My (Previously) Current Obsession: The Legend of Zelda

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Welcome to another My Current Obsession article! Now, I say “Previously” on this one because having played four Zelda games in a row for the last couple months, I’ve decided to take a well-deserved break. This article isn’t going to be the most in-depth about the series, nor will it be a typical review on each game. That being said, I do have a few things to talk about, so let’s get started.

To start off, I was never big into Zelda. I grew up with more Mario games than anything, and to date have still only played a little of the first two Zelda games.  With both being quite difficult, I never completed them. Then, one fine Christmas day, I received a Nintendo 64 with a copy of Ocarina of Time and matching strategy guide. From then on, I gained an appreciation for the series and love for the games. To date, aside from the three mentioned games, I have also played Majora’s Mask, Twilight Princess, Skyward Sword, Phantom Hourglass, Spirit Tracks, and a little bit of Four Swords Adventure and the two Oracle games (Ages & Seasons).

You might notice some games missing from that list. Well, I will now cover the games I recently got a chance to visit (and in the case of one game revisit), as well as list my personal pros and cons of each.

The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening DX (Game Boy Color)

I owned this game for quite a long time, but never really gave it a fair chance. After finding out it was the precursor to OoT as well as being good for beginners of the 2D games (which I admit sucking at), I decided to give it another try. I couldn’t be more pleased with the result, as this game had a fun, different story and characters to go with the great Zelda gameplay.

Pros: Quirky plot and characters, colorful graphics & good music, cool Mario references scattered throughout, extremely useful map & mid-dungeon teleports.

Cons: Boss fights are mostly lame, Eagle’s Tower dungeon (the second last of the game) is a bit annoying because of a pillar puzzle.

The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (Super Nintendo)

Yes, yes, I know this is considered one of if not the best Zelda game in existence. But for me, it took some getting used to, especially since both NES and SNES games can be difficult for me. Despite needing to overcome that, I really did enjoy the game and felt it was a huge improvement, even difficulty-wise, over the first two NES games.

Pros: Really did set the groundwork for future Zelda games, easier to pick up and play than previous two games, a ton of items & collectibles to find, great music & graphics.

Cons: Was quite difficult and frustrating a lot of times, easy to get confused about where to go next, going through dungeons upon dying to reach boss again was very tedious, pink-haired Link still is weird to me.

The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap (Game Boy Advance)

Continuing my random pattern of playing a portable then console game, I decided to try out Minish Cap. While I prefer Link’s Awakening, MC was a fun if short experience. It was also the easiest portable Zelda I’ve played to date, though that’s not necessarily a bad thing to me. I thought the shrinking concept was great overall and wish it could be explored again.

Pros: Great graphics/environments & music, neat boss fights, tons of things to do and collect, Minish creatures are adorable.

Cons: Trying to pair up correct Kinstones was sometimes annoying, bit of a difficulty spike in Palace of Winds (the second last dungeon), Ezlo is easily the WORST partner to me – not helpful whatsoever and always complaining (even Fi and Navi seemed less annoying in comparison).

The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker (Gamecube)

Now we come to the game I revisited. When I first played WW as a rental, I really enjoyed it but only got 3/4’s of the way through. Having hunted down and purchased it recently, I’m pleased to say that this time I DID beat it and had a great time doing so. To date, this was the easiest Zelda game for me as I didn’t die at all, though came close in the final battle with Ganondorf. I had a ton of fun with the game and can’t wait to watch people play through the Wii U’s HD version later this year.

Pros: Amazing graphics that still hold up, beautiful music, fun dungeons & boss battles, plenty of things to collect, plot and characters were great.

Cons: Sailing can be tedious until you get Ballad of Gales, figurine collecting (if attempted) takes up a lot of time, Tingle is a greedy douchebag.

To sum up, I have not had one “bad” experience with this series. While each game might follow the same gameplay pattern, they all feel pretty unique to me and are just fun to explore. I do know that a new Zelda is being made for the 3DS and I can’t wait for it, but for now I’m gonna enjoy my break from the series. If you’ve never played a Zelda game, give it a shot. You might just get hooked like I did.

My Current Obsession: Kitchen Nightmares

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This was originally going to be a regular blog post, but I’ve decided to make it part of a series of articles instead. These articles are called “My Current Obsession” and will focus on, well, my current obsession. It may be with a game, TV show, online feature, movie, etc. Today’s article will focus on the food reality show “Kitchen Nightmares”, which is hosted by famous chef Gordan Ramsay.

Seeing as I now work in a restaurant, albeit a fast food one, and have internet friends, my attention was brought to the buzz about the newest KN episode about Amy’s Baking Company. For those unaware, that episode has sparked plenty of viral news and negativity toward the owners, Amy and Samy. From watching it myself, I could see why. Not only did they want Ramsay there to sample their food and basically kiss their butts, but they also refused to accept his criticisms and advice. It’s a pretty big deal when the episode marked the first time Ramsay ever gave up on helping turn a restaurant around.

Anyway, with this episode, I was hooked and started working my way through the previous seasons, both with the US and UK iterations of the show. I do enjoy both, though they are completely different in tone. While both shows focus on Ramsay trying to help save failing restaurants, the UK version has more emphasis on him mentoring and training kitchen staff and also has him narrating throughout the episode. It’s presented kind of like a mini-documentary, which I thought was an interesting take and much more subdued than what I’ve seen of Hell’s Kitchen. The same can be said of the US version; however, it still retains the drama and quick edits of many US reality shows, which is both good and bad. I do like that there is variety, though, as Ramsay will speak with the owners and staff, have detailed sampling of the food, sort things out with the owners, change the decor and menu, etc.

Having only seen Ramsay in a few HK episodes, I was always under the impression he was a tough guy, maybe a little arrogant, who didn’t take crap from anyone. And while that’s still true in KN, you get to see a calmer, good-hearted side to him. He genuinely cares about seeing these restaurants and owners succeed. It was disheartening that he couldn’t help Amy’s Baking Company and you could see it in his expressions during the episode. He also shares a few personal bits about himself here and there, and overall I feel I have much more respect and admiration for him. He not only cares for the success of a business, but also quality of the food and the well-being of customers. There’s a lot more to him and watching Hell’s Kitchen alone doesn’t do him justice.

One thing I love about both versions of the show is finding out what happens after his visit. Each show (the US one starting this in Season 3) has a post-visit bit explaining whether the restaurant still is successful or has crumbled. There are also revisit episodes in both versions where Gordan himself returns to see if a restaurant is still up to standards. With some who went out of business, it’s heart-breaking because either it couldn’t be helped or you really wished they could’ve made it. With others, you can’t help but be glad if the standards continue to be awful.

I have now seen Ramsay in Hell’s Kitchen, Kitchen Nightmares, and the pilot to the brief hotel-based series called Hotel Hell. Between all three shows, I feel I have a better understanding of the man himself and why he’s so passionate (to the point of calling people donkeys) about his profession. Kitchen Nightmares is my favorite of the bunch because it feels like the best of both worlds: The crass, blunt, passionate Ramsay of HK mixed with the kind-hearted, determined, mentor Ramsay that both KN and HH have shown. And it’s always fun to root for a good restaurant to make it despite all the obstacles.

If you like cooking, Ramsay, reality shows, or all three, give Kitchen Nightmares a try. It’s the first TV show in a while I’ve checked out and I haven’t been disappointed yet.

My Top 10 Favorite Doctor Who Baddies

Seeing as how this week so far has been a bit uneventful for me on the blogging front, I’ve decided to dive into a fandom I got into courtesy of my boyfriend. If you don’t know anything about Doctor Who, I’ll sum it up. It’s a sci-fi show that has existed since the 60’s that follows an alien known as The Doctor as he time travels through time and space, often with human companions in tow. He often encounters various threats and enemies along the way, some which this list will cover.

Before I start, I have to preface this for anyone who does know/watch the show: I have NOT seen the entirety of Doctor Who. I’ve seen the 7th-11th Doctors series in completion, so my list will reflect baddies I know about. With that said, let’s get started.

10. Mr. Finch

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Mr. Finch (who’s really an alien in human guise) only appeared in one episode, but he left a bit of an impression on me. The character himself is a cunning, despicable alien who is trying to decode a paradigm that will allow him and his kind to alter reality however they want. He’s also aware of The Doctor being a Time Lord and nearly convinces him to help him decipher the paradigm. My other reason for loving this guy is that he’s played by one of my favorite actors from Buffy, Anthony Stewart Head. A great, suave, slightly over the top performance all around.

9. The Editor

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The Editor might not be as smart or sneaky as Mr. Finch, but he’s easily my favorite HUMAN villain so far. Part of this is again because he’s played by an actor I love, namely Simon Pegg. The other part is because while he can also be a bit over the top, he’s pretty smart for a human villain and is practically in charge (though not entirely) of the news station he oversees. He takes great pleasure in monitoring people and using them to keep the business running, no matter what it takes.

8. Sontaran

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While I haven’t seen the classic Sontaran episodes, I friggin’ love these guys. They’re obsessed with war and honor, making them a formidable threat to the world and The Doctor. It’s also funny and cool to see such stocky aliens commit lots of violence. The only reason they rank so low on my list is because recently the reoccurring Sontaran, Strax, has been played up as comic relief more than any sort of threat. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though, as he’s still capable of kicking butt in the most violent ways possible.

7. Vashta Nerada

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This alien race is just plain disturbing. They’re basically parasitic piranhas that hide in the shadows and, if there are enough swarming together, strip living beings of all their flesh. The person is then controlled by them as a living corpse. This is one of the few Doctor Who villains I wish were brought back, as they only appeared in a two-parter during the 10th Doctor’s run. The idea of something so tiny doing that much damage just for a meal is scary.

6. The Master

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The Master is essentially The Doctor’s foil, a renegade Time Lord who cares only about what he wants and nothing else. So far, I’d only seen the version seen above, in the new series, as well as in the TV movie featuring the 8th Doctor and the finale of the 7th Doctor’s run. All three versions have their fair share of hammy acting, but it makes him more entertaining to watch. I once saw a description of him as saying he was the Moriarty to The Doctor’s Sherlock and I couldn’t agree more. The guy is relentless in wanting power and doesn’t care who he steps on to get it.

5. House

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House comes from one of my favorite episodes of series 6. He’s an entity who manages to invade the Tardis (the time machine the Doctor uses to travel) in an effort to find new sources of energy. Before this, he would trap other Time Lords and steal the energy from their Tardis’s to sustain himself. During his time in the Tardis, he mentally torments the Doctor’s two companions, who are stuck inside, with hallucinations and the threat of killing them for his amusement. I really enjoyed this villain because he was so cruel, which made it extra satisfying to see him be defeated.

4. Cybermen

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The Cybermen are cool to me because of what they represent. Their main goal is to eradicate emotions, paving the way for beings who run on logical thought. It’s scary to see creatures so unfeeling and uncaring who also have a hive mind mentality. They will turn ordinary humans into either half-robot or fully-robot creatures, rendering them incapable of free will or thought. It’s practically the ultimate form of conformity. I also like their various devices, such as the Cybermats/Cybermites, which allow them to spy on and capture people without detection.

3. The Silence

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Speaking of a lack of free will, these guys are just plain terrifying. They look like a mix between the painting The Scream and Slenderman, and if a person sees one, he will instantly forget he did once he looks away. They act like puppet masters, using hypnotic suggestion to manipulate people. There’s implications that they can be anywhere and could be the cause of feelings of deja vu and such. They’re very creepy and upon reflection made me decide that they deserved a top 3 spot.

2. Daleks

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The Daleks are not the smartest, strongest or scariest enemy, but they were the first long-running one. Even having started with the new series, there’s a sense of nostalgia I feel whenever the Daleks are on-screen. They’re one of a few enemies to invoke a lot of emotion from The Doctor, especially anger. Another thing I love about them is their relentless pursuit of exterminating everything. Sure, they may devise specific plans to destroy The Doctor, but they’re always determined to basically kill everything without a second thought. And there’s something about that mindless need for destruction that’s just horrifying.

1. Weeping Angels

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If the Silence had been created first, they may have taken this spot. But for me, the Weeping Angels are my favorite villains. They don’t need to issue threats, they barely need to form a plan, and they are scary for multiple reasons. Resembling statues, they stay dormant until you look away from them or blink. That’s when they start getting ever so closer and look a lot more evil. And depending on the Angel, once they catch you, they will either snap your neck or transport you back in time. This effectively kills you in the present, as you’re forced to live out the rest of your life in the past. They never make a sound and it’s been implied that possibly every statue is an Angel. Of all the Doctor Who baddies, these were the first to give me nightmares and really, legitimately scare me. Trust me when I say that that’s no easy feat.

So, that’s my list of my top 10 favorite DW baddies. Agree? Disagree? Like other baddies I didn’t mention here? Feel free to comment below! 🙂

I’ve Got a Job!

So, after months upon months of putting out resumes, going through interviews, and ultimately not landing a single job, I’ve finally gotten one in town courtesy of a restaurant called Dixie Lee. It’s akin to fast food places like KFC in that it sells fried chicken and other products, but it is part of a small chain and therefore has less restricting workplace rules.

What do I mean by that? Well, for starters, my boss is able to make up schedules at her own pace (being 3 weeks in advance) as well as limit the number of employees to a manageable 3-4 in total. It also means that we can dress however we want within reason, whether working in the kitchen or on cashier. And of course, there are employee benefits such as discounts on food and the like.

As I’ve only had two training days so far, I’m on 21 hours a week (the week starting on Sunday according to her schedule). This job isn’t easy though, despite the reduced traffic compared to my first job as a cook at McDonalds. There is a lot of heavy lifting, tons of prep and cleaning to do, and it’s hard on the feet after 7 hours a day. For me, this job is both a blessing and a curse at this point.

That may sound hypocritical, considering I’ve complained in the past of the lack of jobs in my town, but hear me out. It IS a blessing due to said lack of jobs and my need to build up my funds/spending money. It will also be helpful to give me something to do when my boyfriend goes back to school (fingers crossed he’s accepted!). And the boss herself is very nice and flexible, allowing me a few days of vacation for the summer when my boyfriend comes to visit and generally praising my work ethic.

The job is a curse, however, in what it means to me. Sure, working on my feet for 7 hours is no picnic, especially after having spent more than enough time slacking off at home. But for me, it still feels like a regression in the job chain. I’ve gone from fast food to a call center and back to fast food again. And the sad thing is that I, like many others, know that only moving away will potentially garner something better than that. It’s just not a luxury I can afford at the moment, especially with no one available to move in with right now.

But as most people are apt to do, I won’t stop searching for a slightly better job. This one will do for now, and it’s not the worst I’ve dealt with, but there will always be something better to strive for. For now, I’m going to put on my happiest face and settle into cooking chicken. Wish me luck!

Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon Review

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So, I finally got around to 100% completing Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon. Be warned that I will be making reference to the original Luigi’s Mansion game as I’ve also played it before. To kick off this review, allow me to share my thoughts on it.

Luigi’s Mansion was released on the Gamecube back in 2001. At the time, I didn’t own the system, so I had to rely on renting it. And while I thought it was a cool, fresh idea to have Luigi star, I couldn’t get into the game itself. Call it lack of skill or interest, but it was a rental I didn’t focus on much. Fast forward to early this year, and I find the game for $15 at my local pawn shop. Knowing that the sequel was on its way and looking really fun, I decided to pick up the original and give it a second chance.

Needless to say, it was the best decision I’d made in a while. The exploration, atmosphere and characters were all great, and even though it was relatively short and combat could be wonky at times, the game was very enjoyable. So, now we come to the sequel, and I feel it was a worthy successor after all these years. But let’s get into the nitty gritty first, shall we?

Story:

The story of LM: DM is fairly simple, Professor E. Gadd, a scientist who studies ghosts, is hanging out with some friendly ghosts in Evershade Valley. These ghosts are kept friendly by the mystical force of the Dark Moon, which is literally a crescent moon. One night, the (blatantly obvious) King Boo breaks the moon and scatters its pieces around the valley. This turns all the ghosts into mischievous troublemakers, forcing E. Gadd to recruit Luigi and use his trusty vacuum to capture them all.

The story has some great, funny dialogue and moves along at a good pace. It also references events from the original game, but this is not the kind of game where it’s completely necessary to have played the first. Luigi gets a little more dialogue bits in this one, and E. Gadd is quite frankly more of a jerk but in his own way.

Graphics:

The graphics in this game are gorgeous. In some respects, they’re as cartoony and not quite as cartoony as the original game. Everything looks very smooth and polished, and for the most part the spooky atmosphere is kept intact, be it by a clash of lightning or creepy shadows. I didn’t spend much time with the 3D, as I find it difficult to keep the 3DS steady when playing games like this. But I can say that the depth I saw from it looked great. Rooms seem to expand out and hallways looked like they stretched on forever. The five mansions themselves were all unique and looked great, making it difficult to choose a favorite based on visuals alone.

But what I really loved was the facial expressions this time around. The original LM had fun, silly, stretchy expressions on Luigi which worked well with the style. Here, you see him react accordingly to each situation, be it by trembling when scared or shivering when cold. He also partakes in slapstick humor here and there, giving the game a lot more personality to me. The ghosts themselves also get this, and their expressions work well with their complete lack of dialogue. While I missed the uniqueness of the humanoid portrait ghosts from the first game, the cartoony ghosts in this fit in with the mansions and made for more humor.

Sound:

The music and sound effects were upgraded big time for the sequel. The original game’s theme song still plays, making for good nostalgia, and the new music is eerie and appropriate for each mansion. Luigi also gets new voiceover bits to liven up the game amidst the noisy screeches, roars and barks of the ghosts. I honestly have nothing else to say – the audio in this game was great.

Gameplay:

Once again, we come to the big one and there’s a lot to cover. As in the original game, you use a flashlight to stun ghosts and a vacuum to capture them. The controls took me some getting used to to do this, but it’s pretty easy to pick up on with a few tries. The newest features in this version are the Darklight and Gyroscope controls. The Darklight allows you to uncover hidden objects and capture sneaky Boos. The Gyroscope controls are primarily used for two things: Balancing on wooden beams and optional use for pointing the flashlight/vacuum in different directions. I barely used it for the latter, but you’re forced to use it for balancing a couple times. This can be very annoying, but for the most part all you have to do is set the system down flat and push the control stick forever to make it across.

Unlike the first LM, where you collected keys to access rooms in one mansion, LM: DM has you exploring five mansions in total. However, each one is set up in a mission-based format, usually five missions and a boss per mansion. You complete various tasks within each one, such as chasing down a Polterpup to retrieve a key or escorting a Toad to safety. During these missions, you can also find a gold dog bone which acts as a continue if you lose all your health. At the end of each mission, you’re given a rank based on how much time it took you, how much damage you took and how much money you collected. The ranks are gold, silver and bronze respectively. Once you’ve completed the missions, you go on to battle a boss ghost to retrieve a piece of the Dark Moon.

There are tons of collectibles in this game compared to the first. Money is the most important, as it goes toward your mission rank and also allows you to unlock upgrades for your vacuum and Darklight. To aid in this, they’ve brought back Speedy Spirits (which will disappear if not caught) in the form of Gold Ghosts, which can be ghosts or ghost animals. Gems also return in this game, though there are several in each mansion and all hidden in various spots for you to find. Some involve solving puzzles as well, and others can only be found in specific missions. And as mentioned before, you can also capture Boos in this game. There are 32 in total, typically one in each mission. Collecting all the Boos in one mansion unlocks an additional mission where you try to capture a certain number of ghosts as fast as possible.

And finally, when you complete the majority of the first mansion, you unlock the ScareScraper, aka multiplayer mode. This allows you to play with up to four people locally or online. You can hunt ghosts together, try to find the exit to a floor of the tower, or capture Polterpups. You can also face new versions of ghosts you’ve fought in single player. I still haven’t spent much time in this mode, but be warned that it can sometimes glitch out depending on your connection or others. It’s my least favorite thing in the game, but it works well enough if you have a good group together and steady connections.

Overall, I really enjoyed the gameplay in this one. It’s a step up from the original in terms of controls to me, and I found myself not dying until the very last mansion. That being said, those coming in from the original will be in for a different challenge. The difficulty unfortunately ramps up pretty quickly by the end and it can be frustrating, especially during the Gyro segments. At times, I did wish there was a checkpoint or save system like the original during longer missions. Also, the game as a whole does offer lots of exploration like the original, but it’s a lot more action-packed as well. It’s the kind of game you could rush through, but it’s better to get accustomed to the controls and take some time with it.

Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon is by no means a perfect game, but I consider it an awesome sequel to the original. You have more streamlined controls, more collectibles, more gameplay (this thing can take upwards of 10-15 hours or more to beat), more humor, etc. Even if you’ve never played the first game, I highly recommend giving the sequel a try. My rating for Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon is a solid 9.5/10.