Immediately after Thanksgiving, local radio stations have to start airing Christmas songs. Forget that we haven’t even finished the month of November and our turkey dinners have barely settled into our stomachs. Despite the earlier and earlier reminders of the holiday season, thanks to retailers and corporations doing all they can to shove it into our mindset, I’m always excited for the chance to listen to my favorite Christmas songs once again. It’s the one time of the year I can enjoy it until next December. For me, it’s just not Christmas without hearing certain songs at least once. I’ve compiled a list of my personal favorite songs I MUST hear every Christmas season. Be sure to also check out my fellow GFNer Cary’s great post about the different versions of the same Christmas songs she prefers to listen to.
I have a pretty high tolerance for Christmas music. Every December, I regularly cycle through my few Christmas playlists, and if you happen to catch me knitting, baking, or doing something homey, I’m probably listening to or humming a holiday tune. I find the vast majority of holiday hits very likeable, from religious hymns to novelty songs. So as my head has been filled with mostly holiday tunes of late, I thought about covering a few here for #Lismas2014. But rather than go the simple “most favorite” or “least favorite” routes, I’m taking a more circuitous path. It’s true that plenty of unpleasant holiday music has been released over the airwaves since Christmas music became a thing to sell to the masses, but there are levels to the unpleasantness. While my ears will welcome almost any Christmas song, I’m averse to certain versions of some songs. The songs on the list don’t constitute my favorites, if I must listen to them, their versions mean the difference between reluctant acceptance and nails on a chalkboard.
Today and tomorrow, I’m running two lists from a close friend and loyal reader. Please show your love in the comments!
This isn’t necessarily a list of recommendations, nor is it necessarily a list of favorites. It could be a little bit of each, or it could be an instruction manual on what games to give to your child while they are still impressionable. Something it most definitely is, though, is a list of the games that have had such a profound impact on me during my twenty-six years of life that they are recorded in my soul-crystals and can never be replaced.
For those of you who were readers during the glory days of Nintendo Power, your first exposure to video game comics probably involved Howard Phillips and his good friend Nester. These goofy stories were a source of tips and humor in the earlier issues of NP. As the president of the Nintendo Fun Club, Howard Phillips would play the straight-man to Nester’s stubborn and off-the-wall antics. Over the course of 21 issues, the lovable pair were immersed into the hit video games of the day, often to comedic results.
As a celebration of Listmas 2013, I am taking a break from the usual comic book analysis to share my three favorite Howard and Nester stories from pages past (hit the issue links for the full comics). Here we go!
As a kid who spent much of his time at the local library, the thought of finding a Legend of Zelda book seemed like a dream. Granted, I wouldn’t have dismissed some of the classics like Nester here, but I definitely sought out the more off-beat stuff in the stacks. I especially love Nester’s indignant reaction to finding Howard in his story, even though the bow-tied knight is just trying to help.
This comic was the first time I had ever heard of QA departments and play-testing in video games. Until that time, I just assumed that the developers made the games correctly on the first try. What can I say, I was a naïve kid. At least I knew better than to assume the world of game testing was as fantastic as Howard and Nester would make it seem. If only we could just hop into a game to test for bugs. Then again, that’s a lot of pain and respawning for anyone who is testing Call of Duty…
Okay, so this one isn’t technically a “Howard and Nester” comic. After Howard Phillips left Nintendo back in 1991, Nester carried the torch in his own adventures for many more issues. It was in Issue 55 of Nintendo Power when Nester’s Adventures went on hiatus. The plucky mascot showed up for three more special comic appearances: as a college student in #100, as a father in #231 (the twentieth anniversary of NP), and once more in the final issue of Nintendo Power, #285. When the last issue hit store shelves, I made sure to secure a copy from my local bookstore. This comic is a total tear-jerker to longtime readers of Nintendo Power (and to anyone with a heart). I hope to someday share in this bittersweet sort of moment with my future children.
Looking back at these comics, I am really impressed with how well the artwork has stood up over time. The facial expressions on Howard and Nester are very emotive, and the shading is especially nice throughout the series. Special thanks to Tiny Cartridge for posting the final comic, and to the Howard and Nester Comics Archive, where you can find every one of these fun-filled stories. Merry Listmas, everyone!
It doesn’t snow in California. I’ve come to accept that, and having lived in places where it does snow, I comfort myself with the firsthand knowledge that as pretty as it is, snow can be a hassle too. But around this time of year, I find myself gravitating towards video games, books, and movies that feature cold winter weather. For some reason, the snowy settings help set the mood for the holidays. That’s why my computer backdrop for the season is this:
It’s Skyrim. And that just happens to be my first choice for my favorite sci-fi and fantasy worlds that make awesome wintry vacation spots, even if it’s just in my imagination.
It might be a dangerous place if you’re on the wrong side of the civil war or facing an unexpected dragon attack, but Skyrim is the most beautiful video game landscape I’ve ever seen and would make an amazing vacation spot. Though parts of it are sunny — a ‘crisp autumn day’ type of sunny, that is — much of it is covered in snow. In fact, Windhelm can look downright bleak with its gray walls and murky skies, but it has an intense atmosphere that draws you in. Personally, I love climbing snow-topped mountains and looking for ruins partially buried under the snow when I play Skyrim. And when I came across a little village along the way, the chilly atmosphere only makes ducking indoors feel cozier.
2. Narnia (Chronicles of Narnia)
The world of Narnia felt so magical when I was a kid, and I still love it. This place is one where animals can talk and magic abounds. There are witches and centaurs and unicorns, and the change of seasons feels important. For instance, there was a time when the White Witch covered Narnia in ice and snow for 100 years, which caused all kinds of hardships for the people. But winter is exactly the time I would want to step through my wardrobe into Narnia, just to experience that thrilling chill of discovery in an atmosphere that so suits it.
3. Pandora (Borderlands)
Pandora is another video game setting that oozes charisma. It’s not always the prettiest of places, but its dingy settlements, psychos, and monsters have a visual appeal that’s part art style, part amazing atmosphere. When I play a Borderlands game, I completely lose myself on the planet of Pandora, and my favorite areas are always the snowy ones. Seeing massive glaciers and tramping through snow with crackling ice nearby is the perfect way to start off a playthrough of Borderlands 2.
4. Hogsmeade (Harry Potter)
Who wouldn’t want to get away from school and drink butterbeer in Hogsmeade? That’s what Harry Potter and his friends do when they get to spend a weekend day in this little all-wizard village of snow-covered cottages and shops. Hogwarts students bundle up in their coats and scarves to make the wintry trek to the village — and then they escape inside where it’s warm. Plus, enchanted candles nestle in the trees during the holiday season to make the place festive. It might be wizards-only, but this town would make a cozy winter getaway for anyone’s imagination.
5. Noveria (Mass Effect)
Noveria is cold — so cold that people stay inside pretty much all the time. When you first visit the planet in the first Mass Effect game, there are severe storm warnings, but of course you brave the weather to complete your mission before it’s too late. While I enjoyed exploring the industrial-looking facilities built on Noveria to shield the people there from the elements, getting into the snow outside and seeing the glaciers up close was even better… even if it did involve driving the Mako.
If there’s one holiday movie that I simply must watch at this time of year it’s Miracle on 34th Street (1947). This amazing, post-World War II project starring a young Natalie Wood is filled with everything you could want from a holiday movie: great sounds, fantastic sites, and a wonderful story. What this movie doesn’t have, or rather, what the original version doesn’t is color. Oh, the movie has since been released in color, but that’s not my version. And I’m not trying to sound like a movie snob, I simply prefer the black and white version of the movie. I don’t need red, white, and green blasting me in the face as I’m trying to enjoy this simple yet brilliant tale involving the one and only Kris Kringle. I’ve seen its colorized counterpart, and the color doesn’t add anything. It doesn’t make the movie feel more Christmasey. If anything, it detracts from the visuals. Miracle on 34th Street is black and white (and gray) in form and function, and I simply like it that way.