Category: Critical Analysis

I was seriously considering writing a personal essay today in celebration of Juneteenth. Some tribute to my family, and ways I feel they embody black excellence. But with a pandemic and everything under the sun causing the world to go slightly awry, I have to admit, I’m a little too riled up to exhibit that level of emotional honesty. So in the spirit of deflecting, I’ve decided to do what I do best and write some reviews! These are going to be quick, burst reviews. Fiction I would recommend (mostly through TV, movies, video games), that I consider to be excellent tales for black people to consume. Stories that represent us, that invite us, that tell our stories, even if we might not notice it at a glance. Some of these are going to be fairly overt, the must sees, and others will be a bit beneath the surface. But if you stick with me, I hope you can find some stories that resonate with you. 

Video Games:

I’ve always had a very challenging relationship with video games. They’re the medium I love most, and yet, as a black person, seldom do I see myself represented in their stories. Until the new Spider-Man: Miles Morales launches for the PS5 later on this year, I’m not so sure that I know of many big budget titles that feature prominently black characters at the forefront. Fighting games typically fail us in major ways, with characters like Balrog and Deejay from Street Fighter serving as little more than caricatures. I mean there’s GTA or Assassin’s Creed 3, I guess? So I’m gonna put it like this. I see the indie developers out there putting more effort into making this a reality. I’ve had no shortage of kind things to say about Kitfox Games, Supergiant Games, The Game Bakers, as these studios seem to reflect values of diversity that keep black characters in games.

As for the rest of the industry, I’ll put it simply. Shame on you! Shame on you for posting your black square on social media and using the hashtag, all while refusing to tell stories about black characters. This is probably a reflection of your studio culture and environment, which I’m certain lacks black presence in your writer’s room. If you won’t do it for us, we’ll just do it ourselves, and the stories we tell will be that much better for it. But if you want our dollars, our engagement, our involvement, do better. Anyway, that’s my rant, let’s move onto some TV shows!


Y’all know I’m all about my nerd culture, so prepare yourself. Here comes the opener:

Luke Cage:

Sweet Christmas! Mike Colter really pulls off Luke’s power pose!

I’m a Marvel guy, can’t let it go. I’ve loved Spider-Man since I was a kid, and had a blast watching the MCU movies, playing Marvel video games, wearing the pajamas (an embarrassing tidbit you get as a reward for reading this far in). I was always aware of Carl Lucas, but rarely spent time with the character outside of his appearance in Spider-Man: Web of Shadows. But when I found out he was getting a show on Netflix? Of course I was excited! Finally, the MCU was taking on the streets of Harlem with something more relatable than a big green monster. Mike Colter steps into the shoes of a bulletproof black man, keeping the streets of New York safe from an arms dealer masterfully adapted from the comics, with Mahershala Ali at the helm. Between you and me, he’ gives what is easily the best performance on the cast. That isn’t to say the others fall short! The acting is no joke, and while the first season definitely has some hiccups, I consider the second season to be just a beat short of perfect! I understand that Marvel has been aiming to consolidate their TV endeavors, and that’s the main reason why this show was cancelled, but I do wish we had gotten another season. In all seriousness, this is beyond just being a well told story. It’s the tale of an impenetrable man. His greatest challenge isn’t to keep himself alive, but to protect others. Luke’s greatest tool isn’t his strength, but his empathy. An empathetic, strong, unbreakable black man, keeping his streets safe. Also increasingly relevant are the conversations of police brutality in the streets of New York, which I personally believe the show handles with tact. The only downside to watching this is that The Defenders takes place between season’s 1 and 2, which…yikes.


I know this show has been pretty divisive in the black community, and that’s actually one of the reasons why I’m so interested in discussing it. I think it’s good for us to have vocal discourse about black media, and in fact, that’s the plot of one of the episodes of this show! I enjoy the premise, a young black woman creating a mini-documentary for her college application. It’s charming, and it tells a story less focused on the traditional “black struggle” and more about the experience of successful black people in Hollywood. It’s irreverent, funny, bold, and for someone who didn’t watch Black-ish it also felt very unique and original to me. I understand the frustration for women wishing to see more representation from black women of all shades. I can completely see where you’re coming from. I’ve only ever known Rashida Jones as the daughter of Quincy Jones (before I watched The Office and Parks and Rec) and so to me, I’ve only ever seen her as a black woman. But my experience is not yours, and I refuse to disrespect what you’ve been through. Even if you disagree with the themes of the show, I think the conversation it invites is something worth celebrating.

Static Shock:

“I put the shock to your system!”

Probably the least contemporary thing I’ll put on here, and with what I consider to be good reason. Static Shock is the black child’s superhero show. That something like this even exists is special in its own right, but my goodness, that it’s done so well is something special all on its own. The show follows the adventures of Virgil Hawkins, as he uses his newly developed powers to protect his hometown of Dakota City. Along the way he’ll encounter other teens with powers just like his, and contends with issues that plague youth of all walks of life. This includes juggling parental expectations, romance, gun violence, homelessness, racism, and more. And yeah, it’s a kid’s show, so it’s all gonna feel like an after school special when these issues come up, but Virgil’s vibrant and caring personality makes it easy to follow along with the subject matter, and brings levity to difficult conversations. Plus, rather than feeling like some one-off superhero show for the sake of appeasing black fans, Virgil’s story connects with other animated series’ of the time such as Justice League and Batman Beyond, to ensure viewers that this boy is slated for some great things with DC’s heroes. 

Young Justice:

Marvel, what are you doing? DC is running laps around you on this matter! Young Justice was my jam from the very beginning. I loved the concept of a team built entirely out of sidekicks. Characters like Robin and Kid Flash were some of my favorites on Teen Titans, so when I saw what we were getting here I was very thrilled. Little did I know, we would be seeing one of the most genuinely diverse casts of superheroes to ever be animated! Starting with characters like Aqualad and Rocket, expanding into the vast roster of DC superheroes, we see different characters from different backgrounds making up the entirety of the team. But as a black person, to see a leader like Aqualad rise up by virtue of his integrity and strength, was really powerful. And the show doesn’t stop there. It always seeks to empower its black characters in ways that feel authentic and earned. People give DC crap because of their movies, but when it comes to their animated stuff, they really do it justice. Also, beyond just the diversity component, this is a really good show. It has a fun set of villains, an unfolding plot, and some of the best character arcs western animation has to offer!

The Boondocks (S1 – 3):

Yeah, okay, a lot of animation on here, but that’s what I like, so you just have to deal with it. The Boondocks turned me off big time when I first started watching it. It’s very vulgar, and very unapologetic, and while in a lot of ways, I think some of the comedy hasn’t aged quite as well, the social commentary in the show is evergreen. There’s a level of depth hidden in every episode. Top it off with some top notch sound design and anime-style visuals, and you have the makings of a really good show. Unfortunately, it did fall off in its most recent season, but the number one rule in a streaming society is that we only have to watch the parts we like! Cheers to instant gratification. 



I know Shameik Moore has said some ignorant things over the last few weeks, but if you ask me, that doesn’t change the quality of this movie. It’s a weird one, for sure, but it’s one of the few films I’ve seen that depicts the contemporary black struggle. The challenge with trying to become educated in a world where the odds are stacked against you, and where traditional teen rebellion sets your path of course. It’s all accented with a really good soundtrack and a surprisingly accurate approach to youth, specifically in a high school setting. Also, you’re not gonna catch some slave movie on this list. We’re more than just our history, and we’re telling meaningful stories too.

Get Out: 

BRUH, I’m not defending this selection. If you’ve seen this movie, you know why it has to be seen, and if you haven’t seen it, you have to. I’m terrified of horror as a genre. Thrillers are something I typically avoid like the plague. Don’t hit me with the jump scares, my poor heart can’t handle it! But this movie is so masterfully crafted from start to finish. This is a good story without the metaphors and commentary. It’s just a genuinely well told story, but once you get into the weeds and start digging into what the message really is, it becomes clear that Jordan Peele is on track to become a legend. I’ve never felt so heard in my life, watching a movie that directly addresses the racist side of liberalism, targeting the ways in which people excuse themselves from conversations surrounding race, believing that it has nothing to do with them. All the while continuing to benefit from black culture and successes, refusing to be vocal advocates for our prosperity. But to go any further, I think, would be a disservice to the story. You have to check it out yourself. If there’s any one thing you watch as a result of this review, I hope Get Out is the one you pick. 

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse:

Could there be anyone else?

For my final pick, I’m going with what I consider to be one of the best animated movies ever made. I’m a classic Spider-Man fan, so I’ll always prefer Peter Parker to Miles Morales, but the way this movie approaches this young biracial boy’s journey into the spider suit is absolutely magnificent. It never shies away from Miles’s identity, they can’t! It’s part of who he is. But also, what a great story about heroism, and about familial bonds. Everything is so neatly handled, but the visuals are easily the most impressive feat in the film. The blend of classic 90s musical stylings with contemporary hip-hop creates a sense of sound unfamiliar to Spider-Man fans, but it is absolutely welcome. It’s never been more fun to watch the web-slinger in action, but equally as important is the way it tells a story in which everyone can be a hero. The core of this movie is the idea that we can all wear the mask. I’ll cross my arms and shout “Wakanda Forever” with you as much as you want me too, but if you want to watch the definitive black superhero movie, this is it. 


These are obviously not the only black stories. Some people might have noticed the absence of books. As a recent MFA grad, I’ve had to reconcile with my feelings about literature, and how to critique it. It’s less of my wheelhouse, and for that reason, as I develop that skill, I’ll distance myself from doing so publicly. As for the aforementioned works, these are just stories that resonated with me. I want to hear about yours! Tell me about black stories that have helped you, made you feel seen, heard, made you want to write, draw, tell stories of your own. Black excellence is present, it’s visible in so many facets of our lives, and it’s something I’m proud to be able to live every single day. As for my comments about video games, I’m not just gonna sit here and be silent, hoping that the games I want to see get made. I’m committed to diverse games, and I know my team at Feather Fellow Games LLC are supportive of me in that as well. This has just been a fun way to celebrate black art and art about black people during Juneteenth, but there are so many ways we can continue to contribute and help with the current happenings in the world. We can’t turn a blind eye, bury our heads in the sand, exist in complicit and complacent silence. Whatever you can do to help, doing research, calling, writing letters to elected officials. If you need me, reach out. If you’re fighting for justice, I will always fight with you. And if you just need something to read in the mean time, something to take your mind off the world’s issues for just a brief moment, you’re always welcome here. As always, thank you so much for reading, and come back soon for more from the GAME ROOM!!!

I know it’s been some time, but I felt very strongly about this one. I truly wanted to pay tribute to my favorite series of all time, and so, I present to you without further ado, my top ten Xenoblade Chronicles moments. I will be capturing cutscenes or clusters of cutscenes that I feel speak to the specific quality of the series in ways most scenes just can’t do. It’s a long list with a lot of explaining, so I’m just gonna get to it. Note that these moments are ranked across all three games, Xenoblade Chronicles, Xenoblade Chronicles X, and Xenoblade Chronicles 2. Also, literally the biggest spoiler alert you’ve ever seen in your life.


10) Invasion of New LA 


Xenoblade Chronicles X was very different from its predecessor, offering a more linear mission based experience by comparison. The lack of freedom lent itself to a bit of a predictable/formulaic main story. While I realize that the exploration was the big pull of the game (and man, that exploration was incredible) it’s still important that a main story has some twists and turns, and this one was perhaps the best. Really speaking to the quality of the series, the best aspects of a Xenoblade Chronicles story directly change the way the game is played, and turning this game’s hub world of New Los Angeles into a war-torn battleground definitely shifted the landscape of this adventure. From the siren blaring as the Ganglion marched upon the wall, to holding them off at the gates, to battling throughout the commercial district, this experience marks a pivotal turning point for the game. Even the seemingly unshakable presence of Lin is rattled by this attack, and the game never quite recovers from this massive tonal shift. In addition, the sheer fact that this chapter starts off like any other, and is then interrupted by a literal game changing series of events knocks the player off guard in such a way that makes for a much more thrilling experience than any of the previous chapters.


9) Lao’s Betrayal


If you’d been paying attention since the start of the game, Lao turning traitor was probably not a big surprise for you. He’d been behaving suspiciously the entire game, so it definitely seemed like the more obvious direction. From the perspective of actual plot relevance, other plot twists might deserve this spot, such as the reveal of mimeosome bodies or the big reveal about the lifehold. But this one is different in its entirety. Lao’s developed relationship with Lin, who obviously draws a strong parallel to his own daughter, creates a genuine sense of loss for a character that we spend a lot of time with. There’s this overwhelming feeling that Lin has been truly betrayed. Lao’s convictions feel strong in delivery, and the score truly compliments the tragic undertones of his story. While I found Lao’s betrayal obvious, I admittedly didn’t expect it to be such a crucial point in the endgame. Its predictability, combined with the avatar character’s bland presence are probably the key moments that prevent this sequence from being higher on the list. But all in all, this is the second best betrayal in the series. *Epic Foreshadowing*

8) Confronting Dickson 


Xenoblade Chronicles did something that few narratives ever manage to do. It shows a protagonist in an out of character moment that disrupts their arc completely, but feels incredibly natural while doing so. Shulk alludes to wanting to kill someone a collective three times throughout the duration of the game. Two of those times, he’s talking about Metal Face. Yet when finally confronted with the opportunity to kill Metal Face, Shulk decides not to. As he does with Egil. As he does with pretty much every major foe he encounters throughout his journey, except a Telethia or two. This all changes when he has his final confrontation with Dickson. Dickson, who has betrayed his brethren to serve Zanza/The Bionis. Dickson, who adopted Shulk and raised him for the sole purpose of destroying the world. Who saw to the death of Meyneth, whose entire character can be summed up as “pretty awful man.” Shulk has had it. He’s run out of patience, and he knows that if he doesn’t bring his all to a fight with Dickson, that he’s going to lose everything. So he says this insane line. “Dickson, if you’re so determined to stop us, then we will kill you.” In that moment, Shulk shows a degree of resolve that speaks to what truly makes him a good leader. Everyone stands by him because of his willingness to self-sacrifice. He’s standing before his adopted father, preparing to abandon all of his morals, everything that binds him to his soul. He’s doing this because he knows Zanza is not going to wait around while he lives in his feelings. Shulk knows that if he doesn’t kill Dickson, everyone he loves is going to die. This moment screams of conclusion, and to be completely honest, even if Zanza was nowhere to be seen, this felt like a suitable ending for the game all on its own.


7) Best Guests (Shulk’s Return)


Another moment for Shulk. What can I say? The kid has guts. Man, if this scene doesn’t speak to that. Trying to find even the slightest glimmer of hope in this moment is as close to impossible as it gets. Zanza has won, Meyneth and Egil are dead, and Shulk isn’t moving. Not that it would really matter if he were, because the Monado is now in the possession of the enemy. Nobody is able to defeat Dickson and his Telethia, and with the Monado in Fiora’s chest gone, her life is about to be cut short as well. Everything is as dire as can be, and at this point, there’s seemingly no turnaround. We get to witness Shulk struggle with this from the depths of his consciousness, and then, in the most crucial moment, he returns, easily executing two very large telethia with just two quick swings of his sword. His sword. A replica of the Monado. A power that no longer belongs to the gods, the homs, or the Mechon, but Shulk alone. Then this character, who throughout the entire game has been calm, collected, focused, breaks for just a second. He looks upon Dickson as he flies away and they have this exchange of lines. “We’ll be waiting on our best behavior.” “And we will be the best guests you’ve ever had.” Shulk says that unblinking and unmoving. His posture like a stone. It’s powerful and effective. There’s something about seeing our main character speak with confidence for the first time since these events occurred that really speaks to a larger idea here. We’re about to see a big conclusion, and Shulk couldn’t be more confident.

6) That Night on the Beach


This moment has the best placement of anything in the entire game. The intensity of the first confrontation with Egil, followed by the mystery of falling off of a titan (which previously had been established as a one-way ticket to certain death) left our heroes a little rattled. Split into three different groups, we got to see an incredible side of this journey, and one that consistently left me in tears throughout. First, a long awaited reunion between Shulk and Fiora. This marks an incredible turningpoint for the game as well. Shulk and Fiora finally have a candid conversation about the entire journey. But more importantly, it’s all over. Metal Face has been defeated and Fiora is rescued. This is when our adventure stops being a revenge quest, and becomes a story of heroes. A transition very well illustrated by our main heroes revealing quite a bit of inner turmoil. Reyn is feeling useless in the face of Shulk’s newfound strength, Sharla is still no closer to finding Gadolt, Dunban feels as though he failed to protect Fiora. These separate plots provide us with an opportunity to watch the team grow together. All of it culminates in a truly heartfelt reunion between the likes of Fiora and her brother. Dunban’s look of approval, which has a much stronger much louder meaning in the context of his previous conversation with Riki lends itself to a much greater form of symbolism. Shulk, Reyn, and Fiora have truly come of age. But it also plays as a catalyst to an incredible shift in the narrative. Metal Face is dead and Fiora has been rescued. The question rings louder than ever. The mission has been won, so are we satisfied?

5) Lao’s Redemption


I’ll probably catch some shade for choosing this “villain reformed” moment over the other big one, but I’ll admit it flat out. I’m not a very big fan of Egil. I find the character to be very interesting, he has a lot of parallels to Shulk and I think that’s really cool, but he just wasn’t as entertaining on screen for me as characters like Lao, or Malos, or (my personal favorite) Dickson. While Lao’s redemption had the same qualities of predictability as a large portion of the game’s narrative, it doesn’t stop the moment from being just as impressive. It’s not as though Lao jumps in with this whole “I’m a noble hero now” approach. He’s still honest with himself about what he’s done and the type of person it makes him. It manages to create a huge moment of resolution for a lot of the game’s cast. In fact, the only character who doesn’t feel like they’re properly resonating with that moment is the avatar character (perhaps the biggest issue with the game’s narrative altogether). To see Lin moved to tears by her friend’s noble sacrifice, and having to come to grips with the reality that this path will end in death was probably one of the best moments in the game. I’ll be the first to admit that this is where the story starts to go off the rails, but Xenoblade Chronicles X was a game about exploration, developing relationships, and fighting incredible battles. The characters still stand as good examples of consistent quality writing, and the battles at the very least look pretty cool.


4) Burdened No Longer

I know, we’re very far up for Xenoblade 2 to be getting its first crack at the list. It’s not that the game didn’t have its moments, it’s just that the ones that really hit hard came close to the end of the experience. Xenoblade Chronicles 2 was a game largely about the theme of reflection. At least, based on my interpretation. You had seemingly immortal characters like Pyra, Mythra, Jin, Malos, all had this obsession with death. The power of Aegis’ and flesh eaters were a consistent pain point throughout the story. Bearing this in mind, it should come as no surprise that Nia, arguably the game’s best character, spends a lot of the adventure hiding the fact that she is really a Flesh Eater. A blade that has been fused with human DNA in order to gain greater power at the cost of immortality.

The moment when Nia reveals herself as a blade could have been tragic or sad, but instead it’s a truly beautiful sequence. It follows one of the most well choreographed fight sequences in the entire game, where seeing Rex and company in danger Nia has a beautifully tragic trip down memory lane. Every major death or injury since the start of the game flashes through her mind, and she questions the moments in which she could have made a difference had she not been afraid of what she was. It was intense, and then culminates in her revealing her true power.

Nia being a blade didn’t come out of nowhere, the game all but says it outright. You first see signs of this during your fight with Torna in Uraya, where she clutches her chest in slight pain as Ahkos reverses the ether waves of blades. Then again in the hot springs and when she saves the emperor in Indol. And this moment, where we finally see her, combined with the instrumental version of Drifting Soul and the equal parts surprise and support of Zeke and Morag, Nia makes the leap from my favorite in Xenoblade 2 to easily hitting my top three characters in the series. Then she goes to Rex and says “I love you” which in all honesty, I would have preferred if it were meant in the most platonic way possible. They’re just kids, and their ability to make each other feel more confident and proud of themselves in a “best friends” sort of way overall would have made for better characterization in my opinion. In fact, that’s the main reason why this spot isn’t higher on the list. Which isn’t to say there aren’t more big contenders to come, because this next one is a real doozy.


3) Dickson’s Betrayal


Of course this one was on the list, are you serious? I can very confidently say that this was the most well-foreshadowed, well-executed, powerful reveal I have ever seen in any game ever. No, that’s not hyperbole. I’m not being dramatic or overselling. I mean it. From the time the game starts, the Bionis is the most aggressive figure. Shulk admits to having a voice in his head telling him to kill every mechon.

Zanza and Meyneth have an argument at Prison Island. Dickson admits to feeling guilty about betraying the team. Alvis, Lorithia, Dickson. Everything has been building so aggressively to reach this moment. “The moment of Lord Zanza’s return!” It feels earned, and while certain aspects of it may not come as a surprise, others definitely do. Zanza’s soul has been hiding in the Monado. The visions that Shulk has had have all been for the express purpose of administering the return of the game’s most powerful bad guy. All of this, and we’re getting this exposition dump from Zanza’s disciple.

Dickson, who for the whole game has been at best a completely non-malicious force. The game opens with him protecting the Homs from the Mechon. But there’s no time to process any one detail of Dickson’s betrayal. Not for a long while at least. You have the moment he turns, then Zanza awakening, Shulk being “dead” and Egil turning good. The world is shaking, High Entia are SCREAMING in Alcamoth. Then Meyneth and Fiora start flying through the air and launching a full assault on Zanza. Two Monados do battle and create the most epic grandiose exchange we’ve seen yet. In a game where despite the world being at stake, everything felt as though it was pretty grounded. But this sequence LITERALLY takes to the skies, in a way that while truly as anime as can be, doesn’t make it any less gripping. At the center of all of this is Dickson. Dickson, who has the most aggressively disrespectful taunting dialogue we’ve seen so far. Dickson, who admits that he set a lot of the game in motion. Dickson. Xenoblade Chronicles’ best villain.


2) Locked Out of Aion


Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is a strange beast. I think we all know that. Its name is considered more of a reference to the fact that it is a narrative driven experience. Less to do with it being a direct sequel, which we are led to believe is simply not the case. That’s perhaps the key factor that puts this moment so close to the top. There’s a moment where a purple symbol appears on Malos’ sword, and you best believe I shrieked. Then the dude whips out a bunch of Monado arts in his boss fight, and if the fight itself wasn’t so infuriating, I would have been losing it even more. So you could imagine then, why watching the opening of the game’s final chapter sent me into a screaming frenzy.

This weird space station, this lab. Then someone says “we’re locked out by Professor Klaus” and I lost it. Then we get a beat for beat recreation of the moment in which Klaus, better known as Zanza, destroys his universe and creates a new one in its place. But to find that the world of Alrest that we’ve spent the entire game in is that universe was just incredible. That in the skies of his own world, Klaus created yet another plane of existence separate from the one we came to know in the original game. Also, the glimpse of Klaus as a sympathetic character really adds new layers to what we know of Zanza in the first game. It brings an epic story full circle and proves that the events of the first game directly influence the events of the second one. Also, everyone believes Alvis to be the third Aegis. I hope this information gets resolved when the story DLC launches this October. Still, kudos to Xenoblade Chronicles 2 for taking the first game’s most underdeveloped character and giving him a level of depth that he desperately needed. Truthfully I think there’s only one moment that speaks to the identity of this series more than this reveal.


1) Prison Island


Yes, I mean the first time. The big turning point for the first game where the basic revenge plot is turned on its head. Where the game starts screaming its ethical questions from the mountaintops. The moment where Shulk and company arrive on Prison Island and do battle with Metal Face. The scene starts with the introduction of Zanza. In this sequence he is in the body of Arglas, the giant, who is unlike anything else we’ve seen in this game. The High Entia bare a pretty striking resemblance to Homs give or take a couple of weird head-wings. Even the Nopon, while very different in appearance, are so naturally built into every environment of the game that by the time you reach Frontier Village, they make a lot of sense artistically. But Zanza/Arglas the giant is weird. He looks almost disturbing comparatively speaking. Then he is the first person of the game to really speak to the fight between the Bionis and Mechonis. As a witness of the grand battle (and as we later find out a participant) Zanza offers new perspective into the scale of this journey. Before this can go too far, we get an 

attack from Metal Face who essentially destroys the giant body. This makes sense, as Egil, who leads the mechon, is doing all of this for the express purpose of destroying Zanza. It’s truly some great insight into the game’s most contentious conflict. But even this fails to take the game away from its central focus. In the end Xenoblade is a series about connections. Primarily those of people like Shulk and Rex, who despite legendary weapons and magic powers will never amount to the warriors they need to be without the bonds at their sides. So seeing as the most crucial bond of Shulk’s life is brought back into the game in such a plot-relevant way is a major risk. Bringing a character back to life sometimes significantly undermines the sense of loss you felt watching them die. But this is the opportunity for the game to start wrestling with some very important topics. As people, do the Mechon deserve to be spared? I mean, even as Zanza increases the Monado’s power, the symbol that appears translates directly to “person.” It’s giving Shulk the ability to pass judgment and execute other Homs. But his world is rocked when he realizes that the Face Mechon have Homs in them. Particularly that Face Nemesis, an entirely new Mechon is inhabited by none other than Fiora. This plot twist works to set up the parallels between Shulk and Egil early on. It allows us insight into Zanza’s influence. It provides a compelling new goal to rescue Fiora. It executes all of this with a great score, a fantastic performance by Adam Howden, and a wonderful cliffhanger moment that truly embodies everything that this wonderful series stands for.


Yeah this was a post and a half I know. But it’s something I’m passionate about. Xenoblade Chronicles is my favorite game of all time, and it’s really cool to see its themes executed so thoroughly across a three game series. Thank you all for reading and come back soon for more from the GAME ROOM!!!

My childhood favorite game was Paper Mario. That’s no exaggeration, up until the moment when I played Xenoblade Chronicles, the first Paper Mario game was easily my favorite game ever made. I loved the vibrant imagery, the funny characters, the cute story and tone, and the upbeat music. If I ever felt down, I could go to that game to experience a living, breathing version of the Mushroom Kingdom. Even in writing this, I’m recalling some of my greatest memories being associated with this title. The combat was awesome, a simplistic watered-down RPG that capitalized on the atmosphere of the Super Mario universe, while still paving its own way.

Paper MarioThis series, is in my opinion, the second most painful decline I’ve witnessed in our industry. Especially in a series that has at the very least, always made fun games. Super Mario 3D World doesn’t measure up to the Galaxy games in terms of atmosphere and overall quality. But it’s still a super fun party game experience, with some insane level design.

Fast-forward from the adventurous shot in the dark that was the first Paper Mario and take a dive into its sequel, The Thousand-Year Door. While this game isn’t my favorite in the series, there’s no denying that it is indeed the best. It offers everything that made the original titles good, and slaps on additional mechanics and controls to make a sequel that surpasses the original in every way. Even the story is deeper with more unique characters. Everything feels original and different, yet it’s a tried and true Paper Mario title.

Super Paper Mario is my favorite piece of this discussion, because that game shows that you can change every single mechanic in a game and yet, the game’s overall feel can still be true to the series it’s part of. RPG gone platformer, Super Paper Mario offers something that I truly value above all else. Story. Character. Atmosphere. Between its brilliant look into the minds of three favorite characters, Luigi, Bowser, and Princess Peach, and its unique and creative cast of villains, such as Dimentio and Count Bleck, Super Paper Mario brings a new level o f narrative to this classic franchise in a way that was never done before, and has never been done again.

I don’t want to go into the things that are so truly awful about Sticker Star and Color Splash, because I want to focus on what made this series great. Complaining about these two titles will come later.

Again, it’s never fun to watch a series you love decline in quality so much. From one end to the other, Paper Mario has undergone massive trials. Yet still I am truly hopeful that fans will band together and demand something great. I hope you all enjoyed reading this article, and come back soon for more from the GAME ROOM!!!

Yo, we’re about to dive into some major late game conversation. So if you have yet to play all three paths of Fire Emblem Fates, including Revelations, turn back now. If you want a spoiler free review of the game’s Conquest path, head here!

To be unequivocally clear, I have been a long time fan of the Fire Emblem games dating back to my young teen years. Sacred Stones always held a special place in my heart, and I loved Fire Emblem Blazing Sword and Awakening. So any critiques I have for Fates only come from a place of love for the series. To be blunt, I loved Fire Emblem Fates, but I absolutely hated the story. Characters felt very singular in their execution. Events were often unexplained or hidden behind unnecessary pay walls. If you wanted to experience Fire Emblem Fates in its entirety, at least from a narrative perspective, you’d have to pay something close to $105. Thankfully, I got my hands on the special edition early on, so I got to experience all of Fates as intended.

Last spoiler warning. We’re getting into the nitty gritty here! Spoilers for Fates and Awakening ahead.

The cast of Fire Emblem Fates Conquest (Left) faces the cast of Birthright (Right).

The cast of Fire Emblem Fates Conquest (Left) faces the cast of Birthright (Right).

Fire Emblem Fates: Birthright opens a lot of doors. It shows you a lot of possibilities, and gives you glimpses of what could have been, should you have chosen the other route. It was no doubt the most “vanilla” of the paths. It was weak willed in execution, without really allowing the same level of emotional string tugging that Awakening had.

The best thing that was done in Fire Emblem Awakening was the death of Emmeryn. Being Chrom and Lissa’s sister made it sad enough, but the level of helplessness that the situation showed was incredible. But it wasn’t abrupt. It had build up. Three chapters of a wild goose chase trying to protect Emmeryn, only to find that she was set to be executed. Then, when you confront and defeat Gangrel’s army, he does his last ditch villainous deed to try and steal the Fire Emblem from Chrom. Then there was a whole chapter dedicated to grieving Emm. She was a voice of reason for several chapters. The pacing set events in motion at the right time.

Almost every event in Fates was abrupt, without reason, and without a chance to truly process it. You meet the mother character, Mikoto, and within mere minutes of gameplay, she’s gone. We don’t get to see the Hoshido siblings grieve, and that’s probably the worst part. Nothing tells you more about a person than their grieving process. A lot goes on during the processing of grief, including, arguably the most charming trait about Fire Emblem characters, the setting of goals. Grief causes you to make plans and follow dreams. Emmeryn’s death made Chrom want to be a king. It turned vassals into soldiers. It shook the political world, and it strengthened the loyalty between Chrom and Robin.

Mikoto’s death made no impact. All it did was further instigate a war with some of the arguably most dispensable casualties in this entire series. I don’t want to continue going on for too long, so I’m going to segment this off into various parts. But this was a big complaint I had with this game.

Fire Emblem Fates is mechanically strong, but the narrative falls very short in my book. For more on Fates and other cool strategy gems, come back soon for more from the GAME ROOM!!!

To be honest, I don’t think I’ll ever be in the position to review Super Smash Bros. Why? I can objectively look at all of my favorite games. I could talk your ear off for hours about what makes Paper Mario great. Or my favorite game of all time, Xenoblade Chronicles. I would consider my review of that game to be very objective. Those are two of my favorites, and I feel perfectly comfortable looking at them both as a consumer, and as an aspiring designer. Smash is easily the most complicated game series I’ve ever tried to address as a game journalist, even dating back to the old blog.

I have played every game in the Smash series extensively. I mean truly extensively, but I have to say, contrary to popular opinion, my favorite of them is Brawl. So that’s the game I want to talk about when I really try to critically break down, not why Brawl is objectively a good game, but what is the “wow” factor that makes it truly resonate with people.

To give some background, I am by no stretch a competitive Smash player. I would consider my skill level at the game to be above average, but by no means professional level. So I don’t look at these games from the angle of their competitive viability, as I don’t believe they’re supposed to be taken that seriously. Perhaps the combination of the super cartoony aesthetic and the overall tone give me that impression, but I see Smash as a fun way to settle those schoolyard debates between Mario and Link, or Peach and Zelda…nobody ever debates for Luigi. 🙁

Nintendo's greats all in one spot!

Nintendo’s greats all in one spot!

I don’t think there’s ever been a game that paid better tribute to Nintendo than Brawl. It manages to hit nostalgia points in ways no other in the series could do. Be it the new characters, such as Pit from the obscure classic Kid Icarus or Meta Knight from the Kirby series, the expansive cast includes characters that were seemingly forgotten in previous titles. Yes, Smash for Wii U and 3DS have even more classic characters, such as Duck Hunt, Little Mac, and even Pac-man, but it still doesn’t compare. Brawl introduced Assist Trophies, which allowed us to drag into the fray, those interesting characters that just didn’t make the cut for the main game. Characters like Waluigi and Isaac from Golden Sun.

Brawl introduced Final Smashes, which truly brought the best of each character to the foreground. Seeing Bowser turn into the mighty Giga Bowser from Melee for the first time, and learning that you could control him, was an incredible experience. Seeing Link’s Triforce Slash or Ike’s Great Aether showed us the light in which our favorite heroes could shine. It was a beautiful tribute to the majesty of these legends. Final Smashes in Smash 4 are better, don’t get me wrong. But the leap from Brawl to Smash 4 doesn’t compare from the leap Melee took to achieve the awe that Brawl could induce.

Along with these things, Brawl had a huge selection of interesting trophies, but it also had this huge book of stickers! Stickers from games as popular as Metroid Prime to games as obscure as Fire Emblem Sacred Stones. The sheer amount of content in this game surpassed everyone’s expectations.

Regardless of how you feel about its quality, the biggest and most impactful addition to Brawl was the Subspace Emissary. While I realize it wasn’t received as well as I enjoyed it, I gave it a real good think and understood why people didn’t like it. That being said, it was the first time in series history that we got some context (albeit not much) to the scenarios that made up the premise of Smash in the first place. We got to see our childhood heroes fighting alongside and against each other in a riveting adventure. Like this was a big deal, guys!

The cast of Brawl standing over the ocean.

The cast of Brawl standing over the ocean.

Alright. Now that I’ve gushed about Brawl, I think this post is starting to get a little long so I want to get to the point. The actual mechanics of Smash are fun. They’re awesome, and someday when I review the game officially, you’ll understand why I think they’re awesome. But most importantly, Smash is a tribute to decades of culture, and that is why people are always so excited. With stages, characters, music, and many more elements that honor the heroes and villains we hold near and dear, Smash will forever prove its mettle as one of the best options out there for gamers of all ages.

Thank you all for reading! Two posts in one day. Crazy, right? Gotta love Super Smash Bros! I can still think back to all the hours me and my brothers poured into Brawl. I could talk about it all day. As much fun as objective reviews can be, nothing really measures up to anecdotal recollections. I mean, that’s kind of what makes this whole thing fun. Exploring the way games impact us as people is probably the main reason I started doing this. Anyhoo, I’m getting rambly. Thank you all, it’s been a great day on the Game Room. For more on games like Super Smash Bros, and other kick butt titles for all ages, come back soon for more from the GAME ROOM!!!

If you have yet to play through Life Is Strange, turn back now! This post is riddled with spoilers. Read something spoiler free, like this Fire Emblem Fates: Conquest Review!


If you’re a gamer, and have yet to watch a single “Game Theory” video, you are missing out big time! I’ve been a fan for years, and recently they did a video on Life Is Strange where they analyzed the impact that one’s personality can have on their decision making process, as well as the correlation between consumed media and personality type. I am a fan of studying the way psychology influences us as gamers, and I don’t think there’s been a game to date that could serve as a better study.

LS1Don’t get me wrong, morality games are nothing new between the likes of Fable and one of my personal favorites, InFAMOUS. But unlike
those aforementioned titles, there are no central mechanics influenced by morality in
Life Is Strange, as the morality element is the main mechanic. Making choices, and watching them unfold before you, is the sole purpose of the game.

To be clear, this isn’t a review, as that will come later, but this is more of a critical analysis, as well as a response to the Game Theory video, which centers around the final decision. Final spoiler warning, as we’re getting into the heart of this discussion.

The final decision of the game forces you to choose between your best friend and your entire town. Which is a big choice, and as I’m sure you can imagine, quite a heavy burden. It is handled rather effectively, and I want to explore why that choice was so difficult. But in order to do so, we have to look back at a lot of the major decisions in the game, and what makes them effective.

Chloe brings you, the player, and Max, the character you control, through quite a bit throughou
t the game. It is a very emotionally draining journey that tests your judgment as well as your concern for other people. The thing that
Life Is Strange does that makes it so hard to make that final choice, is create a truly multidimensional character that is difficult to relate to on some levels, but easy to sympathize with on others. The first interaction you see Chloe have is with Nathan Prescott, where she shows that she’s tough, and has a lot of gumption. She also shows a lack of caring for other people by the way she talks to Nathan, but when he pulls the gun out her demeanor takes a slight shift. Her genuine fear shows vulnerability and youth in a character that has thus far seemed confident and unbreakable.

The game then does a great job of making characters like David, Chloe’s stepdad, seem awful before you even see the two interact. Combine that with the Rachel Amber posters all around the school, and you realize that Chloe has it hard. Then you learn that her dad is dead and her best friend moved without warning, and it feels kind of harsh. Chloe’s entire circle has collapsed around her, and the only consistent figures in her life are Joyce, the hard working mother, and David, the very nervous and obsessive stepdad.

Then you get to watch Chloe make a series of stupid decisions, hanging out on train tracks, shooting David’s gun, and hunting down killers of her own volition (examples all mentioned in the Game Theory video). Also, arguably my least favorite thing that Chloe does in the whole game, is get jealous and angry when Max tries to talk to Kate Marsh (who is experiencing suicidal thoughts). Chloe is not a perfect character. But she does love Max. That shows, in the things she says, in a lot of the belongings that she kept in her house.

The end of the game even recaps a lot of your best experiences with Chloe before you’re given the final decision. You as the player choose how much you learn. You explore, and experience things by choice. You are Max. So the choice you’re making isn’t some binary video game decision. It’s a real choice based on experiences that you have had.

MatPat brought up that those with the “Mediator” personality are intuitors, more likely to save the town because they look towards the future. But I would argue that sensors are also somewhat likely to save Arcadia BaLS2y, simply due to how the storyline was structured. Those who value the past, and look to it to make decisions would understand that by the time the final situation comes along, Chloe Price has had her full character arc. She has grown and changed, and in the end, she not only accepts her fate but welcomes it.

Destroying Arcadia Bay isn’t even truly an option. To do so would be to deny Chloe the right to face her destiny. Perhaps this doesn’t hold up statistically based on the research that the theorists did, but it’s something to consider. Chloe is a character who struggles her entire life, and can’t make decisions on her own. Until her final decision, which is to accept the reality that she has to finally sacrifice for those she loves. That effective delivery is what made this game so great. Maybe the story didn’t wow me in every facet, but fact is, this game really did tell a riveting and meaningful story.

But with that, this post is getting to be kind of long! Thank you all for reading our first ever critical analysis. I do love breaking down game narrative and seeing it for its deeper value. Writing this has been a blast, and if you read it without playing the game, you kind of ruined it for yourself. But I would still play it anyway. It’s a fun and moving experience, so check it out when you get a chance! For more on the best games around like Life Is Strange and many more, come back soon for more from the GAME ROOM!!!