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1:09 PM on 10.07.2015

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

Were you a 90's kid? Then you watched Nickelodeon. Today we're revisiting some of the old pre-school shows from the late 80's and early 90's.

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.


11:52 PM on 08.31.2015

9 Worlds that Should be in Kingdom Hearts

1. Star Wars  2. Frozen  3. Suite Life of Zack and Cody  4. Attack on Titan

...Nah, I'm just kiddin'.



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.


10:04 PM on 08.30.2015

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

A big week for Shovel Knight, a Castlevania animated series, Civil War concept art, Turok coming back, and Mortal Kombat going away. Find out what you missed this week in Nerd News. 





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!


10:38 PM on 08.24.2015

One of my blogs got frontpaged. I can die happy now.


8:08 PM on 08.22.2015

This Week in Nerd News 8/17 - 8/22

Jon Stewart, Gersberms, loads of Nintendo, and more! Tingle shows up where you least expect him, and catch the world's greatest Chatroulette!  Did you see all of this week's Nerd News? If not (or even if you did) catch up here.






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 folks. Welcome to the second issue of This Week in Nerd News. The first one was fun to write and got enough likes that I'm going to try it out for a couple more weeks and see if I like it. The original plan was to go from Sunday night to Sunday night, but one of these stories is timely so it's going up in the wee morning hours. There was a lot of news coming out of Nintendo this week. People are pretty pumped up about the 2DS price cut and Mario Maker (I found a headline for the latter that I think you'll all love) though my favorite piece to come from the Big N involves a certain fighting game. We also say goodbye to an actress and a website, but don't get too sad, because there are a few novelties in here, too. Thanks for coming. Enjoy.

Volume 1 Issue 2 - 8/17 to 8/22 2015 






8/17 - Super Mario Maker to feature Tingle

Link 1 - Nintendolife
Link 2 - GoNintendo

The Gist:
Originally thought to be photoshopped, a screenshot showing Tingle in Mario Maker has been confirmed to be legitimate.

My Opinion:
These costumes were featured heavily in Nintendo's E3 presentation where they were used as segues between segments. I was delighted at the end when they announced that the things would be an actual part of the game (albeit with amiibo use.) I know a lot of people hate Tingle, but I think it's a creative and unexpected addition. I also don't hate Tingle as much as other people do. I think it's actually kind of clever. Does this also mean that we'll be getting a Tingle amiibo down the line?






8/17 - Batgirl actress dies

Link 1 - Official Obituary
Link 2 - Comic Vine
Link 3 - Los Angeles Times

The Gist:
Yvonne Craig, the actress best known as Batgirl in the 1960's Batman show, passed away on Monday from complications of breast cancer. She was 78.

My Opinion:
That's very sad news. It's sad when anybody dies, and a two year battle with breast cancer must have been rough. I hope her family can find peace. She did a lot more than just Batgirl, including roles in a couple Elvis movies and having bit parts in various other 60's shows. I only ever knew her as Batgirl, though, which is a pretty good role to be. If you never watched the old Batman show, it was pretty corny. As a kid, I watched it in ernest; as an adult, I watch it for its goofiness. No matter how you look at it, though, Batgirl was a badass in that show.





8/18 - Jon Stewart to host Summer Slam

Link 1 - USA Today
Link 2 - E!
Link 3 - Huffington Post

The Gist:
WWE Network announced that former Daily Show host Jon Stewart will be hosting upcoming Pay-Per-View Summer Slam on August 23.

My Opinion:
Given the timeframe of this blog, by the time you read this, it might be either already happening or over. Anyway, Jon Stewart is hosting WWE Summer Slam. I'm only a casual fan of either of those parties but I thought this was actually kind of hillarious. This follows a (kayfabe) feud earlier this year between Jon Stewart and WWE Champion Seth Rollins. Rollins made a quip about Stewart on the air, and Stewart responded by posting a video of himself "cutting a promo" on Rollins in hammy pro-wrestler style. This led to some appearances on either show, and now Jon Stewart's first major gig after retiring is going to be this weekend's Summer Slam PPV. If you're interested, Summer Slam starts this Sunday at 7 Eastern and can be seen on the WWE Network (only $9.99 a month!) Other events on the card this week are Undertaker vs. Brock Lesnar; John Cena vs. Seth Rollins; Cesaro vs. Kevin "Owens" Steen; Rusev vs. Dolph Ziggler; and more.






8/19 - Gersberms getting a video game in October

Link 1 - XBox
Link 2 - Destructoid
Link 3 - GamesRadar

The Gist:
A listing popped up on the XBox marketplace for a point-and-click game based on the Goosebumps book series. The game is being developed by WayForward and will act as a prequel to the upcoming film.

My Opinion:
Gersberms! As a nineties kid myself, I remember Goosebumps being everywhere. They were one of the big trends of the time, right up there with Pogs and digital pets. I had friends who had enough of these to fill libraries. There was TV show based on them, but even back then I recognized it as a crappy version of Are You Afraid of the Dark? Truth be told, the books themselves weren't much better. As popular as they were, though, it makes sense that they'd be a prime contender for the recent 80's/90's nostalgic cash grabs.

 I didn't even know there was a movie coming out, and I have no reason to believe it will be any good. Based on the limitted knowledge we have about the game, I'm slightly less pessimistic. But only slightly. The art looks pretty good. Very nineties-adventure-gameish, appropriately enough. On the other hand, developer WayForward doesn't have the best track record: outside of Santae, the only notable games they've made a mediocre tie-ins. This is also a tie-in. It's really not looking good for Gersberms the game. I'll give it the same hope that I would any other game, but I'm not going to hold my breath.






8/20 - Blip shuts down

Link 1 - Blip
Link 2 - Channel Awesome

The Gist:, a video hosting website, shut down after a business deal with Maker Studios.

My Opinion:
Blip was a video hosting website that specialised in web series. It was heavily used by the Channel Awesome/TGWTG crew, among others. Apparently people knew this was coming for a while: the deal went down back in 2013 and users were notified of the impending shut down back in July. I did not know this, and was pretty stunned when I logged on and saw it.

I don't make videos so I have no idea what things were like behind the scenes. From what I understand, it was a pretty user-friendly place. It gave producers a lot more potential to make money off of their work, and it didn't have the same kind of copyright B.S. that YouTube does. The official website is referring people to Maker Studios, while Channel Awesome seems to be taking their stuff to Screenwave or moving back to YouTube. They're far from the only ones affected by this. Basically, if you watch web series, especially review shows or sketch comedies, you've seen something on Blip. Hopefully the users can find a satisfactory replacement so that they can keep up their revenue and viewers won't have to see their favorite stuff get taken down for copyright.






8/21 - Pokken Tournament coming to Wii U

Link 1 -
Link 2 - Nintendolife
Link 3 - Destructoid

The Gist:
Nintendo announced that arcade fighter Pokken Tournament is getting ported to Wii U worldwide in the spring. Pokken Tournament is a Pokemon fighting game developed by Namco and was previously exclusive to Japanese arcades.

My Opinion:
YES! I mean, I doubt there were many people out there who didn't think this would happen, but it feels good to get an official confirmation. I think a Pokemon fighting game is one of the best directions they could have taken the series outside of an MMO. The Wii U finally getting another high profile AAA game isn't hurting anything, either. I've been pumped about this game since the first time I heard about it, I'm really glad it's on its way.







8/21 - Best Chatroulette Ever

Link 1 - YouTube
Link 2 - Destructoid

The Gist:
Small indie film company Realm Pictures created an interactive FPS-style game to be played on Chatroulette

My Opinion:
Every once in a while something creative will pop up on one of these video call websites. This might have just taken the cake. This little group went to great lengths to set up a zombie First Person Shooter game that viewers can control by yelling commands. It's really cool. I'd love to give it a try. Heck, I wish I could sign up to do it. If you haven't watched that video, what are you waiting for?






8/22 - Nintendo files patent for disc-free game console

Link 1 - NeoGAF
Link 2 - Gamespot
Link 3 - Nintendolife
Link 4 - Destructoid

The Gist:
Members of NeoGAF uncovered a patent application filed by Nintendo back in February for a disc-less video game system. The news has sparked speculation on how the patent relates to the upcoming NX.

My Opinion:
This doesn't actually mean anything. Companies file patents for things all the time that never come to fruition. That doesn't make it any less suspicious. We know jack-all about the upcoming NX so any news is news and we're free to speculate. The NX could be something completely original. If it is a disc-free system, we can assume that means digital distribution exclusively. I'm not keen on the idea for reasons that would take too long to type here. Let's just say that I hope Nintendo doesn't give us something like that any time soon.



That's it for week two of this little experiment. It's going well so far, so if anybody out there is still interested, I'll keep it up next week. My personal schedule is putting this up on Saturday instead of Sunday. I'll try to stick with the original schedulre from here on out, life providing. Thanks for reading.


9:50 PM on 08.21.2015

Challenger Approaching: A Llama

Whether it's because they're funny, friendly, or fearsome, llamas are very well beloved animal among humans. Maybe not as much as a cat or a dog, but who doesn't love llamas? I think it might be their looks. Llamas just plain look really goofy. They're funny to see. If you're one of the lucky ones who have managed to work with llamas, you may have also been endeared to them through usefulness. They can haul stuff, they have great wool, and they're just fun to be around. Among the llama's biggest fans is Carl from Jimmy Neutron. Remember that show? I do. One of my professors in college was just like Mrs. Fowl.

Speaking of things that are well beloved among humans, the latest Super Smash Bros. is still getting updated. Sakurai recently promised even more DLC characters to square off with the Nintendo crew. If you've been reading this little series, you know my mind is rife with ideas for new fighters to join the roster. As I was mulling over the endless possibilities following recent news about the game, I came across a startling discovery:


Forget everything I've written about in this blog series thus far. This mistake needs to be corrected immediately. The next DLC for Smash must include a llama. Not a specific llama, like a llama character, just a llama. Why include a llama? I think the better question is, why NOT include a llama?

Disclaimer: I don't know much about llamas. All the information herein comes from the internet. Mostly WIkipedia.


The llama, scientific name Lama glama, is a member of the camelid family. That pretty much makes them the western hemisphere's version of camels. Scientists believe they originated in central North America but migrated southward during the last ice age. They are now found naturally in western South America, primarily Peru, although there are modern llama farms all over the world.

One of the llamas most well-known traits is its ability to spit, and spit hard. It's not only gross, it hurts, and is often used by llamas to tell somebody off or discipline their kids. It's their way of establishing who's the boss. If raised properly, they generally don't spit at humans, only other llamas.

In the olden days, llamas were mostly used as pack animals, to haul supplies. They are also sometimes sheered to use their fur for clothes. One of the most interesting uses for them in modern time is as a guard animal. Sheep farms will sometimes employ a llama in place of a dog to keep predators away from their flock. They are reportedly pretty good at it, being more than a match for coyotes and feral dogs.


Let me get the most obvious think out of the way first. It's projectile would be it's spit. It could be as simple at tapping the n-special for a quick low-damage projectile. In researching this article, I discovered that llamas actually have three different kinds of spit, which they bring up from different glands and even their stomachs. Their deepest kind of spit is actually more like throwing up. In Smash, maybe you could charge the spit by holding the button or something. A fully charged loogie would be a big green ball of power, though in keeping with real-life accuracy, that charge would require a bit of recharge time.

As far as the rest a llama's attacks, there's already pretty good precedent for that. IIRC, Pikachu is the only playable quadruped. It's a rare instance when PIkachu is based more on its native species rather than Ash's specific Pikachu from the anime. Being a quadruped, Pikachu would be a great starting point for a llama. Pikachu's basic attack is some kind of headbutt thing, which is perfect for a llama. Llamas have long necks and big heads, so it makes perfect sense. The rest of its physical attacks and movements could fall in the same vein, from its kicks to holding items with its mouth.

In terms of specials, llamas don't have any powers or anything to draw on. I think we can make a decent arsenal out of a llama's basic physical characteristics. In addition to the spit, side-special would be a dash or charge. Down would be either a stomp like Bowser, or it could shake the ground with its hooves like DK's ground pound. For its up special, maybe the llama could spin its head around like a helicopter.

That leaves its Final Smash. Maybe the llama could take its inspiration from the spit, launching a huge blast of third-level spit-puke. Spuke? Spuke. A huge blast of third-level spuke. A transformation is another possibility. The llama could turn into a very angry llama, with glowing red eyes and a mean scowl. That would make it far faster and more powerful than the happy llama. I also thought that it could turn into a camel, seeing as how its related to the camel, but that would imply that camels are the superior species, which is disrespectful to the llama. Also, since llamas are sometimes used to guard sheep, maybe the llama could summon a whole herd of sheep to trample across the battlefield and stomp its enemies to the dirt. On the other hand, I can't imagine the loyal llama endangering its charges for its own gain.

Every fighter needs an arena. A llama would be most at home with a nice green pasture. For alternate outfits, the possibilities are endless. While llamas are most commonly white or gray, brown and black llamas are far from unheard of. There could be all kinds of fur colors and patterns. In addition, why not base a model on the llama's cousin, the camel, or the alpaca. No matter how it ends up happening, a llama would be a great addition to the Smash roster.


With all the great characters at Nintendo's disposal, I doubt they would want to overshadow their own work by including something as prestigious as a llama. It would also be pretty hard to make it DLC, since a llama would deserve top billing. Putting a llama in in the current games would require the Big N to re-release the retail package with the llama in Mario's place in all the artwork.

That said, there's nothing stopping them from doing it. It's not like there are any copyright issues in place. It's not like the llama has to be a character. It would just be llama. The only thing stopping them is because they don't want to. So let's get the word out there. Start a petition or something. Tell Nintendo, we want a llama in Smash Bros.



9:48 PM on 08.21.2015

A pig.


12:22 PM on 08.17.2015

This Week in Nerd News 8/10 - 8/16


Hey! Welcome to my blog. I recently got an idea for a weekly blog series and I thought I would give it a shot. It's called This Week in Nerd News, where I round up all the geeky entertainment headlines of the past week to remind everyone of what's going on in the world, and give my $0.02 on each subject. Nothing out of the ordinary, plenty of people do similar things, I won't be discussing everything, only the stuff that interests me the most. The majority of the topics here will probably be video game related, but expect a fair amount of movie, music, and comic book stuff, as well as anything else that might tickle my fancy.

 This is the first "issue." It's going to be sort of our pilot to see how I like doing it and if anyone else has any interest in reading it. If I get good vibes from the project, maybe I'll make this a weekly thing.

Volume 1 Issue 1 - 8/10 to 8/16 2015 






8/10 - Dragon Ball Super looks like garbage

Link 1 - Kotaku
Link 2 - Forbes

The Gist:
After a very well recieved opening, the animation quality of the latest Dragon Ball series plummeted with the fifth episode. Fans are not amused.

My Opinion:
To be honest, I'm not exactly keen on the series to begin with. I'm a big Dragon Ball/DBZ fan, but I'm also a fan of leaving well enough alone. I feel that with any work of fiction, there has to come an end eventually, and Dragon Ball's was a long time ago. I'm all for a movie or two here and there, but to create an entirely new canon series just felt like a cash grab to me. That said, if they're going to make it, they might as well make it good. By most accounts, the series up to this point wasn't so bad, but this just looks terrible. Some blame overworked animators. No matter what the cause, I hope it improves.






8/12 - Fantastic Four sucks

Link 1 - Rotten Tomatoes

The Gist:
One of the highest-profile movies of the year, Fantastic Four, released to terrible reception from critics and fans alike.

My Opinion:
Raise your hand if you didn't see that one coming. I'm probably preaching to the choir here, but this was an obvious cash grab and I think it says a lot about the state of super hero movies. It's the same cycle that happens every few years: a couple great films from a certain genre will get popular and make a lot of money, all the studios decide to jump on the bandwaggon to make a quick buck, the films start to tank in quality, and eventually people lose interest due to oversaturation and half-assed products. Look no further than zombie movies a few years ago, or the FPS genre in the video game market. I think this, along with other recent flops (Spider-Man 2, Man of Steel, Ninja Turtles) clearly indicates where superhero films are on the cycle. I'm not saying they are going to die off any time soon - on the contrary, we probably have at least a couple more years, and the MCU will probably stay strong for a while. I just think we're obviously entering the downswing here.






8/12 - Resident Evil 2 remake on the way

Link 1 - Destructoid
Link 2 - Gamespot

The Gist:
Capcom posted a video on the official Resident Evil Youtube account revealing that a remake of Resident Evil 2 has been greenlit and will begin development soon.

My Opinion:
Just as big as the announcement itself is the demeanor of the man in the video, Yoshiaki Hirbyashi. He is a producer from Capcom's R&D department who worked on the HD remaster of the last RE remake. He is very enthusiastic through the whole video, and is wearing a shirt that's bound to become a meme. It's refreshing to see so much love for the project. I think it bodes well.

That said, while this is good news for RE fans, let's not get too excited just yet. It's the same kind of thing that the big Final Fantasy and Shenmue announcements from E3 gave us. First, the announcement is that they are going to start working on it soon. They haven't even started yet. So it's still a long way off, assuming nothing happens to stop it. We also don't know what kind of state it will be in when it gets here. We assume that it will be in the style of the other REmake, which makes sense and is what the fans want, but given Capcom's track record, who knows if we won't get some action-heavy shooter like RE6? Plus, who knows what kind of DLC or microtransactions Capcom might dump in it. So who knows. But hey, here's hoping it turns out well.







8/12 - Entertainment Weekly shows off some Star Wars stills and info

Link 1 - Entertainment Weekly
Link 2 - esquire
Link 3 - Collider

The Gist:
The latest of issue of Entertainment Weekly features an article that reveals a few new plot details from Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, as well as a handful of movie stills.

My Opinion:
A major publication doing a feature on a major motion picture is hardly anything out of the ordinary. What has me interested is some of the stuff it has to say. I haven't read the whole article but it heavily talks about villain Kylo Ren and mentions his mask. The mask has always reminded me (and others) of Darth Revan, which makes me a tad nostalgic for the now-shunned Expanded Universe. The Collider article linked above also mentions Leia inheriting Luke's first lightsaber, which blatantly contradicts the EU in which said weapon was given to Mara Jade. The truth is, I have a lot of mixed feelings about the new Star Wars, and I've been trying to stay optimistic






8/12 - First pictures of Black Panther surface

Link 1 - Gamespot
Link 2 - Comicvine
Link 3 - Yahoo!

The Gist:
Behind the scenes photos from the set of Captain America Civil War have surfaced showing a stunt man in a Black Panther suit.

My Opinion:
There has been talk of a Black Panther solo film for a while now. I had no idea that he was being considered for Civil War. It's nice to see an underappreciated character like this one to get some limelight; he's come a long way from his inception as a token black guy super hero. All the characters that the MCU is getting is finally making it start to feel like the comic book counterpart in scope, althought I do have to question how they are going to be able to fit all of these different personas into their crossover films without some getting pushed to the wayside. As far as the suit itself, the photos are too blurry to get a good look, but it seems to stick relatively closely to the concept art which (as seen in Link 3) is absolutely badass.






8/13 - Pandora's Tower now in Wii U eshop

Link 1 - Destructoid
Link 2 - Destructoid
Link 3 - Nintendolife
Link 4 - Digital Trends

The Gist:
Wii action/adventure/dungeon crawler Pandora's Tower was released for download on the Wii U eshop in North America for $19.99. It was the third of the infamous Operation Rainfall games and flew mostly under the radar when it was released, despite getting good reviews. It was also one of the last major releases on the console. There is also a game called Wind-up Knight 2 coming out on Wii U, and a few miscellaneous games for 3DS.

My Opinion:
Pandora's Tower is an excellent game. I played it soon after it's initial release and quickly added it to my all-time favorite games list. In retrospect, putting it above Mario may have been a tad hasty, coming from the fact that I had just finished playing it only a couple weeks before writing that, but I still loved it. The only real complaint I could make was a game freezing glitch in the final dungeon in the North American version. No news on whether that's been fixed in the digital release, but I don't see why it wouldn't be. It's a really good game that plays like a mix between God of War  and Zelda, and I highly recommend it.

As far as Wind-up Knight 2, apparently it's a runner. There isn't a whole lot of info in those links. Hopefully it will be good.






8/14 - Iron Maiden release video game themed music video

Link 1 - Ultimate Guitar
Link 2- Destructoid

The Gist:
British metal band Iron Maiden released the first single, "Speed of Light," from their upcoming album, accompanied by a video game themed music video. The video depicts the band's mascot, Eddie, getting sucked into an arcade cabinet and battling his way through four different games. The new album is called The Book of Souls and drops September 4.

My Opinion:
Neat! I love heavy metal. I'm not as big of a Maiden fan as some folks but I really like a few of their songs. Especially The Trooper. The song itself is decent (Bruce Dickinson sounds a little flat in the chorus, but at least you know he's not using auto tune) and I love the video for the shoutouts alone. The first and third games are clearly based on Donkey Kong and Mortal Kombat respectively. It's unclear what the other two are based on. A lot of people keep saying Call of Duty for the last segment, though I don't recall any CoD games where you fight a T-Rex on a pyramid. More likely they are just generic things rather than being inspiried by something directly. Either way, it's a cool video.






8/16 - Kingdome Hearts III to feature world based on Big Hero 6

Link 1 - Kotaku
Link 2 - Eurogamer
Link 3 - Destructoid

The Gist:
Square Enix announced at D23 Expo that Kingdom Hearts III will feature a world based on the movie Big Hero 6.

My Opinion:
Cool. I've never seen this movie but it's great to see some variety. When KH first came out, there was a thrill in exploring all these different Disney worlds. Over time, they haven't added a whole lot, and so we've just been seeing the same ones over and over again. Hopefully this is an indication that we'll be getting a lot of new stuff in the new game. Still keeping my fingers crossed for Kim Possible.



That's it for this week. I know I missed a lot, but I don't want to turn this thing into a novel. Thank you for reading, and let me know what you think. I had fun doing this, so if people enjoy reading it, I'll turn it into a regular thing. So maybe I'll see you next week!


3:42 PM on 08.14.2015

This is an interesting new addition. It seems Destructoid has its own Twitter now.


12:14 PM on 08.13.2015

Game Review - Xeodrifter Trademark (PC)

A few weeks ago, Nintendo pissed off the gaming public by announcing a Metroid spinoff. This travesty has left fans wallowing in a pit of despair, with weeping and gnashing of teeth. Some have looked beyond Nintendo to quench their thirst for classic sci-fi adventuring. Fitting that description comes this fun-sized throwback from Renegade Kid.

Xeodrifter Trademark
System: PC (reviewed), 3DS, Wii U
Developer: Renegade Kid
Publisher: Gambitious Digital Entertainment
Released: December 11, 2014

All images were taken from the developer's website.


Take a look at this picture of my Steam library:

One of these things is not like the other. It annoys the crap out of me when companies do this. I can understand putting the little "TM" in promotional material and copyright notices and whatnot, but is the company so insecure that they have to put that eyesore everywhere the name is mentioned? It sticks out like a sore thumb. Or maybe it's not just a simple legal thing. Maybe the "trademark" is actually an official part of the title. Or maybe it's the character's name. The little astronaut dude that you play as is never given a name, so that makes sense now that I think about it. His name is Trademark, the Xeodrifter.

Anyway. Xeodrifter is pretty straightforward. Trademark is just xeodrifting through space one day when his hyperdrive conks out, so he decides to go explore some nearby planets for supplies to repair it. Thus ensues diet-Metroid. You sidescroll your way through a moderate sized maze (don't worry, you have maps) by jumping around, shooting enemies, and collecting powerups.

Powerups are the breadcrumb trail that lead Trademark around the different planets. Just like Metroid, the areas are blocked off by impenetrable obstacles. When you come across one, you have to turn around and go find a boss to kill, which will grant you the ability to progress to the next section. Abilities don't actually add a whole lot to the game dynamics. For the most part, their sole purpose to get Trademark around the next barrier, and that's it. They have no use in combat, nor introduce any creative new ways to play the game.

The only one that gets any real use is the submarine. There is another one that lets you switch between the background and foreground. That sounds cool in theory, but in practice, all it does is make the sprites smaller. The only really unique thing that powerups do is a late game obstacle where you have to switch while using the dash ability. That's pretty fun, but it only pops up a couple times near the end of the game. As a result, you could probably replace all the roadblocks and abilities with simple locked doors and keys, and it wouldn't change the gameplay very much at all.

Of course, in order to get the abilities, you have to beat the boss. I say "the" because there is only one boss, a giant bug thing, that gets recycled throughout the whole game. Each encounter changes its color and gives it a couple more moves, but it's always the same schtick. And that right there sums up quite a bit about the game: there isn't a whole lot of substantial variation on going around and shooting enemies. The baddies are all pretty similar no matter where you are in the game. Other than the color pallete, the environments don't do much to make them feel creative or different from each other. The music is just kind of there, neither offensive nor memorable.

One of the few unique things it does have going for it is the weapon system. Trademark's gun has different firing modes that can be upgraded or mixed and matched. It's fun to see how different modes work together, and gives a strong sense of satisfaction when you can boost your power to wipe out foes quicker. Even this, though, runs its course pretty quickly. Once you find a winning combination, there's not much motivation to continue experimentation. I need a vacation. Alliteration!*

*Not actually alliteration.

Few of these things are outright offensive thus far. It would be nice if Renegade Kid gave us more depth to make Trademark's adventure more exciting. What is there, though, works just fine. Jumping is tight. The layouts of the maps are fine. Even if there's not a lot going on, it's a nice crisp Metroid clone.

If there is any real flaw, it would be that the difficulty can feel pretty cheap sometimes. Enemies frequently attack from offscreen, faster than you can react to them. There is a lot of trial and error involved in the early boss fights. Health items are scarce and usually hidden. Probably the worst is the lack of checkpoints. There is one in your ship (which is also the only point in the game where you can save) and one in each boss room. That's it.

It's not like the maps are enormous or anything, but they're big enough that you have to re-tread a fair amount of territory when you die. There's a pretty fair amount of backtracking already, especially if you want to collect all the upgrades. You also don't keep said upgrades if you die collecting them between checkpoints, so failure becomes frustrating really quickly.

Xeodrifter doesn't suck. It's an adequate game that only suffers from a little bit of frustration here and there. If it had come out a few years ago, I'd probably be shouting its praises from the rooftops. Problem is, in this day and age, indie retraux Metroidvania games are a dime a dozen. There has to be something more than "not sucking" to stand out, and everything Xeodrifter tries to add flavor or originality ends up in the shallow end of the pool. Again, that doesn't make it bad, just forgettable. If you like Metroid style games, then you'll probably like Xeodrifter.

It's starting to get a little cliche for me to say "wait for a sale." Trademark or not, ten bucks is steep for a game that doesn't stand out and can be beaten in only a couple hours. Seriously, I completed it twice in only three sittings. I would call it a worthy purchase for five or six dollars, and a recent sale saw it down to $3.39. If you're interested, wait until a price drop and you'll be more satisfied.


9:56 PM on 07.24.2015

Challenger Approaching: The Babes of Bionis

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.


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.


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.


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:

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.


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.


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.


8:31 PM on 07.16.2015

Game Review - Contrast (PC)

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.

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.



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