Star Wars Episodes Ranked Worst to Best (Isaac’s List)

What sayeth I, Noah? (Actually a lot. I could easily write an essay on each Star Wars movie, but that would be too long, so here’s the short version.)

Attack of the Clones: this spot is typically reserved on lists like these for Phantom Menace, except I think AotC did a lot worse. While TPM proved that George Lucas can’t write dialogue, AotC proved that he can’t write romance to save his life either. I could fill this post with why I don’t like romance in movies, and most of my examples would come from AotC. To be perfectly honest, though, AotC would be much higher on the list if it wasn’t for Annoyakin Skystalker and Padme taking up so much screentime.

Return of the Jedi: main gripe: slave Leia. Star Wars does not need that level of fanservice. Moving on.

The Phantom Menace: …I actually enjoyed it. Everyone remembers it for what it did wrong, but I remember it for what it did right. The Podrace and Duel of the Fates—heck, the entire Battle of Naboo—were very well orchestrated. Speaking of orchestration, John Williams really outdid himself for this movie. In hindsight, though, this movie wasn’t great. AotC was just worse.

[Cue the hate mail.] A New Hope: if I were to write out a comprehensive list of my favorite movies worst to best, the Star Wars movies would be clustered very closely together. Except AotC, but I’ve beat that metaphoric dead horse enough already. That said, I like some Star Wars more than others marginally. While I like ANH’s story, it’s probably the slowest of the eight movies, even topping TPM’s drawn out political dialogues.

The Last Jedi: it took the problems of RotJ and fixed them, but it hybridized its story with—you know, I did a post on this movie. Why repeat what I’ve already said?

Revenge of the Sith: I said I didn’t like ANH because it was slow, and I guess I RotS is the inverse of that. Despite its flaws—and it has them, don’t get me wrong—I would re-watch it. Also, as a point in its favor, we finally get Anakin Skywalker (instead of Annoyakin Skystalker from the previous two movies), ace pilot and Jedi knight. Also, Grievous. Also, John Williams flexing his music muscles for what could have been his last time. My thing is that people look at the prequels and see a lot of bad; I look at the prequels and see the good that came from them.

The Force Awakens: again, I didn’t like ANH when it’s put next to the other Star Wars movies. So when everyone complained about how TFA had the same plot as ANH, which made it predictable, I was glad that it took the problems of ANH and fixed them. Star Wars, as it stands, is over forty years old now. My parents saw the first one when it was in theaters. The sequel trilogy is a Star Wars made for my generation, and I am grateful.

The Empire Strikes Back: but that doesn’t mean I hate the classics. TESB not only has the best pacing, acting, story, and special effects of the Star Wars movies, it also has the least flaws. When I’m ranking Star Wars, that’s probably the most key. I do love the series. I really do. But that doesn’t mean I can ignore its flaws.

 

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The Last Jedi: a Star Wars Summary?

[Spoilers for Star Wars: The Last Jedi. If you haven’t seen it…more power to you! I’m legitimately impressed that you haven’t caved to a culture that demands you be up-to-date with movie releases!]

So, I saw Star Wars: The Last Jedi in its opening weekend. Since then, I’ve been planning what I would write about it here. I thought about doing a “What I liked” post and a “What I didn’t like” post, but it seems like everything that had been said about The Last Jedi has already been said. “The pacing was off!” “Planet Vegas!” “Kylo Ren can’t make up his gosh-darned mind!”

In a single sentence, The Last Jedi is a well-made but poorly-written movie. This was my takeaway from seeing it in theaters, and I’ve stuck to it.

I mean, it makes sense. The movie is a spectacular sight. The special effects are on point. And the scale of the battles, spanning fighter-to-fighter or soldier-to-soldier to Star Destroyer vs. Rebel flagship, was top-notch.

But this was at the expense of a lot of stuff that demonstrates poor writing. It’s been two movies and I still can’t get a read on Kylo Ren as a character. Planet Vegas felt like it tried to shoe-horn social commentary into a movie that didn’t need it. And even though a lot of characters did die, they were afraid to kill certain characters, even though their deaths would have made sense. [Glares at Finn.] And the characters who did die did so very unceremoniously and unnecessarily. [Glares at Admiral Holdo.]

A lot of people thought it had ties to Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi in terms of its story movement, but really, I tie it back to the prequels.

In closing: I could complain about the  flaws, but it would be the same complaints given by others. And doing so would require me to complain about the entire Star Wars franchise. Which, if I’m not mistaken, Noah and I will be doing sometime in the future. I’ll still go and see the Han Solo movie and Episode IX when they come out. And even though Last Jedi had its flaws, I still count it as a Star Wars movie.

(Oh, and the whole thing with Rey’s parents, I called it.)

 

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Re-evaluating Battlefront II

Happy 2018! Before I launch into a year of reviews, I need to eat my own words.

So a few weeks back, I did a couple of posts on microtransactions, both of which pointed fairly accusational fingers towards EA’s Star Wars: Battlefront II. In my defense, I based my opinions on the opinions of others, without actually playing the game.

The PS4 I got for Christmas/Birthday/Graduation came packaged with Battlefront II, and being the only game for the console I owned (until recently) I’ve clocked several hours into it.

And…it really isn’t that bad of a game.

To be fair, I’ve also spent years playing Hearthstone. I’m desensitized to lootbox mechanics. And I didn’t pay for Battlefront II–it came with the console.

Sure, the challenge of unlocking everything through random chance is a bit annoying, but I can also chock that up to joining a multiplayer game two months too late. And what about not having all the heroes unlocked? Pfft. By the time I get enough points to play the hero, they’ve all been snatched up. It only makes a difference in the “Heroes Vs. Villains” mode, and the already-unlocked heroes are pretty decent.

(I mean, except Yoda. Playing as Yoda in video games has always been difficult.)

Does the game have its flaws? Absolutely. No game is perfect. Battlefront II has its flaws. It’s by no means the best Star Wars video game on the planet, but it’s still playable.

I guess if I learned anything from Battlefront II, it’s my recurring lesson of being content. I could spend an entire blog post complaining about the problems of this game, or I could commend EA for making a fun, playable experience that I can still enjoy despite its flaws. And I think I know which one is better.

5/10 ~ I doubt this game will go anywhere, and it doesn’t bring anything new to the genre, but it’s still enjoyable. I docked a couple points to compensate for the fact that I got it as a Christmas/Birthday/Graduation gift.

 

[This post was not sponsored by EA. If anything, it’s sponsored by my sister.]

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The Six Stages of Getting a New Video Game Console

[Cracks knuckles] Well, I should put those Technical Writing skills to use.

 

Stage One: The Excitement

Boy howdy! You just got a new video game console! You’ve carefully chosen it not only from the other competing consoles, but from the others on the shelf. Unless it was the last one, in which God was smiling on you.

You take it home and set it down in the living room, ready to set it up.

 

Stage Two: The Fear and Trembling

You carefully open the box, trying not to cut any wires or crack the console or snap the controller in half or jostle the hard drive loose or crunch the USB plugs or any of the countless other possible things that could go horribly wrong with unboxing your new console. What if you break it? What if all the money and work that went into getting it goes to waste?

You work past the anxiety, gracefully resting the console on the TV stand, towards the center where it won’t fall off. You’re reminded of how your friend casually tosses his identical console into a backpack when transporting it, and it still works amazingly. The thought sets your mind at ease.

 

Stage Three: The Plugging-In

This is where things get tricky. You’re comfortable holding and moving the console, which is good. You’ll have to be if you want to get everything set up.

With newer consoles, this is easy. It’s two, maybe three plugs. HDMI, console power, controller power, done. This isn’t too stressful, but it does feel tedious. You have no clue where the cables go to the console, but you figure it out quickly. Ideally, the console will never move again.

Look on the bright side. It isn’t an older console, with easily twice as many cables as the one you’re setting up.

You turn on the TV, console, and controller, and are greeted by the warm glow of…the wrong input. Whoops.

 

Stage Four: The Setting-Up

This one takes the longest. The console is up and running, you hold the controller in your hands. But the factory settings aren’t exactly plug-and-play. You go through step-by-step, setting up an account, hooking the console up to the Wi-Fi, running system updates so, mechanically, it matches everyone else’s console.

You’ll have a lot of time to wait. Maybe read a book. Clock in a few final hours on the old console you won’t use as often. Write a blog post about the experience.

 

Stage Five: Playing the ga…wait. More setting-up.

Once the console is ready, you pop in the game that came with the console. Most consoles do these days. If not, you were probably smart enough to buy a game to go with the console. I haven’t made that mistake, ever.

[TOTALLY  MADE  THAT  MISTAKE  WHEN  HE  BOUGHT  HIS  WII U]

So you pop in your new game into your new console and are ready to play it. But you’re greeted with another install screen. You take a deep breath and go back to what you were doing. At this point, the books have been read, the blog posts have been written, and you’re ready to let the old console gather dust. Maybe do the dishes? Laundry?

 

Stage Six: Playing the Games

Finally, once everything is set up, you sit down to play your new game on your new console.

 

In other news, my sister got me a PS4 for my birthday, my college graduation, and Christmas–all of which happened in the span of a week. This means that my video game reviews will change, focusing on gameplay as well as story. It also means that I can’t use the “I only have a Wii U” excuse anymore.

Let’s Connect:

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One Rare or Better: an essay on Microtransactions (Part 2: The Cons)

So, last week, I offered a few options in which Microtransaction systems work. But I feel like I should also cover the negative ramifications of it.

The biggest argument I’ve been hearing is that it’s effectively gambling. I agree with this statement. Loot boxes especially are a form of gambling that has gone unchecked. Especially in a full-priced game.

As such, with the gambling aspect, games with such systems have the potential to be money pits for people to spend a lot of money.

I don’t really have much more to say on the subject. The only way I an see microtransactions be an effective tool is in a free-to-play game. However, I say this because in many cases—especially the cases I’ve encountered—free-to-play games are still enjoyable without sinking money into it.

Normally, this is the part of the essay where I would propose a solution, except there really isn’t a good one that I can think of. Microtransactions aren’t going anywhere, because the developer teams want money. But the consumers aren’t having it anymore.

I look at the issue with Battlefront II, and I’m reminded of 1 Timothy 6:10, which reads in the NIV, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”

I guess the best solution is to not put money into microtransaction systems. If you like the game, play the game. If you have spent money on it, don’t spend any more unless they release something you want. Every dollar you sink into the game, the developers get a vote of confidence. When you click, “Buy a Loot Box” (or the equivalent button,) they take it as support.

In conclusion, I am hesitant to say that microtransactions will go away, but it is looking like that could be the direction games are heading. I won’t be buying a copy of Battlefront II, but that’s because of financial and hardware limitations. I’m not boycotting games that utilize microtransactions. I still play Hearthstone, after all. Kobolds & Catacombs comes out tomorrow.

Now, what else is going on in the geek world? [Flips to Kotaku.] Wait. Why is Ryan Reynolds playing Pikachu?

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One Rare or Better: an essay on Microtransactions (Part 1: The Pros)

Battlefront II Good
The Original. (Photo Credit: Steam)

So I figured I should say something about Star Wars: Battlefront II, but what has to be said that hasn’t been said already? It’s a wonderful, well-rounded game, with a lot of features and potential. Not to mention, it’s one of the few games that runs on my computer. I’ve clocked hundreds of hours into it already, and it hasn’t gotten old yet. The graphics are a little dated and—

Battlefront II Evil (youtube)
The Imitation. (Photo Credit: YouTube)

Oh. Yeah. The new Battlefront II. Yeah, that train-wreck.

Now, I am caught up on the controversy surrounding it. EA is trying to boost the sales of loot-boxes by lying about free DLC, and hiding said DLC behind a grinding system requiring in-game currency, requiring an absurd amount of time to get remotely good at the game.

This got me thinking about the ethicality of microtransactions. Are they good? Are they bad? Have they been done well? Are they a metaphorical cancer on gaming? The purpose of this post is to do a pro-con argument on microtransactions, while also factoring in where they should and shouldn’t be.

Well, the truth is, I have seen them done well in past games. DLC, in a way, is a bunch of microtransactions. Pay ten bucks, get another level, another character, another whatever. In that regard, they are good, because game developers sometimes want to make more content to add to the game later.

Battlefront II, however, uses microtransactions as a substitute for a leveling system. I have only seen a few games that pull this off well. One of those is Blizzard’s Hearthstone—I’ve mentioned it here before. It’s a collectible card game, so to get better, you buy card packs, either with gold you get from playing the game or with real money.

Hearthstone
“Heroes of Warcraft” (Photo Credit: Blizzard / playhearthstone.com)

The difference, though, is that Hearthstone is free to play; Battlefront II runs for about sixty dollars on Amazon at the time of writing this. Hearthstone uses microtransactions as its only source of profit, whereas Battlefront II asks for money, then asks for more money so the developers can buy sports cars.

That said, I believe microtransaction mechanics are good in situations where it’s the only thing you’d have to pay for in the game. After all, I believe that every dollar you spend is your way of saying that you approve of a product, and want to see more of it in the future.

I’ll post my rant against microtransactions next week. Or immediately if you pay $4.99 for a loot box and get the right star card.

Sorry. Too soon?

 

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I’m condoning bad grammar and spelling?

So, a while back, I was at my local Target store looking for a book to buy for my friend. I found one and read it before giving it to her, because that’s the kind of friend I am.

The book in question—a graphic novel—is called Everyone’s a Aliebn When Ur a Aliebn Too by Jomny Sun.

Wait. Hold on. Did I read that right? [checks book cover] Yep. That’s what it’s called. This’ll be fun.

I mean, I can make fun of the grammar/spelling, but it was a stylistic choice. And it didn’t effect the story too much; it was still readable.

The story is fairly simple: it’s about an alien who is left on earth to study “earbth creatures” or “humabns.” Of course, he never meets any humans. He only interacts with the forest creatures around his drop-point.

For lack of better description, this book is really adorable. I recommend picking up a copy and reading it. It’s minimalistic, but doesn’t need excess. And, Jomny Sun, keep doing what you’re doing. I think this is probably one of the most subtly clever books I’ve read this year and by far one of the cleanest, stylistic grammar/spelling and all.

 

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And, here’s a link to the book on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Everyones-Aliebn-When-Ur-Too/dp/0062569023