Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Nostalgia Bomb! - Batman: The Animated Series

What is it?
Batman: The Animated Series was a cartoon produced by Warner Bros. Animation and developed by Bruce Timm and Eric Radomski. Taking cues from the popular films Batman and Batman Returns, a more adult-themed cartoon was created that was appropriate for young and old alike.

When did it come out?
The series premiered in 1992 and the first season included a 65 episode run, which aired every weekday until 1993. It was re-branded The Adventures of Batman and Robin in its second season, which aired weekly on Saturdays from 1993 to 1994, at which time the first season was being aired as repeats on the still weekday schedule under the newly re-branded title.

What about today?
Although the original show, which falls under the branding of Batman: The Animated Series, only ran from 1992 to 1995, with a total of 85 episodes and two feature-length films, its legacy still reaches out to today. It began what has become known as the DC Animated Universe, and would spawn direct sequels with shows like Superman: The Animated Series, The New Batman Adventures, Batman Beyond, Justice League and Justice League: Unlimited, just to name a few.

Even the most recent productions by Warner Bros. Animation, like Batman: The Killing Joke are taking cues from the original series, including casting mainstays Kevin Conroy as Batman/Bruce Wayne and Mark Hamill who - surprisingly - became the most iconic voice actor to ever portray The Joker.

Why do I remember it?
Everything about Batman: The Animated Series makes it memorable today. It pushed a lot of boundaries in its release, adding a more adult tone to children's cartoons that wasn't seen previously.

The production of the show created a timeless vision of Gotham, which seemed to include modern day technologies like cell phones with blimps in an art deco/bauhaus style.

Characters were re-imagined to give them more depth, like Mr. Freeze - no longer a mad scientist, now a lover avenging his dead beloved - or Clay Face - a now tragic accident yearning to return to his past life. It even created a new Bruce Wayne/Batman dynamic; no longer was Bruce Wayne portrayed as an idle playboy, but instead the true leader of Wayne Industries, a man revered for his work ethic and magnanimity.

Batman versus Clay Face!
Whether this was the most accurate portrayal of Batman from the comics or not, it was and is the greatest overall portrayal of the property. It essentially took the best of everything and created the perfect package. It didn't have to be as dark and grim as was the slant of the comic books and films of its generation, and it could appeal to children who wanted to see more of the character.

From the animation, to the music - homaged from Danny Elfman's Batman film score, to the excellent writing and depictions of some of Batman's incomparable Rogue's Gallery, Batman: The Animated Series pushed the envelope for what a cartoon could accomplish and it became the sturdy base for everything DC would publish in its animated wing for decades to come.

Batman: The Animated Series is most-definitely a blast from the past!

Hope you enjoyed,

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Nostalgia Bomb! - Crystal Pepsi

What is it?
Crystal Pepsi was a "clear cola" released by PepsiCo. It had no caffeine, but had a flavour similar to a cola, with no lemon-lime or vanilla flavouring to delineate it from other clear soda pop, like 7-Up, Sprite, or some cream sodas.

When did it come out?
Crystal Pepsi was originally released from 1992 to 1993. During that time everything had to be clear or pure. This is when Zima hit the market. PepsiCo decided to try and sell a caffeine-free, clear, clean soda, but it didn't really catch on and only lasted in North American markets for about a year, with a slightly longer run in Europe.

The original packaging - I don't recall ever seeing Diet Crystal Pepsi
What about today?
In 2015 PepsiCo released a small batch of Crystal Pepsi in the United States and it sold very well. In mid-2016 it was re-released across the US and Canada as a seasonal drink.

Why do I remember it?
I don't think I drank copious amounts of Crystal Pepsi when it was first released, but I can clearly remember having it. A friend of the family actually worked at the local Pepsi bottling plant and brought us a bottle to try before it hit store shelves later that year. As I recall it didn't quite taste like regular cola and had much sweeter taste.

I can't say how much the new Crystal Pepsi tastes like the original, but I can say that it still has a slightly sweeter than cola taste. I know the new formula uses high fructose corn syrup, where the original product would have used actual sugar, so that might account for any differences. Also, this new formula contains 64mg of caffeine.

Crystal Pepsi today

Originally Crystal Pepsi was almost marketed as a "healthy" pop alternative; a clear drink with less caffeine and less sugar. These days no one was any illusions that there can be a healthy soft drink, so I feel like PepsiCo just left the caffeine and HFCS in there and let it fly.

I'm certainly not as excited about this Pepsi seasonal offering as I was for Pepsi Throwback, which I bought in copious amounts when it was released in 2013. I believe Throwback may still be available in the US - I hear there are even cherry and vanilla variants - but here in Canada it was only around for a limited time. That said, I'm enjoying a little taste of nostalgia with Crystal Pepsi and I think I'll be sad to see it go at the end of the summer.

Crystal Pepsi is a definite blast from the past!

Hope you enjoyed,

Friday, July 8, 2016

RyHo Vs. The Legend of Zelda

A few weeks ago at E3 2016 Nintendo debuted gameplay footage of the next installment in The Legend of Zelda series, Breath of the Wild. They pretty much staked their entire E3 presence around the game, and it has been exalted as the Game of the Show by just about all the video game news sites that were in attendance.

The crux of Breath of the Wild is that it is a massive open world which players can explore anyway they want. For a while now astute gamers have been comparing images from previously shared clips of the game and stating how it appeared to have some similarities with older LoZ titles and it looks like they were right on the money.

BotW takes a lot of cues from the first games in the Zelda series, like the original The Legend of Zelda or Zelda II: The Adventure of Link. These games, although remembered fondly, are incredible difficult and players are basically given no instruction on what to do. You're presented with an open world and you have to try and figure out what steps to take next.

This was refined in later entries in the series, like A Link to the Past and Link's Awakening, where although you're presented with a fairly open world, you're give a defined path to walk through and aren't left completely on your own trying to figure out what to do next.

Watching the Nintendo Treehouse - Nintendo's in-house North American product development team - play through BotW at E3 hearkened me back to those old 8-bit Zelda titles and I found myself wanting to revisit them. So I did!

The first LoZ game I ever finished was the first one I played, Ocarina of Time. It's still my favourite, but admittedly I've never gone back and completely finished the titles that came before it. I've put several hours into most of them, but never made it to the end.

The other day I finished, for the first time, the original The Legend of Zelda and it was a blast! I had some help - I used a map someone on the Web stitched together with screenshots of the Overworld, and consulted a walkthrough a few times - but for the most part I tried to just play the game as it was intended. I could remember a few things I'd muscled through in the past; I quickly finished off the first dungeon - Level-1 aka The Eagle - and picked up some essential items, like Heart Containers, the White Sword, Magical Shield, and Blue Ring. After that, though, things got serious as I'd never played much further than that before. It took a little while, but I managed to get to the final dungeon, defeat Ganon, and save Princess Zelda!

I haven't made up my mind on whether or not I'm going to keep this train rolling and play through all the games I've missed in the series or not, but I pretty much instantly booted up The Adventure of Link and am slogging through that game now.

I've been posting my adventures to Miiverse and Twitter and you can follow along, if you'd like! On Twitter I've been hastagging the whole thing with #RyHoVsLoZ, so you can find it easily enough. Although I do own the original games on cartridge, I've been playing on my 3DS out of convenience, so I won't be livestreaming anything just yet, but maybe down the line I'll stream some Legend of Zelda goodness on my Twitch channel, as well. Who knows!

The game of the month for the Cartridge Club is actually Majora's Mask, a game I haven't played since it first came out, so I think I'm going to change gears soon and try to complete that game. I have played that one, as it came out after OoT, but it's been a long time and I'm anxious to give it another try.

So join me as I fight and puzzle my way through the many incarnations of The Legend of Zelda! I'm more than okay with a few tips as I play. Just keep the spoilers to a minimum!

Hope you enjoy,