Ten Years of Vagrant Rant

LEAFY LEAVES!

On this very day all the way back in 2012, I decided to start a blog, hoping it might be a place to order, solidify and essentially catalogue my thoughts on the entertainment media I enjoyed on a daily basis. I had already realised that I enjoyed discussing and analysing movies, videogames and music at least equally as much as actually experiencing them (if not more), and had published small pieces of writing on such subjects with all manner of flavours in all manner of places. But I wanted something to (as much as one can) call my own. So I set it up with WordPress, made sure to sprinkle it with plenty of green, named it after an obscure personal reference and kicked off.

Little did I know that not only would the blog still be around a decade on, but it would hang around despite a massive shift in the internet’s wider priorities and a huge change in its purpose barely three years in. You can just about divide the history of Vagrant Rant into two clear – yet uneven – halves right around 2015: The sheer number of posts I put up in that first “half” dwarfs the next seven years combined; but the individual articles just got so much longer afterwards that I’d wager the word count is just about even.

As uncomfortable as it is to be this self-reflective, I knew I couldn’t let this day go past unmarked – My constantly-compartmentalising brain would not allow it. So here, in no particular order – are my ten personal favourite posts I’ve published on Vagrant Rant.

Game Review: Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster (2014)

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Of all the post formats I used to stick to, my old videogame review scaffolding is the one I look back on with the biggest cluster of hindsight-boosted winces. The idea of homogenising pieces of art as diverse as videogames by using the same structured headings for every single game made writing with any sort of flow quite difficult – though it did usually keep word counts mercifully contained. So my favourite review I ever wrote on the site has to be the April Fools’ Day entry reviewing the FF X/X-2 HD Remaster – or rather, just X’s incredibly addictive minigame Blitzball, which I jokingly passed off as a review for the whole game. It was the one instance I was able to come up with a creative use for the format I had restricted myself to, which probably helped me realise I didn’t enjoy robotically reviewing games much afterwards.

Album Review: REBOOT – Wonder Girls (2015)

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Before we move on from review structure (I don’t have super-strong feelings about any of my movie reviews), it’s worth a brief stop here. I stopped doing album reviews quite early on, but I wasn’t happy about it – after all, I have always listened to my music almost exclusively in the form of curated playlists or full-length albums, and hammering out a few paragraphs with music in my ears is often some of the most effortless-feeling writing I’ve been fortunate enough to do. The main reason I stopped? My music habits were completely upended by my discovery of K-Pop just months after I started the blog, and for years afterwards I didn’t back myself to write good review-length pieces about albums in a foreign language.

Luckily, the reverence for western 1980s pop music coursing through every beat of the Wonder Girls’ incredible 2015 tribute album REBOOT convinced me to do a one-off, and I’m so glad I did. I stand by the albums plentiful merits to this day, and the review itself reinforced just how much I enjoyed well-crafted long-form music – regardless of language. It probably set the stage for my annual K-Pop album countdown to become the most difficult to write every year – but I enjoy it immensely every year regardless.

My Top 10 Zelda Games (2013)

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In 2013, my September-long themed “Zelda month”, which consisted of ten different Legend of Zelda series countdowns culminating in this big one, felt like the biggest passion project I had ever created in my life. And it certainly was a ton of work. Even though I would go on to do other entire themed months (with the Pokemon series featuring heavily), this is still the one of which I am proudest. I remember exactly where I was sitting in a college library when I realised Link’s Awakening was good enough for my top five, and that I could properly articulate why for the first time. Though the amount of Zelda games I’ve finished has almost doubled since, and the ordering has changed a tiny bit over the years, I still consider this list the one that effectively canonised my Nintendo nerd opinions in a way I’m (mostly) happy to back up to this day.

60 Changes in Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D From the N64 Original (2015)

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Naturally, my appetite for lengthy Zelda-themed articles did not end in 2013. After all, the two longest posts on this site are each dedicated to (individual) Zelda games. But neither one of them is as useful to refer back to as this baby. A couple of years after I did a similar thing for Persona 4 Golden – on a much smaller scale – I tackled the chunky task of cataloguing every difference I could possibly find – and a few I had to research to discover – in the 3DS remake of The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask. I’m pretty chuffed with this one; Majora’s Mask is still my favourite game of all time, and my opinion that the remake is superior to the original seems to put me in the clear minority among vocal fans. Thanks to the pedantic thoroughness of this post, however, I have no need to second-guess that opinion under the weight of competing ones.

My Top 20 Favourite Pokemon (2019)

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I wanted to include at least one Pokemon post on this list, because I’ve written so very many over the years: a nostalgically-charged collection of my favourite in-story moments; a summary of the pros and cons of every main series generation; no less than four separate posts just about replaying old games in the series. But the most recent one I wrote is probably the best one to include in this retrospective, because it kinda functions as a de facto summary of all the others. The myriad memories I have from this endlessly replayable franchise are more-or-less tied to the wondrous creatures that populate it, and it wasn’t until I made myself sit down and actually write an ordered list of my personal favourites – somehow for the first time in my life, 20 years after first playing Pokemon – that I realised just how true that was.

Barely a quarter of the list of my favourite Pokemon ended up based on nostalgic appreciation for surface-level design; most of it is fuelled by specific experiences I’ve had playing and replaying the games over the decades, whether in single-player adventures or memorable multiplayer battles. It really was illuminating to compile this one.

Gargantuan Trios (2013)

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As soon as I decided to do this kind of anniversary feature, one janky post came straight to mind. Despite its hilarious DIY MS Paint look and woefully outdated conclusions, I don’t think there’s any article on this site that more efficiently sums up why I wanted to start a blog all those years ago. Attempting to combine two passions that in 2013 did not have a ton of overlapping fans (unlike nowadays), and bending over backwards to find and defend arbitrary correlations for the sheer pleasure of successful categorisation – I mean, that pretty much sums up how I’d describe my entire personality ten years ago. And hey, if nothing else, I’d wager this post is still wholly unique across all the internet.

Mega Ultra Blast Cast – The Final Episode (2015)

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It wouldn’t be a reflective look back at the last ten years of Vagrant Rant without a mention of the videogame/movie podcast I ran with my mates Shane and Delaney for almost two years between 2013 and 2015. The 39th and (little did we know at the time) final episode of the Mega Ultra Blast Cast – one of only two still publicly available on SoundCloud – is a hell of a trip to listen to nowadays. Packed with poorly-aged predictions, manic yelling at an energy level it’s hard to imagine replicating, and sound quality below even the lowest-entry-point modern headset, it functions as a fun, slightly cringey time capsule in 2022.

What I Think of the Nintendo Switch (2017)

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Another kind of post I so frequently return to that it has to be represented here is gaming console analysis. I’ve reviewed, compared and speculated on just about every shiny new major videogame-playing box released in the last decade, geeking out over the competing portables of the early 2010s, trying repeatedly to convince people the Wii U was somehow worth playing, comparing two generations of Xbox/Playstation double-launches, and even dabbling in cool auxiliary hardware like the Playstation TV and the mClassic HDMI upscaler. So why pick the speculative article I wrote just after Nintendo presented the Nintendo Switch to a voracious public onstage in January 2017?

Well for one, unlike many of my “what if” console musings (especially regarding the Wii U), I actually got most of this one right – I managed to call out the silly limitations of Nintendo’s online plans, the success of the system relying on embracing its portability first and foremost, and the irrelevance of its small launch line-up in the face of a killer first-year release cadence. But more importantly, this post was released almost exactly halfway through the current lifetime of Vagrant Rant, and the success of the Switch lines up rather neatly (but maybe not coincidentally) with the relative mellowing of my worst fanboy tendencies moving into the second half. I think (I hope) that I’m a better writer now for it.

The Seven Stages of Videogame Remakes (2019)

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Probably my most ambitious post to date conceptually, this one is all about delicious categorisation and gloriously controversial nomenclature. It’s arguably become even more relevant in the months and years since it was published, as older games continue to receive more (and less) creative flavours of re-release, and gaming publications the world over continue to misuse terms like “remaster” and “port”. The colour-graded seven-stage semantic solution I came up with (complete with colour-matched screenshots) is by no means perfect, and I’d love to refine it further one day; but I’m more than happy to refer people to this article whenever the inevitably misaligned expectations surrounding a re-release rear their ugly heads – and I have, quite a few times.

Replaying Conker’s Bad Fur Day on Xbox One X in One Day – A Reloaded Report (2018)

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The list may be un-ordered, but gun-to-my-head you can probably call this my all-time favourite Vagrant Rant post. Easily the most amount of words I’ve ever written up in a single day – by some margin – my first-ever playthrough of Conker’s Bad Fur Day’s absolutely gorgeous Xbox remake – sharpened to effective 4K resolution by the Xbox One X – represented a near-perfect storm of nostalgia and freshness, reliability and novelty, frustration and relief. Combining a unique gaming project I’d always wanted to try – by way of one of my all-time favourite videogames – with a different writing style I’d only previously employed in message threads was an absolute treat. Despite the sprinkling of bleary-eyed roadblocks I encountered along the way, I’m ecstatic with how it turned out.

And that’s all for the first decade of Vagrant Rant. Let’s see what the next holds, shall we?

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