Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
A still from Rectify

Etrian Odyssey 2 Untold: The Fafnir Knight

The Etrian series of dungeon crawls for Nintendo’s DS and 3DS handheld systems are the only games that I buy without reading reviews or waiting for critical consensus to build up. I know I’m going to dig whatever that team puts together, because I know it’ll always include three things: One, the series’ signature map-making system, which rewards cautious exploration, even as the simple pleasure of sketching my map puts me into a happy, nerdy trance. Two, battles that take my time and interest seriously, presenting me with thoughtful challenges instead of the rote button smashing and grinding that characterizes the fights in so many Eastern RPGs. And three, a feeling of innovation that arrives like clockwork with each new iteration; every Etrian game has fresh mechanics to explore, whether that takes the form of exploration-based mini-games, novel quests to solve, or (most delightfully) new character classes to customize and learn. The Fafnir Knight, despite technically being a remake of 2008’s Etrian Odyssey II, doesn’t let those expectations down. I’m 20 hours and 14 floors into this particular dungeon, and I don’t feel like I’m even close to getting my fill. Even better, the game’s story mode and default difficulty provide a perfect way for new players to dip their toes into the series, without cutting out the deeper material that long-term fans will want. [William Hughes]

Star Trek: Voyager’s “Year Of Hell” two-parter

Recently, I’ve been getting back into Star Trek: Voyager on Netflix. But rather than watching this inconsistent series straight through, I jump around from season to season, typically picking episodes that focus on The Doctor, Seven Of Nine, or Captain Janeway (because everyone else is boring). And when I have time, I’ll watch one of Voyager’s two-parters, many of which rank among the show’s finest work—the best of them being “Year Of Hell.” This duology revolves around Annorax, an alien starship captain with a time-bending device that can erase civilizations from history. As Annorax employs this horrific technology in a quest to restore his own race to its former glory, Janeway’s crew gets caught up in the temporal madness, to their great and extended misery. Kurtwood Smith is spellbinding as Annorax, a Nemo-esque figure who has been trying to “fix” history for so long, he believes time itself is waging a vendetta against him. Whatever you might think of Voyager as a whole, “Year Of Hell” is fantastic Star Trek storytelling. [John Teti]


This is more of a direct address than a staff pick: If you like smart, unusual, tense TV, then you should watch all three seasons of SundanceTV’s Rectify. Yes, we’ve reviewed every episode, most times glowingly, and even interviewed the show’s creator (who you may know better as the crazy preacher from Deadwood). But a massive number of you have ignored these gentle pleas, so here’s a more direct one: Go catch up with Rectify. It’s a soap opera dressed as a murder-mystery wearing the jumpsuit of a prison drama that also features a compelling extended family. It’s the story of Daniel Holden, who at the series’ outset is released from prison after 19 years for a rape and murder he may or may not have committed. He’s slowly—and the show does move slowly—reintegrated into life in Paulie, Georgia, mostly embraced by his family and mostly scorned by a town that thinks he might’ve done it. Aden Young plays Holden as a confused but wise man-child who’s learned a lot in two decades, but who has little capacity for the emotional tidal wave that comes with his unexpected release. He’s inscrutable throughout, and that’s what makes the show work. The first two seasons are on Netflix, and the just-finished third is available on iTunes. One more short series should wrap the whole thing up, so you might as well be prepared for it. [Josh Modell]


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