LOST IN ZEBES: With a lot of internet chatter focusing on the 35th anniversary of The Legend of Zelda‘s 1986 release, it made D. Bethel upset because another major Nintendo franchise was also released that year that nobody––much less Nintendo itself––seems that interested in celebrating, the weird, wonderful Metroid. D. Bethel talks with Andrew to see why this game and the series it spawned never gained the legs and legacy of Nintendo’s bigger franchises.
A BAD IDEA AGAIN: More than a decade after Konami cancelled its controversial tactical military first-person shooter, Six Days in Fallujah, the game seems to have been revived by Highwire Games who have taken to the media asserting that they want to tell––with their tactical military FPS––a nuanced, thoughtful, and impactful story of the incident. This news caused D. Bethel and Andrew to wonder if certain stories are simply better suited for certain genres of games?
WEEK IN GEEK: As a buffer between episodes about the The Karate Kid movies and talking about Cobra Kai, Andrew and D. Bethel talk about what other nerdy stuff has been occupying their attentions. Andrew talks about the early access release of the Subnautica sequel with Subnautica: Below Zero while D. Bethel is pretty sure he’s playing Rebel Galaxy Outlaw incorrectly as he delivers goods across different solar systems.
RECYCLING OF THE DALEKS: This year’s Doctor Who New Year’s special, “Revolution of the Daleks”, continues the cliffhanger ending of series 12 and says goodbye to some companions while welcoming back Captain Jack Harkness to the show. Andrew and D. Bethel discuss the special while also discuss some of the important changes made to the series lore at the end of series 12.
2020 was a year that upended all expectations. Though the threats that 2020 brought affected people in a variety of ways, for most it became a year of simple survival. For nerds, of course, we turn to the things that occupy our attention, inspire our imagination, or generate conversation. This year, we are looking at the things that helped us survive 2020. Today, co-host D. Bethel shares what kept him inspired throughout the year.
2020 became a year of self-reflection for most people; for creatives, it became a challenge to find inspiration in new places and ways. Working from home proved to be incredibly difficult when, all of a sudden, my creative, personal space became my classroom. Teaching, planning, and grading at my computer all day made it difficult to walk the two feet to my drawing table and work for another handful of hours on a Long John page. To that end, of all the things to provide inspiration, the sweet and sentimental video game, Spiritfarer, hit hard and unexpectedly.
On its own, Thunder Lotus’ newest game, Spiritfarer isn’t particularly notable. Yes, it looks very nice and the systems and loops are fun to juggle and the writing is top-notch. But it’s not revolutionary, at least not on its own. It’s just a good game. Honestly, that’s enough.
Spiritfarer is a management sim; playing as Stella, you takes over the role of spiritfarer––shepherding souls from death to the afterlife––from a retiring Charon. The majority of the game takes place on your boat that houses the spirits found along the way. During their tenancy, you talk to them, learn their stories, and help them get past whatever psychology holds them back from accepting their deaths. Once they have a moment of clarity, you take them to the “Everdoor” which sends them to their eternal home. For each spirit you recruit––taking the form of a different anthropomorphized animal––you do small quests to help brighten their moods. To do that, you grow crops, cook food, take them to specific locations, or harvest materials they want. With so many different spirits on your boat, your job is to keep all of these plates spinning while also maintaining your boat.
The thing about this game is not what it is, specifically, although––as I said––it’s very good. Instead, it’s about what it represents and what came before. Spiritfarer‘s Canadian developer, Thunder Lotus, is renowned for their amazing art and animation; what they can’t be accused of, however, is being stuck in a rut. Their previous game, Sundered, is a procedurally-generated Metroidvania. Before that, their first game, Jøtun, is an isometric 2D-Zelda-like that had you battling giant bosses to get into Valhalla (I played bothgames on the Dan & Rusty Video Game Power Hour years ago).
Every game differs wildly from the last, with the quality of art and music being the only link between them. This also makes them unpredictable, but not in a worrying, nervous way. There is no doubt that their next game will be beautiful and good, even if I have no idea what kind of game it will be, and that’s what I found so comforting about this game in a year like 2020.
While Spiritfarer is wonderful, I find its success validating for the mercurial ethos of Thunder Lotus Games, and for me. Though I’m slow with the output for my western webcomic, Long John, I also know it’s not the only story I want to tell. Seeing Thunder Lotus not only bounce between genres and styles without a care but to also be successful (in terms of execution) with every game they make shows me that a similar desire to bounce around with my own creative endeavors is not only possible but can absolutely work when done with integrity, thoughtful intent, and earnest excitement. Those qualities seep through Spiritfarer on every level (pardon the pun), and they were more than welcome in a year like 2020.
WEEK IN GEEK: In the lead up to the holidays, Andrew binges the entirety (so far) of Amazon Prime’s original series, Man in the High Castle, while D. Bethel has been playing the delightful yet simple Cat Quest in short bursts.
The charming Nintendo Direct where Mario & Zelda creator, Shigeru Miyamoto, guides us through the new Super Nintendo World theme park:
CYBERPROBLEMS 2020: The highly anticipated new game from CD Projekt Red, Cyberpunk 2077, was finally released after a few delays and it had some…issues. From representation issues to severe bugs, Cyberpunk 2077 is a game that has encouraged a lot of discussion, discourse, as well as hot takes. Andrew & D. Bethel do their best to sort through the mire.
WEEK IN GEEK: Andrew befriends dogs and murders zealots in Far Cry 5 while D. Bethel finally gathers his thoughts (now that he’s seen it both at the drive-in and now at home) on the final X-based release from 20th Century Fox (albeit after Disney’s purchase), The New Mutants, directed by Josh Boone.
“Arias In Embers” (21 June 2019): Where D. Bethel discusses––and defends––the second-to-last Fox X-film, Dark Phoenix.
“Playing the Menu” (20 March 2020): Where D. Bethel discusses playing Shadow of the Tomb Raider, a game that seemingly had something important to say about colonization, but crumbled underneath the weight of a AAA budget and the expectations that brings with it.
WEEK IN GEEK: This week, Andrew enthusiastically plays the 2nd edition of Pathfinder, despite not fully enjoying the first edition, while D. Bethel gets really excited to play an adventure game based on one of his favorite comics, Blacksad, but gets horribly disappointed by Blacksad: Under the Skin.