Retro Reflections: Sabrina The Teenage Witch: A Twitch In Time

Like many men my age, I used to have a huge crush on Melissa Joan Hart because of a fantastic little show called Clarissa Explains it All, and because that was everything, I was more than happy to give Sabrina the Teenage Witch a chance as well. It was fine, quite funny at times, but overall didn’t bewitch me like it did others. However, there is a newer version now, The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, which I will have to give a shot after I’m finished with this review.

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The Best Rockstar Games You Probably Haven’t Played

Grand Theft Auto is my favorite game series of all time. That sounds like a basic answer to a tough question, but I’ve put a lot of thought into it, almost as much time as I’ve given to the series. Not only have I played through all of the single-player games multiple times, but I am also still quite addicted to Grand Theft Auto Online. Rockstar has other IPs obviously, as we prepare for the release of Red Dead Redemption 2, another good series with a few less entries, and the Max Payne trilogy, which is so much fun. The company has become known for their sprawling open worlds, attention to detail, and tons to do in these rich environments, but they have also produced a ton of racing games, a music tie-in title with Timberland, and even did Table Tennis. 

However, they only seem to be remembered for the mainstays. This means many people have missed out on the rest of their works, older games that laid the foundation for these newer titles, and those great projects that just went under the radar. Those gems outside of their main series are what I want to speak about today, in hopes that someone will pick them back up and see the genius of the company’s secondary library.

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Here are my Honorable Mentions.

 

Body Harvest (1998)

This may be cheating a bit, but the game was developed by DMA Design, now better known as Rockstar North after they were purchased by Take-Two Interactive. Body Harvest was meant to be a joint effort with Nintendo for the new N64 system that was sold on a simple sci-fi premise: fighting giant insects with numerous vehicles. In this world, humans had been left on Earth to breed as an alien food source, and those bastards have come back for the harvest. The original build was a bit more Arcade-like, but Nintendo implemented the RPG elements and attempted to focus the project before bailing out. The entire development period was troubled in fact, but this was a massively ambitious project from a group most famously known for the Lemmings titles at the time. The free roaming, vehicle use, and other movement mechanics are early signs of what would eventually become Grand Theft Auto III, and made for a good rental. The game offers huge levels, solid music, epic boss battles, and a lot adventure with a rewarding ending, but can be difficult due to the few and far between saves available. The graphics unfortunately haven’t aged well though and honestly weren’t great to begin with, so the game is hard for new players to get into. Body Harvest was lost in the mix upon release due mostly to having a miniscule marketing budget, but its originality and blossoming flavor have given it a small cult following.

 

Wild Metal (2000)

There is a lot to this game’s publication history, like how it was originally called Wild Metal Country on PC, but in the end Rockstar helped bring it to the Dreamcast. Another DMA Design game, Wild Metal is all about tank combat on multiple strange planets after a machine uprising has forced the human race to fight back, but it is also a repetitive shooter that didn’t catch on for most. This one is worth mentioning though for many of the ideas it tried to use and how Rockstar saw some potential there for future titles, but it lacked any real style or presentation. It’s a title that should be skipped, except by hardcore fans or those wanting to see a unique experience for the time.

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Retro Reflections: Halo: Reach – An Underrated Halo Game?

can’t remember what spurred the decision to replay through each of the Halo games, but it was a novel idea, especially since I wrapped them all up just as the announcement for Halo Infinite came out. I’ve always been a huge fan of the series and thought that the main entries were wonderful games, but find myself discussing the spin-offs more. So, since Halo: Reach celebrated its 8th birthday last month, now felt like the best time to discuss why this entry may outshine its predecessors.

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Venom – Some Quick Thoughts

 

There we go, a much better poster.

 

[vague spoilers]

 

I felt like the universe was trying to keep me away from this film, almost in a protective sense, as the first time we tried to go see it the Hurricane came through and shut the theatre down, like nature itself refused this. We made it though, even if a couple of weeks after release.

I’ll probably never watch Venom again, which is sad in a way because there are some scenes that I’d like to see how they hold up in a few years, and I don’t want to make it seem like I hated the film—I didn’t—but I’m not sure this one was good enough to put in the collection or worth re-watching without a good reason. It feels like the right ideas were there, but some of the execution failed, even though they get a lot of the character parts right.

It visually looks…better, but has some messy spots with the in between human and monster portions. It’ll be super easy to nitpick this aspect, but only a couple of scenes really threw me off.

A lot of references in the film, but the best one is early on with John Jonah Jameson III, Marvel’s Man-Wolf, which since we are getting a Morbius and potential Kraven the Hunter movie, why not give Jameson his own as well?

There is some good acting in this movie, especially compared to other films in the genre, but I’m still not sure about the direction Tom Hardy took with how Eddie Brock adjusts to his new friend. It felt strange, and we just saw this done a little better in the movie Upgrade. I love the Venom voice and how the symbiote inserts himself, but it actually felt unbalanced. Many keep describing this as a buddy cop film with these two, but I’m not sure that works for me because Brock isn’t pulling his weight for half the movie in that regard, but sometimes it’s hard not to think of them as the new odd couple. Anne (Michelle Williams) is given some fun things to work with and seems a bit more fleshed out, capable—and that kiss! I do however find her a bit distracting, because of her appearance, which I don’t usually like commenting on, but I wasn’t the only one. The bad guy is an appropriately douchier Elon Musk, almost too much at times but still fun.

“On my planet, I’m kind of a loser too.” –The Symbiote

I see why people say aspects of this feels like it was made in the 90s. It could have easily been another Catwoman, but more people working on this one actually wanted it to be good. The story itself isn’t horrible, just messy and a little disjointed. Sometimes it feels like small plot points are left out, or that Venom’s powers and the things he knows feel out of place, but need to be there for the plot. It focuses more on being cool in some moments rather than taking the time to let the narrative or characters breathe, and a few points needed a little more explanation for non-comics fans. I personally hated that they didn’t even try to clarify how the symbiote survived at the end, like it was misleading for no reason.

We were laughing at parts that weren’t supposed to be funny, but we were still laughing more with the film than at it. Some of the comedy bits just felt held out too long or dumb, but the moments that come across as flat are broken up by genuinely entertaining segments.

Thankfully, there is enough good to overshadow most of the negative, and the quick edits don’t allow much time to dwell on the awkward parts. They supposedly cut almost forty minutes out of the movie, a lot of which Tom Hardy hinted at being some of his favorite parts, and now I’m curious to see if those scenes added to the bits that felt short or poorly placed. It seems like most of these discarded scenes probably came from the second act and build-up to the ending, in an effort to get back to the action.

The ending is a big ‘meh’ CGI fight between two giant creatures that reminded me so much of the final fight between Hulk and Abomination at the end of the Edward Norton movie, and I heard someone else describe it as that too. While watching that battle though was when I felt the most detached from the whole experience. There’s a good scene with Eddie and Anne at the end, right before the final Venom part, which is fun, but we follow it up with a hammy scene to bring in Cletus Kasady (Woody Harrelson) wearing one of the worst wigs ever and being given a set of the most cliché’ lines for a scene like this. It kind of hurt, but then there was the rap song about Venom by Eminem (oh, yes) which was atrocious.

“I’m really sorry about Venom” –Anne, and…some of the audience

Leaving the theater I wasn’t thinking much about the movie or scenes in particular, not the stuff I should have been processing, instead I was questioning why the alien calls himself Venom. The reason for the name makes much more sense in the comics, based off of the character’s motivations, but here it seems all of these aliens just have cheesy names like Venom and Riot already. This is still bothering me. I know some people are going to be more upset by the fact that this thing was eating people yet there wasn’t a drop of blood in the whole movie. There is a scene where Riot attempts to use his weaponry to try and clear a room that needed a little bit of color to sell his as a big bad.

To be fair, the other people I saw the movie with liked it much more than I did. Again though, I didn’t hate it, as it could have been so much worse, and I know a lot of people, especially younger fans, will like it, and it made a ton of money, so we will get another one. I don’t hate it because it’s nothing like the comic either, but rather because it felt like there could have been a lot more to this. It is so cookie cutter by the formula, but like it was based on an older version of the current narrative structure, and someone didn’t follow the cooking instructions exactly. That’s Venom.

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WWE 2K19 (PS4) – We Can Dig It, Sucka

I’ve played every annual WWE game from ’06-’15, but fell off after that due to some of the changes and series fatigue. Trying to get back into the series with last year’s WWE 2K18 did not give me anything close to what I wanted, so I wasn’t expecting much from this year’s latest cash in. I felt like my old love could never be rekindled, but I adore wrestling and wanted to give these games another shot, remembering how much fun I used to have with them. I was hoping to have my boots blown off by the new and amazing offering, but I’ll settle for my socks instead.

After the download finally finished and I could play more than a basic match, I got a full look at the new aesthetics for the opening visuals and menus. It seems like the development team were big fans of Avengers: Infinity War and the majority of it takes place mid-snapture, but I do have to say it is creative and different enough that it doesn’t feel like a re-skinned interaction menu at first.

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Matt Hawkins Talks Top Cow, The Darkness & Witchblade

Just another year at Dragon Con, with some incredible things that happened. I’d also lost my hat after a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic panel and my friend couldn’t remember which of the twenty underground garages in Atlanta he’d left his car in, so we spent an hour doing that. I also searched to find the Top Cow booth, confused as to why there seemed to be no location for booth 848, only to be told that was because they were located at B-48. Needless to say, I was running off of very little sleep, but with a Surge in one hand and my notebook in the other, I was excited to interview Matt Hawkins.

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PlayStation Classic Games

Following in Nintendo’s footsteps, Sony have announced their own mini console, the PlayStation Classic. This tiny nostalgia bomb will come with twenty pre-loaded games for the price of $99.99 here in the U.S. and there’s no need to dig out those old memory cards as saves are handled internally, games can be suspended, and the OPEN button switches discs for the longer titles, making this an appeasing new toy.

As someone who owns way too many original PS1 consoles and is still building his collection, I want to embrace that sense of freedom and ignore the limitations on this new device for a moment, looking at some games that I would personally put on this machine if it was completely customizable. These aren’t just some of my favorites, but games that would be good to take traveling and have a ton of replay value. The five games that were already announced for the mini aren’t too shabby, but these are titles that will part me from my money a lot quicker.

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Here are ten more titles I want on that PlayStation Classic mini.

 

Soul Blade

Like many, I spent a good portion of my youth in arcades, challenging all comers and taking my licks, learning from every encounter. When this port made its way onto the PlayStation I knew I needed Soul Blade in my grubby hands, and not just to save on some quarters. Not only was this a 3D fighter, which I was still getting used to, but the simple addition of weapons really did offer something different from other fighters. The gameplay is nowhere near perfect, but it is good enough to keep grinding through several matches for fun. I used to be pretty dominant with Siegfried, but with Soulcalibur VI releasing soon, I think it’s time to put some more practice in.

 

WWF Attitude

I’m a huge wrestling fan, and as such I’m obligated to admit that the N64 did these particular sports games better, but that doesn’t mean that the PlayStation didn’t have a few contenders. There is probably even a better one that WWF Attitude on this console, but for me Acclaim’s last tryst with the wrestling giant took up the most of my time. There was something so cool about being able to see actual video entrances of my favorite wrestlers on screen, able to watch these highlight reels whenever I wanted to, and stage my own epic clash of the titans with the stars of Monday night, which had me coming back for exhibitions often.

 

Tomb Raider II

Being so early in the field of 3D action-adventure games it is easy to say that none of the original series aged too well, but a lot of fun environments, new moves, and weapons all mixed well with a standout protagonist, as long as players didn’t mind some testy precision jumping. It was a challenge for sure and I put more hours into Tomb Raider II then I can recall, but I know a lot of them were spent simply dicking around Croft Manor. This is a title that made my younger self feel like an explorer, a historian, and such a badass. Like a few other titles on here, it might be just a bit nostalgia-based, but I can’t see a PlayStation without thinking of this entry.

 

Crash Bandicoot: Warped

Out of every title in the series this is the one that I feel most comfortable playing, perhaps because it always felt a bit easier and that it seemed like they threw out all the stops for one more crazy adventure from Naughty Dog with a less than eleven month development cycle. The animations and use of color make for a certain visual splendor and the time travel plotline offered a lot of creative room for level designers. There are a few tough sections, but they are thankfully brief and the upgrades help a lot. The only part I hate are the motorcycle sections. Crash Bandicoot: Warped is a ton of fun with high replay value, as long as no one goes mad trying to collect everything in it.

 

Marvel Vs. Capcom: Clash of Super Heroes

Arcade mastery condensed down to the PlayStation—minus a few features of course—with such a creative roster of characters, Marvel Vs. Capcom has so much going for it, but the gameplay is king. The combat has a certain flow, the cross-over attacks are satisfying, and learning the characters is incredibly fun. I personally found my stride with Ryu and Venom, but it’s always fun to switch it up. Crisp visuals, energetic songs, and a lot to learn from facing the computer make for a fun time waster. This series would evolve into much more, with many claiming the second installment the best, but I still find the simplicity and fun of this one calls me to action.

 

Duke Nukem: Time to Kill

I know this isn’t really a great game, especially considering its previous FPS counterparts, but it is a ton of fun. The opening movie and song (by Stabbing Westwards, which became one of my favorite bands) captivated me in what the PlayStation was capable of and how ridiculous it looked. The 3D environments, jumping through time, weapons and one-liners all kept me coming back even though it could be quite the challenging and even a little frustrating with the controls. This is also one of the last times I remember actually enjoying a Duke Nukem game, so Time to Kill was a bit of a capstone for me in that sense, and one I still revisit to blow off some steam.

 

Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver

I picked this title up thinking I’d get a chance to play as a powerful vampire, but wasn’t too disappointed when the opening cutscene resulted in my death and new life as a wraith. This game was a revenge story, a beginning to a much larger epic that I never finished, but sometimes a good start is all that is needed. Soul Reaver features a tortured hero in the form of Raziel, an incredible gothic atmosphere, and numerous creative ideas. The gameplay itself is serviceable and puzzles felt somewhat challenging, while the characters and story kept my interest. The PlayStation may not have the best version of the game, but having this title at the ready means that a great adventure is always close.

 

Mortal Kombat Trilogy

A culmination of the series that has had a lasting effect on me, how could I pass up the chance to have the best parts of those first three games all together? I could now play out several fantasy matches with this new enlarged roster while enjoying the updated stages and music. The only new thing the title added was Brutality finishers, but the old material was so good on a new console that it didn’t matter. Whether I was fighting friends or the computer, it wasn’t hard to waste away the hours covered in blood. Sure the characters were a bit unbalanced and loading times are a pain, but this one will always be a favorite.

 

Nightmare Creatures

This game is all about the environment and atmosphere, with its creepy gothic aesthetic, rockin’ boss fight tunes, and undead enemies, Nightmare Creatures grabbed me from the opening cutscene and kept me coming back to get better. The journey isn’t easy, and certain elements haven’t aged well, but having two playable characters and a strong urge to stop Crowley and his nefarious scheme saw me through to a tough final few levels. I know that the platforming elements and adrenaline meter have turned some players off this title in the past, but the experience is worth it. I could never make it through the sequel, but with the announcement of a new entry into the series, I’ll be going back to this one soon.

 

Dino Crisis

A fun title for whenever I’m tired of shooting zombies and need something a little bit bigger to hunt, Dino Crisis provided a game that felt familiar to several of Capcom’s other hits from the time while managing to pump up the action and ease back a little on the puzzles. The story itself isn’t the biggest attraction, but a strong female lead, Regina, and nice creepy island to run around on work just fine. In fact, the other games in this franchise don’t do it for me, so it’s good that the first one offers me so many hours of fun. Who doesn’t love seeing someone get eaten by a Tyrannosaurus?

 

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