Notes from the Kraken: March

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Welcome again to We Have Always Live the Kraken, a pop culture blog transmitted directly to you from the belly of the beast. Here in the Notes we’ll show you this month’s posting schedule, but first here are some thoughts.

Things are definitely changing for Nintendo, even if some things like Zelda will always remain.

It feels strange not talking about the Oscars, considering that is what I spent most of February thinking about. Maybe I should complain about things being boring more often, because I don’t know if we’ll ever see a more chaotic ending to an Oscars season ever again. But that’s over now! It is March, a month for new beginnings, and nobody reinvents themselves like Nintendo.

For several console generations now, Nintendo has been struggling at times to keep up with its competitors Sony and Microsoft. Sure, the Wii was a smash hit when it was released, but that was unsustainable, and the Wii U continued to see Nintendo falling behind. But the company still has two chief assets: nostalgia, and a firm grip on the handheld market. Nintendo’s over-reliance on its original IP has definitely hurt it at times because it has stopped them from getting proper third party support, but no one can deny the power of Mario, Zelda, Metroid, Kirby, and the like to keep drawing in gamers. Meanwhile, Nintendo has continued to do quite well with its handheld devices. Microsoft doesn’t even both with the market, and while the Playstation Vita is a great gaming device, no one seems to care about it. Nintendo has ridden the Gameboy and DS train quite effectively, partly through careful innovation–something the company has struggled to do properly in console form.

That is what makes the Nintendo Switch so exciting. Combining a portable and home device into one system has been an obvious answer for a long time–or perhaps it’s more of a long-time dream for consumers, who would much prefer to buy one game system instead of two. No, it took Nintendo going through some pretty hard times to make this happen, but here we are. This is probably more like a half step, as Nintendo has said it plans to continue offering some sort of separate portable system as well, but this is definitely a step in the right direction. By utilizing the company’s core strengths, the kind of innovation that the Switch represents will help Nintendo compete at the console level.

Another example of Nintendo’s new smart strategy can be seen in the company bringing classic franchises to the mobile market with Mario Run and Fire Emblems Heroes. Both bank on using popular IP to enter a new market (or more likely in the case of Fire Emblem, using the mobile market to help subsidize the rest of the franchise). Both games have worked quite well for Nintendo so far, as they have been huge financial successes. Maybe now Nintendo can take a go at Pokemon, since Pokemon Go developer Niantic has proven ill-equipped.

This is a pivotal moment for Nintendo. The Switch probably represents the last real chance for Nintendo to turn the tide in the console wars, and if it fails, Nintendo will probably look a lot different go forward. If it succeeds (and early indications are looking good), it could change everything. Well, almost everything: no matter what happens, there will always be another princess to rescue.

David Robertson 


From the depths of the Kraken, here is what we are bringing you this month.

Look, everyone should just forget about 2016, and pretend it never happened, but because at this point this is becoming more and more of a joke, the Kraken will continue Best ofs, 2016 Edition with a final entry for the year’s best television.

The Life in the Kraken Podcast continues its in-depth series covering Season 2 of Syfy’s The Magicians in our Life in the Kraken Podcast: Fillory Edition.

Guest author Matt Morris’ popular feature on the lost video games of yesteryear, Hidden Levels, makes a triumphant return with a loving discussion of the cult N64 classic Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon.

Meanwhile, David looks to the past and future with The Anticipated.

  • First up, in an attempt to finish his 2016 loop, David looks at A Monster Calls. The Best ofs already revealed that David is quite the fan of this movie, but here are his exact thoughts about how the film went so right creatively and yet so wrong financially.
  • Meanwhile, 2017 brings its own set of movies, as David offers his new set of films to look forward to in The Anticipated: 2017 Edition.

Keskel updates us all on the anime streaming market in two articles:

Through a bunch of coincidences and good fortune, David is going to South By Southwest. So look for him to offer some reports from his time in the belly of our Austin branch.


Catch of the Week:

Each and every week the residents here in the Kraken will offer one recommendation for the week that we think you all would enjoy. It might be a movie. It might be a book. Who knows? This is your… Catch of the Week Month.

Special note: we’re exploring new ways that you can support the Kraken. If any of this week’s recommendations interest you, feel free to click on our Amazon affiliate links below. We get a small kickback on anything you buy at no extra cost to you, and that money goes toward sustaining and improving the site. Thanks!

Keskel: For March, I recommend Serial Experiments Lain, one of the towering achievements of the first anime boom, back when experimental, auteurist shows were seen and discussed by a majority of the American fanbase. SEL is a cyberpunk story that is more relevant today than when it was first released, as it explores from every angle what happens when the real world and the “digital” one overlap, and what that means for both society and the individual.

 

Kyu: This month, in honor of the release of the excellent film The Lego Batman movie, I’m recommending the entire series of licensed Lego video games. I haven’t played them all, but I’ve never been disappointed, either. No matter what the license, each game whimsically captures the the heart of its inspiration, from the space opera of the Star Wars movies to the adventures of Indiana Jones and Frodo Baggins to the superpowered teamwork of both the Avengers and the Justice League. Marrying a deeply satisfying system of destruction, collection, and reinvention to a pleasant puzzle scheme that makes use of many different characters, each with their own ability, the series is always funny, enjoyable, and highly polished. For kids and kids at heart–or both playing together–nothing beats the way Lego itself becomes the language by which a shared popular culture is expressed.

 

David: It is kind of funny that at this point The CW might as well be called Berlanti TV, but if Greg Berlanti is going to keeping making things like Riverdale, then sure, Berlanti, do what you want. Riverdale is slowly living up to its billing as Twin Peaks meets Dawson’s Creek, telling nuanced versions of many of the same high school stories that have been talked about for years. The show is sexy and fun with a hint of danger and great characters. I’ll admit at times it is questionable why the show really needs Archie characters to tell the stories it is telling, but at the same time it is making the best use of them in fun and creative ways–especially in how it is handling the central love triangle from the comics. The show has an air of mystery, too, that makes it feel much less constrained than other teenage shows, and it should only get better as things go along. The show is still early in its first season, so it should be easy to catch up on all the fun–and oh, how much fun it is!

(This is the comic by the showrunner… just saying…)


That’s it for this month. The flowers are starting to bloom, so the Kraken is off to pick the elusive Bloody Horror, a prospect even more unpleasant and messy than it sounds.

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