James Rolfe

Anthony Romero: I'm talking with James Rolfe, creator of the popular show The Angry Video Game Nerd and self-confessed Godzilla fan. We will be discussing both aspects about Godzilla and also regarding some of the Toho games he has covered.

So to start: How did you first become a fan of Godzilla?

James Rolfe:
There were a series of books in the late 70's or early 80's, the Crestwood House series, about all the classic monsters. I saw the Godzilla book in my school library when I was young. They had B&W stills from the movies, and were written very simply, with brief synopsis' and inaccurate information, such as King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962) having two different endings (one where Godzilla wins, one where Kong wins). I thought that was true until the advent of the internet. Here's a video I did on the Crestwood House series.

Romero: You have covered Godzilla: Monster of Monsters quite a bit in Episode 77 of The Angry Video Game Nerd. Can you describe your first experience with the title as a kid?

Strangely this is one game I don't remember playing as a kid. Godzilla wasn't quite on my radar yet. I know lots of people were confused that it resembled a chess game, but once you play it, it was fun enough.

Godzilla Monster of MonstersRomero: Oddly enough, regardless of the frustrations Godzilla: Monster of Monsters might have caused a younger me, I credit that game as being one of the prime factors for why I started Toho Kingdom. I was immensely curious who the heck Gezora and Moguera were, which led to a surprising amount of research at every library I could find that carried books on monsters. You touch on this fact in the episode, that almost no American Godzilla fan would know who these characters were back in the late 1980's. So I'm just curious if you can go into more depth there: that as a kid did you think these might be characters created just for the game, or that they might have been routed in other films?

Yeah it seemed odd at first. The only thing specific that comes to mind is The Mysterians (1957) and how it's overlooked. A good Toho film to come back to often.

Romero: At one point in time in the 1980's and 1990's, Toho themselves were fairly involved in creating video games. While some of their titles are well regarded, many of their video games are not. Quite a few of these were not related to their film properties as well. One of their most infamous titles, and it's current fame is largely due to the spotlight you have placed on it, is Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde for the Nintendo/Famicom.

This game was actually the second title to ever be featured in an episode of The Angry Video Game Nerd, and in contrast to the subject of the first episode, Castlevania II: Simon's Quest, was obscure by video game standards. Can you describe how you came about selecting this as the subject for your second episode?

I have such a strange obsession with that game. As a kid, I rented a game weekly from the video store, just about every weekend. That game in particular left a lasting impression. I was confused by it, and couldn't figure out how to play. Lots of times the instruction manuals were not included with the rentals, usually because people who rent them would lose them or steal them. Typically I would make the best of a bad game, but that was one instance where I couldn't, and felt trapped, like my whole weekend was wasted. And now I'm laughing about it all these years later, and am still paying tribute to it.

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde Romero: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was later revisited in episode 95 of the show, and this time you even highlighted the Toho connection which was great to see. That connection is common knowledge now, but back in 2004 when you did the original episode it was not. At the time did you realize that the "Toho" in Toho Cinefile-Soft Library, which appears on the English opening, was the same one behind the Godzilla films?

As a kid, I never thought about it. It was probably before I even saw a Godzilla film. And it took many years later as an adult, to play the game again, and notice it was Toho. Still, I find it strange.

Romero: Last year you created a fairly amazing send up of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde through a mock movie trailer. Can you describe why this particular title got selected for this project and also the experience behind making that video?

Thanks! It was a fun project. It satisfied my need to make something cinematic, but also my fanbase who are gamers. I love it when video games and movies meet. The game itself was loosely based on the novel, taking many liberties. So it was nice to have that same kind of freedom, to pay tribute to the game, but also invent.

Romero: To move on to another infamous Toho game, in 1990 Toho released the video game Circus Caper for the Nintendo. While this title is also obscure, it was cross promoted by Toho alongside Godzilla Monsters of Monsters for the Nintendo... leading to at least some recognition among Godzilla fans, although it's unlikely many actually played the game and even less played it far enough to realize Godzilla and Rodan were featured in it.

Anyway, this game was talked about during episode 97 of The Angry Video Game Nerd, which was a Christmas compilation of several titles. While that episode was a little over 5 years ago now, do you recall the process for selecting the titles and how you ended up selecting Circus Caper for it?

I actually forgot I ever reviewed it, because there's so many games in that episode. "How the Nerd Stole Christmas" is one of my favorite Nerd episodes ever, because the entire thing is written in rhyme. It was lots of fun. The games were mainly selected based on things that can be written into rhymes. They were also selected because they were games I didn't have enough to say about to construct into a long review, but still wanted to comment on them. I had just the right amount of commentary for them to make into concise mini-reviews.

Romero: At the end of Episode 77 of The Angry Video Game Nerd, which focused on Godzilla, you end up going over the Atari/Pipeworks titles. This includes Godzilla: Destroy All Monsters Melee, Godzilla: Save the Earth and Godzilla: Unleashed. Do you have a favorite out of those three, or might relate a bit more on your thoughts regarding those titles?

I think I enjoyed Melee the most, only because I played it in college with friends. The others I played later and were speed-experiences where I played them all in one sitting, whereas Melee was played over several nights in the correct setting. My friends and I used to get real hyped up when we'd play it. We'd get excited and shout a lot. That's the mark of a fun game.

Romero: While I've covered things related to The Angry Video Game Nerd quite a bit, I do want to touch on your work as Board James as well. There were a number of Godzilla board games created over the years that were released in the US, many of them quite old like one from the 1960's by Ideal and another by Mattel from 1978. Do you own any of these older games, or perhaps some of the newer ones like Godzilla: Kaiju World Wars?

I haven't yet, but I've been convinced that everything in existence has been made into a board game. It's crazy. One day, I'll have to check them out.

Romero: To jump to the movie side of things a bit, Legendary announced they were making a new Godzilla vs. King Kong film. As a King Kong fan yourself, what are your hopes for that upcoming title? Things you would like to see? What about things you would like to see avoided?

I'm all for it. I think it's long overdue. It won't replace the original. I love the fun factor of the original, but it deserves a new version for today's audiences. It's strange how with these big franchises they go through lots of development hell before they ever get made. I remember hearing about Batman Vs. Superman since the 90's and now it's finally here. Freddy vs. Jason was another one that took a long time. I think these type of mashups and "Vs" movies are an obvious way to attract more audiences. I don't see why it doesn't happen more often. I know lots of times they're owned by different companies and they can't reach an agreement. But it's a win for both.

Romero: In closing, would just like to say thanks for taking the time to talk with us. Both myself,and my girlfriend are huge The Angry Video Game Nerd fans. So would just like to thank you for the countless hours of entertainment, as it's one of the few things that always gets a laugh from me no matter how many times I have seen a given episode.

Thanks very much!


James Rolfe


Actor and filmmaker who oversees Cinemassacre Productions, most famous for the series The Angry Video Game Nerd for which James Rolfe plays the titular character. James has worked in many other avenues for his company, including the series Board James, Monster Madness and his work on the film the Angry Video Game Nerd: The Movie.

Date: 02/09/2016
Interviewer: Anthony Romero


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