The Last of Us Ep. 9 – “Look for the Light” Thoughts & Impressions

Well, here we are (seven weeks later 😅). This particular review has been hanging over me. Sure, I’ve been quite busy with work, podcast production, and buying a house: I have excuses. But I haven’t been able to shake the weight of finishing up my season review of The Last of Us. It’s surrounded by completed tasks on my to do list; a constant, blank reminder to come back.

Part of me needed time from the finale. I came out of it with disappointment and I kind of just sat in that. I poured myself into those other tasks—those excuses—all the while letting the finale be mulled over in the back of my mind. Not being on social media allowed me to be alone with my thoughts. I think I only discussed the finale with Abby, Logan, and one friend who brought it up at ultimate frisbee.

It’s time though.

The finale of The Last of Us is stunted. Clocking in at just under 43 minutes, there is no time for it to come into its own. The bulk of it sticks strictly to the game and that adherence is a hinderance. The strongest moments are not from the game, but new material brought into the light of the tiny silver screen. But those wonderful new elements have zero no time to grow or have no payoff. The rushed nature that I have been talking about since episode five compounds in the finale.

The cold open returns and was the defacto highlight of the episode. Ashley Johnson plays Ellie’s mother, Anna. Perfect casting. No one else could have done this. Ashley has given life to Ellie both in her decade long performance has her in the game and now on the HBO adaptation.

There’s real tension and suspense watching this pregnant women, in labor, trying to fight off the infected. We also get an explanation to Ellie’s immunity, something the games never really broached. Turns out this was all an original story and pitch back in 2014. There’s more to this story and one we may yet see come to light. It’s so fast, raw, and powerful. The show can do that because there is no box to be contained in. This story is new and the show shines because of that.

Later on, Joel and Ellie have a classic heart to heart before the final battle moment. We see Joel open up about some scar on his head, which turned out to be an attempted suicide on day two of the apocalypse. It’s a scenario that feels so grounded and it’s one I never considered for Joel. But this scar, as far as I recall, had never been mentioned before, never brushed off, or focused on. So we get this moment of vulnerability without any meaningful build up. It’s shock value that cheapens the weight of the actual moment between the two characters.

I think a little before that particular exchange, we get the legendary giraffe scene. It was great to see a real giraffe, a choice I was hoping they’d make. I feel like the scene lacked punch though. The show follows the game beat for beat, which includes the ladder “prompt” and subversion. This loses all its umpfh. These two have never done the ladder retrieval on the show. There’s no expectation to subvert. This narrative beat was entirely sculpted around gameplay. Now, the actual giraffe encounter is strong. A little is lost since we don’t control the pace of departure. I always linger and this, again, felt rushed. We have a lot of story to get through and only checks playhead 22 minutes to go.

During Joel’s hospital massacre, a tonal mismatch of the highest degree occurs. As Joel is ratta tat tatting through the Fireflies, we hear Gustavo Santaolalla’s All Gone (No Escape) sweeping underneath. A melancholic song that pulls your heart along its desperate notes. In the game, this emerges as Joel carries Ellie out of surgery to escape. In the show, it plays while Joel mows down mercenaries. The juxtaposition is so jarring. It lends tender, clinging hope to the most gamey part of the show rather than the paternal affection and desperation Joel displays during the actual escape. I’m saddened by this emotional mismatch.

My last complaint/nitpick/issue/etc. lies in the camera work of the infamous final scene. When Joel lies to Ellie outside of Jackson, the cameras are tilted ever so slightly to give power to Joel in the scene. From Joel’s perspective, the camera is looking down on Ellie; and Ellie’s angle is looking up to Joel. Sure, there is the physical height of it all, but in the language of cinema, this gives Joel the power in the scene. In the game, the camera is square with both protagonists. I felt this tilt diminishes Ellie’s understanding, hesitation, and growth throughout. In fairness, this is something that could pay off cinematically in future seasons, should they mirror this conversation dynamic as roles and power shift.

Here, at the end of season one, I am bummed, yet hopeful. This debut is too crammed and squanders what time it does have with the audience. Trying to fit the entire first game was a necessity from a “we have one chance” perspective. Now with multiple seasons in the works, the crew has time to slow down, explore, and grow.

HBO’s The Last of Us was at its best when it did its own thing; when it tried to expand upon the world. Some new bits were strong, while others were weak. Time was the enemy here.

As a fan, it was strange to look at something new, yet familiar. The shape of the thing was a rough approximation for what came before. The details were where differences stood out. Being so close, so familiar at times, creates an urge to reject. It can put you in a place of denial even. By the end, I wanted space from it all. I wanted the original back. Heck, I might play both games this summer.

And here, at the end of it all, I can’t help, but compare it all to Sarah and Ellie. I am Joel. I’m older. I long for the joy of new Naughty Dog stories. My reaction is to reject the 2.0, the replacement, the adaptation. By the end of my adventure with season one, I am not the Joel at the end of the game. I’m closer to the Joel at the ranch outside of Jackson. I’m scared to get close, guarding myself off as we tread on some mighty thin ice. Perhaps over time, with full understanding of what the show is and what the games are, I can see the show for what it is rather than what it is not. Perhaps with the space to breath both the show and myself can understand one another and grow. There is hope and opportunity in the space between. And when I consider that, I think it will all be okay.

I did it. I reviewed an entire season of television. Dang man. TV criticism is tougher on paper. I have no clue if I’ll do that same for season two, but thankfully I have time to figure that out. It wouldn’t be a TV episode review from me without my observations. Hopefully I can parse my notes seven weeks removed.

  • The amount of Part II music was apparently “sooooo much.” I was always excited to hear Gus and Mac’s newer music utilized in Part I scenarios.
  • Sticking with the Part II energy, the house in the cold open had major Ellie farm vibes.
  • I found it interesting that Anna and Marlene knew each other their entire lives. Not sure that was a detail in the games.
  • Anna reminded me quite a bit of the American Daughters easter egg in Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End. I would love to know the story behind that poster.
  • Pretty sure I spotted that Pedro Pascal is double jointed in his thumb.
  • Marlene’s cold delivery was stellar.
  • Given how swiftly Anna was killed, feels like there was no chance for her to write her letter to Ellie. Perhaps she did in between scenes, but felt like that didn’t happen in the show.

Humanity is Out May 16

The fine folks over at Enhance and tha have announced the release date for the puzzle game Humanity with a total throwback mishmash of trailers.

Full disclosure; I was a play tester for Humanity and was financially compensated for my time. I chatted with Chris Johnston about it on The Max Frequency Podcast. I’d love to do a full, non-NDA-breaking write up about my experience someday after launch. I am stoked to dive in again and chase the Platinum.

Eagle-eyed viewers may be able to find a level I made in the trailer. 👀

Procrastination pays off again! Mark MacDonald and my friend Chris Johnston published a deep dive into the gameplay and modes of Humanity on the PlayStation YouTube channel. If you want a taste of what I was able to experience, check it out.

N64 on MiSTer – RetroRGB

MiSTer FPGA News – Nintendo 64, Neo Geo Pocket, Simpsons & More by Lu for RetroRGB

I’ve been off Twitter all year (which has felt great), but I’ve realized lately that Twitter was my main source for retro gaming news. So I hopped over to RetroRGB and plopped their RSS feed in NetNewsWire. Lo and behold, a few days later, I am made aware that Robert (aka FPGAzumSpass of PSX core fame) is working on a N64 core. If anyone can crank out that wizardry, he can.

Happy to be plugged back in a bit and to see FPGA emulation tackling the beast that is the Nintendo 64.

Paper Mario, Decompiled – VGC

Paper Mario has been fully decompiled, meaning PC ports and mods are possible by Chris Scullion for Video Games Chronicle

Coder Ethan Roseman says he’s been able to reverse engineer the game’s full source code, resulting in a recreation of the code rather than a straight copy.

The news opens the door to potential ‘legal’ PC ports and mods of the game which technically don’t infringe on any Nintendo copyright.

“I’m extremely happy to announce that after 3+ years of working on a decompilation project for Paper Mario, we have reached 100% completion for the US version of the game,” Roseman said on Twitter. “Every compiled function has been matched.”

I’ve have had the itch to spend time with Paper Mario as of late. Perhaps it’s because I see it in retro stores for $90 and have begun to think “that’s not that expensive.” Perhaps, I just want that cozy game while my life is surrounded by change and hustle.

Glad to see N64 classics continue to be broken down for the PC world.

Chapter Select: Season 5, Episode 8 – Resident Evil Village

Episode art generated by DALL-E 2 with the following prompt written by Max Roberts - "Resident Evil 8 Castle Dimitrescu with spires sprawling in the cold mountainside of Eastern Europe diorama horror vampire."
Illustration generated by DALL-E 2, prompted by Max Roberts

Lycans and gentlemen! Village locals Max Roberts, Logan Moore, and special guest Michael Ruiz, run around town trying to put a baby back together. Was RE8 able to recapture the magic of previous entries or should Capcom have left the vampires and werewolves to Konami?

Download (51MB) — Episode Transcript

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Resident Evil Village

Metacritic – 84/100 (PS VR2 – 82/100)

This episode was originally recorded on April 10, 2023.


Max’s Twitter @MaxRoberts143

Logan’s Twitter @MooreMan12

Michael’s Twitter @TheMichaelJRuiz

Researcher, Editor, and Producer – Max Roberts

Hosted by Logan Moore & Max Roberts

Illustration generated by DALL-E 2, prompted by Max Roberts.

Celebrating Mega Man Battle Network

It is no secret I have deep fondness for Mega Man Battle Network 3. The Legacy Collection is finally out, and while I don’t have my own copy yet, I noticed a couple videos from some of my favorite YouTubers jacking in to the series.

8-Bit Music Theory dissects the “hype-est” track from games. 8-Bit’s full-blown analysis of music excites me. I may not know musical language or be able to read music (sorry piano teacher), but I learn something with every video. I feel smart watching the music play along the sheet and being able to visualize what 8-Bit is talking about.

Dan Root of Video Game Animation Study put out his first video in seven months and it is a full-blown, top down exploration of the animation for Mega Man and crew. The efficiency Capcom shows off on the Game Boy Advance is marvelous.

Both videos are superb and educational looks at some all-time classics, outside of the usual “here’s how the games play,” or “here’s all the hot Navi lore you need to know.” Check em out and then go play these games.

Change, Hype, and Zelda

Sometimes I watch this just to feel something. What an immaculate trailer.

With Tears of the Kingdom just four weeks away1, it feels strange to not have a level of hype like this trailer gives folks, even to this day. Perhaps it is because I am older, more tired, and juggling more. Maybe it is the level of secrecy Nintendo has had surround the newest game.

I am excited for Tears of the Kingdom, but I am not “hype.” Is it because this open-world Zelda is a know quantity now? Or that it isn’t launching alongside next-gen hardware? It is interesting to look back and think about all of this.

Perhaps procrastination will pay off again: Since I started this draft, Nintendo now has announced the premiere of the “final pre-launch trailer” for Tears of the Kingdom is tomorrow (4/12/23). If there was ever a moment to try and chase the dragon that is the 2017 trailer, this is it. 🤞🏻

There is so much different in my life surrounding this new game compared to Breath of the Wild. I have a kid now. Heck, I wasn’t married when Breath of the Wild dropped. I wrote a complete history of the game’s development. I was working on the guide for BotW. This will be the first 3D Zelda I’ve played since 2011 that I have played purely for myself and fun, with no work of deadline surrounding it.2 That has me more hyped up than the game itself.

It’s strange how much has changed in six years. I wonder how this version of Hyrule has changed. Will I recognize and remember the hills, mountains, and valleys? How will it feel to explore as a dad? Will I be playing in handheld while my daughter rolls around, maybe starts crawling?

Change is constant, but we are not always aware of it until afterward. Using Zelda as a marker for change is making me keenly aware. I suspect the next time a 3D Zelda game releases, Eloise will be old enough to engage with the games. ☠️

This has turned into the ramblings of a old(-feeling) dad watching his daughter grow up far too quickly, even if it has only been six months. Perhaps I am entering my King of Red Lions phase of life. Not a terrible place to be when you put it like that.

1. And that beautiful SWOLED out in just two weeks. 🤤

2. I have gone back to Skyward Sword (on the Wii) and played my fair share of the 3DS games. You get my point though.

Media Molecule is ending support for Dreams in September – VGC

Media Molecule is ending support for Dreams in September by Chris Scullion for Video Games Chronicle

Players will still be able to play, create and share content on the game after September 1, but it will be receiving no further updates after this date.

The game will also be migrating to a new server in late May, at which point players will be given a storage limit of 5GB for their creations.

The dream is dead.

Chapter Select Transcriptions for Every Episode

Hello everybody! I wanted to provide a small update on Chapter Select. With the start of Season 5: Resident Evil, we began offering episode transcriptions. I’ll share more about the process of making those transcriptions in the seasonal behind the scenes post, but it has gone so well that I went back and did it for the entire back catalog of Chapter Select.

Every episode now has a link to a PDF transcript of that specific episode. These links will be added to the show notes in your podcast app soon, but here on Max Frequency, all the requisite links are up. My desire behind this initiative is trying to help our audience as best I can. I hope these do help in some way.

Chapter Select: Season 5, Episode 7 – Resident Evil – Code: Veronica X

Episode art generated by DALL-E 2 with the following prompt written by Max Roberts - "Resident Evil Code Veronica German Palace surrounded by a military installation and a submarine in the distance located in Antarctica at night diorama."
Illustration generated by DALL-E 2, prompted by Max Roberts

The ghost of horrors past returns. Max Roberts and Logan Moore plan their escape from the icy tundra while figuring out if classic Resident Evil can evolve into its final form. Does this arctic adventure deserve a remake or should it be cast off like a bad dream?

Download (39MB) — Episode Transcript

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Resident Evil – Code: Veronica X

Metacritic – 94/100 on Dreamcast (84/100 on PS2 — 62/100 on GameCube)

This episode was originally recorded on March 17, 2023.


Max’s Twitter @MaxRoberts143

Logan’s Twitter @MooreMan12

Researcher, Editor, and Producer – Max Roberts

Hosted by Logan Moore & Max Roberts

Illustration generated by DALL-E 2, prompted by Max Roberts.

Walking Zelda – Craig Mod

Walking Zelda – Ridgeline Transmission 157 by Craig Mod

Power, technology, mobility. Video games, when done well (and I believe Zelda in its many incarnations is one of the best-done ones of all time), are miraculous tools that can elevate the mind and, eventually, the body. A kid walking trailer parks dreaming of guns can wake up one day to find himself walking mountains on the other side of the world, inspired by a golden cartridge.

I enjoy when folks write about the impact of video games, especially when I had no clue they played. Craig’s touchstones to the original Zelda and Breath of the Wild hit home with me. I think his experience is a testament to the team’s design goals of recapturing the wonder of said original game. I’d love to hear more from Craig about Zelda, games, walking, etc.

The Last of Us Ep. 8 – “When We Are in Need” Thoughts & Impressions

Sometimes throughout the season, I wish I wasn’t intimately familiar with the source material. This episode was the biggest disappointment so far, as a fan.1 Winter is a part of the game ripe with superb performances, gripping scenarios, and an ending that sticks. When translating Winter to TV, the old adage of “the book is better than the movie” rang so true.

I understand that Hollywood cannot fit everything in to a show. I get that these performances are the vision and interpretation of the writers, directors, and actors. It is not supposed to be the same. It should stand shoulder to shoulder or be better, like episode three did with Bill and Frank. The cut corners rob the end pacing of the story.

I want to focus on the elements I enjoyed first though. The star of the episode was hands down Troy Baker. His role as David’s right-hand man was executed with a quiet conviction. At times, Troy was more David-like than Scott Shepherd. Any time Troy was one screen, he stole the scene.

The sound design and music hit home for me as well. The scene where David’s folk is eating and all you hear is spoons clanking into the bowls with a ravenous fervor. The sound makes the hair on your neck stand up as sadness and fear swirl around in your stomach, while theirs swirl with the remains of neighbors. Immaculate sound design.

Combative scenes use music from The Last of Us Part II to great effect. I like them tapping into the well of Part II‘s music. This is a far more effective use of resources than trying to layer themes and motifs on top of the base game. Let the work speak for itself rather than cramming in all you can.

I would be remiss if I did not call out my favorite moment from Winter. They did use the Joel “pop your goddamn knee off” line. Granted, I felt Pedro’s delivery was rushed, but this moment is top tier. It is a real window into Joel’s past actions, more than a line or story told in passing. I got both Alone and Forsaken and the knee? Maybe the season wasn’t so bad after all.

Or maybe it was.

This episode floundered who should have stolen the show—David. From the quiet, calm, and intelligent performance by Nolan North in the game to the religious, abusive, lost version on HBO, I am shocked at how they ruined David. I felt like Don Corleone looking upon the aftermath of his son’s massacre.

My biggest grievance is with the added layer of religion. It feels like another attempt to add on Part II narrative elements. The writers give David this unnecessary shroud of creepy pastor. Instead of elevating the character of David or changing him in a meaningful way, they cut off his imposition at the knees. It’s a crutch that David never needed, but now he is falling all over himself. The original character was far more effective with his bond built with Ellie (built during gameplay). Being a cannibal and a predator was enough. This new trait muddies the waters, leans into stereotypical cult Hollywood writing and weakens a striking villain.

This episode bummed me way out and, honestly, it doesn’t improve from here. But, like fans of books over movie adaptations, they can never take away the original version. The attempts to strip gameplay scenarios proves how effective that hands-on interaction is for telling a powerful story. It also may be showing how lacking a story like The Last of Us can be outside of its intended medium. Without the intimate connection, the ability to walk a mile in the character’s shoes, do the highs and lows reach the same levels? Is David’s effectiveness bound to fighting off Infected alongside him?2 Do Joel and Ellie work has this father/daughter bond without putting the audience in each role?

It’s odd to see a show so bound to the original source material that when it branches away, it more often fails than succeed. Yet, remaining so true to the source in other areas shows how essential the original medium is to elevating that tale. It’s a catch-22. And sometimes, I wish I wasn’t so familiar with the source material.

I am sorry this review (and the finale review) are so late. I’ve been tied up. And honestly, reviewing these last two episodes makes me a bit sad. It’s a rough and rushed end to an adaption that started strong. I am hopeful that future seasons lean into the knowledge of said future seasons to craft a better adaptation. We shall see, but until 2024 or 2025, here are some observations I made during the episode that didn’t make the cut of being mentioned in the review.

  • The girl in David’s “flock,” Joyce, is the daughter of the man Joel killed at the university. Feels a bit on the nose, but a nice touch to this world. 👀
  • Joel had a very nice knife to the neck stealth kill that felt gamey.
  • Ellie does not eat the meat that David offers up. In the game, she does and that conveys her true level of hunger. I kinda wish she partook on the show, but maybe seeing real people eat other “real” people is tougher for audiences to swallow?
  • I wish the kept the bunny kill. Overall, I felt like Ellie was more incapable in the show. Like Joel hadn’t spent off camera time teaching her to survive like he did in the game. Felt strange to me.
  • Yet, Ellie’s killing of David is far more gruesome and, once again, reminds me of a particular scene in Part II. I do think it went on for a few swings too long. And I found it interesting that Joel doesn’t find her inside the burning building, but outside of it.

1. That would be until the finale, but we watched them back to back. It was a quick one-two punch.

2. I’d wager no in David’s case, far more tied to delivery and how the character was written versus rewritten.