We recorded a really great episode, which I'm not just saying because our work typically ranges from "man, this is pretty bad," to, "yeah, but why is this three hours long?" Mark Shepherd joined us for the fourth time in Flap Jaw Space's four year reign and first time in 2014! We called upon his tremendous insight and deep-reaching appreciation of the 16-bit era to power rank our favorite ten titles from the Super Nintendo's library. The following games enjoyed considerable discussion:

Act Raiser, Act Raiser 2, Breath of Fire, Breath of Fire II, Captain Commando, Castlevania: Dracula X, Chrono Trigger, Contra III: The Alien Wars, Cool Spot, The SNES' inferior Aladdin game, Donkey Kong Country, Donkey Kong Country 2, Donkey Kong Country 3, EVO: The Search for Eden, Earthbound, Earthworm Jim, Earthworm Jim 2, F-Zero, Fatal Fury 2, Final Fantasy II (IV), Final Fantasy V, Final Fantasy III (VI), Final Fight 2, Hagane: The Final Conflict, Illusion of Gaia, Joe & Mac, Killer Instinct, King of Monsters, Kirby SuperStar, The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening, The Lost Vikings, Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals, Mario Paint, Mega Man 7, Mega Man X, Mega Man X-3, NBA Jam, Ogre Battle, Pit Fighter, Primal Rage, Rock 'n Roll Racing, SimCity, Soul Blazer, Secret of Mana, Sparkster, Maximum Carnage, Star Fox, Star Fox 2, Street Fighter II Turbo, Stunt Race FX, Super Adventure Island, Super Bomberman, Super Castlevania IV, Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts, Super Mario Kart, Super Mario World, Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island, Super Mario RPG, Super Metroid, all of those Super Star Wars games, Super Punch-Out!!, Zombies Ate my Neighbors, and Steve's endearing favorite, Uniracers.

It's important to note that Steve spent like eight hours editing this, specifically injecting contextually appropriate air-raid sirens, along with music from many of these games in the background of their respective discussions. Episode 82 is also mixed in stereo to accommodate the incredible amount of music, so don't just listen with one ear-bud and let Steve's insane work go to waste, you animal.

The thematic current game tie-in for all of this, of course, is Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS, which three of us bought and have played at length. We detail the merit of items versus no items, go over the best and worst stages, DLC speculation, our early favorite characters, the necessity of assist trophies, omega stage satisfaction, how character movement influences and propels the hardcore crowd, and Smash 4's chance at ascending Melee.

NOT DONE YET. We also found time to talk about Persona 4 Arena Ultimax, Nintendo's iterative design process, Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor, Watch Dogs, Unseen 64, A Link Between Worlds, Steve's regret over his dog's extensive mortality, Dark Souls II: Crown of the Ivory King, somehow more Diablo III talk, amiibos, the relationship between politics and sports teams, Ebola, and craigslist videogame collecting. Eric also tried to talk about The Vanishing of Ethan Carter but as that was happening Steve ran up the stairs like an NPC with no modelling or animation for individual steps, which stymied any apparent discussion.

Duration: 3h, 15m. Recorded: October 6th, 2014.

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Welcome, probably. Rather than separate our witless digression from our industry leading talk about videogames, please enjoy this mixed-together text dump detailing Episode 81's marvelous content:

The merits of seersucker pants, the idea of buying children, Chris' love of the Miiverse (and related indoctrination by Mario Kart 8), the weird arcade bar Chris visited in Chicago, Super Mario 3D World, the effect of space robots on recreational drug use, Shovel Knight, Retro City Rampage, Steve verbally orgasming over Diablo III's gem system, Steve repeatedly referencing ten minutes of a Let's Play he saw with Five Nights at Freddy's, our collective ambivalence toward Destiny, the moral objectivity of Nintendo releasing two versions of Super Smash Bros two months apart, Eric's mistrust/misunderstanding of capitalism, Steve's unconscious decent into 80's sitcom dad, the Smash Bros. 3DS demo, Steve confusing Ivan Stewart with Tony Stewart and proposing a violent interpretation of OffroadP.T. + Outlast + Dead Rising 3 and the debate of disturbing versus thrilling videogames, Hohokum, Phoenix Wright vs Professor Layton, unsolicited podcast sponsorships, how shopping at Target and Best Buy is shitty, The Walking Dead Season 2, Murasaki Baby, and Eidolon.

We also Power-Ranked the year 2007 in videogames, including a terse sequence where we agreed to disagree on the impact of Star Fox and how much better Star Fox 2 probably would have been. 

Duration: 2h,10m. Recorded on 09/26/14.

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To be perfectly honest I have no idea what happened to Episode 78. We recorded it, it's right here, but the blog post I made for it two months ago either vanished or never existed.

Further complicating matters, we decided to record two different episodes three weeks apart and then stitch them together into a single episode. Episodes 79 & 80 are now Episode 7980.

In Episode 79 we discussed the cosmic return of Comic Sans, the availability of haunted SpeedTrees, accidental nudity between family members, Steve's brilliant rendition of retroactiveshitstorm.com, the dissolution of physical encyclopedias, Master Shake, becoming older and realizing you're the person old-you hated, crowd-sourced governments, firework accidents, and strength build's influence on Johann Sebastian Joust.

Videogames got in the way again, so we talked about Dark Souls, the Many World's theory application to Dark Souls, Among the Sleep, Wolfenstein: The New Order, Mario Kart 8, Infinity Runner, Diablo III: Reaper of Souls, Wario's Woods, Dragon Age Inquisition, Time Spinner, the invalidity of E3, the necessity of 60 frames-per-second, and Shovel Knight.

Then we digressed into an hour long discussion on the social politics of Tomodatchi Life; a game none of us actually played.

We reconvened three weeks later to record Episode 80, detailing such topics as the incredible stupidity of The Strain, stomach parasite excretion, Caucasians, suspending disbelief when watching intelligent ape films, Steve's absurd faith in American Hi-Fi, the time Steve interviewed James Gunn at E3, Very Bad Things, Edward Furlong's arrest record, humans wearing animal tails, Mike Patton, and Seth MacFarlane's enjoyment paradox.

You guessed it, we talked about games too, including Chris' purchase of a Wii U, New Super Luigi U, Mario Kart 8, OpenRA, Diablo III, Velvet Sundown, Kentucky Route Zero, Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z, the ageless visage of Zelda, and a yet another debate on the validity of acquiring Magus in Chronotrigger.

Because the show was nearly five hours, we also power-ranked the year 2007 in videogames.

Duration: 4:43:02. Recorded on 07/16/14 and then again on 08/06/14.

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Continuing our fine tradition of posting content months after it was created, Episode 77 is finally ready to be consumed via Internet web page. I took notes on my phone during production, apparently detailing the topics of conversation. They are as follows: phone gymnastics, tinder, grinder, eating weird animals, Transformers, Steve's wife murdering a deer with a car while pregnant, being sad at Denny's, Subway, and audiobooks. Presumably, we also talked about videogames like Dark Souls II, Mario Golf: World Tour, Trials FusionMario Kart 8, Diablo III: Reaper of Souls, and Hearthstone. We also power-ranked the year 1988 in videogames.

Duration: 2:42. Date recorded: 05/05/14

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I walked into X-Men: Days of Future Past with a throbbing headache and eyeball exhaustion setting in after staring at sports agate type for the previous eight hours. I expected the combination to sour my movie-going experience, and was tempted to tell my roommates (with whom I was going to see the latest mutant-filled romp) that I had to bail. However, one of them had already purchased my ticket in order to repay a debt and the desire to avoid the inevitable guilt that would have arisen inside me won out over the pain with which I was currently dealing.

Thank goodness for guilt.

If a person had been paying more mind to me than the film they paid to see, they might have thought my time with the DOFP was displeasuring. In an effort to distract my head from the pressure, I frequently shuffled my body. I wouldn’t be shocked if my roommates thought I hated the flick after the credits finished rolling, because my sentences were short and my eyes focused on the exit. Have no doubt about it though – had X-Men: Days of Future Past had the makings of a stinker, I would have gladly walked out halfway through when it was clear my headache wasn’t going to subside even in the presence of a supersized Jennifer Lawrence.

Instead, the world has been given not just an outstanding entry to the X-Men movie canon, but another title the comic book/superhero movie genre can tout as a landmark addition to film as a whole. As far as review purposes go, this gets flying colors from me. Go watch it. NOW.

I’m more concerned about expressing some deeper thoughts (or maybe not so deep: I could be full of crap?) about the flick. Here’s why I think X-Men: Days of Future Past works, and what might just make it the most important comic book/superhero movie we’ve seen yet.


1.) Embrace Ambition

DOFP is a smartly-written movie. What makes it soar, though, is its committment to the goal. With two core casts from previous X-Men movies to juggle in addition to a typically troublesome element named “time travel”, this is an effort that really could have blown up and left everyone involved looking lesser for it. That the movie was ambitious might be an understatement, and yet it remained faithful to its goal without underselling it. The filmmakers did a masterful job of saying “hell yes this is a movie involving the casts of two film series co-existing with one another due to time travel” and showing the audience that this is something that’s okay to enjoy. I’ll confess to being highly skeptical of the whole idea actually working, but it’s clear every person involved in its production was all-in with the crazy. And for something as wild as this, that level of care really matters.

2.) KISS

The KISS (Keep it simple, stupid) principle states that simplicity should be a key goal in design and unnecessary complexity should be avoided. Clearly, Bryan Singer and Co. had that in mind and wonderfully applied it. Its two biggest potential hang-ups – time travel and reacquainting the audience with characters (some of whom haven’t appeared on-screen since 2006’s X-Men: The Last Stand) – barely end up making a cognitive dent in terms of plausability.

The mechanism for time traveling is established as a means of short-term survival in the film’s second scene, allowing to viewer to more easily buy-in later when they’re asked to accept that it can be used for more long-distance application. The best part, though, is that there’s no scarily drawn-out “what if” exchange explaining the merits and downsides of using their method. The film stays committed to its device, adds an extra dose of believability (more on that in a second), and proceeds without a hitch. Simple execution, amazing results.

As for bringing audiences up to speed with characters they’ve not seen in a while, the opening scene puts you smack dab in the middle of what’s transpired since you last engaged with the present-time X-Men. The bad humans were able to get their hands on Mystique’s DNA and create Sentinels with the ability to adapt to any mutant attack, allowing them to take out the mutants as well as any humans who opted to ally with the mutants. This world is a gruesome one: humans and mutants alike live as prisoners – if they’re so lucky. Others get ripped apart, some dumped into quarries like sardines.

Only a handful of the mutants we last saw in ’06 have survived this reign of terror. However, it never crosses the mind WHY they were the ones who made it. Professor X*, Magneto, Wolverine, Storm … these are some of the most powerful mutants PERIOD. Iceman, Kitty Pryde and the like are no slouches, either. All of those involved show a propensity for survival, a testament not only to their own strengths but the knowledge Charles has instilled in them as students and peers. In that same regard, I think it no mistake that no members of the Brotherhood are present in this bleak setting, as the Magneto we’ve become accustomed to (and the one we in the past with whom we become more acquainted) has always been a self-preserver above all.

*He was killed off in X-Men: The Last Stand and, save for a post-credits scene in which it’s implied that he was able to transfer his mind into that of an apparent twin brother, this is not explained. I myself had forgotten most of the events of X3 and didn’t consider this at all until I saw it mentioned online. This could call into question the legitimacy of X3 as canon prior to this film, but that might not really be a bad thing. ;)

3.) Wolverine (and Marketing) Matters

Wolverine/Hugh Jackman has been the poster-child for this franchise, and for understandable reasons. Not only is Hugh Jackman a terrific talent who brings the character to life better than perhaps any other actor portraying a comic book character does for their role, but the character itself is a marketer’s dream: A badass loner with a heart-warming backstory, a body built for war and sex, and (deep down) the heart of a softie. And, oh yea, AWESOME CLAWS. I understand those fans who exhibit hate for the constant Wolverine-pimping. Speaking as a hardcore Power Rangers fan, we’re subject to a similar overdose of Green/White Mighty Morphin Power Ranger merchandise. However, the selling of the product matters almost as much, if not more than, the actual product. And Wolverine/Hugh Jackman can put asses in chairs.

I bring all that up to say that this is probably the most significant role Wolverine has played in the franchise, but it’s played in a way that doesn’t overstate the character’s importance. His super-healing ability makes him a prime subject to send back in time without destroying his brain, and so it’s there he goes. Wolverine gets his fair amount of screen-time, but the balance here is so much more succinct than in films’ past and one never gets the impression that this is a Wolverine title masquerading as an X-Men flick. The team concept that X-Men should always hold as a top priority is more a focus here than ever before, with each member playing their role (and each actor owning their role) in ways that bring the whole film’s level of quality to a sweet high. Without Wolverine, the whole movie falls apart – but one doesn’t really get that impression until soaking it all in, and that’s great.

4.) Suffering Is Pleasure

Bodies are ripped into pieces. Important characters get impaled. Humanand mutant compassion have been reduced to criminal activities. No one is spared from the worldly and personal tragedies taking place in the present and past. Hell, a young Charles Xavier has become a drunkard after the severing of the relationship between him and Raven. The cruelties to which our protagonists are subjected aren’t alluded to or glossed over – we watch them and those around them sufficiently suffer.

This isn’t all that unique, but it’s easy to forget to appreciate it – especially when some superhero flicks (here’s looking at you, Man of Steel) are wont to ignore collateral damage in the midst of an entire city being blown apart. Here, human and mutant casualties are brought to the forefront and done so without a single building falling down. Structures don’t have to fall for people to be damaged in DOFP, and that’s refreshing. DOFP is a film devoted to consequences and the results thereof. We’re reminded that every action we take influences not just the immediate future, but possibly that which we can’t yet see.

5.) Event-full

Despite my anxiety about the DOFP actually being a halfway decent film, I consistently held one view since the idea came into the public consciousness: This isn’t a comic-book movie; this is a comic-book movie EVENT. Some might argue that The Avengers was the first to really go for such a thing, as the individual Phase One movies were designed with the intent of bringing all the heroes together for one freaking awesome get-together. The Avengers was a well-thought out, perfectly-executed gathering of heroes – I would not call it an “event” in the sense in which I’m speaking.

When I think of a comic-book event, I think of a happening or threat that is so impactful it requires going beyond the limits of what’s normal in order to overcome said happening or threat. Again, The Avengers fits that criteria by the letter of the law. What eliminates The Avengers for me is that not only was it carefully-planned in advance, but the concept of those heroes joining forces in and of itself was an actual comic property with years of history to mine. The Avengers and Iron Man are two separate entities, but the character Iron Man is (usually) always a part of The Avengers unit. It’s not out of the ordinary for them to team up. As far as comic books are concerned, it’s as normal as the sun coming up for those guys to hang out.

Y’know what’s not normal? Going into the past to use your past selves to undo the present in which you’re currently residing. Having to do THAT constitutes an event. And as prevalent as such moments are in the comic-book world, they’re (understandably, mostly due to rights issues) absent from the genre’s film offerings. It’s actually quite fitting the first thing of this type happened under the X-Men brand since the original film was the one that kicked off the superhero film renaissance. Perhaps this’ll have a similar effect?

Unfortunately, as it stands, X-Men (with its two sets of casts) is the only Marvel property that can really offer up such extravagant outings. Perhaps in a perfect future where all of the Marvel properties are under the same film umbrella, we’ll be lucky enough to receive a Civil War movie (or, better, trilogy) or something similar. This is one area I hope DC will be eager to explore. Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice sure seems like it should have the makings of an EVENT … but we’ll see.

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