Best of James & Mike Mondays (Blu-ray) [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - America - Cinemassacre
Review written by and copyright: James-Masaki Ryan (1st November 2015).
The Show

"Best of James & Mike Mondays"

Back in 2004, James Rolfe made videos of himself talking about 2 particular video games that tormented him for life: “Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest” and “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”. Inadvertently he created the long running web series “The Angry Video Game Nerd” in the process, and 10 years later even went to the theatrical screen with “Angry Video Game Nerd: The Movie”. But it wasn’t only that series that Rolfe produced, as he also made the series “Board James”, “You Know What’s Bullshit?”, the yearly “Monster Madness” movie reviews, and more on his site Cinemassacre. In 2012, Rolfe and Mike Matei, his partner at Cinemassacre decided to do a one-off video that was just the two of them playing the bootleg game entitled “Super Mario Rambo”. Unlike other videos made at Cinemassacre, this was completely unscripted and was just two guys playing the game and commenting as it went along. They continued it as a series at first calling it “James & Mike Play”, and eventually changed to “James & Mike Mondays” when it became a weekly series uploaded every Monday.

The games chosen for “Angry Video Game Nerd” were almost always bad ones. For “James & Mike Mondays” they cover anything and everything, from games that they like to play, games that neither of them had played before, new games, old games, great games, and terrible games. There are some absolute classics played such as “Contra”, “Mario Kart 64”, “Sonic the Hedgehog” which the guys known very well, to some bizarre ones like “Taboo: The Sixth Sense” and “Color a Dinosaur”, and some absolute stinkers like “Sonic ‘06” and “Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine”.

There are plenty of web series out there of people playing video games and commenting on screen. What makes “James & Mike Mondays” stand out is the chemistry between James & Mike who have been friends since college and have worked together for many years at Cinemassacre. They both have a lot of love for video games, classic horror, and toilet humor, so conversation bouncing back and forth during the gameplay is much more than just a critique of the games. Sometimes they go off on tangent and discuss different topics such as ,a href="http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000489/">Christopher Lee’s metal album during “Castlevania”, commenting that “Goro’s got nards” referencing “The Monster Squad” while playing "Mortal Kombat X", Patrick Stewart as Captain Ahab in the TV movie of “Moby Dick” during “Pilotwings”, or referencing Sean Connery’s retirement from acting while playing “King Kong 2”. Sure it may baffle some who are not familiar with their world of subculture, but for people who understand, it is absolute gold. Whether they are making movie references to the Universal Horror films, making fun of graphical flaws, watching their frustration by continuous loss of lives, or a conversation about drowning to death in hot diarrhea covered with cockroaches, it’s all just in the moment.

And their reactions are also in the moment. Their frustrations of not being able to jump on a platform, not being able to figure out controls, or playing games that are just plain broken. Their jumps for joy when clearing nearly impossible games are a sight to behold that any gamer knows the feeling of. But is it really worth shelling out $25 for a Blu-ray in which almost all the disc contents are available online for free at Cinemassacre and YouTube? That just may depend on your taste and how much of a fan you are, and also what is on the Blu-ray exclusively.

A fun drinking game that could be done: Have a drink (or a Rolling Rock for that matter) every time James or Mike says “Fuck”, “Shit”, “Oh God!”, or “Basically”. With more than 7 hours of continuous episode content on the disc, be careful!

The disc is not a “Complete” set but only a best-of selection, and these 20 episodes are included. Thankfully there is a “Play All” function for the main videos, which in total runs for (434:42).

- Atari Jaguar CD (14:03)
In the “Atari Jaguar” Angry Video Game Nerd episode, the Nerd is unable to play a working Jaguar CD system since he could not find one that worked at all. Finally James and Mike acquire a working machine and they play “Battle Morph”, “Blue Lightning”, “Hover Strike”, and “Highlander”. Atari Jaguar was one of the disappointing consoles ever made, being advertised as “64 bit” during the 16-bit era, but did not look any better. Their CD add-on did not improve the system much, and the games played here are almost embarrassing, with “Highlander” being an absolute bore to play, but hilarious to watch as James & Mike play, or should I say “try” to play.

- Mario Paint (SNES) (15:47)
“Mario Paint” was the first game to be released for the Super NES to be played specifically with the SNES mouse, like a Nintendo version of Microsoft Paint. Although it should be noted that the mouse was able to be used on other controller based games, but not all. The highlight of the episode is actually the one part of the series that is NOT unscripted: It is artist Mike, who creates much of the amazing artwork for Cinemassacre, makes some incredible video game based artwork using “Mario Paint” that must be seen to be believed.

- Super C (NES) (27:19)
Both James & Mike are experts at “Contra”. They put their Contra skills to the test by playing the lesser known but highly rated sequel, “Super C”. They play co-op, which in Contra is a lot harder than playing alone. This episode is a full play-through, unedited with the exception of shots switching from the game itself to James & Mike. Since it is unedited, they do apologize for some of the dead airtime in comments, as most of the time is just concentrating on playing quite seriously.

- TMNT IV Turtles in Time (SNES) (11:14)
Probably the best Ninja Turtles game in the arcade made a worthy transition to the home console with the SNES “Turtles in Time”. But as James & Mike (jokingly) say, the only negative point may be that Irma is not in the game!

- Pilotwings 64 (N64) (13:06)
One of the first games made available on the Nintendo 64 was the updated “Pilotwings 64”, which showed the console’s capabilities with 3D graphics. Instead of going through the various challenges, they mess around with shooting whales, missing intended targets, getting lost, and messing around. But for anyone who has played “Pilotwings 64” it was the ability for players to go off course and explore which made it unique and was the best part about the game.

- Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (NES) (19:40)
“Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” is of the games that tormented James in his youth, and still does to this day. As his initial video of reviewing the game in 2004, he brought to light a “Plan 9 From Outer Space” or “Manos: The Hands of Fate” of video games. Now it’s Mike’s turn to be tormented by the game.

- Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!! (NES) (7:12)
One of the most famous Nintendo titles around which got an extra boost in popularity when Nintendo licensed the likeness of Mike Tyson for the game as the final boss. Was “Punch-Out!”. (Though it should be noted that Nintendo removed Tyson later from the game because the licensing expired and not because of the highly publicized assault charges.) James & Mike are joined by Bootsy, who is an expert in “Punch-Out!” among other games. The video focuses on them fighting Mike Tyson only.

- Sonic '06 (XBox 360) (23:49)
The Xbox 360 “Sonic the Hedgehog” or “Sonic ‘06” as it is commonly referred to has become an infamous and embarrassing addition to the Sonic series. For James it was the first time to play the game which does not look like any other Sonic game. There are human characters, a castle based town, which made it seem like Sonic was accidentally placed in another game. What’s worse are the terrible controls, camera, continuous loading screens, and glitches. One of the worst games makes one of the funniest episodes to watch.

- Super Mario's Wacky Worlds (CD-i) (25:08)
Here’s a prototype of the unfinished CD-i game “Super Mario’s Wacky Worlds” which is clearly unplayable for the most part. Pipes don’t work, it’s impossible to die, levels don’t end, and to top it off, since the CD-i has no reset button, James & Mike have to manually turn off and on the console again and again to play through, or at least try to play through.

- Batman: The Video Game (NES) Part 1 (27:22)

- Batman: The Video Game (NES) Part 2 (26:03)

It was common back in the late 80’s and 90’s to have video games based off a movie, in which the game has nothing to do with the actual movie. Based off the Tim Burton “Batman” film, here is another one that vaguely resembles the actual film, but as a game itself, is one of the best on the NES. Good controls, good music, good graphics, but insanely difficult toward the end. James & Mike obviously talk about Batman comics and the movies throughout.

- Super Castlevania IV (SNES) Part 1 (21:35)

- Super Castlevania IV (SNES) Part 2 (26:03)

James previously reviewed “Super Castlevania IV” during the 4-part Angry Video Game Nerd episodes, but this time him and Mike play the game in its entirety from beginning to end. Not only do they talk about the game, but also the Castlevania series from “Simon’s Quest” to the disappointing “Castlevania 64”, and ponder about why a Castlevania movie has not been made yet.

- Battletoads "Turbo Tunnel" (NES) (23:54)
“Battletoads” is known for being incredibly fun yet notoriously difficult, and was covered in an Angry Video Game Nerd episode. James says he was never able to beat the Turbo Tunnel stage of the game, so Mike coaches him to try to make the dream come true. The episode is more serious and instructional rather than the silliness and hilariousness found in other episodes, but still very much worth seeing. For additional info on how to master “Battletoads” including the Turbo Tunnel, see the Battletoads episodes of “Bootsy Beats” on the Cinemassacre site.

- Mega Man 2 (NES) Part 1 (12:35)

- Mega Man 2 (NES) Part 2 (17:31)

James & Mike are glad to be playing something they’ve both loved for years. “Mega Man 2” is considered the easiest in the Mega Man series, so they breeze by very quickly on this one.

- Castlevania: Rondo of Blood (PC Engine) (27:51)
Although it is considered one of the best Castlevania games, it was not released in North America initially. Made for the PC Engine in Japan, it was never ported over to the US counterpart console, the TurboGrafx 16. They criticize both the TurboGrafx system, which was extremely overpriced and had no mascot or standout exclusive series, and also some parts of the game like the annoying crow cawing, which they liken to the annoying crow from the 1932 “White Zombie”. As they mention, James & Mike recorded a very good and also funny commentary track for the film on the Cinemassacre site.

- Silver Surfer (NES) (32:42)
Another game previously covered by James as the Angry Video Game Nerd, the Marvel character game “Silver Surfer” for the NES is another torturous game in which everything kills you in one hit, and projectiles are everywhere in the game. Bootsy is an expert in the game and shows James & Mike how to beat the game but even experts have their troubles. A lot of swearing and frustration in this episode.

- Mortal Kombat X (PS4) (10:34)
The newest game to be reviewed, James plays not only “Mortal Kombat X” for the first time, but plays the PlayStation 4 for the first time at Mike’s place. The gore level of the Mortal Kombat series was over the top, but “X” takes it to a new level of unrealistic nastiness. It’s so over the top it’s actually funny. But besides the goriness, the gameplay is actually quite good.

- Double Dragon (Neo Geo CD) (12:41)
This Japan-only “Double Dragon” game was actually based off the movie “Double Dragon”, which the movie was based off the arcade game “Double Dragon”, if that is meta enough. Rather than a side scrolling beat-em-up like the previous games, this one is a “Street Fighter” style 2 player fighting game. Neither of them are fighting game experts, and since all the instructions are in Japanese, it is a loud button mashing brawl on the Neo Geo arcade style joystick controllers.

- Super Mario Land (GameBoy) (8:27)
One of the first games released for Nintendo GaemBoy is still considered one of the best. They play the game using the Super GameBoy so it could be played on the TV screen. During the episode they talk about their GameBoy memories, about who Princess Daisy is supposed to be, and how Dracula calls the little girl a “bitch” during “The Monster Squad”, one of the most memorable and crazy moments in the film. As great as the game is, the biggest problem is how short the game is compared to other Mario adventure games.

- The Legend of Zelda (Famicom) (13:32)
Another childhood favorite of James & Mike is “The Legend of Zelda”, but instead of the US NES cartridge, they play the Japanese Famicom version, which actually made use of the Famicom microphone. They apologize beforehand that the picture quality would be bad, as the only way the old Famicom could be hooked up is by coaxial cables and not AV cables. During the gameplay they talk about their early NES memories, playing Zelda for the first time, and also speak to Link directly using the microphone, which for many people who had a Famicom used to try to distract the other player or pretend to be Darth Vader through the TV speakers.

- King Kong 2 (Famicom) (20:08)
After playing “Zelda” on the old Famicom, Internet users introduced to James & Mike that a Famicom with AV cables existed, redesigned as released as the “AV Shiyo Famicom” in 1993. Though people just referred it as “New Famicom”, since “AV” in Japan is also the abbreviation for “Adult Video”. They play the Famicom exclusive “King Kong 2” which is not mentioned whether it is supposed to the 1933 King Kong, the Toho King Kong, or the Dino Di Laurentis “King Kong”. Also mentioned is that Mike uses a “Framemeister” so the split second lag for old video games played on modern TVs is drastically decreased.

Note this is a region ALL Blu-ray disc, playable on any Blu-ray disc player worldwide

Video

Presented in 1080p in the 1.78:1 aspect ratio in the MPEG-2 codec, the HD shots of James & Mike look quite good. The shots of the video games are in their original 1.33:1 ratio for older games and 1.78:1 for newer ones. Colors look accurate and compression doesn’t seem to be too much of a problem, even with more than 7 hours of footage on the disc.

Audio

English LPCM 2.0 stereo
There isn’t much with stereo separation, only with some video game music having stereo audio, but it is mostly mono audio with James & Mike’s comments. In certain episodes the screams of anger and screams of joy get a bit too loud for the mic to handle causing distortion, but this is not the fault of the track. Considering the Blu-ray of “Angry Video Game Nerd: The Movie” didn’t include a lossless audio track, it’s welcoming to have here, even with the limited use of the stereo sound.

There are no subtitles offered on the discs.

Extras

Bonus Features - Unreleased Episodes
4 bonus episodes are included:

- Tag Team Match: M.U.S.C.L.E. (NES) (6:48)
Based on the “Kinnikuman” comic series, which was hugely popular in Japan in the 1980’s, “M.U.S.C.L.E.” was an epilepsy inducing wrestling game with very primitive looking graphics.

- Super Smash Brothers (N64) (5:14)
James & Mike are joined by JonTron for 3-player “Super Smash Brothers”. JonTron gets the shitty third party controller with the broken Z-button.

- The New Strange Mario Bros! (NES) (14:14)
James & Mike play one of many many homebrew Super Mario cartridge games out there. But with the Wii-U release of “Super Mario Maker” this year, now anyone can make a homebrew original Mario game.

- StarFox (SNES) (19:02)
James ranting about iTunes was featured in a "You Know What’s Bullshit" episode, but during the StarFox gameplay, he goes off in a tangent rant about the evilness of Apple and iTunes, and maybe because of that the ghost of Steve Jobs came down to shut off the power to Mike’s place during the recording of the episode…

Considering the amount of extras provided on the AVGN, Board James, and The Movie, such as commentaries, featurettes, and interviews, it is rather disappointing that there are none of those here, though you could call the videos themselves as “commentaries”. Having interviews with James & Mike talking about why they started the series, the reasons for choosing the games, or even commentaries over some episodes would have been welcome. Why they didn’t go the extra mile here is the biggest disappointment.

Overall

“James & Mike Mondays” is probably the best series of video game “Play” videos out there, and that is very much due to the way James & Mike interact. Fans will absolutely love it but some may question if it is really necessary to have a Blu-ray of episodes available for free on YouTube with less than an hour of bonus episodes. But as they stated, this Blu-ray is specifically for fans of physical media, and here it is.

The Show: B Video: B+ Audio: B+ Extras: C- Overall: B

 


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