Thursday, April 22, 2021

Theme Parking: Disneyland Part II

  • Looking at this blog, you wouldn't know that COVID had happened. You wouldn't know that anything happened, honestly. But I passed the time in a number of ways, watching for the markers that life was returning to normal again. If there was ground for optimism, this set of annoucements is a company with hope for the future.

  • Disneyland is reopening April 30, 2021 - It may not be the biggest news, but I think it's the most iconic: Disneyland announced that they are opening April 30. Although California Guideline allowed for reopening as of April 1 (and Magic Mountain was right there waiting), Disneyland set a date that gives them time to: 1) wind down the Taste of Disney event, 2) recall Cast Members and retrain them, and 3) give the county time to reach a better tier. That last part worked out because Orange County has already reached the Orange tier and is swiftly moving toward Yellow at the end of the month. I was never one of the doomsayers who thought that Disney would pull up stakes because of onerous state guildlines (hah!). But it is nice to the the light at the end of the tunnel may be Tinkerbell.

  • DisneylandForward - For as important as reopening is, this was the news that got every Disneyland fan in a tizzy. On March 25, Disney announced... something. The most extreme fans immediately declared that Disneyland had annouced the mythical third gate and started trying to parse what rides and lands that the concept art was portraying. Thankfully it did not take long for more rational heads prevailed and the real story came out: DisneylandForward is Disney's public relations campaign to lobby the City of Anaheim to change the zoning of the Disneyland resort. Exciting, huh?

    As it is, the Disneyland Resort Specific Plan was drawn up when Disney was planning California Adventure and pretty clearly lays out how each part of the resort can be developed. Although it ushered in a massive upgrade to the resort, Disney now find themselves too constrained by that same agreement. There are only so many backstage areas they can demolish while pushing out the margins before they finally run out of all available run. (Though Tomorrowland continues to be wildly underutilized.) So now Disney is asking for more freedom to develop what they have left however they see fit. It is an exciting development in that it shows that Disney wants to continue investing in their original park. But don't get hung up on a bunch of artwork in a zoning proposal.

  • Alcohol in the Blue Bayou - Not nearly as big of news, but I'm still fascinated to see this headline. Disneyland announced that they will start selling alcohol at the Blue Bayou in New Orleans Square. When Oga's Cantina opened with Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge in 2019, the alcohol ban was already done, but it stayed limited to a highly-thematic location. The Blue Bayou is the best place to expand the practice. And if following the example of WDW's Magic Kingdom, alcohol will stay limited to table service restaurants. Though considering how few of those there are in the park, maybe Disneyland will expand their dining options in order to expand their alcohol sales.

  • Annual Passholder Tears - I was an annual passholder once upon a time, and I loved having that kind of freedom to go to the parks at a whim. But when Disney announced that they were cancelling the program, there was a part of me that was fascinated by the implications for the park. Not everyone was so thrilled and many have been very vocal online about their displeasure. I know I shouldn't be mean about this, but I was struck with the thought of buying a mug with the phrase "Annual Passholder Tears" if such a thing existed. Failing to find one on Etsy, I may have to source one myself...

  • April 30 is just around the corner and I'm excited to see what's coming in Part II of this grand Disneyland story.

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Top Five: Video Games of 2020

  • Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio has owned my gaming time for the last few years and will own 2021 as well when I finally get to play Yakuza: Like A Dragon. (I'll have an Xbox Series X someday. Hopefully.) So I'm not surprised to find them on this year's list. But that's not all I played. What a year.

  • Judgment - After playing through a number of Yakuza games over the last few years, Judgment was both familiar and a breath of fresh air. The game leans more toward a dramatic tone where Yakuza can weave wildly between extremes, but that focus gives Judgment enough distiction to stand apart from its predecessor. The main chararacter, lawyer-turned-hard-boiled-detective Takayuki Yagami, and his companions are much more grounded, but the story is as big as ever. I loved playing this game from start to finish and I hope RGG Studio keeps making side games like this.

  • The Yakuza Remastered Collection - Yes, I'm cheating by combining three games into one slot so that they don't dominate the entire list. I have been infatuated with the Yakuza series since Zero. I knew that, once I finished that game, I would have to play all the rest. Since 3-5 were all Playstation 3 exclusive, I knew that might be difficult, but Sega seems to have anticipated my needs. I have now played to 3, 4, and I'm working on 5 as the year draws to an end. The series continues to be a delight in drama and creativity.

  • Fantasy Life - There is a good chance that I bought this game on the recommendation of Austin Walker (formerly of Giant Bomb and Waypoint). There is so much to it, though, that I quickly ran into a "too-much-to-do" mental block and dropped the game. It wasn't until the pandemic hit that I had the time and desire to lose myself in a fantasy world. Fantasy Life's simple gameplay, colorful characters, and inviting world was a welcome escape in the early days of the lockdown.

  • Hades - I've never done the whole "follow a game through early access" thing before, but Hades was the exact right game to try it on. A lot of credit has to go to the team at Supergiant who had the game nailed from the start. All of the time after I started playing was just adding more and polishing the gem-like core that was already there. It was fun to watch the game grow over time, and it was amazing to play from day one.

  • Kingdoms Of Amalur - Reckoning - It certainly is big game, which is why previous attempts at the game eventually faltered. (The studio name Big Huge Games should have been a giveaway here.) It is easy to fall into the completionism trap when the quests are so diverse and the stories so interesting. But there is so much of it and there is enough sameyness to the dungeons it can feel monotonous. But it's hard not to be drawn to the combat and, maybe, see a glimpse of the MMO that might have come.

  • Since this is going up in April, I'll totally admit that I have a Series X now. Also, I've already beat Like A Dragon. I really need to try harder on these posts.