Monday, December 20, 2010

Happy Holidays!

 I'm on a bit of a hiatus due to the holiday season. I'll be back after Christmas or the new year. In the meantime, I hope everyone has a happy holiday season!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The 500 Pound Pink Gorilla

I was incredibly ticked off after I read this article:

 I'm sure the Susan G. Komen Foundation started out with the best of intentions, but now they have become the 500 pound pink gorilla smashing everyone in the room. I have lost so many people I loved and cared about to cancer so this really makes me sick to my stomach. Shouldn't we all be working together to find a cure for cancer of all types? I don't think it should focus on just breast cancer or just leukemia, but all of it geared towards cancer research and finding a cure for all.
 Instead, it seems the Komen Foundation are suing any and every of the smaller cancer charities using the words "cure" or "for the cure" and suing them for using the color pink. They claim it's their trademark and their brand, but honestly how do you own a color or a word? Frankly, I think this is completely ridiculous reasoning. One particular charity that they did this to that really stuck in my craw was Kites For A Cure, a family kite flying  charity event that donates to lung cancer research. This didn't threaten them in any way and it was a family oriented event for a different type of cancer, yet the pink gorilla sent a nasty letter anyway about ceasing said phrase of "for the cure" and usage of the color pink.
 It's as if the Komen Foundation is more concerned with protecting their brand and trademark rather than focusing on actual cancer research and that's appalling. It's blatantly clear that a lot of the donations they've received have been used for their lawyers and policing (see bullying) the smaller charities. They will never see one dime from me and many others feel the same. They have forgotten what it truly means to be a charity and instead have turned into 500 pound pink gorilla thugs and I can not and will not respect that. You can't hide behind your lawyers and your big corporate title bullying others while advocating how much good you've done. One does not cancel out the other. If you act like a big jerk long enough, people do notice and they do call you on it. The focus needs to be on researching preventing and curing cancer together, not stomping on the little guys because you're more concerned with making money. That's not okay.
 Personally for me, these are the following cancer research charities that understand what it means to be a charity and what it means to fund the donations to research ways to prevent and cure cancer:
American Cancer Society
Cancer Support Services Inc
National Breast Cancer Foundation
Cancer Sucks
American Institute Cancer

We need to work together, not fight each other and fall apart. Remember who you were before you became a 500 pound pink gorilla Susan G. Komen Foundation.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Assassin's Creed Brotherhood, Ezio Rides Again

I just got done playing Assassin's Creed Brotherhood and I'll level with you, the ending did cause me to have  a what the heck is going on moment. The ending is abrupt and leaves you with a cliffhanger, only drawing forth more questions, and leaves one feeling a bit disappointed and frustrated. However, it does open up many possibilities for the story and for another Assassin's Creed game.
 Cliffhanger ending aside, Brotherhood does not disappoint. You get to play as Ezio Auditore once again fighting against the Borgia clan. Ezio is now a leader and you can recruit assassins throughout the city of Rome and build up assassin signals to take out guards, enemies, and even send them out on contract missions. There are many great side quests, including one with Ezio's old friend Leonardo Da Vinci. Leonardo's Machines was one of my favorite side quests because not only was it fun to play, but it was interesting to see all the great designs spring to life for the various missions. The tank was my favorite by far! The rebuilding quest is back, only this time you rebuild Rome and there are many great rewards with it.
 Brotherhood isn't completely perfect as there are a few bugs that the developers seem to have missed. One frustrating bug was if you went through one of the hidden tunnels before you were formally introduced to it in the game, you would spawn in front of it and desynchronize repeatedly. There was nothing to do about it, except start a new game. Another bug was a design graphic error with the cinematic of when you recruit an assassin to your cause. The new recruit was just a floating head with a body following it, and their neck was missing. There is also a bug where the game will freeze during game play for no reason at all and the only thing you can do is reboot everything. I only had this happen to me once, but a couple of my friends had it freeze up on them two or three times during missions.
 Overall, the game was a blast to play and I did love that all you had to do was whistle or make a hand motion to call on several assassins to take out all your enemies. The historical notes are informative as well and the artwork and music enhance the experience of playing the main missions and the side ones. There's great downloadable content also to add to the fun.  I will definitely be playing through it again and have a great time doing it. If you haven't picked up Assassin's Creed Brotherhood yet, I suggest you do so because it is a game that definitely entertains.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Hunger Games, Dystopia With Training Wheels

 I gave The Hunger Games trilogy a chance, I really did, but I found myself so frustrated with these books. I know all about the comparison to Battle Royale and here and there I do see where Suzanne Collins was influenced by it, but the books are different. For one thing Koushun Takami's book is better.
 The problem for me, mainly was with the heroine Katniss. I wanted to like her, but I found I could not care about her at all, even after she did the noble sacrifice of taking her sister's place in The Hunger Games. She seems very cold, apathetic, and just drifting along. For a main character there isn't any depth to her and that's sorely disappointing considering the theme of these books. Then we have this pointless love story that is completely unnecessary to the book and it just seems awkward and forced. The only character who seems real to me at all is Peeta while the other characters seem one dimensional. I also found myself frustrated with Katniss because at so many intervals in the story she just gives up so easily like it's as simple as changing her hair color. Are you kidding me with this nonsense?
 I had to keep reminding myself that these were books for young adults and while the writing wasn't bad, the story was not great. If the writing is so poor that you find you can not even care about the characters especially the main one, that's a serious problem. This didn't feel like a dystopian novel at all, sure it was dark and depressing, but that's pretty much it. I need more from something claiming to be a dystopian story. This was more like Dystopia with training wheels. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go read Fahrenheit 451 and Battle Royale again.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Fable 3 Revolution Made Fun

 I finished my first play through of Fable 3. I did pick the hero role my first time through. You can choose to play an evil tyrant also.  I loved hearing John Cleese as the voice of your trusty butler Jasper, along with other recognizable voices throughout  the game such as Simon Pegg and Ben Kingsley. The first half of the game follows the template of exploration, quests, and combat as you recruit followers and gather an army as either a prince or princess of Albion. While some of the quests are courier (package delivery) quests, there are quests that are creative with things like donning a chicken costume, performing in a play, or wearing a disguise.
 Once you have your army, the revolution can begin and Fable 3 becomes a tactician strategy game where the tough decisions you make actually have an impact in the story. Interaction with others is one on one now making it easier to recruit followers or woo a spouse. Another thing that I loved is the solution to the clunky menu system. That is gone and you now have the sanctuary where you can organize weapons, costumes, and your full magic arsenal. There is also an offline and online co-op feature that works really well so you can play with others and pool together treasure, resources, and rewards from adventuring together.
 That isn't to say that there aren't any problems. There are a few.  At times, there are loading time issues with the load screen as you enter a new area. There are also little graphic errors here and there where you're holding an npc's hand for a quest and as you are running, it looks like they're not holding hands with you, or they end up stopping and standing there so you have to come back to get them. Even with the world map and fast travel, there still seems to be a loading issue.
 However, you forget all that as you play Fable 3 immersed in fun quests, planning a revolution, and deciding if you will be a hero or a villain.  Who knew revolution could be so much fun?

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Walking Dead Comic Done Right By Frank Darabont On AMC

 On Halloween Ron and I sat down to watch the premiere of The Walking Dead on AMC. I was quite hopeful when I saw that Frank Darabont the director of Shawshank Redemption was directing The Walking Dead. I was not disappointed. It stayed true to the first volume, Days Gone Bye right down to the scene with Rick Grimes showing mercy to a zombie with no lower torso dragging itself along and the scene with the tank in the city. I was delighted to see that Frank Darabont not only read Robert Kirkman's comic, but that he loved it and wanted to do it right the first time when it was presented on television.
 Kirkman's brilliant writing and character development shined through in this first episode especially with Andrew Lincoln playing the role of Rick Grimes, the father (Lennie James) and son (Adrian Kali Turner) that Rick meets who are in emotional torment due to the father's now zombie wife roams the street in front of the house they're hiding in. You come to care about these characters so much and your heart goes out to them when you see their emotional struggle with a family member, a friend, or a loved one becoming a zombie.
 Two things are certain. Frank Darabont got it exactly right and Ron and I will definitely be watching it and loving every minute of it.
 The Walking Dead is on AMC Sunday nights at 10:00 p.m. and you can watch full episodes on the AMC website.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Why Halloween Grinches Irritate Me

 Yes, it's not a post about a movie, video game, book, comic, or giant robots. It's about one of my favorite celebrations Halloween and the fact that there are Halloween grinches who just want to ruin a good time that's for the kids one day out of the year. I guess there are some people who don't know what it means to just let it go and have a good time.
 I recently read a lovely little piece about the calories in Halloween candy that popped up on my AOL news feed. I was curious and after reading amused. It listed how awful all that candy is for you especially when it's in the fun size packaging because you eat more of it and how many calories and sugar that are in each and every one. There were two reasons I was amused by this informative editorial. One reason was the lady who wrote it referred to the candy as, "evil Halloween candy" and the fact that she was stating the obvious with the whole idea of, "Candy is bad for you! It has fat, calories, and sugar!" Please, that's like telling someone, "Hey did you know grass is green?"
 While I understand that it was meant to be helpful for the people that are trying to consciously watch what they eat, this article seemed to give me the impression that this woman not only hated candy, she hated food and seemed to have this attitude that no one in the entire world can control themselves around candy, therefore it's evil and must be dealt with and listed the biggest candy offenders along with all the calories, sugar, and fat, information. Here's the thing. In the article, she states, "This is why you should rethink giving candy to the kids and come up with something else." Wow, really?
 So, because you have an obvious problem with controlling yourself around the "evil candy", then that means no one else can have any or have any fun at all including the kids. This is one day out of the year that kids get to dress up, have a good time with their friends and families, and just cut loose for a bit. Halloween grinches who think and act like they are entitled to dictate things like what people eat including OTHER people's children during a day that's just supposed to be fun for them, really need to sit down and mind their own business. Here, I'll repeat that in case you missed it. SIT DOWN AND MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS.
 It's wonderful that you're so concerned about being healthy, but sometimes you just have to let it go and just enjoy your life. The bottom line is this day is mainly for the kids and it's one day out of the year, so how does it affect you personally? Also, contrary to what you believe, not every parent is a complete drooling moron. There are great parents out there, who know that you have to set boundaries for your children, that you have to ration out the candy one piece at a time, otherwise they'll eat it all at once because that's what kids do. They make rash decisions, throw caution to the wind, and live in the moment, not worried about fat and sugar at all.  Children are incredibly resilient.  That's why the good parents know that and know that they have to be the responsible ones, setting those rules and limits for their kids, and teaching them about having things in moderation.
 So "Evil Halloween Candy" ladies and gentlemen everywhere, how about you just let the kids enjoy their day of creative costumes, candy, and fun? They deserve to have fun and enjoy being kids. Let their parents worry about it, because that's their job, not yours.
 Hope everyone has a fun, happy, and safe Halloween!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Book Review: Unseen Academicals

 I recently finished reading Unseen Academicals by Terry Pratchett, the latest book in the Discworld series. The wizards at Unseen University discover a law that states that they must participate in city football games (soccer), but the catch is they can't use any magic.  The assistant candle dribbler, Mr. Nutt is brought in to coach this humorous seemingly hopeless team of over the hill wizards. Mr. Nutt is a little odd and seems to be a goblin, but he can't really remember himself. He befriends his candle dribbler boss Trevor Likely whose father was a famous footballer and they strike up an unlikely, but endearing friendship.
 I loved this book. The friendship between Mr. Nutt and Trevor makes you smile and even laugh at certain points in the story. Terry Pratchett introduces some new characters like Juliette, Trevor's love interest and assistant cook and Glenda, her supervisor who warns her all the time about men and their ways. There are even cameo appearances by old favorites like Rincewind, the librarian, DEATH, the watch, and even Lord Vetinari.
 The pacing starts off a little slow, but it finds its groove and we are told a great story about football, the fans, and the players. We are also shown how wonderful it is when you have friends and loved ones, that see the good in you and because they believe in you, it brings out the best in you. There are also the funny jokes, wit, and social commentary that comes with a Discworld book, overall making it quite an enjoyable read.
 If you haven't read Unseen Academicals yet and you are a Discworld fan, I suggest you do. It's a great story and you will find yourself chuckling at various moments.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Dear Square Enix

It is pretty clear that you have dropped the ball and are not the amazing game giant you once were. While I love the Final Fantasy series, it's pretty obvious you just don't give a damn about your consumer audience anymore and only care about making as much money as possible, even if the product isn't up to par. I wanted to love Final Fantasy 13 desperately, but I need more than pretty graphics and a great musical  soundtrack from a video game. It shouldn't take twenty gaming hours for a game to get good, linear dungeon crawling or not. When the writing is so vague, you aren't even sure what the story is or even what is going on with the main characters, that's a huge problem. It's as if you basically crapped on a piece of paper, signed it, and acted like it was priceless because your name was on it. There's only one thing to do when your dog poops on the rug, rub their nose in it and tell them how bad they are. This should have been done with you when you pulled this stunt with Final Fantasy 13 and instead of blaming yourselves for things like a class action law suit, you pointed fingers at others. So you defied all reason and gave us Final Fantasy 14.
 Where does one even begin with this latest piece of shit? Come on, you know deep in your gut, that this latest offering is in fact, a piece of dog poop. While there are in fact stunning graphics, the battle system is more forgiving than Final Fantasy 11, and the music is amazing, there are so many flaws. One glaring flaw is that the game not only lags often, there are very slow loading times along with a client that causes the game to crash a lot.  Then there is the factor that the game itself doesn't put forth much effort to be accessible, which is a double edged sword. On the one hand, it does encourage players to experiment, but on the other it's not really newbie friendly for beginners in the game. Finally, we have the completely ridiculous factor of several Final Fantasy 14 accounts being hacked when the game hasn't even been out that long. Quite a few of my friends have had this happen to them and frankly, I couldn't believe it. Really? It's that easy to hack into your game? That sounds like a very serious issue especially considering how your customer support is handling these complaints. One of my friends has been treated very badly by customer support and they have pretty much given him the run around about verifying his identity. This happened on YOUR watch and it should not have happened, but once again instead of taking responsibility for your actions, you blame someone else.
 It's just sad that you have lost your way and fallen from grace as RPG giants and have now become sad, pathetic, money grubbing jerks. I'm not even sure if Final Fantasy Versus XIII is going to redeem you or be yet another disappointment in your current line up of letdowns. It's one thing to be burnt out on something, but it's another to knowingly try to sell a product that is not up to snuff. You need to get that gaming spirit back, but I fear it's too late and you're just another cog in a giant soulless corporate machine.
 I know I will get a lot of flack for this latest blog entry, but I don't care because this needs to be said. Just because you are one of the video game giants, does not mean you are infallible. I want to believe in you, but I find that I am extremely disappointed in your current performance. It's up to you, Square-Enix to prove to us why we should give you any more money for services that are in all honesty, sub-par.

Friday, October 1, 2010

God Of War 3 My Guilty Pleasure

 I finished God Of War 3 tonight and I have to say this was my guilty pleasure. Not only did I love the story, but I loved all the brutally filled action sequences such as decapitating centaurs or smashing stone statues with giant hammers. There is also the love of mythology and enjoying the presence of various characters from said myths throughout the game as well as gods.  I also liked that there was a little more character development with the hero Kratos and the idea of redemption and hope.
 The game play is pretty tight and the same as the previous two games, with a few odd camera angles here and there, but over all the controls handle very well. There are even some new weapons to add to the artillery with some very interesting tweaks on the old ones making for a fun siege on the gods. There are bonus items that are unlocked once you beat the game and some fun costumes.
 I will be playing through God Of War 3 again just for those bonuses and to check them out. If you haven't played the game yet, I suggest you do especially if you like an action game with a lot of punch.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Banned Books Week

 I applaud the American Library Association, American Booksellers Association, and the various other groups that are hosting events like a banned books read out during September 25-October 2 this year. This is important, because some of the books on the so called banned list do not belong on there in my opinion, especially when some of those books were things like Harry Potter, and To Kill A Mockingbird. While I do understand that this is once again parents trying to protect their children from something that isn't age appropriate, the other side of that is these parents are completely over reacting to something rather trivial. The thing is, if your kids don't read it in a book, they'll learn about whatever you find so offensive from something or someone else, be it their friends, a magazine, or even a movie. Children have a wonderful knack for discovering all the things you don't want them to know about. How else did my younger brother Rob learn the f-word? It wasn't from a book. It was from one of our older cousins saying it in front of him (He was a 14 year old boy at the time) and my brother tried out that word as soon as he could because he was 3 and the word sounded just fantastic to him. So of course he tried it out on me, his big sister who was trying to have him get dressed like our grandmother told me I should do so we could do the grocery shopping. Not only was she livid he used the word, she was pretty angry he said it to me and yes, he did get the biggest spanking of his life along with his mouth washed out with soap. The thing is, our cousin said the magic phrase to my brother, "Don't ever say that word, okay?" That is like handing fireworks to a kid. As soon as he said that, Rob couldn't wait to try it!  That's the point. The more you ban something and this does include the banned books, it just makes it that much more desired.
 It also falls back to free speech. While these parents may mean well, they are once again condemning that by having a banned books list. I mean Harry Potter, a children's book about wizards and magic is a banned book? It's important to encourage our children's imaginations, not stifle and cripple them. To put it bluntly, the world can be a really shitty place and personally as a parent, I want my daughters to enjoy as much of their childhood as possible before they have to grow up and learn that ugly truth. We shouldn't be pushing them towards thinking realistically and getting their head out of the clouds. We should celebrate and enjoy that they have imaginations at all and can still dream, bringing a little sunshine into this often gray world.
 We will be celebrating Banned Books Week and I hope others will do the same and enjoy the right to read.  For more information on Banned Book Week check out their website:

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Why This Mother Has A Problem With The Parental Blame Game

 As a parent, I completely understand how important it is to protect your children and monitor what they watch, read, or play. As a gaming parent, I know how vital it is to be on top of all of that. I say this because I see this disturbing pattern of parents all over the country blaming EVERYTHING else on things like their children's behavior. It's not the child's fault in so many of these situations. Instead, it's video games that are to blame, this or that type of music is at fault, or it's the movie or television show that is the cause.
 Let me be as blunt as possible. That is one hundred percent BULLSHIT.  Video games, movies, books, and t.v. aren't responsible for what your children play or see. You, the parents are. Yes, children are impressionable which is why it is all the more important for the parents to sit down with them and talk with them. It is the job of the parents to take an active role in their children's lives and know exactly what they are doing. Granted, you can not be everywhere at once, but if you are a proactive parent you do know what your children are up to.
 Because there are some parents who can not seem to do this, we have things  like the case hitting the Supreme Court in November about the sale of violent video games to minors. The two problems are the wording of the bill which seems to threaten first amendment rights and the fact that video games seem to be the only medium that is being targeted. Trust me, there are plenty of violent books, comics, movies, and television shows, but video games do not seem to get the same protection that they do which seems incredibly biased.
 Now, I know this may have stepped on the toes of many parents with this latest blog, and they may disagree with me. That's their right and they have the freedom to disagree. I would not deny them their difference of opinion. However, I'm going to stick to my guns about what I think and I have that right also.
 Children are a reflection of their parents, so you need to take that into consideration. Yes, there is a valid point to these laws are meant to protect children, but when you are using those laws to threaten another's first amendment rights, that's a problem.
 When my 14 year old daughter was curious about the Twilight books, I did in fact read all of them to see what they were about and to see if there was anything inappropriate in them. I even spoke to her about some of the things that would probably raise questions with her as she read the books. It turns out, she didn't think the books were that great, but she seemed appreciative that I took the time to talk to her about it. The bottom line is parents HAVE to talk to their kids about all of this. It is important and you have to be present as a parent, not shove them in front of a video game or television to get them out of your hair, then wonder later why they do silly things like jump off a roof because they saw it on a t.v. show, then blame the show for your kid getting hurt. NO. Stop doing that. Actions have consequences and we as parents are the ones responsible for teaching our children that, no one else. This is why I have such a huge problem with the parental blame game. Instead of taking responsibility for your children, you point the finger at all the various forms of media rather than point the finger at yourselves. Take the time to sit down with your children and talk to them about the things they see and hear. It doesn't have to be a lecture. Just have a conversation with them, ask them if they have any questions or concerns about what they see, hear, or read. No one else can raise your children for you. The job of a parent is filled with a lot of hard work and responsibilities, but the rewards of having that connection and relationship with your children are worth it. It's time to take back the reins, stop blaming the various artistic mediums, and raise your children parents.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Sci Fi Science Physics Of The Impossible Educational And Awesome

 I got hooked on this television show on the Science channel called Sci Fi Science: Physics Of The Impossible. Not only did it have a scientist that I respect and admire, Dr. Michio Kaku, but it also had the excitement of impossible ideas in science fiction being made possible because of theoretical physics and science. With episodes ranging from working light sabers to traveling at warp speed, Dr. Kaku shows us that what may seem far fetched is as close as our thoughts and imaginations.
 Each episode is thirty minutes long, but with a clear explanation of the project goal that Dr. Kaku wants to try out. He takes on an interesting scientific journey, sharing with us what he thinks could work and what drawbacks a potential plan could have. You feel as if you are having a conversation with a close friend as he explains what things will work and why. When he comes to his conclusion, there is a moment at the end of each show where he shares his idea with the sci-fi fans. The explanations are concise and beautifully explained with great illustrations to bring the idea to life. Not only does Dr. Kaku think of all the possibilities, he shares them with you and you realize that things like warp travel and traveling to a parallel universe is no longer the stuff of imagination and only in books. It's possible and Dr. Michio Kaku shows us exactly how in a way that is educational and awesome at the same time.
 Sci-Fi Science is on its second season this year and it's just as impressive as season one. There are so many great ideas in the science fiction world and Dr. Kaku is exploring all of them and sharing them with the rest of the world. If you haven't checked the show out and you're a science and science fiction fan, I strongly suggest that you do, because you will not only be entertained, you'll learn something pretty cool.
To check out episodes of the show check out their website: and if you would like to learn more about Dr. Michio Kaku and some of his theories you can check out his website here:

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Why You Should Ignore The Story Line In Metroid: Other M

 I have heard all the arguments about the new Metroid game including a lot of male gamers stating that the female gamers are too sensitive to the issue. My reply to that is, if you have played any of the other Metroid games you know exactly the kind of bad ass heroine Samus is, so this subservient drone like Samus in Metroid Other M is not only insulting, but ridiculous. The fact that Samus chooses not to use her power boosts because the males have not told her it's okay to do so does not appeal to those of us who love the kick ass heroine ideal of Samus. Instead, we get overly long monologues that make Samus sound like an overly emotional 13 year old girl who loves to write cute little notes for her cat and doodle hearts on her binder. It literally makes you want to punch someone in the throat and just skip every single cut scene with her voice droning on and on, because this Samus screams of insecure immaturity which does not mesh well with previous Metroid games.
 I did see and try out the game for myself and came to this conclusion. If you ignore the story line completely in Metroid Other M, the game is not that bad. The graphics have that old school feel, but do not look dated. The game play is pretty well thought out and while you will get stuck on a puzzle here and there, they do leave subtle hints to get you past it. They have stayed true to the atmosphere and spirit of Metroid game play, but brought a refreshing take of the new with it.
 Overall, it's a solid game, but not a great one. They could have done more and done better with Samus. A lot of people that I have spoken to about the game, are of the opinion that perhaps they shouldn't have given Samus a voice at all. I'm inclined to agree. So while the story is laughable, if you ignore it completely it makes Metroid Other M actually fun to play in spite of the fact that you don't get to use half the great power boosts until nearly the end of the game. I would suggest you rent it or at least buy it at a discount, because while it's a solid game, it's not worth paying full price for at all.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Tales Of Vesperia A Good Time

 I finally got done playing Tales Of Vesperia, but I'm not completely done. There's an extra dungeon you can play through at the end of the game if you do a specific side quest during the regular game play through. I've never played a Tales Of game that I didn't like yet and this one was no exception.
 I genuinely liked the main character Yuri because he's not a perfect hero. He isn't purely good, but he's not necessarily evil either. It's a matter of he's had to make the hard decisions that others around him are not willing to make, but in the end he's always stayed true to himself and his ideals. I think a lot of the reason why that scenario worked is because of the story line with Yuri's best friend Flynn. Flynn is the other side of the coin, walking a different path, but ultimately the goal to try and make the world a better place is similar.
 The idea of blastia technology is interesting and they do explain how it came to be and what it is used for as the game and story progress. It also explains the reasons behind how the empire that controls it came to exist which I thought that the developers did a pretty good job of intertwining with the main story line.
 You meet more characters along the way on this adventure and they all have pretty decent back stories. I myself liked Raven's and Judith's in particular. There are of course, the usual skits during game play, but they never get tedious. In fact, some of them are amusing with jokes that are actually funny and add a little more depth to the story and the characters themselves. The anime cut scenes are very well done and great to watch. The musical soundtrack not only is beautiful, but fits well with the various battles and pivotal plot points throughout the story.
 There are one or two boss battles that can be a little frustrating because of certain mystic artes attacks, but once you get through them you feel a sense of accomplishment for having won. Of course, if you get too frustrated you do have the option of changing the difficulty level to easy without being penalized for it which is a nice perk. With a myriad of fun extra side quests like getting cafe costumes for all the characters or the cute disguise costumes for the female characters in your party, you get a pleasant break from level grinding and the main story. Overall, the game is a good time and fun to play. Even level grinding in this particular RPG is enjoyable because of a decent battle system, and beautifully designed scenery and enemies. Now, I'm going to get back to playing this extra dungeon I've won. As for all of you, I suggest you pick up Tales Of Vesperia for the Xbox 360 and give it a try. I am sure you will have as much fun as I did playing it.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Television That Appeals To My Geek Side And My Freak Side

 I love science fiction shows most of all because there is so much imagination in them and the idea of endless possibilities. While science fiction is at the top, I do like a few other shows that are under different genres. What stands out for me is brilliant writing, a great cast, and sometimes costume/set designs. It's nice that Ron is a kindred spirit and likes a lot of the shows and watches them with me. These are just some of the shows I watch and love.

1. Doctor Who- I absolutely love and adore Doctor Who and not just the new one. I am talking about the old school BBC episodes that were shown on late night PBS on Saturday nights. I have fond memories of those episodes because I would watch them with my grandmother. We were and still are huge Tom Baker fans. There was even an episode with him that scared the piss out of me when I was a kid, titled The Talons Of Weng-Chiang. The main thing that frightened me was the ventriloquist doll which was made to look very creepy. At 11 years old I had quite an imagination already so when the doll moved all on its own, I was freaked out. I ended up checking under my bed twice for a murderous assassin doll, sleeping with my bedroom light on, and cuddling with two of my grandparents' cats that night. I'm an adult now and the episode still creeps me out a bit, but I still love it.
  The new Doctor Who has pleased me especially with great actors like David Tenant and Catherine Tate as Donna Noble. The writing is excellent and I've enjoyed watching it. Tenant and Tate had such a great rapport together as the Doctor Donna team and I loved watching them together. I was a bit hesitant about Matt Smith taking over as the new Doctor, but he proved that he could do it and was brilliant. There are so many great episodes that it's hard to pick a favorite, so I have two. The End Of Time and Vincent And The Doctor are my favorites hands down.

2. Freaks And Geeks- This show not only had great writing, it had a fantastic cast and rocking music. No matter who you were as an adult, there was at least one or two characters you could relate to on the show, because everyone has been there before. It didn't sugarcoat growing up and showed that everyone has gone through that awkward process of puberty, trying to discover who you are, and trying to make sense out of it all. The show had great humor, but it also had a lot of heart, making you care about the characters and showing that everyone has been in those awkward growing up stages. I thought it stunk that the show got cancelled in the typical move of Hollywood always cancels the great shows and leaves all the crap on the air. I was pleasantly surprised a couple of days ago to a Freaks And Geeks marathon on the Independent Film Channel. Did I watch it? You bet and I loved every minute of it.

3. Dead Like Me- Another great show, that got canned by Hollywood. I loved George Lass aka Toilet Seat Girl and her misadventures as a grim reaper. I also loved Mandy Patinkin as Rube. Yes, the show had a dark humor, but it worked because of fantastic character development and great story telling. Ron loved the show as much as I did and watched the Dead Like Me movie with me. Every once in a while I'll catch an episode on the Sci-fi channel and watch it, and it still feels fresh and new. That's how good the show is.

4. Eureka- I joke often that the Sci-fy channel makes extremely crappy movies, but their t.v. shows are awesome. There is more truth in that than anyone knows. I genuinely enjoy Eureka and this current season is no exception. Not only does the show make you think about the endless possibilities that science and technology can do, but there are characters that stand out who you love, like, dislike, and remember. I am definitely enjoying that they have James Callis on the show and that they've given Jo more of a prominent role. The story telling is interesting and it keeps you engaged so you want to know what happens next.

5. Glee - I ADORE Glee. It's just so much fun to watch and the music that gets picked for the episodes is great, because it's songs that I know and love. The cast was well picked. It's quite clear they enjoy doing the show and they have fun playing those characters. It's smart writing, but it's also heartfelt writing without being overbearing. Everyone has a favorite character or singer on the show. Mine is still Mercedes. I get goosebumps every time I hear her sing because her voice is truly beautiful.

6. Warehouse 13- Another show on Sci-Fi that I love. The concept is intriguing and the stories are fantastic. I'm fascinated by the idea of The Regents watching over the world having agents looking for artifacts that have the potential to be dangerous in the wrong hands be it Harriet Tubman's Thimble or Edgar Allen Poe's pen and journal. The characters are well thought out and they have back stories that give them depth that genuinely makes you care about them. It also pokes fun at some of the characters, giving you a laugh and lightening the mood every once so often which is nice.

7. Mad Men- I love the writing, the characters, the costume and set design, and the music for the show. It's a drama, but it's interesting because there is no black and white when it comes to the characters. It's a blend of gray. No character is supremely good or a villain. It shows that each of them has something good about them, but they are flawed and it shows a side of humanity to them. A friend had suggested that I watched the show thinking I would like it a lot. They were right. I haven't stopped watching an episode since.

8. Burn Notice- Mainly I started watching this show for Bruce Campbell because I love the man. After that, I started watching it because it was fun and didn't take itself too seriously. You didn't really have to think about it too much. It was just simple story telling and you didn't need to have watched a previous season to keep up. There's action, humor, and a bit of pretty good story mixed in making for television that is fun to watch.

9. Buffy The Vampire Slayer- I admit, I turned up my nose at the television show at first. To be fair, I got dragged to see the lame ass movie and I wasn't thrilled about it. I still think to this day the only good thing about that movie was Paul Reubens. To my friends who still like that movie, sorry it's just how I feel about it. My friend Scott was the one who convinced me to give it a try, and I was pleasantly surprised. The t.v. show was much different than the film. It was darker, more philosophical, and the humor was not only dark, but smarter. I found I loved the show because Joss Whedon is such an amazing writer, he brought those stories to life. I watch old episodes on the LOGO channel and I still love it. My favorite episode is still the musical, Once More With Feeling.

10. Firefly- Another Joss Whedon masterpiece. I really liked Mal as the captain of the Firefly space ship. The entire cast was great. I loved Kaylee the female mechanic and enjoyed seeing a girl kick ass at being a gear head and knowing how to fix it and fix it well. Of course the show got cancelled, which I thought was completely wrong. In my humble opinion, it was one of the best science fiction shows to be on television and it royally sucked that Fox screwed it over. There was a ray of hope though, with the Firefly movie which was fantastic. It told a great story, tied everything together, and made many fans like myself very happy.

So there you have it, the top ten shows in my list. There are other television shows I like, but these are the ones that stand the test of time with me. These are the shows where I can watch a re-run and still find it enjoyable because it's a great story or it holds a special significance for me. So while there are television shows I like, these are the ones I love because they are not only fantastic, they are timeless.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

What Was The First Video Game You Ever Played?

 My 14 year old daughter Amrita asked me this question today, when she stated that she was playing Dragon Quest 9 and loved it. I told her I liked the game a lot too and I remembered playing Dragon Warrior when I was a kid on the regular nintendo console. She asked me what a regular nintendo was and I felt quite old at that point, but I answered her question. It was Super Mario Bros.  and I remember my brother Rob and I played it constantly.
 It got me thinking about other video games I had played as a kid. Mario Bros. was fun because my brother and I could play together. Our grandparents got it for us for Christmas and we were so thrilled to finally have one just like all our friends. The music and the bright colors just made for a good time especially when you were a kid. We were given other video games as presents and the ones that stood out the most for me, were Dragon Warrior and Legend Of Zelda. I fell in love with those games. Rob told me when we were adults that he could never get into the RPG games like I did, because he just got so frustrated with the pacing. He is more of a fight and action game person. I however, loved the stories, loved the battles, and loved the music in those games.
 Another Christmas Rob and I both got a Nintendo gameboy and a game to go with it. Mine was Final Fantasy Legend II and I played it so much, I would constantly be plugging it in or changing the batteries. Sure, now we have all these wonderful advances, but when I was a kid, that was the thing to have. It was new, wonderful, and exciting.
 Then there is the game that makes me smile and has my heart because it got me through a month of chicken pox. That's right, a whole month of chicken pox. When I was 13 and Rob was 8, he got chicken pox. He was fairly resilient for a kid with chicken pox and didn't seem to have it that badly. My grandmother assumed it was alright for me to be around my brother since both my parents had informed her that yes, I had already had chicken pox when I was little. So I helped play nurse to my little brother.
 Guess who got chicken pox for the second time in her childhood? The thing about me and illness is that I rarely get sick. When I do become ill, I get it ten times worse than anyone else and you'd think I was dying. This is what happened with the second outbreak of chicken pox. Not only did I get chicken pox, I got super chicken pox. I got something called thrush which is chicken pox in the mouth, on the tongue, and the back of the throat. Trust me, this is not a fun thing to have and it can make eating a hassle. I had to have these tablets that our family doctor prescribed and let them dissolve in my mouth, just so I could eat.
 So besides catching up on school homework, resting all the time, and being really upset that I couldn't go to school to see my best friend Miranda, (Who called me every day after school to see how I was doing. There's a reason she's godmother to my daughters) I was also incredibly bored. I couldn't scratch, daytime television sucked, I'd read all my books, and I'd played all my games. Then Rob had borrowed a game from a friend of his at school and said that I could play it while he was at school since I was sick. It was Super Mario Bros 2.
 I played it and the game was so much fun with the music and the creative levels, that it was a welcome distraction from me being under quarantine. I even finished the game and played through it a second time because I had enjoyed it so much. It still holds a fond place in my heart because it caused a sick 13 year old girl to forget that she was sick and got her to smile.
 Many video games later there are more completed games under my belt and the list of games I love have gotten longer, but I still remember those child hood games and remember them fondly. They were the reason I fell in love with video games after all.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Nier Bring On The Prozac!

 To say that Nier is dark filled with loss of hope undertones is like saying fire is hot. However, when my friend Gary was showing me the game, I had to admit that the game play looked interesting and I was intrigued. When I found out that it was a thinly veiled sequel to one of the endings in Drakengard, I definitely wanted to play it and test it out. Gary being the awesome friend that he is, loaned me his copy of Nier so I could try it out. It does take me some time to go through a game sometimes due to my hectic schedule, so I apologize to my friends who have been asking if I'm ever going to put into words my thoughts on this particular RPG.
 Nier starts off strongly with a great opening scene and brilliant musical score, featuring a shell of a city and harsh winter weather in the middle of summer. After the initial introductory scene you learn that the glories of humanity have disappeared and the few humans that remain struggle to survive in a medieval existence with the threat of shades and a disease known as Black Scrawl and Nier's daughter has it. Nier (the hero), has sworn that he will do anything at all costs to search for a cure.
  The graphics are beautifully done right down to the cinematic cut scenes.  There is a clear objective to the game and there are plenty of side quests even farming to flesh everything out. The battle system is user friendly and the items and spells menu are quite easy to navigate.You play as Nier and you find yourself caring about this character as the story progresses. There are other interesting characters along the way on this adventure such as Grimoire Weiss, an ancient talking book. That's just for starters. You meet the rest of the companions at different intervals and because of how well written their back stories are, you find yourself caring about them as well.
 Now, I know what you're thinking. What's the deal with that first sentence in this little review? Well, let's get down to it shall we? Overall, the game is good with user friendly controls and a solid battle system. The soundtrack is beautiful and they chose wisely with this musical score. However, there are flaws here and there with Nier. So I'll list the pros and cons.

 The graphics, scenery, and cut scenes are amazing. They stand out and you remember every one.
 The musical score is fantastic and well thought out throughout the game.
 The character development and writing for the support characters is genius. When you can have your audience genuinely care about the characters in the story, that's pretty great writing.
 Their battle system isn't too difficult and the menus are easy to navigate.
 While you could hurry to the end of the game, there are many side quests and even a fishing mini-game as well as the option to do some of your own farming to give you a break from slashing all the baddies.
 Impressive boss battles capture your interest especially when they throw spell casting cut scenes into the mix.
 The story is original and keeps you guessing. You never know what to expect and just when you think you know something, they surprise you with a different event altogether.

There are times in Nier, where the pacing could be a lot better. At some points in the story, it drags a little bit and you find yourself wishing they would get on with it so you can move along to the next area already.
It can be a real downer. There are times where everyone is happy and celebrating a victory, only to have something absolutely horrible happen. Half the time it seems like more tragedies happen than good times. Hey, I'm not asking that we all hug a Care Bear and have a lovely tea party, but they really cashed in on that whole emo kid phase.
 All the doubling back. You will find yourself revisiting a dungeon or town six times or more for certain quests or plot lines in the story. After a bit of that, it gets a little old and you find yourself sighing with frustration. A lot.
 The fetch quests. This ties into the doubling back. There are quite a few fetch quests, where you have to get a certain number of items for various npcs  and return to get a reward. They tend to blur together after a while because they are so similar. You'll find yourself just giving up on that whole thing because it's tedious and boring.
 BAD CAMERA ANGLES. With all the technology we have in this day and age, it still kills me when a game has not one, but several bad camera angles that happen consistently throughout the game play. There were angles where you couldn't turn the camera enough to get a jump properly, or it would spin wildly turning a corner and you'd find yourself wanting to upchuck your dinner when the wave of vertigo hit you.
A final  boss battle with eight boss fights with multiple endings. This one comes last because it is the one that pissed me off the most. Not only do you have eight boss battles to fight, but there is no save point in between them. So if you lose, you get to go through all of that all over again. Top that off with four different endings that you can not get until you play through the whole game again and you'll find yourself wishing you could find the developer who thought this was a good idea and punch him square in the throat. SPOILER ALERT: You have to do the endings in a certain order, because one of the endings actually erases all your saved game data. No you did not misread that. That's actually true.

Now with all of that said, while I don't hate Nier, I don't really love it either. There is good and bad with it, but because of the pros I listed, the game manages to be enjoyable to play. It's definitely not like anything I've ever played before and the supporting cast works well with the main character story wise. It did its job of keeping me entertained and managed to tell an interesting story while doing so. So while it's not a spectacular take my breath away kind of game, it's still a decent game that you could enjoy playing through at least once.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

A Disturbing Trend Among The Ladies

A while back a friend of mine showed me a video of a girl destroying her boyfriend's Xbox 360 console because he wasn't spending enough time with her in her opinion and she was as she put it, "teaching him a lesson" by beating it to death with a golf club. How charming. Now it seems this is a disturbing trend among the ladies who hate that their men are playing video games instead of spending time with them. My friend showed me this little gem. I'll warn you now, she drops some f- bombs:
Isn't that lovely? Not only did this girl handle the situation badly, but she shows she has the communication skills of a two year old in desperate need of a nap. She's not the only girl to do this in the current console murder spree. There are others and so many videos of frustrated girls everywhere venting it via baseball bats, feet stomping, throwing, and enraged profanity. Frankly, it's ridiculous.
 Here's the cold hard truth ladies. We're taught from day one that it is not nice to take things that don't belong to you and smash them to bits. We're taught that we should use our words to communicate how we feel rather than resort to things like beating parts and wires to death with golf clubs. For you girls who have felt the urge to do this to your guy, just take a look at these videos. Look at the ugliness that is involved with what is happening. Notice that it has the opposite effect of what they had hoped to do. It doesn't make the guy want to stop playing video games. It makes him want to throw the offending party out for good and you know, maybe that's what should happen.
 Everyone gets upset, or angry. It's part of being human, having a limit to one's patience. However, it's what we do when we reach the end of that limit that reflects who we really are and it's either enlightening or extremely damning in the evidence. In these cases, these girls show that they really need to rethink how they communicate. They also show that while they expect to be respected, they can't seem to give that to their boyfriends either. How is breaking their things showing them that you want to spend time with them or that you care about them?
 So for all you girls out there who do this kind of nonsense listen up and listen good. You can't change a man. I'll say it one more time. You can't change a man. You can only accept him as he is, warts and all and try to be understanding about times when he needs to be a man. If it means playing a video game to unwind, so be it. There's more to it than that of course. I've said this time and time again to so many girl friends. Men do not do subtle, and they do not do hints. You have to clearly state what it is you want and be blunt about it. You can't do foxy innuendo and leave hidden clues in your sentences. You have to throw the brick of reality in their face; something along the lines of, "Hey, let's go see a movie. I want to spend more time with you and I'm sick of you playing this game. Let's get out of the house for some fresh air."  See? Not hard.
 I know there are times when you feel that they're not listening to you and yes, that's frustrating. The thing is though, if they feel like you are nagging them, they're never going to listen. If all you do is nag, complain, and whine at them, guess what? They're going to tune you out. So you need to try and be calm when you talk to them. If you feel too angry to talk, take a walk until you calm down. Don't talk to them when you're so angry you think you're going to squeeze their head until it explodes. Bottom line, don't resort to a she hulk tantrum thus proving to all his friends that yes you probably are clinically insane. Just have a conversation, a normal conversation.
 The other side of this is if you feel that neglected or unhappy, dump him. Why stay with someone who so clearly makes you that miserable? Before you go into the whole explanation of how it's complicated and you love him, let me stop you right there. No, it's not. If you really loved him as you claim, you wouldn't resort to this kind of passive aggressive behavior. You would have the common decency to talk to him and really tell him how you feel even if it's to tell him at the moment you think he's an a-hole, and not go medieval on all his stuff, leaving a crater where everything used to be. That is not how you treat someone you love and ladies, you know it. So if you're not happy, get out and find someone that does make you happy.
 Fellas, you're not off the hook completely. There are some of you who don't get it even when you've been slammed into the brick wall of truth and continue on as if nothing is wrong. Wake up. Pull your head out of your ass and pay some attention to the girl who thinks you're worth something or she'll find a guy who will. Another factor is if you know your girlfriend or wife is not into video games, don't talk about them all the time around her and don't invite her over or hang out with her if all you're going to do is play Call Of Duty with your buddies and ignore her all night. If you made a commitment to spend time with her, do it. Nothing makes a woman angrier than a guy who flakes out on her all the time.
 To both parties, perhaps you should stick to people who have similar interests rather than one extreme to the other. Sure there are opposites that attract, but in the long run that rarely works. The main thing is you need to communicate with each other, lay it all out on the table, and be open and honest with each other. And ladies, before you reach for that baseball bat, take a walk.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World

Ron and I went to see this movie tonight with our buddy Jay. I had high expectations for it, and I was not disappointed. From the opening credits until the very end, the film is filled with great attention grabbing comic style fight scenes, along with a brilliant soundtrack to back it up. Another factor that made the film such a fun ride was the cast. It was clear that they had fun making the film and reveled in the roles they played. Michael Cera was great, but Kieran Culkin definitely stole the show as Wallace.
The movie is in the spirit of fun and it delivers in a humorous and entertaining way that's smart and doesn't take itself too seriously. Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World is a movie that is worth paying for to see in the theater and you should go see it if you haven't already.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

I Am A Mother Gamer

I guess it's odd enough to some people; mainly a lot of men, that I am a girl and I play video games and read comic books. Add the fact that I'm a mother into the mix and it seems to boggle their minds. There are more of us than people think. It's becoming the norm more and more, but there are still a few guys that are genuinely shocked when they see me come into the Game Stop or into the local comic shop. I've had a few boys act offended that I would even deem to come in there.
Yes, I am a mother and yes, I am a wife. It doesn't change the fact that I love playing video games to unwind or read a favorite super hero comic book. While I do like some girlie games, I don't really like all of them. I love games like  Legend of Zelda, God Of War, and Metal Gear. If something has mechs or robots in it, I'm hooked. If it has singing dancing princesses or Pokemon, you can forget it. That's not for me. I say this because every time I go in, at least one of the men in there will try to suggest a very fluffy game or comic book to me or they will ignore me completely because I'm not a male and talk to my husband Ron when he's with me. Not only is that insulting, it's also fairly rude. I'm not the only woman this has happened to. Quite a few of my girl friends have mentioned various incidents where they were asked if a game was for their husband or boyfriend, stared at, ignored, the sales person helped a male customer before them when they were clearly there first, or spoken to them like they were an escaped mental patient. It's highly off putting when someone treats you that way just because they feel in their opinion you don't belong there if you have lady parts.
Here's the bottom line fellas. Don't assume that a woman doesn't play video games just because she has children and a husband. Definitely don't gawk and stare because we're in what you feel is your sacred domain of guy territory. There are more of us out in the world than you think. Don't patronize us, talk down to us, or assume we like all the girl appealing games that come out. Some of us like decapitating centaurs and exoskeleton mech suits as much as you.
Sure, being a wife and mother keeps me busy. There are days where I feel as if I have no time to myself at all, but on the days that I do have free time, that's when I enjoy a little video game or comic book vacation. I am a mother gamer and that's all there is to it.