Monday, December 24, 2012

Why Steam's Holiday Sale Isn't Really Grabbing Me This Year

Wallets all over the world cry out in fear whenever game distribution software Steam (from Valve corporation) unleashes its winter and summer sales each year. The prices on these PC games don't just get low; they get stupidly low, to the point where you feel like a fool for not participating. Dead Island: Game Of The Year Edition was $6.79 for example, and Skyrim was just under $30. Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition with all of its downloadable content is $13.49 as I type this. It's absolute insanity, and if you're a PC gamer, you already know about it. For some reason however..., it's not quite the same this year. I don't know about anyone else, but this year, I'm not seeing myself particularly excited for any titles on sale, though I am still checking each time a deal updates just in case. I have a few theories about what's causing this lack of excitement however, and want to know if anyone else is looking at things the same way as me.

The first theory is that I've simply bought so many titles from the previous sales, that there's not much left to interest me anymore, other than a few choice titles that came out this year specifically. If this is the case, the I obviously can't blame Steam for it, but I think this issue goes a little deeper than that...

The second theory (and pretty much the most important one to me), is that Steam isn't adding much incentive in the way of purchasing things besides the sale prices themselves anymore. Other than a few games like Killing Floor, which added a new Christmas-themed scenario, there's nothing to really keep us coming back to these games. The previous year, there was plenty to do, just as there was the summer before that. Steam added special holiday achievements, which you had to complete by purchasing and downloading certain games, and actually playing through certain scenarios with something pertaining to the holidays. In Killing Floor, you had to defeat an evil Santa; in Trine, you had to find an item resembling a present; in The Binding of Isaac, you had to defeat Krampus, the demonic companion creature to Saint Nicholas (who is supposed to frighten the bad children, while Saint Nicholas rewards the good, but I won't go into that right now. You have Wikipedia, don't you?).

When you gained an achievement in the game, it would reflect back on your Steam profile, and would either gift you with a piece of coal, or a reward, like a free game or a coupon for a popular one. If you had enough pieces of coal, you could also trade them for another real reward. This was absolutely great, as it got me going back to games I thought I was long-since done with prior. It's not that Steam has to keep doing these things every year to keep me coming back and looking at what's on sale each season, but for the people who already have everything else they want from the site, I think it's a great way to keep people coming back for more.

Is there anyone else in the same boat as me here, or do all my PC gamer friends simply not pay attention to little details like these?

Sunday, November 25, 2012

How I Became A Geek

Looking back on everything in my life up until now, I’m not sure if I've ever actually told this story to anyone in its entirety before. Everyone has their own stories that explain who they are and why they turned out the way they did in life, so I see no reason why I can’t tell mine either. It’s not exactly a simple tale to tell, and sometimes I still try to make sense of it all myself. I’m going to do the best I can to relay as much info as possible, hopefully without putting you all to sleep in the process.

A Long Time Ago…

I think the best way to start would be right from the beginning. The earliest that I can recall my “geek-roots” actually taking place would have to be when I was about 2 and ½ to 3 years old. While I didn't really understand what was going on in many of the cartoons I saw on TV at the time, I remembered absolutely loving the Thundercats theme. I didn't even have many memories of the show itself then, but the theme song always stuck with me, and eventually led me to give it another try when I was old enough to understand it. My other favorite cartoon was The Real Ghostbusters. I used to go absolutely nuts when seeing this come on TV every week (and again, loved that catchy theme song!), and wanted to get my own proton pack and costume (which I ended up actually doing not long after!). I didn't watch much of the original Transformers cartoon, but definitely loved the idea of the toys. I already had a love for mini-cars like Hot Wheels, so seeing vehicles like that actually transform into fighting robots was a shoo-in for me, as I’m sure it was for millions of others. There was also Peter Pan and the Pirates, a cartoon branching off the novel/movies that made me fall in love with the concept of real pirates and manning a ship with a crew to foreign lands. Finally, I can also remember wanting to re-watch the final scene from the movie Fantasia, “Night on Bald Mountain,” as I thought that entire scene with Chernabog and the ghosts was absolutely magnificent (and still enjoy it and its music today). My other interests were pretty average for a young boy; plastic army men and mini G.I. Joe figures were all the rage, as was running around outside and throwing footballs, basketballs, and baseballs around, even if I rarely caught them. I believe I also had a few Spider-Man, Superman, and Batman figures around. Those years weren't all about toys and cartoons however…

My cousin (who is about one year older than me) had obtained a Nintendo (NES 8-Bit) console with a bunch of games. The first one I played was the classic “Super Mario Bros./Duck Hunt” cartridge. Right then and there, I couldn't believe what I was seeing. Being able to move something you saw on TV with a controller? It was the greatest thing I had ever seen. It didn't matter that the plot line for Mario made no sense (not like I had realized at the time), or that the aiming was off in Duck Hunt. This was an absolute marvel to behold. I think I learned large amounts of concentration simply from trying to master games like these. My cousin eventually got other games that I also tried my luck at, including The Legend of Zelda (loved that shiny gold cartridge), Mega Man VI, Super Mario Bros. 3, Little Nemo: Dream Master, The Bugs Bunny Birthday Blow Out, The Adams Family, and plenty more.

It Came From The 90’s!

The 90’s seemed to poke its head out pretty quickly and effectively for me, especially around 92-94. Through those years, we saw the rise of some big TV shows for kids, and the rise of newer game systems like the Sega Genesis and the Super Nintendo (Sega Genesis actually came out in 1989, but didn't pick up quite so heavily in the US until around 1992 or so). There were many shows and games that caught my interest at the time. The biggest of all for me was the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. Everything about the show was perfect to me. You had people in (what I thought at the time were) awesome costumes, martial arts fight scenes (even if they were kind of poorly done looking back), toe-tapping music thanks to Ron Wasserman’s awesome/cheesy soundtrack, and more or less the perfect market for more toys and such. Speaking of the music; it didn’t really hit me until recently, but looking back on things, my interest in the heavy metal genre of music probably originates from loving the music I used to hear in Power Rangers. I used to try recording the songs with my tape recorder, but found little success with the sounds of the fighting in the show overpowering it. I can attribute many other interests of mine all the way back to this series too. For starters, I am now a huge fan of many different types of martial arts thanks to the impact this show originally had on me. I used to literally dream of being a ranger myself, and learning actual karate seemed like the best way to start. Since the show was made in the 90’s, the writers always tried to make sure kids understood the values of self-defense over using your “powers” for evil. It was a cheap way to appease the parents at the time, but I admit, it had a real impact on me. I still believe that true heroes use their gifts to help others, and never for their own personal gain (great power, great responsibility, yada yada). Its cliché and cheesy, but it’s always been a part of who I am, and continues to be even today.

Some more great shows came from that same decade, with everything from the Batman, Spider-Man, and X-Men cartoons, all the way to comedy shows like Bobby’s World, Eek! The Cat, and even that ridiculous Attack of the Killer Tomatoes series (up until season 2…). Right before all of those was the rise of the Sonic the Hedgehog Saturday morning cartoon (known as SatAM by the fans, in order to distinguish it from the other Sonic cartoons made around that time). This paved the way for Saturday morning cartoons with me, alongside Spider-Man and Reboot. I gave everything else a try, but these were the shows that stuck with me the most that I can recall. There were some others I got into a bit later in the game like The Mighty Ducks series, Samurai Pizza Cats, Mega Man, and all the other Power Rangers spin-offs like Masked Rider, VR Troopers, Beetleborgs, and even Superhuman Samurai Syber Squad (for those who can remember far back enough). And to think, this was all before I got obsessed with everything Star Wars…

On top of all of the awesome, now flooding the TV, the Sega Genesis had become all the rage. My sister and I had to form a plan on how we’d get this one, as well as a basketball hoop which we wanted for some time. I don’t quite remember everything we did, but I do remember it involving a lot of chores. I also remember it taking forever (or at least feeling like forever!) to finally succeed. We didn't dare bother with Super Nintendo after that (a shame, since I’d later find out how amazing that system was too years later). Other than trying out a bunch of games from my local library like Power Rangers (of course!), NBA Jam, Street Fighter II, and more, there were some of the obvious games like the original Sonic series, Virtua Racing, Spider-Man, Earthworm Jim, Aladdin, etc. Honestly, I could populate this list forever, but I’ll keep going instead, as there are much more interesting topics to cover.

How Did Other People See Me?

This one is a bit complicated… Everything generally started out fine for me when I started pre-school and kindergarten. First grade was even fine. I was afraid of teachers and authoritative figures, but I think that’s just the effect that Catholic School can have on you. In second grade, my eye doctor decided it would be best for me to get glasses. I didn't think much of it at the time, and neither did any of my classmates thankfully. Third grade passed and everything seemed to still be in the clear. While I wasn't particularly close friends with many of the people I went to school with, we still all got along just fine, and I was okay with that at the time. I didn't really have many close friends around that time thinking back. I thought I could consider everyone I went to school with to be close friends, but after fourth grade, I started to see this was not the case… Kids are cruel. The boys in my class started to notice I was shorter and weaker than most of them were, and I tended to cry a little easier than they did, making things fare even worse. To top it all off, they figured out that the first half of my last name can also mean ‘penis.’ From that point on, I was pretty much doomed. I was the butt of every joke you could imagine. All I wanted to do was make friends, but it was impossible by that point. Nobody wanted to be friends with the kid who sucked at sports, had genitalia in his last name, and cried whenever he got picked on or bullied. And I was bullied, a lot…

I used to think that I wasn't a music fan at all because all of the music the kids around me listened to was simply horrible to me. I didn't care for much of any pop music and all of the guys were mostly into mainstream rap. I didn't know what any of them saw in that kind of sound, and just wanted to dismiss music altogether because of it. It was also yet another factor that made me feel separated from everyone else. I was horrible at sports, shorter and weaker than the rest, hated the music they liked, and made to feel like I was a freak for liking the things I did. I seriously thought something was wrong with me, and that I was some kind of failure even before the rest of my life began. I used to cry at home all the time when I was in middle school because I’d dread going to back to school and seeing them every day. It was like a horrible mind game, trying to decide if I hated the teachers or the students more.


Now I don’t want everyone thinking it was all doom and gloom here, and I don’t want to come off like I’m looking for pity about this or anything of the sort. This stuff happens to thousands, if not millions of kids every day. I was just another one of those kids with no friends, so what I’m about to say may sound a little sad, but I looked to other things for entertainment since I was certain I was never going to have any real friends. This happened to be around the time the first Sony Playstation came out. We had now seen a jump in graphical capabilities from Nintendo’s 8-bits, to Sega Genesis’s 16-bits, and now Sony Playstation’s 32-bits. The Nintendo 64 was also right around the corner with you guessed it, 64-bits of graphical power. My cousin always seemed to have the Nintendo platforms covered, so I went with Playstation myself, and I’m glad I did. Final Fantasy VII was a huge deal for me. It pretty much made me an RPG fan then and there, and encouraged me to see what other games of its type came out over the last 9 years or so.

In the summers, even though I used to love swimming (to the point where I became a lifeguard at 15), all I usually wanted to do was go back home and play games instead. I remember Pokemon Red and Blue being another serious use of my time there. I was awesome/lame enough to actually go and capture all 150 of the original monsters in the game, and even got the mysterious #151 with the help of my friend’s cheat device. I also loved the anime quite a bit, despite the main character in the show being kind of screw up (I still feel that he is even now). Of course, Pokemon was “un-cool” for anyone my age (I think I was a whopping 10 years old), so I dared not even tell anyone at school that I liked it. I didn't understand why it was so hated by everyone around me once again, as the main character was even our age, and the concept just screamed fun, albeit keeping in tabs with Japan’s level of weird factor.

By around 7th grade or so, I started to change my tune and in a bad way. I decided that no matter what, I’d try to make friends, even if it was with the same jerks I hated so much. I tried looking forward and forgetting about all the things I once loved like Pokemon and Power Rangers, trying to go along with everyone else’s opinion that those things were babies and losers. I tried giving into the things they were into like sports and even some of their music. I literally just forced these things on to myself in an attempt to be more like the crowd. It not only didn’t help, but just got me laughed at even more.

I finally started taking tae kwon do lessons after wanting to learn real karate for 6 years prior. It didn't stop the bullying (as I never used my skills to hurt others, like I stated above), but it brought me confidence and I absolutely loved it. My teachers loved me as well. I went on to be part of their demo team, and got to practice with nun-chucks and bo staffs. I even remember one moment I was really proud of. My teacher was having us run up a matted wall to jump kick back and hit an x-ray paper from his hand (and he was standing on top of a ladder!). I managed to not only do this, but even hit the paper out of his hand. The people watching were absolutely shocked, and I admit, so was I a little bit. Let’s get one thing straight; my teacher was a power house and could have easily destroyed me, so having a little moment like that was beyond priceless.

The End of an Era!

Somehow, by some miracle, I survived middle school, and lived to take on high school. While significantly better than middle school, it still wasn't what I’d call “great” by any means. The majority of the kids there were still jerks, but there were at least a few exceptions to make it seem less overbearing than the previous years. My reputation pretty much dwindled the exact same way; people would meet me and think I was nice at first, then learn my last name, and immediately revert to laughing at me and never taking me seriously again.

I also learned about more of the social niche’s you usually encounter in places like this, and found myself taking to the “punk rock” style of things. Groups like Black Flag, Minor Threat, The Clash, The Misfits, The Dead Kennedys, and the Bouncing Souls became the centerpiece of my listening habits. This was a big deal to me, because it was one of those moments that helped me open up to other types of music, and even get accustomed to going to local shows to see other bands. This made me want to learn drums and guitar almost desperately, so I could get out there and feel like I was making something of myself, like the people on stage. It didn't really happen, but I at least gained basic knowledge of the instruments, to the point where I felt like I had also gained something inside. I tried to hide the fact that I was into “geek stuff” for the most part, because those things simply weren't “cool.” I almost tried to deny it with myself so that I would think I was cooler than I was.

By around junior year, I finally stopped trying to hide what I knew to be true inside. I still loved all that same “geek stuff” that I used to. I decided that I didn’t care what people thought about me anymore, and started going back to the old life. Anime became a huge part of those last two years for me, thanks to my cable network finally picking up Cartoon Network, and allowing me to catch up on anime that I was always told to be awesome, but never got the chance to see. Everything from Dragon Ball Z, to Gundam, to Cowboy Bebop, and back again was all there for viewing. I also started to learn about all of the strange edits that these shows would get when they were aired in America; changes to the script, some cheesy voice acting, deletion of episodes, deletion of any violence or perverted nature, etc. I think one of the first anime titles I set out to see in its original Japanese version on my own was Yu-Gi-Oh! Even though the series was put out on Kids WB and targeted to young kids, I thought the artwork seemed surprisingly Gothic for something presented this way. In my research, I found out that not only was the show heavily edited in America, with a script almost completely different, but that there was an entire season (dubbed “Season 0”) that was never even shown in America due to 4Kids (the company that held the rights for the American version of Yu-Gi-Oh! up until recently) making the decision that it was “too scary” for younger audiences.

Setting out to find an unedited version of this series was made much easier when I discovered that its manga (the Japanese comic strip that the anime was based off of) was released in the states with very little edits (minus some small tweaks that didn’t affect the overall plot lines). I was able to see the bulk of what was deemed inappropriate, and gained a much larger appreciated for manga as a whole. Shonen Jump and its content (a manga magazine showing off all of the top shonen (teenage boy) titles) took over most of my reading habits by then. I got into series like Naruto, Bleach, Death Note, and my all-time favorite, One Piece as a result of this. I wasn't into as many games at the time, though I remember a lot of PS2, Gamecube, and eventually Xbox titles being very stand out-ish for me.

By senior year of high school, the impossible happened. I got a girlfriend for the first time in my life. And on top of that, she was a big fan of anime and Japanese culture too, so everyone thought we made a great pair. I would have thought that having a girlfriend might have helped others stop picking on me all the time, but it seemed I was wrong. The girls at school were all very nice and friendly to me at least. I always seemed to get along better with girls than guys at the time; in fact I’d say that still holds true even now.

Getting a car and license the summer of my junior year of high school, only made things even better. I was starting to feel more like an adult and was generally just enjoying life for the first time in a long time. Everyone around me was still terrible for the most part, but it didn't seem quite as bad once I started to notice the few great people out there.

Just starting to finish with high school, I remember discovering the channel Tech TV. This channel inspired me to get into more aspects of technology itself; programming, security, debugging, some basic hacking skills, etc. I learned quite a bit and even dreamed that I’d be able to have some kind of job in programming or software development someday. This would kind of come to bite me in the face when I tried pursuing it in college…

Level 3: College!

I remember quite a bit of things happening the summer before I started my first college semester. I started getting into comic books outside of manga for the first time, like the original Amazing Spider-Man issues, Ultimate Spider-Man, Batman graphic novels like Chronicles (reprinting of the first issues), Year One, and Dark Knight Returns, Sin City, and others. I started to realize how many excellent comics have come out of the US, France, Europe, and more that I had been missing out on, and wanted to make up for that as much as I could.

I also returned to the Power Ranger universe when I looked more into the fact that it was all based off the Japanese series known as “Super Sentai.” I found out that Japan calls these types of shows tokusatsu; basically meaning “live-action special effects series.” Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers came from Kyōryū Sentai Zyuranger, Masked Rider came from Kamen Rider Black RX, Beetleborgs from B-Fighter and B-Fighter Kabuto, Super Human Samurai Syber-Squad from Denkou Chojin Gridman, etc. Not all of these shows were easy to track down (as some have been given fan translations, while others have not), but were more than worth finding just to compare. Ultraman was another classic all its own, as it inspired quite a bit of the other tokusatsu and kaiju (giant monster) projects we received over the years. People don’t realize how it’s like watching entirely different shows when you see the real thing. I was even more surprised to discover that Super Sentai first began back in 1975 with Himitsu Sentai Goranger. Themes like the spandex suits and notions like the red ranger always being the leader of the group became tradition, as were the explosions, the flying colors, the poses, and eventually, the giant robots too. These shows in particular felt more like an anime come to life, which to me was a great thing. I also discovered my favorite series of all time, Garo, throughout all this research on what was out there.

Garo (also known as Golden Knight Garo) revolves around Kouga Saezima, the “Golden Makai Knight of the East.” With his crazy-looking sword, he hunts down creatures in the night known as “Horrors,” with his companion Zaruba, a talking ring (seriously, how awesome is that!?). In his pursuit, he encounters a young girl named Kaoru, trying to make money in the art field. Kouga manages to protect her from a Horror attack, but not before the Horror’s blood stains her. It is said that anyone stained in a Horror’s blood will die painfully in 100 days unless they are cut down before then. Instead of executing her, Kouga decides to keep her alive and search for a way of purifying her, while continuing his quest to end the threat of the Horrors once and for all. Things really pick up once Kouga begins to encounter other Makai Knights as well. Unlike other tokusatsu shows of its type, Garo was different because it was created specifically for the “adult” audience, while the other shows like Kamen Rider and Super Sentai were geared more toward the younger groups. This show combined a lot of the best elements of titles like Vampire Hunter D, Bleach, and other anime series that I loved. To top it all off, the fight scenes were actually very well done; almost as good as a lot of the Hong Kong martial arts films out there. I figured I’d stop having time for stuff like that and One Piece when I started college, so I tried to cram it all in that summer.

I started college assuming I’d be considered an outcast again, just like all the other times. I was absolutely shocked. Not only did I meet people that were generally nice and welcoming right off the bat, but for the first time in my life, I finally found people I could honestly call my friends. Some were geeks like me, others not so much, but it didn't matter; they were all special to me, and I’m still grateful for every last one of them. It was like I finally had friends I could go to, with all of my different random interests. And even better, they ALL respected me for who I was. They didn't judge. In fact, some of the girls there even found this to be an attractive quality. That NEVER happened to me before! I’ll give some quick examples: My (new) friend and I were watching episodes of Ultraman Hayata (the first series) in one of the lounge areas, while trying to re-enact all of the fight scenes as they were happening onscreen. Two girls that we happened to know from our classes came over to see what we were doing. After looking at it for themselves, they actually enjoyed it quite a bit and started talking with us more whenever we saw them. On another occasion, I was sitting in the same lounge area with my PSP. Two girls I know came over, and both of them literally proceeded to rest their heads on each of my shoulders and watch me play. Seriously, the impossible had occurred and hell had officially frozen over. I was in heaven, or so I thought…

It turned out that computer science was not so easy of a degree to obtain as I thought/hoped it was going to be. My Intro to Computer Science professor had a degree in nuclear physics, and my Pre-Calculus professor pulled no punches. This major wasn't going to work, and I needed to think fast if I was going to stay on top of things. I ended up changing my major to Management Info Systems, which ended up being much more… manageable. I had a much easier time learning Java programming, I had more time to study math with, and got to try all sorts of other interesting subjects that I had never thought of trying before (like Business Law, The Art Of Film, Music History, etc.). These classes got me even more interested in other hobbies I had never considered. I gained a new appreciation for classical music, Gregorian chant, jazz, and eventually post industrial and other styles (including rap, once I discovered there was great rap outside of the mainstream). I also learned about the differences between vinyl record, CD, and MP3 sound quality, where I found myself preferring the vinyl sound for most styles. For film, I learned all about famous directing and camera techniques, as well as how to catch things that filmmakers like to throw in to films, just to see if you’re paying attention. Programming was as fascinating as I hoped it would be, with Java, C++, and C# paving the way. Honestly, the world just seemed a whole lot bigger to me; and I loved every second of it.

I had also landed a job with GameStop, which I kept for four years before moving on to the job I took and still have at the time of writing this blog. While I can’t say it was the greatest job in the world, it taught me quite a bit about the retail industry, how corporate decisions can truly affect everyone that works under them, and how even the most horrifying customers can be made tolerant with the help of a good work force. I loved my work group and still visit them when I can.


There’s not too much else to say at this point. With my bachelor’s degree and current job, I still try to move up and learn as much as I can about the world and its many features. I continue to play video games/watch movies and shows at night, use my breaks at work to read whatever I feel like (whether it be sci-fi, fantasy, business, graphic novel, or anything else), and still try to make time for the things I like and the friends I love. What people always need to remember is that nothing is impossible. Everyone can find ways to do the things they want to do in life, and still succeed in all the areas required to living a full and successful lifestyle. It’s all about time management and confidence in yourself. I fell down sometimes, but I always got back up again; sometimes by myself, and sometimes with others by my side. Having people that appreciate and support me: that’s something we all need in our lives. I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world. Thank you for reading this, and if you’d be so kind, I’d love to hear your stories as well, geeky or not. Take care, everyone.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Deadpool's Retro Review of Wreck-It Ralph! (Movie Review)

Well, it finally happened, everyone… Disney has acknowledged for the first time since freaking TRON, that the gamer/nerd crowd exists and is alive and well at that! No longer do couch potatoes have to hide in the trenches while the rest of the world scoffs at them for their potato-like instincts. NO! Tonight, the true revenge of the nerds will prosper! … Okay, so maybe it’s not quite the culture-breaking phenomenon that some were hoping for, but the result of this one may surprise you anyway!

Wreck It Ralph is a film focused around what has easily become one of America’s favorite past times, VIDEO GAMES!!! On top of focusing on the video game world, we also see a large number of cameos from characters such as Sonic the Hedgehog, Bowser from Super Mario, Zangief and M. Bison from Street Fighter II, Q’Bert, Pac-Man, etc.. If you haven’t already creamed yourself after reading that last sentence, then you are probably not a geek, and that’s okay (or at least that’s what I’m going to tell you so you don’t feel bad about your miserable existence… hey, who turned this thing on!!!? >_>). After my game comes out, they'll regret not having asked me to come in there too. I'd have partied with Zangief like you bitches wouldn't believe!

So what kind of plot can a film involving video games consist of? The one I’m about to describe; how about that!? Ralph is the villain in his own video game (called Fix-It Felix Jr.), similar to that of Donkey Kong. He pounds and wrecks a giant building, which the player has to climb up as Felix, once again, suspiciously like Donkey Kong…, while fixing the broken windows and such to get more points. Once Felix reaches the top, he knocks Ralph off of the building, one more time, pretty obviously similar once again to…, oh, you get the idea you crazy sleuth, you! So Ralph starts getting a little tired of this villain set-up. Every day, it’s the same thing, getting knocked off that damn building, and having to return to his large mound of dirt since the other characters in the game all reject him out like they have some kind of freakish Quasimodo complex (even though THEY’RE the ones with the crappy pixilation going on!). He just wanted a piece of cake, you bastards! You deserve the crap that’s coming to you!

Instead of simply pounding the living binary out of them (which I admittedly would have done!), Ralph decides to go game-hopping to get a “medal” in another game, so he can show the other characters in his game how great he is, and finally get a piece of that damn cake, which better be good after all this. I’d hate to see the cake end up being a lie. I can only take that kind of trauma once in my life! (Haha, that was another gaming reference for all you “normies” out there! Lose a life you active, worldly, productive jerks!) But seriously, the plot here has kind of a “Toy Story” mojo going on here. The game characters come out of their games when the kids leave, just like how the toys move from their positions once Andy leaves the room, and then you’ve got the Mr. Potato Head asshole character that shuns the main character away disturbingly harder than anyone else, while you wonder how he sleeps at night in the process, etc.

The plot gets a little nutty from that point on, without going into too many details. Ralph enters a game called “Hero’s Duty” next. This scene is going to be the fan-favorite for many boys/men in the audience, as this game is a parody of pretty much every popular first-person shooter out there right now. “Hardcore” fans of that dubstep bandwagon will be happy to know your god (Skrillex) is in this movie, not only in the soundtrack, but actually in a scene of the film for a brief second or two! Why!? I have no idea, but I guess that’s cool!??? (wub wub wub)

In his journeys, Ralph also enters a game called Sugar Rush, a Mario Kart-esque cart racer game, complete with power ups, speed ramps, and all that other good stuff that Japan trained us to like for the last 30 years. Also in this world is the character Vanellope von Schweetz, played by the relatively hot, but “why does she have to keep talking” personality of Sarah Silverman. At first I thought she was just an annoying little girl… and unfortunately, I was right about that, but there was an interesting twist involving her avatar. See, Vanellope is a glitch in her game. Whenever she moves too frantically, or starts shouting, she’ll start buzzing and blinking just like the worst kinds of glitches you can recall. This also makes her an outcast among her own peers (think Bratz dolls, but bitchier if that’s even possible!). The most fascinating thing about this glitchy business is that the writers of the movie had to go into more detail about game programming in order to not only explain Vanellope’s predicament, but the idea behind how video games work in general. HA, take THAT, kids! A strategically-placed plug about the basic mentality of programming! Get it? Plug? Gaming???? Aaaaaaaaaaah. ^_^

Without going into too many more plot details, I think it’s safe to say the story kind of falls apart about halfway through. This is not to discredit the movie, but to rather point out that they tried to create so much set up here, that there was no way they could possibly have resolved it all in the length of time that a children’s movie consists of. It was one hell of an effort though, and honestly, the movie is so much fun that you’re probably not even going to care (unless you’re the type of critic that compares every film ever made to Citizen Kane, in which case, you have issues to which even I cannot compare. Well done!).

The last thing to talk about here is the soundtrack. It’s actually quite fitting and great for the set up of this movie. You have synthpop/electronica/dance heaven with Owl City, J-Pop with AKB48, dubstep with Skrillex, acoustics with Buckner & Garcia, and even some standard pop with Rhianna. Regardless of your tastes, I think you’ll find this compliments the tone of the film very well. The rest of the soundtrack is a nice mix of orchestral with 8-bit and 16-bit sound effects thrown in for good measure.

So to sum it all up: Is this movie going to change the way normal people look at the basement-dwellers of the world? Of course not you foolishly foolish fool. But it is a very fun romp in the world of video games, and easily the best animated film I’ve seen all year. Bring your kids, your cousin, the dog; I don’t care. It’ll be a fun ride for everyone, regardless of whether you get the “Konami Code” reference in the film or not. This movie also has one of the best credits and after-credits scenes I’ve ever seen in a film (if you’re a gamer that is). So stop reading all my pointless drivel (that I love you all for reading) and go see this film already!

9 Pac-Man Cherries Out Of 10

More important than anything; arcades have becoming a dying art form in the United States, and that’s just horrifyingly sad. If this movie somehow helps spark a surge of demand to bring those back here, I’d be happier than a 12 year old beating Halo on the Legendary difficulty. Make it happen! Remember kids, Deadpool says: Only you can prevent mediocre shopping mall attractions! Goodnight all. DP, OUT!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Why You Should Play Journey (PS3 Review)

What is a video game by definition? It's a question many gamers still ask even now, as the answer is not so simple to figure out. Some may see it as an escape form, others a challenge, and some a fusion of both. Some judge it like other games and view it as a form of art that tries to convey a message or emotion to the player. Some think it has to have platforming, shooting, role-playing elements, realistic effects, and the like. Once in a while, we get one of those rare titles that shows us how a game can feel more like an interactive experience than a play challenge and somehow, still be a "game" despite. My friends, Journey is one of those very games.

From thatgamecompany, the creators of other Playstation Network classics like Flow and Flower, I feel we finally have the group's true magnum opus. It's hard to explain quite what makes Journey so special without actually showing you. You play as a sort of shaman/monk-like character, trying to get to a destination on top of a mountain. You're not given much of any other explanation; you just know that there is something amazing for those who reach the top. Getting there is not so much a challenge, but rather an experience. There's no scores to beat, no deaths, and no fighting. You travel across plains ranging from a vast desert, to the top of a wintery mountain, and everything in-between.

Other than walking and sliding down hills of sand and snow, your character has two main abilities; jumping/gliding and an action button. How long you can continue to jump and glid for is dependent on how large your character's scarf is. The size of your scarf increases with each little symbol you find throughout your journey, which become harder and harder to find as your playthrough goes on. In order to refill this, you either need to find more creatures to touch, or another online player. The action command can have different functions depending on how you are using it. Sometimes you will encounter little floating creatures and such that you can use this button to communicate with, sometimes walls and hidden glyph images. The longer your hold the button the farther the communication will reach out. Your character even makes a small sound with this, though has no actual dialogue otherwise.

One big feature that separates this game from others is it's unique use of online play. Throughout the game, you will eventually come into contact with another player who will look like yourself. This is actually another person playing the game, and can be from pretty much anyplace. You can choose to help each other find secrets and progress, or you can go your separate ways and just do whatever you like. There is no other communication between the two players. You cannot talk to them. You can only walk with them and follow them or let them follow you if you choose. I've never seen such an unusual approach to online gaming, and I doubt I ever will again.

Journey is a game that showcases how sometimes a lack of spoken dialogue can still lead to some of the most emotional moments in gaming when you play all of your cards right. The combination of beautiful cel-shaded artwork and incredible soundtrack will leave you breathless, especially by the time you have reached the end. I easily felt more emotion for my character in this game than just about any Final Fantasy title on the market. Now THAT's saying something!

It's hard to give more specific thoughts without going into spoiler territory, so I'm going to say this instead: The best way to go into this game is to know as little about it as possible, other than what I've already mentioned here. Any further details would be spoiling the experience, and games like this simply need to be seen to be believed. This is one of the most unique experiences in gaming out there, and it's the type of game that everyone should give a try at least once. While short (it takes around 2 hours to complete a playthrough), you'll find yourself wanting to come back and see what else there is to find in this imaginative world; in fact the game encourages it with trophies focusing on replaying and finding new things again and again.

One more point I'll make is that if you haven't already downloaded this game, to go and get the Collector's Edition if you can. It includes thatgamecompany's previous entries, Flow and Flower, some extra mini-games developed by them, a free month of Playstation Plus, avatars and themes for all 3 games, and bonus features like an amazing documentary made by the development team. I suggest watching this after playing the game at least once or twice. It provides insight as to what the developers were trying to accomplish with this project, and you even get to know the people behind the game a little better; something we sadly don't see in many documentaries of this type.

To sum it all up, for a simplistic downloadable title, this game exceeds just about every expectation I could have had. This is one of those experiences you will never forget after playing through because it's simply that unique. If you're still on the fence about trying it at this point, I would say to simply give it a go, and finally see what all the broken online sales records are all about.

10 out of 10. All day. Every day.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

My Research On Smart Phones: How To Save Some Serious Money!

Here’s a funny little fact that you probably never knew about me. While I am very much a geek in the ways of just about every type of media out there, as well as technical subjects like programming, I have never been very educated when it came to phones; smart phones in particular. I used to simply know phones as a device we would use to call people and even send the occasional text message to once in a while. The prospect of a smart phone seemed very nice to me, albeit a little unnecessary. It’s a nice thing to have surely, but how many people actually need one? What really answered that question for me was the monthly costs, especially under 2-year contracts. After a ridiculous amount of research over the subject (I actually lost count of how many hours I spent learning all of this information!), I was finally able to decide on a smart phone and plan that I felt worked best for me. I am writing this in the hopes you may take something from it, and even save yourselves some money in the process.

Where Do These Charges Come From?

So to begin looking into how much I’d pay for such a monstrosity of a device, I used the mighty powers that be (aka the internet) to look through each major carrier and how they charge you. The most interesting thing of all to me is how contract charges work. When you set up a 2-year contract with a major carrier, you will pay less than the full retail price of the phone, but you pay monthly installments with your plan that will pretty much pay the carrier back, with interest. One of the biggest reasons people will go for this option of course, is because phones today (especially smart phones) are VERY expensive! The top-of-the-line Samsung Galaxy S3? It’s about $650 before tax. But how about the cost when you set up a 2-year contract? Try about $150-200. Why do the phone companies want to lock you in with contracts? That one’s pretty easy too. When you buy either a prepaid or unlocked phone, you can usually form a much better limit on how much you are spending per month with prepaid charge cards. The phone companies don’t really make a profit off of this set up, and they don’t lock you in the way they would with a contract. Another money maker for these companies is termination fees. Terminating your contract with them ensures they’ll still make a large sum of money off of you, even if you choose to leave them early. By either sticking with the contract or not, they’ll have made a profit from you, rinse, repeat. Overage charges and “hidden fees” don’t make the plans any easier. Another thing to note is 3G and 4G networks. While they are larger networks (and quite the convenience to use), they eat up data very fast and have to be monitored closely in order for the customer to know just how much they have left to use each month before the next billing cycle.

How Do We Combat This Menace To Society?

So what’s a confused geek to do? Research up the wazoo, that’s what! The first thing I noticed is that pretty much every contract is pretty highly priced when concerning smart phones. It’s not due to the talking or texting, but rather the data plans. The way each provider handles the data charges are what makes each plan's options so different from company to company. Making up a data plan is difficult for these types of companies, due to the various ways people will use it. Some will use less than 1 gigabyte of data a month, checking their email and Facebook, and maybe downloading a few apps along the way. Others will practically abuse the system by streaming videos on Youtube constantly or taking and sending continuous pictures and videos to their friends. This has caused companies like Verizon and AT&T to re-think their “unlimited” data plan options, and eventually scrap them altogether. Even worse, many companies will claim to have unlimited data when what you actually get is a limit of how much you can use before it stops working at high speeds. This is again to limit the amount of data that people can use and prevent abuse of the system. The only company that technically still has “unlimited” data at this point is Sprint, but some will argue that they also have ways to “nickel and dime” their customers with extra charges that aren’t initially brought up.

Honestly, I was just about ready to give up on the idea of getting a decent smart phone altogether, because the best phones cost too much, and the monthly charges were still high, even if through prepaid charges instead of a contract. For example, a Verizon prepaid card for unlimited talk and text, with 1 gigabyte of data will run you $80 a month. Want 2 gigabytes? Make it $90 (If you can’t tell already, Verizon has been my phone company for years, for better or for worse). It seems the only companies that charge slightly reasonable prepaid rates are some specific regional and prepaid carriers (the former of which I don’t have any specific examples of off hand, as they are designed to provide service for areas the major companies don’t cover). Virgin Mobile is a popular choice, selling prepaid phones with all of the basic bells and whistles, while running off the Sprint network. It’s a good budget choice, but it doesn’t carry many types of phones that people would consider worthwhile (besides their inclusion of the iPhone 4S, which was admittedly a nice move on their part, even if you do have to fork over $649 for the prepaid version). I’ve also heard that Straight Talk is a good option for some due to cheaper costs and using towers from Verizon, Sprint, and AT&T. Once again however, this one doesn’t quite work for me, as the phones are generally average to poor quality, I’ve heard mixed stories about how confusing their customer service can be, and once you start adding on the data, you can get warnings and eventually cut off altogether for that billing month.

So What The Heck Did You Do Already!?

Ah, how nice of you to ask. I ended up going with a prepaid Samsung Galaxy S2 (with 4G) from T-Mobile. Now you must be wondering how that could possibly work (or have already begun to label me as an idiot and are standing outside my door with a pitchfork), so I’ll be quite happy to explain it, as well as the reason T-Mobile is actually not the lackluster company you may remember from a year or two prior (and why I’m not an idiot… you jerk).

As I referenced before, the Samsung Galaxy S3 is about as nice as you can get in the smart phone market, but $649 is simply too much money for a phone, and I was not about to get a 2 year contract in order to buy one either. A prepaid Galaxy S2 however, was available (in my case at a Walmart) for $299.99, with the SIM activation kit included (more on that later). Well, imagine my surprise to see on their website, a small listing for a prepay option (specifically for new activations. Sorry faithful older customers…) for $30 a month, giving you unlimited text and unlimited web (a whooping 5 gigabytes of data on high speed!) with the catch of having 100 minutes of talk time. Something to note is that this option is available exclusively to the T-Mobile website, Walmart, and Now, this specific plan may not work for those who need to talk on their phone all the time, but for someone like me who doesn’t usually go over 100 minutes to begin with, this plan is a dream. I compared the main differences between the Galaxy S2 and S3, realized there actually wasn’t a great deal of them (in the cases that I’d be using it for specifically), and decided to go with the S2. I almost didn’t even realize this phone could be used with T-Mobile’s plan because it wasn’t advertised the same way as the rest of the phones that use it at Walmart. It’s very important that the prepaid phone also included a SIM card activation kit, because this is what allowed me to enable this prepay setup in the first place.

So What Is A SIM Card And Why Does It Matter?

Yes, a valid question indeed (as I only learned about this over the last few days myself). A SIM card is known as a “Subscriber Identification Module Card.” It creates an identity of the person using it within their phone and stores the person’s data on that card. It’s also used as an authentication device, should the owner ever have to transfer his data to another phone, or replace their old one. This will eliminate having to set everything up again from scratch. For companies like T-Mobile, a SIM card is actually required for this particular setup. It's hard to complain however, since they included the activation kit for free. The setup on the website was pretty painless as well.


Okay, So The Price Is Good, But How Are They Any Better As A Company?

That’s right, I never explained. Over the last couple of years, T-Mobile has been taking a lot of hits from customers, and more importantly, they’ve been listening to those customers. Their biggest issue has always been their coverage. When they announced their 4G plans, people were immediately skeptical (and for good reason) since the majority of their phones couldn’t even use 4G (most were limited to the 3G network only at the time). Since then, this issue has obviously been tackled, and T-Mobile’s overall coverage (while still less than Verizon, AT&T, and Sprint) is actually quite good depending on where you live. I'm in Central to Northen New Jersey myself, and have no issues whatsoever with my service and coverage. (It’s always important to look on the company’s website for the available coverage with each provider of course, as not all companies will offer the same. You wouldn’t want to be stuck with a nice phone and plan, but no service area to use it in!) My point is, this plan may work perfectly for me, but could just as easily not for others. It’s all about your preference (which is exactly what keeps these phone companies so interesting and diverse in the first place!). Do you have a bunch of a smart phones and a tablet you’d like to consolidate into one plan, maybe for a whole family even? Verizon or AT&T is likely your ticket. Do you want true unlimited for your phone, even if it means spending just a little more for a network almost as large? Sprint will lead the way. I’ve found T-Mobile to be the best in terms of pricing/plan options myself, even If the coverage is technically smaller than the “Big 3” mentioned above.

But How Is It Better If You Could Only Get The Galaxy S2 Out Of This? You Can’t Even Use Android 4.0.4. You’re Still Stuck With 2.3!

It’s funny that you should say that. A freeware program called Samsung Kies actually contained the answer to that little conundrum. After downloading and installing the program and installing all the proper codecs to connect my phone with the computer, it was just a matter of telling it to update my firmware, and BOOM. I now have Android 4.0.4 (the latest until 4.1 comes out) on my phone, the same operating system all current Galaxy S3 users have! It may not have the biggest and brightest screen with little hardware tweaks like the S3, but that’s a small price to pay.

In Conclusion!

So there you all have it. With the way I set things up for myself, I now pay $30 a month for my Galaxy S2, with no contract to restrict me if I want to change my payment options or even my choice of phone in the future, and with the latest version of Android up and running. Even if the plan I went with isn’t for you, that’s just fine! The point of writing this was to help inform everyone about how these phone companies and charges work, and how you may be able to get around some of those charges, now that you know where they’re coming from. I hope after reading this, you may have seen ways that you too can save some money in the long run. Thanks for reading everyone!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

The Worst Of Collector's/Limited/Etc. Editions In Gaming

Sorry for the delay on this one folks. On top of a hectic work week and awesomeness at the US Open this week, I finally decided to stop playing Journey for PS3 and watching Doctor Who long enough to make this blog post follow up to my "best of" list. I'll probably make a post about Journey next, but right now, it's all about the cream of the crap! Without further adieu, here is my list of the worst of the worst.

5. Super Mario All-Stars 25th Anniversary Edition

It's a fact that people were going to buy this regardless of what came with it since it was a Nintendo product, and a "limited edition" set. To celebrate Mario's 25th Anniversary, Nintendo decided to release the "All-Stars" version of the Mario games on a disc, instead of a downloadable game like the rest, with a bonus soundtrack CD and a small 32-page art book, showcasing Mario's history. That's. About. It. Even at the original retail price of $29.99, this one was a bit steep. The soundtrack CD totaled about 25 minutes, almost half of the tracks consisting of sound effects, rather than actual music. Nintendo had a lot of potential to give Mario's anniversary much better treatment than a lackluster release such as this. There's no denying the integrity of the games, as they are legendary and will always remain that way, but for being one of the only game companies actually making a profit off of their games, this could have been much more, especially when you compare it to other Nintendo anniversaries like Zelda (new title with a soundtrack CD and a golden Wii remote controller) and the upcoming release for Kirby (another soundtrack and art book, BUT with Dream Land 1-3, Adventure, and Super Star, with new Challenge stages based on Return To Dreamland, and finally an interactive timeline). And don't even get me started on how Nintendo handled Metroid's 25th Anniversary... Oh wait, that's right; Samus didn't get one...

4. Assassin's Creed: Limited Edition

While the first Assassin's Creed certainly proved to be an interesting release, followed by even better sequels, this limited edition for the first game wasn't quite so spectacular. The tin came with a mini-strategy guide (we all know how useful those are), a set of Penny Arcade comics (not bad), a bonus disc with "making of" films, trailers and a few well-made short films, and finally a figurine of Altair, the game's main character. When the first shots of this edition were showcased, the action figure looked quite nice. It wasn't until gamers actually opened up the box that they noticed the figurine was a mere 3 inches tall, and on top of that, the figurine wasn't well-sculpted in the slightest. It actually didn't really look like Altair at all! It didn't help that the statue made for the UK version of the game actually looked quite nice. All in all, this set just wasn't worth the extra money in the slightest.

3. Perfect Dark Zero: Limited Collector's Edition

This one almost needs no introduction. Even if it was the same price as the regular edition of the game, it would have still probably felt like a disappointment. What we got with this awful release was a black metal game case, a bonus disc with some extra content, a comic booklet mainly serving as a preview for the graphic novel, a worthless holographic "collectible" card, and weirdest of all, some images of the game staff and testers. Seriously... what? How is that even a bonus? It's almost hard to believe anything could even top this...

2. Fable II: Limited Edition

When this edition of the game was first announced, it was announced with all sorts of goodies.'s image above perfectly showcases exactly what the problem was however. Most of the items in it were cancelled due to "supply chain" issues. We lost out on premium packaging, the five fate cards (which would have looked quite nice), and most depressingly, a Hobbe Qee figure. Anyone who played the game would have loved to have this little guy, I'm sure. What we were left with by that point was a making-of DVD, some bonus DLC content (all Halo related equipment and an extra dungeon), and... that's it. It was nice of them to at least lower the price to only $10 more than the regular edition to soften the blow, but by this point, many gamers hopes were shot for it altogether.

1. Resident Evil 5: Collector's Edition

This is about as bad as it gets, though it may not seem that way at first glance. This marvelous disaster of a set comes with a steel case, a tricell messenger bag, a Kijuju necklace, a BSAA patch, a figurine of Chris Redfield, and a bonus disc with the usual "Making of" feature, HD art, and a few other things. Still doesn't sound awful, right? Well it will after you realize that the tricell bag is actually ridiculously small, with fragile straps that would break as soon as you tried to put much of anything in it, the figure of Chris is a joke in how cheaply made it was (the knife on Chris broke for many people upon un-boxing, not to mention you wouldn't even know it was Chris if it didn't say so), and the necklace is made from pewter on a really flimsy leather strap. Other than the steel case (which is actually quite nice!) and the patch (which is kind of hard to get wrong), this set was utterly worthless for many, myself included. Rarely am I shocked at how bad something like this can turn out, but it was just one of those times for me.

Some honorable mentions in this category go to Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II: Collector's Edition, Halo 3: Limited Edition (with it's lovely habit of scratching most players discs due to the horrible packaging), NBA 2K10 (for having a strange mini-locker, a Kobe poster and figurine, and a DVD with more useless content), Saints Row: The Third (for claiming to have a headset, when in fact it was actually just headphones without a mic, even though you need a mic to use its main features! The soundtrack CD also features no licensed songs...), and Forza 3 (with an overpriced flash drive and more useless DLC content).

So there you have it once more folks! Hope you enjoyed both my previous and current posts on the subject, and as I stated before, I'd love to hear your opinions as well! Thanks for reading!

Monday, August 27, 2012

The Best of Collector's/Limited/Etc. Editions In Gaming

I felt inspired to talk about this a little after coming across the new "Solid Gold Premium Edition" of Persona 4: Gold for the PS Vita, and showing a bit of disappointment over the fact that it's basically $30 extra for a travel case (while everyone should have already had one to begin with), stickers, and screen covers, along with a few wallpapers. I personally don't feel it justifies the price tag, but maybe you do? That's fine if so; I'm not here to say that what's valuable to one has to be to another automatically.

So as you can see by the title, I've decided to do some looking back on the various special editions of games that we've seen over the years and talk briefly about some of the ones I felt were the best (and soon the worst) of their kind. I have created a top 5 countdown list of what I felt were the best of the best. Feel free to give me any of your thoughts on the best/worst yourselves as I write up these two posts. I'd love to hear everyone's thoughts on this one! Note that this list does not comprise of anything that hasn't yet come out (as awesome as the Street Fighter IV: 25th Anniversary Collector's Edition looks!). Let's start things off with the best of list. I'd also like to point out that what really makes the "best of" list shine is the creativity involved in some of these:

5. Metroid Prime Trilogy: Collector's Edition

This one may not seem like much to someone who's never played these before, but the ability to get all 3 of these amazing games together in one bundle, especially with newly-designed Wii motion controls for the first two games is truly incredible. The updated graphics look great and the games came in a nice steel case with a plastic sleeve, and an artbook and very fancy looking instruction manual (think about the last really good-looking instruction manual you've seen in a game case and it's not hard to see why that's a big deal). Nintendo completely spoiled us with this one. It would have been one thing to simply port all the games over, but the overhaul done here was excellent.

4. Bioshock 2: Special Edition

This set is the perfect example of how a modern special edition of a game can deliver, even when the game itself isn't quite up to par with its original. In this edition, players were granted a fascinating-looking box made of matte paper, a 164-page hardcover art book, 3 vintage advertisement posters from Rapture, an orchestral soundtrack CD with music from the second game, and most interesting of all, a 180-gram vinyl LP of the orchestral soundtrack from the first game. The vinyl fits perfectly with the tone of the game and the time it's supposed to take place in. These are the kinds of items that make collector's editions so interesting and worthwhile in the first place in my opinion.

3. Catherine: "Love Is Over" Edition

And here we have yet another creative set, fitting the mood of the game perfectly. In a stylish pizza box, you get an "Empty Hearts" t-shirt, a pillowcase with Catherine displayed on it, a pair of Vincent's boxers, and an art book and soundtrack to finish it all off. Bizarre, definitely. But that's what makes it so cool!

2. Lunar 2: Eternal Blue Complete

This thing was quite a beast, especially for its time. It included the 3-disc game, a soundtrack CD, a making-of disc, a hardcover instruction manual and art book, a cloth map, some pop-up cardboard characters, and if that wasn't enough, a replica pendant necklace. JRPG fans still have to spend a pretty penny for this one, and for good reason. This was pure love in a collector's edition set.

1. Ultima IX: Ascension (Dragon Edition)

This is the cream of the crop here folks! This over-sized box contained a disc with all 8 of the Ultima games leading up to IX, a soundtrack CD, tarot cards, an ankh amulet, a poster, a journal and spell book with leatherbound covers, a cloth map, a mini-illustration of the famous "Tapestry of Ages" art piece, and last but not least, a certificate signed by by Richard Garriot (creator of the series!), thanking you for your purchase and giving some hints about his future plans.

And there you have it! That's my personal top 5 list for collector's editions over the years so far. Some honorable mentions include the Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas Collector's Editions, The Collector's Editions of Starcraft II and Diablo III, The Alan Wake Limited Collector's Edition, The Legend of Zelda: Collector's Edition for Nintendo Gamecube (porting over Zelda I, Zelda II, Ocarina of Time, and Majora's Mask, and a demo for Wind Waker all on one tiny disc, albeit an overall average job of porting the games), and the Duke Nukem: Balls of Steel Edition (ironic, considering how lackluster the game itself was of course). Stay tuned for the next exciting blog, where I go into some of the worst of the so-called "collector's editions" we've been force-fed over the years. Later!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Some Thoughts On The New Color Edition Of Scott Pilgrim Vol. 1

Not long ago, Bryan Lee O'Malley must have decided he wasn't making enough money off of the Scott Pilgrim franchise anymore, and decided that he would be putting out new color editions of all 6 volumes. I made this post to talk about some of the differences with the new editions and help everyone decide if it's worth the double dip or not.

For those who don't already know, this awesome series focuses on a boy (Scott Pilgrim), who is getting over a horrible breakup by dating a high school girl, even though he's 23 (because it's "safe"). At a party, he literally encounters the girl in his dreams, Ramona Flowers and knows he has to meet her. As they talk and eventually begin to date, Scott is attacked by an ex-boyfriend of Ramona's, and has to fight for his life. It's then that Scott finds out that in order to continue to date Ramona, he has to defeat all seven of her evil ex's, all while making a billion geek/indie rock references. Is the plot absurd? Absolutely. And that's just what we love about it.

Now let's go into the actual differences of these new editions. The new volumes are put out in very nice hardcovers, which detract from the manga-like feel the originals put out. For a comic like this, I think I actually prefer it (though I still like the original look too, I admit). The black and white feel of the original versions were fun for what they were, but I'd be lying if I said it didn't feel very limiting, especially by the 4th volume, where we got a few color pages as a bit of a tease in the beginning. The mentions of Ramona's hair color constantly changing was another irksome factor when you couldn't actually see it. It's also worth mentioning that the pages are larger (now 6"x9"). As you can see in the picture below, the touch up job is very top notch.

There's more to this new edition than just the color palette however. We also get some nice extras like an afterword from Bryan Lee O'Malley, mentions of influences, the history of how the book came to be, and other interesting little tid bits that take us into some of the author's own personality, something I wish we'd see more of in projects such as this.

Summing it up, this is the deluxe version we always kind of dreamed about for this series, and I'll be happy to pick up each release as it comes out (though there will be a serious gap in the time each comes out. We'll be getting about 2 of these a year...). Not only do I think it's worth reading a second time, but at the same time, I don't even feel it should replace the original volumes, as those had a distinct feel themselves. If you had to go with one or other however, I'd say this this is a no-brainer. The only other question left is if you want the regular cover, or the more expensive "Evil Edition" cover for almost double the price. That's right, for $40.00 retail price, you can get the same thing with a variant cover as seen below.

Personally, I think the price is a bit steep for my tastes, nice looking cover or not. I do think it's a fun idea to have alternate covers with all of the evil ex's on them however, so I won't knock anyone for trying to get both here. And don't get me started on the collector's edition (pictured below). You already missed your chance to get it, and even if you had the chance, you probably still wouldn't have paid the $100 asking price. While it has some nice extra stuff (art prints, digital copy with signed card, gold coin, etc.), that is quite insane. Maybe I'm just not hardcore enough...

With all those conundrums aside, I give this my highest recommendation. It's one of those comics that just about everyone is reading/has read these days, and everyone should get the chance to at some point to see what all the fuss is about. This is a must read.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

What The New Achievements In The Final Fantasy VII PC Re-Release Should Have Been

A few days ago, Square Enix re-released Final Fantasy VII for the PC, without really touching much of anything up at all. One of the few things they actually tried to implement was a new set of achievements. Personally, I was hoping they would go the creative route with some of them, but it seems we got some very boring and tame ones instead. Here's a link to the full list, just so you can see what I'm talking about.

Seriously, "Use 'X-Character's' first limit break?" "Win your first battle?" Is this the best they could come up with? Just about the only one I thought was a nice mention (more by default) was getting Aeris's final limit break. Anyone who's played the game knows why that one is actually quite a big deal, but I digress... I'm writing this blog not only to point out how disappointing this is to the fanbase in general, but also to show that we the fans could have come up with some much better achievements ourselves. I'd like to get the ball rolling by listing some achievements I've come up with, that I felt would have complimented the game perfectly. I'm now going to ask that you, the readers, add on what you feel would be fitting for this re-release. Whether you wanted to prove a point to Square Enix about creativity, or you simply had some funny/creative ideas off the top of your head to let out, then by all means post them.

Dude Looks Like A Lady - Have Don Corneo choose Cloud as his "Honey Bee"
Different Strokes - Go on a date with Barret at the Gold Saucer
We're Going To Be Here A While... - Used a Materia combination of W-Summon (Mastered) - Knights of the Round + MP Turbo (Mastered) and then had another character follow this with Mime
How Did You Know That Was In There!? - Found The Key To Sector 5
True Adventurer - Learned all possible enemy skills
No Fear - Chose to use the front door when invading Shinra HQ
Are We There Yet? - Chose to use the stairs when invading Shinra HQ
Elementary - Found all hints and opened the Shinra Mansion safe in Nibleheim
You Look Like You've Seen A... - Saw a familiar presence in the Sector 5 Slums Church (Disc 2 or 3)
You Can't Handle The Truth! - Viewed the special scene after returning to the Shinra Mansion in Nibleheim (Disc 2 or 3 after Cloud's reawakening)
Cha-Ching! - Reached Lucky 7's in battle
Sight Seer - Found all 6 Turtle Paradise Flyers

I think you all get the idea. What else can you come up with? GO GO GO!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Some Recent Updates And Cosplay Announcement For NYCC

I haven't really made many updates since my Dark Knight Rises review, so I thought I'd give a more proper one this time. I was on vacation all of last week in New Hampshire and Maine on the last day. Good times abound. The weather could have been a little nicer, but it was still a very nice atmosphere in general. People are much more polite and welcoming over there, as well as less defensive and protective like you normally see in NJ and NY all the time. Visited some nice sights and trails, and picked up some old NES games and comic books, even a Steely Dan vinyl LP I was looking for.

I also started playing some more games since I came back. The new Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance for the 3DS is excellent so far (more along the vein of Birth By Sleep's level of importance than something forced like Re: Coded was). I'm hoping to get through more of that next week. I also started Persona 4: Arena for PS3. Wow! for a fighting game (sequel to an amazing RPG or not), this may contain some of the most story I've ever seen for this type of title! I'm already reading it takes most people between 30 and 40 hours to beat. That's incredible, even if 95 percent of it is likely a visual novel in itself. The fight engine itself is great too (though feels a little broken in some ways. I'll post more thoughts on that soon). I'm also eager to read over the re-prints of the first Advanced Dungeons and Dragons books which came out not too long ago. My friends and I are going to start a new campaign and I'm really excited for this, as I've never played with the first edition rulebooks before.

I've also been catching up on reading lots of things. I read all of the first Girl With The Dragon Tattoo book and will likely get to the other two at some point. I then read all of the Batman Inc. comics up to the most recent issues thanks to that awesome deluxe graphic novel they put out. Grant Morrison is usually love it or hate it, but I doubt many can find a lot of faults with this series in particular. I've also recently started to read the first Game of Thrones book after all this time. So far, I've read almost a quarter of it and it's already exactly like I remember the show being. Look forward to seeing what's different even more.

So you likely saw the "cosplay announcement" part of my title and are wondering what in the hell that's all about. Well, I've finally decided that after these last few years of not doing it, I want to again, and New York Comic Con will be the perfect place to do it. So what cosplay would I go with after all this time? It's actually painfully obvious, so I won't try to hide it any longer. I plan on finally cosplaying Deadpool at New York Comic Con 2012. Is there going to be an influx of other people doing this one as well? Of course, but I plan on making mine quite memorable. Not everyone knows the character the same way, and I intend to go full on into how I feel he'd act at a place like that, right down to the social commentary, fourth wall-breaking, and screwing with other cosplayers. This will hopefully be the most fun NYCC ever, and I really want to make it that way. If anyone has any suggestions on the best ways to make the costume, by all means. I'll take any info I can get as I attempt this one.

That's all for now. Hope to do more updates and reviews soon. Thanks for reading!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Deadpool's Dark And Angsty Review Of The Dark Knight Rises!!!

Hey there people reading this. I got a question for all ya’lls. In the face of adversity, when all hope seems completely lost and the cards of fate have been placed against you, would you rise to the challenge? Silly question; of course you wouldn’t. Look at you. Who the f@#$ are you!? No, I don’t want your Facebook page you idiot... Dark Knight Rises is a movie all about a guy who CAN rise to that challenge… after bitching and moaning for 8 years in solitude first. But the point is Bruce is back baby! Christian Bale returns to save Gotham City, kick lots of ass, and talk in that comically deep voice like he does. Seriously, with all that money and three films out there, you’d think he could have designed some kind of voice-changer or SOMETHING!

So it’s finally here. After the 5 year wait, we finally get the third (and likely last) film in Christopher Nolan’s trilogy of Batman movies. Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man films may have gotten people to take superhero movies a little more seriously (before dancing emo Parker emerged in the third film which shall remain nameless), but Nolan’s Batman trilogy really brought it all to form, especially with its second entry, The Dark Knight. Heath Ledger dominated that screen like David did Goliath. It was a tough act to follow; too tough. Hell, I’m not a dummy, I can’t even follow that! So how does this third film stack up in the trilogy sandwich? Does it compliment it nicely, or does it need more mayo? Let’s read on (and I’ll grab the mayo just in case…).

The first thing people are going to ask is if the movie is as good, or better than the last. And that’s just selfish. You’re going to read this damn review, get all the points down, and THEN make a conclusion, and you’re gonna’ LIKE IT! You spoiled kids with your “smart” phones. In my day, we were the smart ones!

The visual flair is just as high quality as you’d expect from the previous films, making all three flow together nicely. There’s also something to be said for these films continuing to churn out actors that play their parts really well. The only one that felt out of place to me was Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle (aka Catwoman). Don’t get me wrong, she did the part well, and it was a nice departure from princess role #462354, but I couldn’t help but feel like the movie was Dark Knight Rises: Featuring Anne Hathaway every time I saw her on screen. It was just… odd and out of place. I think if you see it, you’ll know what I’m talking about. I’m glad she’s getting out of the usual roles everybody knows her for though. Being varied is fun like that. I think some day after my film comes out, I’ll then be featured in a romance, starring myself and uhhh… Kate Beckinsale. We’ll meet each other in a coffee shop and talk about how we both love writing books while wasting all our time in coffee shops, all while other people work for living. The twist will be that she’s actually a Viking. It’ll be epic!!!

The film is very good and picks up quite a bit in the last hour or so. The issue is that some may find the build up to be quite long and stretched out. I may be inclined to agree. This film had just as many flashbacks as the Speed Racer movie, and that’s beyond ridiculous! You don’t have to re-show bits of a scene FIVE times to get your point across! Two would be more than enough, YA HEARD!? All parts were also a little more drawn out than I would have liked them to be. It’s not that any moments were bad per se, but I felt like almost a quarter of the 2 hours and 45 minutes of this movie could have been taken out or cut better. Chop chop chop chop! The main events themselves really do bring all three films together and provide a satisfying conclusion. Bane, while not as terrifying as the Joker, was still quite fearsome on his own. He also contributes to a whole lot of ass-kicking in the film. His voice can get a little silly sometimes though. I was certain Sean Connery was behind that mask at least three times during the film, and was disappointed finding out it wasn’t all three of those times! I’ve never seen him portrayed as such an intelligent brute before, probably being what makes him seem so powerful; because knowledge is power. GEEEEEE EYE JOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOE!!!... I’m sorry; I’m required to follow that sentence with the one before it. The balance of the Earth would be disrupted if I didn’t. True story.

It’s hard to say if the conclusion to everything was truly satisfying or not, looking back at my last two paragraphs where I said the complete opposite. The climactic moments of the movie didn’t quite get to the places I was hoping or expecting. They were still good however. Something people need to realize is that not many third films in a series end up living up to the first two, and that it’s actually a miracle these movies turned out so well. It was all still well-made and overall well-executed. I’d argue this is easily the best trilogy of superhero movies ever made, but if I did, Marvel would probably maybe kinda let me go. And I can’t let that happen. I need my meal ticket baby! (… Can you believe Marvel actually pays me to f@#$ s@#$ up!? Gotta love this country.)

So basically, yes, you’re going to see it. Yes, you’re going to tell your friends you saw it. And hey, if you’re not a gullible little chump, then maybe you will notice all those flaws I mentioned too without simply clapping during the credits and shouting “OMG BEST BATMAN EVAR!!!1!1! I’MA TELL EVEYBODY EVEN THO THEY ALREDY NO!!1!” It’s still a great film and a great end to a great trilogy of movies that we won’t soon forget. It’s no Dark Knight, but what the flying f@#$ is, ya communist?

8 Wonderful Toys Out Of 10

Monday, July 9, 2012

Deadpool's Amazing Review Of... The Amazing Spider-Man 2012!!! (Movie Review)

Hello again fellow readers! Glad to see you haven’t given up on ol’ Deadpool as of late! Well, I want you all to know I haven’t given up on you yet either! I mean, you actually continue to read all the BS I post here, so I can’t be all bad… Unless you just think I’m awful and want to see how much worse I can possibly get… Omigosh! That’s not it, is it!? I will totally write a super-long angst-y post in my Livejournal if it’s true! Yeah… That’ll show all you masochists… Oh wait, that’s right. I’m the masochist! YEEEEE!

So an extraordinary thing happened here folks. After Sam Raimi decided to call it quits on making more Spider-Man films, Sony got antsy, and immediately announced they’d be rebooting the Spider-Man franchise. This means (you guessed it, you sly devil you) that we have a new film which actually retells the origin story of ol’ Webhead once again! Allllll so that Sony could keep the movie rights. Oops! Did I say that out loud? I know what you’re already thinking. “Uncle Deadpool, again? Seriously!?” That’s right my friends; the history of Spider-Man has now officially been retold more times than the Bible. I’d complain, but I love the fact that comic book-related things are getting more exposure… aaaaand Marvel’s kind of my homeboy. Just sayin’.

Of course, in order to market this reboot, they couldn’t simply give us the same story with new actors/actresses and a new creative team, could they? Errrrrrrrrrrrrrr, yes and no. All of the basic elements you remember from the previous Spider-Man film are mostly present, with a few small changes. The most notable being that we finally get Gwen Stacy as the original love interest instead of Mary Jane, as it SHOULD be! We also finally get to see the Lizard as a main villain, and some hints about Peter Parker’s parents for the first time. Probably the biggest changes of this new version are the grittier feel of the new world presented here, and Peter’s “rebellious teen” attitude in the movie in general. Some serious sheet goes on here this time and I’d say the series is better for it. It’s pretty much what New York City would be like if I were in charge, but with a little less prostitution… Just a little… Oh, and web-shooters are back! No more gross organic “web from the wrist” tripe. Yucky.

The acting performances are all quite good in general. Andrew Garfield, the one I was worried about the most, actually does a decent job of playing Peter, while Emma Stone (who is pretty much awesome in everything she plays)… continues to be awesome like that part in the brackets I just described there. They actually have a chemistry that works very well. Don’t get me wrong; the dialogue between them makes Gigli look like a presentable movie… loljustkidding, but they have this knack for making you smile like an idiot every time they talk to each other about little things. Everyone in general pulls off the parts rather well, and most importantly, they pull them off rather accurately. To realize how good Garfield is for this part, you have to remember how bad Toby Maguire was for the part. Don’t get me wrong, they’re all awkward as sin, which is correct for this, but Maguire’s more like an awkward human being in general, so it’s a little different. It’s not even that Garfield was more accurate to the comic book persona; he’s just a more interesting person in general. Shame that the new costume is so dang fugly! I hope I don’t get some crazy redesign like that when my movie comes out in 20XX. I’m deformed enough as it is you know. :/

There are a lot of reviewers out there that are going to bash this movie for existing. If you don’t know what that means, let me break it down for you a little. This reboot came pretty quickly overall. Is it necessary that it did? Absolutely not. Does that mean it’s fair to give it bad review scores because it came out when it did? I don’t think so. I think a film should be judged on its own merit, because I’m Deadpool, and I stand against those things that everybody else is for! (Vote for me.)

Good film or not, however, there are some serious bones I have to pick with the people who edited this movie. For one thing, this really isn’t a complete film. A bunch of scenes were deleted from the final product, making the whole movie seem quite disjointed when you actually stop to think about all the events that occurred. I won’t go into any specific details, but a lot of things were left unexplained and forgotten about. Whether or not all of these threads will come together in subsequent sequels is yet to be seen, but either way, this was an UUUUUUUUGLY finished product here folks! The rumor is that they took out a major plot revelation involving Peter’s parents that they are either saving for the sequel, or scrapped altogether. Some people may even argue (after finding out what said revelation is) that it was better off taken out. My thoughts? Nova forbid they actually tried something DIFFERENT for a change!!! No no, it’s totally cool that they wanted to present the same bloody thing once again. I have no problem with that. I’m not bitter. I’m not going to go to my Livejournal and bitch about it in long paragraphs, saying how my life is now ruined as a result of this crap… Shut up, you probably already did it too you hypocrites! I'm going to go eat a pint of Ben & Jerry's. At least those are men that understand me... :'(

So to wrap this all up in a tangled web, the movie is good; quite good in fact. This doesn’t make the glaring flaws any less obvious, but the important thing is that we do have a generally great cast set up for this reboot and the film was a fun little romp around anyway. I can’t give this a great score with all the plot hiccups however. The film is virtually incomplete the way it is, so I’m going to have to grade it as such. Don’t you point that finger at me you jerk! You think I want to give it a lower score!? You’re buggin’ man! You're freakin' buggin'!

7.5 Origin Story Reboots Out of 10

I do very much have hope for the future of this series of movies however…, more than the likelihood of my own film getting released at this point in fact. Come on Marvel; what’s he go that I don’t? I’m smart, cunning, DEAD sechsey, and I’m even self-aware of all the ways you used to ignore me before I became more popular. That’s got to be worth something, right!? I’m the Amazing Deadpool damn it! And with great power comes great loads of ass-kicking!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Music Review: Rush - Clockwork Angels (2012)

How many rock bands can one name off the top of their head that have released over 20 studio albums in their career? Other than some of the obvious answers like Elvis Presley, Yes, The Rolling Stones, Johnny Cash, Jethro Tull, Frank Zappa, etc., you likely won't have much to go by. Well, it seems another band might just pass that mark, at the rate they are going with their 19th studio release. Rush, the Canadian rock legends, have returned once again, to show us why they're still a major force to be reckoned with.

Upon first glance, one will immediately notice the album cover; an interesting picture of a clock, with alchemical symbols instead of regular numbers. Even more interesting is the time that the clock is displaying. On the first look, you may think it's simply pointing at a random time (9:12 in this case), but a second peek will quickly reveal that it is actually saying 21:12 in military time. This is of course a reference to their breakthrough album, 2112; a fan-favorite and for good reason. That release combined wonderful musicianship with some creative narrative to drive the whole thing together. At first I didn't think there was going to be much meaning behind it all, but opening the booklet put that thought to rest. Similar to the original LP jacket for the 2112 album, Clockwork Angels also contains written narrations for each song on the release. Drummer Neil Peart has gone back to work as a lyricist in ways we haven't seen in decades.

Though the band originally denied this being a "concept album," that's obviously just what we received here. The premise involves a young man's travels across a land of steampunk and alchemy, filled with pirates, a carnival, an encounter with an anarchist/terrorist, and a Watchmaker forcing beliefs and precision down the throats of others, all while searching for lost cities. This is the type of sci-fi/fantasy epic many fans have wanted to hear again since the 70's. Personally, I had given up on that notion. I never thought we'd get a project like this from Rush again, after so many years of changing direction.

The musical diversity of this album is also going to come as quite a surprise to many. The best concept albums out there can make songs that flow well together, but more importantly, can stand on their own just fine too. This is one of those feats. The first two tracks, "Caravan" and "BU2B," were previously released before, but have new mixes that leave them sounding fresh. The intro to "BU2B" is perfect, and adds a whole new layer of emotion to the song going in. Those hoping for a new "epic" track will be thrilled to hear the actual title track, "Clockwork Angels," as this one truly shows the bands creativity at top form. There are many twists in the song, as well as changes in tempo and time signature to keep you on your toes. This one actually gets more exciting with each listen instead of less. The following tracks are all of amazing variety, between the classic-Rush tone of "The Anarchist," to the beautiful finish in "The Garden," which caught me completely off guard and ended the album on a very heartfelt note. Geddy's voice has mellowed over time, but in a way that leaves him sounding more pleasant as he utters each lyric. Alex is still as good a guitarist as he ever was, and picks up the pace with Neil's complex drumming and Geddy's heavy bass playing just fine.

I never thought I'd be saying this about any band so far into their career, but after over 30 years, Rush have once again moved forward in ways I never thought I'd see. All three members are still at the top of their game and don't appear to be stopping anytime soon. Imagination has returned to rock music. I just hope the generations of today will look at projects like this, and feel encouraged themselves to start "thinking big."

10 alchemical conjurations out of 10