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Games Created by Women: Uncharted

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UnchartedIn a world were so many of us grew up with the Indiana Jones movies it is no wonder that so many people want to search for hidden treasures. To travel the world to gain that next artifact armed with a certain skill set and a lot of wit. Surely nothing bad would ever happen, especially nothing with lasting consequences.  

The first three games in the Uncharted series were created by Amy Hennig. The first installment was released in time for the holiday season of 2007. Uncharted utilizes a third person style of gameplay. It is an action filled game that fans have been enjoying for years. Uncharted is a key title for PlayStation and has been developed by Naughty Dog.

uncharted 2 Uncharted is also just a fun game to play. The protagonist is a man named Nathan Drake. Nathan is joined by reporter, Elena Fisher and his mentor Victor Sullivan. Together the team is trying to find the possibly mythical treasure of El Dorado. They face many challenges along the way that help to make the gameplay interesting.

Uncharted is a lovely game from a visual perspective. A lot of work went into designing the game and it shows. In some ways the game has a feel that is more like a feature film then a game. The characters are well designed. The voice acting is well done as well. Overall the game is an immersive experience that has left the gaming community continuing to ask for more.

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Amy Henning and the rest of the team from Naughty Dog made sure that a great world was provided for players. They have been able to continue to build off of that world. Different characters have been able to take on larger roles and the games have been able to evolve. Really though so long as audiences want to search for lost treasures the Uncharted games will continue to deliver a world for gamers to play in. So happy treasure hunting and gaming!

You can follow Amy on her personal Twitter here.

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ALWAYS KEEP SPARKLING!

A Trip Through the SNES Classic: Final Fantasy VI

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Hey, everyone!

This year, I’d like to try something different with my monthly video game reviews.  I was fortunate enough to get a Super Nintendo Classic as a present, and most of the titles are games that I’ve never played before.  So each month, I’m going to play a different game on the list and give my thoughts on it.  If there’s any titles that you would especially like me to cover, please let me know in the comments below.

Without further ado, I’m going to cheat and review the one game on the SNES Classic that I’ve already played and beaten: Final Fantasy VI.

(Note: This game was originally released in the United States as Final Fantasy III and it is listed as such in the Super Nintendo Classic’s library.  It is actually the sixth installment of the Final Fantasy series.  However, Square opted not to internationally release FFII, FFIII, and FFV until much later, hence the mix-up in titles.  I’ve decided to go ahead and refer to the game as Final Fantasy VI throughout this review.)

So yeah. Wow. I can see why this game has such a devoted fanbase!

In Final Fantasy VI, an evil emperor wants to gain power by hunting down magical creatures called Espers and absorbing their powers. As the game starts, a human/Esper hybrid named Terra escapes from his control and finds herself among a resistance group called the Returners. She befriends a dozen interesting characters (because there’s actually twelve characters in the party, not including the two secret characters you can find) all with their own reasons for fighting Emperor Gestahl and bringing peace to the world.

It’s hard to pick a favorite character when there’s so many of them and they’re all interesting or entertaining in some way.   They are the strongest aspect of the game. You’re required to have each one in your party at least once at some point in the story (not including the secret characters), which I found impressive. The previous installment that I’d played, Final Fantasy VII, had a couple of moments like that when you had someone different leading the party. But VI does it constantly. You start out as Terra, and then she falls unconscious at the beginning of the story and the perspective switches to Locke, the treasure hunter who rescues her. Later on, the party splits up, and you are required to play through each group’s scenario: Terra and Edgar, Locke and Celes, and Sabin, Cyan, and Gau. And then even further along, you have to play as Celes alone. So it’s in your best interest to keep everybody leveled up.

I also like how this game includes side-quests and cutscenes that flesh out different characters, just because they can. In the second half of the game, you can travel to Cyan’s abandoned home and help him battle his inner demons. You get an Esper out of it and unlock the full power of his special attack, but otherwise, you don’t really earn anything except a deeper appreciation of his character. Or you can have the party attempt to reunite Gau with his long-lost father. You don’t get any special items or Espers out of it; the cutscene is just there if you want to see it.

Now, I probably shouldn’t do this, because I’ve heard that there’s a strong rivalry between fans of Final Fantasy VI and VII. But I’m going to say it anyway: I think Kefka’s a better-written villain than Sephiroth.  Fight me.

Kefka starts out as a wacky henchman to Emperor Gestahl and then evolves into a bigger threat. He’s out to destroy everyone and everything, and if they manage to pick up the pieces of their lives after he does so, he’ll destroy it all again. I like how he constantly appears throughout the first half of the game, causing trouble for everybody. Kefka has more of a presence than Sephiroth ever did. Although he does look and act similar to the Joker, that’s not a bad thing. It makes him stand out from other Final Fantasy villains that tend to lean towards serious and intimidating.

Final Fantasy VI uses the turn-based battle system, as most of the main installments do. Many of the characters have a unique ability: Locke can steal items, Edgar has tools that wreak havoc, Sabin uses blitzes, Relm can sketch monsters and mimic their abilities, etc. Some characters start out with the ability to cast magic, while others have to learn how to use it over time. They do so by acquiring the powers of Espers, which you can collect throughout the course of the game. When you assign an Esper to a character, the character begins to learn a set of spells.

I had fun with this customization because it allowed me to make weaker characters more useful in battle. For example, Cyan’s got a special sword attack that would come in handy if it didn’t take him eons to charge it. So towards the end of the game, I gave him the powerful Ultima spell to learn, and suddenly he became an MVP.

Nobuo Uematsu created another amazing soundtrack with this game. I love “Terra’s Theme.” Most of the musical themes that I’ve heard for a female character fall into two categories: light and sweet or sad and melancholy. Sometimes they’re in both categories. In comparison, Terra’s theme sounds full of determination. It creates the impression of a woman who’s encountered lots of hardships in her life and she just keeps on moving.

There’s also an opera in the game. Yes, that’s right: the party gets involved in an opera and it’s wonderful. Sure, why not?

I’ve had a blast playing Final Fantasy VI. It’s a wonderful RPG with an interesting story and characters. If you haven’t been able to get your hands on a Super Nintendo Classic, you can play it on iOS and Android devices now. Or if you still have a GameBoy Advance, PS1, or Super Nintendo, you can play it on any of those systems.

Rurouni Kenshin: An Anime Review

rk3All anime gives the viewer different reasons to watch. Rurouni Kenshin is no different. It is an anime that shows that everyone can make a fresh start, no matter what they are battling.

Rurouni Kenshin started off in Shonen Jump magazines in 1994. The stories were created by and illustrated by Nobuhiro Watsuki. These stories then transitioned into a television series starting in 1996. The series closely follows the manga, even the American version, for the first two seasons. The show ran for three seasons. It has also had different variations created, even live action theater productions.

During the Meiji era in Japan there is a wandering man with a sword named Kenshin. He stumbles upon a struggling martial arts school.Through a series of events Kenshin becomes entwined with the school and the master of it. Kenshin finds a place not only to live but also to come to terms with his past. He finds people to protect and, maybe even, a future. His past actions do have consequences but now he doesn’t have to face them alone.

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The music of Rurouni Kenshin is an important part of the storytelling process. The score perfectly sets the mood for different scenes. It also gives the viewer insight into the characters.

Speaking of the characters they all have great designs. Everyone looks a little different. The characters all dress within the parameters of the historical confines of the show while being unique. The designs also help the viewer remember the time period in which the story takes place. The settings and the art style are also lovely. All of these elements come together to bring the viewer an anime that not only a great story but that is also visually stimulating. Rurouni Kenshin is a fantastic anime because everything comes together in such a seamless way to bring the story to life.  

I have always enjoyed this show. It was one more anime that my friends and I rushed home to watch. I would highly recommend it. The show is great for people new to anime or someone who just hasn’t seen this particular title yet. It has a great message and a well developed story.

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ALWAYS KEEP SPARKLING!

Games Created by Women: Portal

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Hello readers and welcome to Aperture Science, where absolutely nothing is wrong. In this article, everything will be perfectly safe. Maybe there will even be cake for you at the end!

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Portal is a single player game. The player finds themselves in Aperture Science Laboratories. At Aperture, scientists have been working to create a special kind of gun that creates portals. Players must listen to the announcements for updates and information throughout the game. The story of what happened to the labs, and why you are now running around with a gun that creates portals will also be revealed throughout the game.

Portal was designed by Kim Swift. Kim is one of the creative directors at Airtight Games. She is also a speaker. Kim is looking to expand her repertoire with her website. It features doodles and her opinions. Her creativity is a gift to the gaming community.   

Portal was released on October 10, 2007. Players are able to take advantage of the innovative nature of gameplay that Portal provides. Puzzles are the keys to winning the game. This style of gameplay has been one of the things that players enjoy most about the Portal games. They are able to find creative ways to win while they try to make it through the labs.

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Portal is a multi-award winning game. This is not surprising with the success of the franchise. The game forces players to look for different solutions to reach the end of the game. It was a refreshing form of gameplay when it came out. The game is also highly entertaining.

If you are looking for a fun game that will challenge you then you should give Portal a try. It has interesting graphics. The style of the game also helps to immerse the player in the story.

Portal is a fun and challenging game that fans have been wild about since it first came out.

 

ALWAYS KEEP SPARKLING!

 

Dungeon Crawling: Barbarians

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Lords, Ladies, lads, and lassies it is time to rage. Barbarians have always been the meat-shields that protect the squishies. They’re big, tough, and fuel their battlefield expertise with Rage. Often played as dumb for the sake of humor, most of us have a stereotype in mind when we hear someone at our table has brought a Barbarian. Within the books of 5th edition D&D, however, things are not so cut and dry.

In the beginning, you’re a low level beast. The main feature of the class is Rage. This ability grants you advantage on strength checks, a bonus to melee damage, and toughens you up with a resistance to the basic three types of physical damage. Add to this the ability to stack your constitution modifier on top of your dexterity for unarmored armor class, and you’ve got someone who’s meant to take hits on the chin and keep going.

As you level up, your combat prowess increases. You can attack recklessly, gaining advantage against your opponents while leaving yourself open. As the meat-shield, this is perfect for protecting the rest of the party. You also develop a danger sense helping you face traps and spells that rely on you moving out of the way. Further on down the line, you get another attack, faster movement, better initiative rolls, better critical hits, and eventually physical stats that surpass the norm.

That’s all gravy, though. The real meat of the class is within your chosen subclass. The Berserker and Totem Warrior are the two basic choices from The Player’s Handbook.  Battleragers are the dwarf-only option presented in The Sword Coast Adventurer Guide. Xanathar’s Guide to Everything gives us three more choices: Ancestral Guardian, Storm Herald, and Zealot.

Berserkers get an extra bonus attack when they enter a frenzy. They’re also able to shrug off charms and fear affects. Their intimidation presence is enough to frighten most foes, and anyone foolish enough to go toe-to-toe with them can face a retaliatory attack in response.

Totem Warriors are more versatile than their straight forward kin. At various stages of their development, they can choose which animal spirit to follow and will gain an aspect related to that. Whether it be the strength and toughness of the bear, the eyes and flight of the eagle, or the pack tactics of the wolf, Totem Warriors can mix and match animals to get just the right combo for their Barbarian.

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From The Player’s Handbook

Battleragers adorn themselves with spiked armor literally throwing themselves into battle. Their spiked armor may be used as a bonus weapon,  extra damage when they grapple a foe, or even as a retaliation in melee. Eventually they can bolster their health with temporary hit points granting them a little extra staying power while raging. They might also use a bonus action to Dash into melee range.

Ancestral Guardians have to be my favorite flavor-wise. When you rage you’re surrounded by spirit warriors that hinder your foes and protect your allies. In metagame terms, they make you sticky. The spirits grant resistance to your allies, and if your foe doesn’t attack you they have disadvantage. The spirits can also shield your allies directly by reducing the damage taken, and even reflecting it back as force damage. Your spirits can also be consulted and used for Augury or Clairvoyance spells, should the need arise.

Storm Heralds surround themselves with elemental storms. If you choose the desert you can deal fire damage to multiple foes, gain resistance to fire, or retaliate when struck with fire. If you choose the sea you can deal lightning damage to a single target, gain resistance to lightning, breathe underwater, gain a swim speed, and knock the target prone. Lastly if you choose tundra you grant multiple allies temporary hit points, gain resistance to cold, freeze water, and reduce a foes movement to zero.

Zealots are chosen by the divine. Each turn they can do extra damage with a weapon attack. This damage is either radiant or necrotic and is chosen when the path is taken. If they are restored to life by a spell there is no material cost. They can also reroll a failed save once per rage. Eventually, if they are raging death does not stop them. They will keep on fighting, even after failing three death saves. Even then if they are healed above zero hit points before the rage ends they will live.

The menu of meat-shields is vast, the choices vary, and if you want to play a Barbarian…then rage on.

 

 

 

 

Top 10 Resolutions Nobody Keeps and How to Change That

 

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Every year around December, people start talking about New Years’ Resolutions. I find it kind of annoying. However, I understand that people want to better themselves and that they feel a new year is the best time to start something. I also know that most of the time it’s bullshit.

People get all nostalgic and feely around the holidays (for good reason) and that leads them to thinking they need to change their whole life to get back to some better time or better them. While I can understand trying to be a better you, I don’t believe you should try to be an old version of yourself again. You have progressed past that, whether the progressions are good or bad, and have to move forward to a new you. 

Before we get to the resolutions many make and don’t keep, let’s talk about why we don’t keep resolutions.

First off, many people make some huge resolution that they can honestly never dream of keeping. Saying “I’m going to eat healthier” but not being specific or realistic about it doesn’t work. Don’t suddenly start eating kale and drinking smoothies for every meal because that will get old fast and those cravings you are suppressing will eventually win.

Second, people know what they want to do, but don’t actually have a reason why they want to do it. Sure eating healthier sounds good, but without a strong basis as to why you want to your brain will eventually ask, “what’s the point?” and you won’t continue. 

Another reason is people are in a hurry to fulfill this resolution and don’t have the patience to do it correctly. Yes, eating healthier is good for you. But jumping face first doesn’t work for most people. Change small things gradually – maybe 1 thing a week. Otherwise it gets overwhelming and feels impossible and we quit. We also forget to look at our progress and see what we have accomplished.

Instead, we see what we didn’t accomplish and that de-motivates us.

The last reason I have is probably the most important step in attaining the end game: support. You need people to help support you. We crave motivation and positivity. We want someone to tell us we are doing a great job, that we can complete this, that we’ve come so far and can finish! 

With that in mind, it’s obvious what one of my 10 most common resolutions is that no one keeps, but here they all are:

  1. Eating healthier 
  2. Exercise more. 
  3. Save money. 
  4. Make new friends. 
  5. Live in the now. 
  6. Find a new job. 
  7. Spend more time on hobbies. 
  8. Clean out the junk in the house. 
  9. Have a better love life. 
  10. Help others more. 

All of these are great resolutions, if done correctly. But, recently, VanriTheRogue told me she preferred to call her New Year’s Resolutions “goals” and I think that is a much better mindset.

We know we have to work to obtain goals. With resolutions, we think it will just flip a switch and change. All of the above are attainable if you are specific about what you want to change, make slow progress towards completing it, have people to help you, and make sure that you track your progress to see how far you have come. 

With that in mind, a few of our Real Women of Gaming family have graced me with their goals for the year. And I’d like to say a few things about them: 

  • VanriTheRogue – Her biggest goal for this year is to finish her book. She also wants to be healthier to improve her health and read more books to improve her mind! She had success with her goal this past year – she wanted to have 1000 followers on Mixer. She attained this by trying to keep to a schedule, networking with other creators, and making sure to have fun with it. Great job!
     
  • SaltyHylian – He wants to reach at least 500 followers this year and stick to a schedule for streaming.

  • LadyJoCrawfX9 –  She wants to lose 30 pounds, double her savings, reach 300 followers, and stream more (on schedule!).

  • Azkadelya (me) – I want to continue to cook more at home and eat out less. It saves money, calories, and I really do love trying new recipes. I’ve failed on this the past few weeks with the holidays and I miss it. I also want to be more active. I don’t know yet what this means, but even if it’s going outside to play with the dogs more, parking farther from the door at the store, or whatever, I am gonna get off my butt a bit more! As far as streaming goals, I don’t have a number in mind because I know it all depends on my internet, but I would like to stream more and be consistent about it (which will get better once PAX South is over). 

If we all support each other, these are absolutely obtainable! 

I wish you all an amazing 2019 and good luck with whatever goals you see fit to choose to set. Remember to be specific, don’t overreach, get support, and track that progress. If you have ever completed a difficult goal before, then you know when you get about halfway it can get harder. Being able to look back and see all the progress you made can give you that extra burst to keep going!

Here’s a toast to a better year than we had in 2018, to our family, friends, and ourselves. We’ve made it this far and we can attain our goals this year! 

Review: The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

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The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel had me within the first scene. Not many shows can hook a viewer within seconds. However with The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel the humor and heart of the story comes forth in those first few seconds.

Mariam Maisel has it all. She has two children, a apartment with an elevator man, loving parents, a husband whom she adores and a sharp wit. She also has a tiny waist and can make an amazing brisket. Nothing could ever go wrong to someone so blessed. Something does go wrong though and it sets off a chain of events of things going wrong.

It is only when everything falls apart is Mariam able to find out something important about herself. That wit might be able to be molded into something more. She is able to mold herself into something different. By falling apart Mariam sees new ways to try to fit the pieces back together. In the process the audience gets to meet her very relatable, yet hilarious, family. The audience journeys with Mariam armed with humor and a can do attitude as her world grows.   

The sets for The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel are, well, marvelous. The elaborate apartments, the dark clubs and everything in between set the tone for each scene. The costumes tell the viewer so much. The outfits of each character let you know their social background. They also help the viewer become immersed in the story and the time period. Each character’s look and design is so unique. 

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The soundtrack of the show is also wonderful. The music frames very scene perfectly. The soundtrack is also comprised of fun and danceable music. While The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is a treat to watch. It is also wonderful to listen to.   

I really enjoy The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. It is a funny show that is also full of heart. The characters in the cast move the story along with more than just humor. Their highs and lows are a roller coaster ride that the viewer never wants to get off of. The storyline is full of twists and fun. It is empowering to watch these characters find themselves.

I would highly recommend The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel if only for the laughs alone.

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ALWAYS KEEP SPARKLING!