Thursday, December 13, 2018

Nostalgia Bomb! - A Garfield Christmas



What was it?
A Garfield Christmas was the seventh Garfield television special directed by Phil Roman and written by Garfield creator Jim Davis for CBS between 1982 and 1991.

A Garfield Christmas is often referred to as A Garfield Christmas Special, as well, as it is here on the title card

The specials were initially produced by Lee Mendelson and Bill Melendez, but as their company was primarily focused on producing the famous Peanuts TV specials, Phil Roman later took on the producer role, as well.

It aired for the first time on December 21st, 1987 with a run-time of 24 minutes and featured music by Ed Bogas and DesirĂ©e Goyette, with the singing talents of Lou Rawls. Garfield was famously voiced by Lorenzo Music, who voiced everyone's favourite grumpy orange cat in each of the Phil Roman specials. Thom Huge and Gregg Berger voiced John and Odie, as they did in all of the other specials as well, and Pat Carroll played John's grandmother, famous for her many acting roles and her portrayal of Ursula in Disney's The Little Mermaid.

This particular episode featured John, Garfield, and Odie heading off to the Arbuckle family farm for a good old fashioned Christmas.

When was it available?

The special was aired every Christmas on CBS from 1987 to 2000, at which point it inexplicably dropped off their holiday schedule. In 2004 the DVD Garfield's Holiday Celebrations was released, which included A Garfield Christmas, as well as other holiday favourites Garfield's Halloween Adventure (1985) and Garfield's Thanksgiving (1989). From my understanding the DVD was produced until at least 2007 and after its production run became a highly sought after collector's item, fetching big sums on eBay.

A second DVD was released in 2014 as a Walmart exclusive and featured the same episodes as the 2004 disc, but also added Garfield on the Town (1983) and Garfield in Paradise (1986), which aren't really holiday-themed, but are a nice addition. This DVD is also out-of-print and fetches high prices on reseller sites.

What about today?
In 2017 A Garfield Christmas was released on streaming services Amazon Prime Video and Apple iTunes in the US. One thing to note, however, is that there were some oddities with the final DVD release of A Garfield's Christmas, such as a scene featuring John's brother "Doc Boy" and Grandma playing Christmas music on the family piano, which was removed. This is the version that can be streamed from the above services, so it typically rubs viewers the wrong way!

Garfield Holiday Celebrations DVD from 2004

I personally streamed it from YouTube this year. There are several uploaders with the special on their channels. I'm pretty certain that none of them are legit, however, and could likely be stuck with copyright notices at any moment, so linking one here would probably be folly. If you want to watch the original special intact, however, this is probably the best avenue. The version I watched was at least DVD quality and contained all the scenes and original music.

Why do I remember it?
A Garfield Christmas is one of my absolute favourite Christmas TV specials of all time and I've done my best to take it in every single Christmas all these years.

After it stopped airing on TV, I was forced to become a pirate and find sites that either streamed the show or allowed for a download. Once I had a copy of the special that I liked downloaded, I often went back to that copy in subsequent years, but I've found YouTube pretty reliable as of late. I personally never saw the aforementioned DVDs, so from 2001 onward getting my Garfield fix at Christmastime became a yearly mission.

Up until the last few years, I had a copy on my tablet that I would break out when I was wrapping presents, alongside a copy of A Muppet Family Christmas, which is another amazing Christmas special from '87 that doesn't air on TV any longer and has a shoddy history on DVD.

The Arbuckles gather 'round Grandma as she receives here gift from Garfield

A Garfield Christmas is purportedly an autobiographical account of Jim Davis' personal Christmas memories and features a really fun look at the Arbuckle Christmas, but also has a sub-plot about John's Grandma that will get you right in the feels.

The music in this special is on-point with great tunes sung by Lou Rawls that you'll find yourself singing around the house right alongside Bing Crosby and Elvis Presley.

I cannot fathom why this special isn't aired today alongside all the other greats, like A Charlie Brown Christmas, Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer, and How The Grinch Stole Christmas. In fact, CBS usually aired A Garfield Christmas right next to the Peanuts classic from '87 to 2000. I can't find any solid information on why the show was dropped, but it could just be due to viewer count, I suppose.

A Charlie Brown Christmas and A Garfield Christmas commerical from CBS

The fact that the scene with Doc Boy and Grandma playing the piano was dropped from DVD releases kind of makes me wonder if there's some sort of rights issue at play, but they're playing "O Christmas Tree", so I find it hard to believe that's the problem in this case.

Although it was hard to find for almost 20 years, outside of a few DVD releases, which I personally never saw here in Canada, you can now enjoy A Garfield Christmas via streaming services (in the US, at least) or on YouTube, and I can't recommend enough that you give it a watch.

I viewed the show with my kids this year and I saw them laugh and sing along at the same spots I did when I was growing up, which made this year's viewing all the more special.

And that's why A Garfield Christmas is a blast from my past, but also - hopefully - a future family tradition!

Hope you enjoyed,
R

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Theatrical Cut - Halloween (2018)

Hot off the heels of getting to see the original Halloween in theatres, it's now finally time for Cole and I to check out the latest in Michael Myers' saga, again titled Halloween.



Hope you enjoy,
R

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Theatrical Cut - The Predator

I forgot to post this, but a few weeks back Cole and I went and saw the latest in the Predator franchise, the aptly titled The Predator.

Here are our thoughts going and after the film!



Hope you enjoy,
R

Theatrical Cut - Halloween (1978)

Cole and I took in a screening of John Carpenter's Halloween for it's 40th anniversary. Here's the video!



Hope you enjoy,
R

Friday, October 5, 2018

VHyesterdayS - The Blair Witch Project

It's time, yet again, to dig into the VHS Vault and since we're in the month of October the spooky films keep coming!

Here are my thoughts on the VHS release of The Blair Witch Project. I've been wanting to check this out on VHS again for a long time!

Unfortunately, there are no Coming Attractions on this tape. It did come with an additional scene at the end, but I opted not to upload that as it's a special feature on many of the home releases.



I hope you enjoy,
R

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

VHyesterdayS - Child's Play

Here's the latest episode of VHyesterdayS where I talk about an old ex-rental copy of Child's Play that I've had around for a very long time!


Also, make sure to check out the teaser trailer from the tape for James Bond in Licence To Kill!


Hope you enjoy,
R

Monday, August 20, 2018

Nostalgia Bomb! - Hostess Potato Chips



What were they?
Hostess Potato Chips (no affiliation to the Hostess pastry brand) was the premiere potato chip in Canada, first opening its doors in Ontario in 1935. They started with what would later be known as the Regular flavour, early on branched out to include Salt & Vinegar and BBQ, and later introduced Ketchup, Sour Cream & Onion, Dill Pickle, Roast Chicken, and even a Pizza flavour!

The last known line-up of Hostess Potato Chips

When were they available?

They were available from their inital release in 1935 up until 1996 when the Hostess brand, previously purchased by Frito Lay brand giant PepsiCo, was re-branded as Lay's Potato Chips.

What about today?
Some smaller grocery stores in Ontario, where the Hostess plant is located, continued to receive stock up until the 2010s. Today the only Hostess snack that is readily available are Hostess Hickory Sticks, which still seem to have a strong presence in the snack aisle.

Hickory Sticks are still a popular Hostess brand to this day.

Why do I remember them?
They were the best potato chips on the market! They held their place as Canada's #1 potato chip for as long as they did because they kept things simple and they produced a quality product.

Sure, like all massive brands they dipped their toes in some weird products. In the 1970s Hostess attempted a fruit-flavoured potato chip wing, which crashed and burned very quickly, but their strong main line-up of salty potato chip flavours couldn't be beat right up until they were re-branded in 1996.

What brought them down then? The introduction of higher quality brands, like Miss Vickie's kettle chips. Very quickly the more basic Hostess brand started seeing a drop in sales down to as little as 10% of the market.

It was decided that they would re-brand as Lay's and a huge marketing campaign accompanied the changeover. Mark Messier (famed centre for the Edmonton Oilers) would become the spokesperson for the brand with the slogan, "I bet you can't eat just one!" Why was all this so necessary? Lay's had been in Canada for years under the American brand and it was considered sub-par to Hostess chips. Canada was mind-washed of this and Lay's became the dominate brand almost overnight.

I can't write an article about Hostess potato chips and forget The Munchies! These cute little mascots fit right in during the 80s when everyone was sliding their commercials between cartoons on Saturday mornings. There were three Munchies, yellow, orange, and red. They were sort of like the Keebler Elves of chips.

The Hostess Munchies appearing on a button from the late-80s/early-90s.
For a short time after Lay's took over Canadian shelves Hostess still trickled in, but after a while the well dried up. My biggest problem with the whole thing was that Hostess BBQ chips were my favourite chip of all time. All of the other flavours got a somewhat similar representation by Lay's - in Dill Pickle's case, Lay's actually had the superior flavour - but the BBQ flavour that Lay's sold was nothing like what I was used to with Hostess.

You see, BBQ in the US - in relation to potato chips, anyway - is a much different beast than it is in Canada. To be fair, the US flavour is a better representation of actual barbecue - it is a sweet flavour, with a little spice. In Canada it basically just means hot and spicy. After a time, Lay's actually responded and came out with a hot BBQ flavour, but it just wasn't the same.

Lay's Old Fashioned Bar-B-Q flavoured potato chips.
BBQ Chip Tangent:
When Lay's was first introduced I switched to Humpty Dumpty, which was the real competitor to Hostess in the 80s and 90s, in my opinion. They had a BBQ flavour that was at least akin to Hostess and over time I learned to love that flavour, as well. Humpty Dumpty would see a similar fate to Hostess, however, being swallowed up by a bigger fish and purchased by Old Dutch. For many years the BBQ flavour that Old Dutch produced was actually titled "Humpty Dumpty BBQ", showing how strong the flavour was, but in the last few years they added cinnamon to it and dropped the "Humpty Dumpty" from the title. As a result, I've stopped buying it. My BBQ flavour of choice now? Walmart Canada's Great Value brand. It's actually really quite good! And at only $0.99 a bag it's hard to beat.


The "Humpty Dumpty" was eventually dropped in Canada, but it may still be available in the US.

What makes the whole thing more frustrating is that eventually the "upscale" potato chip concept would wear off and the market leveled back out. If Hostess had just stuck it out and PepsiCo hadn't re-branded everything to Lay's I think that Hostess would still be on top to this day. Even if you don't believe me that Hostess had the best flavours, Hostess' offerings were at least on par with their competitors.

In this day and age of "nostalgia is king", and especially being owned by PepsiCo - who have brought back Pepsi with real sugar as Pepsi Throwback, had a successful re-relase of Crystal Pepsi in 2016, and are now offering cans branded with their old logos and designs - I have this dream that one day there will be a limited run of Hostess chips in Canada. Even if it were under the Lay's brand, but with the original Hostess flavours, I'd be happy.

But until that day comes, Hostess Potato Chips will still be a blast from my past!

Hope you enjoyed,
R

Friday, July 6, 2018

Nostalgia Bomb! - Topps Nintendo Game Packs



What were they?
Nintendo Game Packs (with Top Secret Tips!) were a series of scratch-off trading cards and sticker packs released by Topps for 25¢ apiece. Inside each wax-wrapped pack you would find three scratch-off cards and two stickers, as well as a stick of bubble gum!

Topps Nintendo Game Packs (1989) - image courtesy of Toys'n'Stuff YouTube Channel

There were 93 cards to collect in all. 60 of those were the scratch-off or "game" cards, which could be broken out into groups of 10 based on 6 different Nintendo games: Super Mario Bros., Super Mario. Bros. 2, The Legend of Zelda, Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, Double Dragon, and Punch-Out!! The other 33 cards were the stickers, which portrayed character portraits from all sorts of different Nintendo games and had printed tips and tricks on the back, not necessarily related to the actual sticker on the front.

A sticker card featuing Abobo from Double Dragon - image courtesy of TPsRockin.com

When were they available?
They were released in 1989. Topps would release a yearly series of sports cards, which would include the usual culprits of baseball, football, and hockey. They would also release non-sports sets each year that would be based on different movie and cartoon franchises, which included the Nintendo set. '89 would also see sets for Back to the Future Part II, Batman (1989), Batman (1966), Ghostbusters II, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles ('89 cartoon show), and Stupid Smile Stickers, which were essentially parody cards making fun of the popular "smiley face" stickers at that time.

A full box of Topps Nintendo Game Packs

What about today?

Although Nintendo would go on to have different trading card sets over the years based on many of their popular franchises, like The Legend of Zelda and most recently amiibo trading cards for the Animal Crossing series, this was the only Topps set they would ever release.

It is worth noting that Topps also released a set of Nintendo Tattoos around the same time. They are considered much more rare than the Game Packs and I can honestly say I don't recall ever seeing them when I was a kid.

Topps Nintendo Tattoos, also circa 1989

Why do I remember them?

I was a big card collector back when I was a kid. It was completely hooked in 1990 on the first Marvel Universe trading card series by Impel (later Skybox), but I cut my teeth on these Nintendo Game Packs.

Although I have all of my old Marvel cards I unfortunately don't have any of my old Nintendo cards left today. I think it was because they were made somewhat disposable. Each of the scratch-off cards were a game and once they were scratched I considered them used up and the sticker cards would make their way into a sticker binder I kept (which is long since gone). It wasn't until the next year I'd clue in on collecting cards.

A Zelda scratch-off game card - image courtesy of TPsRockin.com

You see them a lot these days, though. They're typically easy to find on eBay or in different niche stores. You'll also find a lot of videos on YouTube of people either displaying their collections or showing off opening old packs that are still sealed.

I haven't gone so far in my enjoyment of these cards to get the set myself. I have checked out the prices on eBay now and then, but I never pull the trigger. It's fun to queue up YouTube now and again, however, and watch some videos on Topps Nintendo Game Packs and reminisce.

I hope you enjoyed,
R

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Yars' Revenge (1982) - Atari 2600 and Atari: Game Over (2014)

I'm going to be honest with you here. I was born in the early-1980s. Although my parents did own an Intellivision I had no contact with that system until the '90s and well after I'd received my first video game console, the Nintendo Entertainment System. As far as the Atari 2600, I can't even recall when I saw one for the first time, but as a result of never playing one when I was a kid I just never got into the system at all.

The Atari 2600 in all its wood-grained glory
I always understood the love for that Atari 2600, but it was just before my time. And because of the video game crash in '83 they were quickly off the market and almost a distant memory by the I got my NES in '89. I had one cousin who had an Atari 2600, but it was rarely played when I visited in lieu of playing whatever NES games he had available instead.

All this to say that - although I understand why people love the Atari 2600 - I have zero nostalgia for it, and frankly, never really cared for it. Compared to what I got to play on the NES, 2600 games just seemed a little too primitive. In my mind they were mostly poorly ported arcade titles and I was never really into those particular games to begin with. I appreciated playing shooter games like Galaxian in the arcade itself, but when I saw the home port on the 2600 it never really wowed me.

A few years ago my wife got me an Atari Flashback 6 for Christmas and I suddenly had a bevy of 2600 games at my fingertips to try. Again, I found myself not so interested in the shooter games, but I discovered a new appreciation for titles like Adventure and the 2600 port of Frogger. Still, I didn't spend too much time with it, but it is permanently hooked up to what I affectionately call my "retro corner" in my home office, which consists of a flat-screen CRT, a VCR, a DVD player/recorder, and my Atari Flashback. Whenever I want to hook up another older console I hook it up to this TV, but they don't fit in the stand. The Flashback, however, fits in there nicely, so it's basically always hooked up.

The other night I was going through Netflix looking for something to watch and I realized that although I'd added it to "My List" I had never gotten around to watching Zak Penn's Atari: Game Over. The documentary takes a look at the meteoric rise of Atari in the late-70s/early-80s, the programmers producing their money-making cartridges, and the downfall of the company, seemingly signaled by the infamous E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial 2600 game release at Christmas of '82.

The Atari: Game Over poster displaying the co-ordinates of the infamous dumping site
It runs at around an hour and is a really great watch. I am a self-professed video game aficionado and like to believe I know a lot about the industry, but I learned a great deal about Atari and the effect the 2600 had on the home computing enterprise by watching this film.

The film delves into the long-lived rumour that the release of E.T. for the Atari was so bad and so poorly received that the company drove all the extra copies of the game, of which they had printed millions, and buried them in the desert in Alamogordo, NM. This story had become video game legend and had cemented the idea the E.T. is the worst video game ever made and almost single-handedly destroyed Atari.

An ad for E.T. on the 2600
Atari: Game Over focuses on three main individuals: Joe Lewandowski, the man who researched and believed he found the site of the Atari game burial, Howard Scott Warshaw, the programmer who created the E.T. cartridge, and Ernie Cline, writer and video game enthusiast. There are plenty of interviews from the people in charge of Atari at the time of the crash, as well as many other filmmakers and video game developers.

With such a short run-time, the film has a bit of a narrow scope. It's a fun watch and I liked that it focused on Howard Scott Warshaw and the effect E.T. and Atari had on his life, which was a really cool perspective and story I'd never heard before. If you're looking to understand the entirety of Atari's downfall and the video game crash, however, this film isn't going to get you there. It will whet your appetite for more information, and I think is ultimately worth the watch, but you'll need to go elsewhere for the full story.

How does this all get back to Yars' Revenge, which you see in the title of this post? Well, like I said, I was captivated by Howard Scott Warshaw's story in the film. He was brought in as one of Atari's "rockstar programmers" at the height of the 2600's popularity and - before he became synonymous with E.T. - programmed the most profitable original game for the Atari 2600 - Yars' Revenge.

Yars' Revenge box-art
Yars' Revenge started out as another Atari 2600 arcade port - the kind I mentioned I had little interest in - of Star Castle. Warshaw quickly told his superiors that he couldn't properly port that game to the home console hardware, but had come up with his own game that used a similar mechanic. He was greenlighted to then program his game, which went on to sell one million copies.

Warshaw really wanted to blend storytelling with video games, something that wasn't really being done at the time, so he came up with a whole backstory to Yars' Revenge, which was adapted into a comic and packaged with the game. It tells the story of the Yars - a race of super-advanced houseflies - that had originated on Earth, but had been mutated in space, developed their own society and culture, and inhabited several planets in another solar system. An unknown race called the Quotile attacked and destroyed one of the Yars' planets, Razak IV, and now it is up to the warriors of Yars to defend their people against the Quotile using their newly developed Zorlon Cannon. It's a fun little comic and you can check it out here.

Warshaw coding E.T. The Extraterrestrial in his home in 1982
The game is pretty simplistic. The player pilots the Yar, a flying bug-like creature, against the Quotile. The enemy is encased in a shield, which the Yar needs to either blast or munch to destroy. The Quotile has two attacks - a missile that slowly chases the Yar at all times on screen, and the "Swirl", in which the Quotile itself spins and shoots across the screen at the Yar. There is a neutral zone in the middle of the screen that the Yar can enter and becomes impervious to the missile, but also loses the ability to shoot. The neutral zone does not, however, protect from the Swirl, which can destroy the Yar at all times.

The Yar has to destroy the barrier around the Quotile and attempt to fire the Zorlon Cannon. The only way to fire it, however, is to either touch the Quotile or nibble at the shield. When the cannon becomes available you'll see it appear on the opposite side of the screen. Once fired, the cannon blast will fire directly at the Yar, so you have to pilot away from the blast after it is fired and try to bypass the barrier and hit the Quotile to progress to the next stage.

There are two screens in the game (that I saw), one with a domed barrier, and another with a strange rectangular barrier, which constantly shifts. The further you get in the game, the barrier will change colour and the enemies will become more and more difficult. For instance, in the earlier stages the Swirl is pretty easy to see coming and dodge, but later there is little warning that the Quotile is going to unleash this blast, so you have to be on your toes to dodge it.

Yar's Revenge
Directly after I finished Atari: Game Over, I found myself wanting to play... E.T.: The Extraerrestrial. I have a weird relationship with that movie (maybe some day I'll write about it) and all the talk about the video game made me want to try it out. Unfortunately, and unsurprisingly, and doesn't grace the Atari Flashback 6. However, it did have Yars' Revenge, so I decided to boot it up. I found myself playing it for hours! I have never played an Atari for that long in my life and I really enjoyed it.

With only two stages it seems like the game would be very limited, but the difficulty ramps up quite well and I found myself really challenged by the game. And what's funny is all that backstory that Warshaw wanted attached to the game really helped! My imagination combined with the comic book helped me really feel like I was a flying Yar warrior defending my race against the evil Quotile and made the game that much more enjoyable.

I can't remember my high score, but it wasn't great. I died a lot! But the main thing was that I had fun and I still want to play more! Finally, I "got" what people enjoyed about the Atari 2600. Yars' Revenge is a really fun game and not like any other flying shooter I've ever played before.

So my final verdict is that you should check out Atari: Game Over and pair it with Yars' Revenge. The film and the game both gave me a new appreciation for the Atari 2600 and they might do the same for you, too!

Hope you enjoyed,
R

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Kamiko (2017) - Nintendo Switch

As a palette cleanser between The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey, I decided I wanted to play something quick and simple on my Nintendo Switch. After a little searching around the web I came across Kamiko, which was just what I was looking for.

At $6.99 CAD ($4.99 USD), Kamiko is a perfectly priced, bite-sized adventure that is ideal for killing a few hours and having some fun.

You play as one of three priestesses (known as Kamiko), who have been bestowed weapons from the gods in order to smite an evil that has befallen the land. In each of the four stages, you will have to activate several Torii gates in order to open the final door and face the boss. Each stage plays out like a bit of a puzzle. There are different switches, obstacles, etc. that you have to solve in order to find your way to the Torii gates.

Yamato squaring off against one of Kamiko's devilish bosses

The game plays similar to the original Legend of Zelda games, with a top-down view of your character. There are several enemy types you'll face along the way, including long-range attackers, and enemies that just try to run into you. The bosses are almost like something from a bullet hell shooter with multiple blasts and patterns you'll have to learn and dodge.

Each of the three priestesses change the way you play the game distinctly. In a way its like having a difficulty level setting. The first Kamiko - Yamato - is given a basic sword, which slashes in an arc in front of the her making this character the easiest to use. It's pretty difficult to miss an enemy with this weapon.

The second is Uzume, who has a bow and arrow, which is slightly more difficult to use and get used to. If you fire three shots in succession, Uzume will actually fire multiple arrows for each shot which fan out in front of her, giving you a larger area of attack. It's a little tricky to alter your brain into firing at your emeny after you've completed the game as Yamato, which adds a little bit of welcome challenge.

Uzume is preparing to find the Torii gates in another stage

The third is Hinome, who has a short sword and shield. This is sort of like a medium difficulty. You don't use the shield for defence, but rather you throw it in front of you. It's quick to release so it's easier to fire than Uzume's bow, but it doesn't reach across the entire screen. It does, however, return to you so there's some added playability there using the return arc of the shield to your advantage. Also, when the shield is released you can continue to attack enemies with a stab of your short sword. This causes Himome to briefly jet forward. The combination of these weapons is destructive. I think I may have enjoyed playing as her more than Yamato and Uzume.

The gameplay is pretty straight-forward and dead simple for Kamiko. Once you've played through the game once the challenge of the puzzles is diminished, because you'll remember all the item locations making finding the Torii gates easier and easier through each run. The change of the characters weapons and play-styles adds a slight challenge, but you'll probably get used to them in the first stage. This doesn't diminish the fun, however. The game is still a great arcade action title which you'll enjoy playing with each of the priestesses.

Hinome with her short sword and shield

The game features a beautiful, bright pseudo 8-bit aesthetic, which is very eye-catching. The images are crisp and look great in both handheld and TV mode. The colours are very vibrant and everything is easy to distinguish on-screen.

One of the best parts of Kamiko is the music. It has a very small, but well-crafted soundtrack. I found some of the stages soothing and others exciting. It's all presented in a chip-tune style that perfectly suits the pseudo 8-bit look and feel of the game, pulling the whole package together.

Once you get used to the stages each run through of Kamiko can be quick, but satisfying
Kamiko is a quick hit game that you can play in a couple of hours and is well-worth the small price to play. For me, it was a nice break after the many months I spent playing Breath of the Wild, before I buckled down to complete Super Mario Odyssey. I highly recommend you give Kamiko a try.

Hope you enjoyed,
R

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Nostalgia Bomb! - McPizza



What was it?
In the 1980s McDonald's wanted to break into the pizza market and take on companies like Dominos and Pizza Hut, so the began testing the McPizza. It wasn't until the 90s that the test phase branched out into over 500 stores. Originally it was served as a "family-size", which was brought to the table and placed on a raised rack, but they quickly began serving it in a personal-size format, which could be included in an Extra Value Meal with fries and a drink.

McPizza ad

When was it available?
I've read that the earliest test markets actually started in the 70s, but most articles related to McPizza state that it started hitting test restaurants in the late-80s and by 1991 had branched out to around 500 stores. In Canada, it was phased out in 1999, although I know it left my local McDonald's well before that. Officially, it appears it left almost all McDonald's by the year 2000. It was ultimately removed from most McDonald's menus because it took 11 minutes to cook, which wasn't in-line with their policy of providing food as fast as possible.

What about today?
Much like the start date of McPizza, there is a lot of conflicting information about this, but up until recently my understanding was that you could still get McPizza at two locations; Pomeroy, Ohio and Owensboro, Kentucky. From what I've read, both of those restaurants served their last pizzas as of 2017, but it appears that that largest McDonald's - located in Orlando, Florida - is the only restaurant that still offers the McPizza.

Why do I remember it?
Mostly, because it was delicious.

In an Extra Value Meal
An odd thing about where I grew up is that pizza is like religion. There is no Pizza Hut or Dominos there. They would crash and burn. Everyone gets their pizza from their favourite "joint" and you'll hear many arguments as to which is the best. So when McDonald's came out with McPizza I assumed it would be garbage and would never last, but when I first had it I was hooked. That said, no one in my family would ever go to McDonald's to get a pizza, which is why the personal-sized pie was so crucial. If we all went to Mickey Ds I could get a pizza for myself!

I remember it having a cornmeal crust or something, which was unheard of where I lived. All the crusts were typically the same and I'd dare say that's how it is even today. I can't think of a place that deviates. I'd never had anything like that and I really enjoyed it. Also, I think they added parmesan to their mozzarella cheese, which was something I'd never had before and really liked as well.

McPizza is a bizarre thing, because under the lens of nostalgia and passing time it seems like everyone enjoyed it and wishes they could still get it, but that just can't be the case. I know that most articles I've read state that McDonald's removed it from their meny because of the time it took to cook, but let's real here; if the stuff was selling like gangbusters, they'd still have it on the menu.

The reality is that McDonald's took on a pretty tough market and didn't see enough upside to keep the product going. I can attest to it being good - and I consider myself a pretty tough pizza critic - but money talks and now McPizza is (pretty much) no more.

This is the box I recall
If I'm ever in Orlando, however, and I happen upon this magical McDonald's that still carries McPizza, you can be damned sure I'll be buying it and reliving my childhood for a few gooey, cheesy moments.

I hope you enjoyed,
R

Friday, January 5, 2018

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (2017) - Nintendo Switch


The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is the latest release in the Legend of Zelda series, which was simultaneously the final Wii U game from Nintendo and one of the launch titles on the Nintendo Switch, and hit store shelves on March 3rd, 2017 worldwide. The game was produced by mainline Zelda series producer Eiji Aonuma and developed by Nintendo EPD.

Breath of the Wild is a break from the usual Zelda formula and features a massive open-world environment and a bevy of new equipment for Link to procure and use throughout his adventure. Taking a page from the original NES game, Link is simply dropped into the world and given very little direction. The player can tackle the game in any fashion they want, trying to figure out the correct path to victory as they go.

The game was first announced to be in development as far back as 2013 and was meant to be the mainline Zelda title released on the Wii U. It had a slotted release date of 2015. This was initially bumped out to 2016, but was ultimately pushed out again to coincide with the launch of the Nintendo Switch to give the new console a heavy-hitter on release.

This decision, of course, ruffled a lot of feathers in the gaming community. There were many people who claimed they purchased a Wii U simply to get the next Legend of Zelda title that had been promised and felt burned that it would release two years later and on Nintendo's next system.

Any issues with the release of Breath of the Wild seemed to quiet instantly on March 3rd. The game has been universally touted as a wild success (pun intended), selling approximately 5 million copies as of September of this year across both platforms and taking home full marks from many of the biggest reviewing publications. As of writing this, the game has taken Game of the Year at the 2017 Game Awards.

Now with that out of the way, it's time for me to gush about how much I loved Breath of the Wild.

For years the debate of whether Zelda was an RPG or an action adventure title has raged across message boards on the Internet. Whichever side of the fence you're on in that fight, I find these games to be adventure titles and no game has allowed me to experience true adventure like Breath of the Wild.

The open world is both massive and breath-taking (again with the puns). I can remember in the opening moments of the game I actually felt daunted by the sheer breadth of it. The game opens in an area called the Great Plateau and - to put things into context - this area alone is larger than the entirety of Hyrule in Ocarina of Time! Then when I finally broke free of the Great Plateau and had the fullness of Hyrule to my disposal to explore, I felt completely overawed.

The beauty of Hyrule

The only thing I can suggest is that you just shed the old mentality of "do x, get y, beat bad guy, move to next area". This game has been made completely non-linear. You're given a loose idea of where to go next, but there's no reason you should follow that. Let the open road take you. See that strange object in the distance? Go there! What's up there on top of that mountain? Climb and find out! Just let the land lead you and you'll get so much more out of the experience than just trying to get to the end.

By the time I decided to finally finish Breath of the Wild I had clocked 115+ hours. For me, that is absolute madness. I haven't cracked 80 hours in a game in years, let alone over 100. I would just turn this game on and travel around from place to place for hours aimlessly. You're often rewarded for doing this, either by new items or Shrines, which act as the games puzzles. There are 120 Shrines hidden all over Hyrule and the only way you're going to find them all is to check every nook and cranny the map has to offer. That's what took me so long to finish the game, honestly. I had to have them all! Finally, I found all 120 and that's when I decided it was time to face the final boss.

My 120th shrine

If you find I'm being vague and explaining very little about how the game plays, you're right. I'm being intentionally nebulous, because I don't want to ruin anything for someone that may not have played the title.

In fact, I think I'm going to leave it there. This is my third full draft of this article. I've tried explaining every facet of the gameplay. I've tried gushing about my personal experiences. I've tried being over-analytical and pointed.

The hero of  Hyrule

The fact is that The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is a game changer. Or at least it was for me. I haven't done so yet, but I think I need to re-order my Top 10 favourite games of all time, that's how much this game meant to me. I can say this, without a doubt: Breath of the Wild is my favourite Legend of Zelda title of all time, ousting Ocarina of Time. And I've played a lot of them (except A Link to the Past - maybe we'll talk about that some other time).

Looks like it's time to face the final boss

So for me, this is a must-play. Whether you snag it on the Wii U or pick up a shiny new Nintendo Switch, I think you owe it to yourself to try this game. There's a lot of content here, so book out your calendar. And remember, let the adventure take you and enjoy.

Cheers,
R



P.S. I still have not played any of the DLC, but I plan to pick it up later this year, once I've played something else for a bit. I'll update on that when the time comes!

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (NS)

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is the latest release in the Legend of Zelda series, which was simultaneously the final Wii U game from Nintendo and one of the launch titles on the Nintendo Switch, which hit store shelves on March 3rd, 2017 worldwide. The game was produced by mainline Zelda series producer Eiji Aonuma and developed by Nintendo EPD.

Breath of the Wild is a break from the usual Zelda formula and features a massive open-world environment and a bevy of new equipment for Link to procure and use throughout his adventure. Taking a page from the original NES game, Link is simply dropped into the world and given very little direction. The player can tackle the game in any fashion they want, trying to figure out the correct path to victory as they go.

The game was first announced to be in development as far back as 2013 and was meant to be the mainline Zelda title released on the Wii U. It had a slotted release date of 2015. This was initially bumped out to 2016, but was ultimately pushed out again to coincide with the launch of the Nintendo Switch to give the new console a heavy-hitter on release.

This decision, of course, ruffled a lot of feathers in the gaming community. There were many people who claimed they purchased a Wii U simply to get the next Legend of Zelda title that had been promised and felt burned that it would release two years later and on Nintendo's next system.

Any issues with the release of Breath of the Wild seemed to quiet instantly on March 3rd. The game has been universally touted as a wild success (pun intended), selling approximately 5 million copies as of September of this year across both platforms and taking home full marks from many of the biggest reviewing publications.

Now that we have all that out of the way, it's time for me to gush about how much I love Breath of the Wild.

As I've mentioned in a few posts and videos in the past I was initially grumpy about the Nintendo Switch and didn't intend on picking one up. I felt like it was just another gimmick and I had hoped Nintendo would stray away from the business model and try something a little more "traditional" with their next home console. Over the months leading up to its release, however, I realized that the majority of my gaming was played on a handheld and the Nintendo Switch would probably be the perfect console for me and I decided to pick one up on launch day. When I finally made that decision, it became clear to me which version of Breath of the Wild I would pick up, so I secured my copy and waited patiently for it to arrive in the mail a few days after the release of the Switch.

That was over nine months ago and I have just now, with over 115+ hours of gameplay, finished The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

The opening moments of Breath of the Wild are very much intended to take your breath away (again, pun intended). The player, as Link, awakens in a dark cavern with no memories, but you can see a light at the end of a tunnel. Making your way there helps give you a taste of the controls of the game. You jump and climb - completely foreign concepts for Link until this point - and when you reach the outside you are stunned by the immensity of the world outside as you first glimpse Hyrule.

Or at least that's how I felt.

I can remember being a little overwhelmed at first, but I decided to try and let the landscape lead me. Following a small path I found my way to the first NPC, who informed me that I was on the Great Plateau and gave me some starting directions on where to head to begin my adventure. Armed with nothing more than a tree branch and some old clothes, I set forth!

The Great Plateau, at first, seems in and of itself to be beyond huge compared to anything I had ever played in a Zelda adventure before. In fact, this area alone is bigger than the entirety of Hyrule in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Interestingly enough, there are several Zelda-theorists (yes, they exist) who believe that the Great Plateau may actually be the exact area of Hyrule in which Ocarina takes place! But, I won't travel down that rabbit hole just now.

This is really the only part of the game where you are given any sort of direction and it adds up to a tutorial on how to play Breath of the Wild. You are pointed toward the Great Plateau Tower as a focal point. Once you manage to climb the tower you learn that your Sheikah Slate, a mysterious device that you find in the opening moments of the game, can activate the tower. Now you have a map! And on the map are four Ancient Shrines. Once you travel to those, you can enter them using the Sheikah Slate.

The four Shrines found on the Plateau each give you an Ancient Rune. These Runes are used all over the landscape and in many of the Shrines across Hyrule. They give you tools like Bombs, which anyone who's played a Legend of Zelda game before will be used to, but also new abilities like Magnesis, which is a giant magnet, are added to Link's arsenal.

Now armed with your Runes and a basic understanding of how to play the game you are given the Paraglider. This is an essential piece to the Breath of the Wild puzzle. With the massive landscape to traverse and climb the Paraglider allows Link to leap from any height and softly land on the ground, provided he has enough stamina. With this you are no longer confined to the Great Plateau and can travel anywhere you want in the whole of Hyrule (for the most part).

As strange as it is to type this, I would recommend just letting yourself get lost in this new Hyrule. Don't worry about the final objective. It will be there no matter what. Instead, just travel around and let the landscape guide you. Follow that road over there for a bit until you see something cool and then go climb that mountain to get a closer look! That island over there looks neat. I wonder if anything is on it? Try and swim to it! The world is made for exploration. That's the point!

I can remember gliding off of the Great Plateau the first time and actually feeling a bit of anxiety, because the world was so immense and I felt like I had to see everything, but you need to reassure yourself that you just can't. You can't see every little piece of the world right away, so don't try.

Another first in the series is the equipment system. In Breath of the Wild you'll find multiple armour sets and a plethora of weapons and shields. You'll probably want to get rid of that tree branch pretty quickly, so take on some Bokoblins and see if they have any swords or spears. Try to find a bow! You'll definitely want to get used to those as early as possible as they are an essential part to the game, just as much as any melee weapon. There's one catch, though... they all break!

If I had one gripe about Breath of the Wild it's that when you first start playing the game everything breaks so easily. It isn't until much later in the game that you start finding equipment that can handle being used in more than one or two fights. I get why it plays this way, but when you finally find a sword in the early part of the game and it breaks almost as soon as you get it, it's discouraging. Also, you can't hold much in the way of swords, bows, or shields at first, so you can't really horde up as much as you'd like. In fact, right up until the end I was constantly leaving new weapons I'd find along the way or dropping one sword for another, which was a bit of a pain.

You can upgrade your equipment slots by collecting Korok seeds throughout Hyrule, but I found that to be annoying, as well. I only had 60 or so by the time I completed the game, which may seem like a lot, but there are 900! And each time you upgrade and add a new equipment slot it costs more seeds to get the next, which makes it harder and harder to add a slot as you go. I eventually just stopped adding shield and bow slots and focused on melee weapons, because I found those the most important.

So what is the objective of Breath of the Wild? Like any other game in the series, you have to save Princess Zelda and defeat Ganon. It's made pretty clear where Ganon and the Princess are in the game and how to find them, but it's the exploration of the game that leads to the story and without that you'd be going in totally blind. It's cool that you can and it's led to a lot of interesting speedruns, but to truly get the experience of Breath of the Wild you have to try and see as many of the environments that Hyrule has to offer. From the fiery peaks of Eldin, to the snowy fields of Tabantha, the lush jungles of Faron, the broiling desert of Gerudo, and the green plains of Central Hyrule, any and all landscapes can be explored. You might need some special gear or buffs to reach them, so make sure you talk to any NPCs you might find to help you traverse a new area.

Speaking of buffs, in another first for the series there is crafting in the form of cooking! You can cook two kinds of. There's food, which can heal hearts and sometimes offer buffs, and elixirs, which are typically more focused on the buffs, but can also heal hearts. You'll just have to try mixing and matching different items as you go to find what works best and sometimes you'll find recipes in different areas or from NPCs so make sure to pick the brains of anything you run across on your travels.

I'm starting to fall into the trap of trying to explain every facet of the game and I think that will take too long. I didn't even touch on hearts and stamina or horses, but I think I'll leave that to the game.

I can't recommend Breath of the Wild more if I tried. This has been a special experience for me. I haven't enjoyed a video game this much in a long, long while. I certainly can't tell you the last time I put 100+ hours into a video game. I hate to shift my personal top 10s or favourites in a series after one playthrough, but with my time playing Breath of the Wild I feel it's safe to say that it is probably my favourite in the series. As much as I loved Ocarina of Time I think I enjoyed Breath of The Wild more, but I guess that's something that I'll think about over time. But that's the thing, this game makes me think about that sort of thing. The order of my personal top 10 favourite games changes sometimes, but the games typically stay the same. Now I find myself trying to decide where I'd fit Breath of the Wild, that's how much I loved it.

If you have a Wii U or a Nintendo Switch, it's likely you have this game. It's selling like hotcakes, but if for some reason you've been sleeping on this title and you enjoy adventure games then I think you owe it to yourself to play Breath of the Wild and experience an all new Hyrule that you've never seen before.

Thanks for reading,
R