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On the wings of death, by the hands of doom;
By the darkest light from the darkest moon;
On the wings of life, by the hands of hope;
By the brightest light from the brightest sun.

And vice versa.

I'm ShadeOfLight.
I'm a Dutch law student who loves to play the vidya. I'm a Nintendo-fanboy at heart, but I don't feel that I'm blinded by that, at least not very often. I am also currently on the Cblog Recaps team for Thursdays, so if for some voyeuristic reason you want to know more about me, check out my weekly Shadeisms.

I'm obsessed with the Monolith Soft RPGs Xenoblade Chronicles and the Baten Kaitos series. I will not pass up the opportunity to mention them, ever, and I consider myself Baten Kaitos: Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean's biggest fan. Finally, as is to be expected I'm super excited for the new WiiU "Xeno-" game!

The Wii is one of my favorite systems of all time, and my favorite games on this system include, but are most certainly not limited to;
Xenoblade Chronicles (see also: Baten Kaitos - Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean for GC)
Zelda: Twilight Princess / Skyward Sword
Smash Bros.
Super Mario Galaxy 2
Muramasa - The Demon Blade
Wario Land: Shake it!
Sonic Colors
and Metroid Prime Trilogy.

I love my WiiU as well, and even though the library still needs expanding, I had tons of fun with:
New Super Mario Bros. U
Darksiders II
Mighty Switch Force: Hyper Drive Edition
Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate
The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD
Pikmin 3
Super Mario 3D World
Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze
Mario Kart 8
Hyrule Warriors
Bayonetta 2
Super Smash Bros. WiiU
Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker

And on the Nintendo front, let's not forget the 3DS I've had since early 2014! Like, say:
Super Smash Bros. 3DS
The Legend Of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds
Fire Emblem Awakening
Pokémon X
Super Mario 3D Land
Bravely Default
Shin Megami Tensei IV
Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright
Ace Attorney: Dual Destinies
Crimson Shroud
Code of Princess

Apart from Nintendo, I'm a huge indie game enthousiast. Give me a game like Trine, VVVVVV, Sequence or Recettear, and you've made me a happy camper for sure. You can keep your shooters to yourself.

Favorite indie game round-up:
Trine (+ Trine 2)
Super Meat Boy
The Binding of Isaac
Dungeons of Dredmor
Thomas Was Alone
Mark of the Ninja
Cthulhu Saves the World
Recettear - An Item Shop's Tale
To The Moon
Cave Story
Orcs Must Die! 2
The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom
1001 Spikes
The Swapper
and many, many more!

Besides gaming itself, I like reading up on gaming-related news on my favorite website in the whole wide world: Destructoid. I love all the people here, and I'm glad that I get to be a part of this. Wouldn't know what to do without you!

And it turns out you guys love me too!
I've had some blogs promoted:
- Digital Property: Entering the Third Age
- And posted as The Wombat: 2014: I want to make love to you. Seriously.

MikeyTurvey drew me as an archer:

StriderHoang made me a Trading Card:

and a Spell Card for The Wombat:

RobertoPlankton drew the following scenario based on my username and avatar:

And Alphadeus wrote me a theme song:
Radiant Umbrae (ShadeOfLight)
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Yes my friends, it's that time again. A new popular fighting game is coming out very soon, and the hype is rising. 3DSes (or is that 3DSi?) are being pushed to their limits, minds are filled with thoughts of combat, and bodies are being readied.

This can only mean one thing. It's time to tear yourself away from whatever unimportant shit it is you're doing right now and claim dibs on your favorite character before one of the cool kids runs of with them! Remember that all is fair in love and dibs, so you've got to be quick!

In fact, while you slowpokes weren't paying attention I went ahead and got the first pick.
I HAVE DIBS ON LUIGI, and don't let me catch ANY of you trying to violate this sacred pact. I know all about you dirty Luigi-stealers and I won't stand for it; is that understood!? Good.

Now I know that you are all intimately familiar with the many many reasons why Luigi trumps everyone, and I don't want to sound patronizing by explaining to you what you already know. Yet the ancient laws of dibs stipulate that I explain my choice, and I am nothing if not a loyal dibs-abiding citizen.

So why the Lean Mean Green Machine, Mr. L, the Green Thunder, the Eternal Understudy, the King of Second Bananas, the Other Guy?

1. Luigi beats Mario at his own game.
Let's say that you were this world-famous plumber whose sole claim to fame is that you can jump a whole bunch. Jumping is cool, being world-famous is cool (trust me on this one), and while occasionally a giant turtle kidnaps your girlfriend you have a good lot in life.

And then it turns out that your little brother jumps better than you.

Look at that pathetic red guy, just barely able to clear that tree in the background. Look how much he struggles to lift his fat ass off the ground even the shortest distances. Then look at Luigi's gloriously majestic leap. Now that is what you call a jump. What's more, the guy doesn't even look like he's putting in any effort. "Oh I'll just jump like a goddamn superstar real quick, because that's how I roll", is what he seems to be telling the world.

And it's been like this ever since 1988, when Super Mario Bros. 2 first recognized Luigi's clearly superior abilities. Ever since that time Mario has essentially been delegated to the loser bench, because who the hell cares about a plumber who can barely even jump?! I know I make MY plumbers do jumping contests to win my favor, and I can't be the only one.

"But Shade," I hear ye unbelievers ask, "if Luigi is truly better than Mario in every way, how do you explain his slippery running controls?" A fair question for those who lack an insight into Luigi's mind. The explanation is simple: Luigi gimps himself to give everyone else a fighting chance. Already when Bowser kidnaps Peach Luigi has to constrain himself so that Mario doesn't feel left out. He has to give his brother the impression that he matters, and with all of the ladies Luigi's already getting he couldn't care less if Mario runs off with Peach. So when Mario finally caves and asks Luigi for his help, it goes without saying that Luigi doesn't want to solve all of Mario's problems in like five minutes tops. That wouldn't be very sporting, and Peach would drop Mario like the useless sack of bricks he is. So in order to not outclass Mario too much, Luigi pretends to have problems with running. He's a bro like that.

Luigi is taller than Mario, slimmer than Mario, younger than Mario, I'm going to assume more intelligent than Mario, has a better mustache than Mario, jumps better than Mario and just allround is a better person than Mario. Or anyone, for that matter. Both the ultimate lady's man and a man's man, Luigi is the best there is. Captain Falcon eat your heart out.


2. Luigi is the original Green.
Did you know that Shigeru Miyamoto invented the color green just for Luigi? It's true!
Before his first appearance in 1983, there was no such thing as "green". Traffic lights were red and blue, trees were bright orange, and grass was purple of all things. Can you imagine what purple grass must've been like? Unsightly, that's what!

But with Luigi's first appearance in Mario Bros., the world was forever changed. At first people were dumbstruck by this beautiful new assault on their eyes. Then slowly but surely they grew to accept the color green for what it was, and began to incorporate it into the world at large. And that is how we eventually ended up with green grass, green traffic lights and green energy. Unfortunately that knowledge has been all but lost to the new generation (I blame public education), but I for one shall never forget Luigi's profound impact on all of our lives. 

Indeed, there's a very good reason why they call Luigi "mr. Green". He truly is the mr. Green.

Incidentally, this is also the explanation for why Luigi was so awesome in his role as Grass in that famous musical "The Mystery of the Fiery Hat of Social Awareness." But don't take my word for it:

3. Luigi has a killer airgame
I already talked at length about Luigi's stellar jumping abilities. But while these may serve him well in mainstream Mario games, they truly shine in Smash Bros.

Personally, I'm a huge air player in Smash. This is an element that no other fighting game series can truly match, and one that I like to exploit to the fullest extent. There's something incredibly satisying in tossing your opponent off the stage and then jumping after him for the finishing blow.

Given my love for aerials in this series, it should come as no surprise that Luigi and I get along incredibly well. Almost like a reverse Little Mac, Luigi barely has any reason to ever be on the ground at all. I'd go so far as to say that anytime you spend more than 10 seconds not being in the air as Luigi, you're playing him wrong. He jumps high, falls slow, and has some quick aerials at his disposal that hit surprisingly hard and are easy to chain together. In Melee his biggest strengths were his forward and down air. In Brawl his forward was nerfed while his backwards was improved, so all that really changed was which direction you needed him to face. His down air remained good and his neutral was more relevant than ever. 

I love playing Luigi for his ability to quickly dish out more aerials than you can keep track of, and for being able to follow your opponents wherever they may go. With his vastly improved recovery options in Brawl, there was almost no place to run from this guy. Pair that with a good forward Smash, an incredibly useful all-purpose Down-B and one of the weirdest yet most satisfying Final Smashes, and you've got my favorite fighter in the game.

In fact, Luigi is so good in Smash Bros. that he can win against anyone by doing absolutely nothing.

4. Luigi has character, dark secrets
Out of all of Nintendo's characters, there aren't many that you could say truly have a personality to them. Luigi though? All of the personality. All of it.

In all of his recent appearances, Luigi has been the coward of the group. That alone set him apart from everyone else. While Mario would just blindly rush into a house full of ghosts like some kind of disinterested stoic, Luigi is more mindful of his surroundings and has the decent sense to be scared out of his wits. Good on him. Of course I would argue that this is simply a ruse to make Mario feel better about himself, but the point still stands that there's more to Luigi than meets the eye. Whether just a coward that faces his fears to save his friends or the ultimate hero who pretends to be scared so his brother doesn't look as bad, it's clear that there's more to Luigi than just his staggeringly good looks.

What makes Luigi truly unique, however, is his dealings with his dark and mysterious past. We know little about where Luigi came from and what made him who he is, but he has been dropping hints that there may be something sinister going on for years now. What is the Negative Zone, and how is Luigi able to summon it? Why did he change into Mr. L so easily in Super Paper Mario? What exactly did he do with Princess Eclair of the Waffle Kingdom and how is he able to come cheer on Mario while also being on his own quest? Just what did he see when he stared into the abyss of Shy Guy's face?

There are hidden depths here that need to be explored, and I think spending time with Luigi in Smash Bros. 4 is the way to do it. There is...something behind Luigi's eyes, and we need to find out what. For all our sakes.

There's only so much Luigi that I can explain. Some things you just need to see for yourselves.

- Cutting a tree down with fingerpistols.

- Having the very best V for Victory sex.

- Reprising his role as Grass.

- Blasting off again.

- Coming back to annihilate fucking everything

- And finally, leaving his mark on the world.

Call your dibs now!
I think that just about covers it. By way of REASONS and LOGIC I have carefully explained why I have dibs on Luigi for Smash Bros. 4 for 3DS. He is mine and mine alone, so you have been warned. Now I know that all of you fellow Smashers are very upset, but there is no need to cry longer than a couple of days or so. There are still plenty of characters left in the game, and while they may be a far cry from the man in Green that doesn't mean they couldn't be somewhat decent still. I guess, maybe? If you squint?

You can still call your dibs. You have that power. It's been inside you all along. Go out there, and claim your Smash Bros. character before everyone else does and all you're left with is Jigglypuff. Or heaven forbid, Dark Pit. I look forward to seeing your no doubt well-reasoned blogs on the matter.

At any rate, I think I've made my point here clear. Luigi is amazing, Luigi is great, and Luigi is mine.



When I sat down to write my Recaps a few hours ago, I realized that it has been at least a couple of weeks since I talked about what my stay in the US is like. I mean, I still really want to talk about Bravely Default as well (Weapon Magic + Two Handed + Valkyrie = fun x profit), but for now it might be fun to give you guys another outsider's perspective on your country. It turned out so big that I figured I'd just go all out and turn it into a blog!

First things first: everything is still going well, and I'm having tons of fun. So yay!
Second: over the past few weeks I've been doing a lot of experiments. Food experiments, that is. What I mean by that is that I've been sampling damn near everything I could get my hands on. Food you can't get in the Netherlands, food you could but prepared slightly differently, food I've never even heard of, the works. In particular I've been focusing on those foodstuffs that you often hear about in movies/cartoons and the like but which I have never actually seen before in real life because the Dutch aren't exactly the biggest demographic in the world. It's been a great experience, although those extra pounds are quickly starting to add up. For now though, that's future Shade's problem.

So let me take a moment now to share some of my results!

1. General comment: Choices. Like, way too many of them.
Okay, before we go into specifics can I just say something here? Realtalk, America.
You seriously don't need twenty different kinds of everything.

When I ask for a burger all I want is a goddamn burger. What I don't want is be dragged into a WRPG Dialog Tree about what kind of burger I'm going to eat. Rare, Medium, Well-done, it honestly isn't that big of a deal. And how the fuck is Medium-Well even a thing? Also, when I tell you that it doesn't matter whether you give me French fries or fried potatoes as a side dish, it genuinely doesn't matter and looking at me sheepishly until I've made my decision isn't going to help either of us. You're the experts here, just give me whatever's good!

Similarly, what am I supposed to do with this:

That's peanut butter. Which is to say that ALL OF THOSE ARE PEANUT BUTTER. This isn't even all of it, I could very nearly make a panorama photo out of this. Are Americans just so picky that they just want their one very specific kind of peanut butter and nothing else? It boggles the mind.

Okay, by now you may be wondering why this is so weird to me (disclaimer: I'm obviously not actually mad). Well, in the Netherlands we don't get nearly as many choices of foods. When I go to a Dutch restaurant, I pick something from the menu and that's it. They're not going to ask how I want it prepared: they'll just prepare it like they always do for everybody. At best you can ask them to skip the sauce or toss in some extra bacon, but otherwise what you see is what you get. And that's fine, really. I trust the kitchen staff to whip me up something good; they'd be out of business already if they couldn't. As for grocery stores: when I go to my local Dutch grocery store, they will have two different kinds of peanut butter: creamy and chunky. If they want to be fancy they'll have four kinds: name-brand chunky/creamy and cheap chunky/creamy. That's all you're going to get, and I've never felt like I was missing out in my peanut buttery life experience. This coming from someone who eats it by the truckload.

I will say that the variety here is quite amazing sometimes, and it makes the experimentation process that much more fun.

2. Pig in a blanket
A hotdog, yet not a hotdog. Also much better than the regular variety.

3. Ben & Jerry's Stephen Colbert's Americone Dream

This may sound weird to you. But yes, even foreigners watch Stephen Colbert. I'm one of them, and a huge fan to boot. Unfortunately, while Ben & Jerry's certainly exists in the Netherlands we don't get nearly as many different flavors (see #1). As a result, I've never had Americone Dream before. 

That is, until:

It's great! I love caramel something fierce so this was like heaven in a cone. Comedy and ice cream, is there anything the man can't do?

4. Mountain Dew
Mountain Dew is not a thing overseas. I don't know any store that sells it. I tried it here in the US because of the meme value. You know, the whole Doritos and Mountain Dew thing? (we do get Doritos in the Netherlands by the way)

The good news is that I now know why nobody sells it overseas. The bad news is that this reason is because Mountain Dew is terrible. I'm pretty sure that so far this was the only experiment that I can say legitimately failed. Almost everything else has been either good or at least edible, but Mountain Dew fucking sucks.

5. Breakfast Pizza
Come on America, you don't eat pizza for breakfast. There are rules. Just like you're not supposed to have alcohol until at least somewhere in the afternoon, there are hard limits on pizza-time. Breakfast does not fall within those limits.

No matter how great it would be if it did.

6. Burgers
I thought I knew what burgers were. I really did. You go to McDonalds, they put some meat on a patty and slap some cheese on it, and you've got a burger. This is far from uncommon even in Europe, so what could they do in the US that completely overturns this completely normal burger dynamic?

Turns out, everything.
American burgers rule.

The Netherlands doesn't have burger places like you do here. You get burgers at McDonalds or Burger King, but there's no such thing as "Bobby's Burger Palace" or "Bolt Burgers" which serve burgers topped with everything but the kitchen sink. The fact that these places tend to have much better meat also helps matters tremendously, not to mention that they make them so big they literally have to stick a cocktail pick into it just so it doesn't fall apart.

I'm especially partial to a heaping helping of bacon on my burger, but the variety of cheeses here is also nice. The weirdest one so far I've had today though; a burger with cheese and potato chips. Because that is a thing now (not going to lie either, it kinda works), and that's simultaneously weird and amazing to me. Apparently these guys once had a meeting and someone went:
"You know what, people love burgers right? You know what they also love? Potato chips."
"We're doing this."

I fucking love this country.

7. Lack of licorice, frikandellen and stroopwafels
It's not all good, having to eat in a foreign country. For the most part I've been able to eat what I always do. I've got my veggies, meat and potatoes, and as far as afternoon snacks go it's not like chocolate chip cookies are like this alien concept to me. 

Nonetheless, there will always be some things that you miss out on. The things I miss most right now are Dutch licorice (are the Dutch seriously the only people who like licorice? The stuff is everywhere where I'm from), stroopwafels (which are cookies filled with caramel syrup and are thus the bestest thing ever) and the frikandel (an almost exclusively Dutch snack food sausage that you eat with your French fries. Trust me, they're amazing.)

- Frikandellen, one filled with ketchup, mayonaise and topped with onion.

- And stroopwafels. You have no idea how badly I want these right now.

8. My fortuneless Fortune Cookie
Chinese restaurants are huge in the Netherlands. I wouldn't be suprised if a good quarter of all the restaurants in the Netherlands was some sort of Chinese place. More power to them, because Chinese food's great!

Yet despite the incredible number of these places, I've never had Fortune Cookies before. It's not a thing that Dutch Chinese restaurants will give you, because apparently there's this sense that it's stereotypically American or something like that. I dunno, it doesn't make much sense to me either.

So after my first meal at this local Chinese place in the US I finally got my first Fortune Cookie!
...and it was empty.
I have no fortune.

Thanks, Obama.

9. Oreo-flavored everything
You can get Oreos in the Netherlands, but only in their normal cookie variety. It turns out though that Oreos can be put onto almost anything to make it amazing. Chocolate-centered Oreos, Oreos with peanut butter, Oreo ice cream and I swear to god the moment someone thinks to put Oreos on a burger it will absolutely happen.

It's pretty safe to say that I've never appreciated Oreos quite in the same way as I do now. They're much more delicious than I ever gave them credit for and really do make everything from yoghurt to ice cream that much better. Remember though; in the Netherlands they compete with stroopwafels, which is not a battle that one could win. Which leads me to the following conclusion:

Caramel Oreos, guys. Make it happen.

- Well I'll be damned.
- Well I'll be damned.

10. American Beer
By now it may start to sound like American food is inherently better than anything in Europe, or that I led a sad existence in the Netherlands before coming here. That obviously isn't true. There are many things in the Netherlands that are great as well, and not all of my US experiments have been entirely successful.

One thing in particular that Americans aren't very good at is beer. Almost all of the US beers have been decidedly inferior to anything German, Dutch or Belgian. Given the choice I will order Heineken at any bar that has it, because there's really no contest here. The only beer I've found that's somewhat decent is Yuengling, but even that just tastes like not-as-good Heineken.

You've got to step up your game guys, this is a vitally important area you're missing out on!

Upcoming experiment: Twinkies.
And those are the current results of my US food experiments! I've gotta say that in most areas you guys have done a great job, so be proud! Nobody does unhealthy foods quite as well as you do, and that's gotta count for something. I'm not done yet though, I've got a couple of months of experimenting ahead of me still.

Next up on the list is getting myself a Twinkie. Because Zombieland.
I shit you not, that is literally the reason I want one.

Photo Photo

Yesterday I had to spend almost the entire day on the train, so I figured I might as well do something productive with my time and get a head start on this week's recaps. This week was pretty special for me, so there would be plenty to talk about. However, as I was working the feeling crept up that I might as well blog about this. And since I have something to give away too, I want to make sure people take notice. Besides, since I'm posting this on my own Recaps day, that's at least one more blog to make the whole thing seem a little less barren. Because I'm smart like that.

So what's this all about? Well, last Sunday I went to a gamer's convention for the first time ever. That probably isn't too special for you guys across the pond, but I didn't know we even HAD Cons in the Netherlands, so for me it was quite the pleasant surprise! The thing was called EpiCon (kinda lame, but what can you do?) and it was mostly for gamers but with a little fantasy stuff and zombies thrown in. It was not very large at all, but despite being a relatively smalltime event the organization had managed to use the available space efficiently, so there was still plenty to do. The Netherlands is a tiny country, so a huge event isn't exactly to be expected anyway.

Besides, it's not the size that matters, it's how you use it.

The event would surely pale in comparison to what other people might be used to, but I had a lot of fun regardless.

For one, I got to play a bunch of upcoming games, including a demo for Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel! That was one of the highlights for me, because it's looking to be a great game. I got to play as the Enforcer class, who can summon two drones to help him out: Wolf for offense and Saint for healing. And by "can summon" I basically mean I had them out at all times. I really like classes with pets in RPGs so this one suited me just fine. Wolf and Saint certainly don't have the same "sawblade with wings" quality that Bloodwing had, but they serve their purpose well. I also got to check out the gravity mechanic and the limited oxygen. Basically, you can jump really high and cannonball back to the ground to do decent damage to anything near the impact site. It's pretty fun, and it definitely helps if you get swarmed by enemies. Finally, while we were running around killing dudes, we received instructions from a cockney kid called Pickles, who I swear is voiced by Luke Triton from Professor Layton. It's not just that his voice is the same; he talks exactly like Luke, except with more swears. Hearing normally well-behaved and gentlemanly Luke swear got a few chuckles out of me, that's for sure. The Borderlands demo wasn't very long (although I could swear everyone in front of me in line took at least twice as long as I did), but overall I was down with the low gravity and my class. Looking forward to the full game!

There was also a booth to play Evolve, but the line was so damn long it wasn't worth it. Instead I played a little bit of Mortal Kombat X (which is Mortal Kombat, but now with X) and some indie games by up-and-coming Dutch developers. I saw a shmup inspired by Geometry Wars, another shmup that let you switch between two different locations on the fly, and a very slow Zen game where you control a group of adorable floating creatures who you can split up in two groups (after which you control them with the two control sticks, like in Two Brothers) to solve puzzles. Not the most impressive games around I guess, but they seemed worth my time when they eventually get released. I do love shmups, after all. Some of them are on Steam Greenlight already, so keep an eye out! Already established Dutch devs were also present to talk about their games and the development process at large, like Abbey Games (Reus). No Vlambeer though, unfortunately. Would've loved to meet those guys.

Finally, some eSports were hosted, so I took some time to watch the Starcraft 2 finals. I know buggerall about Starcraft, but the matches were pretty fun to watch and decently easy to follow. Ignite vs. uThermal, if anyone knows those names. Afterwards some Hearthstone matches were hosted, but I know even less about Hearthstone than Starcraft, so I didn't stick around to watch those.

Overall, I enjoyed myself at the game stands for quite some time, even though the choices were pretty limited. I didn't even have to make use of the big lounge area they had set up, because I was kept occupied at all times. It's a shame there was no chance to play upcoming WiiU games or something, but in the Netherlands you take what you can get.

Apart from games, there was a stand where you could buy replicas of all sorts of video game, fantasy and anime swords. They had Sting and Orcrist, Kratos' Chaos Blades, Keyblades, and lots and lots of others. I was THIS fucking close to buying a Master Sword, but my friend dragged me away before it was too late. I did manage to get the seller's card, so who knows! I'd love to own a Master Sword, you have no idea. There was other swag as well at different stand, but most of it wasn't really for me. I eyed an Attack on Titan shirt for a while, as well as Thorin's key, but ultimately left with only a new GameCube controller to show for it (gotta prepare for dat Smash Bros!). That fucking Master Sword though. Goddamn. It wasn't even that expensive either.

One other thing they had was a large set where people were LARPing some Game of Thrones, including the throne and everything. It was a little silly, but everyone involved was having a good time. Besides, you could get your picture taken on the Throne, which even as a non-fan I just couldn't pass up.

Speaking of pictures, there were a lot more cosplayers around than I expected! I honestly didn't think we had it in us, but I guess the Dutch are a little more creative than you'd think. I saw lots of Star Wars people, a Lightning, Chell, Link and Zelda, two or three Lara Croft, Catwoman (Tim Burton version) some folks from League of Legends, Elizabeth, a couple of female Assassins (I wanted to tell them that they shouldn't exist because they're too difficult and too expensive, but I contained myself) and a bunch of others. I told myself in advance that I wouldn't bug every cosplayer for their picture, but that was pretty difficult to hold myself to. At one point I saw a Nazgűl wandering around and I couldn't keep myself anymore. So now I have photographic evidence that I was stabbed by a Nazgűl. That's a win in my book!

- After which he offended Fantasy puritans everywhere by sitting on the Iron Throne

All in all, I had a terrific day. The atmosphere at EpiCon was MUCH better than expected. You see, I have a terrible image of Dutch gamers, Dtoid members excluded. Our one gaming magazine is almost entirely geared towards shooters and sports, with hardly any Nintendo love, let alone indies. It often seems like the new Call of Duty and the new FIFA are the only games that matter, while Shovel Knight can go fuck itself. Dutch gaming forums aren't much better either. As such I was worried that the whole Con thing would be swarmed by dude-bro gamers who don't know their Zelda from their Link, which wasn't helped by calling the thing "EpiCon" and devoting a good chuck of attention to Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead. Fortunately, my worries were unfounded. Apparently there are many more "real" gamers in the Netherlands than I gave them credit for. The people there, most of them my age so early 20s, were genuinely excited for the eSports, gave the indie devs the attention they deserve, weren't above lounging somewhere to play some Pokémon on 3DS, absolutely fucking REVELED in the swords and other swag, and all in all seemed like the kind of people I don't know nearly enough of. Props to all of you! Thanks!

Ah yes, but I promised to give something away, didn't I? Well, upon entrance to the Con everyone received a Steam code for a Season Pass of The Walking Dead Season 2. As I understand it, this will net you all the Episodes already out, as well as giving you the new ones once they release. Now I haven't even played Season 1 yet, so I might as well give this away! Checking the store page for this game, I see that I already have three Dtoid peeps who want this game in my Friends List; you are automatically entered! Everyone else can just leave a comment here saying that you want in. No hooks or challenges or whatever (although I guess you can if you really want to), just ask. I'll collect all the entries next Monday and draw a winner!

Raffle is over, Sir Davies won!
Photo Photo Photo

Remember when we did "Because VIDEOGAMES" (here), when we all took a moment out of our days to appreciate that videogames are pretty amazing? Well, I feel like it's been way too long since then, and I'm sure we all have new things to be excited about. Come to think of it, it's been way too long since I blogged, period. So let's fix that.

For me, that new thing is definitely Mario Kart 8. Goddamn it's so much fun. I really enjoy the anti-gravity mechanic, the visuals and music are great and overall it's just nice simple racing goodness. It's been ages since I played a Mario Kart and I'm not even sure if I've ever owned one before, but the new one has been worth every penny already. So what better game is there to take the first steps in delivering more excitement?! None.

And with that, let's see if we can kickstart some "Because [INSERT VIDEOGAME HERE]" excitement, with my 5 favorite new tracks in Mario Kart 8, and perhaps next week I'll follow it up with my 5 favorite retro tracks.

"But Shade, I want to hear about the things you hate about videogames! I feed off nerdrage and the tears of the fanboy! Surely even Mario Kart 8 can't be all good?"

Oh alright, fine. I know how to deal with jaded Internet assholes. The WiiU's messaging system sucks a fat one so it's hard to get your friends to join a game, the roster is severely lacking, and Blue Shells still ruin your day if you don't have a Super Horn.
There. You happy now? Then let's get to the fun part!


5 New Mario Kart 8 Tracks I'm Excited About
First things first, what does it take for a track to get me excited? Three things, for the most part: visuals, music and fun. None of these should come as any surprise. It's been duly noted by pretty much everyone that Mario Kart 8 looks amazing, I mention my love for video game music all the fucking time, and fun just speaks for itself. Any stage that manages to combine all of these aspects is almost guaranteed a Top 5 spot, but even having one of the three can be amazing in its own right.

See for yourself!

- 5. Mario Circuit

I can't think of a better stage that exemplifies what Mario Kart 8 is about than Mario Circuit, the first course in the Flower Cup. Its design is based off of a Möbius strip which twists and turns all around Peach's castle. While the course itself is fairly straightforward, I find it to be a lot of fun. The track transitions from being upside-down to rightside-up seamlessly, so you'll barely notice that anything's amiss until you're cruising straight past the castle tower which may or may not be obeying the laws of physics. Definitely a nice touch from a visual standpoint there. There's a good reason why this track was chosen for the game's cover art: Mario Circuit is Mario Kart 8.  

But the main reason I enjoy this track so much? I smoke people here. I don't know what it is about this track, but it feels fast. My main character at the moment is what I like to call Shooting Star Rosalina. I use Rosalina on the Comet Bike with Cyber Slick wheels and one of the gliders that ups acceleration. This gives her great top speed, decent acceleration, weight and handling, but terrible traction (what does traction even do, though?). Let me tell ya, she's right at home on Mario Circuit. Nice long stretches to put her top speed to work, and the few turns you have to make are just wide enough to smoothly drift along the inside. Lots of fun all around!

- 4. Bowser’s Castle


I used to hate Bowser's Castle in earlier Mario Kart games. I remember doom and gloom, annoying 90-degree corners, and everything trying to kill you everywhere all the time. Fortunately, the latest installment of the dreaded fortress is much better this time around.

It might be less colorful than the other tracks in the game, but it's as fun to race in as any, with obstacles that are actually cool this time around. Take another look at that picture above and tell me that a giant flaming stone Bowser Golem thing punching the track isn't epic as balls.

It also has pretty damn bitchin' music if you ask me.

So, Bowser? I know you like renovating and all, but please try not to change too much for our next go, alright? Your place is great just the way it is.

- 3. Electrodrome

Electrodrome is quite possibly my favorite track in the game from a visuals point of view. Which kinda sucks, because it's incredibly difficult to capture in screenshots. Youtube to the rescue!

There's a lot of neat touches to this level that are hard not to appreciate. From the neon everywhere to the giant disco balls and boomboxes along the tracks, the rainbow trail your kart leaves behind on certain parts, and the NPCs "groovin' to da beat" (that is a thing that people say, right?), it all comes together to make a wonderful themed stage. This being a disco-level, due attention was obviously also paid to the music, which is both a lot of fun and fitting with the theme.  

But now that we're getting to my Top 3 favorite new tracks in Mario Kart 8, a track will have to do more than just be visually and musically interesting to earn its spot here. Fortunately, Electrodrome is also quite fun to play indeed, and another nice example of a track where Shooting Star Rosalina is at her best. Corners that are just tight enough, anti-gravity bump boost thingamajigs (<-side note: Word actually knows "thingamajig" and even has synonyms for it. What the shit) scattered all over the place, and enough opportunities to stretch that top speed to its limit, for Electrodrome you can keep those silly low weight class characters to yourself.  

- 2. Sunshine Airport

Admittedly, I have no idea whatsoever how Mario & crew got permission to host kart races at an active airport. I imagine the paperwork must've been horrendous. Still, I'm glad they persevered, because Sunshine Airport is one of the most fun stages in the game. And be honest, if in real life you could race at an airport, wouldn't you do it too?

There are quite a few things that make this stage my second favorite stage in Mario Kart 8, but the most important ones all stem from the "active airport" bit. Not even 10 seconds into the first lap you're already driving underneath a Boeing 747 decorated with Mario imagery, and not 10 seconds afterwards you get to drive across a plane's left wing, through its body and out at the other side. Additional planes come and go in the background, and some will look like they just barely missed you. Very cool. But one of my favorite things is actually far more simple, and that's the sweet little shortcut you can take if you drive straight across the luggage conveyors at the very end. You skip a turn and get a trick boost as a bonus, at least as long as you don't slam your face into someone's suitcase!

The music, finally, is not exactly one of my favorites in the game but very serviceable nonetheless. It's nice and summery, not unlike what I would play if I were to go on holiday, started to lounge in my massively uncomfortable airplane seat and OH FUCK WHY ARE THERE PEOPLE DRIVING ON THE WINGS?!

- 1. Eevee

Never mind, wrong blog.

1. Mount Wario

Ah, Mount Wario. Without a doubt my favorite track in the game, and not just from the new ones. First of all, I really like the setup here. This is the only stage in the game where you're not driving around in a lap but have a single long course with a distinct beginning and end. And when said beginning is inside a helicopter and said end is all the way down at the bottom of a mountain, it becomes even more fun!

I like this stage a lot in that you're always driving at a downwards angle: it gives a nice sense of speed and a feeling that you're getting somewhere new. Along the way there are lots of other cool things to do as well. You get to drive on waterfalls, through a cave, you get to do tricks on fallen trees and snow hills, and you get to slalom through gates that must have been left-overs from Mario's run in the winter Olympics. The final approach to the finish line, where you're gliding off of a huge slope, is especially satisfying (if you're in first place doubly so), and it's neat that you can wait for the other players to arrive after you've finished rather than just watching the CPU make a mess of your victory run.

And the music? Why, inspired by Super Mario 3D World of course!  


Honorable Mentions:

In fact, "greatness" is what I would use to describe almost all of Mario Kart 8's new stages. Like I said, I'm not exactly on expert on this series, so I'm not sure how the good-to-bad ratio was in previous games, but for the most part this game nails it. Water Park with its giant underwater O-turn, Cloudtop Cruise based on Mario Galaxy's Gusty Garden, Sugar Rush Sweet Sweet Canyon ripped straight out of Wreck-it Ralph, Shy Guy Falls making you drive up and down waterfalls, the new Rainbow Road's sweet-ass satellites, all of it is fun. I think the only stage I actively dislike is Dolphin Shoals, but even that's more because I suck at it than anything else.

As for the retro stages, lots of great stuff here too, but maybe I'll save that for later. It does need saying though that Royal Raceway looks absolutely fucking gorgeous in this game. What with all the flowers and everything? The WiiU can do some sweet visuals if it puts its mind to it.


These were once again just a couple of things I was excited about. Why? Because MARIO KART!

Video games are still amazing, fun, exciting and all the other good stuff. So what have all of you been playing? Are you excited Because MORTAL KOMBAT, Because DARK SOULS II, Because WATCH_DOGS, or something else? Or perhaps, of course, just Because VIDEOGAMES?! Let me know in blog or comment, because I love reading all about it!

In the mean time, me and Shooting Star Rosalina are going to be found on the tracks.

- Goddammit Yoshi, stop checking out Rosalina; she's not even the same species! Hell, you're barely humanoid!

"Every murder has an answer"

It is not every day that two visual novel gaming icons meet face to face, and it is even rarer to find a case where both icons fit well together despite their vastly different art and gameplay styles. Nonetheless, Level 5 and Capcom have managed to give both puzzle fans and aspiring lawyers just that with Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright. It might still be a bit of a wait for any US fans, but the game is worth the wait in gold.

It goes without saying that a British professor of archeology and an American/Japanese lawyer don't just meet by pure chance. Even though it appears that the Professor Layton and Ace Attorney series share the same universe, what ultimately brings the two unlikely heroes together is nothing short of magic. Literally. The story begins when one of Layton's old students has managed to find a strange town called Labyrinthia and in the process rescued a girl from the witches hunting her. The witches catch up to them though, and ultimately it is up to Layton and Luke themselves to keep this girl, Espella, safe. This proves to be their undoing, however, as the witches suck them into a magic book that instantly warps them to Labyrinthia.

Meanwhile, Phoenix Wright and Maya Fey are just chillin'. Phoenix has been enlisted in a lawyer's exchange program with the UK. While there, he has to defend a strange absent-minded girl from being found guilty of (for the first time in the series) something other than murder. During those proceedings Phoenix and Maya are confronted with the same magic book and find themselves in Labyrinthia as well.

From there on out a tale of magic, witches, murders, Stories and much more unfolds. In Labyrinthia magic and witches are very real, and there is a mysterious figure called the Storyteller who basically writes the future. It will require both the puzzle-solving skills of the gentleman professor and the outside-the-box thinking of the ace attorney to get to the bottom of the many mysteries of the town stuck in fantasy.

The above is just about all that I can share about the story without going into spoiler territory. That said, the plot of Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright takes some definite twists and turns throughout its 20-hour run. Some of them you'll see coming, others definitely not. The story is also quite dark this time around. Witch trials are very real in Labyrinthia and those found guilty will be burned alive without hesitation. We also see several counts of (attempted) suicide as well, with one instance of attempted child suicide. For me this only served to draw me ever deeper into the story, as I find "dark as fuck" to be just inherently gripping, but I'm warning you all the same. All in all, the story is well paced and well told. New mysteries keep popping up even up until the final hours of the game, and you're given plenty of material to work with in order to forge your own theories. Moreover, story progression isn't just restricted to the Professor Layton portions of the game. The Ace Attorney-style court cases have an major bearing on the story as well, causing them to feel just as relevant as anything the Layton team comes up with if not more so. Don't be surprised if a major revelation isn't the result of an investigation but rather of a witness spilling the beans. The game's endgame is particularly well done; when you hit the final chapter you will not want to put your 3DS down until you've seen it all the way through. To be honest I always find the endings of Professor Layton games to be kind of hit-or-miss, but I'd place this one squarely in the "hit" camp. Although it's probably still advisable not to think about it too hard.

The characters that inhabit this magical world feel like they came straight out of the Professor Layton-verse. They tend to have their own little quirks and mannerisms, but you will meet more serious people as well. In my opinion they're not quite as funny as the characters you would find in the Ace Attorney series, but they fit well within the bounds of Labyrinthia and interact well with both sets of characters. It helps that all of them have beautifully animated 3D models and are still expertly written. The same goes for the voice-acting. There are quite a bit of voice-acted lines this time around; with one or two exceptions they fit very well with their characters and bring some much-appreciated life to the cast. Professor Layton himself is (still) the standout in this field, but even one-off witnesses sound completely believable. The one downside presentation-wise is that Phoenix' model looks like a step down from the one we have already seen in Dual Destinies and his voice sounds a little bit off sometimes. On the other hand it is incredibly nice to see Maya fully animated and voiced.  

Despite how good any side characters are, the main draw of this game is inevitably going to be the interaction between Layton, Luke, Phoenix and Maya. Rest assured that there is indeed plenty of interaction and it is without a doubt the highlight of the game. While Phoenix and Layton have vastly different personalities they work very well together, and the lovely assistants hit it off almost immediately, with Luke even adopting the moniker of "ace apprentice". Over the course of the game you'll also see some mixing and matching of characters, so that you won't be stuck with the two distinct duos throughout the entire game. This even transitions into the gameplay. The good professor is very helpful during the court cases (in which he even gets to shout "OBJECTION!" at multiple points), and the ace attorney likes to try his hand at a puzzle every once in a while too. As far as crossovers go you can't get it any better than this and honestly I didn't expect the IPs to intertwine as much as they do. The final few hours of the game in particular are a shining example of how crossovers should be done.

While the story and the characters are arguably the biggest draw for any fan of Layton or Phoenix, this game wouldn't be complete without a healthy mix of puzzles and cross-examinations. Fortunately, Professor Layton vs. Ace Attorney delivers plenty of both. In fact, the game provides an almost 50-50 split between the two different gameplay styles.

During one part, you get to walk around the town of Labyrinthia. You will search the background for hint coins, talk to the quirky characters mentioned above, and research the many mysteries of Labyrinthia. Most importantly, of course, you get to solve the characteristic Professor Layton puzzles. In what I thought was a nice touch, many of these puzzles have a medieval theme, dealing with knights and witches and the like. Unfortunately, this time around the puzzles are almost all quite easy. Many of the puzzles you can't actually fail because they only end when you've found the solution, and even the few pure logic-based puzzles that have been included are unlikely to stump any seasoned gamer. Out of the 70 puzzles that are in the game there was only one occasion where I legitimately failed, and only a few that took me longer than a couple of minutes to solve. In contrast, there were only a handful of puzzles that I would count among the better ones of the series. Anyone playing this game purely as a Professor Layton fan will probably find the game lacking in this regard. That's not to say that solving puzzles isn't still fun, but it definitely would've done the game good if the difficulty had been upped somewhat.  

During the investigation/puzzle-solving parts of the game, there are several points in the story where shit hits the fan. For the most part, that means that people get murdered by witches. What follows is a full-on Ace Attorney trial done in the style of the infamous witch trials. This brings with it certain noticeable changes to the gameplay. First of all, everyone in the courtroom is more hostile towards Phoenix than ever. Everyone, judge included, has already made up their minds that your client is guilty as sin and should be burned on the spot. They're not called witch trials for nothing, after all! They tend to ease up towards the end of the game, but for the most part you're fighting a steep uphill battle. This isn't helped by the fact that in medieval times there is very little evidence for Phoenix to work his magic with. You can't check a magic staff for fingerprints, because there's no such thing as fingerprinting in Labyrinthia. Crime scene photos don't exist either, and the artist sketches you do get contain dubious information at best. Fortunately, the ace attorney gets a few new tricks up his sleeve to deal with a world in which magic is real. For one, you get a tome of magic that explains how every magic spell works, which you can then use to your advantage. This leads to some interesting scenarios, as it becomes perfectly viable to claim that the real killer was simply invisible. If such a spell exists and there is evidence that it has been used, all possibilities are still on the table.

Perhaps more importantly, you get to cross-examine multiple witnesses at once. In doing so you can set the witnesses up against each other and see whether their stories match up to your liking. Because of the number of witness that you have to examine, however, they tend to be less interesting than those you’d expect to find in an Ace Attorney game, with most having one defining quirk and little screentime. The final case has one instance where the system works brilliantly, but I can't help but feel that it fell a bit short during the rest of the game. There is one witness in the prologue case that channels the Ace Attorney spirit with gusto, fans of the original game and/or Dual Destinies will find a few funny familiar scenarios and the participation of Professor Layton and Luke helps to soften the blow significantly, but the cross-examinations don't reach their full potential.

- The witnesses are most certainly not above conspiring against you.

One final thing to mention is that both the background art and the music managed to stand out in my mind. Backgrounds are always highly detailed and particularly towards the endgame you will come across some startling backdrops. The music meanwhile is a great selection of both familiar Layton and Wright music, with some original work thrown in. Anyone who has played either of these series will doubtlessly find some familiar stuff in here, as you'd expect from any good cross-over game. My personal favorite was a beautiful music-box version of the Turnabout Sisters theme from the original Ace Attorney, which played at exactly the right moment to make me tear up a little.  

Ultimately, Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright delivers an excellent Layton-esque story complemented by court cases that feel right at home in the setting. With puzzles that are easier than they needed to be and cross-examinations that are not as wacky as one might expect, the gameplay won't astound any longtime fan. Fortunately, the interesting story and especially the great interaction between the two IPs makes this a game that is nonetheless more than worth playing. For the price of one you get a good Professor Layton game paired with a good Phoenix Wright game, joining forces to make a great crossover experience.

So here's a little update about me outside of my usual Thursday Shadeisms (because I like to pretend that people care). I just felt like sharing the good news without having to wait for my "turn". Also, random thought: this is the third blog I've written in a row which title starts with my name. I dunno what that says about me. That I still like my internet-name, I guess.


Ever since I started law school in the Netherlands I wanted to participate in one of my university-wide exchange programs. Basically, our university has official relations with a number of universities abroad (ranging from Japan to Canada to everything in between) and they will help us get a placement abroad, funding, housing and the like. Everything to make it easier for us to actually go somewhere. Myself, I was even luckier than most: because I finished at the top of my class in my very first year of law school, I received €500 extra to study abroad.

However, between my first year and now, I hadn't been able to participate in one of these exchange programs. Every year something would come up that prevented me from going. Some of it was my fault, some of it was not, but at the end of the day I was still stuck in boring old Holland. But since this year right now was the last time I could possibly go anywhere, it was now or never. I made extra sure that my application was in order, that my grades were up to stuff and that I took an English as a Foreign Language Test (which I aced, by the way).

Well shit paid off, because after all these years I finally got in.

I get to go to the United States!

Specifically, I get to go to the George Washington University in Washington DC.
I'm going from about the start of September to somewhere in January, so one full semester. During that time, I'm going to be brushing up on my American Law and I'm going to further pursue my own interest in Human Rights Law and in ICT Law. US Human Rights Law in particular sounds fascinating to me because of how different you peeps approach basic human rights compared to how we do in Europe. Whereas your First Amendment is almost sacred, us Europeans are of the view that there's definitely a certain limit to fee speech and that you can't just say any ol' bullshit and get away with it. But on the other hand, gay rights are far more developed in Europe than the US, and we've seen last year that if there's anyone we shouldn't trust to respect our privacy, it's the US government.  

It's all so strikingly different that I'd love to get some first-hand experience in the one city where it all happens. That city, of course, being DC.

But as we video gamers understand better than anyone, all work and no play doesn't make for a very exciting trip. So during those months I'm going to be in the US, I'd love to go see things, do things. So if you've got any tips on what to do when in DC, by all means share them. Or any tips on which video games to bring on the plane or anything else you can think of. Just shoot!

But perhaps more than anything, I want to meet you!

- Yes, you.

Even though I'm far from the only "foreigner" on this little internet-home of ours, the vast majority of us are still American. So I figured, what if some faithful Dtoid visitors were located in the DC area? I could totally go say hi when I'm there!

And that's what this blog is for, really. I've been on Destructoid for years, but never really had the chance to meet the people behind that avatars that have come to mean so much to me. With my upcoming half-year trip to the States, now would seem like a better time than ever to do exactly that.

So, do any people here live in the Washington DC area? Of course in the city would be best (that way I wouldn't have to pay for a tour guide, duh), but if you think you're worth driving a couple of hours for, I'm sure I can squeeze you in (although that may or may not depend on your willingness to play Super Smash Bros. with me). For example, I definitely plan to visit New York during my stay; that's a kind of distance I could easily deal with. Note that I'm not asking for housing or funds or whatever, I can manage that on my own just fine. Still, it would be nice to have a friendly face in unfamiliar territory, to hang out with sometime or just to show me around once and then deny any connection.

So if you're in the area and want to meet a 'toider from the legendary land of hookers and blow, that'd be awesome! I want to take the time to see all that I can, and that includes you!

(I'm probably also posting this on the forums later, but the Cblogs feel like my eHome more than any other part of the site, so it's only fair to post here first.
Finally, on an unrelated note: I'm sorry for being so absent from the site lately. I'm going to try getting back in the game here. Reading and commenting on you Cblogs is on the top of the list. You guys so deserve it. Tell you what: if I forget I want you to come to my house and punch me in the face. Or watch me sleep, if you're into that. That'll teach me!)
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