It’s our last Flashback Friday of 2021! We’re going out with a bang, recommending some fantastic mangas, shows, and video games that you may have missed out on.
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure Part 4: Diamond Is Unbreakable by Hirohiko Araki
Submitted by Thomas
When it comes to JoJo’s, I thought I had seen it all. Part One was a promising dramatic debut, Two was a natural shonen escalation, and Three brought everything together into a globe-trotting epic. How could Four top all of that with the setting confined to a single town with protagonists still attending school? I know now that is a fool’s logic. Araki is not operating by mortal standards. You do not look a gift horse in the mouth, and you do not look a JoJo’s series in the premise. He will do whatever he damn well pleases and my eyes will be lucky for the privilege. Did your favorite band have a sophomore slump? Pathetic. Araki is unbreakable.
Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales
Submitted by RJ
When Marvel’s Spider-Man for PS4 dropped in late 2018, it was played
to 100% completion and was placed along my echelon of favorites that include Ocarina of Time, the Uncharted Series, and the Batman: Arkham trilogy. In 2020, my interest was piqued as a sequel release, to the tune of my favorite iteration of Spider-Man: Miles Morales. Aside from his titular appearance in Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse, Miles has not had the presence that he rightfully deserves. Well, this game damn sure changed everything, as Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales for PS5 did the unthinkable, it surpassed the original. Everything I loved about the first one was sharpened, heightened, and perfected to the point where they are now two completely different entities. Also, Miles fighting style is completely different, and the addition of the Venom Punch and camouflage made me realize that he is the, dare I say it, superior Spider-Man. Remember when I said this came out in
2020? Well, I did not get to play this until Thanksgiving weekend of 2021, so it was definitely a delayed and welcome surprise. Did I ignore my family more than I should have because of my lengthy playing time? Yes. Am I married to a wonderful woman who realized how much joy this game brought me and let me enjoy it? Abso-fucking-lutely. This game brought me such joy, and as the plot revolves around this holiday season, perhaps it’s time you sling your way around NYC as Miles. Be warned, once you start, you’ll become just another web-head.
Red Dead Redemption 2
Submitted by Gabrielle
Cowboys are objectively inferior to pirates. It’s a hard truth for some, but a truth nonetheless. However, after my computer broke and I was left with only my PS4 to keep me entertained, I had to look for a long, big game that I could play until I fixed it. Now, I played most of the PlayStation exclusives that I thought I would like: Spider-Man: Miles Morales, God of War, The Last Of Us. But I hadn’t tried Red Dead Redemption 2. As the only thing left to my knowledge that I could play with those characteristics, I bought it, waited for the 100GB that reaffirmed to me what I expected, and started it. And I loved it instantly.
The main thing that I loved about the game was just how immersive it is. There’s like a billion ways you can interact with the world, and everything feels like the perfect middle road between fun and realistic gameplay. It has the sense of a real breathing world that I don’t think I ever found with this magnitude. The particular structure of the game also helps with this, since there are few actual missions you could call side-quests, and they take the form of random occurrences happening in the world you can find while you complete the main story.
One thing I heard about this game was just how good the story was. If I’m being honest, it’s not something that impressed me, though it is a rare instance for AAA games. Despite not being impressed, it is very good, and I quite like how you get little bits of introspection from the protagonist, Arthur, from optional conversations and missions you can find. I also loved how they took the opportunity and showed how the historical context affected the lives of the characters.
It’s without a doubt one of the best AAA games I’ve ever played, and if you like big games that work a lot like a straight up simulation I cannot recommend this enough. Very few times I’ve felt as immersed in a game as I did with this one. Heck, it might’ve even changed my perspective on cowboys a bit.
“Fantasy High” from Dimension 20
Streaming TV Show
Submitted by Patrick
Hi, intrepid heroes! Fantasy High is the first season of the anthology Dungeons & Dragons series Dimension 20 from CollegeHumor’s Dropout streaming service. Led by Dungeon Master Brennan Lee Mulligan, Fantasy High is set in the world of a 1980’s high school movie with the full magic and fantasy of the Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition. We open on our heroes on the first day of their freshman year at Aguefort Adventuring Academy, a school dedicated to training adventuring parties. Through a series of first-day adventuring mishaps, six freshman find themselves in detention together. Half-elf pirate’s son Fabian Seacaster, a fighter; human cleric Kristen Applebees, who is facing a crisis of faith; elf diplomat’s daughter and divination-focused wizard Adaine Abernant; soft-spoken half-orc barbarian Gorgug Thistlespring who was raised by gnomes; Riz Gukgak, a rogue goblin and amateur investigator; and newly-discovered tiefling Fig Faeth find themselves thrust into combat and conspiracy together that involves cults, demons, geopolitics, and high school drama. The one- to two-hour episodes alternate between adventuring and combat, building a deep storyline crafted by Mulligan but also greatly influenced by the other cast members and their gameplay decisions.
I’ve never played Dungeons & Dragons before, but that did not get in the way of my ability to enjoy this show. Dungeons & Dragons is a game with a lot of complex rules, but Mulligan and the cast do not let that get in the way of the story. Mulligan’s incredible skill as a Dungeon Master leads to an intricately well-woven story that fully explores the various arcs and storylines even as the player’s dice rolls add a randomness to the campaign that even Mulligan could not possibly predict. The character work and voices Mulligan uses throughout the campaign brings countless characters to life. Over 17 episodes, Mulligan and his players bring us a story of triumph over evil both big and small, mystical and mundane. One of the strengths of Fantasy High and Dimension 20 more broadly, however, is in the compactness of its story. Mulligan and company reach the end of their campaign after 28 hours, far more manageable than Critical Role’s 500-hour campaigns. As someone who is brand-new to the world of Dungeons & Dragons, Fantasy High is just the right size for entering into this world. Each of the heroes fights through their own inner demons, teenage struggles, and world-ending calamities to fight a malevolence that only they can stop.
Fantasy High is worth a watch for regular Dungeons & Dragons aficionados and newcomers. It’s non-traditional setting and engaging cast will make you laugh and bring you to tears. Brennan Lee Mulligan and his party of heroes will conquer your hearts and leave you with only one question: *rolls a nat 1* “Are you my dad?”
Season 1 of Fantasy High is available on YouTube for free and with a subscription to Dropout. There is also a second season and two side quests in the Fantasy High world also available on Dropout. Additional seasons of Dimension 20 are all available on Dropout, with some seasons and episodes available for free on YouTube.