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Review: Pokemon Snap

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By: Iris the Keyblade Master

Ah, Pokémon Snap, the only Pokémon-related video game that I ever got to play when I was a kid.  It was made for the Nintendo 64, but it’s also currently available on the Wii U Virtual Console.  I recently bought a copy for my N64 and found that it still held up for me as an adult.

First, I told myself that I just wanted to test the game out to make sure it still worked.  About twenty minutes later, I had furiously headed back to the Beach level to prove to Professor Oak that the size in my pictures was NOT “so-so!”  It’s one of those games that is so simple and yet so addicting at times.

Unlike other Pokémon games, you don’t get to capture, train, or trade any of the wild Pokémon that you find in the different levels.  You take pictures and send them to Professor Oak, who then gives you points based on its size, position, how many of the same type appeared in the shot, etc.  (And boy, does he have high standards for “size!”)  However, to get to the next level, you must complete a variety of objectives.  Sometimes, it’s a matter of taking a certain number of pictures of unique Pokémon.  Other times, you need to trigger something special within a level to get to the next one.

Additionally, certain Pokémon won’t appear without the help of tools that Professor Oak gives you throughout the game.  And sometimes the ways to get new Pokémon aren’t so obvious.  For example, there’s a Charmeleon that walks around a lava pit towards the end of the Volcano course.  If you knock him into the pit with an apple treat, he’ll evolve into Charazard.  This interaction increases the replay value of the game, since it encourages you to go back and try new tricks to find hidden Pokémon.  (Side note: it’s also worth mentioning that because it’s an older game, you won’t find any Pokémon that came after Mew. Mew himself doesn’t even appear until after you’ve unlocked the final level.)

Technically, the player character has a name, Todd.  But like Link and the early Final Fantasy heroes, you get to pick what you want to call him.  He doesn’t have much of a personality in the game beyond, “Oh boy, let’s take a lot of pictures of Pokémon!” but it works.

Pokémon Snap is a fun, colorful game.  I love the different environments that you get to view through Todd’s safari vehicle.  Hopefully, some day, Nintendo will make a sequel.  They could really make it work by including the other generations of Pokémon, and maybe add new features, i.e. editing your pictures or getting to explore open world settings instead of following the same track.

If you like the Pokémon series, but never got around to trying this game, then I recommend checking it out if you still have your Nintendo 64 or access to the Virtual Console.  It’s a lot of fun!

Women in Gaming: Laura Bailey

lb_1950When I started to get back into gaming, it was through Dungeons & Dragons. My friend and DM suggested I watch a stream of a show called Critical Role. He hoped that by watching, I would get a better idea of how to play. To get out of my head, stop worrying about the grid on the map and start being my character. I really enjoyed watching the stream. One of my favorite characters was the Half-Elf Ranger who snarked her way through most of the game. That was my first introduction to Laura Bailey.

Laura is a voice actress by trade and gamer for fun. She was one of the first really successful female gamers I had ever seen. She is what I strive to be when I play. In character and having fun. She is so good at playing in the moment while being filmed. Let me tell you, it is difficult to focus on playing a character while you know you are being filmed.

Laura is as talented as she is funny. As a voice actress she has given her voice to many characters in different mediums. She loves anime, which is where she got her start. Laura voices characters in different cartoons as well. She, of course, also voices video game characters which must be fantastic for a gamer to get to do.

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I have gotten to enjoy watching Laura play other games as well. Mostly she can be watched on Geek and Sundry. As I stated above, every Thursday she and other voice actors play D&D under their DM and fellow voice actor, Matt Mercer. Laura plays Vex’ahlia, who has gone through so much character development on Critical Role. I really enjoy Vex. I love her humor. I love her bear, Trinket. Laura does an amazing character who could have easily been annoying in the start. She gives Vex a lot of personality and emotion. She never holds back while she games and it is amazing to watch.

Laura teamed up last year with fellow Critical Role mates to game for a charity livestream to support MDA. Matt Mercer was the Sheriff, or basically a game master, and led the group through a thoroughly entertaining game of Deadlands. Laura played a gunslinger named Stinky Jules who was basically a Calamity Jane-esque character. She was hysterical and wonderfully inappropriate. The group helped tip Geek and Sundry over its monetary goal. Laura and her husband Travis also played Hearthstone in an episode of Worthy Opponents, which is a great way for newbies to the game to get to learn while being entertained.

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She has also played different games with Wil Wheaton on his Geek and Sundry show, Tabletop. Tabletop is a great show created by Wil to showcase different kinds of tabletop games. It has given me lots of ideas for games to try and also for games for friends in different stages of gaming. Laura also teamed up with Wil to play a character in his homebrew game called, TITANSGRAVE: THE ASHES OF VALKANA.

In Titansgrave, Laura plays a human cyborg named Lemley. Get ready for feels and lots of laughs when you watch this one. Lemley made me realize just how talented Laura really is at RPGs. Lemley is so different from Vex, and Laura gave her just as much love and attention. Titansgrave is also a really great series to watch for new RPGers. Laura and the rest of the cast do a great job of bringing you into the game. You really root for these characters as they try to accomplish their missions, which is a testament to the players.

Laura Bailey is a talented and hard working woman in the gaming industry. She tries to give back to the community. She makes mistakes and, literally, keeps on rolling. Laura really is a great role model for those of us trying to find our gaming style in the world of RPGs. I really admire her for her courage to be so expressive with her characters’ emotions. She also brings so much real joy to her gaming.

Always keep sparkling, my friends!

Influential Female Characters: Princess Zelda

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I know a lot of people who love Princess Zelda. Why wouldn’t they? She’s beauty. She’s grace. She’ll punch you in the face. Well, that is all dependent on which incarnation of Zelda one is playing, that is. She has evolved and changed with every version of The Legend of Zelda that has been released.

Despite her name being in the title of of the games, Princess Zelda is not the main character. The main character is our own pot smashing Link. In every game, we have a different version of Link. Usually he is saving or aiding Zelda. Then why name the games after Zelda? Because there would be no need for Link to be adventuring if not for Zelda.

Yes, she starts off as a damsel in distress, but in many of the newer games, Zelda handles herself fairly well. Also every Princess Zelda is chosen by fate, though often also a member of the ruling family,  to be charged with the Triforce of Wisdom. So, basically, she is a boss with all the wisdom to rule and a chosen one to boot. So yes, her name should be in the title of all the games.

In the first Legend of Zelda game, Zelda is not even seen until after Link defeats the big boss. However, she guides him throughout the game. Zelda usually has some form of psychic powers, including telepathy and sometimes premonitions. She is always very wise and fair in her judgement, which makes her a wonderful ruler. It, however, does not seem to be able to help her evade being captured.

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Zelda’s age and appearance depend largely on the game and Link’s age. Sometimes she is a child, a teenager or a young woman. Usually she has blonde hair – though sometimes brown – with blue eyes, pointed ears and long dresses. There are a few times where she wears boots and pants. Normally she looks very much the picture of a princess. She is always proficient with music.

Her role in the games also varies depending on the game. In earlier games she was normally a damsel for Link to save. There are times when she even wields Link’s blade. In some games, she has her own sword. Other times she has a bow and arrows.

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She is a kind ruler. Zelda tends to be forgiving of those who have wronged her. However, if you hurt someone she cares about, *coughLinkcough*, all bets are off. Her relationship with Link changes from game to game. Sometimes they seem to be together romantically by the end of the game. She does always seem to care about him and his welfare.

I like how feminine she is. I like how she is always strong, but not always in the way of having to physically fight. Zelda does everything within her power to protect her people. At the end of the day, Zelda is a really interesting character. I think it is important for her strength of mind to be something for gamers to look to as a positive trait as well. Sometimes we push away characters like Zelda because they are not always physically strong. That is is a mistake. Zelda has a lot of positive qualities that we can look to and emulate. 

Here is to Princess Zelda, the chosen princess of her people and overall boss!

Always keep sparkling, friends!

Review: Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories

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By Iris the Keyblade Master

Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories is one of those games that probably shouldn’t work as well as it does.  The first game in the series was this big, epic adventure, involving Sora, Donald Duck, and Goofy traveling all over the universe to stop Maleficent and meeting all kinds of Disney characters along the way.  Kingdom Hearts II was another a big, epic adventure that continued Sora’s quest.   He searched for his lost friends, befriended more popular characters like Captain Jack Sparrow and Tron, and fought an evil organization.

Chain of Memories limits the adventure to one castle made of illusions.  Every floor that Sora visits is designed to look like a Disney world from his memories.  So almost all of the levels that you complete are areas that you’ve already explored from the first game.  (Little did we know that this would be a recurring problem in future games.)  It’s not necessarily what a person would have in mind if you told them to check out the sequel to Kingdom Hearts.

However, I love the story of Chain of Memories, so it’s probably the entry in the series that I replay the most apart from the first game.  It picks up where the first game left off, with Sora, Donald, and Goofy on the trail of their lost friends, Riku and Mickey.  They come across a castle inhabited by a mysterious organization that claims to have something- or someone- that Sora wants.  Sora takes the bait, only to find as he progresses through the castle that he’s losing his memories.

First, the story’s fantastic.  It’s one of two games in the series that involve a group of villains trying to trick Sora into working for them, and this one executes the idea much better.  The other game more or less saves the mind-bending shenanigans for the final level.  In Chain of Memories, it’s a steady progression of Sora forgetting his previous adventures and becoming increasingly obsessed with rescuing Naminé and Riku from the Organization.  Sora’s been previously established as somebody who cares deeply about his friends and the promises that he makes to them, so his change in personality makes complete sense.  The new characters are also well-written.  It’s the game that kicked off Axel’s popularity, and it’s easy to see why.  Naminé is wonderful too and a good example of a well-written “damsel in distress.”

I thought I would hate the battle system when I learned that it would be card-based.  Every attack that you make and magic spell that you cast is limited to the number of cards that Sora has in his deck.  However, I found that it was very manageable and does force you to strategize a little.  You can only carry so many cards in your deck, and the powerful ones are more expensive than the weaker ones.  You can also create special attacks called “sleights,” where you load three cards and use them together.  But the first card that you load for the sleight will not reappear for the rest of the battle.  So spamming sleight attacks will only take you so far.

Oh, and Donald gets to be just as useless in this game as he is in every Kingdom Hearts game.  Only this time, he doesn’t just fail to heal you.  If you don’t watch it, he can heal your enemies.  Yeah.  You read that right.  You’ll be desperately fighting Axel or Hades, who both use Fire spells, and he’ll happily hit them with Fire spells that bring their health back up.  Try to avoid using him in a fight with a magic-based enemy.

I also find it interesting how the difficulty level of the bosses and the usefulness of certain cards did change in the GameBoy Advanced version and the PlayStation 2 version.  See, the GBA obviously has a small screen, so big enemies aren’t hard to fight and Summon cards have a wider reach.  Cloud Strife was my favorite card in the GBA game.  All I had to do was summon him and he’d wipe out enemies with two slashes of the Buster Sword.  But the PlayStation 2 remake puts you in a bigger, three-dimensional area, so it’s a matter of getting close to an enemy, hoping that enemy stays put as you summon Cloud, and hope that Cloud moves in the right direction to slash said enemies.  If you’re in the wrong place or facing the wrong way, he’s completely useless.

All in all, I think this game was much better suited for the GameBoy Advanced over the PlayStation 2.  It has a smaller story and the levels are mostly the same as the first game.  In a way, it’s kind of impressive.  In terms of world design, it plays like a GBA remake of the first game.  Yet it has its own unique story, which supplies a reason for why you’re playing through the same locations again.  If you play the PlayStation 2 remake without that context, it comes off like a cheap, lazy sequel.

Nonetheless, I love playing the PS2 remake due to the improved graphics and voice acting.  Sora’s character arc and his relationships with his friends go to interesting places.  The series got two new fabulous female characters.  The soundtrack mostly rehashes the first game, but Yoko Shimomura composed some beautiful new tracks, i.e. “Naminé” and the final boss battle theme, “Lord of the Castle.”

Although it’s not an entry in the series that you absolutely must play to understand the rest of the plot, I highly recommend Chain of Memories.

A Mortal’s Guide to Glimmerdark

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Gather, mortal children, and I will tell you of Glimmerdark, the faerie revel which, like all things fae, is filled with great wonder and beauty, but is dangerous to those who aren’t careful.  Listen closely.  If you heed these words, you just might make it out alive.

The revel takes place in Princeton, NJ, in the Hyatt Regency hotel, in the dead of winter.  Fae (and mortals) from all over the region gather at the hotel filling it with song and dance and food and mead.  The halls and common rooms fill with peddlers selling all manner of wondrous goods.

The most important thing to remember when dealing with the fae is not to take anything for free and not to enter into any bargains unless you are absolutely sure of the terms, lest you find yourself in their debt.  This is why you must not enter the hotel floor without a festival pass.  Nothing in fairie is free, not even lilting notes of music or the graceful sweep of a dancer’s hand caught out of the corner of your eye.  Your pass is your payment for these things, and your permission to enter.  If you attempt to enter the faeries’ temporary realm without permission, you may find yourself spending a year in faerieland for each night you stole.

The second thing you must do is assume that everyone you meet is fae.  Some will have obvious markers, like horns and hooves and pointed ears, but many will look just like you.  Do not be fooled.  There will be other mortals at the festival, surely, but fae glamour is strong and wiley, and most have centuries to perfect their human disguises.  The gap below the pointed ear, the band you see holding the antlers to the head, may just be illusions: clever, efficient little glamours designed to give the appearance of humanity with minimal effort.  Be careful, and don’t let down your guard.  Treat everyone as you would one of the sidhe: be courteous and respectful and don’t take anything for free.  Fae wizards have turned mortals into fish for decades for annoying them, so it’s best to take precautions.  Even the hotel staff could be fairies in disguise, so tip generously if you don’t want everything you eat to taste like toenails for seven years.

Pack carefully, so you don’t need to barter with the fairies for items you’ve forgotten.  Arrive by Friday evening.  Check in to your room and claim your badges.  There will be a table with pens and blank spaces on the badges, on which for you to supposedly write your name.  Do not do so: this is a trap.  Write a false name, a book character or gamer tag, or leave the card blank.  Revealing your true name to fairies gives them power over you and makes it easier for them to ensnare you with their contracts.  Do not give it out unless it is absolutely necessary.

When you are settled in your room, afix your false name-tag about your neck and descend to the lobby floor.  Walk under the cloud of mirrored diamonds suspended from the ceiling, past the pools of koi fish that may or may not have once been human, and make your way to the hotel bar.  There, you will find delectable food and ale and sweet honey mead.  These things aren’t free but, like much of Glimmerdark, they are worth the price.

When you’ve eaten and drunk your fill, wander the festival, seeking out the music and dancers tucked into the Hyatt Regency’s halls and conference rooms.  Browse the vendors, but be wary of trying anything on.  Clothes and jewels of faerie make are exquisite; if you try them on you may have difficulty taking them off again, and if you can’t take them off you will find yourself indebted to the peddlar.  I made the mistake of trying on a jeweled circlet topped with pheasant feathers. If you are willing to pay the price, you can make off with all sorts of beautiful artifacts.

Children are welcome at Glmmerdark and would no doubt be delighted by the sights and sounds.  Bring your children if you wish, but keep them within sight.  Nothing tempts the fae folk more than human children to steal.  To be safe, disguise your little ones as fae creatures to make them less tempting targets.

As with any festival, it is important to stay hydrated.  The wait-staff may offer you water with your meals, claiming it’s free.  Nothing in Faerie ever is, and, for the weekend, the Hyatt Regency Princeton is part of Faerie.  Be sure to offer something in return: a short song or poem or a bit of prestidigitation to delight your server.  You can avoid this entirely by bringing your own water or joining the ‘Endless Tea Party,’ which gives you access to unlimited hot tea.  This may seem too good for its price, but be reassured: the tea is mediocre and the water a bit too hot.  Fortunately, these things hardly matter at a festival in the depths of winter.  Besides, you can always supplement your tea with something from the cash bar.

If you are reading this, you must be fond of games.  You have this in common with the fae.  There is a game room off one of the corridors.  The walls are lined with games and models.  There are tubs and racks of shining dice.  And, of course, there are tables on which to play the games.  Play them with your companions, or with strangers if you dare, but wager at your own risk.

You may see signs for a ‘batfrog habitat.’  This is billed as an art installation but is, in fact, a portal to a tiny pocket of faerieland.  If chosen to enter the portal, make sure your companions know where you have gone.  Once on the other side, breathe in the sights and sounds, let them wash over and through you, but always remember who you are and where you come from.  Consider tying a rope around your waist before you enter so that your companions may pull you back, in case you do not return on your own.

A few words about fae hospitality: they take it very seriously.  As long as you are a guest of Glimmerdark or the Hyatt Regency, no harm will befall you and you may not harm your hosts or another guest.  Doing so will result in expulsion from the festival…or worse.  Bringing steel weapons to the festival is considered a breach of hospitality; it is well known that fae kind are vulnerable to iron.  The rules of hospitality protect you to a degree, but not completely.  The terms of fae bargains supercede hospitality, and, furthermore, faeries can have creative definitions of what constitutes ‘harm’ (the koi in the pond, for example, are perfectly healthy).

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Soliyra at Glimmerdark 2017

Finally, the highlight of Glimmerdark, the fairie circus, is not to be missed.  This is not because missing it will cause you to be cursed in any way.  It is simply a very, very good show.  There are acrobats, dancers, and even a singer.  Just try not to react when the dances poke fun at foolish mortals.  And, since the circus goes above and beyond the rest of the festival, make sure to tip the performers.

If you follow all these rules, you will return home at the end of the festival tired but happy.  Your wallet may be thinner but you will still have your freedom, your human shape, and your first born child.  A fair bargain indeed.

(Soliyra is a mortal human who enjoys normal, human activities while not writing.  She has never even contemplated stealing a human baby. 

Glimmerdark is a Faerie convention held in Princeton, NJ every February.)

Games to Get Excited About: April 2017

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Did we skip a month? Sort of, but not really.  I realized that giving you games to be excited about in the same month as the article doesn’t give you much time to get excited, so the editor Goddesses have let me shake it up a bit and give you a little over a month to let said excitement build.  There’s a few games coming in April, including another Switch title, but the game I’m really excited about is Little Nightmares.

Little Nightmares is a puzzle-based platformer in which a nine year-old girl named Six is trapped in a creepy old house.  The girl is taken to a place called The Maw, which is a twisted resort for the rich and demented.  Given the chance to escape, you must navigate The Maw, looking for a way out, and solving the puzzles in each room with the items you find in each room.

Why We’re Excited

This game looks like Tim Burton and Guillermo del Toro got together and produced a cute, twisted interactive movie.  Watching some of the gameplay videos showed a creepy game with some very cool art style and sound.  It looks like you can explore just about anywhere while to look for ways to unlock rooms and find your way out.  It has a great use of lighting and sound to enhance the experience.

I’m also excited because this reminds me of classic games like Myst and The 7th Guest.  While I enjoy games with combat, fighting, and adventure, sometimes it’s fun to sit back and enjoy something different.  I loved that about both the Portal games as well.  Exploring, solving puzzles, and working my way through a game without having to blow things up and kill imaginary people.

Finally, the art style is probably what hooked me the most.  The game looks beautiful, and unique.  These days any company can give you a realistic world with great character models, and some of them look as real as any CGI in a movie.  It’s getting to where the realism of Battlefield or Arma is the rule rather than the exception.  With Little Nightmares, the art isn’t realistic at all.  It’s got a very unique, exaggerated style that looks like that world would probably look to a frightened child.  Everything is overly large, and strangely distorted.  The bad guys are all grotesque and demented looking.  It looks like something right out of a childhood nightmare, and it’s not like anything I’ve played myself when it comes to the graphics.

Little Nightmares comes out in April of this year and will be available for PC, PS4, and Xbox One.

Notable Releases for April

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe – A port of Mario Kart 8 for the Nintendo Switch, this version will feature all of the previously released DLC.  This will bring the franchise we are all familiar with to Nintendo’s new platform on the 28th of April.

Dragon Quest Heroes II – A continuation of the popular hack and slash, Dynasty Warriors style game comes to PS4 on the 25th.  This series combines the play style of the popular Dynasty Warriors with the characters and monsters from the Dragon Quest franchise.

Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 – Is an open-world FPS in which you collect intel to find missions and complete your objectives.  From CI games we’ll see this on PS4, Xbox One, and PC on the 4th.

Persona 5 – Officially the 6th installment of this popular RPG, Persona 5 comes to PS3 and PS4 on the 4th of April.  The game is described as a social simulation and RPG, as you take the role of the silent protagonist living through a year of high school

A Fan’s Perspective of the PewDiePie Scandal

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PewDiePie has been in the media quite a lot lately. Now that it’s starting to simmer down, I thought I’d give my two cents. As a fan of PewDiePie as well as a fan of his network, RevelMode, which hosts most of my favorite YouTubers (such as Markiplier, JackSepticEye and KickthePJ), I feel I have a well-rounded scope of the situation.

For those of you who don’t know, Felix Kjellberg (AKA PewDiePie) runs a very successful YouTube channel (he has over 50 million subscribers). He pioneered the whole Let’s Play side of YouTube. If not for PewDiePie, there probably wouldn’t be YouTube Gaming and Real Women of Gaming probably wouldn’t have our own channel. He has also raised millions of dollars for many different charities around the world.

That being said, what PewDiePie did was unacceptable. Pewds is known by his fans as a man who tries to push boundaries. He’s constantly making points about the media or about society, which is what drew me to him in the first place. He has a tendency of going too far in order to make a point, but he’s never gone so far that he had to suffer actual consequences… until now.

In an effort to make a point about how some people will do anything for money, he went on to Fiverr (a website where freelancers can sell their services for $5) and paid Funny Guys $5 to display a message that read “Death to all Jews” in one of their videos. Once Funny Guys actually displayed this message, PewDiePie reacted to it by saying he didn’t think they would actually do it.

Because of this stunt, both YouTube Red and Disney have dropped the YouTube star. PewDiePie’s show Scare PewDiePie was also cancelled, effective immediately. Rightfully so.

Do I believe that PewDiePie himself is antisemitic? Not even a little bit. I think he’s a normal, dumbass guy who takes things too far to try to get a laugh. He went about it all wrong. He could have had Funny Guys write anything on that piece of cardboard, instead he tried to be controversial and it backfired.

PewDiePie released an apology video in which he stated he will accept the consequences of his actions, but not before blaming the press for blowing it out of proportion. In a way, yes, the press did make the situation worse. For example, The Wall Street Journal went through his videos and took a lot of his content out of context to make it seem as though he’s been antisemitic all this time.

What PewDiePie doesn’t seem to realize, though, is that he wasn’t dropped from YouTube Red or Disney because the press blew it out of proportion. They dropped him because he was blatantly antisemitic. Not only have his actions caused his career a major setback, but they’ve also impacted other people.

Scare PewDiePie not only employed over 100 people, but YouTuber JackSepticEye flew to Los Angeles from his home in Ireland to collaborate on the show. JackSepticEye put a lot of work into Scare PewDiePie to play the villain of season 2. Pewds mentions this in his apology video, but puts the blame on YouTube for cancelling the show in the first place. No, Felix. You need to think about these things before you attempt to “push boundaries.”

When you’re in the spotlight, you can’t just say or do whatever you want. When you’re in the spotlight, other people get hurt by the consequences of your actions. For example, I wouldn’t go on Twitter under Real Women of Gaming’s handle and spew hatred because that would not only impact me, but also all the other wonderful people that make Real Women of Gaming what it is today.

Being an adult doesn’t mean you can say or do whatever you want. I means you can understand your mistakes and learn from them. So, Felix, I hope you learned from your mistake like you said you have.

What are your thoughts on the situation? Let us know in the comments below!