With the seventh volume of the AVGN DVD’s having just been released yesterday (and making its way to me as I write this) I figure it’s long overdue I start reviewing some of the other releases in the series since I didn’t do any more after talking about the very first one. I’m hoping to burn through a bunch of these in time for the arrival of Volume 7 but since I also have about 8 other things I’m trying to post before the new year, we shall see what happens. Perhaps this delicious gingerbread white hot chocolate will keep me pumped full of sugar and energy. And maybe I should spend less time watching RIPD which for reasons even I’m not clear on, I am doing right now. What were we talking about? Right! AVGN Volume 2 DVD!
I don’t really think it’s necessary for me to give any sort of context for what exactly the Angry Video Game Nerd is but just in case, here’s the briefest of brief summaries. The Nerd is a character created by James Rolfe who reviews primarily retro video games, the majority of which are undeniable crappy. He also curses a lot. It sounds dumb and it kind of is, but it also works surprisingly well. The whole thing started as a one off joke making fun of the game Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest. After doing a couple more episodes, Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde and The Karate Kid, the character became insanely popular and well, here we are. Episodes are far less frequent these days (though a movie is set to be released sometime next year at which point I wouldn’t be surprised at all if the character was more or less retired) and I would say the popularity isn’t quite as high was it once was, but overall things are still going strong. The set of episodes contained year are from the second year of the AVGN’s existence.
Right out of the gate – I think in terms of sheer episode quality, the batch of ones featured here are the AVGN’s best work. This is when I feel Rolfe was really hitting his stride with the character and was finding a great balance between humour and information. The schtick was still pretty novel and creative ways were being discovered to use the character. Here are the episodes you get in this three disc set :
TMNT 3 – VHS Tape Destruction
Bugs Bunny’s Birthday Blowout
Texas Chainsaw Massacre
An Angry Nerd Christmas Carol
That’s a mighty impressive list right there and a pretty solid amount of content overall since the episodes run usually between 10-20 minutes each.
As I said, I think a lot of the strongest episodes can be found here and there are numerous ones I could point to as highlights. The Atari 5200 episode puts on a unique spin on the review idea by not really featuring a review at all, instead spending the entire time simply trying to get the console to actually work. The Ghostbusters review trilogy is easily amongst my favourite episodes ever. I too fell victim to renting this game back when it was first released so I appreciate watching it get absolutely eviscerated over the course of these episodes. The fact he even manages to base so much material around this one game and keep things interesting is damn impressive, although I do have somewhat of a fondness for the Ghostbusters II game I must admit.
The Spiderman episode actually is my favourite AVGN episode ever released. There’s a few reasons for this. The first is that, being a huge Spider-Man fan as a kid, I played the majority of these games when they were new so I vividly remember the crushing disappointment that came with them. Also I really like that this episode is largely improved between James and Kyle Justin. The two of them were trying to capture the feeling of playing a game with somebody else in the room watching you, constantly telling you that you’re doing things wrong and what you should be doing instead. They replicate this perfectly and it makes for a fun episode that has yet to be dethroned from my top spot.
There is still a lot of great stuff after it. I do like the Sega CD as a system and it hurts to see him be so dismissive of The Adventures of Willy Beamish (a favourite of mine) but the review still makes for a very entertaining watch, as does the one for the 32X which even I can’t deny is pretty god-damn awful.
Bugs Bunny’s Birthday Blowout may be the episode I most disagree with as that was a childhood favourite of mine that I still revisit every so often. However it’s not worth getting too upset over since none of this meant to be taken seriously (and even Rolfe himself has admitted the game isn’t completely terrible) and it’s certainly not the first time I’ve disagreed with an episode (A Nightmare on Elm Street is an awesome fucking game). This episode also marks the first of Bugs Bunny, or Mike Matei in a Bugs Bunny costume at least, a character who will return down the road. The whole gimmick here is that The Nerd spends the entire episode just mercilessly beating the shit out of Bugs in the style of a classic Warner Bros. cartoon. Something about Bugs being slow motion kicked into a pile of random boxes never fails to make me laugh.
The Atari Porn and Nintendo Power episodes would also both rank amongst my all-time favourite episodes. The Atari Porn one is actually fascinating because although I knew these games existed, I had never seen any of them in action outside of Custer’s Revenge. Barely any jokes are needed here, the games are hilarious on their own and makes more some of the best material the show has had. The Nintendo Power episode works for pure nostalgia. I was a subscriber and avid reader of the magazine for at least the first 100 issues and vividly remember everything that is talked about in this episode. It’s not the funniest episode by any means, but as a callback to my childhood it’s almost unbeatable.
One thing I will say is that I don’t enjoy this year’s duo of Halloween episodes, Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Halloween, nearly as much as Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street from the previous year. I certainly respect these two episodes as they are surprisingly elaborate, well put together and are great homages to their respective franchises. For me though I just don’t care as much about those two franchises and the games themselves aren’t nearly as engaging to watch outside of being curiosities. I also find they go on a little long. It’s all opinion of course but for me, these aren’t among my favourites by any means.
Things do go out on a strong note however with the Nerd’s (it’s so strange to always be capitalizing that word) on Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. He is visited by three ghosts, usually played by a Screw Attack personality, and is shown himself reviewing games in the past, present and future. You get three solid reviews and the actual Carol content is quite good as well, with the highlight of the whole thing being an old and decrepit Nerd reviewing the Nintendo Wii in the distant future.
As I said in the beginning, I feel this batch of episodes contains a lot of the Nerd’s strongest stuff, with only a couple I’m not a huge fan of and a couple that are a little unremarkable, such as Independence Day. The majority though is great stuff.
There is quite a bit of bonus content to dig your way through here as well. Probably my favourite is the four commentary tracks that are included. There are commentaries for Spider-Man (James and Kyle Justin), Bugs Bunny (James and Mike Matei), Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Fester’s Quest (both are only James on his own). The commentary tracks are very informative and they help to give further respect for just how much work is involved in putting these episodes together.
You get outtakes for four episodes from the set as well – Bugs Bunny, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Halloween and A Christmas Carol. As with any outtake reel, these are hit and miss. You get a lot of missed lines, alternate takes and shit going wrong with the sets and props. The most interesting stuff by far is seeing some of the behind the scenes footage, such as how they did the face shitting scene in the Bugs Bunny episode, or dealing with the kids who act in the Halloween episode.
Surprisingly you also get a ton of outtakes for the 2008 episodes that won’t be included on a set until Volume 3. Here you get six episodes worth of outtakes – Virtual Boy, Wizard of Oz, Super Mario Bros 3, Doublevision, Star Trek and Batman. It’s the same idea with these with a variety of fuck-ups and behind the scenes footage. It’s a strange inclusion but certainly a welcome one.
The other cool addition is the Vintage Nerd Material. This is a trio of videos of James reviewing NES games when he was a kid and I guess a teenager. Granted the Street Fighter II commercial thing is a wee bit irritating to listen to but the stuff when he’s super young is pretty cool just because it’s awesome he still has that shit. It really shows just how passionate he is about the source material and how far back that goes.
Those are definitely the stand-outs amongst the bonus features but you do get a handful of other items as well. There’s a quick tour of the Nerd room which has grown so much in size since that its borderline frightening. There’s a whole bunch of Youtube trailers for the episodes on this set. Finally there’s the Top Ten Nerd Moments of 2007, which is exactly what it sounds like, a list of the best moments from the episodes that you just finished watching. Unnecessary, but hey it doesn’t hurt to have it here.
The Angry Video Game Nerd Volume 2 is probably the set I would recommend if someone were to looking to buy only one of the DVD collections. It’s a fantastic collection of episodes with some of my all-time favourites and you also get a good heaping of interesting bonus materials. Good stuff right here everybody, good stuff.