Originally I had started writing a different review for the fourth installment of this series however during that time I popped in the DVD of the Happy Video Game Nerd with the intent of watching perhaps one or two videos and then moving on for the time being. I ended up watching 10 episodes right there before shutting off the DVD. Now although that may sound like I'm telling you everything you need to know right up front....I have no clever end for that. Shit I really am just telling you everything you need to know right up front.
I've always been familiar with the Happy Video Game Nerd and yet for some reason I had never actually watched any of his videos. When I started to do this feature I put his DVD on the list and decided to hold off on watching any of his stuff until I got a hold of the DVD. I'd always heard good things and the concept itself is really solid.
So let's take a look at the first DVD from the Angry Nerd's positive Counterpart - Volume 1 of the Happy Video Game Nerd.
This DVD set includes the following 13 episodes:
Journey to Silius
Little Nemo The Dream Master
Rocket Knight Adventures
Mega Man 9
Chip N' Dale Rescue Rangers
It's not really a slight against the DVD, but one thing that was a bit of a bummer up front was that the Earthbound review (which I knew going in was episode 12) is actually not included in this set. This is mentioned in the bonus features however, and it is said that it will be included in the second DVD set. But at least now you are aware of its absence.
Simply the name - Happy Video Game Nerd - gives you an immediately clear idea as to what exactly you are in for here. Derek Alexander, in the character of the Happy Nerd, reviews classic games that he has fond memories of and genuinely enjoys. Immediately it's a nice counter balance to the norm out there, which is to bash on the shitty games. Everything is so much more upbeat. He does cover games that he's not a fan of but even there usually tries to find the positive side to them. It's a nice approach and one that I have to say comes as almost a relief.
For the first few episodes, the name is played into a little more as the videos are a direct parody of the Angry Video Game Nerd. Camera shots and lines of dialogue are lifted from Nerd videos, and are of course given a positive spin (i.e. "This game is ass" becomes "This game kicks ass", and so on). There are also references to Shit Pickle, the various character cameos on AVGN, and even the theme song is initially a take off on the Angry Nerd. It all works pretty well but I have to admit that I enjoyed the later episodes more, as they essentially abandon the idea of being an AVGN parody and simply become their own entity. I particularly enjoy the original theme song that shows up in these episodes. It’s very upbeat and very very catchy.
What impressed me the most initially was the episode selection. Somebody else on the planet recognizes the greatness that is D? That alone was worth the price of admission. Throw in a Splatterhouse retrospective (Splatterhouse 2 also being one of my favourite Genesis titles) and positive praise for Little Mermaid on the NES, and I was sold on this before even watching a single episode.
As I mentioned at the beginning, I sat down initially with the intent of watching the first episode, Metalstorm, to get a sense of the HVGN and then planned to move on to something else. Imagine my surprise when I found myself saying “Ah just one more” 9 fucking times before I actually had no choice but to turn off the DVD and move on to something else. Needless to say, this is some quality stuff right here.
First and foremost, the review aspect of these videos is very strong. They’re highly detailed and go surprisingly in depth. It’s never a flat statement of “This game kicks ass because it is awesome”. The reasons why these games have been selected for review is always thoroughly explained and terrific overview of the title is always given. Usually the videos will go the extra mile and talk about sequels, differences between multiple versions of the game, and more. They’re informative and best of all, interesting. There is genuine enthusiasm for these games so the videos never come off as a dry recitation of facts. I actually found myself learning things I didn’t know about games I thought I was pretty intimately familiar with. So the review portion of these videos is consistently top notch.
I was interested to see how the comedy aspect would work, as clearly this character can’t go the route of over the top angry shit-based rants. Of course in the first batch of episodes, much of the humour comes from the AVGN parody aspects and how this character is the complete and total opposite. However once this element is lost (right around the start of disc 2) it finds its own comfort zone and it works well. It’s true, there are no over the top angry rants. In fact a few of the jokes derive from the lack of these rants. Instead the humour is actually a lot subtler. Often the videos will go long stretches without many jokes at all. It was actually pretty refreshing as the humour was there to punctuate the review, not just for the sake of having a random cut-away joke. There is consistently a great balance between the comedy and the information and most importantly, it is never dull.
Overall I was very impressed with the Happy Video Game Nerd show. The games being highlighted are truly worthy of further attention and host Derek Alexander is enthusiastic and engaging. I do think the show works better in the later episodes once it has all but abandoned the AVGN parody angle, but I am by no means knocking the earlier episodes. This is good stuff and I have since revisited many of these episodes following my initial viewing.
In all honesty there is not a whole lot to say here. The DVD case is well done with a nicely drawn cover and there is simple disc art on the two included DVDs, which I should also point out are indeed DVD-Rs. The back of the case features some quotes that are good for a laugh and are a good up-front indicator of the humour of the show. Overall it’s a nicely put together package.
I do have to point out that both on the DVD case and throughout some of the bonus features, Derek discusses some of the work he put into these episodes to ensure that they looked far better on DVD than they currently do online. This includes going back and recapturing a lot of the original video game footage that was used. I have to commend that kind of effort so it gets a special shout-out here.
The DVD comes through strong in this department as well. I always enjoy when we get a commentary track or two on these DVDs and it does not happen often. HVGN Volume 1 goes above and beyond and actually includes commentary on each and every episode. Even better, they’re all easily worth a listen, again striking that balance of being both entertaining and informative. I assumed beforehand that by the end there wouldn’t be anything left to talk about but sure enough they were a really good listen right up until the end. Of course Derek does each commentary but he brings in various co-commentators, including his own mom, which was a nice touch. I never know why more of these video game DVDs don’t feature commentary as HVGN Volume 1 proves that it can be very effective.
In addition to the episode commentaries, you get bloopers and a few additional episodes such as Game Quickies and Sold Separately. The commentaries are of course the centerpiece but the other features are definitely a nice addition as well and are all worth checking out.
Is It Worth it?
If you read the entire review then I don’t think you’ll be terribly surprised to hear that I definitely recommend this DVD. I was surprised how entertaining I found the actual show and you get a lot of solid bonus features as well. It’s one of the more expensive sets I’ve ordered, clocking in at 20 dollars, but I think what you get makes the price easily 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? - "It’s actually refreshing to see someone be positive about everything.” Exactly.