Rank & File: Horror Movies

There’s only one October! We spent it ranking horror movies.

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Double Take: Left Behind

Keith and Steve played through Left Behind, the DLC episode of The Last of Us, on the same day. Here’s a conversation they had about it. A spoiler warning is unnecessary for anyone who has already played through The Last of Us.

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Review: BoJack Horseman – Season 3

Premise: BoJack Horseman is an anthropomorphic horse who starred in a hit family sitcom back in the ’80s and ’90s called Horsin’ Around. Twenty years later, he’s got all the fame and fortune he could want, but also a sometimes-crippling case of depression. Season 3 loosely revolves around BoJack’s goal of winning an Oscar for his recent role as Secretariat – if he can just win that Oscar, he’ll never be forgotten, the thinking goes, and that’ll be enough to snap him out of this deepening existential crisis. (But will it really?)

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Review: Stranger Things – Season 1

Premise: It’s November, 1983, in a quiet little Indiana town. Something nasty has escaped from a nearby research facility working on top secret projects for the federal government. Meanwhile, a local boy goes missing just as a peculiar traumatized girl with no discernible origin appears. The boy’s frantic single mother works with the local police chief to find her son and his twelve-year-old friends mount a similar effort of their own – bicycles, walkie-talkies, and all. Oh, and there’s a love triangle brewing between a good girl, a jock, and an outcast. Hey, I said it was 1983!

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Review: Oxenfree

Somewhere near the middle of Final Fantasy VII, Cloud endures a one-on-one date at the Golden Saucer with one of his comrades. Who he selects as his lucky partner for the evening depends on several seemingly meaningless decisions the player has made up to this point in the game. There’s an algorithm working behind the scenes throughout the first disc, tallying up unseen “relationship points” for each of Cloud’s four possible partners based on the actions he’s taken and the words he has said. A certain drink order at the bar after the story’s very first mission, for instance, may end up being the difference between an enjoyable outing with Tifa and an exasperating one with Yuffie. An offhand comment about snoring might ultimately lead to a bro-down with Barret at the expense of a night to remember with Aeris. In all, some forty or fifty apparently meaningless individual choices will ultimately contribute to Cloud’s decision.

Take that concept, apply it to high school kids, stick them on a haunted island, and you’ve got the basis for Oxenfree.

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Rank & File: Nintendo 64

Welcome back to Rank & File, where we rank things and then file them away. Today, we’re ranking Nintendo 64 games.

You know how it works. I asked a bunch of the bros to rank Nintendo 64 games and then I combined all of our ballots to come up with a final ranked list. Every title included by more than one bro qualified for our final list with the most popular and most beloved titles appearing toward the top of the list.

Sources vary, but there were about 300 games released for the console in North America. Our final rankings include 69 of those titles (ha!) and our individual ballots collectively span 111. More than a third of the console’s library can thus be found below. Wow!

Without further ado, here is the singular consensus take from a record-setting 15 Rank & File contributors, followed shortly thereafter as always by the many various individual takes.
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Rank & File: Mario Kart

After a shamefully long hiatus, it’s time for another edition of Rank & File. Today we’re ranking Mario Kart.

Two years ago, the eighth game in the Mario Kart franchise (aptly called Mario Kart 8) was released in North America. To mark this minor anniversary, we asked several of the bros to rank the titles in the franchise from best to least-best. Twelve ballots later, our compiled set of rankings was finished and finalized. And you won’t BELIEVE the results – number nine will shock you!

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Rank & File: Movies in 2015

Welcome back to Rank & File, the latest and greatest GameTimeBro feature – it’s not your father’s listicle!

Two months ago, seven bros lent their opinions on how the television landscape stacked up in 2015. Today, those same seven bros are pleased to provide takes of a similar nature. With the 88th Academy Awards right around the corner, the time is right for us to reflect on the movies we saw in 2015 – or perhaps more accurately, on the movies released in 2015 that we mostly saw in 2016. Normally I let Keith come up with all of our brand-centric forced puns, but this one’s just staring me right in the face, so without further ado, ladies and gentlemen – welcome to the Broscars!

I know, right? Anyway, here’s our collaborative list: letterboxd.com – gametimebro-ranks-film-in-2015

Our individual lists can be found after the jump.

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Rank & File: TV in 2015

Never afraid of providing content in a timely manner, we the bros are proud to present our consensus opinion on what was worth watching on TV in 2015.

It’s a new year here at GameTimeBro, and Rank & File is a new feature that more or less replicates (replaces? supplements?) what we did last year in Hall of Fame Time Bro: sharing and comparing our takes on how things compare to other things. Here’s how it works. For the given topic, all the interested bros submit secret hidden ranked lists, in which they’ve meticulously considered the proper position of any number of applicable items. Then, using a secret and proprietary* algorithm on this collection of ballots, we end up with more than just a compilation of opinions; nay, we arrive at a beautiful tapestry of consensus, woven from many individually held takes, and far greater than the sum – well, the weighted average, at least – of its parts.

Then we post the individual submissions and hang everybody out to dry.

Without further ado, here’s our stance on how television measured up in 2015: trakt.tv – gametimebro-ranks-tv-in-2015

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Review: Final Fantasy XIII-2

Even before it was released, Final Fantasy XIII was already being both criticized and defended by a divided fanbase. Development for the game began in 2004, only a year after Final Fantasy developer Square was acquired by Enix. The game was revealed at E3 in 2006, where Square Enix also announced that it would be just the first in a series of games built around the same engine. Originally envisioned as a PS2 title, Final Fantasy XIII was bumped to the PS3 and delayed when it became clear that Final Fantasy XII would barely make it to the PS2 before the PS3’s launch date. A further delay came when Square Enix decided to release Final Fantasy XIII on the Xbox 360 in addition to the PS3, and longtime series fans began to complain. Their patience, spoiled by a run from 1997-2002 in which Square had churned out Final Fantasy VII through XI (and the acclaimed Tactics spinoff to boot), was strained. Many people had already gone sour on the franchise after Final Fantasy XII, which saw the series transition from command-based to AI-based combat. When Final Fantasy XIII finally arrived in the West in 2010, several pockets of a frustrated fanbase tore it to pieces, criticizing everything from the story to the characters to game’s utter lack of nonlinear exploration. The one aspect of the game met with nearly universal praise was the battle system – and even that consensus compliment came with the caveat that the first twenty hours of gameplay were an elongated tutorial on how to use it. Most rational people agreed that Final Fantasy XIII wasn’t a straight-up bad game; it was just a disappointment in a variety of ways, particularly given its development timeline and the strong legacy of the Final Fantasy series. To make matters worse for Square Enix, they were on the hook for two sequels to the game after investing so much time and money in the Final Fantasy XIII engine. Development on Final Fantasy XIII-2 began immediately, and the design team was painfully aware of the previous game’s perceived shortcomings.

It’s no coincidence, then, that Final Fantasy XIII-2 feels like a self-aware direct response to all of the complaints levied against Final Fantasy XIII. But in addressing so many flaws, Final Fantasy XIII-2 swings far enough the other way to create a few new ones.

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Review: Advance Wars

The ongoing cultural conversation over video games and their place in our culture is a fascinating one with many separate components. One of the less interesting topics that seems to come up constantly is whether or not video games can be considered “art.” I mean, of course they can be! But not all of them should be. Most probably shouldn’t be, but then, the same can be said, broadly, of most movies, most photographs, most drawings, and most human creations in general. I don’t want to spend much time defining my stance on this one, but art, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder – and so is quality. For instance, I consider Braid one of the most memorable and thematically complex games I’ve ever played. Soulja Boy, meanwhile, gives it high praise from an entirely different perspective. (Watch him do so here. Seriously.) Now, granted, I’d have linked to that video for just about any reason, but my real point here is that whether or not a video game has any artistic merit doesn’t really matter as much as whether or not the game is any fun to play.

Advance Wars isn’t art, nor does it pretend to be; instead, it’s just a confidently great strategy game.

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Review: Deadlight

There’s probably an official name for it floating around somewhere, but one of the greatest trends in recent gaming occurred from 2008 to 2011 when consoles saw an explosion of high-quality downloadable games. Generally created by independent studios, many of these offerings provided gamers with new and original experiences too bold and risky to find in big-budget games. The importance of this little golden age of indie console games can’t be overstated. The idea that ten-dollar, five-hour games could be both critically and commercially successful didn’t even exist ten years ago, and yet now it’s essentially the foundation of Steam’s business model. In fact, many of the most acclaimed downloadable games now available on Steam or iOS were initially exclusive to Xbox Live Arcade (BraidLimboSuper Meat BoyBastion), WiiWare (World of Goo), PlayStation Network (Trine), or some combination of the three during that 2008 to 2011 window. It was an exciting time for console gaming, and the creative gems just kept coming.

Of course, not every downloadable game released since then has been an innovative work of art.

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Review: Professor Layton and the Last Specter

What makes for a good mystery? It’s an inherently subjective question with no clear cut answer, but general guidelines have existed for as long as the mystery genre itself. At the most basic level, the goal when creating a fictional mystery is to entertain an audience by inviting that audience to solve the mystery for themselves alongside the detectives in the story. In practice, this involves striking a delicate balance when it comes to respecting the audience’s ability to reason, to intuit, and to problem solve. Make the answer too obvious, and there’s no fun to be had in cracking the case. On the other hand, if the conclusion can only be reached by making drastic assumptions or leaps of faith, an audience may feel cheated out of a satisfying resolution. Of course, the willingness and ability to solve any mystery varies drastically from person to person. A conclusion that one person arrives at effortlessly may not even be a consideration for someone else. At the very least, ideally, an audience should have all the same information as the mystery’s protagonist. That way, even those who couldn’t put everything together on their own can still respect the paths of deduction once they’ve been revealed. Not everyone will try to figure everything out as the story progresses, but even those who are merely along for the ride will feel cheated out of a good story if the resolution comes entirely out of left field or if the narrator withheld any amount of essential information. Perhaps above all else, everything should make sense, from the perpetrator’s motive down to the very laws of nature. There’s no foolproof way to create memorable mystery fiction, but most good mystery fiction abides by these general guidelines.

As mystery fiction, the Professor Layton games are absolutely terrible. As video games, they’re still largely enjoyable – and The Last Specter is no exception to either of these rules.

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Review: Mega Man Zero Collection

Back in the early ’90s, when Capcom began to develop a Mega Man game for the new and impressive Super Nintendo console, the company initially chose to ditch the franchise’s familiar protagonist entirely. Instead of merely sprucing up the look and feel of the happy little blue android, lead character designer Keiji Inafune opted to give Mega Man a full-scale redesign for the upcoming Mega Man X. The result was a substantially more aggressive-looking battle robot with red armor, a horned helmet, and long blond hair. Inafune was pleased with his creation, but ultimately decided that this new character was too different from the original Mega Man to serve as the new face of the franchise. So Inafune tasked another designer with creating a Mega Man X more in line with the legacy protagonist. Rather than scrapping his own design, however, Inafune doubled down on his fierce-looking red automaton and decided that he should serve as X’s superior, mentor, and idol.

Thus, Zero was born, and he was born a total badass.

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Review: The World Ends with You

I bought The World Ends with You recently, not out of the blue, but specifically after holding off for several years after its release in 2008. Any RPG from Square merits at least a strong consideration on my part, but there was always something generally unappealing to me about this game. The thing that finally got me to buy in was a recommendation from somewhere on the Internet, based on how much I had enjoyed the deep and complex storytelling in the Zero Escape franchise. The two titles in that series had blown my mind with their mysteries and twists, and if I could play a JRPG with an equally impressive story, why wouldn’t I?

Unfortunately, when it comes to video games, story isn’t everything.

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DC Hall of Fame: #20-11

Last month, the bros lent their opinions on the best Super Nintendo games and our consensus list was unveiled in the inaugural gametimebro Hall of Fame class. We’ve done it again, this time for the short-lived but fondly remembered Sega Dreamcast. Though it lived for just a few years and was unable to amass a library the size of the PlayStation 2’s or the GameCube’s, it still put forth many games at the turn of the millennium worth remembering today. Here are ten such titles.

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SNES Hall of Fame: #30-21

On a recent gametimeshowbro podcast, the bros were asked to provide a ranked list of their top five Super Nintendo games. The conversation that followed was illuminating, lengthy, and provocative. It continued after the microphones went off and as the number of games mentioned continued to grow we soon realized that limiting ourselves to five games each was an impossible task.

So here’s our newest feature. We’ve asked all of the bros for ranked lists of ten to twenty-five of their favorite Super Nintendo games. Ten responded, listing sixty-six games in total. After combining, comparing, and smoothing out the ten lists, we’ve reached a consensus opinion on the thirty greatest SNES games of all time. Though our tastes and takes were wide and varied, together we have created a list much stronger than the sum of its original parts. Today, we proudly present the first ten games on that list – our first ten inductees to the gametimebro Hall of Fame.

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On Birdman and Boyhood

During the lead-up to the 87th Academy Awards, most Oscar prognosticators agreed that the contest for Best Picture had become a bout between two heavyweights. In one corner was Boyhood, a Richard Linklater film twelve years in the making that depicted a young man’s journey from age six to the first day of college. In the other was Birdman, a movie from Alejandro Iñárritu about a washed up movie star trying to hack out a career resurrection as a playwright and stage actor. Both pictures were strong contenders backed by staunch advocates.

Of course, as so often is the case in any popularity contest, many of the biggest proponents of each film turned into the biggest critics of the other. Boyhood detractors complained that although a twelve-year production timeframe was an impressive feat, it didn’t necessarily make for an impressive final product. They also belittled the script for being overly long and underdeveloped, largely improvised on a year-by-year basis. Meanwhile, Birdman opponents dismissed the film’s seamless aesthetic, designed to look like one long take, as more of a technical gimmick than an artistic endeavor. Moreover, many rolled their eyes at the prospect of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, comprised of several old white men who ascribe relevance within the acting and writing industries, being won over by a fictional old white man struggling for relevance in the acting and writing industries. The hot takes continued long after the Oscars, too. After Birdman won Best Picture, several editorials claimed that the Academy had just made its biggest mistake in decades, arguing that Boyhood will long be held up as a far more deserving candidate. On the other hand, gametimebro’s own editor-in-chief Keith boldly claimed in a recent podcast that Boyhood winning Best Picture would have been the single worst Oscars travesty of all time.

Buried by all of the divisive commentary, however, is an important development. In either case, whether Birdman or Boyhood had won Best Picture, the Academy was set to reward a truly unique and original movie with its highest honor. This is something the Academy almost never does anymore.

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On Netflix’s Zelda adaptation

Last month, a flurry of reports emerged alleging that Nintendo and Netflix were in the process of developing a live-action series based on The Legend of Zelda. And by all accounts, they’re really going for something big; the phrase “Game of Thrones for a family audience” was thrown around for good measure. Lots of people seem pretty excited about the rumored adaptation, and it’s easy to see why. In addition to boasting one of the deepest and richest universes in all of gaming, The Legend of Zelda is well known and easily recognized by even the most casual of gamers. Twenty-five years and seventeen games’ worth of intellectual property would provide showrunners with an immense array of pre-imagined kingdoms, characters, and potential plot arcs. Meanwhile, the franchise’s loose and fractured timeline almost seems tailor-made to allow creators the freedom to craft their own original stories rather than attempting faithful adaptations of any games in particular.

Still, despite all the elements of Zelda that point toward a TV series being a great idea, there’s at least one enormous obstacle for the concept, right at the center of everything else: Link.

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