We’ve Been Approved!

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Whew, what a busy time it’s been! During my fiance’s week-long visit, we saw the rollercoaster that was the Season 10 finale of “Doctor Who,” happily and finally bought a Nintendo Switch, he got me further hooked on Thomas Sanders, and to top everything off, I’ve been approved to get my fiance visa! After so much waiting and worrying, I’ll be going to Florida to get married in September. Even though I’m currently waiting to get the visa itself, we’re excited to have made it through this entire process with ease.

The big day for my interview was on June 28th, and we flew up to Montreal the night before to give ourselves time to prepare. I was of the mindset that even if they didn’t look at all of our paperwork, I wanted to bring nearly everything just in case. So, with a large envelope full of documents, we made our way down a couple blocks to the consulate in the early morning. Once we got past the initial security and I was given a number, we were surprised to see many people in the waiting room high on the building’s 19th floor. On one side were people waiting to get family visas and passports, and on the other was people like me opting for visas via marriage, work or school.

When my number was called, my fiance and I brought up our documents to a clerk window. The clerk had her back to us as she was talking to someone else, so we kinda surprised her when she finally turned around. It was all in fun, and she immediately went to business asking us for specific things like my passport, birth certificate, and other such papers. She also had to electronically take my fingerprints, though it took me a couple tries for each hand to nail it. Not because it was hard, but because my hands were a little sweaty thanks to nerves and the waiting room being a bit warm. She was thankfully very patient, though, and we had no other problems before we were told to take a seat again.

This was the longest part of the entire ordeal, because we were stuck waiting as others were called for their interviews. We got a few chuckles when a couple of guys went up with who I assumed were their fiancees/spouses and had to trudge back to the waiting room instead. I knew ahead of time that my fiance wouldn’t be allowed to join me for my interview, so it was amusing to watch. Finally, an hour over my scheduled interview time of 9:30, I was called up. Even though I was confident in myself, I couldn’t help still being a tad nervous. Luckily, the young man who interviewed me made me feel comforted the moment he saw me. He was super nice and only asked a few simple questions about my fiance and our relationship. After a little while, he handed me a piece of paper welcoming me to the US and said my visa was approved. I surprised myself by NOT crying right then and there and thanked him. He explained when I’d expect my visa (in about a week and a half) and after I asked him a couple questions to clarify some details, I went back out to my fiance. I couldn’t keep the smile off my face when I went up to him and said, “We’re approved!”

It was an exciting morning and it only calmed down once we got back to our hotel and called/texted our parents to tell them the good news. Even after we flew back and met up with my mom, we were still eager to talk about it. It’s mind-blowing that we’ve finally reached this point, so much so that neither of us were remotely sad when my fiance left for Florida this past Monday. Now we just can’t wait to be married and start having the life we’ve wanted all this time.

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Nintendo at E3 2017

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Another year, another E3, and that means another blog post from me. As with previous years, I went into the whole thing, not just Nintendo’s part, with few expectations. While I found some of the releases from Sony/Microsoft/Ubisoft intriguing if a bit unsurprising (though, hey, “Beyond Good & Evil 2” is actually coming), my heart was set on Nintendo like always. This year, I had the strong feeling going in that their main focus would be on the Switch, and I was quickly proven right by their Spotlight/Direct. I won’t be reviewing that in the traditional sense, as I’ve already made my stance on preferring the Treehouse segments to the initial presentation, but I was still a little surprised that it focused solely on the Switch and excluded 3DS games and indie titles.

Speaking of the Switch, while I don’t own one yet, my fiance and I fully intend to pick one up. I already want to play “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild” and a lot of what I saw at this year’s E3 was just as enticing. The biggest one was, of course, “Super Mario Odyssey” which looks like a blast to play and full of goodies to collect. I loved the emphasis on exploration and the lush environments, but it was the possession ability that sealed the deal for me. Besides that, I knew immediately that I’d want to play both the new Kirby and Yoshi games coming out next year. They’re so adorable, colorful, and I can see myself enjoying them whether playing alone or with others. But the biggest surprise for me in terms of something I wasn’t sure about before E3 was “Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle.” I’m one of those people who don’t mind the Rabbids, even though Rayman is far better, but what I was immediately drawn to was the core idea behind this game. Matching the usual Mario exploration with tactical-style battles sounded bizarre at first, but seeing it in action was awesome. It’s just such a cool, fresh concept to attach the Mario franchise to.

Now, if I had to make complaints, I do feel a quick blip of gameplay or CG trailer for “Metroid Prime 4” and the unnamed Switch Pokemon game would’ve been nice. I also would’ve liked to see some titles for both eshops, even though I’m currently low on funds. My biggest gripe, however, was the lack of 3DS games. I know the system is old now and it’s hard to say how much longer it’ll last, but I would’ve loved to see that extra bit of support for it. Aside from Nintendo showing some additional gameplay for “Ever Oasis”, which comes out next week, we only got four new 3DS titles. “Sushi Striker: Way of the Sushi” is a quirky puzzle/matching game due out next year. I liked how cartoon-y and fast-paced it was, though I can’t see myself playing it. Still, it was a brand new title and was at least different from the usual Nintendo fare. There was also the Mii-centric RPG “Miitopia”, which came out in Japan already and is coming here this summer. I tried the demo but felt it was better off as either a Mii Plaza game or something to be bought cheap.

The other two games were remakes, with “Metroid: Samus Returns” being one for the Gameboy “Metroid II” and a revamped version of “Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga” from the Gameboy Advance. I don’t have plans to get “Mario & Luigi” as my fiance and I own the whole series in its original form, but it had updated graphics like those in “Dream Team” and an additional game mode called Minion Quest. As for “Metroid: Samus Returns”, I was actually pretty impressed by it. I haven’t attempted to play a Metroid game since the original on NES and still have to try my copy of “Metroid Prime” (the first one). But what I like about this remake is how it cuts down on a lot of the backtracking these games are famous for. You can mark out locations that you’ll need to revisit once you have better abilities/equipment, and, even better, a teleport system to fast travel around maps. These elements combined with the pretty slick graphics and gameplay I saw actually has me considering picking up the game this September.

So, overall, this year’s E3 was alright. Despite a disappointing lack of 3DS support and no new eshop reveals, the games they DID show have me wanting a Switch more than when it launched. Like last year, I also enjoyed perusing the Treehouse’s demonstrations and hearing each developer excitedly delve into their games. And, as a nice treat for both Ubisoft and Nintendo fans, it was great to see Miyamoto having a blast on an E3 stage for once. So farewell for now, E3. It’ll be fun to see what you’ll offer up next year.

Shakespeare & Me

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This week I’ve been on possibly the strangest mini-kick I’ve ever experienced. Thanks to YouTube’s recommendations, I discovered and watched David Tennant and Catherine Tate’s rendition of “Much Ado About Nothing.” From then on, I’ve been getting into more adaptations of Shakespeare’s work. I honestly never thought I’d say that in my lifetime.

I’ve had a mixed relationship with Shakespeare. Like most people, I was first introduced to his work in school. I always detested having to read and study his plays, not just because it felt like a chore but also because I’ve always been a visual learner. Whenever we would watch a movie related to whichever play we were studying, I often found the work more interesting afterwards. However, I was also drawn to the tragic stories over the romances like “Romeo & Juliet” and “Twelfth Night.” It’s cliched by now due to their popularity, but I adored “Hamlet” and thought “Macbeth” was awesome in how messed up it was. Despite this, I was happy to leave Shakespeare behind once I left high school.

But lately, I’ve found that watching Shakespeare via plays and adaptations makes me appreciate the Bard far more than I did back then. Aside from Tennant and Tate’s “Much Ado,” I’ve also watched Joss Whedon’s version, Tennant’s version of Hamlet, the meta comedy “Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead”, “West Side Story” aka my preferred take on “Romeo & Juliet”, and Ian McKellen’s “Richard III.” I know this is a small taste of Shakespeare, but I’ve found that if a rendition of his work has a gimmick, actors/actresses I enjoy, or both, it makes it easier for me to get engaged with the story and language. In fact, the one adaptation that did stick with me from high school was Kenneth Branagh’s “Hamlet” for how epic and stylized it was.

Besides YouTube, I have to partially blame Kyle Kallgren (formerly known as Oancitizen) for making me want to continue seeking out more Shakespeare adaptations. It was thanks to the yearly Shakespeare Month portion of his web show, Brows Held High, that I initially watched Whedon’s “Much Ado” back in 2014. I’ve spent this week catching up on his other Shakespeare videos to see what other adaptations are out there. Again, it’s really bizarre to me that I’ve taken this much interest in something I couldn’t wait to get away from in school. I don’t consider myself obsessed at this point, but I can at least say I have a newfound respect for Shakespeare. I’m more than happy to make some fresh memories out of the fun I’ve had checking out his work now instead of remembering the tedium I felt back then.

The Journey Ends

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Well, since I’ve already watched the Seventh and Eighth Doctors’ TV runs in the past (both were fun if a bit cheesy at times), I’ve now come to the end of my journey through the classic era of “Doctor Who.” Having seen many episodes involving the Fourth Doctor, a few with the Fifth, and a very select few of the Sixth, I can already say that the Fourth’s was my favorite run of this bunch. That said, just like before, let’s take a look at what I thought of each Doctor and their tenures.

The Fourth Doctor (played by Tom Baker) was one of the quirkiest and sometimes downright scariest of the bunch. He was almost like a human mood ring. One minute he might be flippant, the next grinning kinda maniacally, and he could easily become serious or angry at the drop of a hat. One of his most appealing traits for me is his sweet tooth, aka his love for the gummy candy called Jelly Babies. However, because Baker’s tenure was the longest (clocking in at SEVEN seasons), there were times I felt a little burnt out on his Doctor. Don’t get me wrong, I can see why he’s so popular and Baker has a lot of charisma to spare. But I could also notice when he seemed a bit…tired in the role. It didn’t help that his first few seasons felt stronger to me than the remaining ones did. Despite that, it’s no wonder his run ended up coming out on top for me. As for his companions, I literally want to give a four-way tie to Sarah Jane, Leela, Romana (BOTH versions), and K9. All of them were extremely likable and I loved their varying personalities.

The Fifth Doctor (played by Peter Davison) easily comes across as the gentlest Doctor. He’s almost like a puppy in a way, because when he’s not being generally friendly, he can be excitable and passionate depending on the situation. Yes, he can also get angry and irritable, but that’s the impression I got from him overall. Sadly, his run came across pretty hit and miss, so I guess I’m in agreement with Davison himself on that. Still, he brought his all to the role and had a ton of energy even in some of the more lackluster stories. It’s weird to think that, at the time, he was the youngest person to play the Doctor, because he fits in pretty well with the others. Unfortunately, his companions felt bland compared to my favorites from Tom Baker’s tenure. I wasn’t big on Tegan, Turlough was interesting but short-lived, Nyssa could’ve been great if she wasn’t sidelined practically all the time, and nothing needs to be said about Adric. I’ll get into Peri in a minute, but I’ll just say that the Fifth Doctor deserved a better supporting cast and leave it at that.

The Sixth Doctor (played by Colin Baker) is often the least-liked Doctor and it’s not hard to see why. Not only was his run cut tragically short, but Six is overly violent and acts like a jerk to everyone, including his own companions. Obviously, he got way better thanks to Big Finish, and I appreciate them for bringing some warmth to the character. But as far as the TV show is concerned, he can be a big douche most of the time. Still, I did like when Colin would tone it down from time to time, and even though he could be incredibly pompous, there were still moments where he felt like the Doctor. He even had a couple rare moments of kindness that I’m sure would’ve become more frequent had his tenure continued. But, because of how mishandled his run was, it was up to Big Finish to fill in the gaps. It’s a shame not only for him but also his companions. He only got two during this time, and both of them annoyed me. Peri’s American accent constantly bothered me, and she put up with his insults more times than I would’ve liked. As for Mel, she barely gets time with Six to make much of an impact, and I found her time with Seven often unbearable. Overall, if there was a Doctor who deserved better in every aspect, it was the Sixth.

That’s the end of my time with Classic “Doctor Who.” I know I kept things very general, but the main takeaway I had was more appreciation and respect for the show. Even though I mostly prefer the pacing of the new series, it’s nice to see how much thought and effort was put into the scripts (well, sometimes). I feel like everyone who’s a fan of the current “Doctor Who” should try to watch at least one story per Doctor, if only to see how far the show has come. And while I haven’t watched everything and probably never will, I’m glad I took this journey through the show’s past.

The Journey So Far…

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As I said last week, I’m slowly working my way through a bunch of the most acclaimed episodes from the classic era of “Doctor Who.” Since I’m still somewhere in the middle of the Fourth Doctor’s (aka Tom Baker) tenure, I figured I’d share my general thoughts on the first three Doctors and their runs. Without any further ado, let’s get started.

The First Doctor (played by William Hartnell) took me some time to warm up to. Considering he’s the most grandpa-like of the Doctors, he starts off gruff and very rough around the edges. But as he learns to dial down his violent tendencies and occasional cowardice, he becomes much friendlier and more keen to save the day. Even though more of his stories technically exist compared to Troughton’s, I found them the hardest to get through. As I’ve mentioned before, the slower pacing isn’t something I’m used to and since many of the First Doctor’s stories could be both historical and educational, it took a while for me to click with them. He also had plenty of companions during his tenure, though I felt Ian and Barbara were easily the best followed by Vicki (the others were…alright). Even though “Doctor Who” had some growing pains, there’s no denying the influence Hartnell and co. had. I can’t help but appreciate what they accomplished even with limited resources.

The Second Doctor (played by Patrick Troughton) was a lot more carefree with the occasional bouts of seriousness. I can definitely see how Matt Smith’s Doctor was influenced by Troughton’s performance. While his recorder hijinks were impressive if sometimes annoying, he had this lightheartedness to him that easily set him apart from Hartnell’s Doctor. Of course, the writing helped too, even if it took a little time to mold this Doctor into the clown he is. The unfortunate part of his run is the lack of episode footage. A lot of the great stuff in his run was hampered for me by the necessary use of reconstructions. I would’ve loved to see his missing episodes in live action. As far as my favorite companion of his, I’d say that honor goes to mainly Jamie with Zoe not far behind. And even though I said I’d keep this general, I just have to name drop “The Mind Robber” as one of the best things I’ve seen from Classic “Doctor Who” period. It’s so imaginative and bizarre that words can’t do it justice.

Finally, the Third Doctor (played by Jon Pertwee) was sometimes uptight and arrogant, but also often warm and kind. He felt grandpa-like to me as well, at least with Jo Grant, and one thing that sets him far apart from the other Doctors is his fighting prowess. Seriously, this guy was like an action hero compared to his predecessors. He also mostly trades up the Tardis for a car he calls Bessie thanks to being exiled to Earth (long story). This is where UNIT and Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart come into play, and the stories are mainly Earth-centric as a result. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, I did find myself yearning for an actual Tardis adventure after a while of seeing nothing but Earth locales. I also discovered how much I friggin’ love Roger Delgado’s role as the Master, and he’s easily my favorite version now. It’s like watching Moriarty duke it out with Sherlock with his Master and Pertwee’s Doctor. As for companions, I’d easily say the Brigadier will forever be my favorite. However, excluding UNIT, that honor goes to Jo Grant. I enjoyed her fun-loving chemistry with Pertwee, and even though I do really like Sarah Jane Smith, I feel she’s better suited with the Fourth Doctor (more on that next week, perhaps?).

So, I’d say of the first three Doctors, my favorite tenure goes to Troughton. While I liked the groundwork laid by Hartnell’s and the Master shenanigans in Pertwee’s, Troughton’s just came across as the most entertaining to me even with the lack of actual episodes. Of course, I’ll stress here and now that I love EVERY incarnation of the Doctor (yes, even Six), so I personally don’t consider one better than another. Even though Matt Smith’s was my first and the one I’m most attached to, the Doctor as a character always interests and fascinates me. And despite them being no longer with us, Hartnell, Troughton, and Pertwee have my respect now more than ever before.

 

Journeying Back Into Classic Doctor Who

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You may be wondering why I called this “Journeying Back” into of just “Journeying.” Well, a few years ago, I attempted to get myself more into the classic era of “Doctor Who” by…kinda going backwards. I watched all of the Seventh Doctor’s era as well as the TV movie starring the Eighth Doctor. I even listened to most of the Eighth Doctor’s early Big Finish audio stories. But one thing I’ve had trouble sticking with are the stories involving the First to Sixth Doctors. I have seen a few stories here and there that were highly recommended, but I found myself drifting from them frequently mainly due to their slower pace and length.

However, this week I’ve aimed to dive back in and at least explore a few stories from each Doctor that I skipped out on. Part of me feels bad for not attempting to go in consecutive order, but it’s difficult to find some of them in any sort of completion and I’ve dropped at least a couple because I found them uninteresting. Despite that, I’ve been having fun reacquainting myself with these early iterations so far. I’ve already worked through a few First Doctor stories and am in the process of wrapping up my time with the Second Doctor. I’m still trying to get used to the slower pace of these serials, and it’d probably benefit me to break them up. But if a story interests me enough, I can’t help but see it through to the end ASAP.

I’m grateful that reconstructions of their missing episodes are out there, but I’m also looking forward to moving past the point of needing them. One reason I haven’t fully gotten into Big Finish is because I have to be pretty focused on the story to be invested in it. I’m a visual learner, so while the audio for the missing episodes is intact, the reconstructions at least give me an idea of what the episode was going for. Yes, I’m capable of using my imagination, which is why I appreciate Big Finish for fleshing out things like the Sixth and Eighth Doctors, as well as recently adding more adventures for River Song. But as far as the TV show is concerned, I prefer seeing it in live action. Being able to see the actors going through the motions connects me more to their characters, and I like seeing what they were able to come up with for sets, whether cheap or impressive, during that time.

I’ve made it my mission this time around to look at certain kinds of episodes so that I’ll stay focused during each season. The last time I attempted to watch the earlier seasons (barring those with the Seventh Doctor), I found myself focusing on either episodes with interesting plots or those involving the Doctor’s regeneration. And yes, I know this means I missed out on character arcs and such, but curiosity got the better of me. This time around, I’m focusing on a combination of things. My main focus is episodes with almost universal acclaim, a few with plots that interest me specifically, and the post-regeneration stories as well (yes, even the insufferable “The Twin Dilemma” is on my list). I love “Doctor Who” in its current iteration the most even with its sometimes glaring flaws, but the show has such a rich history that deserves to be explored. I already have such respect for the show lasting as long as it did and for all the people who kept it alive and entertaining. Despite my issues with the pacing, some stories that don’t click with me, and the occasional over-the-top acting, this trip into the show’s roots so far has been worth the effort.

My Thoughts on “Pokemon Sun” (Spoiler-Free)

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I’ve now had “Pokemon Sun” for over a week and only recently made it to the third of four islands that make up the game’s region of Alola. While others have beaten the main game at this point, I’ve chosen to play at a casual pace while also making sure to continue collecting Pokemon for my living Pokedex. Today, I want to talk about a few things I like and dislike about the game. Of course, I won’t be discussing specific plot beats, trainer battles, or generally things not shown in the trailers as I know there are people who won’t have either it or “Pokemon Moon” until at least Christmas or later.

One thing I enjoy is the tone and atmosphere presented here. The tropical, friendly setting is pleasing to the eyes and I’m glad Game Freak took inspiration from Hawaii for both it and some of the newer Pokemon as well. The story is also presented in this cinematic way that, oddly enough, has me invested in it. Maybe it’s the tone of it, or the characters involved, but I haven’t actually cared about a Pokemon game’s story like this since at least “Pokemon White.” There’s even a sense of progression in your journey thanks to the cinematic feel that I didn’t notice as much in the previous games.

I’ve enjoyed many of the little tweaks made to old standbys as well, such as breeding Pokemon being a bit less of a pain and gaining experience from battling being not quite as simple as I felt it was in “Pokemon X.” This game actually feels like a challenge from time to time, and I can only imagine how tough it might be if you preferred to keep the Exp. Share off completely. I like how the AI in battles actually seems strategic this time around, and it makes it all the more important to plan out your team and what moves they should have to help you progress. I also love how they streamlined the PC in this game, and the new Rotom Dex is quirky but cute. I even prefer this gen’s “Pokemon Refresh” to last gen’s “Pokemon Amie.” Not only does it let me continue to take care of my Pokemon, but it’s extremely useful post-battle. It’s helped me out more than once and I find myself going back to it way more than I ever did with “Amie.”

I have been a little iffy on the inclusion of this generation’s new “Z-Moves”, however. I do like using them myself occasionally, even if you are limited to one per battle. But I also think they’re a bit overpowered and give the player a crazy advantage. For example, I was able to destroy a Pokemon that had used the move Protect just by using a Z-Move. That’s pretty insane and has only made me decide to use them lightly as a challenge to myself. There’s another side to Z-Moves that I won’t mention here due to spoilers, but I think it can also be a bit unfair as well.

The one thing I can say I almost completely dislike is the Festival Plaza. This area is where you go to have battles with people, either locally or online, and also make local/GTS/Wonder trades as well. I’m not a fan of the lack of customization on messages this time around (mostly because I follow GTS giveaways sometimes), but they did fix some problems with finding the Pokemon you want. Of course, people will still try to trade weaker Pokemon for legendaries, but that can’t be helped. I haven’t bothered to try battling online yet, but there IS a handy option to keep people from requesting that of you (which happened to me often in X and Alpha Sapphire). As for the rest of the Plaza, I’m just not a fan of it. The interactivity feels a bit lackluster without the PSS screen and the game tends to lag a bit whenever lots of people are in your Plaza.

All in all, though, I think “Pokemon Sun” might just be my favorite game of the 3DS ones so far. While I have a soft spot for “Pokemon X” getting me back into these games in a big way, and I learned to appreciate Gen 3’s Hoenn far more in “Alpha Sapphire”, I feel that “Pokemon Sun” improves on most of the stuff I had problems with in either game. If there’s one feature I wish they’d brought back, and maybe hopefully will some day, it would be the Dex Nav. Despite its absence and my dislike for Festival Plaza, I can only see this game continuing a trend of improvements for future Pokemon titles. Now I just have to try to wait patiently for the new PokeBank to be unleashed in January.