Reviews of April (2018): Nostos Algos

With the end of April comes warmer weather and hopefully less potential for getting sick! I am so sick of being sick, hahaha! Can I get an Esuna? Anyway, I made it through the entire last day of April without seeing a single “it’s gonna be May” meme so I feel like the luckiest man alive.

Here are the games we reviewed this month. There are a couple of debut reviews, some peak critique, so we’ve new members to welcome!

 

BBMage The Badly Backlogged Mage (aka Mr. Backlog) spearheaded the way this month with his review for sci-fans on Out There Chronicles – Episode One. The question of what makes a game a game and what counts as a game is one which persists and this philoso-wordsmith did an excellent job describing how even a visual novel has elements of a game.

coffeemage The conjurer of caffeine, the Hyperactive Coffee Mage (aka Games with Coffee), who is most definitely a thaumaturge with a cup of joe on his hat, took us way back to the Game Gear with his review of Sonic the Hedgehog 2 on the handheld. The battery-chowing Game Gear doesn’t get to see the light of day too often anymore but this take was a delight beyond even that because it exemplified the thorough, analytical thought-form that TWRM has become known for.

abxy1 Yet a second contributor joined the party this month in the form of a jazzy and skeleton champion named the ABXY Mage (aka ABXY Reviews), who brought his characteristic honesty to bear on a retro classic, Metroid. If there was a theme at all at The Well-Red Mage this April, it was nostalgia, realizing it, embracing it, dealing with it, curbing it during evaluative discussion (wherever and if ever possible). This retro review is exemplary in that respect.

ninjamage Speaking of honesty, the Mail Order Ninja Mage (of Home Button) crafted a fine artisan balance in his review of Don’t Starve: Nintendo Switch Edition. It’s one thing to praise a game to the gills and it’s entirely another to raze it to the ground; you typically see either of these extremes with review writing. However, this critique reflected the tastes of the writer, the subsequent reflections upon the game, and the best qualities the game has on offer. It’s a review with the sharpness of a blade’s edge. Expect no less from the Ninja Mage!

mystic_knight1 Speaking of ninjas, our longest-running contributor, the Midnight Mystic Mage (of Sublime Reviews), took his TWRM long-form attention to Save the Ninja Clan. No game is too big or too small! This review is all about discussing derivatives. Is the salvation of the clan of assassins different enough from the brutal indie platformer lot to warrant a play? Well, consider that there’s meta-humor at play here. Buggin’!

FF3-NES-OnionKnight.png Finally, the Moronic Cheese Mage (aka Mr. Wapojif) got all melty for one of the all-time greatest games on one of the all-time greatest consoles: Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest on the Super Nintendo. The difficulty which the Moronic Mage acknowledged in performing retro reviews is in reigning in the subjectivity as much as possible. With a game as laudable as DKC 2, I felt that he discussed the games high points in a resounding argument for its status as a true 16-bit classic.

InfernalMage On the column front, the Infernal Accountant Mage stayed faithful to his routine bringing us some thoughts on games from each year he’s been alive. I realized this month at last that the recurring theme of his columns is thoughts on gaming culture, ultimately. One particular entry that is not to be missed discusses surviving cancer and experiencing an even greater joy of gaming: 1996: The House of the Dead (Arcades and How They’re Gone).

Our Anatomy of a Game Review this month crystallized April’s theme of tackling nostalgia, which had itself been brewing on Twitter through a massive poll we conducted. The goal of this article was to discuss the nature and origins of the concept of nostalgia and how it reflects upon reviewing, the responsibility of the writer in recognizing and being upfront about their nostalgic biases, and the duty of doing one’s best to overcome it in any critical work. Oh and we also talked about how saying “it’s just nostalgia” is lazy and it doesn’t invalidate someone’s argument, which should be accepted or rejected on its merits. Quite a lot to tackle in one article, I know, but it spawned a lot of conversation.

Over this past week, I realized that the concept of nostalgia plays a huge part in Hawaiian culture, my culture I grew up in. Nostalgia is a recurring theme in many “local” songs whether ancient, traditional, or modern in Hawaii. Lyrics about crying for the land or yearning to return home from abroad capture the sense of homesickness in the original meaning of the word nostalgia. For me, I guess nostalgia is in the blood. Maybe that’s why I play retro games?

There is no Hawaiian word specifically for nostalgia but ‘ano’i suffices, though it possesses a collection of other meanings like many Hawaiian words do (affection, ambition, beloved, darling, fondness, lover, sweetheart, yearning, etc.). So to highlight this theme in Hawaiian culture, I wanted to share this song with you. I think it’s pure nostalgia because of its themes:

“Ku’u Home O Kahalu’u” (1976) by Olomana

I remember days when we were younger
We used to catch ‘o’opu in the mountain stream
‘Round the Ko’olau hills we’d ride on horseback
So long ago it seems it was a dream
Last night I dreamt I was returning
And my heart called out to you
But I fear you won’t be like I left you
Me kealoha ku’u home o Kahaluu

I remember days when we were wiser
When our world was small enough for dreams
And you have lingered there my sister
And I no longer can it seems
Last night I dreamt I was returning
And my heart called out to you
But I fear I won’t be like I left you
Me kealoha ku’u home o Kahaluu

Change is a strange thing
It cannot be denied
It can help you find yourself
Or make you lose your pride
Move with it slowly
As on the road we go
Please do not hold on to me
We all must go alone

I remember days when we were smiling
When we laughed and sang the whole night long
And I will greet you as I find you
With the sharing of a brand new song
Last night I dreamt I was returning
And my heart called out to you
To please accept me as you’ll find me
Me kealoha ku’u home o Kahaluu

 

You can catch a few of my other projects this month with a retro review I attempted on Mega Man Legends, talking up both its highs and its lows (nostalgia doesn’t always hit home; see Deep Ones), as well as the start of something special with inviting my 2-year-old son Kal into the critiquing process with a review of It’s Spring Again (Babysplaining? Kidsplaining?!). Oh and the soundtrack of my past week and some change has definitely been jazzy Ebullience. Check it out!

Mahalo and thanks for reading.
Well-Red-Mage-Black-sm
-The Well-Red Mage

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