The Mezunian

Die Positivität ist das Opium des Volkes, aber der Spott ist das Opium der Verrückten

Thistle Prose

There exist two commonly contrasted prose styles: purple and beige.

Authors who verse in purple prose gush extravagant diction, saturated with figurative language that attempts to magnetize readers’ glazed eyes to the style—and thus it is often criticized for obnoxiously distracting attention away from the important part of a story: the actual story. One could liken it to ketchup half-assedly splattered over a moldy potato to cover the sour, furry taste—or just ketchup on a plate itself, which some crazed little kid might like, but discerning tastes might find undesirable.

Then there’s beige prose, which rejects all unnecessary words, including figurative language. This is like a regular potato: It certainly doesn’t taste bad, but there’s nothing much interesting, either. And while one may argue that story is the utmost in importance, it’s hard to argue that works by Shakespeare, Tolkien, and Terry Pratchett didn’t derive value from style. For instance…

Come, bitter conduct; come, unsavory guide!

Thou desperate pilot, now at once run on

The dashing rocks thy seasick weary bark!

Here’s to my love! (Drinks.) O true apothecary!

Thy drugs are quick. Thus with a kiss I die.

…is just a little more memorable than “Romeo drank the poison and died.”

I propose that the best is a new version I call “thistle prose”—a hybrid between the sensory qualities of purple prose and the brevity of beige prose. Rather than saying as much as possible with as many words as possible, as in purple prose (or as little as possible with as many words for failed purple prose), or saying as little with as few words, as in beige prose, thistle prose attempts to say as much as possible with as few words as possible.

Take diction. The key mistake surrounding the contrast between purple prose’s extravagant diction and beige prose’s plain diction is the conflation of “plain” with “simple” and “extravagant” with “sensory.” The latter is particularly false when one considers words such as “utilization,” which is certainly long, but does not call any images to mind—other than perhaps business meetings and despair. Such a word may be compatible with (bad) purple prose, but it certainly doesn’t fit in with thistle prose, where “use” would work just as well.

The former cannot be shown well with single words, so let’s compare two sentences that use only simple words:

It was a cold, cloudy, and rainy late afternoon.

Al shook as rain struck him from sunset-burnt clouds.

Count the words: both have the same number—nine. The latter even has one less syllable than the former, even though it also uses more “extravagant” diction. This is because “simple” and “evocative” are not incompatible, nor does figurative language need to be longwinded.

Moreover, by replacing simple identifying constructions such as the former sentence with actions one can tell more with fewer words: one can say not only what’s happening, but hint as to the tone one wants to give. In the first sentence, “cold” is vague. Cold to whom? Is this positive or negative? “Al shook as rain struck him” leaves no such uncertainty; it’s obviously not an environment Al finds comfortable. (This sentence also already introduces the character Al. For the first sentence, we still don’t even know if any sentience exists in this story.)

Now, compare the thistle prose sentence to this purple prose sentence:

The atmosphere was bespattered with a brilliant fusion of pinks, blues, oranges, and grays—akin to a sodden newspaper dropped into a crystalline bowl of tangy fruit punch—from the reflection of the descending sun gleaming its luminescent light against the begrimed billows smothering the celestial heavens. Precipitation rained all over Al like a volley of arrows show by a million archers, each gelid projectile striking his marrow with chilly quivers.

Techniques for Thistle Prose:

Use (active) verbs: Verbs are the easiest way to add action without adding fluff. Even simple phrases like “the ground growled” and “storms brewed” are massive improvements over “there was an earthquake” and “it was stormy.” Of course, as any good technique, one should not use this any more than one should put ketchup on every meal. For one, unless you’re writing a fanfic of PeeWee’s world, readers may wonder why every part of nature seems sapient.

Go easy on adjectives and (especially) adverbs: These are why purple prose is so reviled. For instance, one can’t just “rip out someone’s eyes”; one must “mercilessly and violently rip out one’s round, terror-stricken visual organs.” First, why use a vague noun with an adjective when one can just use the specific noun in the first place? Two, this eye is round as opposed to what? Al’s cubic eyes? And is there a nonviolent way to rip out one’s “visual organs”? I suppose if one were undergoing surgery, maybe. As for “mercilessly,” that information should come from the context of the story. Do we know why this person’s ripping this other person’s eyes out? Will we eventually? Then why not just let that tell the story? For example, if we know she’s only pulling this poor fellow’s eyes out as a form of torture, then “mercilessly” is probably redundant. Torture is inherently merciless—causing agony is its whole purpose.

Of course, there are cases in which one of the other two styles may be preferable. For instance, beige prose is probably still better for strictly informational writing; there’s not much need for growling grounds or striking rain in an article discussing the labor and subjective theories of value. Even purple prose may be tolerable for more poetic works or for exaggerative humor. There is also, admittedly, a fine line between thistle prose and purple and beige, as there can be trade-offs between sensory description and brevity. Sadly, no literary device can completely overrun an author’s personal judgment successfully.

Posted in Uncategorized

What the Subjective Theory of Value Truly Means for Meritorious Resource Distribution

The pretend breakthrough of economic thought that is the discovery that resources cannot be objectively qualified is often claimed to be proof that “socialism” is infeasible, despite this idea already being noted by socialists such as Proudhon[1] and even Marx[2] long before the neoclassicals and Austrian-schoolers. It does, indeed, prove that an economy managed by a tiny minority separated from the public is infeasible—if one is naïve enough to support such a society. However, the subjective theory’s implications go beyond “socialism”: It discredits any attempt at creating objective meritorious economic outcomes, period—including market methods.

The conclusion most economists derive from the subjective theory is that, because there is no objective method of qualifying an object’s value, we should just let the people decide for themselves. Cost is based not on effort, but on what consumers “choose” to pay for an object in a “voluntary” trade. Often, this is stated with a metaphor for democracy: People vote with their money on which objects have value[3].

Well, already, we have obvious problems with the claim that the subjective theory supports capitalism: An economy controlled by the “people”—AKA the public—sounds suspiciously socialist. Second, voting only works if it is based on “one-vote, one-person” principles, which is obviously incompatible with capitalism, which is characterized by unequal income distributions. This would make any meritorious economic distribution self-defeating: The inequalities it would create would also create advantages derived from better economic control (more “money votes”), which are independent of skill—and thus unmeritorious.

Furthermore, while promarket economists like to discuss the supposed “voluntary” nature of market trade, what they completely ignore is that trade is inherently reliant on the distribution of resources: It is not enough to say that Person A volunteers to trade Object A for Object B and Person B volunteers to trade Object B for Object A; both Persons A and B, as well as everyone else, must also agree that Person A is the rightful owner of Object A and that Person B is the rightful owner of Object B in order for this trade to truly be voluntary. Those who believe Object B does not belong to Person B would logically question what right Person B has to accept values in exchange for a possession Person B had no right to exchange.

This ownership is usually defended as objectively-proven on the claim that people “create” their property themselves; but this is false: Nobody creates property by oneself; such an action is called “magic.” Instead, all production relies on access to natural resources or capital created from earlier natural resources. Thus, one’s ability to “create” is reliant on one’s access to the world’s resources—it is based on the previous distribution of resources.

Even if we accept the claim that gaining more wealth earlier in life makes one deserve the later economic boost more than those who gain wealth later in life, inequalities of birth date disrupt this: Those born earlier gained an advantage over those born later not based on inherent effort or skills, and thus unmeritoriously.

And even if we accept that, one still must ensure that the current distribution of resources is objectively proven to be just. This leads to the key flaw with the subjective theory’s defense of the market: It is based on circular logic. It attempts to defend the current distribution of resources based on a market system that is backed on the current distribution of resources. This means that the distribution of resources in the past affects the present and distribution of resources in the present affects the future: Unjust riches lead to more unjust riches; unjust poverty lead people to gain much less than they would have if they had the right amount of resources.

This is admitted by a few well-known economists. Sraffa noted that “general equilibrium theory shows that a decentralized market economy leads to an outcome that can be labeled optimum, i. e. a [sic] best. However this best rests upon two very tough assumptions: 1. That the existing distribution of wealth is sacrosanct.”[4] Samuelson and Nordhaus in what is probably the most well-read economics textbook in the US, after two paragraphs hailing Adam Smith and his “invisible hand,” begrudgingly mumble, “A final reservation comes when the income distribution is politically or ethically unacceptable. When any of these elements occur, Adam Smith’s invisible-hand doctrine breaks down and government may want to step in to mend the flawed invisible hand.”[5]

So, how do we objectively prove that the current distribution of resources is “sacrosanct”? We can’t. Because resource distribution is contingent on the past, and that distribution based on its past, and so on, it would require an intellectual god—someone with the knowledge of virtually all past history—to sort through all of the disruptions in the past—every instance of theft, imperialism, slavery, and so on—not to mention the subjective nature of who was responsible for what work in collective jobs.

Sraffa, Samuelson, and Nordhaus all heavily understate the problems the subjective theory creates for capitalism. Keep in the mind, the whole purpose for any market is to distribute resources in a meritorious way—that is what the “invisible hand” is supposed to do (well, the mainstream misinterpretation of what the “invisible hand” is supposed to be, at least)[6]. What Samuelson and Nordhaus’s point essentially means is that the market is useful for distributing resources justly, unlike government-run economies—except when it isn’t. Such a claim is utterly absurd. The very subjective nature of the “invisible hand” breaking down when resource distribution is “politically or ethically unacceptable” means that the level of government intervention needed or not needed is arbitrary—except based on what politics or subjective ethics say: What the people democratically choose. Thus, Samuelson and Nordhaus’s argument does not support capitalism, but democratic socialism. Even if the public chose an economic system and distribution similar to capitalism, their legitimacy comes not from the disproved inherent validity of capitalism, but based on democratic choice. On the other hand, if said public chose a socialist, or even communist, resource distribution, that would be just as legitimate.

More importantly, “property rights”—the core of capitalism—cannot be defended if there is no objective way to prove who rightly owns what. Any claim of unfair theft, from either the government or any other entity, can technically be nullified, since who justly owns what cannot be objectively determined. Until it can be, “property rights” are fiat, and thus capitalist laws that defend said “property rights” are, too.

Indeed, that this makes capitalist resource distribution defended purely on what the state chooses to enforce reveals the absurdity of the whole “capitalism” vs. “socialism” debate entirely: “Capitalism” is inherently a form of “state socialism.” The only reason premarket economists could chide social justice “busy-bodies” for trying to mess with the market was the claim that the resource distribution created by their particular economic system is supposedly objective, unlike the “busy-bodies,” who try to base it on their own biased judgments. Who are they to say who deserves what? But since this claim of objectivity is false, that makes promarketers just as much “busy-body” tinkerers and their markets just as much forced onto the public as any democratic socialist system.

If any economic systems benefit from this epiphany, it would be those that do not hold objectively-proven meritorious resource distribution as a goal, such as an economy in which all citizens share all resources or “parecon” (participatory economics), in which resource distribution is decided by democratic choice. The latter is particularly notable, as it is exactly the solution the subjective theory truly leads toward—economic democracy. It also follows Samuelson and Nordhaus’s accidental logic leading to resource distribution being decided by political and ethical forces.

Moreover, it fits the simple nature of subjectivity: Democracy is how we deal with the subjectivity of general ethics—we certainly don’t call for some supposedly enlightened individual or futilely attempt to create mathematically-perfect models to decide for us how a country as a whole should be run. If resource distribution is truly a subjective issue, it stands to reason that it should be decided by democratic means as well.


[1] “The opinion of the human race on the existing difference between real value and market price may be said to be unanimous.” Proudhon, P. J. (1847). System of Economical Contradictions: or, the Philosophy of Misery. p. 88.

[2] “A commodity is, in the first place, an object outside us, a thing that by its properties satisfies human wants of some sort or another. The nature of such wants, whether, for instance, they spring from the stomach or from fancy, makes no difference. Neither are we here concerned to know how the object satisfies these wants, whether directly as means of subsistence, or indirectly as means of production.” Marx, K. (1867). Capital, (Vol. 1). Chapter 1, section 1, para 2. http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1867-c1/ch01.htm#S1.

[3] “These innate and acquired tastes—as expressed in the dollar votes of consumer demands—direct the uses of society’s resources.” Samuelson, P. A. & Nordhaus, W. D. (2010). Economics, (19th Edition). p. 28.

[4] Sraffa, P. (1995). “A Positive Program for Successful Capitalism.” pp. 9-10.

[5] Samuelson, P. A. & Nordhaus, W. D. (2010). Economics, (19th Edition). p. 30.

[6] Grampp, W. D. (2000). “What Did Smith Mean by the Invisible Hand?” Journal of Political Economy, vol. 108(No. 3), pp. 441.

Posted in Politics

Ode to Nature that Shalt Not Leave Me

Nature, how your magnificence shall never cease;
Unlike some other woman on which I could speak.
Gaze at how the tall golden grass dances in the breeze,
How the finches flap their wings and chirp with their beaks,
How they don’t leave me for that dick John Smothers and his fancy-ass law firm.

The sun’s rays warm me like a summer blanket;
Which replace the warmth loss from that bitch who gave me the cold shoulder over one little mistake.
As if she were just perfect, the snot!
So I shall lie here all afternoon under the sun
And all night under the stars
YOU HEAR THAT, MELISSA? I DON’T NEED YOU! GOOD RIDDANCE, I SAY!
I’m perfectly fine here with nature! Couldn’t be happier!
It’s fucking magnificent!

Originally Written: March 13, 2013

Posted in Poetry

Ode to Bloody, Run-Over Cat Corpse

How I have missed your sight, feline,
Dying on the side of the street, lying in the pines;
Your cute little eyes popped out of their holes,
Hanging from pink strands stickily attached to the inside of your skull.

Years ago I would see you on my way home,
Sticking with your flesh soldered to the road;
How I smelled your sour stench of thick iron
And gazed at the tracks upon your back the tires burned.

I have not seen you, dead cat corpse, for years;
I guess you’ve since been pried off and joined with your crushed peers.
Oh, how my late afternoons have been sad with you gone;
So to you, bloody, run-over cat corpse, I dedicate this song.

Originally Written: May 11, 2013

Posted in Poetry

The Guilt Flashes Before My Eyes

My rest is ravaged by nightmares, thanks to the guilt
Of the terrible deed that still makes my heart wilt.
Though I fear this may reveal me, I cannot keep this secret alone;
For if else, I shall be driven mad down to the bone.
So, if you please, listen to this story
Of how I made an innocent man deceased.

His life was placed utterly within my own hands;
To make him run and jump across these bright brown lands.
The feeling! It filled me with such an addictive buzz!
To hear the crispy electric trill whenever he jumped!
I made him bump against bricks and blocks with question-mark ticks;
I made him eat bulbous red mushrooms that made him grow big.

But soon I would learn the need to use my power responsibly,
When I saw a chestnut-shaped beast step toward my devotee.
I tried to leap away, but I could only go so far back;
And my nerves were so shot that I inevitably cracked!
I wailed as I saw the goblin bump against my friend,
But sighed in relief when I saw he had only shrunk again.
Sadly, though, this is not where the tale is finished;
For when I ran him into another monster, he was tossed off into the abyss.

At first, I was in tears at such a tragic death,
Until I learned my friend still had four more tries left!
I was pumped with such joy as I saw him return to the screen!
This time, I would not betray my devotee!
I snatched up the mushroom and grew so huge,
And battered the vile monsters till they were black and blue;
But as I made him leap from pipe to pipe with such excitement,
I slipped up a jump and made him fall into an endless abyss.

Again and again, I led my friend to harm,
As I watched his life counter decrease with alarm;
Until on his last try, success was yet again spurned,
And the screen was covered in blackness with bone-white words saying, “GAME OVER.”
That was when I dropped my controller at prompt,
And rushed to that blasted machine and shut it off.
Never again would I touch such devilish magic;
To think of what other troubles could happen!

So I sit here years later, trying to forget the tragedy,
And hope that someday society will be able to forgive me;
I try to salvage the one lesson I gained from committing this sin:
That life is not just a little game we should play with.

Originally Written: March 13, April 4, 2013.

Posted in Poetry

I Saw It on My Way to New Chrysanthemum

It all started when I left my hive at 2:00 PM,
As I ventured through the weeds, grains, and stems;
Bounced around the bulbous mushroom caps of various colors;
And rode along the pollen flying in the zephyr.

My destination was the patches of New Chrysanthemum,
Where I would carry out my shift as Executive Manager of Pollination;
But I never made it that far,
Because I what I saw whilst climbing the maple bark.

There I saw in the crest between two thin branches,
Partway covered by reddening leaves with serrated edges,
‘Twas an object so bizarre, so inhuman, so absurd
That I could not even describe it with words—
Which is why I chose a medium comprised purely of words to tell this tale, of course.
Also, it was a photograph of a horse.

Well, I decided this was far too much obscenity for my stable mind;
So I climbed right back up the vine to the brines in the skies;
And as I drifted back home on my white pollen leaf,
I tried to calm my thoughts by massaging my three beaks.
“Such an evil the gods have wrought upon us all,” I did say;
It tired my brain so that I had to rest the rest o’ the day.

And that, boss, was why I couldn’t come in to work yesterday;
Such a pity, I must say.

Originally Written: May 4, 2013.

Posted in Poetry

Freedom!

Steal Joe was a freedom-loving American,
So he did what he had to do:
He overthrew the tyrannical government,
So his economic chains could finally be eschewed.

Now he could do with his property what he desired;
Nobody would boss him around.
He charged whatever rent he concocted;
No regulations to keep him down.
After all, it was his property;
He had the right to control it all by himself.
If any of those socialist sponges had a problem
They could go away somewhere else.
If those violent thugs caused trouble,
Why, he’d have to teach them with his own might;
So he hired his own personal military
To ensure nobody violated his ownership rights.
And since this property was his,
He had the right to devise all of its rules;
So if those grumbling commies had the nerve to criticize him
He’d throw out all of those fools.
And if nobody else would take them—
For they had the rights to reject them, as well—
Why, Steal Joe would have no choice
But to lock them up in jail.

Steal Joe toasted himself to his newly-created libertarian dream:
Finally, he created an economy renowned for its efficiency.
Now, all he needed was a name for this new vision:
And so, to reward himself for his good deeds, he dubbed it Stealinism.

Originally Written: February 21-May 30, 2013.

Posted in Poetry, Politics

The Donkey Kong Country Trilogy – A Comparison

Although the first game is by far the best known, I always viewed the other two as superior. This is especially so for the second game, Diddy’s Kong Quest, (though that’s not too surprising, as it seems to be most people’s favorite) but for the controversial third game, Dixie Kong’s Double Trouble!, as well.

The Atmosphere

Since scenery and exploration are what I, for some reason, find most appealing in video games, I’ll start there. What is most remarkable about Diddy’s Kong Quest is its original level themes, compared to the trite themes of jungle, cave, forest, and ice of the first and third games (in fairness, the factory setting was somewhat original). This is especially the case for the original Donkey Kong Country, which has barren-looking levels compared to its sequels (save the forest levels with the three layers of tree graphics and the snowy levels with that cool mountain in the background). The fact that it had essentially two cave-themed worlds did not help. The fact that the second cave-themed world, “Chimp Caverns,” was an anticlimactic last world and had a name that didn’t even have authentic alliteration makes it worse.

Dixie Kong’s Double Trouble! is a little better, at least making the scenery look a little better (except for the cave levels, which were the ugliest levels in all three games), while having some interesting themes, such as the mill, waterfall, and drainpipe levels.

Diddy’s Kong Quest, however, blew these games away by not relying so heavily on the cliché forest, cave, and water themes—in fact, it hardly even had any water levels, which was an accomplishment itself. Instead, it had levels on pirate ships, in cloudy bramble pits, in bee hives, and on rollercoasters. Even when it did indulge in the less original level themes, it did it in a more original way: Cave levels were located in industrialized mine shafts instead of the usual barren brown underground; the lava world was the second world, instead of being near the end, as in most games; and even the forest world at least added a haunted theme to it to make it a little more original. Hell, even the castle themed world, while trite for most games, was unique for this series, at least.

Level Design

But Diddy’s Kong Quest’s levels were better not just in the atmosphere of the levels, but their designs as well. It had a good balance between the original’s, which has mostly unremarkable levels, and Dixie Kong’s Double Trouble!, which erred a little too much toward gimmicks—especially those that were cumbersome. The original did have some interesting gimmicks, such as the barrel-throwing Orangutans, levels where you need to continually flip the lights on to keep from being attacked, levels where you are chased by giant wheels with Gnawties in them, and—especially—the mine cart levels; but these were rather pedestrian compared to Diddy’s Kong Quest’s more interesting gimmicks. For instance, it took the mine cart levels and added a race element to two of them; it mixed both lava and water levels together with the gimmick of the seal who cools the lava, allowing one to temporarily swim through it. However, unlike its sequel, Diddy’s Kong Quest seemed to focus more on making actual game mechanics than mere one-level gimmicks. And while Dixie Kong’s Double Trouble! had some fun gimmicks, like “Fish Food Frenzy,” where you had to continually feed the fish following you other fish (while avoiding moving it into spiky fish, which would only irritate it), some of them were less so: “Lightning Lookout” combined unpredictable lightning and level design to make it somewhat luck based; “Rocket Run” was so hastily made that it was missing one of the KONG letters and controlled like garbage; and “Poisonous Pipeline’s” gimmick—backward controls—were so stupid and went so far against proper game design that it’s just heartbreaking that it is the final main level—the ultimate anticlimax of any game, probably. The original Donkey Kong Country didn’t really have any broken gimmicks, but it did have more unfair enemy and camera placement that could kill you blindly in some places. This is especially prevalent in water levels, which seemed intent on keeping your character right up close to the edge of the screen so you could smack blindly into a shark secretly in front of you.

To some extent, bonuses improved later on. In the two sequels they’re certainly better than the original, in which the bonuses served to add even more meaningless items and lives. Moreover, the manner in which they were hidden improved; the placement of bonuses in the original were just flat-out bullshit. I am curious if anyone could possibly discover the bonus hidden within a bonus in “Oil Drum Alley” by oneself, which involves arbitrarily deciding to get three single bananas in the revolving barrels—something you pretty much have to do intentionally, even though there’s no logical reason to do so. That a barrel falling from the sky has absolutely no relevance to a single banana makes this puzzle even stupider—it’s just random guesswork. Diddy’s Kong Quest never got as bad as the original, but it did have some rather stupid items hidden behind move-through walls in “Bramble Scramble” and “Chain Link Chamber.” On the other hand, some of the secrets were cleverly hidden, such as the bonus above the bonus in “Haunted Hall” (that is all that’s required; no bullshitting around with single banana jackpots necessary) or the DK coin hidden within a bonus in “Kannon’s Claim” (and is hinted at by suspiciously unused space in the bottom right corner). I can’t think of any bullshit obscure secrets in Dixie Kong’s Double Trouble!, though I don’t think the bonuses you had to complete themselves were much more interesting. Some were very uncreative, such as collecting stars—but over round platforms!—in “Squeaks on Wheels.” Then again, some of the secrets in that game were downright tedious, such as the fetch quests with the insipid bears or finding all the banana birds in the trite Simon Says minigames.

Bosses

Bosses are a low point among all three games, though they’re a little more interesting in the sequel—where else can you fight a giant possessed pirate sword, the ghost of a pirate bird you killed earlier, or fight a pirate crocodile by throwing his own cannon-ball bullets into his own gun, causing it to blow up through cartoon logic? The original’s were never interesting or difficult; it didn’t help that two are just slightly harder copies of the first two bosses—the second, a refight with Necky, having no relevance to its surroundings, a cavern—and one was essentially just killing a bunch of enemies and dodging a falling heavy object. Dixie Kong’s Double Trouble!’s could get obnoxious, though—especially the final bonus boss. While Diddy’s Kong Quest had a marathon weapon dodge ending with one hit against the boss that didn’t last too long, the third game’s revolved around tedious waiting, finicky hit detection, and obscure solutions halfway through. You must wait as K. Rool makes balls of electricity from the sky, all in the same spots, requiring you to do the arduous action of standing in one spot for about a minute. Afterward, a steel keg appears, which you must throw up in a vacuum and time so that it hits a particular part of his back. Sometimes this will bounce off, even if it does hit his back. Later he adds conveyer belts to the mix, which are just an mild inconvenience. However, it gets worse when he starts shooting both lightning beams on the ground, forcing you to set a steel keg between the bottom beam and you, which is difficult when you can’t run, else you’ll pick the keg up and get zapped.

The music in all three games was excellent, and it would be easier to find which songs in each game were most amazing that it would be to decide which game had overall superior music. The first and third games had much more atmospheric music—especially the underground and forest songs—whereas Diddy’s Kong Quest had more melodic music. This certainly makes its songs generally more memorable—though I do prefer the atmospheric forest songs from the first and third games over “Forest Interlude” from the second.

Music

The classical “Stickerbush Symphony” usually gets the most attention in Diddy’s Kong Quest, but there are plenty of superior songs: The rocking “Mining Melancholy” and “Snakey’s Chantey”; the foreboding “Welcome to Crocodile Isle,” “Lockjaw’s Saga,” and “Krook’s March”; and the wonderful mix of heavy beats and melodies that is “Hot Head Hop.”

Much as the original is the most well-known among the trilogy, its music is more popular, too. No need to talk about “DK Island Swing,” which everyone knows, but “Bonus Room Blitz,” “Aquatic Ambience,” and “Fear Factory,” and “Gangplank Galleon” have gained quite a lot of popularity, too. Personally, I prefer the jazzy map song, “Simian Segue” and the dark beats of “Forest Frenzy.”

The third game’s music is the least memorable, but has quite a few good tracks, too. I already mentioned the wonderfully dark forest music (“Treetop Tumble”), but the rocking “Nuts and Bolts” and “Rockface Rumble” are also enjoyable—both the SNES and GBA versions. “Bonus Time” and “Jungle Jitters” from the GBA remake are even better than the less memorable SNES versions.

First Addendum: On Donkey Kong Country Returns

Due to financial issues that cause me to only afford decades-old games I have unfortunately not been able to play this game, and thus cannot judge it beyond what I have watched from YouTube videos. Graphically, it looks beautiful, of course; and from what I’ve witnessed it’s apparently even harder than the original three, though without frustrating bullshit, such as having to replay whole worlds.

If there is one complaint I have about Returns it’s that it takes a little too much inspiration from the first game and barely any from the other two. Much of the music is simply rehashed from the original, which is not bad, but becomes a little too derivative (though one new song, “Mine Menace” is excellent, and I approve of the thematic remixes of “Simian Swing”). Returns certainly could have benefitted from borrowing a little more from Diddy’s Kong Quest which is sadly underrated compared to its inferior predecessor. It would have been nice to have a bramble level with Squawks or a carnival level or to hear a “Hot Head Hop Returns” or “Mining Melancholy Returns.”

I see good signs from Tropical Freeze, however, as it does see the return of Dixie Kong, but from the looks of it, it will likely branch off into something far more different than all three original games, which is good as well—indeed, probably for the best.

Second Addendum: The Game Boy Advance Remakes

The Game Boy Advance remakes are oft criticized, and for good reason: They look like shit, sound like shit (except the third game, which had new music that better fit the handheld’s tinny sound), and played like shit. Watching the gorgeous graphics turned into the washed-out, solar-flare bright mess of pixels these remakes showed was heartbreaking. The way the screen was resized added artificial difficulty—especially in the aforementioned water levels in the first game, which had even worse camera problems.

The only decent remake is the first one, due to three additions: The photo album; the one-hit, no-midway-points Hero Mode; and the hilarious sound DK made when he fell in a hole. Also, its minigames, though rather trite, were at least tolerable, whereas Espresso Race and Funky’s Flights from the sequel and Cranky’s Dojo from the third game are god awful. The sequel did have a photo album, too, and the third game even had a new world, “Pacifica,” though. However, it replaces the amazing foreboding forest music with some happy shit; and how can you seriously run from a ripsaw with that kind of music playing?

I suppose if one truly loves these three games, one might want to try them. Admittedly, I did (though not very far in Dixie Kong’s Double Trouble!).

Posted in Video Games

World C-3 of Lost Levels is the Worst Level Ever Created Ever

3. It’s a Copy of Another Level

It is understandable that Nintendo had to repeat some levels, considering the technical limitations of the time; but why pick 7-3, which was a horrible level already? Why not pick an actual good level?

2. It Mixes Three Luck-Based Mechanics for Optimal Bullshit

Namely, wind, springs, and Lakitu—the first of which Miyamoto himself agreed was an unfair mechanic. The springs cause your character to leap so high that you can’t see him, meaning you have to predict where he’ll land when he inevitably does. If you don’t magically predict well, expect him to land in the abyss. Sometimes you may land on a Spiny egg Lakitu just-so-happened to throw.

Actually, the best part about this level is that the existence of Lakitu is the only difference between C-3 and 7-3—and yet he barely makes a difference at all, considering you spend most of your time in the air. He’s just a rare, random fuck-you sometimes.

1. Glitches Are Great! (Famicom version only)

Oh yeah, and sometimes a spring won’t spawn, making the level literally impossible.

Posted in Sucky Stages, Video Games

Video Game Music Reviews: Super Mario RPG

What makes Super Mario RPG’s music work so well is its mix of virtually everything good about music: It can somehow be both heavy and melodic at the same time, mixing catchy beats and swelling orchestra at the same time. While most good music has at least one of these elements, and many games have songs with some of these elements and other songs with the other elements, this game is one of the few to have all of these elements in individual songs.

Nowhere is this better present than in “Fight against a Stronger Monster,” the music that plays during minibosses, and what is hands-down my favorite video game song. It starts with marching drums, followed soon by shakers, and then a heavy organ begins to swell. The song continues tag-team between this heavy orchestra and a high-pitched instrument that sounds like a mix between an alarm clock siren and a high-pitched horn, ending each bar with a short scratch.  The song ends with the organs gradually swelling into an apex, only for the song to begin again. It is hard to imagine how a song could fit everything in barely more than half a minute better.

If the other songs do not contain all of these elements in individual songs, they do at least provide them with the variety of the whole group: From the jazzy “Rose Town” and “Going Shopping in Seaside Town,” to the melodic “Grandpa and the Delightful Tadpoles” and “Let’s Go Down the Wine River,” to the symphonic “Still, the Road is Full of Dangers” and “The Merry Marry Bell Rings” to the beat-laden “Fight Against Monsters” and “The Axem Rangers Drop In,” to the heaviness of “And My Name’s Booster” and “Fight Against Smithy, Who Likes Transforming,” to the aptly named “Sad Song.” Hell, the game even has elevator music in the form of “Welcome to Booster Tower.”

Of course, when Super Mario RPG’s music is mentioned, the song that usually gets the most attention is “Beware the Forest’s Mushrooms,” a song that was even remixed for Super Smash Bros. Brawl (only to be left out of the final product); and though I would not consider it one of SMRPG’s strongest songs, it does match the general style Shimomura seemed to go with for this game, being both melodic and upbeat. Hell, this song somehow manages to be both rather dark and upbeat in the same tune, falling into rather foreboding-sounding strings around the twenty-second point, and then immediately rising back into jauntier notes.

Actually, one of the most interesting but subtle aspect of SMRPG’s music is the variety of instruments used: From the aforementioned scratch beat in “Fight against a Stronger Monster” (and a similar version in “Melody Bay” and “Grandpa and the Delightful Tadpoles”), to the tick-tocking in “Hello, Happy Kingdom!” the whistling in “Let’s Go Down the Wine River” and “Let’s Race,” the various horns I can’t even name in “And My Name’s Booster,” and… whatever that horn (?) that sounds like a frog gurgling in “Beware the Forest Mushrooms” is.

Interestingly, despite all of this variety, there is still a common sound (the particular orchestral instruments being the most conspicuous) among every song so that one can easily identify every song as part of the same game.

Posted in Video Game Music Reviews, Video Games