Sunday, December 29, 2019

Samus & The Mandalorian

[Mild spoilers for Metroid & the first 6 episodes of The Mandalorian]

Okay so I really like The Mandalorian. And it's impossible to not notice certain similarities to Metroid games. Of course, Boba Fett came before Samus, so some of those similarities originated with Star Wars. But not all of them. Let's take a look at how much of them started where:

Who did it first?

Tri-directional visor

Bounty hunting

Boosted jumping

Flame weapon

Reluctance to remove helmet in public

Grapple (hook/beam)

Thermal visor

Parents killed in attack on peaceful colony

Traumatic reaction to the being that killed parents (droids/Ridley)

Rescued as a child by aliens who gave them armor and taught them to fight

Upgrading armor using items found on adventures

Rescuing/sparing a baby alien that had been flagged as a target

Getting rescued by the baby alien they saved

Dealing with evil organizations who want to exploit the baby’s powers

Betrayed employer by letting morality override job requirements

Attacked by monsters that are pretty much just two feet and a head with sharp teeth

Cool theme song



Let's hope Samus isn't the suing type.

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Christmas Nostalgia

Being an old geezer (okay, well at least half an hold geezer), it sometimes takes a while for the feeling of Christmas to kick in. And I'm not talking about the good feeling of doing good things for other people. Yeah, I know that that should be the focus, and I do try to do that. But that's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about the feeling of looking forward to getting fun stuff and getting time off of school/work for a while while you enjoy it. But there are a few things that can instantly trigger nostalgia about Christmas. Maybe they're weird, but whatever. Here they are in chronological order:

  • Music from whatever records we listened to as kids. I think Perry Como and Bing Crosby or something.
  • Certain types of cookies and chocolate candy, although I can't put my finger on exactly what
  • In theory, old-style Transformers would do this. But I haven't seen one in a long time.
  • Mega Man 3. This was probably my most-anticipated Christmas present ever, and something about the pre-Christmas-morning vibe made me think I wasn't going to get it. But I did! The music from this game is just epicly legendarily awesome.
  • Mentos. The smell/taste of these are directly tied to playing Mega Man 3 at Christmas time, because that's when I first had them.
  • Bomberman 64. There was one Christmas when Nintendo didn't have any good new games out, so I got the closest thing I could find to Mario 64 (as far as I could tell). The superhappy Green Garden music feels especially Christmasy, although the snowy White Mountain music does too.
  • Metroid Prime. I was skeptical about whether you could make a good first-person Metroid game, but they did it! The quiet music from Phendrana Drifts (the snowy area) is especially wintery.
And... nothing else comes to mind. I guess the older you get, the more the seasons blur together, and I guess once you can buy your own stuff you don't rely on Christmas in quite the same way for cool stuff and experiences. But that's okay, because there's usually enough nostalgia in the above things to keep me going.

Bonus question: 
Since "Phendana" is a completely made-up word, why didn't they just spell it with an F?

Monday, June 3, 2019

Mega Man 11

I love Mega Man games. But I specifically like Classic Mega Man games. Mega Man 8 is my least favorite (although the original is pretty weak too). 9 and 10 were super retro, and I love those more than 6 and 7. But when Mega Man 11 was announced, I was skeptical. The art style is modern, and there are voice clips that can get on your nerves (like in 8). Things do look better than 8 visually, but they didn't use the perfect 3D model of Mega Man from Smash Bros, and the cell-shaded look wasn't quite what I had hoped for. There was a free demo, and it was admittedly fun. (You can slow down time!) But the music, while sort of catchy, wasn't nearly as glorious as the tunes from 3 and 4 (and some from 2). None of this was exactly a deal-breaker, but it didn't feel worth the $30 purchase price. I didn't even get the game when it was on sale for 20% off around Christmas time, partly because I didn't want to encourage the developers to make another game just like it.

But a couple of weeks ago eBay sent me a $5 coupon for no apparent reason, and I figured buying Mega Man 11 used would be a good way to spend it - basically I got the game for half price. It was definitely worthwhile. All weird things aside, the game is fun, and it does feel like a Mega Man game. Way better than 8, for sure.

From the demo, my first impression was that the game is super hard. Even for a Mega Man game. on the "Normal" difficulty (how could I play it on a lower one?) I couldn't beat the single Robot Master that was available in the demo, although it didn't let you "buy" (with in-game bolts) energy tanks and the like. The real game was also really hard, and I didn't beat anybody until I had visited most of the levels. But once I had purchased a bunch of upgrades and a few energy tanks, I started cranking through things. The clock said like 5.5 hours when I beat it. Then on Superhero mode it took me another 3 or so.

I actually do like the look, in general. The enemies managed to look classic in spite of the 3D cell shading. The robot masters look good too. And there's actually a fair amount of replayability, because the power ups you can get in the item shop are so useful that it kind of makes me wonder how well I'd do without them. Same with the slowing down time thing. In theory, it should be possible to do the game in a more classic style, once you know what to expect.

Final thing: even though I don't find my self humming any of the stage music (which is actually probably my biggest complaint), the stage select tune does get stuck in my head. So points for that.

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Funeral traditions

People have all sorts of traditions around funerals. A lot of the time I don’t get them. I imagine that most of the time they’re constructive – by which I mean that they serve to help grieving people deal with their loss and move on. And I’m all for that. (I’ll also admit that I haven’t yet gone through much of this kind of loss, so there could be some perspective that I’m missing here.) But I worry that sometimes the traditions we follow can have the opposite effect: they can end up making people worry more than necessary, in particular about how their actions or lack thereof might affect the deceased. In particular, I think people end up doing more harm than good when they treat funeral services like they are meant for the dead rather than for the living.

A basic principle that I’m quite confident is that once you’re out of this life, your level of happiness only depends on your relationship with God, and not on anything that any other person has done or not done. (You could argue that temple ordinances are an exception to this, but even then I that the timing we experience here is different from what post-mortal people experience so let’s ignore that for the moment.)

This principle is really important. Obviously in this life our happiness is affected by all sorts of things outside our control, from both human and natural causes. The Atonement of Christ gets rid of all that and makes happiness available to everybody And the Resurrection is guaranteed to everyone. If you know (or even believe) this, it is a source of comfort, even though it doesn’t immediately take away the pain of losing someone. That pain is real, which is why it’s important for people to address it, cope with it, and find ways to move on.

I think that one of the ways that people deal with it is through traditions that make them feel like they can do something of value for their departed loved ones. It helps them feel less helpless, more connected. I suspect that’s why people spend quintuple-digit amounts on caskets, flowers, and grave sites. It’s why they keep bringing flowers to graves. If that works for them, great. The problem comes when it becomes difficult or impossible for people to go through these traditions. I fear that they may end up feeling unnecessarily guilty for not having done more – or even worse, that they often spend unnecessary resources to go through with the tradition even when there’s pretty much no benefit for anyone except those getting paid to provide them.

All of this leads me to have a set of views that some might see as jaded or even cheap, but the motivation really is to make sure that all of the traditions we follow are aimed at the grieving family – because the dead are just fine without these efforts. I’m not judging people that believe or choose differently. But here they are, for what they’re worth.

  • Burial (or whatever): I think all cultures bury or cremate the remains of people who have died. There’s a good and obvious reason for this: the human body is sacred, and the image of a friend or family member has emotional significance. Eventually that body will become part of the earth and be unrecognizable, but the process that takes it there is essentially a desecration of the human image. Seeing that would only be hurtful. We want it to take place out of sight. Now, people (perhaps naturally) add to that sentiment the idea that the dead person themself needs to have the body buried in a certain way. What if you can’t do that? What if the body is lost at sea or destroyed before the ceremony can be performed? If you think the ceremony constitutes some duty to the dead, you’re going to end up grieving even more – not just for the loss of that person in your life, but for some imagined suffering that the person will go through in the next life. That’s really bad! It’s much better if we just see burial (or cremation or whatever) as a necessary logistical step and move on, knowing that the person we have lost is just fine.
  • Graves: Visiting a grave site is a related concept. I get that it’s comforting for a lot of people, and that’s great. There are also a lot of people who can’t visit the grave site of their deceased family, maybe due to having moved away or something. I sure hope such people don’t feel distanced from their family because of that. Post-mortal spirits aren’t attached to their burial sites or even to their former bodies. They’re free from all that. If there’s an attachment to this world, then surely it’s to the living family members themselves.
I guess that covers it, actually. We can’t avoid the pain of losing people to death. But we can make sure that the traditions we follow don’t add to the burden of those who suffer loss and distract from the hope and peace that come from knowing that good people who move beyond this life are okay, and that we will be with them again.