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    • This Week in Nerd News 8/23 - 8/30

      1 year ago

      LightningandIce

       

       

       

      Welcome to This Week in Nerd News, my weekly blog series where I recap some this past week's geeky entertainment headlines. I also throw in a little of my own $0.02 for good measure. I don't catch everything but I try to get the interesting stuff. Thanks for reading, I hope you learn something and enjoy.

      Hello News Nerds. That should be the reader nickname! Maybe? Maybe not. Maybe. Anywho, we got off to a slow start this week but things picked up quite a bit by Tuesday. There was a lot I wanted to include but I've been busy and have run out of time. YouTube's game channel, MGS and Devil's Third reviews, and Notch's infamous Twitter rant all came pretty close. I did get some good stuff, though, especially if you like Shovel Knight. Hopefully this will be informative.

      Also, there won't be another issue next week and maybe not even the week after. I have two trips scheduled in the very near future and likely won't have internet access. Even if I do, I'll probably be too busy to use it much. So thanks for reading and I'll see you in a couple weeks.

      Volume 1 Issue 3 - 8/23 to 8/30 2015

       

       

       

       

       

      8/25 - Shovel Knight expansion imminent

      Link 1 - PC Gamer
      Link 2 - Nintendolife
      Link 3 - Destructoid

      The Gist:
      Yacht Club Games notified Kickstarter backers that a free Shovel Knight expansion has been submitted "for certification" and will be available "very very soon." The expansion is called "Plague of Shadows" and will allow players to control Plague Knight, one of the bosses of the main game.

      My Opinion:
      I have a very love/hate relationship with Shovel Knight. On one hand, I love it. On the other, I HATE THIS GAME WHY'S IT SO HARD AARRGGHH!!! That's pretty much what everyone probably thinks. According to the articles, the "certification" (whatever for) was submitted back on August 5 and the release is very soon (I'm writing this under the assumption that this issue wil be out before its release.) My favorite knights were Specter Knight and Tinker Knight. I probably would have preferred one of them, but who am I to turn down free gameplay? I'll love playing this. By the way, if you haven't played Shovel Knight, I highly recommend it.

       

       

       

       

       

      8/26 - Castlevania animated series

      Link 1 - Collider
      Link 2 - Comic Book Resources

      The Gist:
      Producer Adi Shankar (Dredd, Lone Survivor, The Grey, Power/Rangers) announced on Facebook that he will be teaming with Frederator Studio (Adventure Time) to created an animated series based on Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse. According to Shankar, the series will be dark, violent, and satirical.

      My Opinion:
      This is interesting. There are a lot of details here that seem really odd, but make perfect sense when you think about them. Frederator has shown a penchant for adult themes in its products, so that seems like a logical choice to go to for this kind of project. Why the third one, though? Why not the original, or the fan favorite Symphony of the Night? If I'm not mistaken, 3 is a prequel, so maybe they just wanted to start at the canonical beginning. On a side note, I find it interesting that Adi Shankar (who I had never heard of before) goes on about "flipping the vampire genre on its head" while he looks and dresses just like "Zombie Princess" Jimmy Jacobs, or maybe Criss Angel. Seems a little odd for a grown man, but who am I to judge? (I say as I continue to judge. I know that's wrong, I'll try to stop.) Anyway, fans could use some good news about a Konami franchise after the fiasco that this year has been, so let's keep our fingers crossed that this will work out.

       

       

       

       

       

      8/26 - Original Turok games getting PC re-release

      Link 1 - Kotaku
      Link 2 - Digital Trends
      Link 3 - Destructoid

      The Gist:
      Night Dive Studios announced that it is working on updated re-releases of classic N64 FPS games Turok and Turok 2 for PC. Night Dive Studios previously did similar with games like System Shock 2 and I Have No Mouth but I Must Scream.

      My Opinion:
      Surprising news, but good news. The more of these games that get re-released, the more I realize how many FPS games I missed out on during that time. I'm glad that Night Dive is putting forth the effort to bring these games to a new audience. I was able to play through System Shock 2 for the first time because of them and loved it. Turok isn't quite so high on my radar, but maybe I'll check it out down the line. There's not release date yet but it will be available through Steam, Humble Store, GOG, and the rest of the usual suspects. Hopefully this will work out well for fans and bring in new ones as well.

       

       

       

       

       

      8/27 - Civil War concept art reveals teams

      Link 1 - Comic Book Movie
      Link 2 - CBR
      Link 3 - Comicvine

      The Gist:
      Comic Book Movie website released leaked concept art from Captain America Civil War revealing which heroes would be allied with each other during the movie's conflict. The leak was apparently confirmed by Hawkeye actor Jeremy Renner on Twitter.

      My Opinion:
      I'm still a little skeptical on how real this is or if it's going to be accurate to the film. It's been all over the internet, though. The basic plot of Civil War is that government legislation has put Marvel's heroes at odds with each other, so they split into factions to fight one another. I could go on about how this would work in the movie universe (which is a lot smaller than the comic one) or which characters are where. That's a lot to write about for a film that's still a year away, so let's just look at the pictures:

      From left to right we have: The Sidekick, the Chick, the Hero, Token Black Guy, and the Sixth Ranger. Also pictured: Ant Man and some kind of flying thing.
       

       



       

       

      8/27 - Shovel Knight amiibo

      Link 1 - Nintendo Life
      Link 2 - Destructoid
      Link 3 - Destructoid
      Link 4 - Destructoid

      The Gist:
      ?Nintendo officially announed an upcoming amiibo based on Shovel Knight. The amiibo is being created by the game's developer, Yacht Club Games, who licensed the technology from Nintendo. It will unlock new modes in the Wii U and 3DS versions of the game. This comes after UK retailer GAME leaked the news a day earlier.

      My Opinion:
      Two big pieces of Shovel Knight news in one week. It's double the shovel. Props to Destructoid for following this one so closely, btw. I'll stay optimistic and not analyze the problems with amiibo. I think it looks awesome, and it's thrilling to see the indies getting into the scene. Thus far, the only thing it is said to unlock is a few game modes in Shovel Knight. I doubt I'm alone in wishing it would have come with a Super Smash Bros. DLC announcement. The fact that's being developed by Yacht Club themselves instead of Nintendo probably means that's a pipe dream. (It is cool that somebody besides Nintendo can do it, though.) Still, it opens up the question of which other indie characters might work for amiibo? I'm holding out for a llama.

       

       

       

       

       

      8/28 - Last gen MKX ports cancelled

      Link 1 - Official Announcement
      Link 2 - Polygon

      The Gist:
      Warner Brothers Interactice announced that the XBox 360 and Playstation 3 versions of Mortal Kombat X have been cancelled due to quality concerns.

      My Opinion:
      Well, what the balls. I was thrilled about the official Shovel Knight announcement, then this immediately killed the mood. I don't own a PS4 yet, and won't for a while, so I was looking forward to the PS3 version as my way to play it. I'm also a little upset about the implications toward High Voltage Software, who was working on the port. They don't have the best track record - mostly sub-par ports and licensed games - but they made a fan out of me with a few decent Wii games, including the criminally underrated Conduit 2. They had a co-op FPS in the works called The Grinder which disappeared into development hell. Fast forward a few years, and the next big news is that they can't even make a decent last-gen port of an already existing game. It's kind of a double whammy for me.

       

       

       

       

       

       

      Reader Request

      Last week a reader from ScrewAttack made a suggestion for a story that interested him. It sparked my imagination, so I figured, why not try out a reader request section? We're still in the early stages of this series so it'll be a nice experiment. Anyway, this week, Samuraispartan7000 wants you to check out this Kickstarter. It features some guys who want to build a big robot. It's pretty neat. If you like big robots, maybe you'll be interested. And if you have anything that you think I should include, well there's not going to be an issue next week, but keep an eye out.

       

       

       

      So there we have it. These are only a few of the big stories this week. Thanks again for reading. Just a reminder, if you care, I'll be gone for a couple weeks so there likely won't be another one of these for a while. So until next time!

    • 9 Worlds that Should be in Kingdom Hearts

      1 year ago

      LightningandIce

      I was in middle school when the first Kingdom Hearts game was announced. It merged Disney with Final Fantasy in a bizarre tag team that not only worked, it blew everybody out of the water. My family got it for Christmas that year and it instantly became one of my favorite games ever. Many years, many spin-offs, and one direct sequel later, Kingdom Hearts is one of the most beloved franchises in video games.

      After all this time, the much anticipated third installment is on its way. Square and Disney have been spoon feeding us information since E3. With the recent announcement that Big Hero 6 will factor into the new one, it has my mind abuzz about what other kinds of worlds should be in the series. Don't lie, you do it too. Whenever we think about Super Smash Bros., we think about what characters should be in. With Kingdom Hearts, it's the worlds. So since I've been doing one so much lately, I'll indulge the other. Here are a few worlds that I think we should be able to explore in Kingdom Hearts III.

      These are in no particular order, by the way.

       

      1. Frozen

      Yes, I know, I'm sick of it too. Trust me. I babysit a couple kids and for the better part of a year after this movie came out I heard that stupid snowman song every single day. "Winter's a great time to stay in and cuddle but put me in summer and I'll be a" SHUT UP! Seriously! Just let it go already. No, wait, I mean, NO! ARGH!

      Part of the reason that Frozen is so timeless is that it fits perfectly with classic Disney. Drenched in an endless winter, Arendelle is a perfect place for Sora to adventure in. Imagine battling ice-theme Heartless through snow-covered mountains while helping Ana turn her sister back to good. There is the beautiful town to explore, and singing trolls, and a lot of other stuff that makes this a pretty good fit for Kingdom Hearts. Given its smash hit popularity, I think it's actually pretty likely that this one will show up.

       

       

       

      2. Robin Hood

      Robin Hood is one of those older Disney flicks that seems to have flown under everyone's radar. I've always thought it was a shoo in for Kingdom Hearts. It's full of adventure and has a lot of potential for fun with Sora and co. It's easy to google a list of old forgotten Disney films and pick them out for KH. "Ooh! Black Cauldron should be in there! Atlantis! Treasure Planet!" While those would all be great choices too, Robin Hood has a special place in my heart.

      Many don't agree with me. Apparently, behind the scenes, it was a cash grab. It was kind of slapped together and re-used a lot of animation from past films. I didn't know that when I was a kid, and it's been one of my favorites in the Disney canon for as long back as I can remember. It also has all the makings of a great Kingdom Hearts world. A lovable scamp of a protagonist to join the party. Some of the best music Disney has put out. Several set pieces that would translate spectacularly to game format. Imagine an archery contest, or fighting a giant heartless atop a burning castle. Robin Hood should have been an obvious choice from the beginning, and I think it's time it gets included.

       

       

      3. Cars

      I have no idea how this would work from a gameplay or story perspective. Maybe it would be a mini-game of some kind like 100 Acre Wood or Atlantica in KHII. I really just want to know what kind of vehicle each of the characters would be. You know how in the Lion King world they get transformed into animals? (Well, Donald and Goofy are already animals, but whatever) It would be the same way with Cars. Once you land, everyone becomes one.

      So what would everybody be? Donald, being a duck, would probably be a float plane. Goofy would be the family truckster, or possibly the shaggin' wagon. As for Sora, maybe a Ferrari? No, that's too mary sue-ish. It would have to be something sleek and cool but not overly so. How about an '86 Monte Carlo?

       

       

      4. Gravity Falls

      If you're not familiar with Gravity Falls, it's a cartoon on Disney XD from the makers of Phineas and Ferb. It follows twins Dipper and Mabel as they spend their summer vacation visiting their uncle in the backwoods little town of the same name. It doesn't take long for them to realize that there is something strange afoot: the paranormal and supernatural thrive there. With the help of their friends and an enigmatic old book, the duo spends their days battling the forces of darkness and solving the mysteries of the town. It has plenty of humor, but even better than that is how intriguing and sophisticated the plot it. It joins Adventure Time as one of the best recent cartoons.

      The Heartless would fit in flawlessly. I can see them attacking while Dipper and Mabel try to figure out what's going on. Maybe Gideon (their rival) would try to control the Heartless, and Sora and the crew have to show up and help. There is a lot of potential here to fit in the game. It would also be a nice fresh environment compared to the high fantasy settings of other worlds.

      Speaking of the people responsible for Phineas and Ferb...

       

       

      5. Phineas and Ferb

      Okay, okay, I'm only half serious with this one. Ol' P&F probably aren't the best fit for Kingdom Hearts. I just think it's funny to think of teaming up with Agent P to save the world from Doofenshmirtz's deheartinator or something. Also, with their wacky plots, maybe the titular duo could lend a hand in sidequests or mini-games or something.

       

       

       

      6. The Incredibles

      If you haven't caught on by now, a big part of my criteria for what would make a good KH world is it's potential for action sequences. Most Disney films have some kind action sequence. Even Beauty and Beast had the fights with the wolves and Gaston. On the rare occasion where there's not something to draw on for excitement, it isn't that hard to plop a few Heartless in there and let Sora beat them up. When it comes to action-y, adventure-y Disney IP's that would be good in Kingdom Hearts, there are two that instantly come to mind.

      I was smitten with The Incredibles the first time I saw it. It was one of the first superhero movies I saw that showed how a society would really function if super-beings were part of our every day lives. It also characterized them as realistic human beings without getting overly melodramatic about it like comic books tend to. The Incredibles created it's own world of superheroes and we only saw one story. I assume it would follow the movie. You would help the Parr family escape from Syndrome. Which one would be your partner? Bob? Helen? Frozone? Would the other characters come and go? If not, how would they work. You can't have a whole cast of superheroes and not get to play with them. Maybe the rest of the family could be summons?

      I don't know the answers to these questions, but I would love to find out.

       

       

       

      7. Final Fantasy VI

      That's not a Disney movie! In all this talk of Disney, it's easy to forget that half of the Disney/Final Fantasy pairing is, you know, Final Fantasy. Thus far, the combination has always been Disney acting as the different worlds while the FF characters are the major NPC's that move the story along. This has worked out pretty well for people like Squall, Cloud, and the Moogles, but then we get some characters who are just thrown in goofiest ways just to make a token appearance. (Anyone remember the Gullwings in KHII?)

      I think there's a pretty obvious solution to adding more Square characters without making it too contrived: just give them their own standalone world. I think I remember reading one time, a long time ago, that there are actually contractual reasons why there are no Final Fantasy worlds. Nevermind that crap, throw the players a bone and give us a world based on a Square Enix game. For that, I think one of the best choices is Final Fantasy VI. I've never played it, but it seems to be the fan favorite and I don't think it's gotten any substantial representation so far. So why not make it it's own world?

      Unless, of course, you prefer...

       

       

       

      8. Chrono Trigger

      I only played this one for a few minutes a long time ago. I've longed to give it another shot, and I know it's a legendary game among fans, so it seems like a given for another Square game in KH. It wouldn't be the first non-FF Square game to make an appearance. A few characters from The World Ends With You dropped into the latest installment on 3DS. So why not let the players join Crono is his fight against Lavos?

      The real question here is how the story would work. Chrono Trigger relies pretty heavily on time travel. There has been a little bit of time travel in KH before, but nothing to the scale that accurately reflecting CT's story would require. So how would it work? Would it all be self-contained? Would you have to revisit the world multiple times? How about both?

      Let's say the first time you stop in, there is a little bit of time travelling and you can't leave the world during that time. After a boss battle, though, you can go back to the present and continue your journey. Then later, the group has to go back into the past Timeless River-style to revisit some old Disney cartoons. Something happens and they can't get back to the present, so they have to spend a few levels going to different worlds in the past. One of them would be the CT world, where they meet up with Crono again on the same adventure but in the past. Then they go in the future and finish the CT segment, and then use the time machine to get back to the proper time and go home. Or something. I'm thinking too much into this.

       

       

       

      9. Kim Possible

      I saved the best for last. This show was slightly after my time, though only slightly, but it was still good enough to hold my attention. It's kind of a light-hearted action series that would fit very well with KH for the same reason as The Incredibles. It was about a teenage girl named Kim who made a website claiming she could do anything. So people started contacting to fight crime. So she did, and was actually pretty good at it. Along with her friends Ron, Rufus, and Wade, she battled supervillains to the delight of kids everywhere as one of the few good cartoons of the time.

       

       

       

      EXTRA - Two series I do NOT want to see in Kingdom Hearts

      For all the grandiose, star-power filled IPs that Disney has yet to tap into, there are two obvious ones that have yet to make an appearance. That's because Disney only recently acquired the rights to them. Marvel and Star Wars are two of the most well known properties in modern culture. Seeing them crossover with Kingdom Hearts, or each other, or anything else, is a nerd's dream come true. Sora fighting Darth Vader or teaming up with Spider-Man sounds awesome. Until you start to think about it more seriously.

      For starters, there's the fact that these aren't Disney properties. Well, they are, technically. Because Disney bought the rights to them. This does not retroactively give Disney a hand in their creation or mean that Disney had anything to do with their creation. Over time, the big D's influence will be felt more and more. For right now, Marvel is still Marvel and Star Wars is still Star Wars no matter whose name is on the paperwork.

      Even more than that is the fact that they just wouldn't fit. Both of these are cultural giants. They have decades of storylines and lore, with their own world-ending threats and galactic villains. There is no way that either of them could be shrunk down and packaged into one little world for the cast to explore like they do with one-off Disney films. Trying to force either of them into that position would be extremely disrespectful to their respective legacies. On the other hand, trying to twist their stories around and weasel them into a larger role in the plot would be equally as disrespectful to Kingdom Hearts itself.

      I guess I would be okay with a little shout-out here or there. Maybe Hulk or Doc Ock could be a bonuse boss in Olympus or something. I know it could be done well in the right hands. If they ever decided to include either of these giants, I hope it would turn out great. Until then, though, my opinion is to just leave well enough alone.

       

       

       

      These are only a few of the worlds that would shine in Kingdom Hearts. They have so many properties to draw on that this list could be endless. These are only my favorites. I'm sure you have your own. Should Sora get shrunk down to adventure with Woody and Buzz, or Flick and Dot? Wanna get meta with Wreck-It Ralph's game world? If we're going to bring cartoons into the mix, would you prefer Gargoyles? The possibilities are endless. Let me know what you think if you want, and thanks for reading.

    • spare blogs

      1 year ago

      LightningandIce

      Ganondorf, the Great King of Evil

      Since the beginning of time, humanity has told tales of heroes and villains. Stories of courage, wisdom, and power; of good against evil; of virtue and evil. These fables are the lifeblood of gaming, and of all the myths that have adorned our medium, few are as prominent as the Legend of Zelda. LoZ is one of the most beloved and influential game series to date. It is one of Nintendo's flagship franchises, telling of a young warrior named Link and his unending quest against the forces of darkness.

      As the main villain of one of Nintendo's most important games, Ganondorf seems like a shoe in for the Smash Bros roster. There is a pretty noticeable lack of villains in SSB, after all. There's really no reason why Ganondorf can't join Bowser to bring some much needed--

      Wait. What do you mean?

      What do you mean, "what do you I mean?"

      Isn't Ganondorf already in Smash Bros.?"

      Well, yes and no. Ganondorf is technically in the game. There is a character named Ganondorf who is modeled after Ganondorf, but that's pretty much where the similarities end. In Smash, Ganondorf is a slow brawler, primarily using hand-to-hand tactics like grabs, punches, and takedowns. While the G-man is a pretty intimidating dude, his pro-wrestling like repertoire in Smash is far cry from his portrayal in the Zelda series. Ganondorf's real combat assets are his sword skills and black magic. In SSB, he's basically a slower, clumsier version of Captain Falcon.

      This is a point of contention among fans. Many, myself included, feel that such an important character from such an iconic series should get a little more respect. On top of that, if he had to be a clone, why Captain Falcon of all people? Wouldn't another sword character be more appropriate, like Ike or Marth?

      I should note that I don't hate the man in his current form, I just wish he would get more of his own unique moves. In Brawl, G-dorf was one of (if not THE) worst character in the game. Smash 4 has seen a lot of deserved improvements. Granted, I won't be maining him anytime soon, but I no longer throw a fit if he pops up when I pick random. Still, I can't help feel that Ganondorf needs a little retooling to make him more in line with his home series.

      Who is Ganondorf?

      Ganondorf is the main villain from the Legend of Zelda series. He is the bearer of the Triforce of Power, a warlord whose desire to take over the land of Hyrule never ebbs. Most Zelda games involve Link having to compile some kind of things and rescue the princess so that they can defeat Ganondorf and stop him from plunging the world into darkness. One interesting tidbit of trivia is that it isn't known whether Ganondorf is one character or many. You see, the Zelda games are spread out across many generations. The Links and Zeldas are actually reincarnations, born into an unending cycle of warring against Ganondorf before bringing peace. On the other hand, many believe that Ganondorf is actually the same character, surviving from game to game for the new Link and Zelda to fight again and again. I'm not sure if this is canon or not, but it's a very strong fan theory.

      If you're not sure, why not just Google it?

      Because where's the fun in that? Anyway, the exact history of Ganondorf across the entire series is a little hard to pin down, due to LoZ's infamous nonlinearity and the fact that I haven't played all (or even most) of the main games. From what I understand, Ganondorf is the reincarnation of Demise, the antagonist of Skyward Sword. After Demise is defeated, he places a curse on Link and Zelda, which is the catalyst for their endless war against his new form, Ganondorf. Don't quote me on that, though. I haven't played Skyward Sword.

      Again, if you don't know for sure, why don't you Google it?

      Why don't you shut up?

      :-P

      Ganondorf was born to the Gerudo, a race of humanoid thieves. Legend has it that one male is born to the race every hundred years. This male then becomes their king.

      So wait, if the entire race is female, how do they reproduce in the first place?

      That's a good question. Maybe they kidnap males from other races, force them to mate, then kill them. Like drones in an ant colony.

      If that were the case, wouldn't every identifying feature of the race be bred out within the first few generations? Besides, its the father who passes on the necessary chromosome to decide the sex of the baby, so if that were the case, then it the whole "no males" thing wouldn't exist.

      Hmm. Maybe they reproduce asexually? With spores or something?

      I thought that was just fungi and amoebas and stuff?

      Well, there are some reptiles that reproduce asexually. Some sharks have been shown to do it as well.

      How do you know that?

      The 1998 Godzilla movie. Also, I Googled it.

      Aha! So you are Googling things!

      ANYWAY! Ganondorf was born to a race of thieves. He used his wiles to manipulate both Link and the ruling royalty, tricking them into granting him access to an ancient power called the Triforce. With this, he conquered the kingdom of Hyrule. His dark reign was brought to an end by Link, whose time travelling adventure saved Hyrule but created alternate dimensions that are far too complex to detail here.

      From then on, Ganondorf would try repeatedly to take over the various incarnations of the world, always being defeated by a Link and a Zelda. In the sole case where he wasn't, Ganondorf was imprisoned in a parallel universe, a "dark" version of Hyrule. After being locked away for centuries, the world's power would mutate Ganondorf into a blue pig-like monster named Ganon. Even this dark prison would not be enough to hold him. Ganon's black magic allowed him to escape and yet again declare war on Hyrule, forcing a new Link and Zelda to step forward and continue the never ending cycle of war.

      Due to the series tendency to move backward in time rather than forward, the character was originally seen in the blue pig "Ganon" form. This was the antagonist of the original game. The third game in the series, A Link to the Past, retconned Ganon as originally being a human named Ganondorf, though this form would not appear in person until the fifth game, Ocarina of Time. Since then, the -dorf version of the character has become more prominent. Personally, I prefer Ganon for nostalgia reasons, and because I think he looks cool. -dorf, however, has long since become the dominant version and remains as the primary antagonist of the LoZ series.

      There have been a few other villains in The Legend of Zelda. Most of them, however, end up having some kind of connection with Ganondorf anyway. The few that don't are one-off characters relegated to only one major appearance, usually in a side game. To my knowledge, the only exception to this is Vaati, a wizard from the Minish Cap and Four Swords games.

      How should Ganondorf work in Smash?

      Despite what I said in the introduction, I don't think that Ganondorf should be a sword fighter. That may seem a little counterintuitive, seeing as how swords are a common method of attack for the man in LoZ. However, I think that Smash suffers from an overabundance of sword users already. Every Fire Emblem character is sword based. Even the magic-weilding Robin has a sword. Link, Shulk, and Meta Knight all have heavy sword use as well. Pit uses a sword for some attacks. Kirby uses a scimitar in one of this specials, and a claymore in his latest Final Smash. There are a few sword-like items, and a whole slew of assist trophies that use swords. If there is anything that Super Smash Bros. does not need, it's more fricken swords.

      I'm not opposed to Ganondorf retaining his hand-to-hand fighting for basic attacks. If it is necessary to give him a weapon, a better option would be a staff, such as Ganon's trident from A Link to the Past. The sword, if present, could be limitted to a handful of attacks such as smashes. If he used the trident, perhaps one of his tilts or smashes could involve throwing it a short distance as he does in some games.

      Ganondorf's specials deserve to be retooled. As they stand, they mostly owe themselves to Captain Falcon's brawler style. Boss fights in LoZ reveal Ganondorf has a much wider array of moves to draw inspiration from. In my research, I've gone on YouTube and watched most of the major Ganon and -dorf fights throughout the series. Among them all, I've noticed two recurring themes.

      The first is a projectile. Ganon/-dorf uses some form of energy ball in almost every game. Usually its some kind of dark matter, which would make it appear similar to Lucario or Mewtwo's energy balls in Smash, though occasionally it is fire or lightning based. There are some variations to his projectiles which would make it more unique from the charged energy balls that other characters use. In many of the games, such as OOT, Ganondorf is shown to launch multiple projectiles at once. In ALttP, Ganon's fireball leaves a trail of flames on the ground behind it. Perhaps my favorate variation comes from the hidden boss in the Oracle games, in which Ganon shoots a larger ball that bursts into several smaller ones. Any number of these variations could be given to Ganondorf in Smash to make his projectile more unique from other characters'.

      Another recurring theme in Ganon/-dorf boss fights is what the Zelda Wiki calls "Dead Man's Volley." This is the infamous tennis set up, which an enemy (usually a boss, which is either Ganon/-dorf or a closely related underling) shoots something at the player, who then has to hit it back. The boss will then parry it back at Link, who has to reflect it again. This continues until somebody misses and takes damage. This type of boss fight has been featured in every Zelda game since ALttP on SNES. Since it's such a staple of the series, giving Ganondorf some kind of reflection move is a no brainer. The SSB wiki has a whole list of characters who can reflect projectiles, including but not limitted to Fox, Falco, Mario, Ness, Palutena, Mega Man, and R.O.B. Of all the characters to have that ability, Ganondorf seems like the most obvioius, though his Captain Falcon moveset prevents that.

      Those are the two most apparent revisions to his moveset. There are a couple other abilities that the Big G has shown that could make it into Smash as well. In the beginning of the boss fight in OOT, and occasionally throughout, Ganondorf will powerup some energy into his fist and slam into the ground, creating a shockwave. There are a number of characters who have moves with similar effects in Smash. This move could be used as any combination of down moves for Ganondorf, or even an Up Special if it's preceeded by flying up in the air (in OOT, Ganondorf levitates through most of the fight.)

      One of Ganon's coolest abilities is the fire bats in ALttP. In the final boss of that game, Ganon summons fireballs that circle aroudn him defensively. One by one, they transform into bats and fly at Link. Batman from Injustice has a similar move with mechanical bats. In Smash, this could work like a variation on Mega Man's down special, the Leaf Shield.

      Finally, I think Ganondorf's sword spin from Wind Waker should make an appearance, perhaps as a tilt or smash attack. I know that I said "no swords" above, but seeing as how the entire final battle in WW is a sword duel, that game would end up getting the shaft. It think it would be fair to throw in Ganondorf's double sword spin to keep it fair.

      I would love to see the traditional blue pig Ganon form in the game in some form or another. I'm not sure if I would want him as full fledged character, though. Even though I prefer Ganon to -dorf, the -dorf version is far more well known nowadays, and it deserves its spot. The alternate outfit system could work. However, even with Ganondorf being as beastly as he is, they would have to put pig-Ganon on a heck of a diet to put him in without affecting the hitbox. One way to add Ganon to the game might be as a long term transformation to replace the one-and-done version in -dorf's Final Smash, though if you ask me, the transformation thing is a little overdone anyway.

      So I don't know how blue pig Ganon would fit into the game, but I'd love to see it happen somehow.

      What are the chances of this actually happening?

      Not only is it possible, I don't even think it's unlikely. Obviously we don't have to worry about Ganondorf getting on the roster, since he's already there. As far as being retooled, it would be new but not unthinkable. A lot of characters go through changes between games. Mostly stat tweeks, and a move here and there. I don't think anybody has been completely rebuilt from the ground up, though.

      The biggest opposition would be fans of the game who don't want to see their favorite character get altered. Seeing that Ganondorf was one of the worst characters in Brawl, and that many fans aren't too keen on his status as a Captain Falcon clone, I don't think that would be a problem unless Ganondorf starts topping tier lists for SSB4. Whether or not Ganondorf could ever be altered is just a matter of if the game designers had the desire to do so.

      As far was the likelihood of my ideas being manifest, I don't think it's out of the question to see something similar. My dream moves literally came straight from the boss fights themselves. It doesn't get much more genuine than that. I highly doubt my ideas to be completely accurate, but I wouldn't be surprised if they were in the ballpark.

       

      That's it for today. I rather enjoyed taking an in-depth look at an existing character rather than geeking out over a new one. This might be something to do again in the near future. I also liked revisiting past Zelda games, and looking into some new ones. It gave me a new appreciation for the character and his series, and even makes me want to look into some the LoZ games that I haven't played yet.

      Thank you for reading. I hope you'll join me next time for another issue of Challenger Approaching. Who do you think it will be?

      Goku! Do Goku! It has to be Goku!

      Ugh, not this crap again...

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

      The Top 5 Taylor Swift Songs that Should be Covered by Rob Zombie

      Taylor Swift. Rob Zombie. Two titanic titans that have rocked the eardrums of music fans like no others. Rob Zombie has rocked the masses with his horror metal tunes like Dragula and Super Best and stuff. On the other end of the spectrum, Taylor Swift has sang her way into America’s heart with her unforgettable hits like “I love you” and “Now I hate you” and “I love you but now I hate you but now I love you again” and stuff like that. These two seem like a perfect match, and I can only wonder why neither has ever taken the steps to combining their talents before. They would go together like peanut butter and jelly. Or peanut butter and chocolate. Or peanut butter and something else that goes good with peanut butter. So that’s why I made a list of the top five Taylor Swift songs that Rob Zombie should totally seriously cover.

      Oh, and for everybody out there who thinks that this is stupid, and that Taylor Swift shouldn’t sink so low as to associate herself with Rob Zombie, or vice versa, I only have one thing to say to you:

      Do you prefer your toilet paper over, or under? Give me at least twenty individual reasons why to support your answer.

      HA! Now while those people are busy doing that, the rest of us can read the list!:

      THE TOP TEN TAYLOR SWIFT SINGS THAT SHOULD BE COVERED BY ROB ZOMBIE

      2.) The one that’s like “in a Monday on a café I watched it begin again.” Or something like that. I don’t know the title but it’s that one.

      This one seems like a no brainer. Back in the eighties, when hair metal was cool and before Nirvana came along and ruined music, there was a pattern. All of the new bands would release some rockin’ single with guitars and shredding and stuff, and they would go on the MTV wearing leather to show how tough they were. Then, for their second hit single, they released a really slow croony number to show that while they might be tough on the outside, they’re really sensitive on the inside and it makes me cry. This was very common, done by like a bazillion bands. Why? Because it made the record companies money and made sure the band members got more something something? NO! They did it because it was cool and stuff.

      Rob Zombie is a legendary rock/metal/hip-hop artist who has had like, a bajillion hits. However, in all that musical goodness, he still has one major blunder in his career. If you look at his library, he has no soft heartfelt love ballads. This is a major problem. It leaves a gaping hole in his work like a pit in the middle of something where there should be no pit. Like a cherry. I hate pits in my cherries.

      Bizzarely, Mr. Zombie chose not to do that. It was pretty silly. So that’s why he needs to cover this song. Because Rob Zombie needs a nice heartfelt song about, you know, like feelings and stuff. Which is why this song would be perfect.

       

      Whew! It’s been a long time coming. I can’t believe how long it took. With such a huge library of music, it was nearly impossible to come up with only fifteen songs that Rob Zombie should cover of Taylor Swift’s. We did it though. We’re almost done. Before we get to number one, let’s take a look back and recap how we got this far:

       

      2.) We Are Never Ever Ever Ever Ever Ever Ever Ever Ever Ever Ever Getting Back Together

       

      Okay! And now for the number one song, it’s the moment you’ve all been waiting for, it’s number one!

       

      Okay here we go for number one:

       

      1.) Sparks Fly from Speak Now

      Come on, don’t say you didn’t see this one coming. It’s absolutely positively resolutely gynecology perfect. With the beat and everything it would be exactly the type of thing that Rob Zombie should do. And so are the lyrics. And especially the guitar part. What Rob Zombie will have to do is get that one guitar player back from White Zombie to do the lead guitar. Here let me explain.

      Sparks Fly has that one guitar part. It’s like, doo doodoo dooDOO do, doodoo dooDOO do, doodoo dooDOO doo, doo, doo, doodlydoo doo. Then we have more human than human, which is like: wyoonyoonyoont, wyoonyoonyoont, WYOONYOONYOONT, WYOONYOONYOONT!, a bunch of times then wyoooOOoOoOoOoOoOo WYEOWNt!. Imagine his interpretation of Sparks Fly. It would something: dwyoo wyeunyewnt dyeunt DYEW deew, dew-neyoo dewnt NEUW neuw, deew neewu newnt nyeew dewn dewn dewn dyeewnyooonewntnyunewn. Yeah. It would frickin rock.

       

      So that’s it, thanks for reading. I’m glad you enjoyed. If you want, leave a comment and tell me which Rob Zombie song you think Taylor Swift should cover. Join me next time when we mash up the Boston Pops Orchestra with the London Philharmonic!

    • nick

      1 year ago

      LightningandIce

      Alright! Alright!

      The first time I really became aware of Nickelodeon as a brand was due to a specific primetime block. it started with Doug, followed by Rugrats, and capped off with Clarissa Explains it All. This little trio came at a time when I was getting old enough to understand a little more about how things work. I can't say for sure exactly when this was. My research says that all three of them got their start in 1991. That would have put me around two years old. There's no way I was watching them at that age, but I remember discussing them with friends in as early as first grade (95-96 for me) so I was still pretty young.

      Clarissa Explains It All Intro from Vanessa Castillo on Vimeo.

      To this day, Clarissa Explains it All is pretty fondly remembered. It starred Melissa Joan Hart as the titular teenager. She was a kind of hip, radical nineties teen who dealt with regular teenage problems, especially being the cool kid in a family of conservative squares. She listened to rock while they played classical, she was in jean jackets and neon leggings while surrounded by sweater vests. She was the lady in red when everybody else was wearing tan. Helping her cope with all this was her equally cool best friend Sam. Sam always entered the scene the same way: Clarissa would be sitting in her room, a ladder would get raised up against her open window, she'd say "Hey Sam," and he'd enter to surf-rock sounding guitar chord. Sam was a cool dude.

      The actual plots weren't anything out of the ordinary. She would get a crush on a boy, or would need to get money, or her parents would ask her babysit and she didn't want to, that kind of thing. The show very rarely left the set of their house, so a lot of development came from Clarissa explaining it to the audience. Indeed multiple times during the episode, Clarissa would turn to the camera and start speaking to the viewers like we were her friends.

      There were a couple things she had that I thought was awesome. For one, she had a phone in her room. Yeah! Her OWN PHONE! IN HER BEDROOM! But that was nothing compared to her COMPUTER! Clarissa had her very own computer in her bedroom. That seems ridiculous by todays standards. Even younger kids hav etheir own cell phones now, and most of those are pretty much computers anyway. Keep in mind, though, this was in the early nineties. Clarissa predated even WIndows 95. PC's were just starting to become more common. At the time, they were still a bit of luxury, and my family wouldn't get one for several more years. So the fact that Clarissa owned a computer at all blew my mind, let alone having her own personal one in her bedroom. That she could make video games on.

      So Clarissa Explains it All tried to be cool, and for a little kid, it was. They even used the word "hell" once in a while, which was unheard of on a kids' show. Truth be told, its edginess was a tad contrived compared to the actual plots. All of the "cool" stuff basically came from the producers trying way too hard to make it such, but the attitude of Melissa's Clarissa sold it for us and made us think we were watching something that was more mature than it actually was. It earned its little niche in our hearts at the time. Melissa Joan Hart would go on to play another teenager, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, which practically made her a household name later in the decade.

      Clarissa was one of my first favorite live action Nickelodeon shows. It was by no means the first or most historically significant, though. That honor may very well go to You Can't Do That on Television. Apparently you can, because they did. It's not a porn or anything like that. It was just a sketch comedy show. I've never actually seen it myself, though many people seem nostalgic for it in talking about old school Nick shows. My research shows that it was also pretty influential in what would come later.

      You Can't Do That on Television, also known as YCDTOTV (even the acronym is a mouthful) predates every other show I have or will talk about here by a pretty significant margin. It debuted in 1979. It was a Canadian sketch comedy show in the same vein as Saturday Night Live. It got picked up by Nick after a couple seasons, who carried it all through the eighties and into the mid-nineties, when it was replaced by their original shows.

      Despite not being one of Nick's original programs, it was highly influential in crafting the network's branding. For starters, YCDTOTV was one of the first major sketch comedy shows aimed at children. It paved the way for Roundhouse and All That (more on those later.) It was a very popular show and likely drew viewers to Nickelodeon. It also introduced the dirty, messy, gross-out theme that would become prevalent on Nick in the years to follow. The show frequently used the old pie-in-the-face gag, but more importantly, it also invented slime. Green slime was a staple of 90's Nick. Their game shows constantly had contestants getting it dumped on them. It was a recurring theme and frequently referenced all across the network, even getting it's own devoted TV show (Slime Time Live) in 2000.

      The whole slime schtick got its start right here, as a recurring gag on You Can't Do That on Television. So whether you watched it or not, there is no denying the influence this show had on the network in the years to come.

      While we're on the topic, I might as well touch on Roundhouse. That's another sketch comedy show that I see a lot of people talking about but never actually saw myself. In fact, I barely knew it existed. That kind of perplexes me, as it aired from 92-96, so I should have at least been aware of it. Reading up on the show for this blog, I can see why it didn't last. I apologize to anybody who liked it, but it seems like it sucked pretty hard. It was a minimalist sketch comedy show with very few props and a lot of music and dancing. It had a plot that centered around a family, and while there were jokes, there was also lessons to be had. Don't do drugs, love your family, that kind of happy-go-lucky glurge that we didn't like. Add to that, halfway through its run, Nick started airing All That. There was no way the corny, prop-less, unfunny Roundhouse could compete with it, so I think it's no surprise that it got overshadowed and forgotten pretty quickly.

      Not every Nick show to come out of the era was something I liked. I watched pretty much every Nick show at one point or another depending on what else was on (YCDTOTV and Roundhouse being exceptions) but not all of them were quite so legendary in my mind. In the recent news about all this Nick stuff, one name I see getting tossed around a lot is Hey Dude.

      Hey Dude was a live action sitcom/drama that actually predates Clarissa (I apologize for jumping around in chronology) about a bunch of teenagers that go to work on a dude ranch. Darma and hijinx ensue. Like many of these old shows, the thing I remember the most is the opening title. It began with a guy with a really low voice going "heeeeeey duuuuude," and the rest of the sequence was a big spinning horseshoe that showed the actors in the middle of it. I barely watched it, because I didn't like it. I'm sure there was humor in there, but it tried to be a little more mature and have some drama in there as well, appealing to the Saved by the Bell demographic. The one episode I remember the most is one where three of the characters were trapped in a well or a cave or something and had to ration the water in their only canteen. It tried to be tense and dramatic. Maybe it's because it was meant for tweens and teens at a time when I was barely in elementary school, maybe it was the "western" theme that didn't really have any real westen excitement, maybe it was the lack of comedy. For whatever reason, I always thought it was bland as balls.

      Hey Dude's partner in terms of fan demand is Salute Your Shorts, a significant improvement over the former. Salute your shorts took place at summer camp, following a bunch of teenagers as they cause mischief, to the chagrin of their try-hard camp counselor. The counselor's name was Ug, and the most memorable of the campers was Budnick. As a kid I thought it was Buttnick. He was the bully of the group, the smart alec, he was pretty much the leader despite being a manipulative jerk. I don't remember the other characters' names, though each one had some kind of cliched personality quirk (the tom girl, the dumb guy, the hippie, etc.) Plots involved them doing stuff. Despite the nature of the show, their exploits rarely had anything to do with camping. They often had a lot to do with hijinx, however. The tone and characters are pretty well summed up in the opening, which is pretty awesome actually:

       

      The tone was my primary complaint with the show. I did like it, it was enjoyable to watch, but I always felt kind of morally conflicted about it. To put it bluntly, these kids were assholes. Buttnick was the worst but by no means the only, and I think he sums up my feelings toward the show as a whole. He was my favorite character and was really cool, but in real life I would have been terrified of him. The show tried to make Ug, whose status as the authority made him the antagonist, into an uptight prick so that we would hate him. It kind of worked, but not well enough. Even as a kid I recognized that he was just trying to keep a bunch of troublemakers in line while they blatantly disregarded the rules and acted like total jackasses.

      The kids had a "prank" that they would pull called the Awful Waffle. Basically, they pinned the victim to a table, lifted up his shirt, and poured chocolate syrup all over his belly. I remember one episode where they did it to some poor kid who was just a nameless background character. I was actually disgusted by that. A couple of the episodes I remember involve the campers trying to win a trivia contest and the only person who knew the answer to the question was Ug, so he held it over their head for being such jerks to him. (I think the question was "what color is a giraffe's tongue?" or something.) Another involved a little girl coming to camp as a guest and being a total prick, but playing up the "cute little girl" card to get away with it. It got the point where even Buttnick tried to tell her to lay off.

      It seemed to rely too heavily on the idea that breaking rules is cool, and pushed it too far. I still liked it despite being crude, even if it made me feel a little dirty for doing so. I would later recognize Buttnick's actor as playing John Connor's friend at the beginning of Terminator 2. I also found out just now that he did the voice of Montana Max in Tiny Toons. Then there's the children's program at my church, which runs a branch of a program called Awana. I enjoy volunteering there, but every time somebody mentions the name, I can't help singing to myself, "Camp Anawana, we hold you in our hearts..."

      In reading up for this post, I stumbled on another show that I used to watch that I never even realized was on Nick. It was a sitcom called My Brother and Me, and apparently not many people remember it. I actually remember it quite well, and really enjoyed it, so I have no idea why I forgot it was from Nick. It was a typical kids sitcom, starring a tween boy named Alfie and his best friend Goo. Alfie had an annoying younger brother named Deedee who he frequently came into conflict with. There was also an older sister named Melanie that Goo had a crush on, and the parents who were always mildly embarassing but had a good lesson to teach. In a lot of ways, the cast, chemistry, and character dynamics characters reminds me a lot of a later nineties sitcom, Disney's Smart Guy.

      The show tried to be more urban than its contemporaries, with an almost entirely black cast, and music that sounded like the beats from rap songs. That was pretty much where it ended, though, The plots were all pretty much standard far, Alfie and Goo trying to be cool while dealing with the family. The whole tone gets summed up pretty well in the opening credits. It's the characters playing around in front of white background while interacting with the graphics and names. If that sounds familiar, it's because it's basically a hip-hop version of Clarissa's opening. Actually, now that I think about it, that's also the same set-up for Doug's opening sequence. I guess somebody at Nick really liked that.

      A couple other things that stand out about the show: Alfie had a Game Gear. That was awesome. It wasn't unheard of to see video game products in a show at the time, but they were almost universally Nintendo related. (Not that I'm complaining, I love Nintendo). I also had a Game Gear, though, a sadly overlooked handheld, and loved seeing it on TV. It wasn't prominently featured, but you'd occasionally see Alfie pick it up for a couple seconds. I always wondered what game he was playing. Comparing it to my own games, it had to be Sonic, as that was the only game I could think of that could be enjoyed in such a short time but was still popular enough to be owned. He probably wasn't playing anything.

      You know that cheerleading-type chant that goes "U-G-L-Y, you ain't got no alibi, you ugly"? My Brother and Me was the first time I ever heard that. It was from a gag where the sister and her friend are practicing it in the living room. The sister leaves, and there's a knock at the door, so the friend goes to answer. It's Goo, and she immediately repeats the chant at him. I thought that was hillarious.

      The episode I remember most was one where the guys try out for the school play of Robin Hood. Alfie gets the lead role but it becomes a whole dramatic thing when Alfie has to wear tights because of his costume. Something very similar happened in an episode of Doug, so that's two things the shows had in common. Or maybe somebody on Nickelodeon's writing staff had a tights fetish. Not that there's anything wrong with that ;-)

      In the middle of the decade, Nick decided to boost their catalogue of comedy, game shows, and cartoons with a few high-concept genre shows. These were often more serious in nature, and most of them were named after the main character and their predicament. I also hardly watched any of them. The show to kick it off was 1994's The Secret World of Alex Mack. That was a very well recieved show that maintains a cult following to this day. It's not hard to see why when you look at it.

      Alex Mack was a girl who always wore a hat. She went to school, had an older sister that she didn't always get along with, a couple rivals at school, and generally lived her life as any normal teenage girl would. Except for the fact that she was in an accident where she was given super powers from a mysterious chemical and was now in hiding from the government or the company that made it or something. I don't know the extent of her powers but the ones they showed off the most were telekinesis or her ability to turn into a puddle like the bad buy from Terminator 2. That's the second T2 reference I've made in three paragraphs.

      I can't say a whole lot about Alex Mack because I only ever saw a couple episodes of the show, despite it being pretty popular and getting a lot of play on Nickelodeon. This might be where I saw I didn't like it, but honestly, I have no idea why I didn't watch it more often. It was pretty well done by most accounts and the premise was somethign right up my alley. You'd think I would hav eaten it up. Researching and writing about it now has me legitimately curious, and I want to check it out now. Maybe it will get some air time on The Splat and I'll be able to rediscover something I missed out on the first time around.

      Chronologically speaking, the next big sci-fi show to come was Space Cases. It was created by Peter David (Star Trek New Frontier author) and Bill Mumy (Will Robinson from Lost in Space) and thus the show shared a lot of similarities with creators' opi. It involved a group of space kids from space school who snuck onto a spaceship and blasted off into space thus getting them lost in space, and now they had to journey through space to get home from space. That's a lot of space, but there was an even bigger space where the budget was. The show was so cheaply produced that they often resorted to recylcing props from other shows, especially Are You Afraid of the Dark?

      So anyway, the kids went on a quest to travel home, and along the way, they stopped at different planets and had adventures with alien races and stuff. Like Star Trek and Lost in Space. The thing that made me take notice of the show early on was that it featured actor Walter Emanuel Jones, aka Zack Taylor, aka the Black Power Ranger. That was awesome. Too bad it wasn't enough to hold my attention. I really couldn't get into Space Cases and never really liked it. The big wigs at Nick must have agreed, because it was cancelled halfway through its second season. It still has a fanbase, though, and reading through what some of the devoted watchers had to say, maybe it deserved a little more credit. Here's somebody who has an entire LiveJournal about the show, including this post which is a nice picture guide to the show. It does it way more credit than I ever could  so if you're interested, read that instead of this. Apparently they also tried to feature the death of a main character at the end of the first season, but the producers put a stop to it because they didn't think kids could handle it. That's bullcrap.

      Getting back to our "The Show Plot of Character's Name" genre-fiction shows, let's talk about The Mystery Files of Shelby Woo. As you might expect, this one was a mystery series. I watched it quite a bit and was rather fond of it. Shelby was a bright teen who was an intern at a police station. Or or janitor. Or maybe it was some kind of job shadowing program? I don't know. For some reason, she worked at a police station despite still being in high school. Her boss was a detective, and she was frequently nosing around and trying to help out with his cases despite frequent warnings to back off, and the fact that she was often put in danger. She had two best friends who helped her out, and her grandfather was Pat Morita. This was the first major role I had seen him in. I still identify him with it. While most people might say "hey, that guy's the trainer from karate kid!" my mind still goes to "hey, he's Shelby Woo's grandfather!"

       

      One day I was watching Snick (the Saturday night programming block) when a weird advertisement popped up. It started like any other commercial for a Nick show, one I'd seen a million times, when part way through, some kind of apce thing would fly across the screen and a voiceover would say "something strange is coming." I thought that was a really creative way to advertise. The "strange" thing ended up being a new show: The Journey of Allen Strange. If Space Cases was Nickelodeon's Star Trek, then Allen Strange was Nick's ET. It was about an alien child who got stranded on Earth when his ship visited our planet. He got taken in by a small town middle class American family, transformed himself into a black kid, and spent his days trying to fit in like a normal teenager while keeping his powers secret and trying to hide from the government.

      It was generally a lighter show that tried to inject some serious stuff once in a while. Your mileage may vary on how well that succeeded. I was excited for the show when it first came out but lost interest relatively quickly, still watching it when nothing else was on but really I could just take it or leave it. The thing that stays with me the most was a sub-plot involving a mannequin. At one point, there's an episode where Allen's teacher needs to have a meeting with his father, but of course said father doesn't exist. You know the set-up from a million other shows. So to get Allen a dad, the cast gets a mannequin and Allen uses his powers to bring it life. Mannequin-dad then became a recurring character. The big moment for me was in a later episode (it might have even been the series finale) when Allen thinks he's going to get to go home. There is a scene where Allen says goodbye to his "dad," still in mannequin form. After he walks away, the shot lingers on the mannequin as a single tear rolls down its cheek. In retrospect, that was pretty corny. At the time, it freaked me out. If you've read one of my blogs in the past, you may know that I had a phobia of the supernatural as a kid, spurred on by shows like Unsolved Mysteries and Sightings. As luck would have it, I had recently watched a show about crying statues. Like, Virgin Maries with tears of blood and whatnot. That shot of the crying mannequin scared me senseless.

      That's not all of the live action shows that Nickelodeon brought to us as kids. Along with their game shows and toons, they delivered a lot of potential entertainment to us kids. Some of it wasn't quite so good, some of it was awesome. The effort, though, is unquestionable. Some of them have stayed with me, some haven't. Either way, all these years later, I'm grateful to Nick for...

      ...Wait, what?

      Aren't I missing something here?

      Why actually, yes, yes I am. If you're familiar with nineties Nick, then there is a obviously a gaping whole in this article. There are four shows in particular that everyone remembers. They were the possibly the best and Nick had to offer, and made a huge impact on anyone who was a fan of the network in those years. Nickelodeon's Elite Four, so to speak. The reason I haven't named them here is because I have so much to say about each of them that I could write an entire post on each one individually. This articles has already rambled on enough as is. So I'm saving them for there own. Tune in next time when I'll be looking at the big four of Nickelodeon's live action shows.

       

    • Game Review - Xenoblade Chronicles (Wii)

      1 year ago

      LightningandIce

      Xenoblade Chronicles is an underdog story in more ways than one. Born in a world of strife, it seemed destined for obscurity until, against the odds, we chose to fight. Even with its extremely limited North American release and quickly becoming a collector's item on the Wii, Xenoblade Chronicles beat the odds enough to develop a cult following, get a 3DS port, and even get some representation on Super Smash Brothers 4. These obstacles kept me from indulging the game until very recently. This review may be a couple years out of date for the Wii, but having recently finished it only days within the release of the 3DS version, I can't help give Xenoblade Chronicles its due.

      "The future's not set. There's no fate but what we make for ourselves." - The Terminator

      Xenoblade Chronicles
      System: Wii (reviewed), New 3ds
      Developer: Monolith Soft
      Publisher: Nintendo, Xseed
      ReleaseD: April 6, 2012

      The universe of Xenoblade Chronicles exists as an infinite ocean that stretches for eternity in all directions. In the center of it all stand two collossal titans. Legends say that in ancient times, they fought a massive battle against each other until one day both fell dormant. Fast forward a few thousand years, and life has cropped up and evolved on their corpses. On one, the Bionis, is a world not unlike our own. Forests and mountains, plants and animal, human-like Homs and a few other sapient species. The other, Mechonis, has become home to race of robotic insectoids called Mechon. Centuries later, these species carry on the war of their parents. The Mechon hold a vicious edge in the conflict, but homanity has managed to stave off extinction thus far thanks to a mysterious magical sword called the Monado. (That's the red thing you see in all the promotional material.)

      That's all backstory, mostly given in the opening cutscenes. The player, for their part, follows the adventures of Shulk and his companions. Shulk is a young tinkerer studying the Monado when one day his home is attacked by a mysterious new mechon. The assault leaves many, including one of his best friends, dead. With a lust for revenge, Shulk takes up the Monado and sets out to discover the secrets of the mechon. He soon finds that the Monado has taken to him Chosen One-style, giving him a host of new abilities, not the least of which is looking into the future (That's So Raven style.)

      There are a few cliches, or course. There are heartfelt reunions with long-thought-dead companions. A moody villain who'se really just misunderstood and needs a hug. An ancient evil magically sealed away. (Multiple!) wise lost races who show up just in time to info-dumb a bunch of exposition on the party. The same stuff that pops up in every JRPG. It didn't bother me that much, as there is enough originality in the game to make it feel fresh and interesting anyway.

      Early on, the conflict is mainly there to move the party from location to location. Early in the game, the characters don't really know where to go, so they chase shadows like a breadcrumb trail that bring them from place to place. The story is very internally-focused for the first half of the game. The characters will enter a new location and discover some major problem plaguing the locals. The main conflict gets put on hold until the party rescues the runaway kid/defeats the dinobeast/helps the princess explore the ruins, at which point the mechon will make a token appearance and the party moves on to the next area to reapeat the process.

      For much of the game, the mechon are just faceless mooks (pun totally intended.) We don't start to learn about them or even meet the big bad until pretty deep into the game. Early villain Metal Face is excellent to watch, but his role is mostly to show up and banter before a quick boss battle, then fly away so the party can chase him to the next area. It does make the plot feel a little slow sometimes, and I wish would have met the mechon leader earlier in the story to give us somebody more substantial to root against. However, I don't think this has an overly negative impact on the game. What we get is plenty of development of the world itself. Discovering the regions, races, and cultures or Bionis is every bit as intriguing as busting up mortal enemies.

      Xenoblade's universe truly does feel alive. Every race has a ton of history. Every location on Bionis has little touches to make it feel so much more than just a map in a video game. Many NPC's are characters in their own rights. There are dozens and dozens of named NPC's that have their own lives, schedules, and relationships. A few are even more developed than some of the -agonists. They are a great addition to the game, and it's a pleasure to watch their own stories unfold through dialogue and sidequests.

      Speaking of sidequests, there is definitely no shortage. It's pretty common to walk up to a group of NPC's and see a half-dozen exclamation points over their heads. Many lead into each other, and many more are dependent on where you are in the story. Given the number of NPC's, they can pile up really quickly. If you're thorough in talking to residents, you can add literally hundreds of things to your to do list in just a few minutes. There were times when I would spend entire play sessions solely doing sidequests. It's enough to drive a completionist nuts.

      Most of them aren't very interesting. The overwhelming majority of them consist of "go collect random item(s), kill random monster(s), and/or talk to random NPC(s)." That can be a far more daunting task than it seems. The sheer volume of each of those things is incredible. On top of that, they are spread out across huge areas and often only appear at specific times. There's no in-game encyclopedia for enemies and items (and only a vague one for NPC's) and dialogue hints are usually ambiguous Encountering any of them even once depends entirely on being in the right place at the right time. Tracking them down deliberately requires either monumental luck or near omniscient memory.

      Or a walkthrough.

      Which I used.

      A lot.

      Some sidequests are more unique and, as mentioned, tie right in to the lives of the minor characters. They can link together to create effective sub-plots. Granted, for the player's part it usually boils down the same thing, but helping a Nopon uncover a drug cartel is a lot more worthwhile than two hundred different versions of "hey, I want to knit a sweater. Can you go to death mountain and kill twenty-six velociraptors for me?"

      Of course, you don't have to complete them all. Players are free to do them at their leisure. Skipping too many, though, means missing out on not only sub-plots but experience and party affinity as well. I eventually got in the habit of saving them up, then taking a break when things got hard to go back and catch up. This not only made it more tolerable for sidequests but allowed me to level grind without things becoming monotonous.

      (On a side note, I do NOT recommend doing this before the final boss. The last few enemies of the game do not scale with the party's level. If you stop at the point of no return to go play completionist, you're likely to end up a good ten to fifteen levels higher than you need to be, thus turning the final boss into a complete joke. When you get to the point of no return (you'll know, trust me) I suggest copying your save file and then going ahead to the final battle. Then, use your other save to go do what you want to do afterward. Otherwise, you're looking at a pretty big anticlimax.)

      What's not monotonous is exploring. The environments on Bionis are stunning. Absolutely enormous, gorgeously designed, packed with interesting little things. More than sideuests, more than combat, just going into a new area and exploring was one of the highlights of the game. Every area on Bionis is packed with scenery. Keep in mind, the "world" is the body of giant titan, meaning the layouts can get really unique. Even something as basic as a small hill can be really cool to look at. It brings me back to my childhood playing The Legend of Zelda. It's rare that modern games give me that kind of thrill just from walking around, so Xenoblade gets major props in that department.

      Unfortunately, that's not consistent all the way through the game. Late game locations tend to get pretty sparse. There's a particularly dull stretch near the turn of the third act when you get behind enemy lines. Mechon territory has very little of interest to see (despite having one of the largest locations in the game). Friendly NPC's are almost non-existent (yet the game still manages to pile on a few thousand boring sidequests) and the color pallet sucks. It's made a little more pallatable by the fact that this is where the story starts to heat up and powering your way through it is pretty straightforward, so it's easy to overlook.

      Exploring is helped by the fact that environments are gorgeously rendered. With the exception of the above, colors are vibrant. There are lush fields and hazy forests. Waterfalls that could come from photographs, and mountains that could come from Thomas Kinkade. There are ample places to just stop and admire the scenery.

      I only wish the visual quality could have carried over into the character models. Monsters and mechon are adequate, but the characters leave a lot to be desired. You might not notice it in play, but closeups in cutscenes reveal them to be pixely. Their faces are flat, with mouths that don't always match the words. To put it bluntly, human characters look like they could be from a PS2 game. I'm not big graphics in general, but there's another, even worse factor in the character designs.
      The party's equipment reflects on their character models. Not uncommon in modern games. The problem is that equipment is designed in sets, with certain pieces matching other pieces from the same set, like medeval Garanimals.

      There is no guarantee that you are going to have every piece of equipment from a given set, and if you do, that still doesn't mean that they will be the best things to equip on any given character, forcing you to mix and match if you want the best stats. This means that it's extremely likely that your characters will end up with, say, a huge bulky chest plate and a loin cloth. Even the outfits that do go together are still often hideous. My endgame equipment for one character was honey-yellow armor with circle things on it. It looked like somebody glued cheerios to a bottle of Mrs. Butterworth's. Then gave him a helmet that looked like a Beetleborg. It's really irritating, to say the least. It can even ruin some of the drama when there's a serious cutscene going on and somebody is dressed in a shogun helmet and a bikini. I'd go so far as to say that his is one of my biggest gripes with the game.

      The rest of the presentation is pretty good. The English dubbing, for the most part, is superb. A couple of the voice actors - Metal Face, Dunban, and Xord - like to chew the scenery, but that just adds to the charm. To give further credit to the audio department, Xenoblade has one of the best soundtracks I've ever heard. It's filled to the brim with memorable music, and very few bad tracks to speak of. Heartfelt harmonies, melancholy melodies, and blasting battle guitars are masterfully composed and perfectly placed to elicit just the right mood. There are a couple themes still haven't left my head.

      All of these aspects come together quite nicely in the cutscenes. In the world of interactive movies, it's rare when cinematics are still considered a reward, instead making players yell "shut up and let me play the game!" The cutscenes in Xenoblade can be as exciting or emotional as any movie. There is one particularly long late-game cutscene that goes on for at least twenty minutes, and I didn't even care. Hand it to the folks at Monolith Soft. When they want to make something epic, they know how to do it.

      The biggest gameplay element that I haven't touched on yet is combat. Enemies roam around unpopulated areas (usually predetermined groups in predetermined spots.) When the players gets too close to a sufficiently hostile foe, they will attack automatically. On top of that, players can choose to make the first move, which usually nets them some mild bonuses at the start of the battle.

      The fighting itself can be a little complicated. Battles take place in real time. The player can move their character around while basic attacks happen automatically as long as they are in range of the targetted enemy. Special attacks, called "Arts," are selected by scrolling through icons at the bottom of the screen. It sounds simple enough on paper, but figuring out how it works under the hood is a different animal. Tactics are not as simple as "use water spell against fire enemy." Most arts have some kind of effect besides just causing damage. To adequately bring down baddies, you have to figure out how these effects work together. Buffs and status ailments are huge in Xenoblade, as well as positioning and aggro. Some arts are best used in conjunction with other arts, either yours or your allies. On top of that, each character (which you can switch between outside of battle) has a different intended role in combat, and has different strengths and weaknesses to match. That means changing your party also means changing your strategy to find the best way to make characters work together.

      I'm told that the combat is based on the system used in many MMO's, such as World of Warcraft. When it comes to that genre, my experience is a big fat zilcho. It doesn't help that the combat "tutorials" are poorly-written in-game instruction manuals that are shoved down the players throat en-masse at the beginning of the game. After the fifth or sixth one, I basically said "screw this, I'll figure it out on my own." As a result, it took me a while to get used to the nuances of combat. Once I did, I had a lot of fun incapacitating enemies or dealing massive damage with just the right combos. It just took me longer to get to that stage than it should have. Players with more experience in this type of thing likely won't have the same problem.

      In keeping with Shulk's ability to see the future, sometimes during battle, the current character will experience a vision. This serves to warn the player of an impending enemy attack, typically one that will kill a party member. This gives you a few seconds to react and prevent any negative drawbacks. This is both a useful and creative way to link the story with the gameplay. It can get a little annoying in longer battles when the action keeps getting interrupted.

      There are a couple other minor hiccups in combat. Changing targets is cumbersome and frequently unresponsive. In bigger battles, it can sometimes be a pain to lock on to the enemy that you actually want to attack. Sometimes your character will switch targets on their own (usually due to an enemy's attack), and if you don't notice right away, you'll end up flailing like an idiot. AI allies can have an occasional brain fart as well. They are mostly pretty competent, but every once in a while they do something stupid. Wasting a healing art on a party member at ninety percent health when somebody else is barely clinging on to life, or running off to go fight a distant monster that wasn't even part of the battle in the first place, leaving you to get bumrushed by a bunch of minions. The latter can get especially annoying when you realize that maps are peppered with occasional high-leveled enemies or mini-boss like "unique monsters." It's not uncommon to be item farming against low level frog monsters when suddenly the music changes and you find yourself being chased down by a level ninety T-Rex.

      Despite the complexities and nitpicks, the combat really is satisfying when you get the hange of it. Nothing beats topple-locking an enemy to keep them pinned to the ground, or using a chain attack to get a multiplier and knock off two thirds of an opponent's health bar in one attack.

       

      For all the game's primary pros and cons, there is one minor thing I've saved for last. It's an odd quirk. I'm not sure if it's a flaw or not. Most people wouldn't even care. In fact, I guarantee that I'm the odd one out for even noticing it, and taking issue with it might make me seem like I'm being overly sensitive or politically correct or something.

      WARNING: The next section contains minor late game spoilers. It also includes discussion on religion. I DO NOT WANT TO TURN THIS INTO A RELIGIOUS DEBATE. If you want to avoid spoilers, or if you don't think you can read pro-religious statements without making negative comments, please skip to the next section. Thank you.

      I know very little of past Xeno- games. One of the few things I DO know, is that they contain a lot of religious parallels, not all of which are positive. I've made it no secret that I'm a practicing Christian, and so I was a little apprehensive going into Xenoblade Chronicles. I did as much research into the plot as I could without going into spoiler territory, and saw nothing to indicate that -blade followed in the footsteps of it's Xeno- counterparts. 

      Well, sure enough, late in the game, some gods show up and start working against the party. These so-called "gods" are hardly similar to the "Faith, Hope, and Love" deity of Abrahamic faiths. They are more like the gods of mythology, being basically super-powered humanoids. This is nothing new. The same kind of thing pops in countless works of fiction and I have never even batted an eyelash.

      The problem here is that once the gods come into the conflict, the characters take on a very anti-theistic mindset. It's hard to blame them, of course. The Xenoblade version of Zeus is a collossal prick. If my only example of a god was a murderous maniac, I'd probably feel the same way. That said, when the characters start going on rants about "how much better the world would if there was no god," it makes me feel kind of, for lack of better word, icky

      I don't say that lightly. I have pretty thick skin about this kind of stuff. Looking at my shelf just now, there are at least a dozen other games on there that also have you fighting an evil god. Xenoblade Chronicles takes that beyond a simple plot point. I've seen YouTube comments that are less anti-theistic than some of the heroes' late-game dialogue. At risk of sounding overly sensitive, it started to bush the boundaries of what I'm willing to accept from my protagonists without being offended. 

      Despite what I said, I'm NOT actually offended. If I was, then I would have stopped playing the game right then and there. Xenoblade's "god" is not analogous to Jesus or YHWH, and the characters' actions are completely justified within the context of the plot. It did not stop me from enjoying the game. I am also not questioning anybody else's relgious beliefs or their right to express them. I simply want to let people know that there is some potentially offensive religious stuff going on here.

      In other words, consider this one big trigger warning.

      End spoilers and controversial stuff.

       

       

      I'd be remiss to pretend that Xenoblade Chronicles doesn't have it's shortcomings. Characters look off, there are too many monotonous sidequests, and the game in general can be a little slow sometimes. On the flip side, the music is incredible, the combat is a blast (once you get used to it,) and exploring those big beautiful landscapes is a joy that I haven't gotten from a game in a long time.

      Buying Xenoblade Chronicles is a bit of a cash investment. Either you track down a copy of the Wii version at hyper-inflated collector's prices, or you shell out the dough for a New 3DS (assuming you haven't gotten one already) before you can get the portable version. That's a bit of a commitment no matter how you slice it, which is why Xenoblade Chronicles is hard to recommend to everyone despite how much I enjoyed it. The game is jam-packed with content, so hardcore RPG fans will still get their money's worth even with the high cost. This goes double for completionists. For everyone else, I certainly won't discourage anyone from buying it, though I can't blame anyone for passing on the high price tag.

       

    • Game Review - Sweet Lily Dreams (PC)

      1 year ago

      LightningandIce

      Bundles! Don't you love them? I bought a Humble RPG Maker Bundle last year and got some RPG Maker games! One of them has been sitting untouched in my Steam library for months, until I got bored enough last week to finally try it out. And now that it's done, and I have a weekly blog quota to fill, I figured I'd review it.

      Sweet Lily Dreams
      System: PC via Steam
      Developer: RosePortal Games
      Publisher: Degica
      Released: May 16, 2014

      All images were taken from the developer's website.

      There isn't a whole lot of information out there about RosePortal Games. The most I can find about the group themselves is that they are small and like to make games with RPG Maker. They have apparently made several games in the past. Sweet Lily Dreams was the first to hit Steam last year, followed by its prequel, Whisper of a Rose. The humble little company seems to have some big dreams, which is a very heavy theme within its games, but that doesn't necessarily mean those games are a dream come true.

      The problem with RPG Maker games is since it's so user friendly, anybody can make a game by plugging some assets into a menu, typing a few text boxes, and calling it a day. A lot of people don't bother to do anything creative with the game the engine at all. As a result, most RPG Maker games end of playing virtually the same.

      The folks at RosePortal clearly weren't satisfied with this approach. Despite using RPG Maker, they crafted the game into their own. The vast majority of the mechanics are customized. RosePortal has implemented a crafting system, a sidequest system, a whole slew of minigames, an interior-decorating thing, they've customized most of the menus, and while I can't tell how it works under the hood, even the combat is at least aesthetically different from other games of this type.

      The visuals are also very well done. I've played around with RPG Maker and if Sweet Lily Dreams uses any of the default assets, I haven't noticed. The sprite work is great. The environments are exquisite, with plenty of little touches to make everything a joy to look at. The hand-drawn stuff is mostly spot on. I can't imagine how long it must have taken such a small team to put together all that art so well.

      Rounding out the presentation is the music. Tunes range from acceptable to memorable. Every single one is the work of somebody who knows what they're doing. While not all of them are memorable, none of them are offensive. I would love to add a couple of the songs to my music library, I'm honestly surprised that they haven't offered the soundtrack for sale or download to fans.

      This game is obviously not something that somebody crapped out in RPG maker for a quick buck. There is a lot of tender loving care put into making this game. RosePortal wanted to make it their own, and for that I applaud them.

      The story is about a seven-year-old girl named Lily and a team of dream defenders called Illuminati. Far from a conspiracy theory, this Illuminati is a group of magical warriors who travel between dreams to fight the monsters that turn them into nightmares. With a father who is never around and a mother that she can't quite connect with, Lily combats her lonely home life by reading. In a dream one night, Lily crosses paths with two bumbling Illuminati of the less-than-competent variety: a big hearted dog named Faith, and a cynical Tim Burton-esque "cat" named Curly. The encounter causes a sort of glitch in Lily's dream, which fully integrates her into the dream world. Since the two find her newfound magic powers useful in combat, and since Lily has nothing better to do anyway, she joins the duo on their quest to move up the ranks of the Illuminati and making sleeping a safer place for all.

      Let me say one thing right off the bat: the game is a little confused about its target audience. The visuals, audio, premise, and marketing all make it seem very child friendly. Without spoiling too much, it's not. Very, very not. As one user on the game's Steam forum pointed out, anyone who thinks this game is for kids clearly hasn't played it all the way through.

      Most of the game has you visiting different dreams based on different works of fiction. The heroes have to go through these levels in a fashion similar to Kingdom Hearts while the story unfolds. I like the plot, and it's fun to visit different places from literature, but the actual progression of the story arc has a few shortcomings. For one, all of the worlds are based on horror stories. The marketing, opening cutscenes, and word of mouth all led me to believe that there would be fairy tales and fantasy adventure, or otherwise a good mix of locales.

      Instead, every one of the levels comes from horror fiction or folklore. There's nothing wrong with that, per se; I loved exploring the town of Sleepy Hollow and the mansion of Dr. Jekyll. It just feels like a missed opportunity. They could have let us join Captain Ahab's hunt for Moby Dick or raid Ilium alongside Achilles. Instead, we get six spooky forests and a couple spooky castles. Some even have both of these. Sweet Lily Dreams does do a very respectable job with the lore it chooses to represent - I was always excited to see what the next dream would be and was always happy with how it played out - I just think a little more variety would have spiced things up.

      A couple of the selections struck me as a little odd. Most of the dreams are based on classic works or folkore, but every once in a while you'll run into something from modern fiction. I was a little surprised when the party crossed paths with the clown from It and John Kramer from the Saw movies. I don't mean thinly veiled expies; they're actually called by name. One of the worlds comes a comic book. This in a video game that is being sold to the public. If Sweet Lily Dreams was more widely known, I have to wonder if RosePortal might not be facing some copyright problems.

      There's something a little awkward about the way the story plays out. RosePortal clearly had a lot of ideas that they tried to implement, but something holds them back. There are moments in the story where something big and emotional is happening on screen, that for all the effort put into it, lacks any kind of potency. I blame the pacing, and the order of events. At the end of one of the early levels, one of the characters has a flashback that is supposed to be a big tragic reveal of his troubled past. The problem is that by this point in the story, said characters has had about two lines of dialogue. We barely know him, and thus his angst is lost on the player.

      The whole game is peppered with instances like this. Plot points that lose their impact due to the game's structure and pacing. The villains suffer from this the worst. There are two main antagonists: The Wrtier, some guy who travels between dream worlds to create nightmares just for funzies or something, and The Asureans, an ancient society that something something I don't even care enough to finish describing them. Both of these are practically non-entities. In their few token appearances, my reaction was never "oh snap, bad guys!", rather "oh yeah, they exist."

      Part of the villain problem is that their backstories aren't explained in a very cohesive manner. For all the worlds in Sweet Lily Dreams, the one that it fleshes out the least is its own. The Asureans' grudge has something to do with the Illuminati homeworld. Whenever they show up, they ramble on and talk about legends and history without every making the player care. Meanwhile, in the "real" world, there's a company that makes some kind of dream control device. This ties in with the backstory of many of the characters, including both Lily and the Writer, but we scarcely get into the meat of it. It's just talked about in passing while the player scarcely gets any glimpse of what it actually is. There's also some magic apparition lady who shows up a couple times to offer advice to the heroes. We're led to believe that she will have a big role down the line, but unless I missed something, she's never even mentioned after her second appearance.

      These come from the game's prequel, Whisper of a Rose. The developer has outright stated in the Steam forums that there are things you probably won't understand without playing Rose first. I think that's a little unfair. Considering how tied-in the plot is, I feel like it would solve a lot of Lily's story problems if they showed us more.

      This makes the climax of the game kind of bittersweet. Most of the plot threads come together nicely at the scene of the final battle. It leads up to an exciting conclusion that makes me wish we had been able to enjoy the build-up of these story arcs. Granted, the epilogue doesn't really do it much service with its lack of concrete details and Big Lipped Alligator Moment cliffhanger, but the tail of end of the game was definitely one of the highlights.

      If you'll humor me one more nitpick about the story, the characterization is all over the place. Some of the characters have a lot of personality, others are dull as bricks. Curly the cat is the standout character, and Faith is pretty well written too. Lily's personality fluctuates a lot. She's supposed to be a seven-year-old who is smart for her age because she reads a lot. Sometimes that's an accurate description, though sometimes it seems more like an excuse to have her be a lot more intelligent than she should be. Lily mentions reading Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde a long time ago, which makes me wonder if anyone on the development team has actually read it themselves. What's worse, though, is when she acts too young. Whenever the plot demands that she show her age, she regresses to that fake babytalk personality that all writers who don't spend a lot of time around kids use.

      For example, there's a point when the group is going up against a mummy. Lily refers to it as a "bandage monster." There is no reason why any seven-year-old wouldn't know what a mummy is, especially one as supposedly smart as Lily. The icing on the cake is that at the beginning of that level, she does call it a mummy, then promptly starts referring to it in baby talk. I facepalmed pretty hard at that one.

      The dream worlds are pretty well done. Each has its own self-contained story that are usually at least competent. They look nice as well, despite a lack of variety in their settings. The designers put a lot of scenery into each one, with flowers and bushes and grasses frosted all over the ground. It adds a lot of visual flair to environments. The only problem is that it's hard to tell what is part of the the tileset and what is a solid object. There are tons of the latter, meaning that walking through what appears to be an open field is more like navigating a maze of invisible walls. I wouldn't want the developers to get rid of all the nice scenery, just make it so we can walk overtop of it.

      Every world has some kind of puzzle gimmick. This was a very pleasant surprise. It turns the game into something a little more than just walking around and fighting enemies. They're often simple in concept and creative in execution. Part of the fun of visiting each new world was seeing what cool new thing the developer came up with this time. It's one more little thing that shows how much RosePortal cared about this project.

      They do tend to push these puzzles to the limit. Whether or not this is a flaw depends on how much you like being forced to think. I wasn't expecting the difficulty of the gimmicks, and while they were fun, many of them started to get old pretty quickly. There's a maze where the floor falls through with no indication of where you can stand, and a dungeon where you have to flip switches to open and close certain doors. The one that takes the cake, though, is the frog swamp. You get an item that lets you summon frogs to help you across a swamp. There are a bunch of different ways to go, but only one correct one, and you only get the exact number of items to make a perfect run through the swamp. It requires a lot of patience and a lot of trial and error.

      In fact, some of the dungeons stop just short of requiring a map and trigonometry. It got a little overbearing for me more than once. They still get an A for effort, though. Players who enjoy a nice challenging puzzle will feel right at home here.

      Most of the game balances out thus far. For everything Sweet Lily Dreams has going for it, there is some minor scuff that tarnishes the enjoyment. For each factor that makes me shake my head, it isn't enough to brign the game down. If we ended the review here, it would be pretty much a fifty/fifty split on pros and cons. Then we get to the combat.

      Sweet Lily Dreams uses turn-based RPG combat. It's as straightforward as it gets, and unless you have no idea what an RPG is, I don't need to lay out the details. The game tries to spice things up in a couple ways but most of them are flat at best, irritating at worst. A major part of the fighting is the element system. Most enemies and attacks have one of four elemental types, giving them strengths and weaknesses to the player characters' elemental spells. Basically, a substantially dumbed-down version of Pokemon.

      Pokemon this ain't. The combat is severely imbalanced, and much of that can be traced back to this very type system. For starters, the characters don't learn elemental spells. Their basic attacks never do much damage to begin with and actually seem to get weaker as the game goes along. The special attacks that they learn by leveling are either physical attacks with the same problem, or are buffs that don't actually seem to do what they're supposed to. Elemental spells have to be crafted and taught. While there's no shortage of supplies to craft spells, there certainly isn't enough to equip all of your characters with every element. It doesn't matter what kind of monster you're fighting, almost every battle in the game is going to leave you with at least one disadvantaged character.

      The one hit the hardest is Lily. Even her basic attack has a type, determined by an item you can swap out. You have a choice of one of these items at the beginning of the game, and the rest have to be bought. If you make a bad choice (DO NOT START WITH THUNDER) then Lily is completely useless for the first couple hours of the game. Getting the other elements doesn't help much: they can't be swapped on the fly. You have to go to a specific spot in the hub world to change them. If you pick the fire item and the next level has mostly water enemies, I hope you figure that out before you're too far to turn around. The monsters aren't exactly red lizards with fire tails. It's scarcely possible to tell what type an enemy is the first time you encounter it. You have to just throw everything you have and see what works.

      Even when you do get the proper magic attacks, their usefulness doesn't last long. All but the most powerful attacks get out-progressed pretty quickly. You can craft the right spells to empower your characters for one level, and by the time you get to the next, the enemies are strong enough that even a type advantage doesn't give you much offense. Which leads me to another complaint: on normal difficulty, enemies just plain take too long to kill. Every fight is a commitment. It can take upwards of four turns for your entire party to kill a single basic monster.

      This all adds up to combat being a dull slog. You never feel like you are making any progress. In a good game, a new attack should feel like a reward. A spell is supposed to empower players, to give us satisfaction of a new way to dispatch foes. Sweet Lily Dreams feels like a constant struggle just to keep up. It's not that enemies are particularly difficult if you pay attention and know what you're doing, it's just an endurance contest. Learning new attacks in this game is a necessity, like keeping your gas tank filled so you don't get stranded on the side of the road.

      Healing is just as bad. You know how most games have Inns at every town? Sweet Lily Dreams has a genie in the hub world. And that's it. There are no other ultimate healing options anywhere in the game. Once you enter a dream world, you're basically on your own as far as health goes. The only way to heal is with these green balls that you can collect, which the game actively discourages you from getting with the promise of a reward down the line. Healing spells suck for the same reason as attack spells.

      That leaves you almost entirely reliant on items. You have to stock up as much as you can on HP and MP potions before entering a new world. If your supply runs out while you're too deep in the level to go home, then you're out of luck. Just like everything else in the game, items get ouleveled. By the last couple worlds, they don't even heal enough damage to counter a single enemy attack. The strategy becomes "heal as much as you can on the overworld, hope for the best in battle." At least by that point you can pretty easily afford to top off your supply, but what good does it do to buy 99 potions if it takes 20 to get a character back to full health?

      Trying to avoid battle is a waste of time. Enemies are represented on the overworld so you can theoretically avoid them. Theoretically. In practice, the only way to actually dodge an enemy sprite is if you're lucky enough to trap it behind one of those invisible walls I talked about above. Once the fight commences, don't bother trying to escape. I don't know what factors into it. It seemed completely random whether or not it actually worked, with a success rate of about 1/6. You can't attack the same turn you try to run, so even selecting the option is akin to handing your enemy a free turn. On the off chance that you do manage to make it out of battle, it resets the enemy sprite to its original position on the map. If that's anywhere close to you, it's just going to beeline for your party and restart the battle all over again.

      Combat is not fun. The only way to lessen the irritation is to play on the easy difficulty. The Steam forum is packed with users to admit to starting on normal and hard before switching to easy part way through. Easy mode doesn't fix all the balance problems, it just makes your attacks do a little more damage. The issues persist no matter how you play. At least on easy, battles go by faster and you don't have to put up with the crap for as long.

      That's kind of a cheap way to make your game playable. It's kind of unfortunate, really. The developers put a lot of time and effort into making the game. It isn't all great, but there's still a lot to admire. It's kind of tragic that the combat drags down their work so much.

      Sweet Lily Dreams is not a great game. I don't even think it's a good game. Despite the best efforts from the developer, it is schizophrenic in quality and combat just plain sucks. That's not to say it's a lost cause. What it does do, is showcase a lot of talent from RosePortal. There is clearly a lot of potential in them. With a little practice to iron out their flaws, they could eventually be among the best RPG devs on the indie scene. Heck, this is the only game of theirs that I've played and they've made a lot more since then. As far as I know, their more recent work could be flawless.

      There is enough good in the game to keep me from hating it. At the same time, there's way too much bad for me to unconditionally recommend it to even hardcore RPG fans. The people who I think would get the most enjoyment out of these would be those who like difficult Zelda-style puzzles in their dungeons. Other RPG fans might not hate it, but if you decide to give it a shot, don't get your hopes up going in. And play on easy mode.

      Even if you do decide it's worth purchasing, wait for a sale. The going price on Steam is fifteen bucks. It's not that the developers don't deserve to get paid for their work - they've definitely put in the effort. I just think that's pretty steep for any RPG maker game, let alone one with as many flaws as this one has.

       

       

      Psst! Hey! Do you like my writing? Want to read more of my stuff, as well as some stuff by other great writers? Head on over to this little website. I post most of my stuff there a week before anywhere, and there are a few other great writers there as well.

    • Challenger Approaching: The Big Red Machine

      1 year ago

      LightningandIce

      A few days ago, I was at my uncle's funeral. The man was elderly and had not been in good health for many years, but was a very kind man and great blessing to our family. Emotions ran high. Tears streamed and hugs hugged as my family said our goodbyes. Gathered in the back of the funeral parlor, my brother, my cousin, and myself spent the time contemplating the great eternal mysteries of life and death. And while this great tragedy unearthed thoughts of the deepest philosophies, we debated a quandary of the most existential nature:

      Should Spongebob Squarepants be in Super Smash Bros.?

      I said no, of course. Super Smash Brothers is celebration of Nintendo, putting together their colorful cast of characters to show off their abilities. There have been third party characters included, of course, but those characters have always been from games and usually had close ties with Nintendo or their products anyway. There was certainly no reason that I could see for placing an American cartoon character, with no real connection with battling anyway, My brother and cousin, however, insisted that Spongebob's goofy nature would fit in perfectly with the cartoony aspects of Nintendo's roster. There was plenty of speculation on our porous pal's antics could factor into his attacks.  Summoning jellyfish, for example, or maybe blowing bubbles in the shapes of bombs.

      They came up a final smash, where a stove appears and Spongebob flips Krabby Patties at his opponents. And since no character can be in Smash without his own stage, naturally Spongebob would battle inside the Krusty Krab while Squidward looks on with disdain from his cash register. Mr. Krabs and some of the other citizens of Bikini Bottom would occasionally walk by in the background.

      Yeah, it was a silly conversation, and probably not the most appropriate thing to be discussing at a funeral. My brother and I have Super Smash Brothers on the brain. We just bought the latest SSB on Wii U a couple weeks ago and have been playing it ever since. We're a few months late to the party. The novelty has worn off for most people. The two of us, though, are still in the fandom daydream stage. Everyone goes through the same thing when I new one is announced. Who should be in it? What should their moves be? It goes on until slightly after the game's release, then the world moves on for a few years until the next one gets announced.

      The names that get tossed around range from reasonable to bonkers. Goku gets tossed around a lot, as does Shrek, and I honestly wouldn't be surprised if my brother wasn't the first person to suggest Spongebob. Mega Man was a pretty popular request before actually being added in the most recent interation. Others get a little crazy. Anime characters especially. And of course, there's always that person who says, "WHAT? Of course Nintendo HAS to add Ranamuna Moji from Aimaina no Gemu XXVII!"

      I tend to be a little more realistic. It's Smash Bros., after all, not MUGEN. A little thid party here and there is great, of course. And I certainly do my share of dreaming. That said, I don't realisitically think there should be an influx of non-Nintendo characters into SSB. But why can't we have a little fun? I've been thinking about it lately, and I've come up with a bunch of ideas for different characters. Sure, it's just fanboyish wanking that everyone does, but what is this idle chatter if not entertaining?

      I've taken some inspiration from another blog I've been reading lately, Prowler64's What if _____ was a Pokemon? series. I'm going to take a page from that series and test out one of my own. Here I'll be analyzing some different characters from games and other works of fiction. Maybe this will become a series. Maybe not. Some will be more realistic, others not so much. I've picked out a rather off-beat one for our pilot episode, so I hope you enjoy.

      The Big Red Machine, the Devil's Favorite Demon, one half of team Hell No and the Brother's of Destruction, it's KANE! In Smash Brothers' world of mascots and high fantasy, abstract attacks and sword weilders, what's more original than an actual professional wrestler? Classic Kane looks awesome and brings a much-needed grappling style to the series.

      WHO IS KANE?

      Kane is the brother of The Undertaker. They lived their early years in the family funeral home until a tragic fire robbed them of their parents and left Kane permanently disfigured. Kane was left to the "care" of government mental facilities, while the Undertaker was raised by Paul Bearer to become a force of darkness and eventually become one of the most dominant wrestlers in the World Wrestling Federation. This alliance would not last forever: in the mid-nineties, the two had a falling out, prompting Bearer to rescue Kane from a mental institution and bring him to WWF in order to get revenge on his brother.

      Much of Kane's story has focused on the Undertaker. The two have had a very on-again, off-again relationship. They have been both bitter enemies as well as invaluable teammates on multiple different occasions throughout their careers. Kane's conflicts have not been limitted to his brother, however. The Big Red Machine has certainly made his mark on the rest of the sports entertainment world as well. He has had a history with plenty of other superstars, including but not limited to Mick Foley, D-Generation X, Triple H, Rob Van Dam, Edge, a claw machine, Mark Henry, Daniel Bryan, and more. He's also held his fair share of championships, though he has always been motivated more by causing chaos than seeking glory.

      Storylines for Kane have gone up and down. His tenure in WWE has long outlasted Paul Bearer and the Undertaker. Perhaps the most significant event was Kane's unmasking. For much of Kane's career, he had hidden his face behind a mask under the guise of being disfigured. In 2003, Kane underwent a storyline in which he was publicly and permanently unmasked. Of course, since Kane's real life actor Glenn Jacobs has a perfectly normal looking face, this led to Kane becoming a generic strong bald guy for most of his run since then. Fans have been split on the quality of Kane's storylines since then, but with a couple exceptions (such as his recent team-up with Daniel Bryan) the consensus is that Kane's character hasn't quite been the same since. Despite this, Glenn Jacobs' undying loyalty to WWE and its fans have made his character retain its special place in the hearts of the WWE universe, especially those who remember his early badass years.

      Kane is an enormous human being. Even in an industry built around gigantic men, he dwarfs most of his competition. Keeping with the fire theme, his outfits are typically red and black. It all combines to make him one of the most visually appealing (not to mention intimidating) people on the roster.

      How would Kane work in Smash?

      Any adaption of Kane would have to be based on his masked looks. The classic one is the most obviously. I personally prefer the black tanktop-style outfit that he used in the early 2000's. Any of Kane's masked outfits would work. Since a couple are just the same things with swapped colors, I don't see why there couldn't be multiple alternate outfits in Smash.

      The character most similar to Kane would be Ganondorf. In fact, the inspiration behind this very article came when I was noticed that Ganondorf's side-special is extremely similar to Kane's signature move, the Chokeslam. Kane would function very similarly, being slow but powerful and fighting with his fists. Kane's Chokeslam could function the same way as Ganondorf's, or it could be used as a down throw. Another staple of Kane's arsenal that deserves representation is the Tombstone Piledriver. I can see this working similarly to Bowser's side special.

      Another fixture of the Kane character is the fire motif. Kane has had a very heavy association with fire throughout his career. In addition to his signature entrance taunt (more on that in a second) early Kane would sometimes throw fireballs (in one of the worst special affects in WWE history, I might add.) This could easily transfer over to Smash in order to spice things up (hehe) and give Kane a little more variety. to a primarily close-range fighter. Certain parts of Kane's body, like his fists, could be burning to add a little visual flair (hehehe) as well.

      Of all the different aspects of Kane's character, few are tied so closely as his entrance. Kane is one of the most prolific users of pyrotechnics in all of wrestling. He frequently announces his entrance with an explosion from the stage, and always lights up the arena with his awesome ring pyro. Once inside the ring, Kane will stand in the center and slowly lift his arms over this head before throwing them down, signaling pyro explosions from all four corners of the ring.

       

      This entrance is effectively Kane's signature. More than his moves, his mask, or anything else, Kane and his pyros are inseperable. This is essential and needs to have some kind of presence in Super Smash Brothers. Fortunately, there are a number of ways it could manifest. A taunt, an entrance or winning animation, or a basic special move are all viable options. I think, though, that something as awesome as Kane's pyro deserves a bit more glory. It could function perfectly as smash attack, perhaps an up smash in the same vein as Palutena's, replacing the big blue laser things with a column of fire.

      Yet another option would be to use it as Kane's Final Smash. When using it, Kane would start raising his arms in the air. During this time, the ground would start to glow on random spots around the arena, allowing opponents a short time to get out of the way. Then, when Kane throws his arms down, they erupt into guysers of fire, causing massive damage and potentially KOing anybody unfortunate enough to caught in them. There are plenty of possibilities, and it could even be used for more than one, though I'd hate to see it get over used as well. Personally, I like the Final Smash and Up Smash ideas the best.

      What are the chances of this actually happening?

      Extremely unlikely. Then again, if you'd asked me a year ago, I'd say there was a better chance of Kane in Smash Brothers than there was of CM Punk in The Flintstones, so I guess you can't say it's impossible. WWE does have a history of branching out and getting experimental with their video games. There have been two experimental mobile games in the last year (trading card game SuperCard and MK-like fighting game Immortals, both of which were generally well recieved). Let's not forget their 2003 Twisted Metal-esque Crush Hour, either. So while the chances of WWE ever having a direct relationship with Nintendo are a million to one, I don't think it's completely unimaginable, either.

      With that said, if WWE ever DID find itself in a position where a representation in Smash were a viable option, I doubt Kane would be their go to man. Far more likely would be one of the faces of the company, like current superman John Cena or the legendary Hulk Hogan. I doubt an aging tweener like Kane would be in the running. Even if they did decide to go the "dark anti-hero" route, there's no doubt that The Undertaker would be their first choice before his lesser-known little brother. Still, Kane is one of the more recognizable and well loved characters among big fans, so we can still dream.

      So, have I convinced you that Kane is the perfect choice for Smash Brothers? Of course I have. How do you think he would play? Or perhaps you can think of a better WWE superstar to stand toe-to-toe with Mario and Link?

      I'm thinking about turning this into a full fledged series, at least until the novelty wears off and I lose interest in the game. So if you liked this, be on the lookout for more issues of A New Challenger Approaches, where I'll discuss other characters having a chance in Smash, from the likely to the absurd. Thanks for reading!

    • Game Review - Contrast

      1 year ago

      LightningandIce

      What is it about shadows that fascinates us so much? Dark is merely the absence of light. We fear it because of what it hides, but what of the shadows? Those oblong silhouettes, the dark mirrors that speckle our world like glimpses into some unreachable dimension. It thrills the imagination. Ever since Peter Pan lost his companion, our fiction has tried to explore this other world within our own. It has ranged from the whimsical to the horrific. Now, thanks to the fine folks at Compulsion, we have a video game whose dream of shadows is downright jazzy.

      Contrast
      System: PC (reviewed), PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbone
      Developer: Compulsion Games
      Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
      Released: November 15, 2013

      All images were taken from the developer's website.

       

      I remember when this game was in development. A lot of websites talked it up as the next great indie platformer, and it even got some great press at E3 a couple years ago. It looked great to me, and I got pretty excited for it. Yet when it was released, the gaming public seemed to forget all about it. There was little fanfare, barely even an acknowledgement beyond, "hey, this exists now." I was fairly perplexed, but onto my wishlist it went, and a little over a year later, I got to see if it was any good after all.

      It's the roaring twenties. An age of jazz and cabaret, of noir and gangsters, of light and shadows. Living in this world is a little girl named Didi. Life hasn't been kind to Didi: her father ran off, her mother is barely making ends meet as a lounge singer with no time or for her, and her only companion is her "imaginary friend," a mysterious shadow girl named Dawn. That's you, by the way. The player controls Dawn, a leggy young woman in a garish costume with the ability to turn herself into a shadow on the wall. Only Didi can see her; to everyone else, Dawn is merely an imaginary friend. Being mute isn't exactly shedding any light on her character, either.

      That doesn't matter. The story belongs to Didi. One night her estranged father, Johnny, rolls back into town with a fancy new suit and a scheme to provide for them. Didi's mother isn't buying it, and neither are the loan sharks riding Johnny's ass. Not wanting to see her family torn apart again, Didi takes it upon herself to help Johnny from behind scenes, enlisting Dawn's help with some of the heavy lifting. The story and conflict belong to them. You're just along for the ride. Didi is the Penny to Johnny's Inspector Gadget, and you're playing as Brain.

      The sweetness of the conflict with the noir atmosphere are fitting blend of light and dark. The soulfull score and aesthetics certainly don't hurt. The design of the characters and environment have an almost mildly Burton-esque flair to them. As small as it is, the setting oozes personality. Things in the environment have a dreamy quality to them as well. You can be exploring an otherwise realistic locale then turn a corner and have to jump across a floating piano. The edge of the world drops off into an infinite void like Silent Hill. Little of the fantasy is explained, and it blurs the line between truth and imagination.

      Almost nothing is revealed about Dawn and her powers. I've seen other complain about this, wanting more solid explanations about the character and the way the world works. I disagree. Contrast has enough substance that it doesn't need to explain. The story of Didi's family is charming without a bunch of mumbo-jumbo about shadow realms to distract from it. The abstract nature of the environment gives the whole game and air of awe. I think that explaining these things outright would take away more than it would add. It gives the player a sense of wonderment.

      The gameplay is puzzle-platforming. There's a decent mix but it definitely skews toward the intellectual side. The way the game unfolds reminds me a lot of Portal. There is plenty of action by way of running and jumping, but the meat of the experience comes from figuring out how to progress. Dawn's main power is to turn into a shadow on the wall and use other shadows as platforms to get around. You have to go back and forth between 2D and 3D to get around.

      In this regard, there really isn't aren't many creative uses to the gimmick as you would think. Mostly you're just trying to get yourself or an opject from point A to point B. The most common use of Dawn's ability is to move around a light source in 3D to get your shadow-platforms lined up properly so that you can reach a distant ledge or something. There aren't really any mind-blowing ways in which the shadow realm and real world interact with each other. On top of that, the game is pretty small and linear, so there isn't much in the way of exploration, either.

      That doesn't mean it isn't enjoyable. Jumping is still fun, figuring out a solution is still satisfying. The novelty of shifting between dimensions takes a long time to wear off, even if there isn't much to it. For a game with such a cool concept, it doesn't feel like you're doing much more than you could do in most other action-puzzlers. There's still a lot to enjoy, though.

      The game's biggest detriment comes from some technical flaws. One in particular sticks out like a sore thumb. Whenever Dawn is in shadow and there is a conflict of solid object (like if she dashes into a wall or gets pinched between moving platforms) she gets ejected back into the 3D space. The game is far from picky about doing this. It's very common to be hopping through a 2D section only to be abruptly popped out because you jumped a hair too far or landed at the wrong angle, or for no discernible reason at all.

      This is compounded by the fact that Dawn moves way too fast. She zips around like Sonic and leaps like Superman, making it hard to land short-range jumps with precision. When hopping from place to place, you frequently leap right off the boundary of the shadow, spoiling your progress and forcing you to start the whole platform segment over again. It can turn otherwise straightforward platforming into an unwarranted challenge, and long segments can be outright rage inducing. These long segments are few and far between, but even shorter ones can be a pain because of it. The issue never resolves itself, and will bother players throughout the whole game. If anybody on the dev team is reading this, please accept my apology. I like your product but cursed you out under my breath during the carousel part.

      Contrast is a nice puzzle-platform game with a great story and atmosphere. The gameplay doesn't break any molds and is bogged down by some frustrating technical issues, but it's still fun nonetheless. The average playthrough is about four hours, with repeat ventures clocking in at less than half that time. The Steam list price of $15 dollars is pretty steep for such a short game, even if it is ultimately good. I got it on on sale for just south of four bucks and was pretty satisfied. If like puzzle-platform games, give this one a shot when the price drops.

       

      ?

    • Picnic Time!: Adam's 90's Nick Retrospectivetacular! Part 1: Pre-School Shows

      1 year ago

      LightningandIce

       

      A few days ago, Jimmy Fallon blew my mind. I logged on the internet one morning and all the talk of the day was of the sketch from the latest episode of the Tonight Show. No way, I thought to my self. Could it be? I found the clip lickety-split, and a moment later, I heard a sound that was like music to my ears.

      "Welcome to Good Burger, home of the Good Burger, can I take your order?"

      It gave me goosebumps. Kel Mitchel's Ed squirted mustard, stuffed grapes up his nose, and rapped about chicken. It was a classic Good Burger sketch, and if not for Jimmy Fallon, it could have been plucked straight from an episode of Nickelodeon's All That. I laughed a little bit harder than I probably should have. It was the nostalgia laughing for me. The only that could have made it better was if Kenan...

      "My name is Lester Oaks, construction worker."

      ...IS HERE. He did it! Jimmy Fallon reunited Kenan and Kel for a Good Burger sketch. If that's not a big deal to you, then you weren't a kid in the nineties. Think back to E3 when Shenmue 3 and FF7 were announced. They don't hold a candle to the excitement brought on by this:

      If you're too old or too young, you're probably thinking "who the crap are they?" Or maybe "Good Burger? Wasn't this a crappy movie that the Nostalgia Critic reviewed?" Or perhaps even "Okay, the big guy is from SNL, but so what?" These, ladies and gentlemen, are Kenan and Kel. They're like the Abbott and Costello of nineties kids shows. Seeing them performing a classic sketch is like the Beatles getting back together. If you're still not convinced, listen to the audience at the 3:30 mark. When Kenan Thompson walks in, they cheer for almost thirty seconds straight. If you're old enough to be nostalgic for the nineties, this was a huge deal.

      I scarcely reminisce about television. When I wax nostalgic about the past, it's usually about video games. I think that's because gaming is still a huge pastime for me, while I don't really watch much TV anymore. That's not to say that I didn't watch a lot of it in my early years. I was born in late 1988. That makes me a 90's kid, and for us 90's kids, Nickelodeon was one of the quintessential staples of television programming.

      That sketch up there^ still has me all excited, and with the recent news of The Splat on TeenNick, I can't get those old days out of my head. I know I'm not alone here. So pull up your diapies, throw some dust in the fire, and wax nostalgic with me about 90's Nick.

       

      Picnic Time!

      I couldn't tell you exactly when the first time I watched Nickelodeon was. Likely from the very beginning. I watched a lot of children's programming as a kid. I was too young to know or care about what the different networks were. I just knew what I liked to watch. Back then, Nickelodeon didn't actually have that much original programming, thus they licensed or distributed other people's stuff. In researching for this blog, I found a lot of shows I loved in my earliest years were actually played on Nick, and I had no idea. Maybe I was too young to remember, or maybe that's because most of them weren't actually Nick programs, they just got aired there.

      One of my earliest favorite shows that I can actually remember is The Elephant Show. That was about three musicians - two chicks and a dude - who sang childrens' songs to little kids. Their partner was an elephant. That is, somebody in a crappy mascot suit. I honestly don't remember don't remember much about it, except for the ending. Each episode concluded with the group singing Skinnamarink (...a-dink-a-dink, skinnamarink-a-doo, I love you!) It was basically the equivalent Barney's I love you, You love me song. Which I also watched, along with Lamb Chop, but that's for another time.

      Similarly, I don't remember a whole lot about Eureeka's Castle either. That was one of those puppet shows, similar to the muppets. It was about a wizard named Eureeka. She and her friends all lived in a castle. I think there was some plot to each episode involving her, but mostly it was just the other characters having their own little skits. The format was similar to Sesame Street in that regard. My favorite character was a green dragon named Magellan, who wore tropical shirs and talked to his tail. There was these clay worms, some fuzzy creatures who lived in the sewer, and a clumsy bat named Batly who was always crashing into things and saying, "I meant to do that." Like The Elephant Show, the details of the show itself are lost on me, but the opening and credits are burned into my memory. Who could forget that high pitched melody? "Eeeuurreeka's Caaastllllle." Also, there was a giant who freaked me the heck out.

      These were all part of the morning block. As we would later learn to call it, Nick Jr. They also included a few foreign cartoons. One, which was one of my dad's favorites, was David the Gnome. It was a Spanish cartoon, dubbed into English for Nick, about a gnome and his wife who had adventures in the woods with their animal friends and had to worry about evil trolls and stuff. The title character was dubbed by Tom Bosley. It was far more serious in tone than other kids shows that I watched at the time. Like the others, my biggest memory is the theme song. It was supposed to be heartfelt. I always thought it was kind of spooky.

      Two more of their foreign cartoons I remember as a kid were Noozles and The Littl' Bits. I didn't know they were foreign at the time, but even as a toddler, I knew there was something different about the art style. Turns out, that's because they were from Japan. I guess that technically makes them my frist anime.

      Probably the most well known of the shows from this time was Muppet Babies. Every popular franchise had to have a babies version in the 80's. There was the Flintstones Kids, a Pup Named Scooby Doo, Tom and Jerry Kids, Tiny Toon Adventures, and it all started here. Muppet Babies featured the cast of The Muppets. As babies. They used their imaginations to go on adventures. They all lived in the same bedroom and were taken care of by a lady named Nanny.  There's a theory that Nanny is actually a little girl and the Muppets are her stuffed animals. I don't know about that. What I can say is the theme song comes straight from the sixties, while the actual animation couldn't be more eighties if they gave them mullets and spandex.

      Muppets is owned by Disney, by the way. I'm not sure about rights and stuff back then, but it's weird to think of a Disney IP on such a big rival network. That goes to show you how little of Nick's early programming was their own original stuff. But don't worry. Talking babies using their imaginations and going on adventures; Nickelodeon would have their own soon enough.

      In the early nineties, Nickelodeon would start to produce more and more of its own original content, and after a few years, all of this licensing and distributing would be gone in favor of completely original programming. This early childhood block would be no exception. It wasn't long before it more closely came to resemble the Nick Jr. block that we know. The introduced a "host" named Face who was, as you might expect, a big cartoon face. They brought in shows like Blue's Clues, Gullah Gullah Island, and the Busy World of Richard Scarry.

      By the time that happened, I was just on the edge of growing out of it. My two younger siblings were still in the prime age range, so I saw plenty of it, but my interests had moved on to Power Rangers, Batman, and the other Nick shows. I still saw plenty of them. And while I would never have admitted it to my friends at the time, I still kind of liked them. I could spend hours talking about those as well.

      I've reminisced about my toddlerhood enough. That's not what you think of when you think of Nickelodeon, is it? No, of course not. You want slapstick, slime, and a little bit of attitude. That's what Nickelodeon was all about. Well fear not, because this is just the beginning. I'm doing a whole retrospective on the Nick shows we grew up with. Join me next time, when we take a look at a few of Nick's live action programs.

    • Challenger Approaching: The Babes of Bionis

      1 year ago

      LightningandIce

      ?

      Xenoblade Chronicles. It's a game I've already written about at length. It seemed destined for obscurity when Nintendo announced that it would not be released in North America. Operation Rainfall rescued our dreams, and it would go on to be called one of the best JRPG's in recent history. Xenoblade Chronicles now has a New 3DS port, an upcoming sequel, and a roster spot on the latest Super Smash Bros. in the form of its lead protagonist, Shulk.

      Xenoblade Chronicles was the last game I played before purchasing Super Smash Bros. on Wii U. I was excited to pick Shulk, and even more excited to learn how fun he is to play. Shulk is now my most played character, replacing Link was my main. With all this going on, I couldn't help thinking about what else the game could have to offer Super Smash Bros. It is a first party title, after all.

      The main order of business is what other characters would fit well on the SSB roster. Besides Shulk, there are six other playable party members and a small handful of enemies that could all qualify. As I pondered and considered, and considered and pondered, I came with the perfect way for the three female protagonists to fit into Smash. I did not set out just to focus on the ladies, but the more I thought about it, the more I feel that the other men would be too generic. The girls have unique abilities that would allow them to stand out more among Smash's colorful roster.

      WARNING: The following contains major spoilers for Xenoblade Chronicles, especially regarding the character known as "Seven." If you haven't finished the game or don't want anything spoiled, I suggest coming back to this at a later time.

      WHO ARE SHARLA, MELIA, AND FIORA?

      Fiora was a plucky young lass with a big heart and a knack for sarcasm. She was the younger sister of the war hero Dunban, good friends with local lunkhead Reyn, and had more than a little romantic inkling for Shulk. She mostly occupied her time with keeping her friends' Y chromosomes in check, but was a pretty formidable fighter in her own right. On that fateful day, Fiora had life in a basket and a bright future ahead of her.

      That future would be seemingly cut down when her hometown was attacked by a hoard of robotic insects called Mechon. In the ensuing battle, Fiora would make the ultimate sacrifice to save her friends. This act of heroism ensured the survival of the colony for the time being, but left her loved ones broken hearted. Fiora's death motivated Shulk and his friends to set out on a journey to discover the secrets of the Mechon and have their revenge.

      They weren't travelling very long when they met a woman named Sharla, who was having her own fair share of problems. Sharla's hometown had also been attacked by Mechon, leaving it almost entirely destroyed. Sharla had become the de facto leader of a small group of survivors. For once, fate seemed to be on Sharla's side, as Shulk and Reyn quickly helped her rescue her brother, liberate the seiged town from Mechon, and begin reconstruction. Through facing adversity, they formed a powerful bond, and Sharla offered her services as a field medic to our heroes on their journey.

      A little later in the game, the party crosses paths with Melia. Melia is the princess of the High Entia (elves with wings on their heads.) When she met Shulk in the forest, she quickly teamed up with his group. Shulk and his friends assisted her with the drama of being royalty (including quelling a coupe) while Melia helped them gain access to a nearby ruin. It was in exploring this ruin where the group would uncover an ancient secret. A sudden Mechon attack at this time would pile on the surprises even more: Fiora was still alive.

      Her body had been taken back to the Mechon headquarters and forcibly converted into a cyborg to be used as weapon. To make matters worse, she had seemingly been possessed by the consciousness of some other being, whose motives were not exactly clear. This same Mechon attack would leave the king, Melia's father, dead. These events became the catalyst for a permanent alliance between not only Melia and the group, but every race on Bionis into one massive army.

      Through their perseverance and determination, the group would eventually rescue Fiora. They would help her to recover her own mind, and she in turn would bring to the party a whole host of new abilities granted by her mechanical body. However, in rescuing her, they learned the most terrifying truth of all. They were not only fighting for their own survival, they were caught in the middle of a battle between two gods!

      Fiora is thought to be dead for much of the game. To avoid spoilers, fans usually refer to her mechanical form by the name "Seven," referring to the fact that she is the seventh full time party member.

      With Sharla's medical skills, Melia's mastery of magic, and Fiora's cybernetic weaponry, all three women are valuable asset in battle.

      HOW WOULD SHARLA WORK?

      Sharla's role in Xenoblade is the the party's healer. The majority of her capabilities involve healing and buffing her companions. From the offensive line, she mostly just takes pot shots at enemies with her rifle between healing blasts. Sharla is not much of a fighter in Xenoblade. Her limitted attacking and almost exclusive use of long range tactics don't lend themselves very well to a fighting game.

      That doesn't mean that she can't have a role in Smash, however. The same traits that make her ill-suited for fighting also make her an excellent choice for an assist trophy. Upon being summoned, Sharla would run or jump to an out-of-the-way corner of the arena and then proceed to do exactly what she does in Xenoblade. Every couple seconds, for the duration of her stay, Sharla would fire off a random action from Xenoblade. Most of these would be weak attacks or minor healing spells. Occasionally she would throw out a Heal Blast, which heals a great amount of damage, or even a Heal Round if in team mode (heals the entire party.) A shield bullet could protect the player, or a cure bullet if they are stunned or something.

      HOW WOULD MELIA WORK?

      In Xenoblade, Melia has the lowest HP. In Smash, this would translate to Melia being a very light character. The good news is that Melia would be great in the air. Combat in Xenoblade has no jumping, but it stands to reason that if it did, Melia would be quite good. The High Entia race has strong ties to flying beasts, and the wings on their heads are a defining physical characteristic. At least one other High Entia is shown to be able to fly with those wings. Smash Bros. would be Melia's opportunity to shine in the air, with quick reflexes, spot-on control, and maybe even multiple jumps.

      Of all the playable characters in Xenoblade Chronicles, Melia has the most unique offensive capabilities. She is the group's only magic user, which manifests in a summon and release combo attack that makes her play style siginificantly different from any of the other party members. In addition to her regular specials, a good portion of Melia's arts have her summoning an elemental spirit. This spirit takes the form of a little ball that hovers around her head. As long as this elemental is present, Melia and any party members close by gain some kind of buff or special ability. In all, Melia can have up to three active elementals at a tiime, and can stack multiples of the same one.

      As long as at least one elemental is active, Melia can release them as attacks. The little balls become magic projectiles, that not only do damage but also usually have some other kind of effect on the target. As Melia uses these attacks, it fills a gauge that grants her the use of even more powerful special moves when it fills up.

      Melia's attacks in SSB would work very much the same way. For summoning, Melia would take a page from her stablemate, Shulk. The player would use the n-special button to sift through different icons to represent different elementals. Whichever one they stop on, Melia summons that element and gains a buff. How many she can have at once and whether or not they are stackable would be subject to balance testing, but I'd like to keep it authentic at three. They would also wear off after a little while and probably need some recharge time. When the player wants to attack, a simple down special would release the elementals as projectiles, probably in reverse order.

      With the mechanics down, the big question becomes which of her elements would be featured and what would their effects be. Melia has six summons in Xenoblade, which isn't unreasonable for Smash as long as they are balanced properly. Here's a list of what they are and how they might funciton in SSB:

      BOLT
      Summon: In Xenoblade, Bolt increases the power of magic attacks. In Smash, that would mean basically increasing itself, which would be weird. I'm changing it to increasing movement speed.
      Release: A very fast moving electric projectile with high damage and low knockback.

      FLARE
      Summon: Increases physical attack power
      Release: Medium speed projectile that explodes on contact like Samus's missile or Link's bomb. Explosion can damage other enemies if they are close enough.

      AQUA
      Summon: Heals small amounts of damage over time. A single one doesn't do much but stacking them increases the effect.
      Release: Medium speed projectile with medium damage. After hitting an enemy, a big bubble "boomerangs" slowly back toward Melia. Characters can grab it to heal a small amount of damage.

      WIND
      Summon: Improves jumping by way of increasing height, directional influence, decreasing landing lag, and maybe even add an extra jump.
      Release: Fast projectile with low damage and respectable knockback. When it hits, it bursts outward in a large wind vortex that can damage other characters as well.

      EARTH
      Summon: In Xenoblade, Earth increases physical defense. In SSB, this could translate into Melia taking less damage, knockback, having increased shield strength, or being stronger against certain attacks. It could even be a combination of these.
      Release: A slower projectile with medium damage. In Xenoblade, an enemy hit with Earth becomes poisoned. I don't think there is a Smash equivalent, so one could be added in, or it could be changed to a different effect such as Bury.

      ICE
      Summon: See above. The Ice elemental in Xenoblade increases Melia's magic defense. Since there isn't really "magic" in SSB, it could be changed to some other defensive capability. Probably whichever of the effects described above that doesn't end up in play.
      Release: Melia shoots the Ice downward. When it hits the ground, it creates ice spikes that damage characters who touch them. If a player takes a direct hit from the energy ball, they suffer medium damage with high knockback.

      The other part of Melia's offense would be her topple combo. She has plenty of other attacks besides these, but there are two in particular that fans, myself included, love due to their usefulness. Spear Break, which is a powerful jab with her staff, and Starlight Kick, in which she runs toward an enemy and does a sort of spinning dropkick. If both attacks are done in quick succession, it forces the target into a type of stun called Topple. Spear Break would be great as a side special or side smash. Starlight Kick could be Melia's up special, or a side special if Spear Break was used for a smash attack. Just like in Xenoblade, this combo could lead to either stun or paralysis if used properly.

      For a Final Smash, I think the best contender is Melia's Mind Blast. This is one of the moves activated by the Summon/Release gauge I talked about above, and is one of her most powerful moves. Not only is it useful in game, but one of Melia's shining moments in Xenoblade comes when lays out a very powerful antagonist in a cutscene. Mind Blast has Melia spraying gold energy in a large cone shape. It does a respectable level of damage, but on top of that, it also inflicts Art Seal, which prevents a target from using their special moves.

      In Smash Bros., I can see it initally functioning like Samus's FInal Smash, with a shorter but wider range. When it's done, any opponents who took damage from it but aren't knocked out would also be inflicted with Art Seal, complete with Xenoblade's icon for it hovering around their heads. This woudl prevent that character from using their specials for a short time five to ten seconds, depending on how much exposure they had to the blast. I would not completely disable the special moves; most characters use them to recover from falls and move around, so that would just be cruel. I would just prevent those attacks form doing damage, or making them fail if they have some kind of energy or projectile.

      I honestly feel that if done right, Melia has a lot of potential to be one of the most creative characters in Smash. The way I outlined it may make her a bit overpowered, but I think that if the makers stuck close to Xenoblade's gameplay elements in designing her, she could be a lot of fun and stand out quite a bit among the rest of the roster.

      HOW WOULD FIORA WORK?

      In her cybernetic form, Fiora is also one of the more unique characters in Xenoblade. In a game where most people fight with fantasy weapons or magic, FIora has electricity and laser blasts. Hey two main draws are ability to shoot energy beams, and her drones, which are remote-controlled robotic saber boomerang things. Yeah, I know. These two concepts alone could give the makers of Smash a lot of room to craft a character similar to Fox or Samus without having to rely on her actual in game attacks as a basis.

      But let's say they do stick closer to her in-game mechanics. In Xenoblade Chornicles, there's a passive battle mechanic called Tension. It raises and lowers depending on how well a characters is doing in battle, and having high Tension can give you bonuses like an increased critical hit rate. It's useful but fairly inconsequential for most of the game, until Fiora comes along. Fiora has a couple attacks that tie directly into her Tension level.

      In SSB, Fiora would have a Tension meter similar to Little Mac's Power Meter. It would raise and lower depending on how she does in battle. During this time, Fiora's n-special would likely be Double Wind, a sword attack with moderate damage and descent knockback that boosts Tension when it connects properly. When her Tension is topped out, as indicated by her portrait being on fire like in Xenoblade, Double Wind becomes Final Cross.

      Final Cross is a very powerful move, and if not for the Tension system, I'd probably designate it as a Final Smash instead. Fiora levitates off the ground and shoots a series of red lasers at the ground in a cone shape, similar to Master Hand's blue laser fingers. Each one does high damage and has a good degree of knockback. If a character takes enough damage from the attack without being KO'ed, the attack leaves them stunned. In order to keep things fair, once the attack is done, Fiora's Tension would probably drop back to neutral.

      Fiora is one of the few Xenoblade characters who has a lot of different possibilities for an up special. Air Fang is a sword attack that begins with an upward slash. That's a little too boring, though. Fortunately, many of her moves in Xenoblade begin with her levitating upward and attacking from the air. In that regard, it wouldn't be out of character to start an up special with Fiora shooting skyward, then hovering in place while she does an attack. There are any number of options for what this. My personal pick would be Mag Storm, where Fiora generates an electric purple force field that would damage anyone who touches it. Maybe she could slightly hover from side to side while performing it. Mag Storm could also be a down special.

      There is a whole smorgasbord of options for her remaining specials. Anything that involves an energy field or laser blast. She could do some sword moves, like Double Blade (basically Shulk's back slash) or Shutdown (causes enemies to fall asleep.) She could also deploy her drones to slash out in front of her or spin and come back like Link's boomerang.

      Assuming Fiora's Final Smash isn't the aforementioned Final Cross, it would likely be one of her drone talent arts. In her original game, this attack changes based on what kind of equipment she has. My picks for SSB are Sword Drones, in which she deploys four remote controlled blades to slash the crap out of anything in her way, and Cannon Drones, which is a huge plasma beam. The latter would be similar to Samus's Final Smash, or Lucario's Kamehameha from Brawl. I'd probably base it on Lucario's because a.) That's closer to what it looks like in Xenoblade, and b.) That was one of my favorite Final Smashes in Brawl and I'm ticked that they changed it.

      On the presentation end of things, Fiora is a lot of fun to speculate about. Her into animation would have her landing as the Face Nemesis then jumping out of the cockpit. She also has a ton of battle quotes in Xenoblade that I'd be sorely disappointed not to hear in Smash. It's not that Melia doesn't have battle dialogue, but Fiora's voice acting and girlish charm makes hers a lot more memorable. Just listen to her. There are dozens and dozens of potential taunt and win quotes in there. I'd be giddy to hear "Alrighty!" or the sheepish, "Yay! We win!"

      As a little bonus, I think it would be neat to include Fiora's human form as an alternate outfit. That said, I don't know how they could accurately portray her that way and keep the same moveset. The meat of her attacks in this blog stems from her cybernetic body. In human form, Fiora just fights with knives. It wouldn't make sense for her to be able to shoot lasers.

      Then again, I guess it doesn't make sense for Mario to be able to shoot fire in his basic outfit either, so whatever. I'm not going to think about it too hard. No matter what they did, if Fiora got into Super Smash Bros., I would be a happy laddy.

      WHAT ARE THE CHANCES OF THIS ACTUALLY HAPPENING?

      Slim but possible. A heck of a lot more possible than Kane or Sub-Zero. Xenoblade is a Nintendo game, after all, and it already has some representation in the Smash Bros. series. The problem is that I just don't think it's popular enough to warrant much more than it already has. While it does have a huge cult following, it's mostly just that: a cult following.

      To put it bluntly, if Xenoblade Chronicles was popular enough to warrant a whole cast of characters in the Smash roster, it probably would have happened already. Earthbound is a far more popular series and after four games, it still only has two roster slots in Smash. And one of those is pretty much a complete clone. It's possible that Xenoblade could become more popular with time, but if it ever does get to the point where it gets more recognition in Smash, then Nintendo will likely be looking to future installments like Xenoblade Chronicles X instead of digging into the original. 

      The other hurdle is that sadly, I don't think Melia and Fiora are popular enough characters to become playable even if Xenoblade did get more slots in Smash. Fiora is a walking spoiler and Melia doesn't have a particularly commanding presence in the game anyway. Compare that to their male castmates: Riki is practically the series mascot and already has a few appearances in Smash; Dunban is immensely popular in the fandom to the point where there is a Mii outfit for him in SSB4 as DLC; Reyn is a contender for deuter- or at least tri-tagonist and his antics have reached meme level. Out of all of the party members in Xenoblade, those three would be the most likely. Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against them as characters. I just feel it would be disappointing to get another generic swordfighter like Dunban when we could be graced with a cool new magic system from Melia.

      Like I said, though, it's far from impossible. Xenoblade is a Nintendo game. All the ground work is there. All it would take would be a little muse from Sakurai or another team member for it to happen. I also find some optimism in the Smash Fighter Ballot. Cruising Xenoblade fansites, I see a lot of people writing in Fiora. I highly doubt she's getting as many votes as Goku or Ridley, but all it takes is a spark. So if you're a Xenoblade fan like me, head on over there and cast your vote. And keep your fingers crossed.  

      So here ends another issue of Challenger Approaching. Thank you for reading, and if you've been following the series, extra thanks for your support. If you haven't, why not start now? And by the way, if you don't know much about Xenoblade Chronicles, it's a pretty good game that you might want ot check out if you like RPG's. You can check out my thoughts on that as well.

      Thanks again. Until next time, stay thirsty my friends.

       

       

       

      Psst! Hey! Do you like my writing? Want to read more of my stuff, as well as some stuff by other great writers? Head on over to this little website. I post most of my stuff there a week before anywhere, and there are a few other great writers there as well.

  • About Me

    My name is Adam, I'm a Christian, and I like video games. When I'm not playing games, I write, read, play guitar, and go outdoors. I'm pretty open minded when it comes to games, I'll give pretty much anything a chance.

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