My Current Obsession: Orphan Black

ImageAllow me to make one thing clear: I usually give a show that’s new to me at least 3 episodes to hook me in. And while I’ve only seen the first 2 episodes of “Orphan Black,” I was immediately hooked from the first one. I had planned to hold off blogging on this until I watched the third episode as per my rule, but I’ve been fighting a cold for a week now and just don’t feel in the mood. However, given my immediate interest in the show, I think that can be forgiven.

Now, as for the show itself, I’ll give a brief rundown. “Orphan Black” began a year ago and has one season under its belt with a second on the way this April. Made in Canada and set in it as well, it follows English con artist Sarah Manning. From the start, we learn about her ex-boyfriend Vic, her best friend/foster brother Felix, and her daughter Kira. After witnessing the suicide of someone who looks just like her, Sarah schemes to take the woman’s identity and gain access to her funds to help pay off some old debts while also faking her own death. The plan goes awry, however, when she discovers the woman, Beth, was a detective. Soon Sarah finds herself trying to juggle Beth’s life and get the money while also getting caught up in a bizarre mystery surrounding other women who look exactly like her.

Essentially, this is a sci-fi thriller type of show that involves cloning. While it’s outright stated in the third episode (even in the preview!), I knew about the cloning going in as it’s what drew me to the show. From the premiere, the show kicks into gear and doesn’t stop. You get to take enough time to get to know the main characters, and the two “plots” (Beth’s life and the clones) get their fair share of screen time. Given that these are your typical 45-minute episodes, I haven’t once felt bored or uninterested by the pacing.

A lot of that can also be attributed to the characters being interesting. Sarah has PLENTY of room for growth as she treads that line between likability and unlikability. Felix is essentially the one with common sense, even when he has to put up with a drunk Vic coming around his place. Despite all the bad things said about Vic, he actually is kinda hard to hate (at least for now) because of his distress over losing Sarah. And I have to give props to main actress Tatiana Maslany for pulling off convincing performances so far of Sarah and her clones.

Ultimately, this feels like a show that would be home among the best programs on the BBC (and is for you American viewers). It still boggles my mind that it comes from my home country, as we’ve had so much of our programming come from the States that it’s hard to tell nowadays. I’m hopeful “Orphan Black” continues to keep me invested and plan to finish season 1 before I decide if season 2 is worth jumping into. If a show that combines cloning and police thriller elements sounds fun to you, give it a watch.

My Top 10 Favorite/Most Played Gamecube Games

Early in the fall, I did a blog covering my top 10 favorite/most played NES games. They were games that spanned my early childhood and still remain in my collection to this day. For today’s blog, I thought I’d try looking at games from my late teen/early adult years. Once again, picking out favorites isn’t easy for me, so I’ve chosen to focus solely on the system that bridged my N64 to Wii years: the Gamecube.

Even though my actual Gamecube doesn’t get much use, I still like playing the games through my Wii. While my collection is relatively small, I’ve picked out 10 of my favorite titles. As with the NES top 10, there are a couple stipulations. I chose the games I played the most and at least have beaten once. And while many of these games would top anyone’s list, these is my personal choices based on MY experiences playing them and how fun they were to me. With that said, here are my top 10 Gamecube games:

10. Chibi Robo!

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This is a very quirky, very Japanese-like game. You play as the little robot Chibi Robo and go around a life-sized house doing various chores for its residents and helping out toys (yes, toys. Think “Toy Story”). It kinda has a slow pace and is definitely not a game for everyone, but I got sucked in by its fun characters and bright, cheery environments. Oh, and the various objectives and collectibles, of course. I only rank it so low on the list because I tried to complete it 100% during my first playthrough, so it didn’t leave me with a lot of replayability afterwards. Still, Chibi Robo! is one unforgettable and strangely fun game.

9. Super Smash Bros. Melee

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I know, I know, I would easily get flack for putting this so low, but I’ve always found the Smash Bros. games to be more fun with co-op than single player. Unfortunately, a lot of my play sessions WERE single player, so I didn’t get much of the experience. Despite that, Super Smash Bros. Melee is an awesome fighting game, with tons of great Nintendo characters to battle with and lots of different modes. One thing that DID keep me enjoying single player was the huge amount of collectibles and challenges to tackle. I’ve never been a huge fan of fighting games, but Smash Bros. is easily my favorite series and this sequel is one of my favorite games.

8. The Simpsons Hit & Run

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This is hands down the best Simpsons game I’ve played barring the arcade version (which I sucked at). It has everything: voice acting from the actual cast, tons of references to the show, and pretty entertaining Grand Theft Auto-esque gameplay as well. The graphics might not be the best and it can be difficult and frustrating at times, but I had lots of fun running and driving through Springfield. There are plenty of things to collect and tons of missions to complete, both story-based and optional. This is one game I would still recommend to Simpsons fans if only for the sheer effort put into it.

7. Luigi’s Mansion

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This was one of two games I first rented along with a Gamecube when it came out, but I never fully appreciated it until I bought it last year. While it’s a pretty short game compared to others, Luigi’s Mansion had new, different gameplay and nice graphics. Sucking up ghosts with Luigi’s vacuum was fun and a little intense, especially during boss fights. This is another game that also had tons of collectibles (mainly money), which didn’t just add up for 100% completion but also determined your score in the end. Ultimately, the Gamecube brought out a few interesting, non-formulaic games, and Luigi’s Mansion was one of the first.

6. Animal Crossing

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Given my past blogs about Animal Crossing, how could I NOT include it on this list? In contrast to the short length of Luigi’s Mansion, Animal Crossing was a game that could go on forever, or at least all year round. I have fond memories playing this game alongside my sisters and even now sometimes revisit the old stomping grounds to see our town’s villagers. As I’ve said before, the one downside is that it’s the epitome of a casual game, and it’s easy to get bored after you’ve accomplished your goals. Still, I enjoyed it for being as creative as games like The Sims, but not nearly as frustrating. It’s definitely a game I’ll cherish.

5. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess

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Say what you will about the state of the Zelda series, but I had a lot of fun with this one as the final “new release” I purchased for the Gamecube. I loved the dark, almost realistic look to the game and the wolf transformation is still one of my favorite aspects about it. I liked many of the new gadgets and dungeons, and the story was pretty well done and brought one of my favorite Zelda companions to life. While I was disappointed by the huge, almost lifeless environments and lack of sidequests, I enjoyed what Twilight Princess had to offer. As one of the last games released during the Gamecube’s run, it left a good impression on me.

4. The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker

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Yes, I know, two Zelda titles in a row. But if Twilight Princess left a good impression, Wind Waker left a lasting impression. This is the most recent game I’ve bought from the Gamecube’s library, but I came to appreciate it more than the first time I rented it. The graphics still hold up impressively well today, and the story is still intriguing for a typical Zelda plot. Unlike Twilight Princess’s large but ultimately barren landscape, Wind Waker uses its large ocean to fill in tons of explorable islands and battleships. While the gameplay drags a bit toward the third act, the game is packed full of things to do both involving the main story and optional sidequests. I would easily rank this as one of my favorite Zelda games, and it’s no wonder to me that it got a Wii U remake.

3. Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door

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I’ve never been a huge RPG fan, but when I first played Pokemon Yellow and then the first Paper Mario, I knew I’d found the RPGs for me. While the N64 Paper Mario will always hold a place in my heart, everything about it was fine-tuned and ramped up in the sequel. The graphics look better than ever, new gameplay mechanics and a brand new locale were introduced, and the story had plenty of dark moments not often seen in Mario games. Thousand-Year Door offered up more secrets and collectibles, and considering its predecessor had tons to begin with, that’s saying a lot. This will always be one of the best RPGs I’ve ever played and I’d gladly play it over and over again.

2. Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Chaos Bleeds

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I don’t care if I’m completely biased or that it’s not the best game out there. Chaos Bleeds, along with my number one pick, was the first of two games I picked up when I received a Gamecube for Christmas years ago. Why? Because I had rented it and loved it from the start. Being a huge Buffy fan is one thing, but a lot of effort was put into the game. The graphics look surprisingly good on the characters but even more so on the environments. The story feels like a lost episode (and was actually billed as such) and has sharp writing. The voice acting includes the main cast aside from Sarah Michelle Geller, whose voice double sounds spot-on for the most part. The game has lots of beat-em-up action and simple puzzle solving, though it has plenty of frustrating moments (especially during a couple boss fights). And finally, it even has unlockables for diehard Buffy fans, from interviews to voice acting sessions. I absolutely love this game, but I bet you’re wondering why it hasn’t taken the top spot in that case. Well, that’s because there’s still one more game I’ve played and enjoyed to death.

1. Super Mario Sunshine

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Is this the best Mario game? No. Does the unnecessary voice acting suck at times? Yes. Is this my favorite Mario game? On the Gamecube, definitely. This is easily my most played game out of all of them and for good reason. Much like Super Mario 64, you have plenty of levels to explore and eight in-level “missions” to complete.That’s not including the occasional secret or optional Shines and Blue Coins to collect as well. I love how bright and cheery this game is and the tropical setting looks gorgeous. Being a slight neat freak, I love using F.L.U.D.D. (your water pack) to clean up all the gunk around Delfino and its levels. I love that you got to ride on Yoshi for the first time in 3D. As frustrating as they could be, I enjoyed the F.L.U.D.D.-less levels that harkened back to old school Mario, where you had to rely on timing your jumps to get through levels. Because of the water mechanic, most of the boss fights were fun and kinda creative. This is another game I used to play with my sisters a lot and I have great memories of working with them to collect as many Shines as possible. Ultimately, I had great experiences with this game, and while it’s not perfect, Super Mario Sunshine is my favorite and most played Gamecube game.

 

There you have it, my top 10 favorite/most played Gamecube games. Since I know many people would differ on these choices, or perhaps have others they’d include, feel free to comment about them. Next week, I’ll blog about a new obsession of mine. See you then!

Creativity I Like on YouTube

I’ve been a YouTuber since late 2007, even creating a channel during that time to follow and comment on the work of others. I’ve also used my channel to upload at least one of my own works from my college days. Over the years, I’ve subscribed and unsubscribed to various Let’s Players, vloggers, commentators, Abridgers and many other types of channels. My current list is a meager 60+ subscriptions long, but I’d like to take the time to look at a few of the especially creative channels on it in no particular order.

Now, I’m fully aware that there are many creative outlets on YouTube, so keep in mind that these won’t be for everyone. These are just a few cool channels I’ve discovered within the last couple years.

Bat in the Sun Productions

This production team pits comic book/video game/movie heroes and villains against each other. For example, Darth Vader vs. Gandalf the Grey, Wolverine vs. the Predator, and even Lara Croft vs. Nathan Drake. A one-on-one battle set-up isn’t anything new, but what sets these guys apart is a mix of awesome productions values, attention to detail and audience participation. Viewers are encouraged to vote on their favorite before the battle’s created, and the highest vote determines the eventual winner. Sure, it’s basically a popularity contest, but they have at least once depicted both sides as the victor in a close call. If you’re at all interested in seeing nerdy figures duking it out, check out this channel. I’ve linked one of my favorites below.

Gritty Reboots

This is another well-produced series of videos, although the channel is still relatively new and as such doesn’t have a huge library. The basic premise is that these guys take nostalgic sources such as Calvin and Hobbes, Pokemon, and even some newer ones and turn them into gritty, dramatic, realistic movie trailers. While the production values aren’t quite as good as Bat in the Sun’s, they are still strong in their own right and they have a strong understanding of what they’re parodying. Many of the trailers even feel like they could be made into plausible films and really capture that epic movie trailer vibe. If you have an interest in trailers or are yearning for some nostalgia, give these guys a watch. Below is one of my favorite trailers of theirs.

Doctor Puppet/The Timey Wimey Puppet Show

I’m putting these two together as they share both the same ideas and use of Doctor Who. However, despite both using puppets, they go about them in different ways. Doctor Puppet uses claymation, much like Tim Burton, to create an original story about the 11th Doctor trying to save his past selves from the Master. It’s done up like a silent film in that none of the characters talk, but it features music and sound effects to enhance the puppets facial expressions. The only voice work is the occasional drop-in by a narrator. It’s a really cute, clever little series that I’d highly recommend to any Doctor Who fan. You should definitely start from its humble beginnings.

The Timey Wimey Puppet Show on the other hand DOES have voice work, but that’s because it’s done like a Punch and Judy puppet show from the UK. The puppets have some exaggerated features and are traditional hand puppets. In it, the 11th Doctor and the 1st Doctor coexist with each other and constantly are at odds. The 11th is always happy and excitable while the 1st is grumpy and often confused by things. They play off each other wonderfully and the inclusion of cameos from Daleks, Strax and even the 10th Doctor make for some great comedy bits. If you’re looking for a lighthearted Doctor Who show, I’d recommend this and also suggest watching it from the beginning as well.

So, there are a few of my favorite creative channels on YouTube. If you have other suggestions, feel free to leave them in the comments. I’ll gladly give any of these guys more exposure and I hope you’ll take interest in them.

 

Goodbye 2013, Hello 2014!

Well, it’s the first official day of the new year and I can’t help feeling that 2013 just flew by. It seemed like it was only yesterday that I rang in 2013 with my parents, and now once again have done so with 2014. I’m not expecting much from the year at the moment, except that I hope it’s filled with lots of good moments and potentially a job if I’m lucky.

2013 was a pretty good year for me overall. I feel that a good chunk of that could be based on entertainment value alone. In the span of the year, I saw two great, funny musicals and many (mostly) good movies. I got into a few new shows that I will try to keep up with, something I haven’t done in a while. I played, bought and received many video games and continued reigniting my interest in books. And, as I have for the last few years, I’ve balanced my online life with my offline life, spending time with family and enjoying my online time with my friends and fiance.

Speaking of which, for the first time in our relationship, the “mini-trip” we usually plan was centered around his visit with me than my visit with him. I don’t regret this whatsoever as it gave me a chance to show him a vacation spot from MY childhood (Prince Edward Island) and let him experience a few things from it. On the flip side, my trip with him was long but relaxing and had its fair share of fun moments. We watched multiple Doctors join forces for Doctor Who’s 50th anniversary and basically spent the whole trip geeking out over the show. We attended the Miami International Book Fair, and while the weather wasn’t the best, we had a great time scouring the tons of books and comics for sale. And, of course, we got engaged within the first week I was there. It will still remain one of the most unforgettable moments of my life and rightly so.

I do regret a couple things, however. One would be taking a job at Dixie Lee throughout the summer, because although it gave me a decent amount of money, it was not worth the stress and turmoil of dealing with my boss (nor the amount of taxi money). While we’ll no doubt remain civil in the public eye, she just wasn’t the person I thought she would be. I also regret not getting to spend time with my close friends, many of whom are either working or now have a family. Making the effort to reach out to them is something I still need to get in the habit of doing, but we’re all guilty of not having time to spend together or not following through on plans. Life just gets in the way sometimes.

But as it has been for many years, the good outweighs the bad and I can’t say 2013 wasn’t a good year. By the 20th this month, I’ll have blogged for a full year, and I’m really proud of myself for sticking with it. I’m going to do the best I can to keep it up all the way through to 2015 and beyond. So, to everyone who’s read my blog, whether consistently or not, thank you. I hope 2014 is a good year for all of you and you accomplish whatever goals you set, be they minor or major. Happy 2014, everyone! 🙂