It felt wrong not to start this whole endeavor off by taking a look at the first DVD release from the man who very clearly inspired a good deal of the DVDs I will be looking at. That’s not to say the concept of angrily reviewing old and terrible games was completely new, but he definitely brought it to the forefront and, for better or worse, inspired many others to follow in his footsteps.
I don’t want to blow your mind or anything, but I’m talking about the Angry Video Game Nerd.
Now I know what you’re thinking – “Man I hope each and every one of these reviews starts out with some rambling about Shawn’s history with the material in question.” Well my friends, no need to worry about that, because check this shit.
I was a bit late to the scene with the Angry Video Game Nerd. In fact, his most recent video when I first discovered him was Bible Games, the final episode that appears on this set. The first video I actually watched was Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and that was all I needed to spend the remainder of that day making my way through all of his other videos. Again you have to keep in mind that at this time, the whole thing was a pretty novel concept so the whole idea just intrigued me.
Since then I’ve stuck with the videos, usually watching each one within a couple of days of it being uploaded. I had always planned to pick up the DVD set, but didn’t do so until the third volume had been released.
So….is it worth it?
I think I’ve already played my hand and revealed that I am indeed a fan of the Angry Video Game Nerd. I think James Rolfe has done a great job with these videos, consistently finding a good balance between humour and legitimate criticism. He’s always been adept at picking apart actual flaws within the games and not getting hung up on insignificant shit that really doesn’t mean anything (something we will definitely be touching on in some of the later reviews).
Before doing this review it had been a little while since I actually sat down and watched the episodes that are contained in Volume 1. This is the first year’s worth of Nerd videos, all done in 2006, with the exception of the first couple, which I believe, were actually done around 2004. In Volume 1 you get the following videos, spread across two discs:
Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest
Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde
The Karate Kid
Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Back to the Future
Wally Bear and the No Gang
Master Chu and the Drunkard Hu
Double Dragon III
Friday the 13th
Nightmare on Elm Street
All in all you get just under two and a half hours worth of reviews, which may seem short considering the amount of episodes but the running times of these ones are definitely a lot shorter than the ones that were produced down the road.
This is a solid collection of episodes that also works well as a time capsule to see just how much the AVGN videos have changed and evolved over time. You have the Simon’s Quest video, where the character does the whole video in narration and never once appears on camera. You have the Jekyll and Hyde video where the character is shown for the first time however there is only maybe 30 seconds worth of actual game footage. And then you have the Karate Kid video, which blended both of these together into the format that the show would stick with for the next 5 years.
Although I can’t say this is my favourite run of episodes, there are definitely some great ones in here. The combined trilogy of Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street and the Power Glove remains a favourite of mine to this day. This was the first time where the videos started to become much more elaborate, working in an actual storyline and upping the amount of special effects being used. Although as a side note, I played the fuck out of the Nightmare on Elm Street game as a kid so despite the review, if you have 4 dollars sitting around and want to spend it on a game that I remember fondly but probably isn’t very good were I to dig out of the closet and play it again today, this is the one for you.
I really can’t point to a single episode in this set as being weak. Some of the earlier ones, such as Roger Rabbit and Dr. Jekyll, do feel like they should be fleshed out a little more, but even that’s hard to criticize since some of the recent videos actually make good on that.
A nice touch that makes the DVD feel a little more worth is that some of the episodes feature some alterations to the content. In some cases it was obviously done out of necessity, such as removing the movie footage from the Back to the Future and Rocky reviews. For BTTF you don’t really notice it’s gone, but I have to say I prefer the online version of the Rocky review over the DVD version, although the new ending is pretty entertaining. In other cases new scenes are inserted to update information or add in something that was forgotten the first time around. There aren’t a whole lot of cases of this, but it’s nice to have something unique on the DVD that you can’t see online.
Overall you can’t go wrong with the actual content of the disc. You get to see where everything started with the AVGN and see the birth of a lot of running jokes and ideas that are still prevalent in the current videos.
I have to admit that when the AVGN DVDs arrived I was quite impressed with the actual packaging. I think I was expecting quality more along the lines of “fuck it toss some paper in an ink jet printer and slap the shit in a slim case” but this definitely goes far beyond that in terms of quality. The actual insert is a hand-drawn image and is professionally printed. The back of the case provides a detailed breakdown of all of the content on each disc and there’s a running motif of classic arcade sprites, with Space Invaders on the front and Asteroids on the back. It may not have anything to do with the actual content, but what the hell it looks good. The art on the actual discs is good too, featuring some of Mike Matei’s title card artwork.
I have to give it up for the actual DVD menus as well. Each one is well-done, featuring animated sprites, a litany of cursing, and actual images of the NES cartridges to represent each of the individual reviews. Oh and thank Christ each disc also has a Play All option, which is just crucial for well, any DVD ever made ever. There’s no chapter skips in any of the episodes, but most of them are so short I doubt you would even notice.
I wouldn’t be surprised if over the course of this feature, you see the rapid demise of this section. Because guess what, I don’t know a goddamn thing about DVD quality audio and video. I see questions like “oh are there interlacing issues?” or “does the image look soft in the transfer” and my only real answer is “what the fuck are you talking about? Stop making up words!” If I had to guess the answers to those questions I will say….kinda?
I know enough to say that yes it looks and sounds fine. I mean it’s a DVD that is comprised of Internet show episodes, you’re not going to get Michael Bay bluray levels of quality.
You know what fuck it, going forward unless everything looks terrible, each and every one of these Audio/Visual write-ups will simply say some variation of “looks pretty good I guess”. If anyone out there wants to submit his or her own write-up for this then I freely encourage it. Hell you can just make shit up, I probably won’t ever know.
I have a feeling that these sections will be considered the most important when looking at all of these DVDs. With a show that you can watch for free on the Internet anytime you want, it’s always important to throw in some extra incentive by having features you can’t actually get anywhere else but on the DVD. We get a good haul of stuff here, especially considering this is the first DVD release.
Our potentially unnecessary breakdown of all the bonus features included goes as follows:
What Was I Thinking? Documentary
The Anger Begins
A Deleted Scene
The Fuck Reel
2006’s Top 10
Duck Tales Video Game Vault Episode
Pretty solid haul overall, although some content is definitely better than others, with many pieces only clocking in at a couple of minutes in length.
The highlight is definitely the What Was I Thinking Documentary, which gives a good overview of the creation and history of the Angry Video Game Nerd character, as well as with Cinemassacre (James Rolfe’s film company) itself. There are also interviews with Mike Matei, who draws all of the title card art and often plays the supporting characters such as Jason Voorhees, and Kyle Justin who wrote and performed the original theme song. It’s a little on the short side, clocking in at around 15 minutes, but what’s there is interesting.
The outtakes are also pretty good, offering again about 15 minutes of line flubs and some behind the scenes stuff. It’s always kind of fucked up to see someone in full Jason gear figuring out scene blocking and how best to strangle somebody. Good stuff.
All of the other bonus content I would say ranges from fine to a little disappointing. Things like the Duck Tales review and the Wii Salute video are in fact already available online, but it’s nice to have them here as both are quite entertaining. The Gametrailers interview is pretty lame as its just James spouting off some of the more famous quotes from the show, literally word for word. All the while a host who I’m thinking has no idea who the fuck he even is, just nods along and asks set-up questions. There is some behind the scenes footage related to this interview included in the outtakes and that stuff is actually kind of interesting.
The later AVGN sets definitely up the quality level of the bonus content, but this first round is pretty good. The documentary and outtakes are easily worth a look and everything else, well at the very least it’s nice that it’s all there.
Is It Worth It?
Ok I’m only going to allow myself to use this expression this one time and even still I feel dirty saying it – if you are a fan of the Angry Video Game Nerd you have no reason not to pick up this DVD set. I know, I KNOW, it’s the laziest fucking synopsis I could give but come on it’s true! If you already like the guy’s work you have no reason not to pick this DVD up. It’s only 9.99, you get some exclusive content and if anything you should buy it to support the work itself. If you’re not a fan in the sense that you have no idea who this guy is, if you’re curious then this is definitely a good place to start, again especially considering the price.
The price is right, the show itself is great, and there are some fun bonus features as well. I have to say this one is definitely worth it.
For each of these reviews I will be showing at least a part of it to my wife in order to get a quick perspective from someone who is not that familiar (if at all familiar) with the material.
What did my wife think? – “I think I like his later videos better”.