Archive for July, 2017

30 Days Video Game Challenge Pt. 3

July 31, 2017


Day 21 – Game with the best story.

I am actually going to go with Borderlands 2 which was a whole lot of fun. The original Borderlands was fun but I felt like it was lacking something. What it was lacking was the more fleshed out story and characters of Borderlands 2. I am not a fan of first person shooters in general partly because I am bad at the gameplay elements but also because they don’t have enough story for me. They were also banned from my childhood house and I did not really see the appeal when I played Doom or Unreal Tournament at a friend’s house. There are exceptions, of course. I like Fallout 3 and New Vegas because exploring is really fun and the characters are interesting. However, back to Borderlands 2, the game surprised me several times throughout the storyline. There were parts that shocked me, made me sad, made me angry, scared me, and made me laugh. The game built up to several climaxes that left me needing to save the game and take a break but they made me eager to start again the next day. The game was written by Anthony Burch (of HAWP fame) and it really shows with relatable characters in a fantastic setting.


Day 22 – A game sequel which disappointed you.

This may seem wrong but actually, I would pick Jak 2, the sequel to Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy. I loved Jak and Daxter so much despite being annoyed by Daxter’s constant yammering. The game play was so intuitive and it felt both unique and nostalgic at the same time. It had levels that felt like they were part of a greater world which had a long and mysterious history. There was plenty to do and plenty to collect along with some whimsical humor. The sequel, while an OK game, felt like a futuristic take on GTA 3. The GTA and some other sandbox games are fun for a little bit but I often got bored with them. I would play some missions until they got frustrating. Then I would just want to explore but a lot of areas are off limits until later in the game. Then I just wanted to run around and blow stuff up and that got boring quickly. And so it was for Jak 2 and Jak 3 was even less of a game. It was just the arena mini-game from Ratchet and Clank with different guns.


Day 23 – Game you think had the best graphics or art style.

I am going to go with Arkham City for the best art style. So much detail was put into crafting a vast playground for you to Batman around in. More than any other game it is one that I love just paging through the concept art. The re-envisioning of the characters for starters is great. There is a unified style but everybody looks unique and interesting while paying tribute to their comic book origins. There are so many easter eggs thrown in that I was geeking out every few minutes. More than any other sandbox-ish environment, this was one that I could wander around for hours without actually accomplishing anything. They lovingly crafted an environment where you could really crawl into the story. They brought new elements into the Batman universe but also rejuvenated older elements. In a lot of ways, I thought this was the perfect game and part of that was just how excited I was at how it looked. The other Arkham games (Asylum and Origins) work too but City remains my favorite. I have not played Arkham Knight yet.


Day 24 – Favorite classic game.

Strangely enough, Bubble Bobble. I have really fond games of playing this simple game on the Nintendo Entertainment System. It was so satisfying to trap enemies in a bubble and solve jumping challenges. It was also a game that I could easily play alongside my brothers without being competitive. Cooperative gameplay is way more fun. Something about the simple, repetitive game always made me excited. It was uncomplicated and back when I had an NES I loved to put two televisions side by side and play video games and watch television at the same time. Also, I have fond memories of playing it with my brothers.


Day 25 – A game you plan on playing.

Assasin’s Creed IV: Black Flag for sure. I love pirates (I am a pirate descendant after all) and I loved the earlier Assasin’s Creed games. The earlier games were difficult at first but they were actually pretty intuitive and forgiving in the end and fun to run around and explore in. Adding a boat and the pirate culture sounds like fun.


Day 26 – Best voice acting.

This thing says video games but I am going to cheat a little and pick The Stanley Parable. The voice acting is pretty much just a single narrator but it is some of the weirdest and funniest stuff I have ever heard. In fact, most of the fun of the game is doing stuff and listening to what the narrator says because there have to be hours of unique dialogue for various situations. From the same developer, there is also Dr. Langeskov, The Tiger, and the Terribly Cursed Emerald which also has some really great sound effects to go with the great narration. As long as I am cheating, I have to heap some praise onto Gone Home, a simple yet very emotional game. There is a lot of pivotal and incidental narration and voice acting that really sucks you into the deeply personal story the game is trying to tell.


Day 27 – Most epic scene ever.

I think that Shadow of the Colossus takes the cake on this one. The first colossus you encounter is mind boggling and I just shook my head and wondered how anyone could defeat such a thing. Each successive colossus is more epic than the last, ending of course with the final one. The fights are some of the tensest, awe-inspiring things I have done in video games. The deaths of each colossus are also full of epicness.


Day 28 – Favorite game developer.

Easily Take-Two Interactive which has developed some of my favorite games of all time. That includes the Borderlands series, Firaxis titles like Pirates!, Red Dead Revolver, WWE 2K games, and Bioshock among others.

Day 29 – A game you thought you wouldn’t like, but ended up loving.

I cannot really think of one. I do not have the time or money to buy games that do not look good to me.


Day 30 – Your favorite game of all time

For the reasons mentioned in earlier questions, I would have to pick Arkham City which is still the best Batman game of all time.

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Magical Earth Defenders Pt. 9

July 29, 2017

Curtains

The five teenage girls appeared back in the alleyway they had disappeared from, now in their brand new armor. When they looked at each other, they could all see the same nervous excitement in each other’s eyes. They were supposed to be Earth’s new super heroes but they were new at this and there was no telling what would happen. Kelsey stepped forward first.

“Come on, we have some streets to clean up, girls!” She shouted.

They took off in a run because they could not stand to walk and running felt so good. Each one of them felt much faster and more energetic than they ever had before. Especially Lennon who felt an exhilaration in running much faster than her wheelchair could ever go. At some point, Maya took the lead since she was the only one of them present at the scene of the crime and Kelsey slowed a little to let her have the lead. They skidded to a stop in the alleyway.

“They were right here!” Maya yelled.

They looked around and there was nothing there, not even scorch marks. Of course, there were also no bystanders around either. They were probably startled by the craziness that had ensued earlier, running off to see who would believe them. However, in the very center of this alleyway was a dog-eared copy of a script.

“Look at this,” Lennon said and bent down to pick the script up.

“Did your friend drop it?” Margaret asked.

“Yeah, I mean, we weren’t exactly friends anymore but we used to live next to each other,” Kelsey said. “She got into drama big time after her family moved.”

“I remember seeing her in shows,” Lennon said and shivered. “She looked happy up there.”

“I remember that too, actually,” Natia said. She did not remember as much from the previous year but she did remember any excuse not to go to class and Daffney had been in drama previews during assembly.

“They left it behind deliberately,” Maya said angrily. The other girls nodded.

“There’s something written across this page,” Lennon said and she held up the script so they could all see. The word “CURTAINS” was written in jagged pink letters across the page. Lennon could have sworn the word had not been there when she picked the script up.

“Curtains?” Margaret asked. “What does that mean?”

“It means it’s curtains for you, little girls!” A disembodied voice yelled out.

“What? Who said that?” Natia asked as all of the girls looked around.

“Show yourself!” Kelsey yelled.

On the wall near them, a face started to form on the brick. It was wicked looking, sort of a cruel parody of a clown. It grinned wickedly with far too many teeth and everybody gasped.

“Not yet,” the thing said. “We are not ready to step into your world.”

“Cowards,” Margaret said, her eyes narrowed.

“What did you say!?” The thing yelled, seemingly shocked by the words.

“She’s right,” Maya said. “You are a coward. I know what that’s like but I am done running.”

“We all are!” Natia shouted, slinging her guitar off of her shoulder.

“Well good for you,” the wall thing said sarcastically. “Very well, let’s play!”

Monsters began to form from the brick walls and the blacktop once again. The girls backed off a bit, making space to fight. The things were slow to form. Kelsey started calling out targets and nobody argued.

“Aqua Shot!” Kelsey called out. She focused on her hand and thought of playing softball with Daffney and the other neighborhood kids when she was little. She felt a large amount of water form and she threw it as hard as she could. She watched the water slam into one of the constructs. It tried to stand for a moment, putting its hand first into the water but the impact knocked it back into the wall where the thing shattered on impact. The girls cheered.

“Sonic Rush!” Natia called out. She thought of the thrill of performing and her love of being loud and strummed her guitar hard. Green waves and a rush of sound rocketed out of the guitar and slammed into one of the constructs. It started to panic as its body vibrated, it fell to its knees as it fell apart. Natia strummed on her guitar for good measure.

“Inferno Rocket!” Lennon called out. She raised her hand and pointed her palm at one of the constructs. She focused on all of the weekends she had spent building model rockets in her family’s garage and firing them off with her dad. She poured all of the flames of her anger, her disappointment, and her desire to destroy all of the obstacles in her way into that rocket. She let the thing fly and a burning fireball shot into one of the constructs.

“Shadow Chain!” Maya called out. She closed her eyes and thought of all the dark corners she had hidden in, the darkness she had embraced to survive and she let it out. She felt it form itself into a chain made of solid shadow. She felt that chain snake around her body, floating through the air. She opened her eyes and pointed at one of the constructs and the chain shot out towards it, it wound around the construct and then Maya squeezed her hand and the chain constricted and the thing was crushed into pieces.

“Bright Arrow!” Margaret called out. She remembered all of the archery lessons her parents had bought her since it was such a noble sport. She reached behind her back and pulled an arrow made of light from thin air. In her other hand, a bow made of light formed and she strung the bow, drew it back and there was a bright flash as she let the arrow go. It streamed toward the last construct and pierced right through it. It came out of the other side of the construct and hit the wall, right in the middle of the clown face. It frowned and faded away just as the construct exploded in a shower of sparks.

Media Update 7/27/17

July 27, 2017


Welcome to Fear City

This was a matinee and I was excited to see the first show of our bunch of shows we had tickets to. Fear City is what they called New York City in the seventies. One of the points this show tries to put forward is that if Manhattan was considered Fear City, what was the Bronx? Terror Town? This was the area where the poorest black people lived at the height of disco, funk and the early days of the hip hop lifestyle. The show follows a mother, her grown son, her grown daughter and the son’s friend. Each has been through a hard journey and each still has a hard journey ahead. The show is stylized but also allows for fantasy bits like asides, monologs, and the appearance of a giant talking rat. Nothing good happens and I felt for each and every character most of whom had to keep dark, painful secrets. In the end, there is more to the story than this dark tale set in 1977. Afterall, things were hard for black people in 1977 but they were also hard from the 1500s and all the way to the 21st century. It is a great exploration of race, poverty, and morality. If you ever get a chance, I highly recommend it.


The Niceties

I consider myself pretty knowledgeable when it comes to language about race and minorities. I do recognize that I can still improve and I try to do that every day. We all have prejudices, even ones we do not realize we have until we are put into certain situations. This show is about the verbal battle between a student of color and a white professor and the different kinds of racism that can manifest in us and in society. It also explores how we look up to people from history who we find to be problematic later on as our perspective is enriched. The claim is made that as long as each generation is five percent better than the last, then we are still striving in the right direction. The counter is that this is not enough. The claim is made that white people are still trying to learn what not to say but the counter is that we should already know what not to say. It also explores how invisible whole groups are from history because they could not write down or pass on their history and therefore we are only left with a general picture of slaves rather than actual specifics. It is a very intense show and I wholeheartedly recommend it.


Byhalia, Mississipi

This was a story about how quickly your life can be upended by a single mistake. People build a life together but you never realize how fragile those relationships can be until they are shattered and you are left to pick up the pieces. The main focal point is a husband and wife waiting for a baby and then everything goes horribly and they have to figure where to go from there. The show is a comedy until it stops being a comedy and things get very real. Hovering around the edges of the tale are old enemies, old friends and a mother in law who all have an opinion on what needs to happen. I cannot talk much about the show without revealing too much about the sudden roadblocks. Check it out if you have the chance.

 

Music of the Week:
Beastwars – Realms

Ihsahn – Introspection

DM – Mueka ft. Cosculluela

Lacuna Coil – Trip The Darkness

Run The Jewels – Close Your Eyes

Weekly Updates:
– This week’s theme is “Contemporary Arts Theater Festival 2017”
– The CATF will be ending this weekend so if you somehow see this before it ends, go see a show or more
– I also saw “Wild Horses” and it was great but not as impactful as the above shows
– I watched more Agents of Shield Season 3
– I watched more NCIS Season 13
– I watched more Glitter Force
– I watched more House of Cards Season 2
– I watched more Blood Drive
– Not much this week since I was swamped with the festival

30 Day Video Game Challenge Pt. 2

July 24, 2017


Day 11 – Gaming system of choice.

My favorite gaming system so far has been the X-Box 360 but it is also the newest one I have. The controller fits perfectly in my hand and the internet capability made loading DLC or patches to games way easier. I have way more games for the Playstation 2, which I still have. The Playstation 2 got me through a very depressed time in my life and was close to being my only friend sometimes. I think I would have to go with the PS2 because the games that impacted me most were played on it.


Day 12 – A game everyone should play.

That would be Undertale. I have not played many bullet hell games but the main game is not extremely hard. There is an optional extremely difficult mode too. However, it is not the game play that makes me recommend this one. The story and the characters are so complete that it is hard not to fall in love with every moment in the game. There is silliness, deep sorrow, adventure, and joy if you let yourself get sucked in. It deals with LGBT issues in a matter of fact, no big deal kind of way. Most importantly, it deals with morality better than any other game. It really captures the “Hell is Other People” aspect of life that many of us struggle to learn in our teen years and some people never learn.


Day 13 – A game you’ve played more than five times.

I have a lot of games that would qualify as I don’t have a lot of games compared to people who have the disposable income to keep up with everything. I think Arkham City is probably one that majorly qualifies here, though. I replayed Dark Cloud 2 more but Arkham City was a true joy to play. I enjoyed feeling like Batman as I played and it felt like a Batman story from top to bottom. I had the Catwoman DLC which loaded incorrectly the first time I played so it was a completely different experience when I played the game a second time.

Day 14 – Current (or most recent) gaming wallpaper.

Red Dead Redemption

Day 15 – Post a screenshot from the game you’re playing right now.

Day 16 – Game with the best cut scenes.

I would pick Twisted Metal Black, which had a huge impact on me when it came out. The Twisted Metal series is known for its exciting, crazy game play followed by funny/interesting cut scenes with a dark tinge to them. The characters were cartoons that have a cartoon plot attached to them complete with a sort of punchline should they win the game. With Twisted Metal Black, things suddenly took a turn into Horror Movie Land. The characters got intros that were dark and haunting to me and they had voice overs that made me get a good feel for the characters and who these monsters were. They packed the game with more cut scenes so you could unlock a better sense of the dark world you were in and it really resonated with me at the time.


Day 17 – Favorite antagonist.

I would go with Eggman/Dr. Robotnik from the Sonic games because he is just such a card-carrying member of evil and so wacky. Some of the games he is in are not very good but he is so fun to beat up on because he takes things so seriously and he is very animated. His English voice is now iconic and it is always clear cut that he is wrong and Team Sonic is right. I thought of other possible antagonists to use as answers but a lot of them are nuanced and end up not being true antagonists. Characters like Beatrix from Final Fantasy IX and Knuckles the Echidna are just too good to be bad.


Day 18 – Favorite protagonist.

Jade from Beyond Good and Evil. Jade is an orphan who helps her friend Pey’J watch over other orphans and she does it by taking on photojournalist projects. She is a genuinely good person but not a goody two shoes. She spends much of the game trying to uncover the truth of her world and rescue her friends in the process. Controlling her is really intuitive as she stealths, dodges, runs, and fights through secret bases and facilities. I also really liked having a camera mechanic that actually affected the game and having a character interested in interacting with the world around her unlike the silent protagonists in other games I have loved.

Day 19 – Picture of a game setting you wish you lived in.

This would be Traverse City in Kingdom Hearts.

 


Day 20 – Favorite genre.

Adventure games. I like a good game that I can hack and slash through enemies in. Kingdom Hearts, God of War, Dark Cloud, the Batman Arkham series, the Fable series and all the like. I like the visceral feeling of the controls directly leading to damage on an enemy. Like the Batman games, I do appreciate an element of stealth added in. Adventure games like Beyond Good and Evil would fit into this category as well. My second favorite genre would probably be RPGs. They allow me to be in complete control of battle and they remind me of Tabletop RPGs. Games like the Final Fantasy series, Chronocross, and Legends of Legaia are awesome.

Magical Earth Defenders Pt. 8

July 22, 2017

The Team

It was too late, Maya had already invoked the charm and whatever happened would happen. The charm did not glow and no light enveloped Maya but instead, the charm seemed to absorb nearby light and the marks on Maya’s body seemed to get darker. Her shadow under her grew and stretched around her on the ground until it was a perfect square with her in the middle. At that point, the square started to grow off of the ground into a shadow cube around Maya. Maya was worried at this point because Arafina had seemed scared. The girls had rushed the cube but they could not reach in and get her as the shadows actively pushed them away.

Inside the cube, Maya watched as Arafina and the girls faded into darkness. It was so dark inside the cube and soundless but she felt that darkness moving around her, changing her. For so long the darkness had been a tool and an ally but she had worried about the toll it might be taking on her soul. She felt her dirty clothes change and she was eager to see what was happening now that she realized she was not getting ripped apart. As the cube faded away, she stood in a mix between a long black dress and leather armor. The dress part had a slit in it to allow her movement. She looked down and noticed that the runes on her body that she could see had changed.

Kelsie put a hand on her shoulder. “Are you alright?”

Maya looked up from studying her arms, a bewildered look in her eyes. “What happened to me?”

“It looks like you’re one of us, after all,” Lennon said. The other girls vocalized their agreement at once.

“What?” Maya asked. “I thought I corrupted the charm when I took it from your friend.”

“It seems the opposite has happened,” Arafina said. “The charm has become the source of your power and has scrubbed away the darkness in your soul. It seems that somebody who has walked through the darkness and could still think of other people is worthy to be on this team. I was wrong for judging you.”

Maya shook her head and smiled. “I have no grudge,” She said. “I have a clean slate and for the first time in a long time my heart feels lighter.”

Kelsie was the closest so she was the first one to hug Maya. “You couldn’t have saved Daffney,” she added which made Maya tear up. The other girls moved to hug her too at that, Natia being especially enthusiastic about it. Maya was caught off guard but soon found herself hugging back. She had needed this. She had almost forgotten what a hug felt like and she savored such positive human contact. There was a long silence as a breeze blew across the courtyard and Arafina watched her team bond.

As they broke away, Kelsie walked over to Arafina and stroked her head. Arafina forgot herself for a moment and purred and then looked confused. Kelsie quickly withdrew her hand and ran it through her own blue-streaked hair awkwardly.

“Sorry,” Kelsie said. “I just wanted you to be included but I forgot that you’re not really a pet.”

“It’s alright,” Arafina said. “Thank you for the sentiment. It has been an adjustment.” She sighed.

“I can’t imagine it’s been easy,” Lennon said. After all, she knew all about living with limitations and that was not forgotten in five minutes of walking around again.

“It has not,” Arafina said adding a tiny nod. This was obviously a sore subject and everyone could sense that. Arafina spoke up to try to defuse the tension. “At least I still have my spells and I can still open books with my paws. It does take time. It is hard to write with a pen in my teeth…”

“I could help with that,” Lennon said. “I would love to learn this stuff.”

“So would I, actually,” Maya said. “I need to learn about your system of magic and how this charm changed me.”

“We can study together,” Lennon said with a smile. Few of her friends had ever been interested in that.

“We all need to do some studying,” Margaret said. “We’re far too ignorant to tackle the challenge ahead.”

“I hate studying,” Natia said, plucking gently at the strings of her guitar.

“Suck it up, buttercup!” Kelsie said with a smile and Natia sighed but could not help but smile. “

“So, back to our magical powers,” Margaret said. “How do they work?”

“Well, obviously we have some control over a classic element or basic physical force that we can use offensively,” Lennon said.

“Obviously,” Margaret said.

“Yes,” Arafina said. “Lennon has fire, Margaret has light, Kelsie has water, Natia has sound and Maya has Darkness. The use of these powers was meant to be left up to the charm wielder. Use your experiences and visualize your attacks as something you know how to manage. Form the attack with your mind and words and then let loose.”

“Something we can manage like my guitar?” Natia asked.

“Yes,” Arafina said. “I suppose you subconsciously adapted to that mechanic ahead of instruction.”

“Here that?” Natia said with a grin. “I’m advanced! I’ve never been advanced.”

“You still have to study,” Kelsie said.

“Crap!” Natia said and folded her arms. Everybody laughed and after a moment Natia joined in too.

“We should go back down there and test these new powers out on those things that killed your friend, Daffney,” Maya said.

“Wait,” Margaret said. “Should we be going down to confront these things without practicing?”

“Actually, those beings are the weakest of what you might be facing,” Arafina said. “It would be a good test of your powers but it is not without danger.”

“Sometimes you just have to get your hands dirty,” Lennon said.

“Let’s watch each others’ backs, Defenders,” Kelsie said. “Right?”

“Right!” They all answered. They were a new to being a team but Daffney had been somebody half the team knew and it was the right thing to do to eliminate the danger if it was still there.

Media Update 7/20/17

July 20, 2017


Despicable Me 2

I liked the first movie, I talked about it somewhere on this site. Dreamworks is hit and miss so at some point I threw in with Pixar and Disney who have a higher success rate. Now, in the age of Rotten Tomatoes and audience scores, I felt like going back and watching more Dreamworks Animated films. The Despicable Me series is not really about a (now former) supervillain trying to save the day. Sure, that stuff totally happens but it is just the medium in which the real plot exists. To me, the real charm of the movies is how Gru (Steve Carrell) deals with the people around him. He is grumpy with lingering villainous tendencies but he has a good heart deep down. Watching him deal with his adopted daughters is funny and heartwarming. Of course, the now omnipresent minions are in the movie but they are limited to short gags and then are actually used for some fun major plot sequences near the end. Kristin Wiig plays Gru’s secret agent partner who tries to steer Gru further toward the side of light and she is edited and honed so that she is way better than I have seen her before, kind of like Ghostbusters. It was a fun romp of a film with a good heart to it so I definitely recommend it.


Kung Fu Panda 2

I am a big fan of Jack Black who I know can be a polarizing figure in pop culture. He has a goofy sense of humor that does not always land but he always gives a hundred percent effort. Kung Fu Panda looked like something that was going to fail and then I heard it was good. I gave it a shot. Jack Black plays Po the Panda with such honest naivete that I cannot help but root for him even when he acts dumb or lazy. The same goes with this movie. He has proved himself once but now he has to keep proving himself. Now we see the tight friendships he has formed with his team and even though they might not always fully trust him, they work well together. The jokes are subtle enough to be funny and it felt like there was less awkward humor than the original as Po was not a complete newbie anymore. It also felt like there was more meat to the story and things were much more personal for Po. On top of all of that, the action sequences are so beautiful and fluid. For some reason, watching animals doing kung fu is really pleasant especially seeing them do it in teamwork. I recommend it.


Storks

I remembered laughing at the trailer for this movie which is not a guarantee of a good movie but it gets me interested. I was also interested when I found out that Andy Samberg, Jordan Peele, and Keegan-Michael Key are all in it. I seriously thought this movie was made by Dreamworks when it came out so I had to slightly adjust my theme this week. This movie was weird but in a good way. There were plenty of times where I would think to myself that a joke or a situation was so stupid but just as soon as I think it, the movie self-corrects. It points out stupid situations, the wolves make no sense, the main character played by Samberg is borderline insane but the movie tends to explain everything to my satisfaction. On top of that, there were plenty of smiles and heart-warming moments since the movie is mostly about orphans finding a family. From what I could tell, taking care of a baby and its effect on the parents was portrayed the most accurate that I have seen in an animated movie. But actually, the real star of the movie is <> who has a great mix of sweetness, sarcasm, and craziness. I definitely recommend it.

Music of the Week:
Marshmello – Alone

Korede Bello ft. Tiwa Savage – Romantic

Post Malone – Congratulations

Hex Girls – Earth, Wind, Fire and Air

Suggs – I’m Only Sleeping

Update of the Week:
– This week’s theme is “Non-Disney Orphans”
– I finished Arrow Season 5
– I started House of Cards Season 2
– I finally finished watching GLOW
– I watched more Glitter Force Season 1
– I watched more Supergirl Season 2
– I started watching NCIS Season 13
– I finished watching iZombie Season 3

30 Day Video Game Challenge

July 17, 2017

I saw this floating around and I thought I would do the 30 Day Video Game Challenge… in 3 days. All answers are spur of the moment and may change as days go by.


Day 1 – Very first video game.

Donkey Kong on the Atari. I remember going over to a friend of mine’s house and in his bedroom he had an Atari set up. I had never seen one before but I had played a few games on the computer. The Atari had challenging games but I was totally blown away. I loved video games immediately. It is of interest that my first game starred possibly the most iconic character in gaming history, a character I still enjoy very much. That is the only time I ever remember playing the Atari as the Nintendo Entertainment System was not far from release.


Day 2 – Your favorite character.

Razputin from Psychonauts. He was awkward, overly-excited, snarky, and not actually invited to the psychic summer camp that he attended. However, his heart was in the right place. He cared about the other people around him and was not interested in just blasting his problems away. When he saw something was wrong, he set out to solve the mystery not only to save the girl but also to prove his worth to the world and himself. His glib behavior covers up the deep psychological struggle he has to go through in more ways than one.


Day 3 – A game that is underrated.

Dark Cloud 2, hands down. In Japan, it is called Dark Chronicle but it got a full release in the United States on the Playstation 2. It was the sequel (obviously) to Dark Cloud, a game I also enjoyed and is also underrated. In the game, you play as Max and Monica, two characters who each have specialized skills. You go through dungeons to beat the bad guys and obtain the pieces necessary to rebuild the future that Monica comes from. The main mechanic is hacking and slash with some shooting. There are also sim city – like elements, fishing minigames, photography minigames, weapon customization, and plenty of characters to meet and get to know. I really like how they deal with time travel and the story ends up being pretty deep if you allow yourself to get into it. On top of that, it has beautiful cel-shaded graphics and intuitive controls.


Day 4 – Your guilty pleasure game.

I can’t really think of a game that I played that I was embarrassed to play. The closest I have come is probably Sailor Moon SailorDrops on my phone since it is the girliest game I have played. But I am not embarrassed about that. It is a lot of fun.


Day 5 – Game character you feel you are most like (or wish you were).

Maybe Squall from Final Fantasy VIII. He is determined and works hard but definitely has a streak of anger in him. He also finds it hard to socialize with people while more charming characters like Zell, Selphie and even Quistis find it easy to talk to other people. Though, I am not as bad a student as he was since he has to take a makeup exam of sorts in the first part of the game. Also, Max from Dark Cloud 2 is a good pick. I am curious about the world like he is and loyal to those around me when I know I can help and especially when I am the only one who can help. Like him, I like solving puzzles and figuring out the different answers to a problem.


Day 6 – Most annoying character.

That would probably be a tie. The first is the dog from Duck Hunt on NES. If you miss shooting a duck, the dog will laugh at you like you are a complete fool. Many of us wanted to shoot that dog by the end of the game because using the light gun was not that easy, especially for a little kid. After that, I would pick Daxter from Jakk and Daxter whose voice and incessant talking can grate on your nerves. He actually grew on me eventually but he added nothing to the gameplay. He just added to the visuals of the main character and was another voice in cutscene conversations.


Day 7 – Favorite game couple.

The one that felt the realest to me was Eddie and Ophelia from Brutal Legend. Finding each other after Eddie traveled through time and space (twice) was almost meant to be. The two of them fall for each other pretty quickly and Eddie is quick to defend Ophelia when everybody else is distrustful of her. In the end, their relationship hits the rockiest of patches and they break up but if you’re persistent enough (and curious once you have beaten the game) you can find them a happy ending.


Day 8 – Best soundtrack.

I am torn here. Off the top of my head, I want to say Kingdom Hearts. A lot of the game has original compositions that are really beautiful and fit the situation you are in. On top of that, it was the thing that introduced me to Utada Hikaru and her J-Pop and her beautiful, soulful voice. The rest of the game has music composed from the Disney movies you are moving in and out of which gives the score a nostalgic boost. Other than that, I would have to once again pick Brutal Legend because heavy metal is one of my favorite genres and the catalog is really deep.


Day 9 – Saddest game scene.

The end of Kingdom Hearts 2 where Sora tries to drag a wounded Riku across an alien beach and they see that there is nowhere left to go. The danger is past, they saved the multiverse but they are stranded with no obvious hope of rescue. At that moment, they are oddly at peace with their death and Sora admits that he may have let the darkness into his heart just like Riku had. They are completely at peace with being separated from their friends because their friends are safe. The moment was just so sad for me and I bought it because the first game had ended on a bittersweet note as well. Then I happily got whiplash from the next moment when they are reunited with their friends.


Day 10 – Best gameplay.

I would go with Psychonauts. The combat and platforming is intuitive and fun to control. You get a multitude of psychic powers that can solve different problems and beat different enemies. All of those powers are visually pleasing. On top of that, the mechanic of going into different people’s minds gives you many different settings to play around with different rules. This made it so the gameplay never got old for me. It was also legitimately challenging as it progressed but I never abandoned the game. It was so satisfying to beat that game because I felt like I had accomplished something but I never raged against the machine.

Magical Earth Defenders Pt. 7

July 15, 2017

Transformation

“I’ll go first,” Margaret said. She took a few steps away from the group. None of them knew what to suspect so it was better to be cautious when unleashing these new magical powers.

“Why do you get to go first?” Natia asked.

“I don’t have to,” Margaret said. “I just thought if anybody was nervous I would go first.”

“We’re all nervous, or at least I am,” Lennon said.

“I’m going first,” Kelsie said with force.

“Why you?” Natia asked.

“Because I am,” Kelsie said with a smile and a wink. “Deal with it.” She stepped out to where Margaret was and Margaret rejoined the group. Kelsie was used to being the leader and it showed. She did not mean anything by it and that came out in her forceful yet excited tone.

“How does this work, Arafina?” Lennon asked. They all looked down at their de facto advisor, a talking furry animal.

Arafina dragged a paw across her face, smoothing a bit of fur. I guess if you spent enough time transformed into something close to a cat, you start to take on animal behavior. “Simply raise the charm high and call out ‘Magical Defender Transform” and surrender yourself to the magical energies. The charm will do the rest.”

“Ok, here goes,” Kelsie said as she raised the charm over her head. “Magical Defender Transform!” Her shout seemed to transcend a simple human shout, almost as if it was amplified by a microphone. The charm lit up with a bright blue light that spread over her body. In a flash, a geyser of water shot out of the charm and then snaked around and surrounded Kelsie in what looked like a bubble of water. It hid her from sight.

Inside the bubble, Kelsie struggled for a half a moment before remembering that she was supposed to trust the magic. She stayed in place as the water swirled around her. A few moments later and the water bubble popped, sending a mist of water spraying everywhere but curiously nothing got wet. Kelsie was standing there in what looked like blue leather armor with a flourish that looked like a skirt. She smiled and looked down at herself. “Refreshing!” She said.

The other girls oohed and aahed and clapped. “Well done!” Arafina said. “The power of water is yours to command. Next?”

Natia ran over and high-fived Kelsie. “Me next!” She waited until Kelsie was clear and then called out “Magical Defender Transform!” as she held up her charm. Again, it was louder than any human could shout, even a noisy girl like Natia. The charm lit up with a green light that spread over her body. Suddenly, there was a roar of sound around her that mixed with the green light and made her extremely blurry to the girls.

Natia was excited as the transformation took place. The bass of the sound waves rattled her body but it did not hurt, it felt great. Suddenly, her brother’s guitar appeared in front of her and she reached out and grabbed it. As she did, the sound waves and the green light fell away. She was standing there in what looked like a mix between punk rock gear and armor. The guitar had transformed into a sturdier thing and Natia hugged it in excitement. “Rock on!” She shouted.

“What?!” Arafina shouted. “Where did that guitar come from?”

“I rarely go anywhere without it,” Natia said with a shrug and stepped back towards the group, admiring her new gear.

“I’ll go now,” Margaret said as she stepped out to the exact spot the other two had stood to transform. “Magical Defender Transform!” It was an even more authoritative shout than the usual Washington tone. She held the charm aloft and hers shone with a bright white light. The light flashed and shone and the girls had to look away.

Inside, Margaret found the light pleasing. She felt it reach the core of her being and it was just what she had needed, the power to change the world. She found herself smiling for the first time in what felt like a long time like she was basking in the sunshine. She surrendered to that feeling and when the light fell away she was wearing a white feathered dress complete with wings protruding from her back. She smiled and found herself posing. “Wow!” She said and hurried over to the others.

“You were supposed to have Natia’s power, the power of sound,” Arafina said. “Lennon was supposed to have your power of light. I can only assume that Lennon has the power of -“

“Spoilers!” Natia shouted.

Lennon rolled away from the group. “I guess, I am next.” She took a deep breath and looked down at her wheelchair, not expecting much. “Magical Defender Transform!” She shouted. The sound was the loudest thing that ever came out of the mousy scholar. Immediately a red light emanated from her charm and it stretched over her body and the wheelchair. When the glow had touched everything, flames erupted from everywhere. The flames hid Lennon from sight and the girls instinctually moved to save her but Arafina cut them off and they were reminded that this sort of thing was supposed to happen.

Inside the flames, Lennon felt warm and light. She actually thought that feeling might be touching the parts of her that had been so depressed since she had been confined to the wheelchair. Wait, where was the wheelchair? She realized she was floating in the flames but she felt at peace with that. She knew she would land in her chair. The fire disappeared and she did not land on the chair. She landed gently on her own two feet. She looked down and saw a pair of giant metal braces on her legs and red armor on her body. Happy tears rolled down her cheeks and Kelsie was there to give her a hug. There was a long silence as everybody appreciated what had just happened.

“While transformed, the braces will allow you to walk, run, jump and perform athletic feats,” Arafina said. “When you transform back, you must return to the wheelchair. I cannot cure your medical condition.”

Lennon was smiling, really smiling. “I understand. Neither can the doctors. One day I’ll solve it.”

“I trust you will,” Arafina said. “In the meantime, enjoy the limited mobility.”

While everyone was distracted, Maya stepped forward and shouted. “Magical Defender Transform!”

“No!” Arafina shouted.

Media Update 7/13/17

July 13, 2017


American Gods

I read the original novel American Gods a couple of years ago. Written by Neil Gaiman, it was a page turner that I found hard to put down each day. It is a fantastic tale of gods and monsters but a lot of it is hidden just below the surface. These are copies of the old gods who migrated to the Americas with immigrants (and slaves). No culture is off limits which is fascinating to me because from my first exposure, I was a super fan of mythology. The various pantheons, demigods, heroes, and creatures are the stories folks told each other to explain how the world works or to impart morals. That is not lost here as we meet these mysterious beings of power. In addition to all of that, it is the story of Americana and traveling through our country and seeing both the good and the bad. Seeing how people who used to rely on the old gods are dealing with their life. It is also about grief and finding your place in the world. At the same time, it is also about the new world clashing with old tradition. There is a lot going on but each episode is pretty simple, only letting slip a few clues as to what is actually happening so you can digest them and wait eagerly for more. Everything about the show is fantastic but the acting and the artistic direction stand out ahead of everything. I definitely recommend it.


Beauty and the Beast (2017)

I was nine years old when Beauty and the Beast came out and I imagine I saw it pretty close to that date. Disney’s version fo the story has been burned into my mind by now. Of course, like most people, my favorite part was Jerry Orbach’s charming performance as Lumiere. As I grew up, I realized what a special character Belle was. She was a strong, confident, and smart female lead at a time when kids really needed to see that. Sure there were others but she stands out among the original line of Disney Princesses. This version was every bit as fun as the original and then some. We mostly got the original movie but they added bits here and bits there that added more depth to the characters. Overall, they added about forty extra minutes which is a lot but it did not feel like too much. It made me feel like I knew the characters more than the original animated version. Emma Watson and Dan Stevens were stronger leads than the original not only thanks to good acting but more to work with. Supporting actors like Luke Evans, Kevin Kline, Josh Gad, Ewan McGregor, Ian McKellen. Emma Thompson and Audra McDonald really helped as well. I definitely recommend this new version even if you missed the fully animated version.


Power Rangers (2017)

I was a big fan of the first few seasons of Power Rangers. I was an older kid but at that point, I was already a fan of Sailor Moon and Ronin Warriors so another show about young transforming fighters was welcome. The first seasons were goofy affairs with the rare dramatic moment outside of life or death battles. It was a great show to watch bad dubbing over a Japanese actress, costumed martial arts, and cool robot versus kaiju battles. My mom had to go on a waitlist to get us Power Ranger action figures for Christmas but I treasured them. This movie borrows cues from the original seasons but it also delves more into character like later seasons of Power Rangers (I’m thinking RPM). This movie is basically the Breakfast Club meets a superhero origin movie. We actually get a good long bit of the movie before the supernatural stuff starts happening. It was actually kind of refreshing to get a good hard look at our heroes before they become heroes. Instead of the original origin, we get to see the Rangers train up and bond as a team instead of all of them instantly being friends. It made the inevitable victory through teamwork all the sweeter. Throw in some fun supporting roles by Elizabeth Banks, Bill Hader and Bryan Cranston and some shout outs to the original three seasons. By the way, Bryan Cranston did voiceover work for the original season of Power Rangers. I recommend it but it might not be up everybody’s alley.

Music of the Week:
From First To Last – Ride The Wings Of Pestilence

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Red Right Hand

Kimberly Korn – Bad Girl Good Boy

The Weeknd – I Feel It Coming ft. Daft Punk

Black Flag – Nervous Breakdown

Weekly Update:
– This week’s theme is “Transformation”
– I started watching iZombie Season 3
– I watched more Arrow Season 5
– I finished Flash Season 3
– I watched more Supergirl Season 2
– I finished Blue Bloods Season 8
– I watched more House of Cards Season 1

Horror

July 10, 2017

Horror slid the blade out of the last vampire and whipped the blood from it. He slipped the hood back over his head and looked around at his comrades. They were all looking at him and he hated it. He felt his face get hot and he turned away. He felt a hand on his shoulder and he shook it off. The hand returned and he turned and found he was face to face with Mercy. The anger died in his eyes and he took a deep breath. Mercy was the only one around who could possibly understand what he was going through. She had been like a sister to him. For all he knew, they probably were brother and sister.

The two of them had been left as orphans on the doorstep of the village guardhouse. This would have probably led to a normal adoption, perhaps by a member of the local guard or a farmer or something. However, there was a problem. The two were tieflings and their demonic appearance had frightened the villagers. Horns and red-tinged skin were clear signs that somewhere along the line their relatives had consorted with Asmodeus. Horror had heard that a local cleric had even called for the two babies to be drowned in a bucket full of holy water. There had been widespread support for that plan. However, luckily a passing stranger had an alternative plan that saved the lives of Horror and Mercy.

The stranger had been an old knight, sworn to hunt the darker monsters of the world. He whisked the babies away to his stronghold where he spent his time while waiting for quests. He declared that they would be trained by his people to aid in the hunt of monsters. While many would think they qualified as monsters, they would do penance for their bloodline by hunting fellow monsters. Horror had embraced what they called him. He declared himself a horror to monsters and anybody who do evil to man. Mercy pitied the monsters and felt that their death was a mercy. Neither of them was allowed beyond the gates of the compound without a target.

“How soon do we saddle up to return?” Horror asked. Their ‘father’ would be waiting for a report.

“Soon, I think,” Mercy said. She was putting spent arrows back into her quiver to clean and re-fletch later. She was very conscientious that way. Seeing her taking such care compelled Horror to pull a cloth from his pocket and wipe off his sword. There was no need to bring vampire blood all the way home. “You don’t have to be so bitter about it.”

“I am tired of being caged up almost all of the time.” Horror said. “Every time we’re out here, I want to stay.”

“He keeps us for our own safety, Horror,” She said.

“Once upon a time it was for our safety,” Horror said. “I think we can handle ourselves now. We’re not children anymore. By blade and magic, I can defend myself.”

“We have a duty to remove threats from the world,” Mercy said. “We have a duty to end the shadows that hound the citizenry.”

“I can do that out there just as well as in a cage,” he said.

“There is no way they will let you just walk away,” she said. “Be content.”

“I feel like a falcon with a hood,” he said. “Every time I see the light, it is to kill whatever I’m told. We never even get to meet the people we are defending.”

“I don’t think they want to meet us,” she said. “We’re better off where we are.”

“You keep saying we,” he said.

“So do you,” she said. “We have been a ‘we’ since we were babies.”

“Since we are divided on the matter,” he said. “Perhaps it is about time we stopped being a ‘we’ so that we can become an I.”

“Two eyes are better than one,” she said with a smile.

“Don’t be cute,” he said and smiled despite the argument.

“I couldn’t if I tried,” she said.

“That is intolerance talking,” he said. “They can’t all be like that.”

“I would like to think that as well,” she said.

Jacques Ironclad walked into the courtyard at that moment, his great axe across his broad back. He looked like he had seen a thousand battles but maybe it had been more than that. He was a battle-hardened hunter who had been appointed the keeper of Horror and Mercy. He was the falconer to the two deadly falcons. Needless to say, he and Horror did not get along.

“Time to get back in the cart, you two,” he said. “We want to give the all clear to the villagers.”

“We were just cleaning up,” Horror said.

“No backtalk, please,” Jacques said. “Get in the cart.”

“No backtalk, huh?” Horror said. “We just vanquished a whole nest of vampires. The least they could do is thank us before they start to throw rocks.”

“Horror,” Mercy interjected. “Please don’t.”

Jacques did not argue.  Instead, he just swung a fist at Horror but this was merely sidestepped. Jacques used the momentum to quickly follow the right with a charging left. Horror caught that with a smile and raised his own fist to strike but Mercy caught his wrist. The momentary distraction allowed Jacques to rock him with another right to the jaw. When the world stopped shaking, Horror found himself on his hands and feet.

“Stop!” Mercy cried out. “He’ll come along quietly.”

“He had better,” Jacques said and stood by. The two tieflings walked toward the cart and climbed inside. Horror’s eyes burned with anger as Jacques closed and locked the door. Somewhere, a bell rang to signal the villagers that they could come back out.

The cart rattled on, back toward the compound. When it arrived, Jacques yanked open the door, ready to bring the tieflings to their master for praise or discipline. Instead, he found only Mercy who gave a little shrug and pointed to a hole that had been burned into the floor of the cart. Horror was nowhere to be seen.

 


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