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.