The singular upside in our quarantined world has been added time for pop culture pursuits. (That, and I don’t think I’ve had to cancel plans in weeks.) For some folks, it’s been a time to revisit certain games, comics, movies, and TV shows, to squeeze some much-needed comfort and perspective from these beloved titles. However, it’s also been a chance to discover new properties and series, to ease all that anxiety and discomfort with the excitement of something new. Here’s a few such discoveries that have helped our staff navigate these trying times.
And, as always, we’d love to hear from you and what comforts are making the world feel slightly less daunting.
Uncanny X-Men: Quarantine
While pondering if there’s comic book content about pandemics and quarantines, I quickly discovered Matt Fraction and Greg Land’s five-part series that came out in 2011. An entertaining read but also a well researched one. It’s fascinating to see just how much of what Fraction came up with is very much happening today.
Shadow of the Colossus
Not so much a discovery, but a re-acquaintance, as I remember playing Shadow of the Colossus on the PS2. Long after receiving the PS4 remake as a Christmas present in 2018, I finally took it after the shelf and revisited the experience. Though it took me less than six hours to complete, Shadow has such a simple idea and expands on it with epic boss battles, each one as its own puzzle to solve in order to take down the 16 colossi. It’s mostly light on story, but it’s a masterpiece of gaming that is both challenging and beautiful.
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
Never actually played this one, but it was on sale a few weeks back, and now I’ve got the time to knock through this one. It’s awesome. I grew up a Sega man, so never really tried the Metroidvania genre until recently — so I figured, why not try what many consider as the best of the genre. It’s a lot of fun and there are plenty of secrets to keep me exploring different areas for hours on end. There are some elements that I am annoyed by (the saving system feels a bit archaic, and I think they could have done something more interesting with the screen size), but the game has aged rather well for its era and is still a cracking good time.
I recently bought a Nintendo Switch and my first Pokémon game since Emerald. I fully expected to be bewildered by all of the new monsters and battle mechanics, but I’ve been so charmed by this game. Maybe it’s the fact that I haven’t played a new mainline Pokémon game in over a decade, but I’ve found myself spending a lot of time leveling up my new pals and exploring the Galar Region with a big smile on my face. This is the well-animated Pokémon entry I’ve wanted since I was a kid and I have a feeling it’ll keep me busy for a while! I’m a Pokémaniac again!
I am a teacher (normally) during the day, and with the recent closure of all schools in our state, I was feeling a bit “empty” on Monday. Later that night, I was scrolling through my Facebook memories can came across the Marvel Viewing Order Flow Chart that was released right before Endgame came out last year, a challenge/marathon that I wanted to do last year but simply did not have the time. Since then, I am 12 movies in and have thoroughly enjoyed watching some of the older entries in the MCU. Half of these movies I hadn’t seen since they were in theaters. The nostalgia has been quite enjoyable and I’m looking forward to finishing the movies eventually!
The Quintessential Quintuplets
In Japan, this harem rom-com from Weekly Shonen Magazine is called The Five Equal Brides and starts by showing the wedding of protagonist Futaro Uesugi. The action then shifts to the current day when we learn Uesugi’s bride is one of the five quintuplets he’s been hired to tutor. It’s a very funny and compelling series full of twists to keep you guessing about which of the five sisters is the bride in the opening pages.
I haven’t always been a big fiction fan when it comes to books (give me a history biography on Vlad Tepes any day). But I’ve been trying to branch out, and while a thoughtful piece of literary fiction is always great, I needed something else. Enter Raylan Givens, the slick U.S. Marshall as created by Elmore Leonard (Get Shorty). Across several novels (I”ve read Raylan and am currently on Pronto), Givens’ is akin to the old pulp novel heroes, a singular badass cowboy-type set in a weird world of crime with the most nebulous of moral codes. I’ve seen the show (Timothy Olyphant kills it in Justified), but even the books are somehow more wild and wonderful. It’s not that these books are simple (they sort of are) — it’s they’re more about moments and characters and dialogue than dense narrative explorations. And in a time when there’s so much coming at us fast, it’s nice to have something so surface remain so excellent. Also, nobody writes a better shootout.
Nintendo Adventure Books
I live for everything retro and nostalgic, especially when it comes to the Nintendo brand. It brings me back to my childhood, back when the idea of video games were new and exciting. Nintendo had been pushing through many different avenues of marketing to get their video games into households during a time when Americans were not sure what to think about home consoles. This included cartoons, books, sticker books, toys, and so much more. I had a couple of official Golden Books by Nintendo, but what I didn’t know was that there were a series of mini-novels called Nintendo Adventure Books. These stories were mostly related to Super Mario and Legend of Zelda. I have fallen down a rabbit hole trying to both read and procure these books for my collection at a reasonable price. Of course, this is leading to other nostalgic finds, but I am ready to expand my collection of Nintendo novels. Is anybody else falling down a similar rabbit hole?
I haven’t played a video game in over 10 years but Hue was just the right mix of creativity and color to motivate me. It’s a 2D sidescroller puzzle game but it helped me get used to the feel of a controller again. The soundtrack is super soothing (I even got it on Amazon Music separately because it’s so brilliant), and the storyline is mysterious enough to pique my curiosity. I couldn’t put it down! I even found after completing it that I had the courage to try other games. That lead to the discovery of the small genre of crafted games. The dreamy crafted worlds have been a wonderful way to ease my anxiety and lull me gently into gaming again. Since buying Hue, I have also completed Unravel and started on Unravel II with my son. It’s been an amazing source of enjoyment I never even knew was out there.
I know, I know. Now, let me preface by saying yes, of course, I’ve played Mario Kart before. But I was always terrible at it — I’m notoriously bad at driving games. But my boyfriend bought a Switch as soon as we went into stay-home mode, one of the first things we started playing was Mario Kart. And everything changed when he actually taught me the tips and tricks on how to play. I had no clue there was a slide feature that let you take turns more easily! I cannot emphasize how much that changed the game for me. Now, I’m actually winning races and want to keep playing instead of getting frustrated and giving up after one grand prix. So, yes, I’m only 27 years behind, but what a perfect time to get on board.
I recently signed up for PS Now due to making the mistake of introducing my fiance to Animal Crossing, which lead to her using all her free time on it. DOOM Eternal wasn’t an option since I quickly destroyed the minions of hell (get on my level), so I decided to look for something on a bit of a slower pace. I happened upon Abzu by total chance. The cover art caught my eye as I was scrolling through PS Now’s selection of games and I was immediately intrigued. I’m so happy I decided to take a chance on this game. It’s the perfect medicine for what many of us are dealing with emotionally and mentally right now. The game is so beautiful, pleasant, and relaxing. As I drifted through the utterly gorgeous underwater world, I found myself relaxing and forgetting about all the troubles our society is facing right now. I can’t recommend this game enough.