The 'Shroom:Issue 189/Critic Corner
Welcome to the final month! That's it! No more after this! We can all go home after. As a parting gift, please accept this lovely bunch of review sections to agree with, disagree with, ruminate on as we will now have eternity in the void to spend. Seeya there!
Thank you for voting Half-Baked Reviews as November's Critic Corner Section of the Month!! Be sure to give your love to all of our sections here, and give a shout out to our writers whether in chat or in their forum threads dedicated to their sections. Be sure to vote vote vote!
And now for my regular announcements: We've decided to implement in Critic Corner something similar to News Flush over in Fake News, where no formal sign-up application process is required for one-time or limited sections. From now on if you just want to send in a single review for something you just read, watched played, tried, whatever, you just have to send me your review privately either to me directly in chat, or in a message to me on the forum at least one week before each 'Shroom is to be released! There's no commitment or obligation to provide a full monthly section (although you absolutely can shift it into one if you so choose), just send us your thoughts on a thing and we'll feature it here! If you have any questions or curiosities about this, please feel free to ask!
As always, if you would like to help Critic Corner, we always have openings for more writers! You are free to write for sections such as Character Review and Movie Review, or really anything you'd like to do! There's no pressure to have a huge section; they can be shorter and concise! The application process is very simple, starting with reading the Sign Up page, and sending your application to Meta Knight on the forum. Any idea you have is welcome, and if you have any questions or need help signing up, please feel free to reach out to myself or other 'Shroom peeps!
Section of the Month
|CRITIC CORNER SECTION OF THE MONTH
|Anton's Half-Baked Reviews
|A Report on the Effectiveness of Power-Ups
|Mustard Machine (talk)
|Van Shoeul's House of Ghouls
|Mustard Machine (talk)
Hello everyone, welcome to another December edition of 'Shroom FM. Hope you are all good!
I feel like I say this every month now but this month in particular has been very busy and quite stressful so these reviews will be... well, same as normal, I guess. Once again next month will be the TOP ALBUMS OF 2022. Anyone who publishes a list before the end of the year is a hack and you have my permission to ignore them. What if a really good Christmas album comes out? What then, "Pitchfork"??
WEYES BLOOD - AND IN THE DARKNESS, HEARTS AGLOW
I feel bad for saying this but I don't find Weyes Blood very interesting. I've given her last album, Titanic Rising, a couple of listens - and while there's songs on the album I like, the majority drag quite a bit. In terms of vocals, her voice is very lush and fits the songs well, but often just feels very static and unremarkable. I liked Hearts Aglow more, though - there's more energy and the instrumentation feels richer and warmer. Sometimes it doesn't do much for me - for instance, the opener "It’s Not Just Me, It’s Everybody" is nice enough but wears a bit thin after six minutes - but then the next track "Children of the Empire" is a lot more upbeat and engaging. I also really like "Twin Flame" - it has a bit of an 80s feel to it, especially the drum machine and bass line.
RICHARD DAWSON - THE RUBY CORD ⭐
The Ruby Cord opens with "The Hermit", a 41-minute long epic. It's by far the best part of the album, it very carefully builds up and then relents. It takes 11 minutes before we even get any vocals from Dawson, with more and more instruments doing subtle little things in the background. At times the instruments completely stop and it's just Dawson's vocals, for minutes - it's very captivating, very well-crafted and at no point does the track feel like it outstays its welcome. But then there are six other tracks on the album, most of which are fairly long themselves. There's a few great songs here, "The Tip of an Arrow" and "Horse and Rider" in particular - but nothing else captures the magic of "The Hermit", which is a bit of a shame. Nonetheless, it's still a very engaging and well-written album.
NAS - KING'S DISEASE III
It's all very solid, no fault at all with Nas' flow or the beats, but not a huge amount of it stuck with me.
QUADECA - I DIDN'T MEAN TO HAUNT YOU
Found this very boring. Sorry! There's definitely some laudable aspects to the production, quite a few different layers to the sound which does give the atmosphere some depth, but every single track is doing the exact same thing with it; the songs sound impressive individually but as a unit they all follow the same pattern: dull start, peaks in the middle, dull end. And generally a lot of the noisier and more abstract moments don't feel like they have much substance to them, just no reason for them to exist. There were also a few moments in the lyrics and song titles which did grate on me, especially "sorry4dying" because it just makes me think about this.
Van Shoeul's House of Ghouls
|Vincent Price, Peter Lorre, Boris Karloff
|The Roku Channel, Tubi, Random Youtube channel (free), Youtube (paid)
Good evening, dear readers, and welcome to another harrowing edition of Van Shoeul's House of Ghouls. I'm your guide through the darkness, Vincent Van Shoeul. For tonight's terrifying performance, we shall be returning to land of the live action film as we look at 1963's The Raven, a tale of the horrors of grief... and wizards. Before we begin, I feel it is my duty to warn you that this tale is not for those of you who jump at shadows. For those of you who dare to brave this tale, however, I can promise you it will be a thriller!
For tonight's featured performers we have: Jack Nicholson as Rexford Bedlo, son of the wizard Dr. Adolphus Bedlo, who, while tracking down his father, falls in love with the beautiful Estelle Craven; Estelle Craven, played by Olive Sturgess, the daughter of Dr. Erasmus Craven who is put in danger as part of an evil wizard's plot; and Peter Lorre as Dr. Adolphus Bedlo, a cowardly drunken wizard transformed into a raven after losing a (supposedly) unfair duel with another wizard. Seeking out Dr. Erasmus Craven, Bedlo is determined to return to human form and get revenge on the wizard who defeated him.
We also have horror icon Boris Karloff as Dr. Scarabus, an elderly wizard said to be a rival of Dr. Erasmus Craven and a seemingly friendly man who in reality harbors dark ambitions. Finally, rounding out the cast, we have veteran of Van Shoeul's House of Ghouls, Vincent Price, who tonight plays Dr. Erasmus Craven. Son of the most powerful wizard and sick with grief following the death of his beloved wife Lenore, Erasmus investigates Dr. Scarabus with Bedlo upon hearing that his beloved Lenore's ghost is with Scarabus.
The fifth movie in the Roger Corman's Cycle of Poe, which was a series of seven adaptions of Edgar Allen Poe stories that Roger Corman adapted to film between 1960 and 1964, (well, there's technically eight films in the cycle, but The Haunted Palace is actually an adaption of an H.P. Lovecraft story given the name of an Edgar Allen Poe story), 1963's The Raven places second in terms of having the most tenuous connection to its original source material (behind The Pit and the Pendulum, which is essentially an original story with the Poe story's title). Like many of Roger Corman's works, The Raven is a horror comedy. The idea to make a more comedic version of The Raven came after Roger Corman felt satisfied with the "The Black Cat" segment of the film Tales of Terror (which also stared Vincent Price and Peter Lorre!). Costing 350,000 dollars to make and filmed over 15 days, Roger Corman allowed the cast quite a bit of room to improvise with The Raven, which Peter Lorre would take full advantage of. This would actually cause some problems between Peter Lorre and Boris Karloff, because Boris Karloff had come in with the script memorized and was thrown off by Peter Lorre's constant improvisation. The first of two films to star the trio of Vincent Price, Peter Lorre, and Boris Karloff, Boris Karloff was able to play a much more active role as the film's than in The Comedy of Terrors, released later that same year, where Boris Karloff was meant to have a much more prominent role but had to accept a more scaled-down role due to health issues.
The film begins with Vincent Price's character, Dr. Erasmus Craven, reciting the first three stanzas of the classic Poe story, although the movie immediately shows that it's not going to be a strict retelling, because, after finishing the third stanza, Dr. Erasmus Craven uses his magic powers to create the image of a raven. The story further distances itself from the source material by introducing Estelle Craven (played by Olive Sturgess), which shows that, unlike the main character from the original story, our protagonist is not fully alone and stricken with grief. The film briefly gets back on track as an adaption with the introduction of the titular raven but quickly drops all pretense of being an adaption when, after Erasmus asks the raven if he'll ever see his Lenore again, the raven replies (in a line that was ad-libbed) "how the hell should I know?".
From there, the story becomes a cheesy B-movie romp about wizards. A lot happens in this film. Trust me, I had two different drafts of this review trying to summarize the plot and I just couldn’t do it, so I'll go over some highlights. The raven is really a wizard named Bedlo. He claims another wizard named Dr. Scarabus turned him into a raven in a crooked duel. Then, after he’s returned to human form, he convinces Erasmus to go after Scarabus with him by saying he saw Erasmus’ dead wife Lenore with Scarabus. They get attacked by a butler under the control of Scarabus' magic, then we meet Bedlo's son Rexford. They all head to Scarabus' castle, with Erasmus bringing his daughter Estelle along to keep her safe. After another murder attempt where Rexford falls under the spell of Scarabus, they get to the castle, the set of which is fantastic by the way. It's a classic gothic castle with candles lit everywhere to guide the way and filled with statues of mythological creatures; it really does look like an old wizard's castle.
Scarabus seems to be a nice old man. Beldo challenges him to a duel, loses, and explodes into raspberry jam. It turns out Scarabus is really evil and, in one of the films' big twists, Lenore is in fact alive and is working with Scarabus, acting as his mistress. Bedlo is also still alive and betrays Erasmus, but he accidentally hinders Scarabus’s plan by telling his son to rescue Estelle. Scarabus betrays Bedlo in turn, then captures our heroes. Bedlo convinces Scarabus to turn him into a raven instead of killing him. Scarabus and Lenore then threaten to torture Estelle if Erasmus doesn’t give Scarabus the secrets of his family's magical abilities, but Beldo comes back, frees Rexford and Erasmus, and then Erasmus challenges Scarabus to a duel. He defeats him and strips away his magical powers. The film ends with Bedlo attempting to convince Erasmus to turn him back from a raven into a human, with Erasmus telling him he’ll think about it before telling him to “shut his beak”, ending by saying "quoth the raven – nevermore".
I love the way the film subverts your expectations with Dr. Scarabus. Before we meet him, Dr. Scarabus is talked about as this dark lord, with mentions of how he’s one of the few people who can cast wandless magic, how he was the mortal enemy of Erasmus’s father, how he has already attempted to murder our heroes twice, and how he’s apparently evil enough that he would desecrate the dead if it would give him an advantage. When we meet him, though, he’s just a charming old man! He's so charming that he manages to completely trick our protagonists into believing he’s caused them no harm. He showers the cast with compliments, even managing to convince Erasmus that he and his father weren’t mortal enemies but, rather, just competitors who respected each other immensely. He even manages to use his wits to sidestep the accusations that he attempted to kill our heroes by producing the woman that Bedlo claimed was Lenore. It turns out she was just a servant of Scarabus who happens to resemble Lenore.
It’s such a contrast to how the story initially builds him up as this evil dark lord. He's, like, missing all the attributes of a stereotypical evil wizard. His servants aren't deformed Igors who serve him unwillingly; in fact, the only servant we see onscreen is a very pretty young lady who appears to serve him willingly.
Dr. Scarabus is a very interesting character, because he really shows the difference between how Vincent Price plays a villain and how Boris Karloff plays a villain. Whereas Vincent Price's villain roles tend to be outwardly evil characters who draw you in with Vincent Price's natural charm (to the point where in many cases you end up rooting for them), Boris Karloff, on the other hand, plays a man of dignity who disarms his foes with his charm. Even when he begins to show his true nature, appearing to have killed Bedlo in a duel (we’ll get to it) by using his magic to conjure a storm to break Bedlo's concentration, he’s able to play it off as Bedlo killing himself with his own incompetency. Then he manages to convince the survivors that they need to stay the night because of the storm he created!
I feel like the twist that Lenore is actually alive and has sided with Dr. Scarabus is kind of pointless. It’s well done, and it does lead to some nice scenes. Her appearing in the window of Erasmus in order to mess with his mind is good, and Hazel Court does a good job of portraying Lenore as this haughty greedy bitch. I like the scene where she interacts with Bedlo and Erasmus, because it’s just her mocking them. Other than that, though, she just doesn’t do anything. It’s kind of weird, because it’s established that she also has magical abilities and, in fact, she was the one that attempted to murder our heroes at the begining of the film, but then it never comes up again.
The second twist, that of Bedlo having been working for Scarabus In exchange for power, is a lot better. When it blows up, you can feel sympathy for what Bedlo truly is. Behind the drunken, boastful coward is a wizard who knows he's not very good, a wizard who knows he's a failure. Everything he did was just an attempt to finally become the wizard he always wanted to be. Then, when it fails, he's genuinely remorseful that he has led his friends and family to danger. He even willingly lets himself get himself turned into a raven in order to come back and rescue his son and friends. It also leads to a very funny ending where Bedlo, still stuck as a raven, demands that Erasmus make him his liaison to the Brotherhood of Wizards and that, eventually, Erasmus give him an important position under Erasmus' regime. Completely attempting to sweep his treachery under the rug even, dismissing Erasmus' rightful criticism that Bedlo only saved them because after he put them in danger in the first place, Bedlo continues reaching for anything he can get!
There are two duel scenes in this film, each great, but great for different reasons. The first, between Bedlo and Scarabus, is a great comedic scene. It’s a perfect scene for the Bedlo character, who, now that he has his magical utensils back and is mostly sober, provokes a duel with Scarabus even though he is warned that he's no match for Scarabus. He even shoves away his son when Rexford tries to prevent him from dueling!. The duel is peak movie comedy, with Dr. Scarabus just easily thwarting Bedlo's attacks with simple hand gestures, just looking absolutely dismissive the entire time. It also has one of my favorite lines in the movie, where, after Dr. Scarabus blocks Bedlo's first attack, Bedlo goes “ow, you’re defending yourself, you coward!”. Peter Lorre and Boris Karloff are both fantastic in this scene, with Peter Lorre just nailing being this ineffectual wizard desperately trying to do anything to Scarabus, and Scarabus just completely bored with the fight, not even considering Bedlo enough of a threat to get out of his chair. The duel has what I think is a perfect ending, with Bedlo attempting his most powerful spell and Scarabus easily countering it before making Beldo explode into a pile of raspberry jam.
The second duel, the climactic duel between Erasmus and Scarabus, is the best part of the movie. It's also the most famous part of the movie, and, in fact, was said to be part of the inspiration behind Doctor Strange. Unlike a lot of wizard fights in fiction, this isn't characters running around casting spells at each other. Instead, it's two people sitting across from each other and throwing spells at each other. It starts with Scarabus throwing a snake at Erasmus, who turns the snake into a scarf, and, throwing it back, turning it into a bat that attacks Scarabus. Scarabus turns the bat into a hand fan (accompanied by Asian-style music) in response. It's just attack after attack, each wizard casting spells at one another, each one countering the other. It's actually pretty intense and there's a lot of creativity in the conjures. Like, at one point in time, Scarabus creates a fucking cannon that fires a magic ball at Erasmus, who easily counters it. Finally, Scarabus gets the advantage, distracting Erasmus by taking on the appearance of his father before casting a magical spear that goes through Erasmus. But it turns out to be a trick, and the two resume casting spell after spell.
Finally, Erasmus, after deflecting Scarabus' own spells and causing the castle to catch on fire, wins, sucking away the magical ability from Scarabus. The best part of this duel is there's no dialogue. For about seven minutes of screen time, nothing is spoken onscreen. Instead, it's just two people intently focused on killing each other and, even without any dialogue, you never lose tension of the scene. A special shout-out goes to the music of the duel, dramatic when it needs to be and lighthearted when it needs to be.
The acting in this film is unsurprisingly top notch. This film contains three of the biggest horror stars of all time, who all do fantastic jobs. What might surprise you is that, honestly, I think Vincent Price is the worst of the three! That is something I never thought I would say in a film that has Vincent Price. Now, I want to clarify, he's not bad in this film; he's just the least interesting. While he still has all his usual mannerisms, his charm, his wit with a distinct voice that's music to my ears, compared to the two roles we looked at previously (Prospero and Edward Lionheart) he kind of comes off as a little bland. The reason, I think, is that, unlike those films where he was essentially an evil, mustache-twirling villain protagonist, in The Raven, he's not only the hero but he's also the straight man to the more comedic Peter Lorre. In other films with Peter Lorre, like The Comedy of Terrors and Tales of Terror, he and Peter Lorre take turns being funny, but here he has to be the straight man. His best parts of the films are probably the more dramatic parts, such as his fantastic rendition of the first three paragraphs of "The Raven" at the beginning and his showdown with Boris Karloff at the end, because, while that still had comedic moments, it was also played somewhat straight as a legitimate face off between two powerful wizards.
Speaking of the other two, I have to commend the acting of Boris Karloff in this film. While well past his prime, Boris Karloff still manages to make his presence shine through the screen, something that shouldn't surprise anybody considering Boris Karloff had been mastering his craft for almost fifty years at this point (having made his debut in 1919). Boris Karloff, one of the original two legends of the horror industry along with Bela Lugosi, shows why he had a career that spanned the birth of film to the end of his life. Showing clear signs of age, his role wasn't very physically active, amounting to mostly sitting in chairs and occasionally walking around, but Boris Karloff still shows that old school charm as he flatters his foes, while still showing the ability that made him the star he was by leaning into a more villainous performance when he needs to be more sinister. His only real flaw is that he's not great with the comedic elements of the film, which, to be honest, isn't really a huge deal because he's never really asked to be funny. It's no surprise that, after this performance, American International Pictures wanted him to play a larger role in The Comedy of Terrors.
But the true standout of this film is Peter Lorre as Dr. Adolphus Bedlo, playing a character that Peter Lorre had mastered. Peter Lorre's voice, his buggy eyes, and his mannerisms make him the perfect comic relief character. A sniveling drunken cowardly man quick to take offense while blaming all of his misfortune on other factors (such as blaming his duel loss on him being drunk at the time), Peter Lorre's relationship with his onscreen son is great, with Rexford attempting to prevent him from making a fool out of himself while Bedlo refuses to listen. The tension between the two characters was helped by the tension between the two in real life, because Peter Lorre and Jack Nicholson didn't get along in real life! Peter Lorre puts on by far the funniest performance, having by far the best lines (helped by his amazing ability to improvise). Peter Lorre was a fantastic actor in the old B-movie era, and he hasn't missed a beat in this film.
The costume design in this film is also great. Produced on a small budget, all the characters wear colorful "fantasy" clothing that really makes them stand out.
The special effects are also great and, although they're honestly really cheese and cheaply made, they still have a lot of charm in them, because, while they're crude, there was still a lot of love and care put into making them. They also just manage to be really funny, especially when it's just like a character shooting a laser or something.
Some people might not like the fact that, despite being an adaptation of "The Raven", within five minutes the film has nothing to do with the Poe story, but I think it's for the best, because, while "The Raven" is a great story, I don't think it would do so great with this cast. I do really like the parts of The Raven they do adapt, and Vincent Price is a great narrator of the story (in fact, he would go on to record a narration of the story), but I think the way the story goes with it being a battle of wizards is just a lot of fun.
To be honest, the film isn't scary at all! Nobody dies throughout the film and there's less than zero gore. Really, you could say this shouldn't count as a horror film and you could make a good argument that it's not, but one thing to keep in mind is that, like I said in my Night of the Living Dead, review horror films at the time were a lot different than they are today. Then, they were by and large much campier films that were light on scares and could be enjoyed by all. As a classic B-movie director, Roger Corman had perfected his craft and you can add this film to the list of great 60s B-horror films. It’s a great standout little movie, and I'd completely recommend watching it, because it's honestly a blast.
With that, our little tale comes to an end. I hope you enjoyed it. I hope your heart isn't racing too fast. The moral of this story, you ask? Isn't it obvious? If you ever decide to let yourself be transformed into a raven, always make sure you can transform yourself back. That's all for this month's tale. Join us next time as we continue to walk through the shadows in Van Shoeul's House of Ghouls.
A Report on the Effectiveness of Power-Ups
At ease, troops! Welcome to another important intelligence briefing. Last month, an examination of the forces of the jungle was within our purview. This month, we return to the defenses of the homeland. Specifically, we'll be looking at the weapons that will defend us from intergalactic threats.
The first power-up we're looking at is the Red Star. Originally (and as of now, only) appearing in Super Mario Galaxy, the Red Star serves as Super Mario Galaxy's flight power-up, in the vein of the Super Leaf or Wing Cap. Only found in the Comet Observatory and Gateway Galaxy's Purple Coin mission, the Red Star turns Mario into Flying Mario, a form that can take flight when Mario does a spin while mid-jump. Flying Mario's main power is, obviously, flying, something that it excels at, with Mario having full control over flight for as long as he holds the power-up. The Red Star does have a time limit, however, so you'll have to pay attention to the music, which gets faster as the timer ticks down. Flying Mario also has a little sub-power where Mario has his own little gravitational pull when Mario spins, giving him the power to pull in coins and star bits.
As a power-up, the Red Star is great, because the flying feels really good. Unlike the Wing Cap, which requires a triple jump to start and then feels clunky and uncontrollable, the Red Star feels buttery smooth at all times. You never have to fight the controls of Flying Mario and you can really feel the effects of the full range of motion. As a flight power-up, it provides probably best-feeling flight in the whole series, because as soon as you get into the air, it's incredibly easy to get the hang of flying. It's really kind of odd because, despite there being a lot of effort put into the Red Star and making the flight controls feel so good, the Red Star is drastically underutilized. Like I said, it only appears in places in two places in the entire game and it's only used to find some 1-Up Mushrooms you couldn't otherwise get in one of those (the Comet Observatory). That means there's only one Power Star that you actually get with the Red Mushroom, that being a Purple Coin challenge where you need to collect 100 Purple Coins, and, like, that level is fine and all, but it's seems pretty clear that that mission was meant to just be a little test of what the Red Star could do, but then it's just not in any other levels. I don't know if maybe the flight was too good and the developers thought it made challenges too easy, or if they just couldn't really think of anything to do with it outside of collecting things. It's just weird to me that a power-up that clearly had a lot of time and effort put into it just isn't used! Like, I think the Red Star is a great power-up and its flight mechanics are the best in the series, so it's just too bad that it really only appears in one mission and then never again.
The next power-up we're looking is the ghostly Boo Mushroom. Also originally appearing in Super Mario Galaxy, this living dead mushroom, as the name implies, turns you into Boo Mario. As Boo Mario, Mario can float like a Boo, levitating by pressing the A button. Boo Mario can also phase through certain walls, much like the Vanish Cap from Super Mario 64 allows Mario to do. The last power the Boo Mushroom gives Mario is the ability to speak to the dead and understand the Boos. As a Boo, Mario is weak to lights in this form, and going under one will turn him back into regular Mario. Boos are also attracted to him and will pursue him. Looking at a Boo as Boo Mario does not cause them to turn bashful and invisible, and if the Boo makes contact with Mario, he'll be returned to regular Mario. The Boo Mushroom only shows up in three missions of the original game, and only in two of those, "Luigi and the Haunted Mansion" in Ghostly Galaxy and "Racing the Spooky Speedster" in Boo's Boneyard Galaxy, is it required.
Despite having a decent amount of abilities, I personally think Boo Mario is one of the most boring transformations in Mario history. They just don't really do anything interesting with it. Its first mission boils down to floating around while avoiding lights and other Boos. In fact, in its debut mission, you only use it at the very end of the mission, and only so you can phase through some walls on your way to saving Luigi. It's really comparable to the Vanish Cap, which, in itself, was kind of a boring power-up in Super Mario 64, since all it really did was let you go through walls and gates. But at least the Vanish Cap only had a twenty second time limit, so there was some real strategy involved in making sure you got to the goal before it ran out. But Boo Mario's vanishing ability is on command, and the power-up only runs out if you hit a light or a Boo, so there's real no challenge to its abilities. You also move very slow with this power-up, so even the Spooky Speedster mission, which is based around finding the most optimal route while racing, isn't great, because you just move too slowly. The Boo Mushroom would make a return in Super Mario Galaxy 2, where it would only appear in a single mission, that being "Haunting the Howling Tower" in Boo Moon Galaxy. It has the same powers as in Super Mario Galaxy, but this time it gets used in only a single mission focused entirely on platforming. The mission tasks you with navigating narrow corridors avoiding the Spinecones while phasing through walls. It's okay, I guess. It's not a great mission and, to be honest, I really don't see why the brought the Boo Mushroom back considering they had so few ideas for it. Personally, I'm fine with it not coming back, because it's just a pretty boring power-up whose abilities don't really make for interesting levels.
We have a bit of a mixed bag in this report, troops, with one power-up being interesting and one being not so interesting, but that's all I have for this month's report. Join me next month as we continue looking at weapons for that most worthy of causes, the defense of our kingdom.
All-Time Smash Merit Ranking
'Welcome to the last Smash merit ranking of 2022! After today, there will only be 4 more months left to go. There’s only 20 characters left after today! This month’s non-shroom characters were Ryu, Bayonetta, and Sephiroth.
Our 'Shroom section characters are all secondary reps to franchises that have been in Smash since the first game. Both have been rivals in some fashion to the main protagonist, though one is more historically friendly then the other for sure. That said where it currently stands in their latest game. Both have the distinction of having a relatively good friendship with the main character by now. And we’ll start with the more obviously chummy of the two.
|Game of Origin
|Star Fox (SNES, 1993 (US/JP/EU)
In some retrospect, Falco’s something of an odd character. Before Melee, he was mostly just the hotshot AI partner in the Star Fox games that means well though will berate you the most if you make a mistake, at least in Star Fox 64. Though through-and-through he is one of Fox’s best friends. And even though it’s an alternate ending that’s unlikely to be canon. Nothing says more about the bros the two are then the time they retire together to become racers in what is totally not an F-Zero rip off.
Falco’s hotshot personality kinda gives us something of a look if Sonic and Tails switched places as main character and sidekick. Like Sonic, Falco is blue, wisecracking, and loyal to his friends. And like Tails, Fox is an orange fox, with piloting skills, and likely general smarts as well. Though it could certainly be said that Fox and Falco are older then Sonic and Tails are. Still you do get the feeling that Fox and Falco are probably the chummiest with each other of the Star Fox crew. Since Slippy is Slippy, Peppy is more like the Grandpa in the group. Perhaps one who could challenge Falco for Fox’s closest ally is potentially Krystal… especially if you ship them together. Though even then, Star Fox Command has those two’s relationship pretty strained.
It should of course be noted that Falco probably only got in thanks to Melee introducing the idea of more similar clones. Fox and Falco did have differences even in Melee, but they were close enough that both Fox and Falco took up the Top 2 for a long amount of time. As cool as Falco is, I’m not sure there would have been too much of a big support for him if he had to get in based on popular support alone. He probably would be the most popular out of the Star Fox crew outside of Fox himself. But he doesn’t seem like the kind of character that would have gotten the benefit had he had to wait for a future game to get in. If Fox were alone in Melee again, I wonder if maybe Brawl would have added Wolf only and it would have been Fox and Wolf in Smash 4 with Falco left out like the rest of the Star Fox crew. Cause it might have been difficult for Falco to have been noticed amongst the other characters from Brawl and onwards they added. Falco very much feels like a beneficiary of being in Melee so he could be in the eyes of the public to remember better enough to be a perfect attendee since.
Nonetheless, having been here since Melee helps show the Star Fox franchise is also about his allies and friends. A team of pilots that stick for one another… that is unless the player has decided they’ve had enough of Slippy getting in trouble, heh
And now, we have the only character who was ever competitively banned wide scale in Smash Bros. tourneys
|Game of Origin
|Kirby’s Adventure, 1993 (US/JP/EU)
Meta Knight’s the kind of character you’d almost expect to be the cool character that people could see as a protagonist rather then simply a rival to one of Gaming’s cutest characters. Although we do know that Meta Knight is pretty much the same species as Kirby, as without his attire he’d just look like a darker blue Kirby. You have to wonder if he also has the ability to copy, but perhaps over the years he’s developed his sword ability that he feels he never needs to.
He’s already been a cool character that people liked in the franchise, but I have to imagine Brawl put him in Memetic Overlord status as he quickly was found out to be so powerful that Meta Knight broke the game’s meta (Ha). Granted, contrary to Meta Knight’s reputation he was only banned for a period of about 6 months. Though with how quickly the competitive scene for Brawl shrank. That could still be a period in which Meta Knight broke the camel’s back and made sure many players would never try to play the game competitively. I’m sure in some corners there are people who try to play vanilla Brawl competitively but it’s clear that it will never reach the everlasting scene that Melee and most likely Ultimate has received.
Meta Knight would naturally return in both Smash 4 and Ultimate, but they vastly made sure he wasn’t the meta breaker he was in Brawl. Going down to the B tiers in the former, and perhaps C tier or worse in Ultimate. The next meta breaker would end up being Bayonetta, though I don’t think she was ever banned widespread like Meta Knight was. Though a caveat could be just how relatively short Smash 4’s life was compared to other Smash games when you consider Ultimate pretty much just ate it. There’s less reason to play Smash 4 competitively then there is for vanilla Brawl as a result. And Ultimate has had some pretty powerful characters, but despite the largest roster there doesn’t seem to be a consensus #1 character in the game like Meta Knight and Bayonetta were in their debut games. Though perhaps that’s been muddled somewhat by the fact that Covid-19 got in the way of analyzing data for the whole roster. As characters who are good on the wi-fi lag may not translate as well to on-location tournaments. So tier lists may be still very shaky at this point and time. Will they eventually discover a character that overwhelmingly one-ups every character? Who knows, but perhaps one comfort is if there was one that had an advantage on Brawl Meta Knight’s level or worse, it probably would have been already found.
Now that we’re on to placements. Given I gave Fox a surprisingly middling merit, it probably doesn’t bode too well for Falco. Though I’m not saying he has horrible merit. I will be putting him a spot behind Jigglypuff. As although Falco plays more of a major role across the Star Fox franchise then Jigglypuff does for Pokemon. Pokemon just has the bigger impact. I will at least be putting Falco above a fellow character including a bird in Duck Hunt. Falco’s a younger character then Duck Hunt but it’s easy to say that Star Fox has an advantage of more relevancy over Duck Hunt.
As for Meta Knight. I can’t say he should be higher then Dedede, as Dedede’s been there since the first game. But he’s still been a major recurring character in the Kirby series. I think it’s fair to put him a spot below Princess Zelda, and above Ganondorf. Being a step below Zelda in terms of being iconic to their franchise, but above Ganondorf for being designed more uniquely in Smash.
|21. King K. Rool
|61. Wii Fit Trainer
|23. Meta Knight
|43. Captain Falcon
|63. Dr. Mario
|4. Donkey Kong
|64. Dark Pit
|25. Mr. Game & Watch
|65. Piranha Plant
|26. Sonic the Hedgehog
|48. Duck Hunt
|30. Bowser Jr.
|12. Mii Fighters
|13. Mega Man
|33. Rosalina & Luma
|15. Diddy Kong
|35. Zero Suit Samus
|16. Banjo & Kazooie
|36. Toon Link
|17. Simon Belmont
|18. King Dedede
|58. Min Min
|60. Ice Climbers
It’s clear that the holiday season is near when peppermint begins to fill shelves, winter spices, holiday blends, displays of gingerbread and fruitcakes, M&Ms that have nothing different about them other than this time they’re green and red. You truly know it’s time, though, when eggnog begins to appear. In your (my) frantic rush to get them before yet another shortage cripples the store’s new planogram, there’s suddenly 7 bottles of them in your (my) fridge. It’s simply inhuman to consume all of them in time, as I discovered last year through herculean effort and willpower, but what else can you do with them?
I think it’s remarkable how many dips you can make just by blending cream cheese with whatever you want, and I guess why not eggnog? I’ve been seeing lots of sweet dips out there lately: pumpkin, cheesecake, churro, chocolate, so there’s clearly a desire for it. There are many recipes out there for items similar to this and all the others that claim eggnog in their title but only mean that so far as including nutmeg in the recipe. Out of all of them I saw, I ended up using this one, which called for:
- 8 oz cream cheese room temperature
- 1/2 cup eggnog room temperature
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/2 tsp rum extract
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg
- 2 cups powdered sugar
The recipe is very simple to make, only really requiring you to have patience with the entropic effects of ambient temperature, and owning a blender to not further test that patience. You just mix the cream cheese until it’s in a state where you can then lob everything else in and mix it all up. Several comments bemoan a dip that’s too watery and thin, and I genuinely don’t know how these people got to that point without just completely failing to include powdered sugar at all, or failing to take temperature into account. What the recipe does not say is that the room temperature requirements of the dairy ingredients in order to ease the mixing process will leave your dip looking runny and sad, with further replies in the comment section by the blog author indicating she she, too, is unaware that the chilling process is an integral final part of completing this recipe. After I let it sit in the fridge overnight it had thickened up nicely enough to hold onto the various items I chose to dip into it. A word of warning, though, as these proportions make for a sizable amount, especially for me as one person to deal with, let alone springing this on any kind of get-together; something I always fail to consider as I just like making more stuff, but was not adequately prepared for as the recipe did not include total servings. Either cut the ingredients in half to make it more manageable or find a way to pawn some off onto others lest you weigh down your thoughts with imminent waste.
The eggnog flavor is minimal, if present at all, as what I’m tasting is just a subtle hint of cinnamon behind the more powerful cream cheese tang. What I chose for this was: graham crackers, Biscoff cookies, cinnamon pretzel crisps, Danish butter cookies, and carrots. What I found was that items that emulated the flavor of the dip (graham crackers, Biscoffs) were alright but kinda boring, the cinnamon pretzel crisps were good by virtue of me already really liking them, carrots landing high tier because I realized I like eating cold crunchy things (ice-eaters, unite). What made me appreciate this eggnog dip were the Danish butter cookies, a plain yet flavorful cookie that was ripe for a minimal addition that would not overwhelm its own flavor, but still add a new and interesting layer. I wonder if this recipe would do better with significantly more flavor ingredients, like the rum extract, cinnamon, and nutmeg, but at some point the relative cost of those ingredients just to sense some subtle touch of flavor that I can get more efficiently elsewhere just isn’t worth it. Maybe what it could use is inspiration from banana pudding with inclusion of crumbled cookies, such as soft gingerbread or molasses, just to give it a bit more oomph than what it has. I’m not worried about trying these as whatever cool creamy sweetness I’m experiencing is all I want anyways, and it turns out something as basic as that already exists as a welcome recipe all over.
Eggnog Hot Cocoa
As with many treats, there’s a million+ ways to make hot cocoa, and with how quick and easy it is to make each one I opted to try several of varying complexity. To start off, a simple one, consisting of 2:1 eggnog to milk, relative to what one packet (two in my case) of cocoa mix recommends for liquid, and then lavishly garnished with a swirl of whipped cream and ground nutmeg on top. For this I used basic Nestlé Rich Chocolate Hot Cocoa Mix and Sprouts Organic Eggnog. There’s no mistaking eggnog was included in this based on the flavor, and it’s also visually thicker, smoother, and dare I say gummier with the high viscosity that’s holding my attention as I stir it around in the pan. While I’m surprised how good it is, it creates a weight in my stomach that I can already forecast it returning late at night in various gaseous forms, and a major suggestion I’d make would be to invert the ratio and make it 2:1 milk to eggnog, thinning it out and easing off how thoroughly the eggnog experience comes through. Might honestly just be better mimicking the flavor with some vanilla extract and nutmeg to enhance an already-quality brand of cocoa; all of which I’ll put to the test on my own personal time as I think I need to allow myself some space with enjoying food without mining it for review content.
I tried out this recipe for a cocoa mix you make yourself that also calls for a 1:1 ratio of eggnog and milk.
- 1 cup eggnog
- 1 cup whole milk
- 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- Whipped cream optional topping
- Freshly grated nutmeg optional topping
The same exact recipe with negligible changes can be found on other sites, leaving the implication to me that either someone’s copying someone, whether it’s another blogger, or a standard practice of just placing a basic recipe straight from a company beneath four pages of backstory about why this changed your life. There’s even the same equipment used in their photos, with the one claiming she made this recipe for her family being posted a month after the other. So much scandal in the world of food bloggers. Pretty rich, feeling as such more from the smooth thickness and properly melted chocolate, and just absolutely topped off a decadent and indulgent mood I was in that evening, flowing around my place in a bathrobe just enjoying a sense of calm and power over time itself, lending me the short-lived ability to fold my laundry.
It may come to a surprise but I don’t actually like baking that often; not because I don’t like baking, but because everything I bake I feel the urge to make in such proportions, to make up for the cost of my time and to maximize efficiency, that I just simply can’t eat all of it myself before it goes bad. I need people around, I need some event to do it, I need willing participants, and with limited options around I discovered a new source: captive and desperate participants. I made these to bring to work.
I followed this recipe here as precisely as I cared to do (maybe went a touch heavier on the spices because ¼ teaspoon of anything feels like a complete waste of my time).
- 3/4 cup butter, softened
- 1-1/4 cups sugar
- 1 large egg, room temperature
- 1 cup eggnog, divided
- 1-3/4 teaspoons rum extract, divided
- 3-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
- 3 cups confectioners' sugar
- Colored sugar or sprinkles
My first impression is that it took a LOT longer than what the instructions said; baking time was easily double. Prep always takes a while, but if you use a hand mixer for the dough you can shave that recommended 5 minutes of mixing down to 2, but what it doesn’t account for is how much nonsense you need to pull out of your pantry just to get the tiny measurements needed. Consistency of the eggnog is important, as it being thicker will require you to use more to act as a substitution for milk in a standard recipe. The flavor is also important, but less so in this as you’re still adding a bunch of spices yourself.
The taste is alright, the spices and eggnog sweetness do come through, but just barely. Even with the double-to-triple amount of non-cinnamon spices I used the cookies just tasted like a lightly cinnamony sugar cookie anyways. It’s the addition of the glaze that brings it all together, a fact I’ve found consistent among many cookies I’ve made, concentrating the eggnog flavor with minimal additional ingredients with nowhere to hide, incorporating a creaminess and cool smoothness. The overall flavor and enjoyment of it isn’t so rich and overwhelming that I grew tired of these, and was able to finish off the stack I left for myself. These were also a hit at work, where I acknowledge the bar is low to begin with as people will readily accept free food, but proved to me that this was a way to push eggnog past skeptical haters with just a little convincing that it’s basically just a cinnamon sugar cutout cookie. There are better cookies I can make, ones that use just as many ingredients yet still pack more interesting bites, but I’m glad that this worked just fine for a simple crowd-pleasing cookie that’s easy to prepare that provides something more than just the same sugar cookie everyone else is making, and I’m glad I could test that and tell you guys.
Overnight Eggnog French Toast Casserole
One of the first ideas I saw for how to use eggnog in recipes is just slosh it on bread for easy-peasy french toast, and, yeah, that sounded pretty good. What didn’t sound good was writing a review that would end up being like ‘yeah, huh, dunking bread into a beverage that’s a mix of eggs, milk, cinnamon, and vanilla sure does taste like the standard batter that is a mix of eggs, milk, cinnamon, and vanilla’. I felt a need to do something more with it, heighten aspects of each the eggnog and french toast to edge towards over-the-top, culminating in an overnight eggnog french toast casserole.
I borrowed from several recipes to make what I wanted: inclusion of liqueur, streusel crumble, general ingredients, more general ingredients and process. Took a lot longer to bake than what the recipe called for as the bread just wouldn’t crisp up at all–too wet. I cut the bread thicker than what was recommended to avoid it getting soggy, so I’m not sure why this occurred, unless this was the intended effect. This resulted in pretty uneven baking as the crumbles turned into rocks while the bottom half of the bread was still mush. Avoiding the parts that were gross to even acknowledge, the top half was pretty good! I just can’t say it was any better than regular french toast, as any particular eggnog flavor is masked entirely by how eggnog flavors are already there without requiring eggnog, if only confirming to me that I’m a fan of streusel. Perhaps too much of the liquid egg mixture was put in, and I will defend myself by saying I withheld some as I started getting nervous seeing it start to fill the baking pan up and not soak in. The only discernible purpose I was able to locate for doing this at all was ease of making french toast in the morning by putting in quadruple the work the night before. I can’t even say something like ‘next time I do this I’ll be sure to use less’ because reality is that I will never do this again, and will beg and plead you guys to never ever do this either, do not feed into this concept at all, not everything has to be prepped beforehand, not everything has to be a photo-friendly casserole, I promise it’s not that hard to flip a piece of bread, Erin, I’m sure your hungry guests won’t mind waiting 5 minutes for a few servings to be individually prepared as opposed to hoping that the required 50 minutes of baking and 10 minutes of resting won’t require another 40 minutes of re-baking because it remained at an unsafe temperature and unappetizing consistency. Every single fancy trick you can pull with an overnight french toast casserole is something you can do the traditional way with more controlled results with significantly less disappointment and waste.
If your idea of using up eggnog is with french toast, just pour it in a glass and drink it.
Classic Verpoorten Original Cake
I followed the recipe for Klassischer Verpoorten-Original-Kuchen, a simple white cake that has Verpoorten Advocaat egg liqueur as a main flavoring component. I also loosely pulled from Eierlikör-Marmor-Gugelhupf mit Verpoorten Original for just general inspiration.
- 150 ml VERPOORTEN ORIGINAL egg liqueur
- 4 room-temperature eggs
- 250 g soft butter
- 250 g sugar
- 1 packet vanilla sugar
- 300 g flour
- 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
- fat for the mould
This was interesting to do, seeing regional differences and given information in the recipe, expecting me to just know how much ‘1 packet vanilla sugar’ is and what it is to begin with. It’s as simple as it sounds, vanilla sugar is just sugar that has been flavored with vanilla, an ingredient so common in European and Middle Eastern recipes that it comes in a pre-mixed commercial form in standard sized packaging. It’s easy enough to make, with 1 packet being equivalent to around 1 teaspoon, but I was able to find plenty of packets of it at local stores specializing in European and Middle Eatern products. Rather than one large pan, I used a special small bundt pan, and then in an attempt to go above and beyond I also included orange zest and chocolate chips, the latter of which being an element I was not so happy with as I did not anticipate they would sink to the bottom of the pan while baking and ruin the form. The Verpoorten is so thick and dense that I thought it’d support it, having the chocolate float in the middle, but I guess that was wrong and should’ve instead marbled in a second batch of batter than had been mixed with cocoa powder. I also included some cinnamon into the mix, and condensed milk for a glaze.
Despite my incredible disappointment with how they physically came out, they tasted pretty good! All of the flavors were there, with the Verpoorten showing strong in its richness and intensity, making these small cakes very dense and filling. The chocolate chips, despite being ugly, provided a welcome relief in texture and flavor, as I don’t think I could’ve stomached a while serving of this otherwise. The condensed milk to top it was also a great idea, not only covering some of my shame, but adding a sweet dairy flavor to a cake I was hoping would be strongly eggnog in design. I’d like to use Verpoorten for more recipes, as I still have a significant amount in my bottle that I do not foresee getting drunk traditionally, but now I know how strong it will come through and need to temper my expectations accordingly.
Peppermint Eggnog Milkshake
I thought about making ice cream, as the same ingredients that go into eggnog are pretty much what you’d put into making a basic vanilla ice cream (cinnamon and nutmeg withholding, of course), but what plagued me was the prospect of putting yet another thing inside my small freezer that is already packed with things I desperately need to clear out, such as like 8 pints of other ice cream. The solution here was simple: I could have my ice cream-adjacent treat while also emptying product out of my freezer by making a milkshake! Milkshakes are wildly easy to make, assuming you have access to a blender, and are incredibly variable as you can just toss whatever you want in there as long as it doesn’t destroy the blades or fry the motor; as such, I can’t just do a simple eggnog milkshake because what fun is there in just mixing vanilla ice cream with eggnog? We all already know what that will taste like, so let’s step it up some.
- 1 cup of eggnog
- small splash of whole milk because I figured it’d need it
- like 2 cups of vanilla ice cream but I think I ended up somewhere around 4 cups just to thicken it up
- 2 candy canes smashed to smithereens
- a couple squirts of peppermint extract
- a little sprinkle of ground nutmeg
- a healthy shot of brandy because it’s eggnog!
To top it off for some visual and decadent flair, I also included:
- a cute swirl of whipped cream
- a gentle dusting of cinnamon
- 1 candy cane to stir with
The reason my measurements are a bit imprecise is because the whole process was pretty easy, as milkshakes just have a few basic components that are necessary to make it a milkshake–ice cream and milk–with whatever else you wanna toss into the blender with it entirely up to you, with no definitive level of thickness, no predetermined flavor, nothing critical but the core ingredients. I checked out a few different recipes for eggnog milkshakes in general to see if there was at least a certain ratio of ice cream to eggnog that was recommended or even just consistent, but found only that the amount of ice cream was always more than the eggnog. Many ratios were offered, 7:1, 3:1, 2:1, with somewhere around 4:1 ice cream to eggnog leading to a personally-optimal level of thickness where you could drink it from a glass, slurp it through a straw, spoon it out, or dunk the candy cane in and lick off what stuck. My recommendation is that as more ice cream is necessary, that natural flavors of the eggnog must be supported if you even want retain the point of using eggnog in the first place, and thus I sprinkled nutmeg and added brandy; if you’re looking for a non-alcoholic alternative, just toss in a couple teaspoons of vanilla extract. If I were to do this again I’d probably toss in another candy cane or two, for the same reason I found nutmeg to be necessary, as adding more vanilla ice cream just made it taste more like vanilla ice cream. The amount I did include, though, was still noticeable, supported with the peppermint extract, to add a nice snowy chill and freshness to eggnog’s typical sweet warm flavors.
I concede that there’s many variables at play here, in particular the brands and types of ice cream and eggnog, as you can easily choose a cheap and nasty version of each one and end up with something horrible, or blow your budget and get something that you can convince yourself is haute cuisine. For transparency, the ice cream I selected was the Target store brand vanilla bean which was oddly fluffy and easy to scoop, and still boasted a good genuine vanilla flavor. Cute, fun, tasted phenomenal, and endlessly customizable; milkshakes seem to be the way to go for a simple way to use up some of your eggnog (six bottles, in my case) that’s clogging up your fridge, or just as a way to strongarm people into trying it, liking it, and accepting that all eggnog is once you break it down is a creamy way to funnel nutmeg into your mouth.
Horchata Eggnog Milkshake
Not satisfied with just one milkshake, I set out to use stuff I had purchased for special events to actually now use instead of letting them collect dust, and so I saw my bottle of Licor 43 Horchata. I sampled the liqueur on its own to get a feel of what I can use it for: warm, rich, smooth flavors I know from Licor 43, but with a sweet and creamy, delicately botanical, and underlying earthiness from Valencia’s tigernuts. While flying in the face of how this product is vegan, and how horchata typically is dairy-free, I knew it would go great mixed with eggnog and ice cream.
Following no recipe or even inspiration at all, into the blender I tossed:
- 4 cups of vanilla ice cream
- 3/4 cup of eggnog
- 3/4 cup of Licor 43 Horchata
- However much nutmeg came out when I shook it twice
- However much cinnamon came out when I shook it twice
- Quick splash of vanilla extract
- Quick splash of rum extract
- Teeny tiny splash of almond extract
And to garnish:
- Whipped cream to top
- Light dusting of cinnamon
- Drizzle of maple syrup
- Cinnamon stick to stir (and slurp from)
Operating on pure vibes. It gave me incredible warm and nostalgic feelings, a heartfelt urge to share this with friends, particularly catching a flight to share it with Gabumon (talk) immediately. The flavor is mostly cinnamon, but on a more sinking and earthy end, a heavier and rich feeling coming from the eggnog keeping it from being vapidly sweet. Making me feel weird sensations of warmth despite it being a chilled dessert drink, likely due to the alcohol content and variety of warm spices and flavors. Absolutely cozy. Mirroring the peppermint milkshake, this is just such an optimal and fun way to use up eggnog, as it requires a decent amount to go in for just a single serving, and can use up an entire container quickly if you make this for a group.
Have a milkshake, life is yours, do what you want with it.
|The 'Shroom: Issue 189
|Staff Notes • The 'Shroom Spotlight • End-of-the-Year Awards • Director Election • The 'Shroom Holiday Scavenger
|Fake News • Fun Stuff • Palette Swap • Pipe Plaza • Critic Corner • Strategy Wing
|Thank You, Ninja Squid! • PC Election Proposal