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L.I. Underhill is a media critic and historian specializing in pop culture, with a focus on science fiction (especially Star Trek) and video games. Their projects include a critical history of Star Trek told through the narrative of a war in time, a “heretical” history of The Legend of Zelda series and a literary postmodern reading of Jim Davis' Garfield.


  1. Homunculette
    June 15, 2016 @ 2:05 pm

    I’m not someone who pays much attention to video games, but I’ve enjoyed reading your E3 coverage.

    What are the Wii U’s games that you’d consider beyond exceptional? I haven’t really heard of anything, although that’s probably down to the aforementioned terrible marketing.


    • Anna Wiggins
      June 15, 2016 @ 4:32 pm

      In a word: Splatoon


      • Elizabeth Sandifer
        June 15, 2016 @ 4:42 pm

        You’re such a squid.


        • Josh Marsfelder
          June 15, 2016 @ 5:50 pm

          Splatoon for sure. But lots of other things too.

          The aforementioned Hyrule Warriors, for one. Though Legends is the definitive version of it, it’s designed to be played co-op, which can only be done on the WiiU version.

          Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze, by the studio that brought us Metroid Prime Trilogy is a artistic, atmospherically beautiful and creatively evocative experience with pitch-perfect platforming mechanics, plus co-op. It’s the best Donkey Kong by a Country mile.

          Bayonetta 2 is a case study in mechanically perfect and effortlessly elegant combat that is a radical drag pantomime-infused attack on the patriarchy. If you get the first printing, it also comes with a free re-release of the original Bayonetta.

          And Super Mario Maker is not just a mere Super Mario Bros. level editor, it’s a deceptively masterful exercise in game design that tries to share with players the creative process that went into making the original classic so that we might be inspired in the same way. It’s Nintendo at it’s very best.


          • Josh Marsfelder
            June 15, 2016 @ 9:08 pm

            Oh! And I musn’t forget the imminently forthcoming Tokyo Mirage Sessions ♯FE which, while it’s flown completely under most people’s radar, is shaping up to be a fascinatingly oversignified and spectacular piece of work.

  2. Froborr
    June 15, 2016 @ 5:27 pm


    The Skyrim influence is very obvious, but the sense of exploration, the color palette, the emphasis on being in and part of nature–to me that’s very Miyazaki.

    Nonsense like “there can only ever be one Link” are why I react so negatively whenever anyone asserts that the Zelda series has a timeline, and why I was so disappointed at Nintendo for caving to fan demands for one. (One which was REALLY OBVIOUSLY made up specifically for Hyrule Historia; any claim that they gave any thought whatsoever to timeline in any Zelda game (with the possible exception of the three or four that are direct, explicit sequels to another game in the series) is a blatant lie.)

    Repetition is a major part of the Zelda series, yes, but I don’t see that as a failure–rather, I see it as a strength, because the Zelda series is the closest thing video games have to the oral tradition from which fantasy derives. By this I mean that every Zelda game is exactly the same as every other Zelda game, and at the same time entirely different from every other Zelda game, just as every telling of “Cinderella” is exactly the same as every other telling, but also entirely different. Zelda lives where folklore does, at the point of tension between safe, familiar tradition and experimental, tentative innovation.

    So declaring any aspect of the games as off-limits to change is essentially to kill them, because it’s caving to the other kind of traditionalism–not “I want to hear your new telling of the story” but rather “I want you to tell the version I remember.” It’s nailing down one of the few video game series with any life left in it, threatening to turn it into another shambling zombie franchise churning out retread after retread.

    Last thing that occurs to me reading this is that I find it interesting you consider Zelda the Nintendo franchise for hardcore players, because if I had to pick one I’d go with Metroid. Metroid tends to require more skill (and has more rewards for skillful play–in fact, in writing this it occurs to me that the Metroid series is readable as being about a woman who rewards video game skill with nakedness, which is pretty much your typical GGer’s notion of the feminine ideal), has more horror and science fiction elements, involves little to no nonviolent interaction, and tends toward a darker, less colorful palette. To me those are all hallmarks of the “hardcore” aesthetic.


    • Josh Marsfelder
      June 15, 2016 @ 5:55 pm

      Metroid has the superficial look and feel of a hardcore franchise, but it’s always had a more fraught relationship with it. The hardcore set has fond memories of it now to to hazy misrememberings of Metroid Prime (ironic, as that game was panned by said demographic upon release), but the franchise is effectively dead.

      It doesn’t do it necessarily deliberately, but it’s always been Zelda that’s attracted the hardcore in a more organic manner due to circumstances around what it is.


  3. Eve Schmitt
    June 15, 2016 @ 7:37 pm

    They put a mongoose pokémon in a fantasy version of Hawaii.

    It appears to be the type of Pokémon you always find in your first patch of grass: normal-type, low-powered enough that it can’t stand up to the pokémon you find later. And yet, you find it later, on almost all routes. You can hardly move for stepping on the stupid thing.

    This is very clever, because Hawaii has a serious problem with mongooses eating all the eggs of rare birds. They’re a menace. Talk about nature — Yungoos is the first pokémon ever based on an invasive species.

    Someone at Game Freak did their research for the setting.


    • Froborr
      June 15, 2016 @ 7:59 pm

      That’s awesome.

      And yeah, between the Pokemon based on folklore from all over the world (my favorite example being the much-maligned Vanillish, which is based on an actual yokai story about a girl who dropped her ice cream cone on purpose so her mother would buy her another of a flavor she liked better, and was haunted by the vengeful ghost of the cone), the Pokemon based on real (living and extinct) organisms, and the Pokemon based on urban legends/criptids, it’s been obvious for years that the people designing Pokemon do a lot of research.


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