My Current Obsession: Pokemon Games

ImageFirst off, I have to apologize for my lack of blog last week. I’m still working on getting over a bad congested cold my mom graciously gave to me. I was going to do two blogs this week, but instead I’ve decided to do a brief, impromptu one.

Because I was sick, I wasn’t really in the mood to do much outside of play some video games and watch things online. In that process, over the last few weeks there’s been one consistent thing that’s cropped up: Pokemon. Having beat Pokemon X recently and accomplished my longtime goals of having all the starter Pokemon and all forms of cute little Eevee, I’ve moved on to check out other things. Things like ongoing Let’s Plays by a couple of Youtubers, Nuzlocke comics, and the current trend on the streaming website Twitch: Twitch Plays Pokemon. I’m not new to this fandom, though.

I didn’t start getting into Pokemon until late elementary school/junior high. It was around this time that I started reading books and getting into the anime. While I have looked back on it and found it kinda dull in retrospect, at the time it was an awesome concept to me. Catching and battling monsters seemed like fun, so when it came time for my birthday, I practically begged my mom to let me get a Gameboy Color and a copy of Pokemon Yellow. From there, my interest fell more into the gaming side of it than anything else.

In the span of time that I had that aqua blue Boy (now misplaced), I played Yellow, Crystal, Silver and Pokemon Pinball. All these games became an obsession to my kid mind, especially since I had a meager selection of games in my household back then. While today I’ve gotten better at games like White and X to make it to the credits, I wasn’t the best at Pokemon as a kid. I was the type who, while making decent teams, always inadvertently focused on leveling up my starters above the others. This mainly happened in Yellow and Crystal, to the point that I was pleased to at least get to the final member of both Elite Fours before losing. With the creation of emulation, I’ve since fixed those mistakes and played both games to completion.

I know plenty of adults besides myself who play Pokemon. Even if the games are easy enough for kids (once they get the hang of it), Pokemon is very much for adults as well. While I fell out of the anime and movies, buying the books, and even the games for a bit, my interest in the series has been rekindled. White brought me back into it with an interesting story and fun gameplay, but X truly recaptured what I love about Pokemon with a huge dose of nostalgia and simplicity. Will I buy every game from here on out? Probably not, but it’s always been one of the few RPGS I’ve enjoyed due to its simplicity and collect-them-all nature. And while I can’t say I’d feel the same way if I hadn’t grown up with it, I can definitely say I’m glad I did.

 

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Being a Whedonite

Joss Whedon is one of my favorite writers of all time. Love him, hate him, or feel meh toward him, he adds a certain wit to most of his works. Before I detail my interest in the man’s work, let me clarify the above title. A “Whedonite” is essentially a fan of Joss Whedon’s projects. It could be one or many, but it’s been accepted that Whedonite is the pet name for Whedon fans. 

My first foray into his work began with “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” I fell in love with the show for its lead female character, being one of the first I’d seen kick some butt, its supernatural elements, and its humor and drama. “Buffy” is still my all-time favorite show, and it really got me started on the Whedon bandwagon.

From there, I checked out its spin-off show, “Angel.” This focused on a good vampire from “Buffy” moving to Los Angeles and starting up an agency dedicated to stopping evil forces. While it was cool and much darker, I never really got into it due to its late time slot on the channel I had. I will eventually get around to making amends for that, but there’s another show I still have to finish first.

That show is the short-lived sci-fi series, “Firefly.” The show was my introduction to Nathan Fillion and his glorious sardonic wit. Sadly, it was cancelled by Fox after 14 episodes, but continued on to a feature film to give closure to fans. I never saw it originally and have only since seen a few episodes, but it helped rekindle my interest in sci-fi in general. I owe a little to it for paving the way for me to get into shows like Doctor Who and Orphan Black.

From there, I caught the pilot episode (way after the fact) of Dollhouse, which has an interesting premise of humans acting as kind of as avatars. They can have their memories written and rewritten to blend into situations and keep the peace. I may revisit it eventually, but it didn’t quite capture me as the others did. 

In the same vein, while he’s done little writing on it, I am following Marvel: Agents of SHIELD, which picks up after the Avengers movie with a now-alive Agent Coulson and a team of SHIELD agents. It’s picked up a bit of steam since the pilot, and I’m hoping it continues improving to keep my interest.

On that note, I absolutely loved Whedon’s work on the Avengers film (having made the effort to see all the Marvel movies preceding it) and, in the same year, “Cabin in the Woods,” which satires the horror genre as a whole. Both movies carry that Whedon humor and have moments of gravitas as well, though “Cabin’s” ending still irritates me even now (no spoilers of course). I’m super excited to check out Avengers 2 when it comes out.

And finally, in the face of the 2007 Writer’s Strike, which essentially crippled the industry for a while, he took it upon himself to gather some friends and create “Doctor Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog.” This 45-minute musical brought Neil Patrick Harris into the Whedon “family” and was chock-full of humor, songs and drama. The fact that he made it on a little to no budget is a feat in itself and it’s still one of his greatest accomplishments in my opinion. I’m still hopeful to see a sequel, but even if that ship has sailed, it still stands great on its own.

With all these examples, I feel like the thing that keeps me coming back is his style of humor. Something about the sarcastic, biting wit he injects just entertains me every time. But when things do get serious, he pulls it off as well. Characters FEEL human, even when they’re not really human. I admit that I’m extremely biased and basically gushing at this point, but the man has a good idea of how to bring characters to life and put them in interesting situations.

When all is said and done, I take pride in being a Whedonite. I can only hope things continue to go up for him from here, and we get more great shows or movies by his hand. 

The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds Review

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I think this is the shortest amount of time I’ve spent between buying a game and playing it to completion. I picked up LoZ: ALBW the day after it came out via preorder and got around to playing it over this past week. Needless to say, I was satisfied and impressed with the experience. As with past reviews, I’m going to look at 4 key parts of the game: story, graphics, sound and gameplay. Let’s get this review started.

Story:

The story of ALBW isn’t much different than others. In fact, it’s eerily similar to A Link to the Past. You, as Link, get caught up in an evil scheme by the villain, a Ganondorf-like man named Yuga (who I swear looked like a woman to me at first). Yuga seals the seven sages of Hyrule and Princess Zelda in paintings in order to use their power to obtain the Triforce and rule the land. In the process, you also get turned into a painting but are freed thanks to a gift from your item-selling “friend” Ravio. Like ALttP, you travel between Hyrule and the dark world known as Lorule (get it?) in order to free all the sages and Zelda. The story is simplistic and serviceable for a Zelda game, but it did throw a couple twists in the end that I liked. I kinda feel I should have seen them coming, but they were appreciated all the same.

Graphics:

The game has a top-down perspective which works well, and both Hyrule and Lorule have great colors, with Hyrule being bright and cheery and Lorule being a bit muted and dreary. I liked the 3D models, even if Link and Zelda in particular looked more cutesy than ever. Everything ran smoothly and little details, like the wave beams from your sword or the merging effects, looked great and added some punch. Honestly, it’s a nice-looking game despite some cutesy character models, which didn’t take away from the experience for me.

Sound:

This Zelda has a great selection of music and the orchestral sound comes out nicely on the 3DS. The majority of it is remakes of ALttP’s music, which sound even better than ever. The sound effects are also reminiscent of ALttP and there are snippets of sound for many of the characters too. And while I didn’t tear up at the ending like I did with Skyward Sword, hearing this game’s great rendition of the main Zelda theme made me smile. But let’s finally get to the main meat of the game: the gameplay.

Gameplay:

Since this game is billed as a sequel of sorts to ALttP, it plays much the same way in that the locations are the same, though the dungeons have been revamped a bit. The biggest updates are the merging ability and exploration. The merging ability is just plain cool, allowing you to access secret rooms, get around puzzles and even help you out during boss fights for a quick breather. I really liked how Egyptian-like characters looked in painting form, and while I doubt they’ll use it in the future, it was a fun game mechanic.

The other feature is emphasis on exploration. From the start, you can rent every item except the Sand Rod from Ravio for a fee, and eventually buy them. While people could get away just renting them throughout the game, you do lose all rented items if you die. So if you don’t feel confident, buying them at least gives you a permanent option. With all these items in hand, you’re quickly free to explore all of Hyrule and soon Lorule and tackle the dungeons in any order you choose. This was a lot of fun, allowing me to save the dreaded ice dungeon (one of my least favorites) for last while I went after the others. You can also hunt down 100 creatures called Maiamais, little squid-like babies that can be found under rocks, in trees and other hard to reach places. Giving 10 at a time to their mother gives you an item upgrade, meaning you could upgrade all your items fairly early on, which I did.

Just as the dungeons are revamped to allow for utilizing the merging ability, so are the boss fights with some familiar faces like a Helmasaur King creature and Moldorm. These fights were a lot of fun, but I didn’t die once during them, although I did have all my items upgraded to their max strength. The final battle against Yuga was also surprisingly easy, though I felt as though the whole game was prior to it. Veterans to ALttP may feel the same way, but I for one welcomed the leisurely pace and easygoing difficulty. The only downside to this is that it makes the game ultimately feel short, and as such I beat it in much less time than previous Zelda titles. I even found out by the very end that I’d only died twice in the entire game, and that was early on when I had a few hearts. Still, it made it easier to enjoy than ALttP simply because I could play it my way, having natural progression by getting better weapons and clothing.

Overall, I would recommend A Link Between Worlds to anyone who either enjoys Zelda or wants to get into it. This is one of the best traditional Zelda games we’ve had in a while, and while it may be a bit too easy at times, it recaptures the familiar parts of ALttP and throws in some enjoyable new mechanics to toy with. Whether you pick this up at full price or on discount, this is a great game for anyone’s 3DS library. I give The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds a solid 10/10.