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Game Review: Randal’s Monday

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Game Review: Randal’s Monday

Randals-Monday-Review

Daedalic has a winner here with Randal’s Monday, a point-and-click adventure game currently available on Steam. The humor is crass, vulgar, and full of nostalgia.  Randal is a kleptomaniac douche who swipes his buddy’s wallet and the engagement ring within.

The bad news, for Randal, is the ring is cursed. What follows is a time-loop scenario with a slight twist: whatever Randal changes stays changed and alters the space-time continuum wreaking havoc on reality.

The dialogue is all spoken, sometimes though with a speed that left me frantically clicking to advance it. The artwork is decent with many hidden Easter-eggs to well known fandoms. There’s even a sci-fi convention, and a guest star (voiced by the actual actor, if my ears are correct) who has slightly more than a cameo in the tribulations of Randal.

8/10 paws

 

Much Ado About Medocrity: The Drama Around Mass Effect

Much Ado About Medocrity: The Drama Around Mass Effect

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The Mass Effect series has been a highly regarded RPG franchise since 2007.  Even with the widely criticized ending of Mass Effect 3, the series is considered by most to be the pinnacle of story-telling RPGs.  In my opinion, it has been the game that’s kept Bioware on the map all these years when compared to other releases from the company.  It has spawned comics, film prospects, novels and more, and has over 14 million units sold before the release of the latest installment.

Now, ten years after the release of Mass Effect, Mass Effect: Andromeda is out and the reception is less than stellar.  On Metacritic, where reviewers and gamers rarely agree, the game has a critical score of about 77 out of 100 (as of this writing) and right about 4 out of 10 with gamers.  It’s being criticized for everything from bad animation, rehashing of dated mechanics, and poorly developed story.  A couple of reviewers whose opinion I trust give their initial reactions as a mediocre installment at best.

While much of the criticism is without a doubt justified, some few have gone beyond that.  You can’t really go on Twitter without seeing memes, gifs, and screencaps of the bad animations in the game.  That’s all normal for something like this.  What isn’t normal are the people going after one animator that doesn’t even seem to work for Bioware any longer.  Whether she was involved is a matter of debate, but targeting one person on a team for actual harassment isn’t acceptable at all.  Linking them here would be pointless, but if you look, you’ll find a couple of amateur trash bloggers out there with some pretty terrible pieces on the subject.

Then came the defenders to stir the pot and make it worse.  Articles coming out blaming whole swaths of gamers for the harassment, which is completely untrue.  Commentators and games media saying you should support the developer by buying the game and so on.  People defending the game out of pure righteous indignation because of the negative feedback.

All the drama boils down to this.  A lot of people dislike a mediocre game.  A few people have decided to be jerks about it.  A few other people have decided to defend it with large sums of money.  All of it over a game that doesn’t appear to be up to the standards of the franchise.  All this drama, over nothing really.  The worst part is, I can see this eventually becoming the next big marketing ploy.  Crank out a lackluster game, get some bad coverage, stage some harassment or drama, signal the defenders, cash the checks.  We all know publishers aren’t above some seriously low garbage to sell games and get good reviews.  This is well within the realm of possibility.

So, if we want better games, stop buying bad ones for stupid reasons.  Don’t harass developers because they didn’t do a good job on a game.  Stop letting the media blow things out of proportion or convince you to throw your money after bad ideas.  And for Gods’ sake, play some decent games.  I hear Neir Automata is good.

An Anime Review: Sailor Moon

An Anime Review: Sailor Moon

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There is a fantastic concept in anime which is known as a “magic girl.” In this trope, a normal girl who, with the help of a magical item, transforms to fight villains in a super cute new disguise. She usually gets magical weapons to help her on her mission. It is a glorious trope. There were earlier versions of magical girls before, but on March 7, 1992 in Japan, the game was seriously stepped up.

That was the original premiere of Sailor Moon. You did do that math correctly. Sailor Moon is 25 years old this year! The show was based on a manga created by Naoko Takeuchi about a girl in middle school who was the reincarnation of the Sailor Scout of the Moon, who needed to search for the Moon Princess and fight the evil Nagaverse… oh, and finish her homework on time. The show would later air in America. It helped to introduce some American fans to anime, including myself.

Yes, Sailor Moon was my first anime. I was in middle school when the show first aired in America and somehow I happened upon it. I loved it from the start. I didn’t have a lot of friends at that stage of my life. I was chubby. Not great at school… and, well, you get the idea. I needed a hero like Usagi.

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Usagi is just a normal girl at the start of the show. She likes sweets, hates school and abhors studying. She loves her friends and family. She has a heart of gold, even if she is a crybaby. Oh, and she is a huge gamer, which should win her all the bonus points. Her favorite being the Sailor V game at the arcade. One day, she sees some children tormenting a cat. She puts a stop to it and thus starts her adventure.

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The cat is Luna, who can talk. Luna explains all about the fall of the Moon Kingdom and will guide Usagi on her mission. Usagi is given a compact, which powers her transformation to become Sailor Moon, the pretty guardian of the moon, love and justice. Through the series, Sailor Moon fights different villains who work for the Nagaverse; the crystal named baddies who are trying to steal the energy of humans to fuel their evil empire. Throughout the first season, she also meets the other sailor scouts, who become her best friends. Together, the girls help each other. The Sailor Scouts fight evil with, you guessed it, the power of friendship and love.

I know it can sound silly, but Sailor Moon is pretty amazing. It has a little bit of everything. There’s romance, character growth, some campy humor, plot twists, and fight scenes. Also it is just really pretty to watch.

The original English dub, Sailor Moon R, made a lot of changes, including cutting episodes, changing character names, taking out Japanese writing and adding these shorts at the end of the episodes with lessons on how to be a better person in order to make it more marketable. I don’t entirely understand why any of those changes were made. The new series has, thankfully, not made the same choices. 

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I spent a lot of time watching Sailor Moon. My friends and I bonded over it. I have great memories of waking up every day one summer at 7 AM to call my friend Maggie and watch reruns of episodes together. I have memories of sleep overs, where, with too much sugar, we would put in the English dubbed soundtrack and play with my other friend Amanda’s toys. Maggie used to draw the most beautiful Sailor Moon inspired art for us. Julie hated Tuxedo Mask with the burning passion of a thousand suns, so we used to play his theme for her all the time, because that is what good friends do. Julie also wore her hair in little buns all the time. We were so happy being in this fandom together and it really helped to strengthen us in different ways. Sailor Moon has always been a bright spot in my life.

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Recently, Sailor Moon was released with new art and a tweaked plot to be a bit more like the manga. I eagerly awaited the release of Sailor Moon Crystal. The animation is gorgeous. The new music is lovely. My only real complaint is that I wish the first season would have been longer so that we would have gotten more. That being said, the series is just great. Please watch it if you haven’t already for the animation alone.

In conclusion, I love Sailor Moon. I love it because it is girly and bright. I love how dramatic it is. I get exasperated sometimes and have to remind myself that the protagonist is a fourteen year old. I really appreciate that it teaches girls to love themselves and each other. I also enjoy that Tuxedo Max needs to be saved, too. It is just very important to myself, and other fans, that it shows him having doubts about his own abilities to protect Sailor Moon. In fact, I think that is just as important to the show as the female empowerment that he is given these moments of growth. 

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Right now, we all need heroes. I firmly believe that we especially need a hero like Sailor Moon, who is so human. I think we all very much need a klutzy crybaby to rise up and show us that we are all heroes. 

Thia’s rating: Must watch… and possibly fight evil by moonlight.

Always keep sparkling!

 

Games to Get Excited About: May 2017

Games to Get Excited About: May 2017

I love FPS games, multiplayer and solo.  It’s a hard tossup between them and RPGs for my favorite type of game.  This means I have to be picky in the games I choose because I have neither the time, nor the money, to get all the games I would like.  For solo shooters especially, this means I’m looking for something that’s part of an established franchise I already know, or something new and unique.  I’m looking for something with a twist on classic mechanics, like the shooter that isn’t a shooter, Portal.  It also helps to have a unique story that gives the game more to offer than simply “kill the waves of bad guys as you navigate down the hall.”

Shooters that are primarily multi-player get a bit of a pass from me, because I know I’m not buying say, Battlefield 4, because I am looking for a good single player experience.  For single player shooters (or mostly single player) I’m looking for something like Half Life 2, DOOM, or to a lesser extent The Division and Ghost Recon: Wildlands.  I want a good world to play around in with a good story, a reason for your protagonist to be fighting the good fight.

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May’s feature game seems to be one of these.  After a rocky start, cancellation, name and engine changes, and settling on a reboot, Prey is finally coming out early in May.  Originally, we were to get Prey 2 from 3D Realms, then Human Head Studios.  Finally, Bethesda announced that the Prey reboot would be made by Arkane Studios, and while it would borrow the setting and lore from the previous game, it is going to be a complete reboot without any previous elements of the cancelled sequel.  It is being developed by part of the team responsible for Dishonored, and has been built from the ground up around the original game’s concept.  It is being described as more of a psychological thriller than a horror game.

In Prey you take the role of Morgan Yu, a character you can customize from appearance to gender at the beginning of the story.  You’ll navigate the halls, and the outside hull, of Talos 1, orbiting the moon.  In Prey’s alternate timeline, Kennedy survived and the space program went much further than reality.  During events of the original game, an alien army called the Typhon was imprisoned on Talos 1, and now you have to go back and fight the aliens trapped there.  The developers promise different endings based on your choices in the game, and a non-linear experience.  I like the concept, and the promise of a story with multiple paths.  If Arkane can deliver, they may just give us one of the better FPS games this year.  It will be available for all systems early in the month.

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Why I’m Excited

I am loving the alternate timeline part of the story.  I’ve always liked books and movies that show our world but with a ‘what if’ twist.  Of course that’s most of sci-fi or fantasy, but a lot of them deal with the ‘what if’ of things happening in the future.  What if the world were taken over by aliens, or people had to abandon the planet because it blows up?  Prey goes back and asks what if Kennedy had lived and the space program became one of our top priorities.  The repercussions of expanding into space, of course, is a war with the Typhon, and the building of a joint space station to hold them.

Watching a couple videos, the graphics are great.  What little bit I saw looks suspenseful, but not on the level that Doom 3‘s Mars base was.  It’s more like the sterile creepiness that made Portal fun to explore.  I like how big it looks, at least from the videos I saw, and how clean the textures look.  We’re not dealing with a run-down mining station in space, or an old military outpost (anymore).  The Talos 1 station is meant to be a corporate outpost, and it looks it.  Of course that may change as you progress through the game, but I like the looks of it.

I’m also excited because it promises to fit all the criteria I have for a good FPS.  That doesn’t mean it will deliver, but a multi-path story, mix between FPS and RPG, and a game that’s good to look at.  If Little Nightmares (last month’s feature) doesn’t take too much of my time, I may get this when it comes out.

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Notable Releases for May

Injustice 2 – The sequel to Injustice: God’s Among Us releases on May 16.  Like the first game, this will be a DC Comic themed fighting game featuring all your favorite DC heroes and villains, with a lot of new additions.  Along with Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman you’ll get to play as Black Canary, Deadshot, Poison Ivy, Supergirl, Swamp Thing and more.  The game will be available on PS4 and XBone.

Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia – Coming to 3DS on May 19th, this is a full remake of Fire Emblem Gaiden.  This is a Japanese tactical RPG and is said to incorporate all of the elements that set Gaiden apart from the rest of the series.

Disgaea 5 – Another tactical RPG coming in May, but this time for the Nintendo Switch on May 23rd.  Players will travel the Netherworld to build an army to fight the Void Dark.

Ys OriginYs Origin is coming to Vita on May 30 and is the prequel to the 7 previous games, taking place 700 years in the past.  The game features three characters with different fighting style with a distinctive story for each that you play in succession to open up the entire plot.  It was previously released on PS4 back in February.

Star Trek: Bridge Crew – This is a VR title coming on the 30th as well which will put four players in control of the U.S.S. Aegis, a starfleet ship in the Kelvin Timeline.  Players will take the role of captain, tactical officer, helm and engineer and work together to operate the ship.

 

All Bound Up: Art, Pornography, and “Ladykiller in a Bind”

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All Bound Up: Art, Pornography, and “Ladykiller in a Bind”

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Hello, gamers!  In (belated) honor of Valentine’s day I’ve decided to get sexy and talk about porn: specifically the erotic and controversial visual novel Ladykiller In A Bind.  But, before we get started, let’s talk about art, pornogrophy, and what defnines each of them.

It seems that everyone has an opinion as to what does or does not constitute ‘art.’  At the first PAX convention I attended, an audience member asked Penny Arcade’s Jerry Holkins if he considered video games to be art.  Holkins thought (and I agree) that this was a silly question: how could something that hundreds of artists work on for months possibly be anything but art? This school of thought has been spreading, especially since Anita Sarkeesian has so famously subjected video games to the same thorough analysis that academics have used to look at literature and film for generations.

So, assuming we can agree that video games are art, we still haven’t answered the question of what ‘art’ actually is.  It’s a question I’ve thought about a great deal, especially while I was working on my BA in a creative field.  Novelist and educator John Green describes art as ‘something someone put into the world to make my life more interesting(1).’  My personal definition is similar, though not exactly the same.  I believe that, on the most basic level, art is a form of communication: something created by an individual to inspire a reaction in an audience.

This is why I’ve always thought the dichotomy between ‘art’ and ‘pornography’ to be false.  Many years ago, I found myself interviewed for a ‘man on the street’ segment of some sort, where I was shown a series of pictures and asked I considered them to be art or pornography, and why.  I probably skewed their results, since I classified every single image as ‘art’ (though I recall describing a few of them as ‘art with pornographic subject matter’).  Putting aside ‘I’ll know it when I see it,’ pornography is generally described as media designed to titillate or sexually arouse.  Which, going by my definition of art, doesn’t separate pornography from art at all.  It places it as a category: a form of communication meant to instill a particular response in the audience.

So is a pornographic video game art?  I would unequivocally say ‘yes.’  Mind you, that doesn’t mean it has to be good art.  We can probably all agree that film is an artform, but that doesn’t mean all movies have equal artistic merit.  Some films are thought provoking while others offer little more than base escapism and toilet humor.2906863-ladykiller+in+a+bind+2016-12-17+2_38_02+pm

Ladykiller occupies a nuanced position on this continuum.  It stars a young woman (the Beast) who has been forced to masquerade as her twin brother while his high-school graduating class take a cruise ship across the Atlantic.  If she acts too suspiciously she’ll be thrown into cargo hold, ending the game.  The mechanics revolve around accruing ‘votes’ (for an in-game contest that may or may not be BS), while avoiding ‘suspicion.’  Conversation options appear and disappear as they occur to the player-character.  There are two main romance storylines to chose from or combine, as well as a number of side-stories involving minor characters.  The player gets to chose the names of each character as they appear, either from one of two default options or by entering a custom name.  For the remainder of this article I’ll refer to the characters by the default names we chose in our longest playthrough.

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Power Rangers: A Movie Review

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Power Rangers: A Movie Review

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As a “90’s Kid” Mighty Morphin Power Rangers holds a very special place in my heart. I watched it every day it was on. We played Power Rangers at recess and after school. The franchise also launched many video games, some were better received then others. Currently, there is also a new mobile game available, so check your app store!  There was definitely an obsession that was fueled with high kicks and fights over who could be which Ranger. I always wanted to be yellow. In short, I loved Power Rangers. I wanted to be a Ranger. I wanted to save the world with awesome friends. I wanted to learn martial arts, which my family could never afford, and kick Rita’s goons in the face.

Because of this, I was a little concerned when I saw that a reboot movie was being made. My apprehension started to ebb away as I saw more about the Power Rangers movie. The humor in the trailers really helped. I agreed to see it with my friends on opening weekend. I walked in without high expectations. I don’t think any of us really expected more then to see flashy suits and to have a burst of nostalgia.

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I am so glad I did go. I laughed. I laughed a lot, which a person should do when watching Power Rangers. I cried a little. My friends and I kept looking at each other with these huge, goofy grins on our faces. The crowd around me, who were mostly grown up, hardened Rangers fans like myself kept laughing. We could all feel it. That collective moment of, “YES! They did it right.” They had made the movie and we were all LOVING it. This was beyond anything I thought it would be. I was happily surprised at how much I liked it.

Power Rangers is a story about a group of misfits coming into their own. In the small town of Angel Grove, not everything is idyllic as it seems. As an evil rises to take over the world, so must a group of heroes rise to stop her. First, they have to get out of detention, though. Yes, in this remake the kids really do have the attitude and some very real challenges in their lives. After finding colorful crystals, they have to figure out how to use their new powers and become a team in order to save everything they love.

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Without spoiling anything, I can tell you that I really liked the plot. The story was really well done. I enjoyed the costumes and the suits when seeing them with the overall story, which was something I had been a little concerned about prior to seeing the movie. The fight scenes were also really well done. I appreciated how the cast was diverse, and not even just in terms of race. I think a lot of us could see ourselves in at least one of the characters. They were all well developed and given a bit of arc, which can be difficult with a larger ensemble cast.

The music was great. The soundtrack really added to the movie. Rita, who I was probably least impressed with during trailers, ended up being one of my favorites. I was always kind of happy and also… cringing, in a good way… when I saw her come on screen. The effects were good without detracting from the action. The pace of the movie was also good.

Overall, I think it’s a great movie. I felt hyped up when I left, almost like a little kid again. My friends and I talked nonstop in the car. Even my two friends who have watched every episode of Power Rangers were really happy with the adaption. Yes, it had campy moments but, as a Power Rangers movie, it should. No, it wasn’t the series, but it was a very well done modern adaptation of it.

I would rate it: Must see.

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Always keep sparkling!

Volumes with Vanri: Faith, Vol 1

Written by: Jody Houser51bsrdz8b5l-_sy344_bo1204203200_
Art by: Francis Portella, Marguerite Sauvage
Published by: Valiant

While I’ve never read a comic before in my life, I’ve seen a lot of superhero movies. I know, I know, they’re not the same. I just want to get my point across. I grew up with the film, television and cartoon adaptations of Marvel and DC superheroes. From X-men to Batman to The Avengers, I’m acquainted with a few heroes. That being said, after reading Faith: Hollywood & Vine, my new favorite superhero is Zephyr, the lovable and relatable Faith Herbert.

Faith, who goes by the alias Summer Smith, is a nerdy, awkward and overweight woman who not only saves the world but also dates buff, attractive guys (it’s not impossible, ladies!). As a nerdy, awkward and overweight woman, I identify with her more than any other hero I can think of. She’s just like me, but is comfortable with and proud of who she is, which is something a lot of women and girls struggle with. She’s goals, basically.

Faith: Hollywood & Vine contains the first four issues of Faith Herbert’s stand-alone mini-series. From my research, I found that Faith’s character first appears in Harbinger #1, where she joins The Renegades to fight for good after she learns she’s a psiot (think mutants from X-Men). In her stand-alone series, however, Faith has left the Harbinger Foundation to attempt to fight crime in Los Angeles on her own.

In the first four issues, we see Faith attempt to hide her real identity as she keeps a day job at an entertainment blog called Zipline, come across a new alien enemy called the Vine, and basically just be a badass body-positive role model.

As this is the first comic I’ve ever read, I have nothing to compare it to. The artwork is fantastic. Faith’s boss is creepily intense when talking to her employees about their stories and deadlines, which is apparent on her face. Faith herself even changes slightly in appearance depending on whether we’re seeing her in her everyday life or in her fantasies (of which she has a lot!). It’s an amazing detail, as I think we all attempt to make ourselves more attractive in our fantasies, while still being us.

The story itself was a great introduction to Faith as a stand-alone hero. It’s a great time in her superhero career to break off as she knows enough to actually be able to fight crime, but is also naïve enough that she fumbles and makes mistakes. She may be a superhero, but she’s a human being who must learn and grow in her profession, just like the rest of us, and we as readers get to learn and grow with her.

If you haven’t read Faith: Hollywood & Vine, I recommend you do so. Not only is Faith funny and relatable, but she’s just the person women and girls across the world need in order to feel like they can do and be anything. I’m glad Faith was my first comic book and she certainly won’t be my last.

Volumes with Vanri is a new spotlight by Vanri the Rogue, who is brand new to the world of comics. All comics featured in this spotlight can be found in various comic stores as well as on ComiXology.