic big bulk/little spike playstyle allows them to fit in the classics. Kotal Kahn manages to hold his own as a less outrageous Shao Kahn, and D’Vorah’s instrumental place in the campaign makes her hard to ignore.

Everything just feels great. Sure, some animations are a little choppy or weird, but there really isn’t anything that’s pulled me from the heat of the battle. I’m frustrated by start up times and delays, but those are classic fighting game mechanics. My frustration is with myself, not the game, which is both calming and infuriating.

That aside, it’s still a fun ride. The only real problem with the story is the weird amount of stage wedging. By that, I mean that it’s obvious there’s a fairly select number of stages that the story has to force the player into– one of the fighters has to do some grandiose move to force the fight back into the market stage or the forest stage. That being said, I’d rather the stages be tight than the roster.

I think the real tragedy of Mortal Kombat, aside from the krappy side games and characters, is the fact that it took until a year post-release for this game to truly be worth reviewing. Don’t get me wrong, I’m extremely excited to see what MKXI has to offer, but it straight up sucks that it took until 2016 for a 2015 game to be “complete.” I desperately wanted to play Injustice 2 after watching the campaign and various tournament fights, but I’m going to have to wait till Injustice 2 XL or whatever it is to feel like I’m getting my money’s worth of content.

Maybe it’s my discomfort with the rapidly growing trend of microtransactions as the profit base of games nowadays. Hell, maybe it’s about time for devs to really get the value they’ve earned after painful hours of coding and programming. But it’s still feels bad. It’s why I’m so divorced from Grand Theft Auto V after adoringly buying every DLC I could for its predecessor. It all feels like some kind of weird corporate trick, where a mixture of the cream and the crap is skimmed from the final product to be delivered later. And the messed up thing is that it makes sense for characters to be slowly developed and refined after the game’s release. But then there’s this day one pre-release nonsense, coupled with the microtransactions for easy fatalities.

It doesn’t quite feel right, I guess. Yeah, I’m just some dude and I’m bad at games. But it feels like a weird separation between player and developer– it seems to have slipped from relationship to business. There’s less hype about sick kombos and more about “additional kontent.”

But I’m still here, having a bunch of fun with these challenge towers and Test Your Luck with friends. Is the discomfort of post-release support worth the reward of a complete package a year later? I can’t say. All I can say is how much I’m liking the game, and how I’m deadass terrified of entering the online multiplayer. It’s a mortal fear.