The Mezunian

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

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

The Moral Perfidy of Ezra Klein

There is a depressing type of mental pathogen infecting the media called “centrism”; no, not the legitimate support of beliefs that just-so-happen to be between what Democrats and Republicans support, but the idea that one must support what falls into the culturally-manufactured ideology known as the “center” in order to be considered proper. Real discussions of ethics or philosophy should be left at the door. I hope I do not have to explain why an ideology based so much on an arbitrary conformity toward a made-up cultural norm is irrational—since it fits so clearly within the very definition of not even thinking.

So we have Ezra Klein, a self-titled “wonk.” That’s right, Klein is so pathetic he has to call himself smart, since certainly nobody who can think for herself ever would. See, he’s smart because he uses big words like “chained-CPI,” which is so complicated it requires one to look it up on the internet, which nobody can do! Of course, using big words and complicated economic terms is a demonstration of intelligence, if one is a child. Never mind if these terms are used for simpleminded folksy wisdom. It’s clear that Klein has little respect for the little people, so it is unsurprising that he does not expect them to actually look at the content of his writing, but only marvel at his fancy wording and nod their head.

This mental vacancy is best shown in a recent article charmingly titled, “How U.S. Politics Was Hijacked by Partisans.” Here’s a hint: Anytime a political writer complains about those mean old “partisans”—and they’re not talking about petty group alignments, rather than actual ideological differences, as Klein is truly writing about here—be rest assured that there is no intellectual value to be found there. I don’t care what self-proclaimed “independents” say: Everybody is biased. People should be biased when it comes to ethics. That is how people have intellectual arguments. Leftists write what they believe in, right-wingers write what they believe in, and, in theory, democracy should allow us to decide in a peaceful manner which particular views should win. Of course, the US is not (nor has it ever been) a legitimate democracy, so this doesn’t work so well (though, as we shall see, Klein is glad about this).

He starts his article saying, “Power has devolved to the people. And the people hate it.” He does not actually provide evidence for this anywhere in this article. Yes, I suppose he does show that popular support for US elections has fallen by decreased voter turnout; but he has done nothing to show that people have more control over the electoral system nowadays but with an unproven cliché. My favorite is how he talks about “when party bosses chose nominees in smoke-filled rooms” and when the electorate was controlled by big business. You know, like yesterday. Apparently ALEC and the rise in lobbying[1] are completely unknown to this so-called political “wonk.”

He goes on to further prove that this made-up empowerment of the people has led to the spoiling of the electoral system by describing Michelle Bachmann’s supposed “grassroots” rise to power—except that he specifically talks about her recent failure. The fact that this is one anecdotal piece of evidence doesn’t help matters, either. Is he trying to claim that extremists like Bachmann have never existed before now? Has this “wonk” never heard of a man named Barry Goldwater?

All of this, added with some research from political scientists, leads to the gist of the article, which is that since we’ve opened the electoral system to the unwashed masses politics have become more “polarized.” This is bad, I guess, because… It is. The idea that as the electoral system opens up to a wider range of people (supposedly) this would allow for a wider range of ideas is supposed to be surprising, I guess. More importantly, this is very bad. Instead, we should return to the good old days when “the system’s gatekeepers played an underappreciated role in moderating U.S. politics.” Klein ends by warning us that “The door is open.” Oh no! We can’t let people run this country themselves (also known as democracy)! Instead, we must trust our beloved political leaders who “have internalized the boundaries of the politically possible.” See, Klein shows that by… He doesn’t prove it at all. You’re just supposed to accept that there are some things that are “politically possible”—those that fit within a certain culturally-manufactured threshold known as the “center”—and those that are just too radical, man! You know, like ending slavery and having a republican government—also ideas that were considered “impossible” in their times. Nevertheless, if Klein says certain extreme ideas are impossible without any evidence (and, indeed, without even saying what these ideas are), then it must be true.

What’s most idiotic is that despite Klein’s complaints about partisanship, he actually praises political leaders for being “more likely to hold positions that are wholly consistent with one party or the other’s agenda,” while he quotes a political scientists saying, “If you give me a member of the public and tell me where they stand on gay marriage, I can do a bit better than chance in guessing what else they believe, but not that much better than chance.” So the people are dumb because… they actually base their beliefs on ethics themselves, and not just on what party they happen to be a part of. Indeed, it is surprising that when politicians work for a party they are more likely to sacrifice any semblance of principles just so their careers can succeed. I just don’t understand how this could possibly be good.

Literally, Klein’s whole complaint is just that the public’s ideas just-so-happen to not fall within the Democratic and Republican parties’ policies. Maybe that should say more about the ethical value of the Democratic and Republican parties than about the supposed dangers of increased democracy (once again, unproven).

His claim that “Few doubt Fiorina’s broad point that a more open political system has further polarized politics and frustrated the public” not only doesn’t stand up, it plainly contradicts what he just spent the whole article saying. It seems clear that the public is not frustrated at polarization—they seem to support it; what they’re frustrated with are the corrupt Democratic and Republican parties, which explains why they’ve dropped out of the election. When an election system tries to limit your choices to two corrupt organizations, allowing no finer control, nor options neither group supports, the rational thing to do is to declare such an electoral system inherently corrupt and illegitimate. Ezra Klein should aim his ire at such a corrupt electoral system, saturated with bribery (euphemistically called “lobbying”) and monopolization. But instead he complains about the public themselves just being too stupid to just play along with the game, already!

What this reveals is a creepy authoritarian sentiment in Klein and other so-called “centrists’” viewpoints. They can’t accept that most people don’t care about their silly little gossipy political battles between this politician and that—what he himself admits is a “niche hobby”—and that they would rather focus on absurd concepts, such as morality—morality that happens to go beyond what the monopolistic two-party state has to offer. In essence, people are starting to actually think for themselves, and that involves going beyond centrists’ made-up threshold of what are “proper”—or “possible,” in Klein’s words—ideas.

In reality, a healthy political system is one that has polarized political discussions; those are the systems that are free enough that allow such things as differing opinions. We have a name for political systems that keep discussions within a certain “proper” threshold; we call them “totalitarian.” That in this second Great Depression such an antidemocratic sentiment would exist not just in the mind of “libertarians” and conservatives (I can find plenty of examples of that, if one cannot find the many themselves), but in influential “liberals” such as Klein reveals a worrisome pattern of American political thought—one that has scary parallels in history.

[1] Drutman, L. J. (2010). The Business Of America is Lobbying: Explaining the Growth of Corporate Political Activity in Washington, DC.

Posted in Politics