The 'Shroom:Issue 194/Critic Corner

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Director's Notes

Written by: Hypnotoad (talk)

Shroom2017 Anton.png

April's showers brought us more May showers, with summer rapidly approaching I get to enjoy the daily thunderstorms I love most. What's also raining down are our tears as All-Time Smash Merit Ranking by SonicMario (talk) has its final run, with all characters being complete. Be sure to give that a read, along with everything else we have here this lovely chaotic month, as you all finish school, sit inside from the rain, or just avoid responsibilities altogether. Everyone is welcome!

Thank you for voting Half-Baked Reviews as April'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

Place Section Votes % Writer
1st Anton's Half-Baked Reviews 14 60.87% Hypnotoad (talk)
2nd A Report on the Effectiveness of Power-Ups 5 21.74% FunkyK38 (talk)
3rd All-Time Smash Merit Ranking 2 8.70% SonicMario (talk)
3rd Character Review 2 8.70% Cosmic Cowboy (talk)

Reviews / opinion pieces
Tag yourself, I'm the Mug Root Beer.
Sequel parallel movie: Everyone But This One Guy
Recipes included??
Everything out, and everything on.

'Shroom FM

Written by: MrConcreteDonkey (talk)


This has been a very busy month for me (in an already busy year) but here are a few albums.

ALL HANDS_MAKE LIGHT - Darling the Dawn

This project from Ariel Engle (of Broken Social Scene, etc.) and Efrim Menuck (of Godspeed You! Black Emperor, etc.) does start off pretty strong. The opening track, "A Sparrows' Lift", has a strong vocal performance from Engle, backed by a quite abstract drone instrumental, very airy and atmospheric. It's then followed by the ten-minute "We Live on a Fucking Planet and Baby That's the Sun", which is calm and tranquil at first but builds slowly into this wall of noise, and culminates in an immense peak around the six minute mark. Unfortunately, after the first few songs, there's not too much else that piqued my interest - with the exception of "The Sons and Daughters of Poor Eternal", another really exciting and satisfying slow build. It's still a very solid album, but one I definitely thought I'd enjoy more.

El Michels Affair & Black Thought - Glorious Game

Some cool, slick instrumentals from El Michels Affair, and solid bars from Black Thought - on the whole, though, it doesn't feel like either are really doing anything too interesting here. Definitely nice to listen to while it's happening, but didn't leave much of an impression by the time it had ended - apart from the sublime title track.

Everything but the Girl - Fuse

While both have released a fair bit of solo material in the years since, Fuse is Tracey Thorn and Ben Watt's first album as Everything but the Girl in 24 years, following 1999's Temperamental. EBTG are one of my favourite bands so I've been quite cautiously optimistic since this was announced last year. I enjoyed the first single, "Nothing Left to Lose", when it was released a few months ago - and I've at least liked the other singles they've put out since. As a whole, Fuse is... maybe slightly underwhelming? It is only 35 minutes long - not that album length really matters, but still perhaps a little short given the context. I guess there's not a huge amount happening in the album tracks that hasn't already been done in the singles. Nonetheless, I still liked this a lot. The two have definitely updated their sound well, in a way that it feels modern yet also still like an EBTG album - and Tracey Thorn's vocals have aged incredibly well. Fuse is a very subtle and low-key return for the band, but one with definite potential to grow.

Magdalena Bay - mini mix vol. 3

Skeleton Metal X

I was a little bit underwhelmed by Magdalena Bay's debut Mercurial World - it's a good album, but there's so many elements of it that should make it an incredible one, and for some reason it never quite comes together for me as it should. Listening to this mini mix, I was a bit worried when the first song ('Slug Song') didn't really click with me - the general structure of the song is that the verses are muted and calm, but end with this big, sudden buildup of horns and synths. It feels a bit too theatrical to me, and definitely gets a little predictable by the end of the song. It's not bad at all, just a little jarring. Thankfully, most of the other songs here were superb - '2 Wheel Drive' in particular has a gorgeous, chill atmosphere, with ethereal synths and vocals which complement them really well. It's a very short project but a very promising one.

Vargskelethor - Skeleton Metal X

True to its name, Skeleton Metal X is a 77-minute album, largely consisting of metal songs about or involving skeletons. You might think from the name that this is the tenth edition of Vargskelethor's (aka Vinesauce Joel) Skeleton Metal project, but it's actually a sort of tenth anniversary celebration. The album itself is a mix of rerecorded songs from previous Skeleton Metal albums (such as 'Robert Cop' and 'Skeletor'), previously released songs ('Tekkno Pigeon', 'Fren') and a fair bit of completely new material. I can imagine the album might lose some appeal if you're not a fan of Joel's work, and if you don't like metal then a lot of this won't be for you, but generally this album does a superb job of combining the two, and there's just about nothing that leans too far in either direction. There's an eclectic mix of styles here, including both non-metal styles (a bit of EDM, some synthpop, and 'I Love to Bone', an emotional rock ballad about loving to bone) and even different styles of metal (high-tempo thrash metal, death metal, even a bit of nu-metal parody). The standout here for me has to be 'Black Submarine', a spectacular and instrumentally rich 6-minute saga about a Norwegian submarine, with lyrics that manage to be epic but at the same time absolutely ridiculous. Sometimes the style shifts very suddenly between songs, which can feel a little jarring - for instance, after a run of a few generally less-heavy songs towards the end, 'Skeleton War' immediately jumps back to hard thrash metal - but it's more a collection of songs than a coherent, ordered album, so this doesn't necessarily matter that much.

Wednesday - Rat Saw God

Should start off by saying I've been meaning to give this a second listen but haven't had the time to get around to it yet - so my views on this could be completely different by the end of the year. Prior to listening I'd seen a lot of hype about this album from music publications and particularly on Twitter. And it's definitely solid, I can't deny that - but part of me feels like I'm missing something. The songs are good, some of them have a few subtle Americana and alt-country influences, which I appreciate a lot - sadly, beyond that there's little here that's really stuck with me or made a huge impression. Also, I'm seeing a lot of people calling this 'shoegaze' which I'm not really seeing much of at all here, beyond a few odd moments.

Junior Brother - Junior Brother's Favourite (EP)

This EP consists of a single, 19-minute song - titled 'Junior Brother's Favourite'. It's a very sharp, progressive Irish folk song, with some excellent lyricism and imagery. The instrumentation is gorgeous as well - lovely, precise guitarwork; slick percussion; occasionally strings and other instruments, too - plus, Ronan Kealy's vocal performance is strong and versatile. If you're into folk music this is well worth checking out.

Van Shoeul's House of Ghouls

By: Mustard Machine (talk)

The Last Man on Earth
Genres Science Fiction, Horror
Release date 1964
Starring Vincent Price
Directed By Sidney Salkow, Ubaldo B. Ragona
Runtime 86 minutes
Streaming Youtube, Tubi, The Roku Channel

Good evening, dear readers and welcome to a returning Van Shoeul's House of Ghouls, hosted by yours truly, Vincent Van Shoeul. Last month, our little program took essentially a midseason break, but following darkness' brief respite, we're back with a full slate of grizzly ghouls, gruesome murders, and Vincent Price. For our return, we bring you a tale of humanity's greatest demons: isolation, loneliness, and Vincent Price. Join us as we take a look at 1964's The Last Man on Earth. Before we continue, I must remind those of you who have forgotten that our little program is not for the faint of heart. But for those of you brave enough to continue this little tale, I promise you it will a thriller!


Fitting for a tale titled The Last Man on Earth, we only have one true featured performer on tonight's program, and that is horror legend and American International Pictures mainstay Vincent Price, who plays Dr. Robert Morgan, the eponymous Last Man on Earth. A research scientist, seemingly the only person immune to a plague that has swept the world, turning all who are infected into vampires, Dr. Morgan lives an isolated existence. During the day, he forages the city for supplies and stakes and burns any vampires he finds. Then, during the night, he hunkers down in his house as the vampires attempt to stalk him. Completely without human contact, with only his records and home movies for companionship, he truly is the last man on Earth.

Produced by horror/b-movie staple company American International Pictures and filmed in Italy, The Last Man on Earth was the first adaption of the popular novel I am Legend. The film can basically be split into three parts, with the first part, in my opinion, being the most interesting. The first part focuses on the life of Dr. Robert Morgan as he lives his existence as the seemingly only remaining normal human in a world full of vampires. By day, Robert explores the city of Los Angeles, staking the hearts of sleeping vampires before throwing them in an seemingly perpetually burning burn pit (that a flashback would show was how the government disposed of the vampires, as well). During the day, he also must look for supplies, with a special emphasis on garlic and mirrors, since those keep vampires away from his house. At night, he hunkers down in his house as the vampires, who are aware of who he is and what he does, call for him to come out and be killed, attacking his house but never successfully breaking in.

The film does a great job of showing just how depressing this kind of life would be. Robert is doing all this just to survive; he takes no joy in any of this. Even things that once brought him happiness, like eating, no longer do anything for him. Rather, they are just things he does to survive. He attempts to live as emotionless as possible (at one point he tells himself he doesn't have time to feel anger), because everything he does has to follow a pretty set schedule.

Just another day at the office

It's a schedule that leaves no room for variance, because one false move could mean his death. The film really shows how miserable surviving just to survive would be, because Robert, even after three years of doing this, has only explored half of Los Angeles. He has no idea how many vampires remain, and he he has no idea how long it will be until he exhausts all available supplies. He's surviving to survive, living a fairly meaningless existence and just going through the basic motions of life.

Of course, the film also kind of shows that the vampires themselves, even at night, aren't exactly a great threat! At one point early in the film, an exhausted Robert passes out inside a church and doesn't awake until nightfall. Despite this, he still manages to drive back home and fight off the vampires before secluding himself inside his house. The vampires themselves are more like a zombie/vampire hybrid. They take a lot of things from vampires, such as weakness to mirrors and garlic, dying in the sun, and having some intelligence, but they also take from the traditional zombie in the sense that they seem to be far weaker than a regular human. Considering at one point they literally have him outnumbered, and he still fights them off without even a scratch, they aren't very strong!

Unfortunately, after this, the film enters its second act, and this is where the film's pace gets thrown off. The second act actually starts with a pretty neat little bridging device of Robert watching home movies before moving into a flashback of what his life was like pre-infection. Before the infection, Robert was a normal family man scientist who worked as a researcher with his best friend. Together, they were studying this new mysterious airborne virus. This part of the film goes on really long, and it just isn't that interesting. It's all about telling us how everything became the way it did, and it just isn't necessary! There's some cool parts to this part, such as revealing that the vampire who has been calling out Robert was his former best friend Ben Cortman (Giacomo Rossi-Stuart). There's a tear jerking scene of Robert attempting to get his daughter's body back from the government after his wife (Emma Danieli) reported her illness despite Robert's warning. Finally, there's a really good sequence where, after his wife falls ill to the disease, Robert gives her a burial so her body isn't burned like the rest, only for her to return from the grave and attack him, forcing him to re-kill her. But other than that, it just goes on and on with sequences of him and Ben arguing over whether or not the disease is making vampires (Ben says it is, Robert says it's not) and him talking with his boss over how the disease is spreading. So much of it is unnecessary and, after the super interesting apocalyptic isolation story the first twenty-five minutes tells, it's just a pace killer.

Good to see Robert laughing again!

This even causes problems with the third act, because the film's only and hour and half long and about thirty minutes of that is devoted to the flashback portion. So the ending stuff feels like it's rushed and could have gone longer, since the ending covers a lot, from Robert finding a dog only for the dog to die. I think the stuff with the dog is one of the best parts of the film, because it shows just how desperate Robert is for companionship after three isolated years. As soon as he sees the dog, he drops all of his plans so he can chase it down and capture it. Then, when he finds it and it has been attacked by a vampire, he attempts to nurse it back to health as he reassures the dog that it'll be fine and the two of them are gonna have a lot of happy times together. But you can tell from both Vincent Price's voice and fantastic facial expressions that what he's really trying to do is reassure himself.

Unfortunately, the dog succumbs to its wounds, then, while trying to bury it, Robert meets a seemingly-normal human woman named Ruth Collins (Franca Bettoia) who attempts to run away in fear upon seeing him. He manages to bring her back to his house, and that transitions into him finding out that there are more intelligent vampires that take medicine that prevents them from fully becoming the more monstrous vampires. He also kinda finds out that he's been killing the two indiscriminately over the last three years. Then they figure out that Robert's blood can cure the vampires, only for the vampires to attack him, not knowing this because he's killed so many of their kind. The ending does have a pretty good action sequence of Robert being chased through the town, fighting off vampires. At one point in time, he gets ahold of guns and blasts some of them away, which is pretty cool. It ends with him ranting at the vampires that they're all freaks and that he's the only man that remains, then he's finally killed by the vampires. But like everything in this, this goes by so fast. Since the flashback part goes for nearly thirty minutes, there just isn't enough time for these sequences to breath. To give an example, everything involving Ruth Collins takes place in only twenty minutes of film. So everything in the ending feels rushed to account for the limited film time remaining. Honestly, I think they could have taken ten or fifteen minutes off the flashback portion and devoted more time to the third act, and the third act would have flowed a lot better and not felt as rushed.

Of course, the obvious standout is the acting performance of Vincent Price as Dr. Robert Morgan. A far cry from his usual charismatic, more cartoony villain roles, Vincent Price really shows just how much range he has as an actor, easily portraying just how much of a broken man Robert is. A man who survives just to survive and takes no joy from anything in his life, Vincent Price really conveys what a sad existence Robert has. It's a great performance, and some of my favorite parts are just his early portions at the beginning of the film when he's going through his schedule to survive. Just his sort of indifference to it all, even killing the vampires is a chore, not a triumph, sells the drudgery of his life. It's a great showing of what such an isolated lifestyle, where you're doing the same thing over and over again, would do to someone. I also love how he plays the reality of someone being so lonely, the desperation of trying to keep the dog alive so he can have any form of companionship. Or, after the dog passes away, him begging on his ham radio for somebody, anybody, to answer him. It's another standout Vincent Price performance in a catalog that already has so many.

The Last Man on Earth, when it was released, was not considered a financial success, and I can see why. Overall, it's is a good film. It starts really strong with the best part of the film where we see a lonely Robert Morgan desperately trying to survive. It also ends strong, if rushed, with a fun sequence of him fighting off smarter vampires throughout "Los Angeles". Unfortunately, what stops it from being a real top shelf Vincent Price classic is the pacing, completely thrown off by an overly-long middle section that drags and kills the ending's pacing too. I'd still recommend it, because not only does Vincent Price give a thoroughly brilliant performance, but this movie is still considered the most faithful adaptation of I am Legend. So while it is a good movie and it's a pretty brisk watch at only an hour and twenty six minutes, unfortunately, it will not join the cream of the Vincent Price crop like Theater of Blood and The Masque of the Red Death.

And so concludes our lonely little tale. The moral of our story? Isn't it obvious? Watch out for any vampires you might stake, for they actually might be humanity's only hope. With this journey coming to an end, I'd like to invite you back next month for another dark and twisted Van Shoeul's House of Ghouls.

Book Review

Written by: FunkyK38 (talk)

Café Con Lychee
Author Emery Lee
Release date 2022
Genre YA, romance
Pages 318
Available From

Hello, everyone! Welcome back to Book Review! This month, I will be taking a look at Café Con Lychee by Emery Lee!

This book was a recommendation from Amazon last year, and I picked it up around its release date. I've kept it in my little book collection since then. If you need a book to read for Pride next month, here is a good one for you!

Café Con Lychee is the story of two high schoolers, Theo and Gabi. Theo is an average student and an excellent soccer player, and he works at his family's Asian American café, unhappily. He dreams of the day he graduates high school so he can leave town and stop working at his parents' business. Gabi is bad at soccer and loves dance. He enjoys working at his parents' Puerto Rican bakery and wants to take it over after he graduates. Despite both boys' feelings about their parents' restaurants, both businesses are in trouble when a chain fusion café moves into town and starts to dominate all the attention of the young clientele that both families desperately need to stay afloat. Theo has the idea to sell treats to other students in school, but when he injures his wrist in a soccer accident, Gabi steps in to help him with the small business, combining their cultures to create fusion treats that rival the faceless conglomerate café's. The boys must navigate their secret business and the growing attraction to each other while trying not to lose their friends and family.

This is your typical YA romance- enemies to friends to lovers, which is a personal favorite of mine. It's a reasonable pace- not a slow burn but not a quick tumble, and it's nice to see Theo and Gabi eventually being able to see eye to eye and start supporting each other. Gabi is not out yet, and his parents have expressed homophobic sentiments, and Theo is a support for him as they work through their feelings for each other. Theo coaches Gabi in soccer, and Gabi shows Theo some dance moves, and it's all very sweet. In addition to the romance, the other star of the book is the fusion treats that Theo and Gabi come up with. Pastries and fancy teas, soft buns, hand pies, it's all enough to make the reader want to go out and get some tasty fusion cuisine! Just make sure you're supporting a local business instead of some big corporation- they'll appreciate your business much more.

Café Con Lychee is a sweet YA romance with a tasty B-plot. Romances aren't for everyone, I will admit, but if you enjoy YA books or binge the enemies to lovers trope, I recommend this one to you. It's well-paced and reads quickly without getting dull. Give it a try, if only just for the pastries!

That's all for me this month, readers! See you next time for another review!

A Report on the Effectiveness of Power-Ups

Written By: Generalissimo Shoe (talk)

At ease, troops, and welcome to this classified briefing on research and development on weapons to fend off the Koopa hoard, a briefing hosted by I, the Generalissimo! Now that I've fully returned from my safari, we're turning our attention back to the Mushroom Fields as we look at two items that represent both sides of the size spectrum. This month, we look at the Mini Mushroom and the Mega Mushroom.

Mini Mushroom

First appearing as a power-up in the DS hit New Super Mario Bros. after appearing inMario Party 4 as part of that game's small and large board mechanics, the Mini Mushroom a small blue mushroom that turns Mario into Mini Mario. Mini Mario has a wide assortment of powers, being able to jump much higher than regular Mario thanks to his lack of mass. He also gains the ability to enter small pipes for prizes and shortcuts, along with the ability to run on water. Finally, Mini Mario is light enough so the timed Donut Blocks don't fall when he stands on them. As a trade-off for all this power, Mini Mario dies in one hit and can only defeat enemies by ground pounding them - if he can defeat them at all (with a few exceptions, like the equally tiny Mini Goombas). He also can't duck for some reason, which is weird.

Mini Mario
Mario squeeze's through to get the coin

As a power-up, the Mini Mushroom and its subsequent form Mini Mario is really kind of lame. It's not really a power-up. Factually speaking, Mario gets weaker after eating one. The powers you do get are neat, but they really only serve to either give you access to Star Coins and secret exits. Put it this way. There's really no time you want a Mini Mushroom unless there's something in that level that can only be accessed by a Mini Mushroom. The powers, while neat and kind of unique, don't really make up for the fact that you die in one hit. Mini Mario also resets the power-up staging, so the first power-up you get after eating a Mini Mushroom is going to be a Super Mushroom, which isn't so bad in New Super Mario Bros. and New Super Mario Bros. 2 where you get an item in reserve, but it's kind of annoying in the other two, where you do not have the ability to store a power-up. In addition, the Mini Mushroom does not enter the item storage after you pick up another power-up, but you can get it from a Toad House and that'll enter the storage if you need one for a level. Speaking of that, and something I really do think is annoying, in the first New Super Mario Bros. game, you are actually required to beat the bosses of World 2 and World 5 in order to access World 4 and World 7, respectively. So you have to beat two different bosses as a form that can only take one hit in order to see all of the game, which is, how you say, not great!

The Mini Mushroom, for some reason, is a staple power-up in the New Super Mario Bros. series, appearing in all four games. I would argue that it's a power-up that actually gets worse in games like New Super Mario Bros. Wii and New Super Mario Bros. U because those games let you pick up things, which you cannot do as Mini Mario. But don't worry! He gets the ability to duck! I don't know why this power-up appears in every New Super Mario Bros. game. To be honest, I'm not even sure Nintendo does, since it becomes a pretty uncommon power-up after the first game. It's just not a very interesting power-up and it really is only useful in very specific situations.

Mega Mushroom

Also first appearing inMario Party 4 and then in New Super Mario Bros. (although the Mega Mario form - gained by a regular Super Mushroom - does appear in Super Mario 64 DS), this gigantic mushroom turns Mario into Mega Mario, a giant version of Mario who can destroy anything in his path, from enemies to even the level itself! This power-up and its form was honestly the premier power-up in New Super Mario Bros. What I mean by that is that the Mega Mushroom was all over the advertising for New Super Mario Bros. Mega Mario is on the front of the cover, and the Mega Mushroom is prominently displayed on the back of the case. Plus, Mega Mario was featured prominently in commercials for the game. You can tell that Nintendo (correctly) thought that Mega Mario smashing his way through levels was a huge selling point for the game. As Mega Mario, almost nothing can stand up to Mario. Every enemy and even the bosses are nothing compared to his mega might! In fact, the only way I could beat the final boss of Bowser and Bowser Jr. was by using a Mega Mushroom I had in reserve! The only things that can stop Mega Mario are bottomless pits, lava, and poison.

Despite the heavy focus it gets in advertising for New Super Mario Bros., there are only four levels where Mega Mushrooms spawn out of blocks naturally. Other than those four levels, the Mega Mushroom can only be obtained from Flying Red ? Blocks and from orange Toad Houses. Orange Toad Houses are the only way to obtain a Mega Mushroom in your item storage. The reason is fairly simple; the Mega Mushroom basically operates as an instant win button for the level. While it's on a time limit, seeming to last about as long as a Super Star, the levels in New Super Mario Bros. are short enough to where you'll complete more then half the level with a single Mega Mushroom. I actually don't care much for the Mega Mushroom because, while it's cool to see Mario destroy enemies, pipes, and bricks before him, that's all it is. It's just an instant win and that's it. Also something that's kind of annoying is that, no matter what power-up you have, you always return to Super Mario once the Mega Mushroom runs out.

Mario tends to the garden.

The Mega Mushroom returned in New Super Mario Bros. 2, where it only appeared in three levels, so like... what was the point? Also, it's again, much like the Mini Mushroom, a worse version. See, in New Super Mario Bros., there was a destruction meter that built up as you destroyed things, and the more you destroyed, the higher it got. Then, once the form ended, that meter was converted into 1-Up Mushrooms, with a maximum of five 1-Up Mushrooms. New Super Mario Bros. 2'' doesn't have that. Now, you can get three 1-Up Mushrooms from destroying a flagpole as Mega Mario, but that's only possible in one of the three levels the power-up is in... So, cool? I guess... Also, you can't get the Mega Mushroom from Toad Houses, so you can only use it in those three levels (plus some of the DLC levels). So, like, why is this even here if they were going to use it so little? The Mega Mushroom would also make its first 3D appearance in Super Mario 3D World, where it was again a rare power-up, only appearing in seven levels.

Here, it operates the same as it always did, but with an additional power. If you ground pound as Mega Mario, you create shockwaves that can destroy enemies and blocks, which is actually pretty cool. It's neat to have a power that just instantly destroys waves of enemies. But other than that, it's Mega Mario but now in 3D!

The Mega Mushroom is a great marketing gimmick. It's a lot like the T-Rex in Super Mario Odyssey. You put it on the cover, you put it in the commercials, and people go "woah, that looks cool as hell". Then you actually use it, and it's fine, it's a fun little way to complete a level, but that's all it is. Because it's so overpowered, they aren't really building levels around it, so it's just one of those things where you get it and you get like 10-20 seconds of fun smashing things and then it's over, so you just go about the level normally from there. That's it. that's all it ever is. At least unlike Mini Mario, Mega Mario is actually memorable and a cool concept. I just don't think it's something that really excites me when I see it.

That concludes this briefing. Join us next month as we look at another tool to help us in combat in this seemingly endless war.

All-Time Smash Merit Ranking

Written by: SonicMario (talk)

Hello everybody! Welcome to the Finale of Smash Merit rankings! That’s right, 83 of the 85 characters have already been covered and we’re now just getting to the final two characters! Our Non-Shroom sections for the final time were Kazuya, Ken, and Incineroar.

We could make something of a venn diagram between our two characters. In the middle they’re both from franchises that sometimes Smash fans get a little over-represented. Although one was a popular choice when they were added, while one was… not so much to say the least. You could also say they’re both characters who had multiple games for their debuts. They both even got a bonus 3rd game… but… only one of them is actually a Pokemon oddly enough. In fact, let’s start with the Pokemon shall we?

Lucario from Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
Categories Fighter Info
Fighter Number 41
Fighter Group Brawl Veterans
Franchise Pokemon
Game of Origin Pokemon Diamond/Pearl (DS, 2006 (JP), 2007 (US/EU)

I’ve mentioned many times already is my Pokemon knowledge begins to drop off mid-Generation 3. And Lucario is the Generation 4 representative in Smash. I suppose it could be fair thanks to stuff like Brilliant Diamond/Shining Pearl and Arceus Legends based off on that region in Pokemon that’s it’s at the forefront again and I’ve been aware of the legendary Pokemon Palkia thanks to a good friend of mine who’s a former active member of the Mario Wiki community.

Even so, you’ll have to bear with me that I’m not going to be an expert on the Sinnoh region or even Lucario himself beyond what I’ve gathered from osmosis. I know at the very least he was well-promoted before he was in Smash with roles such as Lucario and the Mystery of Mew yet another of the many Pokemon movies that have come out. (Just like with the generations though, the last movie I purposefully went to see in full when it was new was Pokemon Heroes… Strange way to end my Pokemon movie watching days with the implication that Ash got kissed by a Pokemon.)

Lucario has this mechanic and/or special power called the Aura. Which the best I can explain it that for Lucario it’s like a Star Wars Jedi and the Force. It’s just something Lucario is able to tap into somehow. In Smash, it serves as a comeback mechanic. The more damage Lucario receives, the more power he has at his disposal. The most dangerous Lucario players are the one who know how to avoid hits well-enough when damage is high. This probably felt even more pronounced in Smash 4 when they added a Rage mechanic that in a sense gave EVERY SINGLE FIGHTER Lucario’s gimmick in a sense, although that doesn’t mean it made Lucario useless. It actually stacks and helps buff Lucario a great deal. Rage returns in Ultimate but was nerfed in comparison to how it went in Smash 4 so probably in that same sense Lucario himself was nerfed too.

One issue Lucario fans dealt with early on, were the fans who grew up with Gen 1 and/or 2 who were upset that Lucario was in Brawl yet Mewtwo had not returned. For some Mewtwo fans, Lucario felt something of a replacement scrappy. Although Lucario and Mewtwo only really have one similar move. That being of course Shadow Ball and Aura Sphere. For a moment back in Smash 4 it’d seem like yet again Mewtwo wouldn’t get his chance to show Lucario who’s boss. But then he was announced as the first DLC fighter. And now genwunners and those who stayed long enough to appreciate or started with Gen 4 could settle their petty debates… in Smash.

Another thing we should of course point out, is Lucario in Smash Bros. as well as his movie voice in Mystery of Mew. Which until the Dragon Quest characters arrived, was the closest we could ever see Goku from being involved in Smash Bros. Although I will continue to say, if Nintendo wants to somehow try to outdo Sora when it comes to internet breaking announcements. Goku may be more possible then we ever expect to admit. And the moment that a non-video game character makes Smash? All hell will certainly break loose.

And now, we have reached the final character at last… and how fitting, is it none other than yet another Fire Emblem character that pissed off Smash fans forever.

Corrin from Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
Categories Fighter Info
Fighter Number 62
Fighter Group Smash 4 Veterans/Smash 4 DLC
Franchise Fire Emblem
Game of Origin Fire Emblem Fates: Birthright/Conquest (3DS, 2015 (JP), 2016 (US/EU)

The November direct that revealed none other than Cloud Strife from Final Fantasy VII was certainly a monumental announcement on it’s own. Though just moments after that amazing reveal, the direct told us of the final Smash Bros. direct for Smash 4. We had Smash directs before certainly, but the fact that this was going to be the last one. A finality will finally come. If your characters weren’t in this one then you were left having to wait for the next one. We didn’t know at the time that Smash Ultimate would be announced as soon as it was. We even assumed that whatever the Smash Bros. we got on the Switch could have just been Smash 4 Wii U again, maybe if they had done it it would even be still getting updates and DLC right now along with the Booster Course Pass for Mario Kart 8. But otherwise we were generally expecting them to just port over Smash Wii U over, MAYBE with our fingers crossed for some extra characters and/or some features of the 3DS version merged with the game. (I still miss Smash Run, personally)

So it’s probably safe to say that expectations for the final direct were high. And this was still a time where we generally saw the final characters being not as hype as some of the earlier characters revealed all a coincidence. Olimar obviously wasn’t as hype as freakin’ Sonic the Hedgehog, but that didn’t mean it wan an entirely disappointing pre-unlockable reveal. And any one that may have not been into Bowser Jr. and/or the Duck Hunt Dog being the final base game characters for Smash 4 were entirely placated by the announcement of Mewtwo as our first DLC character. I don’t think it’d be much of a shock that many of us were expecting the world of this direct. Ending things with a bang by adding wanted characters. Maybe we’d even get whoever was voted #1 in the Smash Ballot. After all, it was still unclear just what the ballot was for. There was even speculation that Cloud was one of the winners of the ballot when in truth while there’s probably a good chance he got a great amount of votes, he might have been planned already by that point. Again, we couldn’t have known that the Ballot was actually intended for the next game more than the current one. Nintendo never released the official results, and I don’t know if they’ll ever reveal the total numbers of votes. It may be locked away in Nintendo’s vault, if they even keep the record of it all long enough to ever reveal it to us. We can only take what Sakurai has told us. It’s at least generally obvious that K. Rool, Banjo, and Sora definitely got in due to the ballot. Bayonetta’s implied to be during her reveal, but I’ve covered the controversy when I covered her there already.

I think what generally people were thinking, was probably at least one more veteran DLC character (Wolf considered the most likely) and then one hype newcomer to really blow our socks off.

So the day came directly in the middle of December of 2015. Just 10 days away from Christmas, every Smash Fan with a smile on their face just waiting for the early Christmas present that Sakurai has brought down our chimney…

…Only for many of us to realize, we just got the equivalent of a lump of coal in no less then 50 seconds. As Corrin was the first of only two characters we would get to end off the Smash 4 DLC. It was another Fire Emblem character, with a sword, who wasn’t even out in the west yet. At the very least, Corrin was a wholly unique character with the sword being quite different from any of the other characters and he was at least out in Japan rather then debuting in Smash like a certain red-haired lord. But nonetheless, this was an infuriating addition to Smash to start off the final broadcast for Smash 4’s roster. Of all the characters Nintendo could have chosen to end Smash 4 with 1st party-wise they decided another FIRE EMBLEM character was a good idea?

It didn’t exactly help matters that characters like King K. Rool would be in the Mii Costume set within the same direct. K. Rool was of course the name usually seen at the most fan-collected polls that asked who they voted for in the Smash Ballot. For many, it was an outrage that they dared to add another Fire Emblem character while throwing wanted characters with what they viewed as a half-assed consolation prize and a fear that’s all the character will ever get.(Though to be fair, at this point it feels like the Geno fans might actually be stuck in that kind of purgatory). For many fans it felt like they tossed away what they wanted in favor of… promoting a new game that hadn’t proven itself yet. And sure enough, to add to Corrin’s issues. Fire Emblem Fates would turn out to be one of the most divisive entries in the entire franchise

Fates is divisive because in some ways the gameplay is enjoyable (Some would even say it improved on some of Awakening’s issues), Conquest in particular seems to be the favored of the three when it comes from a pure gameplay standpoint. But in terms of the story, characters, and erm… let’s say weird and creepy decisions to take the franchise really earned the games it’s reputation. And that’s not even adding the fact that they tried to sell Fates like a Pokemon game. I suppose to be fair technically the three games are more different then different Pokemon versions. But if you wanted to see the game from all angles, you had to shell out $90 instead of just $30. And about the weird and creepy thing I mentioned? In the Japanese version of the game, you were capable of PETTING your units and doing things to them with your stylus as if they brought Pokemon Amie to Fire Emblem. Sure petting adorable Pokemon is cute, but it kinda takes another meaning when you’re doing such things to actual human characters. Particularly the female character of the games who might even have um… suggestive sounds when you interact with them.

Nintendo at least had the sense to remove or otherwise lessen it’s presence for the western releases of the games. But then that caused MORE uproar when there are some gamers who may have wanted to have that in the games under the guise of “Muh CenSOrSHip!: when in many cases… those who were complaining… are the kind of folks that probably shouldn’t be catered to. At least not a company like Nintendo who’s still generally seen as the company that more often then not appeals to all ages… including children. And that’s not even mentioning of course, that while I’m no expert. Apparently the writing the story goes through is not remembered fondly. You’ll have to ask a more well-versed Fire Emblem fan why Fates. But I think it mostly boils down to, and while there IS the caveat that Corrin is not actually blood related to anyone in the game. You can still S-Support with characters Corrin practically grew up with as if they were their siblings. Which can get very awkward fast.

There’s just so many factors going into why Corrin was seen as such a poor choice that arguably got worse for many as time went on. I’ve already mentioned that he (or she) was a character from a game not release in the west yet, was another fire emblem with a sword, was not what people were expecting when people were hoping for some real hype characters for this final broadcast, Fates itself became divisive even within the Fire Emblem fanbase, and it probably doesn’t help that the OTHER character revealed in the same broadcast. Was just as, if not even more controversial for their own reasons. It wouldn’t surprise me if the final Smash 4 direct goes up there with many Smash fans’ worst reveals and/or choices to add to Smash. And on top of all of this of course is the fact Corrin was DLC, they were at least a dollar less then Ryu, Cloud, or Bayonetta due to not coming with a stage but for the portion of the fandom who have no issue with essentially boycotting a character they don’t like. I would not be surprised if Corrin was the one character least downloaded out of any of the Smash 4 DLC characters. I imagine Corrin still made Nintendo plenty of money, as I’m sure there were more “Meh, it’s a new character. Why the hell not?” kind of buyers more so then the so vehemently Anti-Corrin that they refuse to add them to their game. Byleth’s reaction may have arguably been worse, but because the Fighter’s Pass existed, there is likely a great amount of people who were stuck with Byleth one way or another. I admit I’ve been tempted to do such a boycott before, I’ve mentioned that I considered it for Roy’s return in Smash 4. And if Piranha Plant wasn’t a free pre-order bonus, there was no way in hell I was going to pay up for it.

In this sense, I could say a half-full situation where Corrin is clearly not THE worst character addition to Smash. But we do gotta dress the half-empty where they are still definitely a poor choice even to this day. Maybe if Corrin didn’t happen previously, Byleth’s reaction may have been less of an uproar as the previous truly new Fire Emblem character would have been Robin. Instead, Nintendo tried way too hard to market Fire Emblem as if it’s Pokemon. They had made their choice, and the path was made clear… for fan rage on every Smash Bros. adjacent website and/or forum.

And at last, we reach the final additions to our merit list. While no Pokemon outside of the first generation can truly claim to getting credit for the phenomenon the Pokemon franchise has become over the years. Lucario’s certainly one of the few that have truly passed the test of time and has remained a stand-out representative of Pokemon ever since Gen 4 of Pokemon. He is in fact the only non-Gen 1 Pokemon who outranks a Gen 1 Pokemon in this list. Although your mileage may vary if Jigglypuff is a high bar, especially when the next Gen 1 Pokemon is none other than the Pokemon Lucario is unofficially deemed a rival to in Smash: Mewtwo, who’s a full 27 spots above him. Still, props to Lucario for being able to remain relevant in a series that constantly pushes a new assortment of designs every 2 or so years. And Smash-wise, I do feel like Lucario’s has gotten to at least close to Captain Falcon tier

As for Corrin, there was no doubt that their appearance on the list was going to be any higher then the bottom 20. The question was how low would they go. I think I’ve said before that despite the reaction being worse, the addition of Byleth is overall better merit-wise then Corrin. But it is close enough that I think Corrin will be just one spot below them. Corrin still beats out both the Ice Climbers, and the Wii Fit Trainer just for their separate issues of the former being a retro game that has received no sequels since the 80s and Wii Fit Trainer riding on the coattails of the Miis. Most characters around this area just managing to avoid the bottom 10 purely because they aren’t labeled as Echo Fighters. I admit it may seem like I’m being rather discriminatory towards echo fighters and/or clones. But I’ve made it clear that I can still like a character’s addition, even if I rank their merit low. I gushed in Dark Samus and Chrom’s section. So this has never been a pure likability chart (Although, I would be lying if some subjective thoughts didn’t go into this somewhere)

Regardless, this is the final listing. At least until the next Smash arrives to add more characters. The only sad question we have to think about, is if we will truly ever have all 85 characters back again next time. They could simply just port Ultimate to the next system to deter that, but they still have to ask permission for every single 3rd party character. And who knows if there will be a time where a stingy company flat-out says no at some point. Don’t forget that merit in this case is also quite malleable. Over the coming years as new franchises grow and get sequels the older they are the likely it is they’ll rise. Although that certainly isn’t the case for every character. If a franchise goes dormant and/or never truly gets officially released. There is always a chance more characters rise above as they drop down into obscurity. In which for many characters, Smash Bros. is the only thing really keeping them in our minds.

1. Mario 21. Mewtwo 41. Inkling 61. Bayonetta 81. Richter Belmont
2. Link 22. Ridley 42. Snake 62. Lucas 82. Roy
3. Pikachu 23. King K. Rool 43. Shulk 63. Pyra 83. Dr. Mario
4. Donkey Kong 24. Zelda 44. Pit 64. Mythra 84. Dark Pit
5. Kirby 25. Meta Knight 45. Little Mac 65. Incineroar 85. Piranha Plant
6. Samus 26. Ganondorf 46. Ness 66. Palutena
7. Pokemon Trainer 27. Mr. Game & Watch 47. Captain Falcon 67. Joker
8. Luigi 28. Sonic the Hedgehog 48. Lucario 68. Young Link
9. Wario 29. Cloud 49. Sephiroth 69. Sheik
10. Yoshi 30. Sora 50. Robin 70. ROB
11. Bowser 31. Ryu 51. Jigglypuff 71. Min Min
12. Peach 32. Villager 52. Falco 72. Byleth
13. Mii Fighters 33. Bowser Jr. 53. Wolf 73. Corrin
14. Mega Man 34. Olimar 54. Pichu 74. Ice Climbers
15. Pac-Man 35. Fox 55. Duck Hunt 75. Wii Fit Trainer
16. Diddy Kong 36. Rosalina & Luma 56. Ike 76. Ken
17. Banjo & Kazooie 37. Marth 57. Greninja 77. Dark Samus
18. Simon Belmont 38. Zero Suit Samus 58. Steve 78. Chrom
19. Hero 39. Toon Link 59. Kazuya 79. Lucina
20. King Dedede 40. Isabelle 60. Terry 80. Daisy

Now that we’re done with the list, I thought I’d show a bit of an extra amount of charts that gives us a game-by-game basis of what the list looks like purely from each pool of characters.

It should be no surprise that the original Smash makes up a great majority of our Top 10, They pretty much nailed most of the longtime flagship characters of Nintendo despite only having 12 characters to work with. It only droops down fast after you get to Yoshi. Where poor Fox’s franchise has had it’s hard times. And then there’s Ness and Captain Falcon who either have a finished series in accordance to how the creator views the series. Or the franchise has just laid dormant since the Gamecube and GBA era. We can’t forget Jigglypuff though, 51’s a large drop for a Gen 1 Pokemon but she still reigns above many of the Pokemon inclusions that have come over since.

1. Mario
2. Link
3. Pikachu
4. Donkey Kong
5. Kirby
6. Samus
8. Luigi
10. Yoshi
35. Fox
46. Ness
47. Captain Falcon
51. Jigglypuff

Melee also introduced some tried and true veterans in the series, although things really drop off past Marth. From the popular but questionable necessity of Falco and Pichu all the way down to Dr. “Why isn’t he an alt. costume?” Mario

11. Bowser
12. Peach
21. Mewtwo
24. Zelda
26. Ganondorf
27. Mr. Game & Watch
37. Marth
52, Falco
54. Pichu
68. Young Link
69. Sheik
74. Ice Climbers
82. Roy
83. Dr. Mario

Brawl’s the only other game to contain characters that make up the Top 10 in merit. The strongest part about Brawl was that there really is not many characters you could really complain about them adding. I’ve come to the decision that ROB’s probably the worst. But even then, ROB has such an interesting history. Even if the impact of Super Mario Bros. was what really ended the game crash rather then the attempt at trojan horse’ing ROB through the toy industry. It helps that Subspace almost essentially makes ROB a central character. Like I said when covering them, you could argue Subspace is the first game to center around ROBs since the days of Gyromite.

7. Pokemon Trainer
9. Wario
16. Diddy Kong
20. King Dedede
25. Meta Knight
28. Sonic the Hedgehog
34. Olimar
38. Zero Suit Samus
39. Toon Link
42. Snake
44. Pit
48. Lucario
53. Wolf
56. Ike
62. Lucas
70. ROB

Smash 4 is where things get… interesting to say the least. The Top 5 here were all exciting additions in some fashion (Some may argue that I put way too much stock in the Mii Fighters, but I feel the Mii costumes being used as a consolation prize gives them something of an edge that boosts their merit alongside the fact they are technically our Smash Bros. representative, having been the Multi-man characters since Smash 4.) Though past Rosalina is when things get all over the place. Sure both Shulk and Little Mac were exciting additions given they’re more on the niche side. But then Smash 4 retroactively introduced the Echo fighters and rather head scratching additions like Corrin and Wii Fit Trainer. Add Bayonetta to that, and I think it’d be fair to say Smash 4 perhaps has the most divisive newcomer pool of any Smash game. Though I would personally still rank it above Melee’s myself.

13. Mii Fighters
14. Mega Man
15. Pac-Man
29. Cloud
31. Ryu
32. Villager
33. Bowser Jr.
36. Rosalina & Luma
43. Shulk
45. Little Mac
50. Robin
55. Duck Hunt
57. Greninja
61. Bayonetta
66. Palutena
73. Corrin
75. Wii Fit Trainer
79. Lucina
84. Dark Pit

And while Ultimate never added a Top 10 worthy character. Having a grand total of 5 in the Top 25 is still one heck of an accomplishment. It IS dragged down a bit by the echoes. But a generally more fan-pleasing list… as long as you ignore a certain plant in a tube.

17. Banjo & Kazooie 78. Chrom
18. Simon Belmont 80. Daisy
19. Hero 81. Richter
22. Ridley 85. Piranha Plant
23. King K. Rool
30. Sora
40. Isabelle
41. Inkling
49. Sephiroth
58. Steve
59. Kazuya
60. Terry
63. Pyra
64. Mythra
65, Incineroar
67. Joker
71. Min Min
72. Byleth
76. Ken
77. Dark Samus

Thank you all for reading my sections, I hope I give a fair look at how I view the merit of each and every character in Smash. I know with any list like this, there are probably moments my personal opinion shone through in where I’m ranking them. I have no doubt there’s probably some placings where I could be challenged about, there may be spots where I may have made a mistake in where I placed them overall. But I hope at the very least I got the general sense of what makes for great additions to Smash and why some others may not be so desired. Maybe when a new Smash game rolls around, we’ll revisit this list and I can discuss where things have moved around by then. As I said, merit can be quite malleable. The more closer to the middle, the more wishy-washy some rankings could be. It’s dropping from the top 20 and rising above the bottom 20 that may prove ultimately difficult for many for one reason or another.

And if your favorite video game character still hasn’t made Smash, I hope I get to add them to the list officially if/when they do. I know I’m just begging to eventually get the chance to add Tails around where I ranked Sephiroth myself one day!

Anton's Half-Baked Reviews

Written by: Hypnotoad (talk)
Featuring Art by: @RubyRKGK

Spring Cleaning Special

Looks about how well my spring cleaning is going.

Ah, Spring has sprung, yet my motivation to do any actual cleaning consists of just sitting around trying to soak up as much coziness as I can while making lists of things I need to do, before getting back to work and not getting around to anything on my lists. Luckily one thing I can multitask doing while alternating which side of my body I’m leaning on every couple hours to prevent bedsores is tidying up partial reviews I have stocked up that I never got around to finishing for one reason or another!

Muddy Buddies Pretzel Bites

These are rocks, literally rocks.
On August 16th, 2016, I sent an email to General Mills asking to confirm if my beloved Chocolate Peanut Butter Chex Mix had truly been discontinued. The response I got was disappointing, deflecting any acknowledgment of Chocolate Peanut Butter Chex Mix to instead affirm that the Chocolate Peanut Butter Muddy Buddies remain available. Pressing it further yielded no new information, just continuous seemingly-automated replies telling me Muddy Buddies still exist, indicating to me that my one joy in life has been erased from existence, leaving me to twist in agony, grasping for whatever remnants and fleeting memory I can hold momentarily to ease the pain. Sometimes Honey Nut is a solid choice with those swirly cookies that fit my aesthetic, the Muddy Buddies I was being gaslit with because they are still pretty good, even the Peanut Butter Chocolate Treat Bar to throw a few coins their way for their data collectors to have another number to add to their ‘customers want chocolate peanut butter’ tally, but 4th quarter 2020 brought us a new creation: Pretzel Bites, taking the basic concept of a Muddy Buddy and replacing the Chex cereal with pretzel. Taking the place on gas pegboard hooks where I could once find my departed heart, I figured, huh, why not. Well, here’s why.

Much smaller than I expected. Certainly not the peanut butter filled hollow pretzel nugget that the image on the package implies, and instead are like little solid and dense pretzel nibs that I guess are coated in a thin layer of peanut butter and chocolate, with a heavy powdered sugar dusting. All of these things involved are things I like, but I’m left feeling disappointed. It’s not so much that I was expecting sugar-coated pretzel nuggets, although that is a heavy contributor, but it’s that it just feels like I’m eating rocks; a disappointing reality given how I purchased these very soon after their market debut leaving no excusable possibility of having gone stale as the leading factor in their deplorable texture. None of the components exist in a quantity or form that really permits them to be enjoyed, and my mastermind strategy of ‘what if I just eat a fistful of them’ didn’t pan out because it instead felt more like all of my teeth suddenly fell out and I was crunching into these.

Chicken Salad Chick

If you ever wondered where the spawn point was for white women who exclusively wear Lilly Pulitzer and are either the ages 46 or 73 with no other possible option, you’re in luck, for I have discovered it here at Chicken Salad Chick. When my brother asked me one day if I wanted to meet with him on his lunch break I said ‘sure’, not knowing he was going to take me to a place that serves primarily chicken salad. Prior to this I had no idea that was even a thing; chicken salad is a side, not a meal, how could this be? Also, gross. I was not a fan of any non-leafy salad as a kid, for reasons I could explain to you for hours and will make you hold your family closer to appreciate whatever iota of love they’ve ever given to you. Trying to set aside any preconceived notions I had, and any reluctance within me, I went along with it. Chicken Salad Chick is a fast casual restaurant chain and franchise that serves primarily southern-style chicken salads in a variety of flavors named after the founder’s female family, friends, and coworkers, served by the scoop, by weight, or on sandwiches. They also serve tuna and egg salad, various midwestern salad amalgamations, pimento cheese, cookies, and some other sides. If you’re not into chicken salad they also have turkey sandwiches, but honestly this isn’t even on the level of getting chicken tenders at a steak restaurant, so just don’t even come here if you’re not going to get the chicken salad. Sit in the car if you must.

This is what the future of infrastructure looks like.

First impression is that the inside looks depressing, just a few sparse wall decorations that were pretty obviously picked up from the nearby Hobby Lobby, spread around some basic molding and flat neutral paint with cheesy affirmations on the walls. What it comes off as to me is a low-budget startup, and not the thriving chain making all kinds of top business lists that it is. They have a traditional fast food counter, where you just walk up and order from a menu overhead, and also a grab & go refrigerated case and a drive through. You can either escape this purgatory, or choose to sit down within it to see how long it takes for your eyes to adjust to the pale green interior.

There’s a lot of repetitive commentary I could make that would quickly lose its humor regarding just how White this place seems, and all of their marketing and ad visuals don’t help the cause with them displaying the most basic cookie cutter caucasoid families in true stereotypical WASP form. It just evokes a similar aesthetic as Stepford Wives suburbia barrenness in such a way that’s devoid of any camp that would otherwise make it truly playful and fun, and instead feels more like an early 2000s pop-punk music video satirizing their privileged youths. Despite all of the endearing familial and friendly connections to the names of the salads, it rings hollow in a way I can’t describe as well as I’d like, providing a push for me to bring upon advances in empathetic telepathy to broadcast my visceral sensations into unsuspecting passersby to generate a sickening aura of off-putting #basic sophistication. And, I admit, it’s likely my own cynicism based on experience with this specific kind of appeal, as nothing that this company or founder puts forth or has as visible dirt indicates any directional sway in politics or ideological thinking beyond ‘cancer is bad’; but with their location scouting seeming to be based entirely on pinpointing the well-to-do uppity white people areas of southeastern cities, it’s hard to miss the customers populating their parking lot signaling hard right leans that lead me to weary discomfort.

An addendum to this is I went to try the food here again a couple of days before this review released just to see if anything wildly changed before I shoot out information that’s 4 years old, and as I walked in I was met with a whole family sneering at me as I walked up, with who I can only assume is the grandmother saying “why is HIS hair so long?” with such impotent venom in her voice while the rest continued to look over their shoulders at me. It was such a bizarre experience that tried to admonish me but was so limp that it empowered me more knowing that these awful banal people had their white-woman themed chicken salad milquetoast middle-class midwestern larping fantasy utterly shattered by the presence of a potential queer of unknown shape and form, bringing forth a dreaded casual appearance into the fast casual food shop that they’ve dressed up in business attire for; and I can fully say that this was not done by the company, this establishment, or any workers within, but it’s very clearly a spawning ground for these exact kind of people, just puritanical hollowness plunked into new-development office parks in homogenous suburbs, catering to superficial southern belle gentility.

To beget their actual reputation, away from what their dreaded local customer bases may invoke, it’s good to know their simple origin, and this exceptionally cute interview that goes into the first days of their business and troubleshooting trials and tribulations as they came up, a very personal look into what it takes to start and maintain a successful new business concept..

Fancy Nancy

Having a bowl of grapes right next to this makes it feel more silly.

How can I just not get the option called Fancy Nancy? Out of all of their white women-themed chicken salads it also seemed to be like a good Level 3 chicken salad to try out; didn’t want the Classic Carol because how different can you make plain chicken salad taste, and wanted to explore more than just some flavor tweaks. When really looking at it, each flavor really didn’t seem to be much different almost entirely as a result of none of the special ingredients being chopped up in any way to taste them in each bite, but rather just huge chunks to be eaten separately. Fancy Nancy gets its fancy by having fuji apples, grapes, and pecans crammed into it. I opted to get this on a sandwich with some toasted white bread, fruit cup, a cookie, and a sweet tea.

To my genuine shock, it’s pretty boring, but specifically not bad, which I guess is a net compliment when the hurdle it had to jump was not triggering two decade old trauma. Not sure how I feel about the grapes being pretty huge and left whole, but none of the feelings I have regarding that could be spun as positive–was it a failure from the prep crew? Lack of awareness from corporate that no one else does this? Inaction from, or nonexistence of, from any test groups or product research? Not sure if any apples were even in this so I’m leaning towards inadequate training or a careless prep team. Either way it left for a couple awkward bites, and I’m sure the particular flavorful sweetness of the grapes would’ve made for a much better experience. The bread tasted dull which uhhhhh yeah, it’s white bread, so it is what it is. The cookie and fresh fruit bowl were amazing, though, and props to them for including a pickle on the side. What is it with places in the south having sweet tea barrels just sitting out at above room temperature?

The change in setting definitely changes the tone less of spotless simplicity, to more just lunch.

Lauryn’s Lemon Basil

With chopped pecans, basil, and lemon, it’s not as lemony as I was expecting, but there’s definitely a bright sweet tartness in the aftertaste that I greatly appreciate as it masks the residual mayonnaise that my body has been trained to identify. I got this on a sandwich with toasted wheatberry bread, which came standard with some lettuce and tomato; clean simplicity, with the lemon providing enough zest to up the ante on the freshness taste that makes for a good lunch. I also got with this their most bible belt tier side available–grape salad–which was red and white grapes mixed around with a sweet cream cheese, brown sugar, and crushed pecans. Honestly thanking them for not entertaining Waldorf salad as an option. The grape salad was a bit weird; probably would’ve preferred to just have a bunch of grapes left unbothered as a side, but it wasn’t bad.

Pimento Ball

I feel if I packed this a little harder I could kill someone with it.

So I saw that this was charging me $14 when I put it in my online order cart and I was like uhhhhhhhhh…sssuuuuure. But then I saw it, absolutely massive, with enough cheese within that only makes sense to me from a profit margin perspective with knowing that they get restaurant bulk pricing on ingredients and supplies. Pretty neutral and basic flavor, just some shredded cheddar and pepper jack with some dressing, slapped into a pretty loose ball; not some kinda cheese spread configuration but visible shreds that still sticks well together to be a nice hunk of junk to slap on a crack with some summer sausage. Simple and good enough, very crowd-pleasing, that it may become an easy pickup for holiday snacking boards.

What must it feel like to be the icon of a discontinued flavor? Is the news broken to them like a death would be? Is a flavor discontinued due to a falling out? What I would like to see Chicken Salad Chick do is to forego the handpicked friends and family, and to allow for you to be the Chick. Give me a build-your-own chicken salad bar, or even a service, where I can select from a few bases, add in flavorful sauces or dressings, some fruit or savory additions, various nuts or mysterious objects to crunch. Just let loose of all of the controls and handles and let us all go wild.

Cheon Yeon Cider

More food should be this shade of blue.

A day at Disney seems like it’d be a load of thrill and fun, cute nonsense and photo ops to come across, and most importantly: extremely expensive food. One of my favorite places is the Mitsukoshi Department Store at the Japan Pavilion in Epcot because it’s just a gift shop being exactly what it is rather than being a predatory ride exit. Within there is a pretty sizable food area, which the other pavilions should strive to have rather than just stocking the same candy bars at 4x the price than you can get at Publix. I always make it a point to buy some drinks from the fridge in there as it’s the only place on the entire property where I can see the quantity I’m going to receive and assess whether I think the price is worth it before I swipe my card, and generally the answer is ‘yes, of course, it’s 4000 degrees and I’ve been sweating out every drop of liquid within my body’. I typically grab one of the various Calpico flavors I like, or Kirin Lemon sparkling soda.

What was not known to me at the time of trying this is that ‘cider’ is not the same ‘cider’ we know in the US and pretty much every western country. Rather than a product of apple or pear juice, in Korea it is more of a lemon-lime soda, with this one in particular having a cream soda edge, retroactively making sense for why it smelled just like a cream soda or tutti frutti. It tastes just like cream soda with that tutti frutti bubble-gummy vague fruity nonsense as well. Absolutely unbelievable how so many sodas are exactly this flavor, to the point that I’m now expecting any soda to be that if a distinct and known flavor isn’t specified. Aside from being a bit irritated at how ubiquitous this flavor has become, it has good fizzy content in line with other Korean carbonated drinks I’ve had that tend to feel more on the creamy side, furthered by the added vanilla flavor. The base for this soda is natural mineral water from Cheongju, Chungbuk, South Korea, likely lending to its cleaner feel. It also includes various sugar syrups and artificial flavors, namely lemon and strawberry. Despite this it feels more crisp, much less syrupy and sugar-loaded than how trashy American sodas can be.

While I’m at it I may as well just dump these in here too:

Pepsi Peeps

Where I found it, and where I should've left it.
And where it belongs.

Peepsi, as it should’ve been called, is an Easter limited edition marshmallow-flavored cola soda. Originally debuting in 2021 as a small quantity sweepstakes prize before skipping a year to return in 2023 to ominously imply that it may become an annual event. Long story short, it tastes like cream soda, but bad. The intention is to be some kinda sugar-coated marshmallow flavor, as that’s all a Peep even is, but when that flavor is dissolved into a soda it really just becomes a vanilla-flavored fake sugar, which, well, is cream soda, but this time extremely bad. In my experience it is the texture of a Peep that makes them pretty awful, just a really unsatisfying stale sensation of something that feels more like something to insulate your house or pack boxes with, so I was hoping that maybe removing that physical quality entirely and dissolving it down to pure flavor would mean something, but no. The aftertaste is what’s worst here; at least the initial sips you can be like ‘hmm well yeah this sure is regular cola and wow that’s a hint of vanilla and extra sweetness’, and if it ended there it’d all be fine, but it continues degrading in your mouth as something that just tastes like you accidentally inhaled plastic wrap with how definitely artificial it comes off. Not worth finishing, not worth you guys trying it out for yourselves, this product has absolutely no further value than being a cross-marketing opportunity that sinks its teeth into viral social media. Vanilla Pepsi already exists and is close enough to this.

Coca-Cola Move

One of their Coke Creations that absolutely activates FOMO responses, begging you to try one just to be in with the times and know what it tastes like. Following Starlight, Byte, Dreamworld, and one co-created with the musician Marshmello that shockingly doesn’t taste like marshmallow and actually had to be upfront with what the flavors were, Move is “co-created with Rosalía, one of the most daring artists in music today, Coca-Cola® Move is a celebration of transformation.” So daring that yet again it’s a carbonated drink that just tastes like cream soda. When will corporations stop trying to get us to like cream soda? Other reviews say this ‘Transformation flavored’ drink tastes like pineapple coconut, but I have no idea where they’re getting that from except for projecting their own hopes and dreams as it's just a basic cream soda flavor. Maybe those flavors are in there, possibly, but the basic vanilla flavoring used in so many other products is so dominant that there’s no point in trying to suss out what allegedly is also in there when you can just buy a Fanta Pineapple soda if that’s what you wish to taste. Maybe there’s some extra tiny bit of nuance, a delicate touch of subtlety, but there’s just not enough in there for me, as someone who just physically and mentally cannot buy into promotional hypes even if I genuinely want to, to care at all and look past what’s in the forefront. It tastes like every other cola with vanilla flavoring, but sweeter. Seeing that Starlight is yet another fruity vanilla flavor as well has me calling bullshit on the entire thing, and no promise of the other flavors having citrus or mint or anything else will persuade me that it’s not just another gamble with companies trying to rebrand cream soda unless they come forward with saying what flavors are use, or at least teasing a direction, please.

Like all the metaverse branding they keep shoving with all of their Creations, this is better left to rot in a techie wasteland. Because it's Coke and not Pepsi it does feel better than the Peeps travesty, but that's not a hard hurdle to leap over. If you like cream soda, great, good for you, go ahead and buy this, but don't buy it if you don't because all it is is cream soda. But, when I drink a soda that's not called cream soda I would like for it to not taste like cream soda. For all the branding it has I wanted there to be a new taste, not the same one that we've had for 200 years.

The Official Hot Dog of #mariowiki

16/05/2012 21:28:43<@Uniju> what's the best combination of things on a hot dog
16/05/2012 21:29:08<@Uniju> in the end we will take everybodys favourites and make the official #mariowiki dog

On May 16th, 2012, an idea innocently manifested in the IRC channel #mariowiki, generated by the current owner of the channel, Uniju, for the close-knit group of whoever happened to be around that day to suggest something to add to a hot dog. As per the #mariowiki hot dog on

The official hot dog of #mariowiki has the following toppings: Carmelized Onions, Four Cheese, Colslaw, Relish, Mustard, Blue Cheese, Mayo, Butter, Bacon, Sawdust, BBQ Sauce, Chili, and an olive for garnish. Serve on a Sourdough bun with a side of Goldfish crackers, in a cottage. This is our national meal.

Now, here, 11 years later, the icon of affable collaboration of our younger selves, unburdened with today’s issues and rather whether or not we should ignore bil, enters reality to torment a new set of people with ‘who’d ever eat something with all this on it’. It’s me.

16/05/2012 21:40:30<@Uniju> now we just need somebody to make it and take a picture. i put the recipe on the rules page.

Much more expensive than I planned on.

Full logs of the dialogue can be made available upon request, but I’m not going to post the goofy antics of a bunch of 14-19 year olds from a decade ago. Otherwise, here is a full list of ingredients required, the brand I chose, and who submitted the selection:

Hot Dog - Sahlen’s Original Beef Smokehouse Hot Dogs - Uniju
Caramelized Onions - Homemade - Uniju
Four Cheese - Kraft Mexican Four Cheese Blend - Crash
Coleslaw - Publix Shredded Coleslaw - Snack
Relish - Wickles Pickles Original Relish - Anton
Mustard - Whole Grain Dijon Mustard - Martini
Blue Cheese - Castello Danablu Crumbles - tfp
Mayo - Duke’s Real Mayonnaise - Turb
Butter - Trader Joe’s Unsalted Butter - Smasher
Bacon - Jimmy Dean Applewood Smoked - Blocky
Sawdust - Kraft Parmesan - groden
BBQ Sauce - Gourmet Warehouse Cherry Jalapeno BBQ Sauce - Dippy
Chili - Hormel Chili with No Beans - prims
Olive for garnish - Pimento-stuffed Green Olive - Toadbert101
Sourdough bun - The Fresh Market Sourdough Hoagie Buns - Uniju
Side of Goldfish crackers - Cheddar Goldfish Crackers - Uniju
In a cottage. - Home :) - Uniju

No cellulose? No thanks!

To start off, Sahlen’s was my choice of hot dog because that’s what I grew up with and have running familiarity with. I’m a fan of how their skins get crispy as it brings more of a chargrilled flavor even when you’re just skimping it by tossing it on a pan in the oven. Caramelized onions are something that’s annoying to find premade, and can be stupid expensive, so I opted to make them myself with a few sweet onions, olive oil, sugar, butter, salt, and balsamic vinegar during a frantic burst of energy at 2am while building some Lego sets. The four cheese, coleslaw, relish, butter, and bacon are all just simple basic grocery grabs based on what was on sale or available at ease. The mustard is what I already had in my fridge that I picked up from a nearby farm market where I go when I’m desiring to pet goats. My choice of blue cheese is my secondary one, as I wanted to go with a stilton that I’m familiar with and had a good experience with before, but with that out of stock I went with a safe and mild option that limited the scare factor. As with the mayo, a bane of my existence that is the contributor of my disdain of chicken salad, I went with a recommended good option as I trust my friends. Cherry jalapeno sounds good, so that’s what I went with for the bbq sauce, to lean more sweet than savory to go with the other flavors we’ve got going here and to contend with the mystery of how strong the chili, which I selected a basic cheap brand that specifically did not have any beans in it because I just really don’t like them. The olive is simply one I plucked from an olive bar that looked appealing, as its status was relegated to a garnish during the formulation of this official meal as Uniju does not like them. The Goldfish crackers I chose were cheddar as I felt that adhered more to the spirit of the official hot dog status. For the buns, I initially grabbed Schär Gluten-Free Hot Dog Buns, as they were made with sourdough starter, and were also the first ones I could even find after searching dozens of stores in the entire city, but was weary of them and ended up grabbing the other sourdough buns. My foresight was on the ball again as the Schär hot dog buns smelled like Play-Doh and had an unworkable quality to them that made them fall apart pretty easily. It’s remarkably difficult to find sourdough hot dog buns, but much easier to find sourdough hamburger buns, and I think this is a stain on our great country’s prominence in product variety; I remember well over a year ago I saw a package of them just sitting on the shelf at The Fresh Market and thought “oh, alright, if it’s that easy I can just get them whenever later”, and that was the last I ever saw them.

Every step was documented to prove no ingredient was missed.

There was originally a big spider on it but we talked down to sawdust, which could at least be won over on a technicality of many brands of grated parmesan cheese containing cellulose powder, i.e. wood pulp. Depending on how closely you hold any potential Italian heritage, the big spider may be the better option.

This hotdog feels like a Final Boss to me, consisting of many foods that I notoriously hated as a kid, and still (rightfully) do: coleslaw, blue cheese, mayo, chili, all vicious weapons designed to destroy me. All of these were accessible to me, though, one way or another, through various difficulties or abstractions, all but one. Searching and searching all over the city, the state, the country in areas I’m visiting for an adequate source and solution, contemplating expensive and inconvenient options, ridiculous technicalities, things that just didn’t feel spiritually right. All but one until one fateful day, the culmination of years of effort in purchasing home decor, kicking my roommate out, bringing one in that synergized the type of environment I wanted to craft, for a mutual friend to come in and look at the tasteful paintings I’ve curated and hung, the table placements, the decorative dishware and towels, the compact shelving, the kitsch, heartfulness in the simplicity, and say: “wow, I love the whole cottage vibe you guys have going on!” I have done it. A cottage. I am in a cottage, for the nature of #mariowiki aesthetic preferences is not in precise definition, but in your heart and soul, the reality that you forge, your country and home are no further than the beating of your passionate heart. The official hotdog of #mariowiki will be eaten in my cottage.

While cooking the chili was a terrifying experience that exuded foul odors into an otherwise pristine atmosphere, it…actually doesn’t look half bad, or even quarter bad. This isn’t too far off from what I’m accustomed to growing up in western New York with regional favorite Garbage Plates, but what the difference here is is it’s carefully placed together and not purposely slopped around and messy-looking. Strategic bites had to be made to not tear the bun in a catastrophic way that would result in the contents being dumped out, or for the bacon to all come out with one bite and taking half of the other ingredients with it, but otherwise it was a fairly clean experience. The flavors harmonized in a way; without overloading any of them they were all able to perform their job without one blowing the others out.

Now that I have shown it can be done, I implore you all to harness the spirit of 2010s IRC and forum community to build yourself an absurd hot dog that samples many things but still with flexibility to cater to anyone’s tastes.

The 'Shroom: Issue 194
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