The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (1998 - N64)

"It's just A Link to the Past in 3D!" That's the way I've most often heard this game described in a nutshell, and while that is kind of true, at least it's an extremely well done "A Link to the Past in 3D". The dungeon designs are excellent, the puzzles are confounding as ever, and the boss fights are fun (even though most of them are rather easy). The graphics and music are top-notch, and the control is really good. There is so much to see, discover, and do in this game that I wrote a whole FAQ on how to find everything. This is also the first Zelda game I know of to have a completely optional dungeon, which was nice.

The only problem is that the game's difficulty peaks around the Water Temple (a little more than halfway through), and the rest of the game feels either rushed or running low on ideas. I've seen complaints that the game is too short (!!), but I personally feel it's better that it ended before it started to drag on too long. Yes, Hyrule Field could have been a bit less large and empty, but I don't honestly feel it hurts the game as much as some critics do (things like Epona and the Warps make it easier to get around). The Forest Temple, Fire Temple, and Water Temple are three of my all-time favorite Zelda series dungeons.

One of the greatest things this game has going for it is its atmosphere. Weirdness is no stranger to the Zelda series, but Ocarina of Time certainly cranked it up a notch with bizarre enemies like the ReDeads and Dead Hand minibosses, the quirky Hyrule inhabitants, and disturbing settings like the Shadow Temple and Bottom of the Well. Though Zelda in 3D won't be everyone's cup of tea, I still feel confident in giving it a strong recommendation.
Rating: 4/5

Arrested Development, Season One (2003 - DVD)

If you've heard anything about Arrested Development, chances are you've not only heard how funny it is, but also phrases like clever, witty, quirky, offbeat, ahead of its time, refreshing, etc. Let me say that all of it is true, as this is simply one of the best comedy series to ever grace American TV airwaves. It's about a wealthy and very highly-dysfunctional family (arguably pushing the envelope even farther than shows like The Simpsons and Married... With Children did) that somewhat-parodies the George W. Bush administration and the War in Iraq, yet stands completely on its own as well. Jason Bateman is perfect as the straight man Michael Bluth in this comedy of errors, as he must (often futilely) contend with his narcissisitic mother and siblings, as well as his father's criminal activities that have caused the downfall of their family-owned housing development business.

The writing is so impressive and so airtight, that even if you don't actually laugh at the outcomes of every episode, you can still be impressed with how well everything comes together. There are so many double entendres, plays on words, and foreshadowing that you may have to watch everything twice to catch it all.

If there is any complaint I could have for Season 1 it's that the series hasn't quite hit its stride yet. If you've heard about some of the zanier things that happen in the later series (like Tobias turning blue or dressing as Mrs. Featherbottom), you won't find them here. But that doesn't mean the series wasn't off to a great start. (GOB trying to throw the envelope into the ocean was one of the funniest things I've ever seen.)
Rating: 4.5/5



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