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Review: Ace Attorney Trilogy

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Written by Iris the Keyblade Master

If you’re looking for a video game that’s not too difficult to play (at least not in the way that video games usually are), has an engrossing story, and phenomenal character development, you can’t find much better than the original Ace Attorney trilogy.  Originally released in America for the Nintendo DS, all three games can now be purchased as a collection from the Nintendo eStore for the 3DS.

As the title implies, the main character’s a defense attorney, named Phoenix Wright.  He’s driven by a need to defend innocent people, even and especially when nobody else believes in their innocence.

Each game gets broken down into a number of episodes.  The first episode is always a brief one-day trial that acts as the tutorial.  The others switch back and forth between Investigation modes and Trial modes.  Phoenix will learn about a person who’s been accused of murder and all of the circumstantial evidence stacked against said person.  Then you spend the first day gathering clues, questioning other characters, etc.  Once you’ve found everything that you can possibly find, the game moves on to the second day: the actual trial.  You must badger every witness that comes to the stand and use the clues to point out contradictions in their testimony.

But Phoenix will never have enough evidence to determine the real murderer, so that leads to another day of investigating.  Then it’s time for the second and final day of the trial!

The characters are what make these games so much fun.  Phoenix and his plucky assistant, Maya Fey, play off well with one another as you lead them to different areas to search for evidence.  They’ve always got to deal with Detective Gumshoe, who isn’t the smartest man on the police force, but means well.  The same could be said for the judge, who’s willing to swallow the weakest excuses from lying witnesses.  Each of the suspects has a quirk that can range from amusing to annoying.  Phoenix’ exasperated reactions to the antics of the rest of the cast are always funny.

And finally, there are the prosecutors.  They bring so much joy for all of the grief they heap on poor Phoenix.  The first game introduces Miles Edgeworth, Phoenix’s former best friend who turned into his biggest rival.  I couldn’t stand his ego at first.  He’s the first opponent to really get under the player’s skin with the way he just casually dismantles every argument you present.  However, his character development throughout each game turned out to be so good that he ended up becoming one of my favorite fictional characters ever. 

The second game presents Franziska von Karma, a female prosecuting prodigy who starts whipping anyone and everyone who gets in her way.  I’m not talking figuratively here.  She actually uses a bullwhip on everyone.  That includes Phoenix and the judge.  Somehow she gets away with it every single time.

Last but not least, the third game’s prosecutor, Godot, has a fearless attitude, a great backstory with ties to Phoenix’ past, and likes throwing his coffee mug at Phoenix when he gets annoyed.  Yeah, this game can get wacky.

I loved solving each of the cases.  Sometimes the developers really give your brain a workout as you try to find the lie in a witness’ testimony.  In the first game, you get five chances to make a mistake, and once you use them up, it’s game over.  The sequels replaced this system with a health bar.  It will decrease depending on how many mistakes you make and the gravity of those mistakes.  It’s a toss-up regarding which one I prefer.

Although the games tend to be silly, they do have serious moments- after all; the objective is to catch a murderer.  Each game’s final case is an emotional rollercoaster for Phoenix and his friends, and those last murderers are particularly ruthless.  I won’t say any more to avoid some very good spoilers.  I’ll just say that “Turnabout Goodbyes,” “Farewell, My Turnabout” and “Bridge to the Turnabout” are my favorite cases in the whole series.  The music theme that plays when Phoenix uncovers the killer in “Farewell, My Turnabout” gives me chills.

Finally, the series has some excellent female characters: heroes, villains, and everything in-between.  Besides Franziska von Karma and Maya Fey, there’s her older sister, Mia Fey, a defense attorney who mentored Phoenix and gives him advice on his cases.  They have an adorable little cousin named Pearl who tags along with Phoenix and Maya, and never falls into the “annoying child sidekick” trap.  Wendy Oldbag, Adrian Andrews, Dahlia Hawthorne, and Iris are all memorable suspects for different reasons.   Unfortunately, I can’t go into more detail because I’d have to spoil so much of the story.

Good stories and puzzles, well-written characters, a fun, catchy soundtrack, and constant courtroom shenanigans- what’s not to love?  The evidence clearly indicates that you should give Ace Attorney a try as soon as possible!

Games to Get Excited About: July 2017

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As we start through the summer months, the releases to feed our gaming addiction get slimmer and slimmer.  There really only seems to be three actual new games coming in July from any major publishers, and a couple of expansions or re-releases.  That doesn’t mean there’s nothing to look forward to, but this will be a bit of a short post since we don’t really have much to talk about.

Following up on one of the more popular release of 2015, Splatoon 2 is coming near the end of July.  This time the game will be released exclusively on the Switch on the 21st.  Like the original, this will be a 4v4 multiplayer shooter played in the third-person view.  Leading up to the game’s release, you can read the Squid Sister Stories on the official site and catch up on events between the two games.  Players in Europe and Japan will also be able to snatch up pink and green joycon controllers released with the game, though I expect they’ll be available to gamers around the world through third-party suppliers shortly after.

As the story goes, after the first game the sisters go back to relatively normal lives.  They start to do their own thing, but Marie worries that her sister might be having trouble with the events of the first game.  After spending some time together, Marie leaves Inkopolis to see her parents.  When she gets back home she discovers that Callie is missing and the Great Zapfish has been stolen.  Marie believes the Octarians are responsible so goes looking for a squid recruit to infiltrate the Octarians and save the day.

Why Should we be Excited?

Splatoon was popular for a reason.  The game was fun, colorful, and whimsical.  People could play competitively, without the super serious nature of games like Siege or Battlefield.  Those games are fun of course, but sometimes we just want to throw down on some goofy fun, like shooting paint at each other in a ridiculous world of multi-colored squid people.  I think this will be another fun game for people who like to goof off but also have a good time being competitive.  The original spawned a lot of fan art, stories, and even a manga, so it’s likely even more colorful squids are in our future.

Notable Releases for July

Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age – Coming out early in July is a remaster of International Zodiac Job System for Final Fantasy XII that was previously a Japanese-only release.  It’s coming to Playstation 4 exclusively.

Miitopia – An RPG coming to the Nintendo 3DS at the end of the month.  It was previously released in Japan in December of 2016.  It is a fairly standard JRPG using the popular Mii avatars for characters.  The characters interactions will affect combat, meaning if they don’t like each other they will be less effective.

Dragon Quest XI – This JRPG is coming to Nintendo Switch, 3DS, and PS4 at the end of the month.  It mixes traditional turn-based combat with exploration like previous titles in the long running series.

Hey! Pikmin – Another game coming to the 3DS at the end of the month this will be a side scrolling adventure game based on the Pikmin franchise.

Game of Thrones Season 8 DELAYED?!

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With the seventh season of Game of Thrones delayed until July, many fans – myself included – are going a bit crazy waiting the few extra months. Thrones fan pages are posting more and more fandom related memes and articles in anticipation, including fan theories and frame by frame analyses of the official trailer.

 

Well, we can take this short delay as a practice run because the creators of the wildly popular HBO series have said that the eighth and final season of Game of Thrones may not return until 2019.

You may be thinking, “We couldn’t handle two months, Vanri. How are we going to last TWO YEARS?!”

I urge you to try and understand.

The two month delay for season seven was brought about by the plot line itself. Winter is here and the set needs to look authentic. The world of Game of Thrones is so large that they can’t simply build a set. They needed to wait until actual winter to shoot the winter scenes. It was simply practical.

Season eight’s delay is something different, though, and we should be happy about it. D.B. Weiss and David Benioff, the show’s creators, expect season eight to be so grand that they don’t want to risk rushing through it and disappointing the fans.

As the most popular show in HBO’s history, they have to make sure they go out with a bang. They can only do that with enough prep time. Benioff and Weiss have said it could possibly take them 18 months to prepare and film, which would put the season eight premier date in 2019.

HBO’s President of Programming, Casey Bloys has said, however, that they will know more once the writers begin to piece together the episodes. Bloys stated that there’s a possibility they won’t need the extra time.

I may not know nothing and I may not drink and know things, but I do know one thing… Us Sherlock fans have prepared for this.

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Thoughts on Beauty And The Beast

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(3/22/2017)

If you’ve read my December ‘top 10’ article, you may recall that the majority of the movies I watch are children’s cartoons, and that my family has been playing a game called ‘give all our money to Disney.’  My daughter is two.  Disney movies occupy a great deal of my consciousness.  On the whole, while I think that Disney films, especially those made in the nineties or later, have a positive impact on children and the world, many are also problematic.  It is important that we discuss these problems.  It is perfectly fine to enjoy problematic media, for example movies that perpetuate harmful stereotypes, but only if we are aware of the problems and discuss them.  The discussions take on even more importance if we chose to share the problematic media with our children.

There has been no shortage of harmful stereotypes in Disney movies over the years, including traditional gender roles, colorism, and some very uncomfortable portrayals of people of color (…and lack thereof.  Hey, Disney: consider making a movie that takes place in Africa and actually stars African people.  Like, human people.  Who are not white.  I’ll give you even more of my money, promise).  However, one trope that they can’t seem to shake is the ‘queer-coded villain.’  (2)

Disney’s catalog of bad guys is full of effeminate men and strong, single women.  Think Scar, Jafar, and Facilier.  Think Maleficent and Ursula (who somehow manages to check stereotype boxes for both ‘butch’ and ‘drag queen’).  I adore Moana but, given the history, it’s unfortunate that it’s two villains are a powerful female and a male character based on David Bowie.  It doesn’t exactly do anything to subvert the pattern, is what I’m saying.  Sometimes I find myself asking, “can’t we ever have a straight-coded Disney villain?”

Then I remember that we do.

Beauty And The Beast’s Gaston may not be the only villain without explicit queer coding, but he’s unique in the Disney catalogue in that his very straightness and adherence to gender norms are what makes him so villainous.  Gaston is the original Kylo Ren: a man who inserts himself into the female lead’s space, ignoring her signals and insisting that he knows what she wants when he obviously knows nothing of the sort.  He is the epitome of masculinity (there’s a whole song about it), and he wields his male privilege as a weapon against Belle and her friends.  He doesn’t have any magical powers; what makes him scary is his size and strength and lack of empathy.

I think that the ‘realness’ of the baddie is a large part of what makes Beauty And The Beast so popular, even 25 years on.

Of course, with the live action remake hitting theaters, Beauty and the Beast has been back in the news lately.  Specifically, the 2017 film has been making headlines because it features Disney’s first canonically queer character.  After a lot of fan speculation about Cogsworth, Disney revealed that the gay character is LeFou, Gaston’s obsequious sidekick.  Controversy erupted.  Many were outraged at the mere presence of a gay character is a children’s movie; one Alabama theater pulled the showing entirely. (3)  On the other side of the ideological aisle, many were thrilled to have a step forward for representation… but not every reaction was positive.

Teen Vogue’s Ryan Houlihan writes about it in his article, “Disney making LeFou gay isn’t the representation I need.”  He brings up a number of valid points, including concern that the ‘exclusively gay moment’ touted by Disney will be an afterthought that could easily be edited out, that wouldn’t be as emotionally resonant as the reveal in Laica’s Paranorman. He’s also, understandably, concerned that the first confirmed gay character in a Disney film is a villain.  Houlihan argues that Lefou doesn’t break the Disney tradition of queer-coded villains, “he’s simply an admission by the company of what viewers have believed for decades: that if a character is queer, it’s going to be the villain.” (1)

I think that, as Becca Bunch would say, “the situation’s a lot more nuanced than that.”  For one thing, LeFou as portrayed in the 1991 film doesn’t fit the mold of Jafar and his ilk.  He’s short, tubby, poorly groomed, and anything but graceful.  There is nothing feminine about him -except for his obsession with Gaston.  So, while making him gay doesn’t really affect the ‘villain’ pattern, it at least shows us a very different kind of gay villain, which is worth something.  Diversity in representation, even among gay Disney villains, leads to the breakdown of stereotypes.

Furthermore, I believe that it was a good story choice on the part of the writers.  I haven’t seen the film yet, but I think there’s a potential for LeFou’s subplot to be interesting and beneficial. There are a lot of things to love about Beauty and the Beast, but, revisiting it as an adult, the thing I love the most is that it focuses on toxic masculinity and how it affects a person. The Beast slowly learns to overcome his toxic masculinity over the course of the film, whereas Gaston acts as a foil/cautionary tale for what happens when a man lets the cultural pressures that come with masculinity take over. I think that sexual orientation, and how it interacts with identity and the societal ideas of what a ‘man’ should be, is a part of the life stories of men all over the world. It’s an idea that deserves to be explored on screen.

Furthermore, I take issue with Houlihan’s assertion that the producers of the live action adaptation, “muddled the issue by making him sexually “confused” – just to hedge their bets.” My last article was on the visual novel Ladykiller in a Bind, and a lot of the conversation around that game is about ‘messy’ queer stories and that they deserve to be told, not censored. Not everyone’s experience is the same. That ‘one day wants to be, next day wants to get with’ feeling that Houlihan references is something that I experience, and that I’m sure a lot of people with same-sex attraction experience. Most importantly, I think it’s a feeling that plenty of young people, still trying to figure out who they are, will identify with when they see the movie.

Finally, I feel the need to point out that Houlihan’s parenthetical comment describing LeFou’s live-action portrayer, Josh Gad, as straight.  I’m not entirely sure this is relevant, but more importantly, I’m not entirely sure it’s true.  He’s married to a woman (actress Ida Darvish), but I don’t recall ever hearing that ‘straight’ is how he identifies.  It seems to me that Houlihan is making a pretty big assumption about the orientation of someone he’s never met.  Director Bill Condon describes Gad’s performance as “subtle and delicious.” (4)  A friend of a friend even suggested that the entire queer subplot may have been Gad’s idea.  While there’s no way to know for sure without being told, it’s possible that he may have been drawing from personal experience.

Houlihan ends his article saying, “Taking a villain that was already coded as gay and letting him finally, blessedly, come out is a step in the right direction, but there is still a lot of work to do so that LGBTQ people feel truly recognized, not just pandered to.”  I agree.  There is a long road ahead, but I’m glad that this story is being told.  Back in 2015, Vice’s Hugh Ryan wrote, “Personally, I hope we see more gay villains—just ones who are gay gay. Gay heroes as well, and sidekicks and straight men and bit parts, too. I hope the pansy doesn’t disappear just because he’s a stereotype, but I hope he’s allowed to be more than just a stereotype.“  LeFou shows us that those hopes are starting to come true.  At the very least it’s gotten us all talking about queer representation in children’s movies, and that’s worthwhile in and of itself.

 

References:

(1) http://www.teenvogue.com/story/disney-lefou-gay-villain-lgbtq-representation

(2)https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/the-number-of-gay-animated-villains-will-surprise-you-456

(3) http://www.cnn.com/2017/03/03/us/theater-shuns-disney-beauty-over-gay-moment/

(4) http://attitude.co.uk/world-exclusive-beauty-and-the-beast-set-to-make-disney-history-with-gay-character/

Review: Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call

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Written by Iris the Keyblade Master

The Theatrhythm Final Fantasy games celebrate one of the best aspects of the series: the music.  Both rhythm games are available for the Nintendo 3DS.  Although if you’re interested in giving Theatrhythm a try, don’t waste your money purchasing both of them.  The sequel, Curtain Call, has all of the same songs and lots more.

I debated with myself about whether to get the original Theatrhythm when it was first released on the Nintendo 3DS.   Having gotten booed out of levels of Guitar Hero and Dance Dance Revolution, and surviving the infamous Little Mermaid sidequest in Kingdom Hearts 2…my experiences with rhythm games weren’t very good ones.  But someone at GameStop encouraged me to give it a try, and that’s how I ended up losing countless hours of my life to this game.  I have no regrets.

The gameplay’s divided into three types of stages: Field, Battle, and Event.  Field songs consist of tracks like “Terra’s Theme” from Final Fantasy VI, the main theme from VII, and “A Place to Call Home” from IX.  An adorable chibi Final Fantasy character of your choosing strolls along a path to the music, while you try to hit as many notes correctly as possible.  Although the notes can come across the screen quickly, depending on the song and the difficulty level, Field Stages are generally slower in pace than their Battle counterparts.

In Battle, you create a party of four chibi characters who fight different monsters and villains who have appeared throughout the Final Fantasy series.  When you hit the right notes, their attacks are successful.  If you miss a note, they lose health.  (This actually applies to the Field and Event stages too, except you’re not attacking anything. You’re just trying to keep the character’s health bar full.)  The songs you can choose from include the always classic “One-Winged Angel,” as well as “Dancing Mad,” “The Man With the Machine Gun,” and “Battle on the Big Bridge.”

Last, but not least, we have the Event stages.  These stages were more prevalent in the original game, because every entry from the series had one.  In Curtain Call, all of the songs that originally appeared as Event stages got turned into Field or Battle stages instead.  It’s a shame, because even if they’re difficult to play, they’re beautiful to watch.  Instead of battling enemies or walking through a field, you watch a video that highlights the most memorable moments from the featured Final Fantasy game.  The selected songs are popular themes from the game that people tend to think about when they think of that particular entry, i.e. “Sutaki da ne,” “Aerith’s Theme,” and “Answers” from Final Fantasy XIV.  The best, by far, appears in Curtain Call.  It’s a gorgeous medley of Final Fantasy themes played over highlights from the entire franchise.  If you’re a fan of any Final Fantasy games, I dare you not to cry while watching it.

It’s worth mentioning that the way you progress through the game changed in a few significant ways from the first Theatrhythm to Curtain Call.  In the original game, you could select any of the main musical stages for each of the games featured in Theatrhythm, from the original Final Fantasy to XIII.  However, once you committed yourself to one of the entries, i.e. Final Fantasy IX, you had to play through all three musical stages before being allowed to go back and play whichever one you wanted.

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Women in Gaming Industry: Aya Kyogoku

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Women in Gaming Industry: Aya Kyogoku

kyogoku-streetpass-mii-plaza I have a lot of respect for anyone who makes a living writing.  I also have a lot of respect for anyone who makes their living in the gaming industry. Someone who is a script writer for games is awe-worthy to me due to the difficulty of both fields, let alone combining them. Aya Kyogoku has been officially working for Nintendo in that capacity since 2003. During this time, she has helped to give us many successful and, quite frankly, fun games throughout the years.

Kyogoku is a native of Japan, where she honed her skills for working in the gaming industry. After joining Nintendo, she worked for the Entertainment Analysis & Development portion of the company. Kyogoku has been a huge asset to the company in a few different roles since being hired. As well as script writing, she has also co-directed a truly adorable game. Yes, I am talking the ever popular series Animal Crossing.

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Who doesn’t want to become mayor of their own perfect world? Especially if you get to  be around adorable animated characters. Well, that is what you get to do in the Animal Crossing franchise. Kyogoku co-directed Animal Crossing: New Leaf , which introduced all new characters and a new setting. She also used this game as a way to address diversity in the gaming world. In this interview, Kyogoku talks about why she continues to want a workplace where many ideas are able to be shared.Aya-kyogoku (1)

Kyogoku has also worked on two games in the ever popular The Legend of Zelda franchise. In The Legend of Zelda: The Twilight Princess, Link must try to save Hyrule from being engulfed by a parallel universe. In The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventure Link goes to once more restore peace in Hyrule. Both games were critically acclaimed and enjoyed by most fans.

Aya Kyogoku is a hard working and creative force in the gaming industry. She is a voice for greater diversity. We in the gaming world are lucky to have her fun-loving presence in one of our biggest companies!

Always keep sparkling!  

Video Games vs Board Games: Which is Better?

Guest Post by: John Martins of gametablesguide.com

Playing games is an unseparated part of our life. It’s an effective way to reduce stress and have fun with our loved ones. Either you love playing table tennis, chess or Call of Duty, the thing is that you must love games. It’s in our human nature.

There are many types of games. Board games and video games are popular ones.

Board games have been around since ancient times and have even been a huge part of human civilization. Just take a look at games like Chess or Backgammon, which have been played by kings and even decided entire wars during history.

However, in our modern age, video games have taken the forefront of gaming entertainment, growing into an industry to rival even that of movies and TV shows. Both entertainment mediums have their pros and cons and here are the main differences.

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Board Games: Old but Gold

We have always loved to play games. It is a way for the human mind to relax and even to play out fantasies. Games can even be considered to be healthy for a human being. And board games were the very first around.

Without going back into antiquity, the best example of a modern board game is Dungeons & Dragons. Having been created in the early 70`s, this game became so popular that it is even played today, almost 40 years later. And it also shows two huge differences between board games and video games: The social aspect as one, and using your imagination, as the other.

The Social Interaction Aspect is undeniable

Board games have always been social games. You gather around with a couple of friends, have good food, beverages and generally a very good time.

D&D requires at the least 4 players to play, and it also involves a human Dungeon Master, who co-ordinates the whole game. You are required to go to a place, meet with people and play with them face to face and interact socially.

Besides getting you out of the house, it is also a great way to improve your social skills. While some people may argue that video games have always had multiplayer components and that you can play them as well with other people, it is not the same thing. Playing through a monitor and computer is not the same thing as sitting around table with other people throwing dice and deciding on how to proceed in the game.

And the same thing is true for other types of board games, from Monopoly to Warhammer to the humble Chess. The main pro for board games is the social interaction you have with other people. Or in other words: Having fun together.

Board Games Enhances Your Imagination

Imagination is another great plus in regards to board games. When you play D&D, as an example, all you get is a wall of text, describing where you are, what your options are and what you could possibly do. You are required to put yourself into the mind of your created player character and interact with your companions to figure out what to do.

There are no graphics showing you anything about the landscape, location, not even your foes. You have to imagine it all, and so do the other players and even the Dungeon Master. The same is true for other board games.

In Warhammer, all you get are hand painted figurines that act as your units and army, and maybe a well-made combat map.

In Risk, you get a map of the world and a couple of figurines to shove around it, telling the other players what is yours and what you conquered.

Generally speaking, most of the game takes place in your head, and it is a great way to train your creativity. And that is true for almost all board games.

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Video Games: The Modern Age Way of Entertainment

The basic truth about video games, is, that they are a natural extension of board games through advanced technology that we possess in our modern age.

The very first video games that lay the foundation for all others were inspired by board games of a type of another. And it evolved so far, that some video games are hardly distinguishable from a Hollywood movie. And that is one of the major advantages of video games. The other one is ease of use.

The Visual Graphics Keep Getting Better

The cinematic aspect of modern video games is undeniable. Beautiful graphics showing awesome landscapes, vehicles, monsters are one thing, the movement of your characters, the things they can do, even down to the script for conversations and the general story, is another. And rounding it all up are incredibly well done musical soundtracks that only add to the experience.

Modern video games feel just like a movie, only that you can interact and play it out yourself, with you being the main protagonist. This is something that board games will never be able to top. But on the other hand, you lose imagination for the sake of having everything presented to you on the screen.

They Are Straightforward and Easy to Use

Ease of use is another huge aspect of video games. Since most video games are based on a ruleset or another, just like board games, your computer or mobile device will take over the task of rolling those dice, figuring out if you succeeded or not or if you won a battle or lost, without the need of a game master or a bunch of rule books that you have to check for a specific rule that you are not sure about.

That allows the player to fully immerse themselves into the game without worrying about such things and just enjoy the experience. And this opened up games that were really complicated in their board game format to a whole lot of people that came to love them, but did not have the patience or time, to learn all the rules.

Video Games Vs Board Games: Which Is Better?

There is no real competition between board games and video games. Most avid video gamers are also avid board game lovers, and board games are still going strong, with new systems and settings appearing almost every month.

Most gamers who are into role-playing video games are also D&D fans and are still playing it with their friends in the weekends.

Both entertainment mediums have their merits and in the end, it`s just a matter of preference.

And the best thing is, you don`t even have to choose. Just play both.