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    • vVv Bagzli

      We have moved to Discord   08/04/2016

      There has been a strong desire among the community to migrate to Discord for quite some time. As of today, our community will be using Discord and as a result, we will no longer be actively using our TeamSpeak Server.  The TeamSpeak server will temporarily stay active to help inform all of our move to Discord. Within the next couple of months, it will be shut down completely.  For a quick invite to our new Discord server, you can click here.  
      For a full detailed guide visit http://www.vVv-Gaming.com/Discord
    • vVv Bagzli

      New Supersonic Series Start Time   10/17/2016

      We would like to thank everyone who participated in our recent survey regarding the start time of our tournaments.  After reviewing responses from the survey sent out to tournament participants we have decided to make changes to the start time of our events to try to better accommodate everyone.  Beginning on Monday, October 24th, all of our tournaments will start an hour earlier - at 8PM Eastern.  This means that registration will close at 7:30 EST, and that check-in starts at 7:30 EST and closes at 7:45 EST.
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About this blog

Funny, informative, clever, cool, and... other adjectives. I'm just having fun doing what I love; making an ass of myself.

Entries in this blog

Zero

blog-0810751001374067811.pngWow! over 110k views on this blog and still going strong despite the fact that I haven't written anything in months! So before I get into anything else I really want to say "Thank you" to everyone who reads (and apparently continues to read) The Zero Logs. I had a LOT of fun with the blog and, believe it or not, I sometimes miss playing those really bad games I wrote about. They were awful as video games, but they were all perfect examples of what NOT to do when creating a game. Even though I will most likely never make a game myself I was able to apply a lot of the lessons I learned to my life's work. So, again, thank you all for reading, laughing, commenting, sharing, and enjoying the best of the worst with me. (My only regret is not being able to play and review Deadly Premonition.)

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Words cannot describe how badly I wanted to tackle this one...

Which brings me to why I'm posting here. First off, my name isn't Josh Stiles, it's Yeshua Espaillat. And if you have to ask why I called myself Josh Stiles instead just go back and try to read my real name again. Yeah, THAT'S why. Second, I feel like I need to come clean about something I've kept to myself for years. I don't have a high school education. I never made it to high school, but not because I was too dumb. In all honesty I have no idea if there's ONE thing that happened in my life that derailed my education. It could've been my hopelessly dark view of the world (9-11 had just happened), it could've been the issues I had and continue to have with BOTH of my parents (neither of them should have had kids), it could've been that my untreated depression eliminated my motivation, or it could simply have been that I stopped caring as a result of everything else combined. I ended up enrolling in a program supposedly for kids who were in my exact position and after taking a very long and very mind-numbing and difficult test, I obtained my diploma (not a GED. I wanted to go to college after that, but it never happened and now, thanks to our delightfully downtrodden economy, rising student loan rates, and lack of decent living wages, I will most likely NEVER be able to afford a college education.

So with that little caveat out of the way... my first book is officially up for sale! Yeah, I wrote a book. Well... three actually. It was too long, so I had to karate chop it into three parts. The process has been a pain in the ass, but it was damn fun and very enlightening. I now know things I didn't know and have new skills I didn't have before just like when I started this blog way back. Maybe the book will sell and a new chapter in my life will begin or maybe it'll go nowhere, but regardless of the outcome I would just like to say once again: Thank you, vVv-Gaming!

Eternal Requiem Act I: http://amzn.to/110eBNa

[uPDATE:]

I just realized I haven't really written about where this story came from or what I hope to do with it, so I suppose now is as good a time as any. When I was a kid, I grew up watching all the normal cartoons kids watched like the Ninja Turtles, Tiny Toons, the Power Rangers, Animaniacs, etc. and when the shows ended (or in the Power Rangers case when a cast was replaced) I was always more curious about what was happening afterwards (I don't think I know what retirement meant at that age, I guess, so the thought obviously didn't occur to me). Some shows had definitive endings that couldn't POSSIBLY go any further like the ending of Dinosaurs (the whole family freezes to death; it was depressing and it heavily applies to our current global situation), but others you just don't know. Like, does anyone here remember the green ranger from the original Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers? I stopped watching around the time the actor left the show, but I didn't know he came back years later to play the same character as a professor (and he was the black ranger that time). I've always liked to see growth and development and consequence, even as a kid, and that's where Eternal Requiem really comes from.

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The baby died, too! ;_______;

So with that in mind, the first trilogy is aimed at a certain target audience: Young Adult (15 - 18)

Why that particular age group? Two reasons related to one: Twilight!

REASON A:

We all know why we hate it; it was insipid. It was mind-numbingly, robotically, stupid, BUT (There's a legitimate one in there) those bad books and bad movies got a lot of teenagers into reading (Yeah, Harry Potter had them reading, too, but it's target audience was primarily younger children; the teenagers and adults into it most likely were fans of the fantasy genre).

Twilight was meant as a dumb teenage "romance" (or a relationship based on abuse if you can read INTO it) and it succeeded in spades, so everyone has to give Stephanie Meyer props for proving it isn't hard to write for idiots.

REASON B:

I hate stupidity. I really, really, REALLY do. The kind of slope our entire society is on in nearly every way imaginable is so goddamn head-scratching that I don't understand why we have problems to begin with, but then I remembered most people are (say it with me now) STUPID. Too many awful things have done well that feed into the lowest reaches of the human brain that we've come to expect less-than-quality in everything now (like how Man of Steel was a bad movie that did too well and will likely lead to disappointing future films).

So Eternal Requiem is there to give a younger, reading generation something more intelligent than they're used to, something that will grow up with them, AND something that gives them what they want to see (lots of action that would make great visual effects).

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F*ck you, Zack Snyder! Your Superman movie sucked!!!

For now, it's a story following a trio of high school students witnessing the actions of adults around them and trying to grow into themselves, but it also throws in a lot of mystery using the adults in the story by making the teenagers (and thus the audience) think about what's happening around them. We learn that the situation the main character is being introduced to has been steadily building up over time, forcing him to grow up through the initial trilogy.

When this arc is over, the story is nowhere near complete and there are consequences afterward (it's called Eternal Requiem for many reasons and that is only one). The whole point is to snag the audience while they're young using dumb action and relatable teenagers to enjoy what's coming in the future when the audience (and the characters) are in their 20's. The stories become much more mature and take on existential and political topics such as the military industrial complex and technological advancements for "defending" people being used against them. All are consequences of what is set up in this trilogy (like the Star Wars expanded universe, it all starts with one trilogy).

I also wrote it in a certain way to allow for simple-adaptations. It's like an easy math problem that almost any Hollywood "genius" can solve without even realizing it, but I wouldn't let anyone make a movie without me there to make sure they don't mess something up anyway.

I hope I've made sense to everyone. I know I tend to be redundant sometimes. It happens.

Eternal Requiem Act I on sale now!

Zero

Some people may have already guessed that I’m not the “average” gamer. Average, in this case, meaning I like my games having more substance than something like mother*cking Call of Duty. Seriously, you people who wait in line for hours to play the exact same game you played a year ago are causing a huge decline in quality. Remember the crash of 1983? It was YOUR mentality that did it! Anyway, since you know so well about the games I hate and I always talk about the games I love I figured it was time to list off some of the lesser known games I’ve enjoyed that I haven’t yapped about. So that means you won’t be seeing any mentions of Heavy Rain this time! So let’s get right to it and talk about the awesome games you may have missed.

Limbo:

These days hyper realistic graphics and frantic intense action are the bread and butter of the industry and thankfully this game has NONE of those! To me Limbo is the depressing head-scratching crown jewel of the Xbox Arcade and it was so good that it even managed to cross over into the PlayStation Store. The premise is pretty much up to you to figure out because there aren’t any voiceovers or dialogue balloons to help you fill in the ambiguous blanks. I’ll explain it, though. You play as the silhouette of a boy who wakes up to find himself in Limbo (the depressing space between life and death or heaven and hell depending on your views) on his quest to rescue either his sister or friend. It’s a platformer/puzzler that has you traveling across its dark miserable side scrolling landscapes cleverly battling or escaping from what I assume are the boy’s worst fears which include spiders, drowning, and other asshole kids. If you’ve never played it, I highly recommend at least testing out the demo before the next-gen consoles come out and, if you want, share your interpretation of the game’s story and events! That’s always fun.

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It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood! A beautiful d- ZOMG! That kid hung himself!

TellTale’s The Walking Dead:

Yeah, okay, so technically this game isn’t exactly underappreciated because it sold phenomenally well BUT I still hear people who haven’t even given it a chance bitching about the graphics and slow gameplay comparing it to completely unrelated zombie games like… no, I’m not saying it. I don’t care that it has a DLC zombie portion to it. F*ck that game! The Walking Dead has never and will never be about killing an endless horde of zombies until a timer runs out. You can slap ANY theme onto that type of gameplay and it won’t make a damn bit of difference. THIS game is all about stories and characters. The people you run into talk and act like actual everyday people, not combat-experienced soldiers, and they have very real problems of their own to deal with on top of the zombie apocalypse. There’s a diabetic who acts like an asshole, but makes strong points, a man desperately trying to protect his family, a teenager who was in school when the outbreak started and doesn’t know what happened to his parents, a little girl that tugs on your heartstrings, and all kinds of drama that makes you really think about what you’d have to inevitable deal with should the zombie apocalypse ever occur for reals. If you’re one of the few shallow gamers who haven’t played it just because you aren’t running and gunning in high-res environments you owe it to whatever’s left of your brain to play this game.

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This is one of the few games where the death of a character feels like a legitimate loss.

Silent Hill Downpour:

I’m very much aware of how much of a decline the Silent Hill series has seen since 2004’s Silent Hill: The Room (which started out as a different game and was later dressed up in Silent Hill skin by the way). The problems caused by later entries in the series had pretty much murdered the series for me, but Downpour managed to come back and correct MOST of them. The story was much more engaging and the interesting characters all had very dark motivations behind their vengeful actions. The running theme was all about redemption and forgiveness and playing as escaped convict Murphy Pendleton while he coped with the consequences of his decisions made for the best psychological thriller I’ve seen since – NO! I promised I wouldn’t bring it up this time! But it was THAT good! The combat was still frustrating at times and the game has a glaring glitch with its fast travel system (it doesn’t work… at all), but being forced to trek through the town’s streets made it more enjoyable. Silent Hill is as creepy as it’s ever been and the ambience is worth backtracking through the foggy streets. And the theme song performed by Korn’s Jonathan Davis fits the game just as awesomely as the older theme songs from Mary Elizabeth McGlynn.

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Downpour isn’t the complete return to form fans may have been wanting, but it beats Homecoming by a long shot and is a LOT closer to Silent Hill’s roots than any other recent game in the series.

Catherine:

This puzzle game is f*cking hard! Some might say it’s too hard, but those people probably aren’t used to games of this genre. Ever since I played Persona 3 I’ve fallen in love with Atlus and this one is another one of their underappreciated gems worth taking a look at. You play as Vincent Brooks while he struggles with a very adult-oriented situation not often visited by video games: infidelity. Yep, this dude’s got two hot chicks (Katherine and Catherine) on his d*ck and he doesn’t know which one he really wants. Interested yet? His girlfriend, Katherine, wants to settle down, get married, and start a family and Vincent isn’t sure if he’s ready to make that giant leap. That’s when Catherine, the hot chick of his bachelor fantasies, shows up out of nowhere and they begin having an affair which haunts Vincent’s dreams where the core gameplay takes place. The game’s difficulty might turn some people off, but deciding to cheat on your girlfriend who wants to get married is an equally difficult situation to face, so it’s a perfect fit when you think about it.

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I’m starting to think the reason this game was so difficult was because of the *ahem* distractions.

3D Dot Heroes:

Do you know what the difference is between a rip-off and a throwback? THIS GAME! As another gem from Atlus, this throwback to simpler times from years gone by is also a parody that acknowledges its VERY OBVIOUS NES roots. Just pull up a few screenshots to see for yourself. What’s REALLY surprising, though, is that Nintendo didn’t try to sue the ever-loving sh*t out of Atlus for making it. Remember when former attorney Jack Thompson tried to sue Midway for making it possible for players to create a character that looked like him so we could rip his head off in brutally satisfying fatalities? Well, this game gives players the option to create their own character from scratch and, wouldn’t you know it, the most fitting and well-known sprite from happens to be Link from The Legend of Zelda. You won’t be able to download him, but there are blueprints on the internet to follow so you can play a classic adventure game with the old-school icon. And despite everything being made up of blocks or “3D dots” the game’s visuals are surprisingly gorgeous! If you love old-school games and The Legend of Zelda this is a must-play for you.

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Seriously, how did they avoid a lawsuit?!?! Does Nintendo not know this game exists???

Well, those are my top 5 underappreciated games of this generation. If you haven’t played them, I suggest getting online to find them. They’re all worth playing and you’ll get a many more hours of enjoyment from them than anything you’re probably right playing now. There are more games than this which I loved that didn’t get the recognition they deserved and I might revisit this topic to talk about them later on if you guys want. Let everyone know what games you felt deserved the spotlight in the comments section below and then do these:

Follow me on Twitter: @vVvZero

Add me on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/vVvZero

Until next time, I bid you adieu!

Zero

“Never judge a book by its cover.”

You’ve heard the phrase before and blah, blah, blah. I’m not here to lecture anyone about why you shouldn’t be judgmental, but let’s be honest with each other. We ALL judge everything based on first appearances. They matter, after all. That’s why you always want to look your best during job interviews and whatnot because you know the guy conducting the interview is going to be scrutinizing the way you look before you can even start spewing out the soulless corporate bullshit they all love to hear. So, the cover art for books, movies, and video games are like that first impression which we all base our initial judgment on. And the cover art for games in released in America are CRAP! (Like most things in America). Seriously, if you compare ANY game’s cover art here to the SAME game’s cover in another country the latter will undoubtedly be superior in making a good first impression. So let’s get to the part of this time-honored tradition of bitching out the industry!

If you haven’t already guessed based on past posts I LOVED Quantic Dream’s Heavy Rain. I love it so much that I’m sure most people are getting annoyed hearing me praise it all of the time, so to stir things up a bit I’m NOT going to be talking about it in a positive light. Aside from its clunky controls, occasional glitches, and hilariously obvious French accents, the one thing that disappointed me the MOST about the game was the damn cover art they chose for its North American release. I’m pretty sure that most of the blame for incidents like this fall mostly on the publisher which would be Sony in this case. F*ck you, Sony! I’m getting sick of your sh*t! Stop pissing me off!

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On the left we have the North American cover and on the right is the Japanese cover art.

Analysis:

America sucks. Okay, seriously. Let’s compa – GOD, it just… it sucks! Sorry! I have trouble focusing. So the best kind of cover art is supposed to be able to catch your attention from the corner of your eye if possible. Heavy Rain’s story is a mystery filled with all kinds of suspenseful moments. The best kind of cover for a game like that has to be intriguing enough to make you want to walk over to the shelf and pick it up after you initially spot it. When I look at the Japanese cover art my mind starts racing with thoughts and questions. Whose body is that floating on the cover? Why did they drown? What the hell kind of game is this? All are questions that then make me turn the game over to read the description on the back. The American cover art features the four playable characters staring off in different directions with an Origami swan. The swan is the most interesting thing on the damn cover and frankly having four people cluttering up that small amount space is a bit messy. And the fact that Madison is the most prominent as opposed to Ethan (the game’s primary protagonist) boggles the mind. My best guess is that Sony believed only guys would play the game and guys like boobies so there she is front and center. You happy?

Resident Evil 4 kicked off the revival of the series. With Umbrella effectively wiped out by the end of Nemesis and Code Veronica players needed a new enemy to fight and the typical slow-moving zombies of the originals weren’t up to the task anymore. Naturally, it was time to go in a new direction and usher in a brand new era in Resident Evil’s mythos and it was a huge undertaking and a big risk for Capcom to take with their flagship survival horror series. The original RE4 ended up in the recycle bin and later on became Devil May Cry and it seemed like all hope was lost at that point. But lo and behold, the final product blew away our expectations and forever changed the genre Resident Evil (technically) gave birth to.

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Analysis:

The US cover art makes several things plainly obvious. Obvious thing #1: Leon’s definitely in it. Obvious thing #2: It’s got a bunch of Spanish guys in it and one of them has a chainsaw. Well… great. Those are two things we could’ve figured out by looking at the back of the box, but I guess here in America we’re just too lazy to pick up something that looks genuinely interesting. We don’t like interesting, we like stupidly obvious. The UK cover doesn’t throw info at you like that because over in the UK people prefer substance over “Hey, Leon is in this one!” The simplistic color choice of red against black pops out at you even when you’re standing 20 feet away just idly passing by the shelf where this bad boy awaits. Traditionally, the image of a flock of crows flying overhead symbolizes death and gives you a sense of dread and isolation. Then we have a silhouette of the chainsaw wielding enemy standing far off in the middle of a dark wooded area as if he sees you and instead of chasing you down he’s waiting in the darkness for you to make the fatal mistake of coming a little closer to him. Fear is the name of the game here and this cover art portrays it like no other.

I never played Ico when it originally released on the PS2 *gasp*. I did, however, play Shadow of the Colossus and I loved every moment of it. So why didn’t I play Ico? It all goes back to judging something based entirely on first appearances. I f*cking HATE the North American cover art for it. I hated it the moment I saw it and for that sole reason I didn’t even bother picking it up to read the back of the box. I think I ended up getting some other lesser known game. Some game that had a mouse and a guy from Final Fantasy in it. I can’t really remember the name, but it probably doesn’t matter. I don’t think it did very well anyway.

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I just realized that, once again, goddamn Sony is the one to blame. I should write an angry letter to them, but I wanna be on The Tester at some point, soooo…

Analysis:

Believe it or not, the cover is widely believed to be one of the biggest reasons for the game’s poor sales and looking at it again I can see why. It’s got that kid with those stupid-looking horns on his head and he’s holding a goddamn stick… f*ck this game! That’s what went through my head when I saw this on the shelf and opted to play Kingdom something-or-other. Seriously, I f*cking hate that cover art! And so did everyone else apparently. The cover art used for the European and Japanese regions, on the other hand, are actual pieces of art! I’d LOVE to have this hanging on my wall. The colors are beautiful and the pulled back shot of whatever valley the silhouetted kid is running through is vast and gives you a real sense of adventure. You can still see him carrying a stick, but it doesn’t draw your attention towards it unlike the US version and you can barely see the horns on his head. As a game Ico is held as an example of video games as art and it’s a damn shame the cover failed to drive that message home.

Unworthy Mentions:

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It’s a faceless guy sitting down holding a knife in one hand and a gun in the other. It’s actually a vast “improvement” over the original Black Ops cover art which was a faceless guy sitting down holding just two guns and no knife at all! …. f*ck Call of Duty.

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You saw this one coming. It needs no explanation.

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What the f*ck happened to Daniel Craig?! WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOUR FACE?!?!?!

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If you’re an air traffic controller and you turn your back to the air traffic you’re supposed to be controlling you should be fired on the spot. Also, I love how there’s a dialogue bubble in this one. Like we couldn’t tell what he’s supposed to be by looking at the commercial jets flying recklessly in the background. Those pilots should be fired, too. And if they end up murdering people they should have a crossover with the Phoenix Wright series where they’re facing trial like that Denzel Washington movie.

And let’s end on a funny note made of pure win:

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You know what? I would buy this copy. I’d buy it, frame it, and put it on my wall.

Follow me on Twitter: @vVvZero

Add me on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/vVvZero

Check out my podcast “Cog in the Machine” here: http://citm.podbean.com/

And have a happy Monday!

Zero

My Pet Project

You guys may not be aware of this, but writing is my biggest passion. I've never been much of a reader (ironically enough), but I learned a lot about storytelling through the shows and movies I watched and the games I played growing up. Even now I'm learning more and more about great storytelling and how to piece an interesting plot together. Which brings me to the reason for this blog post tonight.

When I was 11 years old I wrote a short story out of sheer boredom. The grammar was terrible and the plot was absurd, but I went back to it a week later and fixed it. Then, I rewrote it. Then, at 14 I stumbled on the file on my computer and decided to rewrite the entire thing using the main character and scrapping everything else. Now, here I am at 27 having written, scrapped, and rewritten the same story for most of my life. That crappy little short I started as a kid has evolved into a an entire series of novels I wanted to have published someday. By chance I've made a contact with someone who worked in the publishing industry and after I told her what I had been working on she offered to take my book, edit it for me, and pass it along to her friends in the business with her recommendation attached to it.

It's the opportunity I've been waiting for since I decided I wanted to become a published author. So, I've been going over the last draft of the first book revising and rewriting as much as I could each and every day. Yesterday I completed chapter 6 and I'm happy to say that I'm really proud of myself. I feel I've come a long way and I want to share with everyone here the project I started when I was just 11 years old. The following sample chapter took me 20 hours to completely rewrite from scratch and it's been physically and mentally exhausting, but worth it. I hope you guys love reading it as much as I loved writing it.

This is my novel. This is my dream.

"Eternal Requiem"

Chapter 6

Angels of Death

The intensely bright yet beautiful and dazzling gold-colored energy kept flowing around the back room of Reed’s shop gaining momentum and creating a draft. The Sovereign, still trapped in the center of the anomaly he unintentionally created, disappeared in the chaos when the cloud became thicker and more difficult to see through. Eventually they lost visual contact of Zach and couldn’t even hear his shouting over the rushing whirlwind caused by the localized storm of light energy. Neither Reed nor Powell had ever encountered a situation like this before and both Guardians were completely lost as to what steps would need to be taken to stop it, but it was getting desperate now.

“Do something!” Julia shouted to the men.

The light storm had gained so much strength and speed that the wind it created started ripping up the wooden floorboards and tossed loose books around as if it were a hurricane. Stopping it was going to require an ingenious amount of unconventional thinking and luckily Reed was known in the past for thinking outside the box.

“Zach!” he shouted over the gale-force wind in his shop. “You have to focus the energy into a form of some kind! I gave it to you in a sphere! You have to force as much of it as you can into a single form! Any shape and size will do!”

The Sovereign could barely make out the instructions given to him by his Guardian, but he managed to piece together what he could of it and understood the basics. His lack of experience, however, made it difficult to understand just how he was supposed to accomplish the feat. He closed his eyes and focused all of his attention on the sixth sense he learned to use. The energy was more intense than he realized and it almost felt as though the cloud of light was shouting something at him making it difficult to concentrate on a form to give it. He was all but ready to give up on his efforts when the image of his nameless hero suddenly popped into his mind, wishing he would show up now and save him again.

The golden haze then gradually decreased in speed, slower and slower until it stood completely still. Everyone in the room stayed frozen in place watching the energy as it hummed and flashed in brief intervals. Clearly something was happening to it, but there was no way to guess what that something was. The cloud continued to hum and flash louder and quicker until it stayed lit up so brightly that everyone had to shield their eyes. Then, the massive body of light energy moved inwards, compressing itself into a smaller form a few feet away from where Zach stood.

“What’s happening?” asked Julia.

But Reed was just as confused as she was, “I don’t know.” He rushed over to Zach when the energy had completely moved away from him and checked him over, “Are you alright? Do you know what its doing?”

The Sovereign was shaking like a leaf and his eyes looked like they were about to start pouring tears of relief and he stammered, “I- I dunno!”

Reed could tell the young man was terrified, “It’s alright, Zach. You’re okay now. You handled it well and you stopped it. I’m proud of you.”

“Derek,” Powell called out and pointed at the energy still present in the room.

The cloud had managed to shrink down to about six feet tall, but it stopped there while the width continued to slim down. The spectacle that threatened to destroy the shop had started to take on a very humanoid shape now, but it was becoming something more than that. It had clearly taken the form of a man; a man with wings!

The four humans in the room stared at it in stunned silence except for Julia whose verbal reaction matched exactly what everyone else was thinking, “What the hell is that?”

The featureless angelic figure stretched out his arms, tilted his head back, and his voice called out loudly proclaiming, “I am the light of God!”

The bright glow emanating from his energy-infused body intensified and he stretched his wings outward unleashing a powerful gust of wind in the enclosed room. Everyone had to shield their eyes again as the creature flapped its gorgeous white feathered wings and lifted through the ceiling like a ghost causing no damage to the structure and leaving the humans bewildered and wide-eyed. Zach successfully averted total disaster by giving the energy a singular contained form, but just what form he gave it was beyond his comprehension.

“Was that--,” and Julia paused at the impossible questions she was about to ask, but forced herself to finish the thought anyway, “an angel?”

Powell, with his eyes fixated on the spot in the ceiling where the creature flew out through, said, “We might have a much bigger problem on our hands now with him on the loose.”

“How do you mean?” asked Zach, still reeling from the trauma of nearly blowing himself to kingdom come. “Aren’t angels good?”

And Reed responded, “It depends on which angel he’s supposed to be.” The Guardian pulled away from his charge and started walking to the front counter with everyone else following his lead, “He called himself ‘the light of God’ which could mean any number of things. I need all of you to start looking through every reference book here for those exact words; check under Judeo-Christianity and Catholicism.”

“Wait,” Zach began as he rushed up to his mentor stopping him mid gait, “does that mean there really is a God and a heaven and hell and all of that?!”

Reed placed his hands on the boy’s shoulders, looked him in the eyes, and said, “Everything ever written has some basis on reality, even fiction and faith. Keep an open mind, don’t assume you know the answers to everything, and most importantly don’t let the things you see or read about affect who you are.”

Zach was never a religious person and he believed that being a good person was the only thing anyone needed to do in life. That never eliminated the questions and doubts he had about the existence of God and the role religion played in the world and in people’s daily lives. Seeing an angel with his own eyes cracked his beliefs and the teenager felt cheated out of the answer he wanted, but after taking into account the things he had witnessed up until this point he understood Reed’s words better than he would have a week ago. Regardless of what demons or angels he saw, or even if he saw gods and devils in the flesh, he had to always remember that being a good person is what he originally believed in before his life as the Sovereign and it was just as important to hold onto that belief now more than ever.

For the first time since this new life began Zach, Julia, Reed, and Powell began investigating the creature they encountered together as a team. Reed pointed out all the shelves where the necessary religious reference books were located and the teens grabbed as many as they carry piling them up on the front counter while the two Guardians checked through the tomes kept separate from the normal books. They had a better idea of how to narrow down the identity of the angel born from Zach’s accident, but hours went by and none of the four were close to finding the answers they needed.

The sun had set and night had fallen by the time Reed decided the group needed to take a break. They had gone through dozens of reference books, all piled on the floor around them leaving rows of shelves completely empty in the store. Thankfully, Reed remembered to lock the door so the possibility of potential customers walking in or demons or human abductors coming to pay a visit were minimal.

Julia huffed, placing a hand over her growling stomach, “I don’t know about you guys, but I’m starving.”

To their surprise, Reed reached behind him for the store’s phone and handed it to her, “Order a pizza for everyone. You can use the money in the register to pay for it.”

“Pepperoni and extra cheese,” Zach blurted out from where he sat on the floor surrounded by musty old reference books.

The Sovereign then dug into his pocket pulling out his smartphone and checked all of his social networking profiles to pass the time, but then an obvious idea dawned upon him making him want to slap himself across the face for not thinking about it sooner. He closed the profile pages and clicked on his phone’s web browser pulling up the greatest tool to come from his generation: Google. At first when he did a search for the phrase “light of God” the results which came back were the ones he should have known to expect consisting of nothing but websites promoting or discussing Christianity. Then, he added the word “angel” to the phrase and lo and behold he found the name the group had spent the entire afternoon searching for.

He hopped up from the floor and held out his phone for all to see, “His name is Uriel!”

“Did you really just Google search the angel on your phone?” Julia asked, forgetting she was on the phone before quickly returning the man on the other end waiting for her to complete the order.

Powell let out a boisterous laugh upon seeing the agitated look on Reed’s face, “You’ve been spending too much time in this old fashioned shop, Derek.”

“Well, it didn’t occur to you to check the internet, either,” he said, closing the book he had buried his nose in for the last hour.

“I’m an old man, what’s your excuse?”

Reed didn’t give one and turned his attention to Zach and his handy smartphone, “What does it say about him?”

Zach felt rather proud of himself for finding the elusive information about their mystery angel and bore a satisfied smile on his face as he read the information aloud for everyone to hear, “Uriel is one of the angels of punishment and is a pitiless angel who scrutinizes souls. He’s one of the most important angels, described as an archangel, seraph, and cherub. Uriel probably means “fire of God” or “God is my light.” Uriel is often identified as one of the four primary angels, along with Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, possibly aspects of the angel of the lord. He is not part of the official Catholic canon, but he is prominent in Jewish texts and apocryphal writings.”

“I suppose that’s why he wasn’t in any of these reference books,” Reed concluded. “We had the wrong religion.”

Zach’s face then changed from smugly satisfied to deeply concerned, “Umm… there’s more here and it doesn’t sound good.” He continued reading the passage to the rest of the group, “Uriel is among the angels identified as the angel of death; angel of great counsel; angel of peace; angel of truth; and as one of the angels of the earth; angels of the presence; angels over the consummation and one of the angels of destruction sent to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah. Uriel is portrayed as a stern and punishing angel. Enoch said he is head of the seven archangels, and he presides over Tartarus or Hell, where he pursues punishment of sinners. According to the Apocalypse of St. Peter, this punishment consists of burning sinners in everlasting fire and hanging blasphemers by their tongues over unquenchable fires. On the Day of Judgment, he will break the brazen gates of Hades and assemble all the souls before the judgment seat.”

Julia finished placing the order and hung up the phone, “It should be here in a half hour and I’m really worried about the part that says he punishes sinners. Do you have any idea how many things are technically sins these days?”

“It’s true,” Reed agreed, much to her surprise. “Depending on how deep his convictions go he might kill everyone just for pressing buttons on Sundays.”

“Okay, if that’s a sin then we’re all dead,” commented the young Sovereign. “Why did the energy turn into this guy anyway?”

“Unfortunately the blame for his creation rests entirely on you,” Powell said to the boy. “You were the one to give it form and, for whatever reason, you somehow chose the form of a punishing angel who walks the line between darkness and light.” He then looked to Reed, “Possibly one of the most dangerous types of beings in existence.”

“But I didn’t even know who Uriel was until I looked him up just now.”

Reed sighed realizing Powell was once again reminding him of the conversation they were having and the dire warning given to him before Uriel’s creation, “What form were you trying to give the light energy?”

“I don’t know,” he explained, “I couldn’t really think about it. I just kept wishing someone would save me.” His mind raced back to the thoughts he had when the energy cloud was threatening to destroy him finding the answer tucked away in his desperate mental wish for a savior, “I was thinking about that guy, though.”

Of course, nobody knew quite who Zach was referring to, but Reed had already been working out the mystery of the only person everyone had met whose name eluded them all, “What guy?”

“The one that saved us in the alley when we were attacked by the boar demons.”

His suspicions were correct and Reed knew he was a step closer now to solving one of the many mysteries surrounding Zach, “Why him of all people?”

The Sovereign suddenly felt himself shrink under the microscope as everyone eyed him waiting for an answer, “He came to me last night.”

“What did he want?” asked his Guardian in a tone more dreadfully serious than ever before.

Clearly, he didn’t approve of the nameless cloaked man who randomly appeared and kept his motives secret from everyone who encountered him. Zach didn’t think the man intended to cause any harm, but if thinking about him created an angel whose sole purpose was to pitilessly and indiscriminately punish people and whose motivations teetered between good and evil then maybe he really should have been considered a threat. The boy thought back to the words the cloaked man used to describe himself; the physical embodiment of chaos and loneliness. An archangel who walked on a fine line that weaved in and out of the sides of good and evil could probably be labeled with those exact words.

“He’s chaos and loneliness walking through history’s shadow,” repeated Zach.

“He’s dangerous,” said Reed in a scolding manner, “and if he appears to you again you need to let me know.”

Powell released a tired exasperated sigh, “We’ve gone from a cloud of energy threatening to destroy the shop to a rogue angel threatening to punish every human being alive.”

“Don’t start lecturing us,” said the younger Guardian.

“Who said I was lecturing? It brings back a lot of memories,” he chuckled. “Oh, how I’ve missed this life.”

“Was it like this with your Sovereign?” Zach asked him.

“Oh, yes.”

“Is it always like this?”

With a delighted grin the elderly Guardian repeated, “Absolutely.”

“You’re enjoying this too much, old man,” teased Reed.

“The only time you ever truly feel alive is when you’re facing death.” He then turned to Zach and casually said with a kindly assuring smile, “Somehow we’ll find a way to stop your angel before anything apocalyptic happens.”

Apocalyptic? Yeah, that’s nothing to worry about.

The group spent the rest of the evening picking up the mess of books they laid out everywhere and replacing them on the shelves. Zach’s thoughts stayed on the nameless man and the archangel Uriel the whole time even as they sat together to eat the pizza which arrived a few minutes later than it was supposed to. Nobody seemed to mind the inconvenience, though, but he was the only one to notice it. Is that how they viewed the threat presented by the angel he single-handedly gave birth to? Was Uriel’s presence nothing more than an inconvenience like the late pizza delivery? If it hadn’t been for Powell’s nostalgic appreciation for facing what could lead to doomsday the Sovereign probably would have been frantically worrying about finding the angel all night. It may have been senility or it may have been that there simply wasn’t a reason to panic. If this was going to be an everyday thing, Zach was going to have to learn to take it easy.

But he keeps looking at Reed like they’re hiding something…

--

The school bell cut through the silence the following morning signaling the start of the school day and the students piled into the halls making their way to their lockers before settling into their respective classrooms. The archangel Uriel was still on the loose and the threat he presented felt like it should have kept Zach from attending school, but Reed and Powell convinced him to let them worry about tracking down the creature he created. He knew the responsibility fell on him to find Uriel and stop him from causing harm to anyone, but with his lack of skill and experience he’d most likely get himself killed in the process, so he went to school. As far as the rest of the world was concerned today was just a day like any other.

The Sovereign couldn’t help but zone out when his teacher began the lesson of the day and his mind, as always, meandered between doubting his ability to succeed and worrying about the consequences of failure. Then he started thinking about who the shadow man really was and what role he played in the grand scheme of things. He didn’t seem to bear Zach any ill will when he saved him and if his intentions were to kill him he had the perfect opportunity to do so when he appeared to him and “hijacked” his brain. In his eyes Reed’s concerns about the man potentially having a dark motive were nothing more than paranoia simply because no one knew a thing about him.

The girl sitting behind him tapped his shoulder with her pencil and whispered, “Hey, Zach.”

He turned his head to look her in the eye; her gorgeous emerald green eyes slightly covered by a stray lock of blond hair. He had known her since the 4th grade and the two occasionally shared short discussions between classes, but he had ignored her the last few days ever since he became the Sovereign. It wasn’t intentional, though, he just had a lot on his mind. Trista was probably one of the brightest people he had ever met and her personality, along with her highly attractive Japanese and Dutch features, made her intimidating to him. She could always tell when something was wrong with him and after observing how much time he spent pensively thinking to himself, she felt it was finally time to approach him about it.

“Are you alright?” she worriedly asked. “I saw you coming out of that bookstore this morning on my way to school and you looked really stressed out.”

Oh no, not her. The last thing I need is Trista getting involved in this mess. He was about to come up with a half-witted lie to throw her off when, without warning, a lowly voice called out to Zach addressing him by title rather than name, “Sovereign.”

His eyes went wide with terror, his heart started racing in his chest, and a cold bead of sweat ran down the side of his face. He stayed seated for a long moment unsure of whether or not he was having some kind of mental breakdown brought on by his own pessimistic thinking.

Until, that is, he heard it call out to him again, but by name this time, “Zachary.

He jumped out of his seat, startling the other students and drawing attention away from the teacher to himself and deeply concerning Trista, “What’s wrong?”

“Uh,” he searched the furthest corners of his mind to come up with some kind of excuse for his unusual behavior, but he was never any good when he was put on the spot. “I gotta go!”

He hurriedly shoved his belongings into his backpack and fled the classroom as the teacher called for him to return to his seat. No one had ever seen him act so out of character and he was never one for skipping a class let alone running out of the middle of one. Unfortunately for Zach, by suddenly bolting out of class without giving anyone a valid reason, everyone was now talking about him and Trista was aware that something was indeed wrong.

The Sovereign sprinted through the halls in search of the classroom where Reed was still acting as a substitute and burst through the door panting heavily and saying nothing. All eyes fell on him and everyone was shocked and confused by the irrational behavior of one of the most quiet and reserved wallflower students. Reed sighed in disdain at the lack of tact Zach used by his charge, but scolding him would have to come later. Clearly, there was something amiss otherwise the teenager would not have so rudely interrupted his class in such a manner.

“Fitzroy,” Reed called out to one of the students sitting in the front row, “keep reading the passage to the rest of the class while I deal with our visitor.”

The addressed student looked back and forth between Zach and Reed a couple of times before standing from his desk to resume the reading session that was interrupted. The Guardian walked through the aisle of desks and all of the students present watched as he put a hand on Zach’s shoulder and led him back out into the hall, closing the door behind them. Now there were two entire classrooms that had witnessed the boy making a scene and in high school that was more than enough for rumors to begin forming.

“What the hell has gotten into you?” Reed scornfully asked the panicked Sovereign.

“I heard a voice calling out to me,” divulged the student in a hushed voice. “First it called me “Sovereign” and then it used my name.”

“Isn’t it possible what you heard was one of the other students?”

“The only person in this school that knows what I am is Julia, but she’s a sophomore and we don’t have any classes together, Reed!”

“Calm down,” coaxed the Guardian. “Try to remain collected, Zach. Things like this are going to happen a lot from now on.”

“Not now! Not here!” he began, nearly on the verge of a total breakdown. “I wanna graduate this year and if these things pop up while I’m at school--”

Reed cut him off midsentence completing it for him, “Then you’ll have to deal with them just like you would with any other type of crisis that happens in life.”

Zach groaned in defeat reluctantly accepting the fact that his mentor and Guardian was right, much to his plainly visible consternation. Like it or not, for good and for bad, this was his life now and no amount of hoping or wishing would change that. Goodbye, high school diploma.

“Now,” Reed began, “you should go back to class and leave the angel to me.”

“But you didn’t even know it was here,” Zach protested. “How are you gonna find it when it only talks to me?”

Now it was Reed’s turn to accept and admit defeat, “You’re right.” He was taken aback at Zach’s sudden willingness and desire to track down the angel and put an end to this problem, but then he recognized a perfect opportunity to put the young Sovereign to the test in a leadership role, “So what do you think our first step should be?”

“Well,” and Zach’s gaze lowered as he thought to himself about what would be the best way to go about tracking down the angel not realizing that Reed was purposely handing over the reins to him, “I guess the first thing I should do is sense out his energy.”

“Let’s go to work then.”

With his finally cleared Zach’s determined resolve came back and he nodded in agreement with Reed, but as he was about to hone in on the angel’s aura Julia surprisingly popped up from around the corner. She seemed to be in a bit of a hurry and had her sights locked on the two males standing in the hallway as she approached them. The brunette had a look in her eye as though she were annoyed or even upset with one of them, most likely Zach since that was how it usually was.

“What are you doing here?” Reed asked when finally met up with them.

“I heard a weird voice in my head,” she began, “and I thought I was going crazy, but then I remembered I’ve been spending the last few days hanging around you to. So what the hell is going on?”

“You heard it, too?” asked in surprise.

Reed wasn’t ready to say the next thing on his mind, but there was no way around the fact he had already come to, “She should come with us.”

“Seriously?” asked the teens in perfect unison.

“The angel is speaking to the both of you,” he explained. “She’ll be safer with us than alone in a class where no one can protect her in case he decides to attack.”

The voice then resounded in their minds again whispering as quietly as before, “Come find me.

Zach looked all around in bewilderment from where the trio stood, “Tell me you heard it, too.”

“I definitely heard that,” she answered back.

“I didn’t hear anything,” said Reed, perplexed and concerned that he was out of the loop.

The Sovereign wasted no time and closed his eyes, cleared his mind, and focused all of his energy into honing in on the angel’s light aura. It didn’t take long before he started to sense something incredibly powerful nearby, but it didn’t feel like the source he was looking for. It almost felt like whatever he was detecting had somehow figured out a way to throw off his ability to sense its aura. Without saying a word to his allies he started walking through the school pursuing the spiritual energy to its source with Julia and Reed following closely behind.

They eventually made their way to the first floor and reached the closed doors of the school’s auditorium. The presence Zach detected was somewhere inside, but unfortunately they could all hear there was an assembly in progress. It sounded like someone was giving a lecture to the crowd and Julia sighed, leaning against the doors in frustration.

“What’s wrong with you?” Zach asked her.

“I just snuck out of here to find you guys,” she replied. “It’s just some guy from Future Sight Industries giving a speech about energy conservation. It was boring.”

“Did you say Future Sight?” asked the Guardian.

Come find me.”

“I’m sick of this guy talking in my head!” Zach growled.

He pushed open the left door and made his way inside as Julia followed his lead and Reed silently called out, “Wait!”

“This guy is toying with us,” Julia stated.

Zach then stopped cold in his tracks in the middle of one of the aisles leading to the stage and felt a cold shudder run through his body. The energy he had been following suddenly came into focus and he could sense three separate sources instead of just one. It was most likely the reason why it didn’t feel quite the same when he started zeroing in on it; they were combining and throwing him off. Reed came up behind them and yanked them back by their arms after sensing the extremely dangerous situation they had brazenly walked into.

“Tell me you sense them, too, Reed,” Zach pleaded, hoping he wasn’t wrong about what he felt.

“I do now,” he said, “and we need to get everyone out of the building before someone gets hurt.”

Julia accepted the task and exited the auditorium, “Leave that to me.”

Merely a few seconds after she left her two male counterparts the fire alarm broke through the entire campus interrupting the assembly and making everyone visibly jump in surprise. Following the fire drill procedure they were all taught since their elementary years the students all calmly departed from the assembly hall to the designated safety areas outside. The only people who stayed behind were Zach, Reed, the Future Sight speaker on stage, and Julia after she returned from setting off the school’s alarm.

“Shouldn’t the three of you be outside with the others?” asked the speaker once he noticed the trio had ignored the alarm.

“Reed,” Zach started, “he’s definitely one of the three.”

“I know,” replied the Guardian. “You did a good job finding him, Zach. Now, take Julia and leave while I deal with him.”

A powerful familiar voice then called out from somewhere among the darkened auditorium, “No. He’s mine.”

Zach recognized the scruffy voice and spotted the man hiding in the shadows, pointing him out, “It’s him.”

The nameless figure had returned, though it was Reed’s first time seeing him after hearing about his appearance in the alley. The Guardian noticed, however, that he kept his eyes locked on the speaker from Future Sight and showed no interest in Zach. By his count they made up two of the three sources of energy he and zach sensed when they entered the assembly hall, so where was the third one? And why is he hiding?

“The three of you, leave,” commanded the shadowy unidentified man. “This has nothing to do with you.”

The teens seemed willing to obey the stern command from the man, but Reed stepped forward defiantly and called him out, “Not until we get some bloody answers!”

Zach and Julia were in shock at Reed’s sudden burst of outrage and rebelliousness from someone who he knew was easily a hundred times more powerful than he was. It was obvious to them that the cloaked man was just as surprised as they were judging from the silent way he gawked at the Guardian. Of course, the meek skinny speaker on stage was more confused than anyone else and he looked like he was about to take off running behind the stage, but the cloaked shadow knew he’d make an escape attempt. He made an impossible leap from where he stood in the empty audience to the exit on stage cutting the man off, his long tattered cloak darkly fluttered in a manner most terrifying making him look almost like death itself gliding through the air.

The frightened defenseless man from Future Sight took a few steps back and away from the intimidating shadow, “W-who are you? What do you want from me?!”

“Leave him alone!” the Guardian shouted to the aggressor.

“You don’t know what’s at stake, Reed,” responded the shadow. “He has to die here and now.”

The speaker loudly began to beg for his life, “I just came here to talk about--!”

“Shut it,” the nameless shadow interrupted. “I know who you are and I know what you’re doing. I’ve known for a long time,” and he retrieved the massively-sized sword from underneath his cloak just as he had done in the alley, “and I’m here to throw a wrench into the machine.”

“Someone, help me!” screamed the man as the shadow raised the heavy sword overhead to strike.

Without mercy or reason the cloaked shadow swung down with his mighty blade ready to end the life of the trembling terrified man. Zach and Julia instinctively looked away knowing the sword would cleave the innocent man into a bloody mess. However, Reed couldn’t avert his gaze no matter how much he wanted to and he found himself frozen in place, lost as to how to handle the situation. He any attempt he could have made to stop the killing would have been effortlessly put to a halt by the man in the cloak; he was simply too powerful and far out of his league. So as the blade came down to deliver the killing strike all he could do was watch helplessly.

Clang!

The sound of metal striking against metal loudly resonated throughout the empty auditorium. Zach and Julia opened their eyes and daring to look back at the scene playing out on stage and, to the surprise of everyone there, another man appeared from seemingly nowhere standing between the would-be killer and his victim. He blocked the cloaked man’s blade with his own normal-sized sword which was covered with a slow-burning blaze. The man, standing six feet tall with bright blue eyes and short blond hair, stared the attacker down clenching his jaw and ready to fight.

The Sovereign immediately felt the powerful aura emanating from the newcomer and pointed at him to Reed, “It’s him! He’s the angel!”

“Things just became much more complicated,” was the older man’s response.

The shadow leapt back and away from the angel to the other side of the stage and asked, “Who the hell are you?”

“I am Uriel,” he proclaimed and then pointed his blade at the shadow adding, “and you are a man drenched in sin. Once I rid the world of you I will begin cleansing this Earth of its sinners until only those righteous enough to dwell in the kingdom of God remain.”

Zach tugged on Reed’s arm like a child and timidly said, “I’m not sure whose on what side anymore.”

“Hey, guys,” Julia began as she slowly started backing away towards the exit, “I think we should get out of here before we get locked in or killed or something.”

Uriel sharply turned his gaze to the trio standing in the audience and erected a barrier of energy against the doors cutting off their escape route. Then he looked to Zach and sternly said, “You’re next.”

The girl loudly groaned and threw her hands against her sides, “Goddamn it, I knew that was gonna happen!”

“You just got in the way of the wrong sinner,” said the shadow before rushing at the angel with his massive sword held high overhead.

Uriel then sprouted his stark white angel wings and with a single uplifting flap he evaded the shadow’s swing of his large unwieldy sword. He had the upper hand now that he was above and behind his opponent and quickly took advantage by diving back down to deliver a strike with his own blade. Without even looking the shadow swung his sword behind him, the width of his weapon acting as a shield deflecting the attack from the angel’s fiery blade, and rotated in place using the only the momentum from his defensive counter swing. The two unbelievably powerful swordsmen continued their duel across the stage, the sound of steel on steel filling the auditorium, and the speaker from Future Sight fled from the battleground towards Zach’s group.

Reed caught the man and dragged him off with the teens in tow to the furthest corner of the assembly hall shouting, “Who the bloody hell are you and why is that man trying to kill you?!”

“I’m just a scientist!” he shouted back in terror.

“Reed,” Zach began as he took a couple of steps away from them with his eyes locked on the man they were now protecting, “he’s the third one.”

“The third what?”

“The third big aura here! It’s Uriel, the guy with the giant sword, and him!”

Reed grabbed the scientist by the collar of his shirt and slammed him against a wall, “Start talking!”

“I’m Dr. Stauber,” shouted the petrified man of science, “I just do research for Future Sight!”

“I’m not a stupid man, Stauber.” Reed pressed him on, “What kind of research do you do for them?!”

“Genetics!”

“Why would Future Sight send a geneticist to host an assembly about energy conservation?!” demanded the Guardian.

“I don’t know!” he cried. “I asked the same thing, but they wouldn’t give me an answer!”

Reed didn’t like the answer, but he knew it was most likely true, so he moved on to the next two big questions, “Why the hell are you emitting a dark aura and why is that man trying to kill you?!”

Stauber, still clearly frightened for his life, suddenly became tightlipped and fell silent. Reed slammed him against the wall again, this time making sure the scientist hit his head against its hard surface, and repeated the question. Stauber, however, passively refused to divulge the information demanded from him. His refusal spoke volumes, though, and Reed knew he was onto something.

The Guardian reached under his blazer and pulled out his trusty sidearm holding it to Stauber’s temple, “We need to get out of this room and you’re just the man to take down the barrier locking us in.”

The cowardly scientist went into a deeper state of panic at the sight of the Walther P99 and the feel of its short cold barrel against his temple. Zach and Julia’s jaws nearly hit the ground unable to process what they were seeing. Stauber may have been emitting a dark aura, but he clearly either didn’t know it himself or he didn’t know how to use the power it granted otherwise he would have used it to defend himself.

Reed forced him over to the barrier of light energy against the door, still holding the gun to Stauber’s head and shouted, “Negate the light! Now!

“I don’t know how!” cried the scientist. “Please, don’t kill me!”

Reed pulled back the hammer of the gun and harshly pressed it against his skin, “I’m not a very patient man, doctor! Now, figure it out!

Stauber was fearfully bawling tears with his shaking hands raised in the air. Zach called to Reed not wanting him to shoot the man in cold blood, but his Guardian ignored every word spoken to him. He smashed Stauber’s face against the barrier, breaking the frame of his corrective eyewear, and pulled him away only to slam him against it again screaming and swearing in his ear to take the barrier down. The geneticist could do nothing but cry and beg for his life, his heart pounding away like a jackhammer in his chest and his brilliant mind crumbled to pieces. The chaos all around him was too much for him to bear and through it all the only thing he wanted was to live past this ordeal and make it to tomorrow. He kept his eyes closed, never stopped pleading for mercy, and failed to realize his aura was strongly reacting to his desire to survive. The dark energy gathered around his hands and, when Reed slammed him against the barrier one final time, the energy he unknowingly summoned negated the light energy giving them access to the exit once more.

The Guardian kicked open the doors letting the teens flee the assembly hall first before hauling off Stauber with the gun still buried in the back of his head. Further down the hall they spotted a squad of what looked a dozen SWAT members in full riot gear performing a sweep of the area. Stauber flagged them down and, when they all raised their rifles taking aim, Reed shoved the man into the nearest open classroom and dove inside while Zach and Julia took refuge in the bathroom nearby just as the first shots rang out from the squad.

“Who the hell are they?!” Reed screamed at Stauber.

“They’re here to rescue me!” he shouted back.

“They wouldn’t open fire if they were rescuing you, you idiot!” Reed pointed at a door on the other end of the classroom with his gun, “We’re leaving through there! Get up!”

Meanwhile, back in the auditorium, the battle between Uriel and the man from the shadows continued to wage on heavily damaging the large room in the process. The two stood on opposite ends with Uriel standing at the exit and his cloaked opponent taking a defensive position on the stage. The empty chairs which were once bolted to the floor had been torn from their places, the pristine wooden stage was now mostly a giant heap of fragmented wood, and the curtains had been scorched from the flame localized on the blade of the archangel’s sword.

“That man needs to die,” the cloaked man said to his opponent from across the destroyed assembly hall.

I will be the one to pass judgment on him,” replied Uriel, “but not before I deliver you to damnation.”

“You’re a little late there.”

Uriel flew up with his flaming sword leaving a blazing trail in his wake and, just as he was about to make a strike, the cloaked man hefted his blade to his left hand, raised his right arm with his palm facing outward, and a bright flash of light shot from his hand blinding the angel. Uriel then lost control of his flight and crashed down to the ground rolling forward a few times before coming to a stop. His collision against the hard floor and damaged remnants of the auditorium disoriented him so badly that he found himself unable to immediately recover. He stumbled onto his feet loosely clutching his weapon and checked himself for injuries and when he looked over his left shoulder he felt a rage stir inside of him like no other. Half of his left wing was blown off and what was left of it had been badly burned by whatever the man of shadows had done.

“You will pay dearly for--”

And the cloaked man charged with his sword, “Let me finish it for you!”

Uriel was still too disoriented from the crash to evade his foe in time and with one quick swing the cloaked shadow sliced off what was left of the wing and the amputated wing returned to its original energy form and dissolved into the ether scattering as particles of light before it disappeared. Uriel growled and tightened his grip on his sword intensifying the calm flame and turning it into a raging inferno, but before he could rush in to deliver an attack of his own a small group of six well-armed men garbed in black burst into the auditorium. The enraged archangel fled the scene vanishing into ribbons of energy that flew off in separate directions leaving his opponent alone to deal with the men.

“There he is!” shouted the squad leader. “Fire!”

The sound of automatic fire echoed through the halls of the school and Zach and Julia were still taking cover in the bathroom unsure of what to do. The situation had elevated so rapidly that neither of the teens could even think clearly in their own minds. The noise from the gunfire kept them afraid to leave the relatively safe confines of the restroom and through it all Zach’s innermost desire to make it out alive slowly began to take hold. One by one, he heard men loudly screaming and yelling and someone shouting orders to fall back as something attacked them in retaliation. The gunshots and the screams soon ceased and the school fell silent once again, but it was impossible to tell if that meant it was safe to leave the bathroom.

Julia, who had been huddled in a corner with her head tucked behind her knees, looked up and quietly whispered, “Is it over?”

“I don’t hear anything,” answered the Sovereign. “I can still sense two of them, though.”

“Were those guys cops? Why were they firing at us?”

“They definitely weren’t the cops.” Zach very cautiously poked his head out of the bathroom to examine the area finding nothing but the empty hallway and shell casings littering the floor. “It’s clear. C’mon,” he took Julia by the hand and helped her to her feet, “I can find Reed by tracking down Dr. Stauber’s aura if they’re still together.”

“Is that a good idea?”

“I dunno,” he truthfully replied, “but I can’t stay hiding in here the whole time.”

She looked to her friend in disbelief at his apparent change in attitude and willingness to boldly head back out into a potentially dangerous situation, “When did you decide to grow a pair?”

To which he said with a grin on his face, “After I crapped myself.”

After taking a moment to recollect herself Julia accompanied Zach out of the bathroom and followed his lead as he followed the trail left behind by the geneticist. The search led the pair to the back of the school, through the cafeteria, and past the evacuated kitchen. It wasn’t long before they found Reed and Dr. Stauber, but they unfortunately weren’t alone. Stauber was huddled in a corner and Reed had his gun out and aimed ahead of him at the cloaked man, who had tracked the geneticist and the Guardian down much faster than Zach.

“You don’t need to kill him,” Reed said to the cloaked man whose loyalties were now being severely questioned in Zach’s mind.

“I do,” was his short response.

Zach stepped forward and cut into the conversation, “Why? Who is he? What did he do to you?”

“If you don’t let me kill him now he’ll bring about something no one here is prepared to deal with.” He locked his gaze with Zach’s and urged, “You know you can trust me. Let me kill him.”

Reed then shouted back at the man, “Leave Zach alone! I’ve got no idea who you are, but--”

The man cut him off, “I’m asking you one last time: let me kill him the way I want, quickly, or I’ll have to do it in a much more painful way. It doesn’t matter what anyone here says to me because one way or the other that man is going to die here. Today.”

“That isn’t going to happen,” said a defiant Reed.

“Then you leave me with no choice.”

All of a sudden Stauber who was cowering behind Reed like a scared child started screaming at the top of his lungs, his skin had spontaneously burst into flame. He continued screaming in agony as Reed removed his blazer and desperately tried to put the out the fire. Zach looked to his right where a fire extinguisher was secured to the wall and tore it from its mount while Julia rushed over to a sink filling a large pot with water to throw onto the burning scientist. They did everything they could, but nothing worked and the man was on the ground still screaming his last breath as he tried rolling around to put out the flame. Reed rushed over to the sink, kicked off the faucet head which let loose torrents of water, and used his power to redirect the liquid onto Stauber. It was too late, though. The man had stopped moving, stopped screaming, and all that was left of him was a black scorched corpse still burning down until there was nothing left but ash.

The cloaked man had disappeared amidst the chaos and the three stood over the burnt remains of Stauber in defeat. He died an agonizing horrible death and even though they did all they could, nothing could have saved him from the overwhelming power and unknown motives of the cloaked man from the shadows. Reed didn’t get the answers he needed and Zach’s hero was now a cold-blooded murderer in his eyes.

“Let’s get out of here,” said Reed, his voice low and apologetic.

Together, the three slowly exited the cafeteria slinking out the back to join up with the rest of the evacuated school with their tails between their legs. Zach had never known this kind of defeat; had never watched someone die right in front of him. The world around him shattered into a million pieces and all he could see was a man burning alive, screaming for help. A sight he felt would surely haunt his nightmares for years to come. The fear of failure was now more prominent in him than ever before with one thought – one undeniable truth – lingering at the forefront of his mind.

I couldn’t save him.

Zero

Last week's test podcast for "Cog in the Machine" was actually a lot of fun to record and edit (also tedious) and I'm definitely going to do another episode, but after listening to the one I recorded earlier this week I decided I REALLY wasn't happy with how it turned out, so there isn't going to be one for today. :( If anyone actually liked the first one and was waiting for the new episode I apologize for the delay. Honestly I'd rather put out a good quality episode late instead of putting one I didn't feel was funny enough. You guys know how much I hate poor quality... and this one was a stinker. I promise the next episode will be an improvement cos I plan on having a guest! :D

Cog in the Machine will be back next week!

Zero

There comes a time in one’s life when inner reflection becomes inevitable and a longing for days gone by whips up feelings of nostalgia for simpler times. Everyone will reach this point and hate that time and life don’t have pause or rewind buttons. Then comes the cynical phrases/stories we’ve heard from our grandparents, aunts, uncles, and every other elder we’ve ever met. Well… I slammed into that wall known as age a couple of weeks ago and it’s my turn to finally say the words I never wanted to hear myself say. I’ve been dreading this day my entire life, but it’s okay because there’s a bottle of Jack right next to me on the nightstand. Here we go… YOU KIDS HAVE IT SO DAMN EASY THESE DAYS!

Aaaaaand there goes the first shot. I can’t tell which left a worse taste in my mouth, but they both sting. I might be forgetting the point I’m trying to make, so let’s call this one a rant for now until the right braincells click on. Anyway, it pisses me off immensely whenever I hear some little shit play a game I grew up with and say something along the lines of “The graphics suck!” or “This is the worst game I’ve ever played!” or “Call of Duty is way better than this!” Um, no. Fuck you and the broken condom that resulted in your birth. Call of Duty is NOT better than A Link to the Past and I should end your life for even THINKING you can utter such words in my presence, you mindless retarded underwear-staining little shit!

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I was actually a heavy drinker in Mass Effect. I almost wish that could’ve been a part of my Shepard’s character development.

You goddamn kids with your advanced physics engines and your 1080p displays and your online multiplayer! Just because your game is shiny and looks like every other game on the market doesn’t make it better than the games I grew up with. In fact, just BECAUSE it looks indistinguishable from other games in the same genre automatically gives your crappy little Call of Duty a failing grade BELOW failing when it comes to being memorable or endearing. Google search “endearing” on the tablet your parents bought for you last Christmas in case your feeble underdeveloped mind can’t comprehend it. Start leveling up your vocabulary. Back in the 8 and 16-bit era the games that became icons were identifiable from each other even with their limited graphical capabilities. Mega Man and Mario looked NOTHING like each other, their enemies were as uniquely designed as they were, and the levels were vivid and colorful and a JOY to explore! Nowadays, the color palette of most games is gray and brown and the enemy design looks like they came from a shared template used by every artist working in the industry.

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Oh look! It’s a level out of every game made in the last decade!

Let’s talk difficulty now. These days you’ve got tutorials that hold your hand and walk with you every step of the way. I HATE tutorials! Do you even know what it means to find enjoyment in figuring something out for yourself? No, you fucking don’t! Because if something becomes “too hard” there’s a goddamn tutorial ready to tell you how to fucking play the game. Why play it at all?! Why don’t you just sit down and let someone else play it for you?! Oh, wait, you do?! How many times have you played something once or twice, died, and then asked someone else to do it for you? Don’t lie, you little bastards, you know you do this all the fucking time. And you dare say Super Mario Bros. is too easy when you can’t even figure out how to flank an AI that doesn’t know how to look left? You seriously think running from the left side of the screen to the right is easy? Well… its fucking not, okay?! Yeah, alright, it SOUNDS easy but it really isn’t. Get the fuck out of here with your goddamn tutorials and go play with a stick or something. If you manage to beat the first boss in ANY Final Fantasy game without using a Phoenix Down I’ll concede that you are a better gamer than I. Oh, yeah, and there’s no respawning. Sorry. Now shut the fuck up and have your entire party get wiped out a million times. Yeah, that’s right. A party. You’re responsible for four characters simultaneously and each one has a unique set of skills so you better figure out how to make the best use of them if you want to make it to Kefka you better learn how to strategize in turn-based combat.

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You will NOT beat him the first time. You won’t even beat him the first three times! Your l33t skilz don’t mean shit here!

Oh, so now you wanna talk shit about how you don’t understand what’s going on? I’m sorry my games don’t constantly have some asshole screaming at you over a radio to “Take out that turret!” or “Save America!” Again, fuck you! The princess has been kidnapped (again) and everyone else is too incompetent to save her so it’s up to Mario! Doesn’t get much easier to understand than that. If you want something a bit more complicated than let’s play some Chrono Trigger! No story gets as deep or complicated as one that involves time travel. You witness historical events and become a part of them, you pick up party members from the past and the future and deal with the problems of their respective time periods, you change history, and you end up creating paradoxes that would make Doc Brown flip his shit if he were there! Or better yet, try to follow the timeline from The Legend of Zelda series!

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The Legend of Zelda has such a complicated timeline and story that Nintendo had to release a fucking BOOK about it!

And you better not bitch and moan about not having online multiplayer in any of my games. You know what that equates to? Me! Me standing next to you screaming and cursing in your ear as you prove how much you fucking suck in every game cartridge I smack you in the face with. The experience is basically the same except you’ll be crying for your mommy because you can’t mute or boot me from your play session! Isn’t it enthralling?! Don’t you LOVE being belittled and degraded in real-life by a REAL gamer who knows what systems came before the Xbox 360?

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“DOOOOOOOOOOOOODGE!!!”

Thus ends my alcohol infused rant for today. “But, Zero,” you may say, “this really doesn’t seem like an appropriate thing to post.” Uh-huh. It’s MY blog! I’M ZERO! IT’S CALLED “THE ZERO LOGS”! I’ll post what I want and talk shit about whatever or whoever I want, so if you can’t handle that write your own damn blog. I do this for me, not you! Now, if you’ll excuse me. I’m going to play Chrono Trigger again. I’ve only gotten through 10 endings. Oh yeah, there’s multiple endings, too! Does God of War have a dozen endings? No! Go fuck yourself!

Zero

So unless you’re blind, deaf, and dumb you’ve most likely noticed that smartphone and tablet usage has increased dramatically over the last couple of years. If you read this blog then you more than likely own a smartphone and have probably experienced the type of gaming sessions possible thanks to Angry Birds, Cut the Rope, Fruit Ninja, and whatever other weird games exist on it. Angry Birds was my first mobile gaming experience and it really opened my eyes to the possibilities mobile gaming can bring. The Android operating system is probably the fastest, easiest, and cheapest way to get new games on the market for fledgling developer studios, but it begs the question of whether mobile gaming can replace traditional handheld systems like Nintendo’s 3DS and Sony’s PlayStation Vita. In order to understand the answer to which is better and why we’ll have to take a look at each platform’s pros and cons (and I love trashtalking) so let’s do this!

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Hi, I’m an iPhone.

I’m a DSi.

And I’m a failure.

We’ll start with the dominant leader of on-the-go gaming; Nintendo. Ever since the original AA battery-draining Gameboy the Big N has been the ruler of handheld gaming and for good reason. Their dedication to quality and innovation is a big part of what helped them secure their place as king of the hill and every new handheld they put out was like a natural evolution of portable gaming. Even the failed Virtual Boy seemed like a logical misstep for them to take. They’ve never been afraid to gamble on “gimmicks” they think would drive a system and most of the time it paid off extremely well like when the original Nintendo DS first launched. I remember reading maybe a dozen or so articles from different reviewers who labeled it as nothing more than a cheap gimmick which wouldn’t catch on. Nintendo itself was playing it safe and said the DS wasn’t meant to replace the Gameboy Advance and was more of a third pillar in the grand scheme of things. Well… we know how that played out. Of course, the biggest downfall for ALL of their handhelds is one that I can easily overlook: the graphics and processing power. Every time someone else throws their hat into the ring their system always boasts better visuals than what Nintendo offered like Sega’s Game Gear which had a fully colored lit display (at the sake of eight AA batteries that died after hours of steady gameplay) while the Gameboy was still monochrome, Sony’s PSP which had a laundry list of advantages. Nintendo is stubborn to embrace change and has always been the last hardware manufacturer to adopt new ideas like compact discs and online multiplayer, but still no one can deny that even with its faults as a company nobody makes handhelds better than them. Not for lack of trying, though.

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And here we can see Nintendo’s proud handheld lineage. *Virtual Boy not pictured due to embarrassment.

Sony’s first foray into portable gaming, the PlayStation Portable (PSP), was a media monster when it launched. I remember being excited like a lot of other people because their home console of the time, the PS2, was THE system to own with amazing exclusives you couldn’t get anywhere else. On top of that, as I mentioned before, it had the ability to play movies on Sony’s experimental UMD format, the web browser, the ability to store images and music, a big bright beautiful screen, and an analog nub! Sony pulled out all the stops and managed to cram an arsenal of features into a single handheld device. So what went wrong? Well, Sony’s PSP touted graphical capabilities akin to the PS2, but the games released for it felt more like watered down console ports instead of actual portable games like Nintendo’s system. The whole point of being able to pick up a handheld device is to play games for short bursts of time. Sony didn’t understand this and a lot of their games featured long loading times and save systems that made tiny gaming sessions difficult without losing your progress. They didn’t look as a handheld gaming system, they treated it like a home console you can take with you and didn’t realize that handhelds and home consoles are two different animals. They seemed to have learned their lesson a bit and the PS Vita shows it, but they still have a lot to learn especially about giving people options. I HATE using the touchscreen on the Vita because the system is so wide that I have to let go of one of the sides to click on something. Sure, it’s got insane visuals, but… didn’t we just cover that? The PS Vita is a future FAIL which Future Zero looks forward to discussing… in the future. For now, though, we’ll let it ride out and reach its inevitable death. Get ready to hear me say “I told you so” when Sony announces they won’t be making handheld systems anymore.

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What’s it supposed to do again? Play games? You mean, those things that don’t exist for it?

So, we’ve come to the newbie in town; mobile gaming. What started out as an experiment on the iPhone has turned into a brand new marketplace worth billions that costs next to nothing for consumers right now (I’ll get to why I say “right now” in a bit). My introduction to mobile gaming happened during my trip to Washington D.C. for the big MLG event. I was sitting idly in someone else’s hotel room after we had just arrived and I think it was Jason (vVv Paradise) who started playing Angry Birds on his Android phone. I recognized the annoying little noises immediately (I HATED mobile games at the time and wrote them off) but I kept my thoughts to myself about it. When Jason told me about the addicting simplistic gameplay and said “It’s perfect when I’ve got a couple minutes to kill” I started thinking to myself it was worth checking out. I downloaded the game to my Droid and a whole new world of possibilities opened up to me. Mobile gaming actually CAN replace handhelds, but it won’t and here’s why:

#1: The battery

My latest phone (LG’s Lucid) had the worst battery life I had ever seen in ANYTHING. Even the Game Gear could outlive my phone until I ordered an extended battery. Playing games on smartphones drains the battery faster than drugs drained Lindsey Lohan’s career as the phones get thinner (like Lohan) they die faster which means full-fledged games aren’t ideal for the platform.

#2: Full-fledged games

The games that exist for smartphones are nowhere near as deep or as complicated as the offerings available on the 3DS or Vita. They can’t be. Not only would they require too much memory, but they’d also require buttons which are all but gone on today’s phones. I’ve seen really good attempts like Dead Space, but the unavoidably clunky controls and the strain on the battery kept from being a game I wanted to play all the way through.

#3: A killer app

Nintendo has Pokemon. You can’t play it on anything BUT a Nintendo handheld unless you download roms and emulators to play older games in the series. The Vita has… well, NOTHING. Androids and iPhones? They’ve got apps aplenty, but no game or app available has given me the desire to own either phone at any cost.

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WHY, SONIC?! WHY MUST YOU ALWAYS BE THE FIRST ONE TO SINK TO NEW LOWS?!

Wondering what advantages mobile gaming has on handhelds? Well, for starters, it doesn’t take a million dollars and a thousand people to create games for smartphones. This has led to a lot of clone games not worth the $1 asking price like the dozens of Super Mario Bros clones you can find on the Android marketplace. At the same time, it’s easy-to-use and open nature has led to the birth of a brand new home console which has all the potential it needs to force the big boys (Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft) to start thinking differently and at a price point they can’t beat; the Kickstarter-funded Ouya system. What I think will hold it back from achieving its full potential is plain and simple greed in the form of downloadable content. Eventually, the game that only cost you one measly dollar will cost you three, four, or more when developers start shoving DLC down our throats… again. If this can be avoided then the Ouya could become legendary, but it won’t.

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Don’t try to justify the existence of this game. There only needs to be ONE Angry Birds title. God help them when they do a prequel trilogy themed version.

There we have it. Mobiles vs. handhelds. Both are great gaming platforms for different reasons and both have their fair share of strengths and weaknesses, but neither is capable of wiping out the other. For the time being, my phone will be the system I go to when I’m waiting to be seated at a restaurant, my 3DS will be where I’ll go when I want to play phenomenal portable games, and my Vita… wait, I forgot I don’t have the need or desire to own ever one. Does anybody reading this have one? Convince me to buy one. Make me a believer in the comments section below… if you dare.

Zero

Well, for more than a year I've been wanting to host my own podcast. I bounced around different ideas, struggled to figure out who I could bring on as co-hosts or if I could do the whole thing myself, threw the project in the recycle bin at least half a dozen times and resurrected it half a dozen more, but now FINALLY here it is. At first I wanted to try something along the lines of a radio talk show, but then I realized something like that requires structure and a better idea of current events. I'm sort of out of the loop on a lot of things at the moment, so THAT idea got scrapped too.

So what the hell is my podcast about anyway? After recording the talk show portion of it I came to the realization that my shtick has always been bitching and moaning about things. I mean, that's what The Zero Logs became thanks to the monthly FAIL articles and the reviews of terrible games (which will both return in the future, I promise. I had a lot of fun writing the reviews particularly because I was basically reliving hilariously bad games as if I were simply talking about them.

And my podcast was born. It's basically me reliving some of the funniest moments from jobs I hated and in the future there will be other people talking with me. If you wanna know where the name comes from... it's got a double meaning. These jobs which will be discussed made me feel like just another interchangeable piece of a much larger machine. And the podcast is basically a cog in MY machine.

So without further ado here's the link to my very first episode of my podcast: Cog in the Machine! Enjoy! :)

LINK: http://citm.podbean.com/

P.S. I know the sound quality sucks. Give me time to get my equipment and you'll notice dramatic improvements overnight.

Zero

The Gamer Spectrum

These days everybody can identify themselves as a gamer of some kind. From hardcore games like Final Fantasy and Call of Duty to mobile games like Angry Birds and Fruit Ninja there’s a wide variety of gamers who like or hate certain games for their own reasons which can be shallow or deep depending on a lot of things. I was working on a photoshoot today and while I was taking a break I got to play some kind of weird pipe connecting game on an iPad Mini. The owner is in her 50’s and if she’s ever held a controller in her life it was probably when the Atari 2600 came out, so she definitely wouldn’t call herself a gamer like you or I do. She’s the gamer who doesn’t know what it means to be one. So, today we’ll be taking a look at four gamer types I’ve personally met and observed as they spent mindless minutes or endless hours playing their favorite games.

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Behold! The fabled WiiStation 360! The only non-existent console as diverse as gamers themselves.

The “Break Time” Gamer:

The owner of the iPad Mini absolutely falls into this category. She doesn’t play console games and if she plays PC games she probably doesn’t go any further than Solitaire, Minesweeper, and MAYBE those casino themed PC games I’d never buy. The break time gamer doesn’t know publishers, studios, or creators by name and probably doesn’t yet realize that the Wii and the Wii U are two entirely separate systems. The games they play usually don’t cost more than a dollar (most are free) and levels can be completed in mere seconds without the use of checkpoints or respawns. When the break time gamer decides they want to take some time out for the pastime they enjoy it’s usually in short bursts during… well, breaks… or when they’re relaxing on the couch at night. I can guarantee however that they will ALWAYS be impressed by the graphics of modern day consoles and, depending on the game itself, they might even sit down and watch someone play for a while.

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Those games will rot your brain inside out, grandma! Welcome to the dark side.

The “Simple” Gamer:

This one can be complicated because of the genres and names you’re about to read, but it’ll make sense. Simple gamers play simple games. Simple. Okay, I’ll try to explain it a little better than that. Some people play Halo or Call of Duty exclusively and some will only play Super Mario or Donkey Kong. The gamers playing the first person shooters fall into this category because they like running around shooting up camps or planets during their game’s main campaign, but that isn’t the main draw to them. The reason why first person shooters are the ONLY games in their collection is because they simply enjoy the competitive nature of the game’s online multiplayer and the rest doesn’t matter much. You might find a stray hack-n-slash on their shelf and maybe even Mortal Kombat, but if you ask them when was the last time they played either one the answer would undoubtedly be “a long-ass time ago.” The gamers playing the platformers fall into the same category because other games are too advanced, so they like the kind of gameplay where you run from one side of the screen to the other and jump a whole lot. Hardcore or casual, simple is simple.

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This entire fake family looks like they fall into the “Simple” gamer category. Also… none of their controllers are on.

The “Thoughtful” Gamer

I’m definitely the kind to fall into this category, so hopefully it’ll be easier to explain. I’m the kind of gamer that gets a little deeper into the hobby. I read gaming news daily, I’ve purchased many dozens of soundtracks from my favorite games, I’ve got (probably) TOO much memorabilia at home like a life-size Buster Sword, and when I get my apartment I plan on having a coffee table with books featuring artwork from some of my favorite games. I love the things that go INTO gaming as much as I love gaming itself, so I learn about the music composers and follow their work, I watch interviews and behind the scenes footage from developers, and watching big conferences is almost like a sport in itself to me. My brainy ways make me a bit antisocial so online gaming isn’t necessarily my thing unless it’s for a challenging puzzle game like Tetris or its co-op. I’m not really a “pro” at game in particular, but I’m exceptional in the games I frequently play.

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Depending on their style the “Thoughtful” gamer could very well be a hipster. But I totally had hipster glasses BEFORE the hipster scene became a thing… and they’re prescription.

The “Angry” Gamer

I’ve only just seen this type of gamer in action in the last month and, honestly, it was the funniest thing I had ever seen. These gamers can play hardcore or casual games and aren’t really picky about what games they play. This person’s game of choice is Black Ops 2, more specifically, the zombie portions (we have a Walking Dead obsession). When she (yes, she) picks up a controller everyone really should gather around and whip out something to start recording either audio or video because you’re going to be in for a treat. The angry gamer has little to no patience for other players and completely loses their mind when things start going south. The one I got to watch doesn’t own a headset so she’s incapable of communicating with anyone on her team, but that doesn’t stop her from screaming, yelling, and cursing up a storm at the game. She got so pissed off five minutes in that she started making up her own nonsensical insults that I couldn’t understand but were funny anyway like “Your mom’s chest hair!” Doesn’t make a damn lick of sense, but it doesn’t have to when an angry gamer starts losing their shit. Just be prepared to cover the ears of little little children should any happen to be within earshot… or 100 feet. They have range.

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This isn’t the “Angry” gamer I observed, but you get the point.

That’s it for now. Some people might fall into more than one category, but that rule applies to all facets of life and since the gamer pool is a bigger melting pot than the entire United States. I’ll probably fall into more than one after I figure out the others and that’s okay; it means I’m just as diverse as anyone else. As I meet more gamers and observe their personalities I’ll continue compiling lists and making observations like some kind of wildlife documentary filmmaker and you can bet I’ll write about them. Happy Wednesday, guys, and you’ll be hearing from me again this Friday. Seriously, you won’t be reading anything. *Wink, nudge, hint*

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Coming this Friday… for reals this time.

Zero

The Benefits of Video Games

“Video games are a waste of time!”

“They’ll rot your brain!”

“You’ll NEVER accomplish anything if you play games.”

As gamers we’ve all had these insulting phrases thrown in our faces from everyone to our friends and family to our teachers and politicians and through the years we’ve learned to shrug them off. It’s true that gaming can be time-consuming and seemingly void of any worthwhile qualities, but the same thing can be said for ANY hobby. I’ve been told time and time again my entire life that gaming and even writing are equal wastes of time and that I should pursue more realistic endeavors like working in an office filing papers and answering phone calls from irate customers for a giant faceless corporation like normal people do. To those people I have this to say: I’m not wasting my time or my talent, YOU are.

We live in troubling times in a troubled country where violent shootings occur daily and tragic mass shootings are reported every week. The media and many politicians have a talent for shifting the blame on things or people they don’t like such as Fox News and their racist remarks about welfare recipients being the perpetrators of these violent crimes and video games being the root cause of violent behavior. Anyone with a half dead brain cell knows they’re creating scapegoats to avoid the actual problems this nation is facing, but unfortunately there are millions out there who agree with this garbage. My favorite moments come from the “statistics” and “facts” that none of their “experts” can back up with solid evidence. In fact, the mass shootings we keep hearing about are carried out mostly by white red-blooded Americans and other countries have already done studies on violent behavior and video games only to find NO correlation between the two. So, we know they’re wrong, THEY know they’re wrong, and NO ONE has been brave enough to call them out on their bullshit where it matters most. That leaves one question: If video games aren’t bad for you then are there any benefits? The answer is “duh.”

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Let’s start off with one of the most beneficial skills a person can have: organizational skills. I’ve known a lot of sloppy people and at one point I was known to have a messy clutter everywhere in my room, on my desk, and inside boxes and cases. I still knew where everything was, but it was a hassle to sift through highly unorganized stacks of boxes or papers just to find ONE little item tucked away in a corner somewhere. You might not realize it, but there are two games that drastically corrected my organizing problem. Obviously, if you’ve ever played Tetris (and you’re GOOD at it) you know a thing or two about moving things around to make space for more shapes in order to clear a line or two and get a higher score. During gameplay the speed at which the blocks drop increases and forces you to think faster or face a disappointing game over screen, but the game that REALLY put those skills to the test was Resident Evil 4 with its perfectly logical inventory system. Players had a cache case which had a matrix of squares inside. Every in-game item picked up varied in shape and size, but took up a certain amount of space in the case, so it was up to players to micro-manage their inventory by moving things around or discarding less important items. These two games taught me a lot about prioritizing and organizing that I don’t think I would’ve picked up as a messy teenager.

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If you have OCD this is the inventory system for you.

The benefits of gaming go beyond those simple examples, though. Another great example of a video game that helped me sharpen and hone an important skill to have is Capcom’s Ace Attorney series. No, you won’t actually learn how to be a lawyer by playing it, but you’ll definitely FEEL like you could’ve gotten OJ Simpson put behind bars the first time around after completing a tough case. And while shouting “OBJECTION!” and “HOLD IT!” at your DS is silly you’ll quickly realize that you’re shouting these things out because you’ve picked up on something critical. The Ace Attorney series is an exercise in memory and critical thinking skills that rely on the player being able to point out contradictions in witness testimony and back it up with evidence found during the investigation portions of the game. It’s a brain game wrapped in an anime-like courtroom drama and its one of the most fun I’ve had without pulling off gruesome headshots or hacking my way through hordes of undead monsters.

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Say it with me: J’accuse! No, wait, F*@K! I mean, OBJECTION!

Speaking of the undead, last Friday I made a post about how Telltale’s The Walking Dead game brought out maternal feelings I was unaware I even had thanks to Clementine. It’s a violent game that taught me a bit more about being a nurturing person, but it isn’t the only example of a game that teaches this valuable skill. During the 90’s the go-to games for teaching one to be a nurturing person were the tiny handheld devices known as Tamagotchi, Giga Pets, and Digimon. These virtual pet games were PURELY based around nurturing your digital pet or monster from birth until it reached the inevitable end we all face, death. The core Pokemon series teaches the exact same thing and goes multiple steps further by introducing personality traits, moods, diets (puffins and other stat-boosting foods), and special EV training for your creatures to make them as strong as they can be.

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The United States could learn a thing or two from Pokemon.

Pokemon teaches strategy too, but not as well as Real Time Strategy (RTS) games like Starcraft and Fire Emblem. Starcraft is an intense game in a science fiction setting that teaches players the value of micromanaging resources and coordinating large groups of soldiers in battle. I’ve watched gamers playing this game and it definitely isn’t for everyone. If you don’t know how to effectively multitask a dozen different jobs at once this game will make you a pro if you can make it through the hours of frustration that comes along with the required skill. Fire Emblem operates on a much slower pace and it’s a great game to start out with before attempting to tackle games like Blizzard’s Starcraft or Warcraft. The Sims is a game that doesn’t involve any strategy, but the whole thing is based around micromanaging your simulated persona’s life. I’ve watched many Sims soil themselves, starve, succumb to depression, and die from a lack of experience in certain skills like cooking.

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I have no idea what’s going in this mess, but I promise you that SOMEONE does.

I’ve never been very coordinated with my fingers and, as a right-handed person, my left hand is basically useless for most things. Lo and behold, there are two games that can help people come one step closer to being ambidextrous; Guitar Hero and Rock Band! Ask vVv Paradise or, better yet, just watch his fingers fly on those instruments and you’ll see that in order to excel in either game you’ll need to gain exceptional command over your weaker hand. I’m definitely nowhere near his level, but I’ve managed to work my way up to the hard difficulty for most songs and, as a result, I’ve got better control of my left hand. I won’t be expertly pulling off insane guitar solos anytime soon, but I’m better off for playing those games than I was without them. Rock Band went a step further by introducing the drums which required the use of both hands AND a foot and, during the last release, even included gameplay for a keyboard. And if you like music you’ll end up finding new songs and artists you most likely never heard because you either weren’t exposed to them or didn’t give them a chance.

You know what they say about guys who are good with their fingers. They’re experts at Guitar Hero.

There are more benefits to playing video games than the ones I’ve listed, though. If you play competitively you’ll end up learning how to work in a team with games like Halo, Gears of War, and Call of Duty. If you’re like me and aspire to be a writer then games like Heavy Rain and Mass Effect will teach you all about dramatic storytelling and character development. Appreciation for good music is taught through Guitar Hero and Rock Band. Even games like Grand Theft Auto and Saints Row can teach players the basics of effectively driving through city environments and learning routes and shortcuts… and evading the police. So the next time some douchebag tells you that video games are a useless waste of time that teach you absolutely nothing send them a link to this blog and proudly declare “checkmate.”

Zero

Like a lot of people these days I’m obsessed with The Walking Dead. I started reading the comics a couple years ago and as an intellectual property I noticed straight away that it had a LOT of potential. So when the time came for it to be adapted into the live-action fray I figured the movie probably wouldn’t live up to what the comics had done. Then I found out that it was being made into a TV show instead and I ended up confused about how they would pull off putting something so violent on television for people to watch. By now most people have watched it and the zombie craze is sweeping through the world like an actual virus. So what is it that makes the show and the comics so appealing? Well, it has NOTHING to do with the zombies to tell you the truth. The Walking Dead has nothing in common with any other undead stories we may have seen or heard anywhere else; it’s about human drama in the middle of a zombie apocalypse and surviving in a world where one person’s death could spell disaster for everyone else.

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If you like the show in any capacity you owe it to yourself to read the original comic series.

When the show took off I knew it was only going to be a matter of time before someone started whoring it out and selling the license to make everything from clothes to crappy video games. I was so right about the merchandising, but I was so extremely wrong about there being a crappy video game (well… Activision’s game doesn’t count since it isn’t out yet). The very first time I played a game that made me feel genuine concern for the characters involved was Quantic Dream’s Heavy Rain in 2008. To this very day it remains on the top of my list as one of the best games I’ve ever played, and I can’t wait for the studio to make another next-gen adventure game like it. I never expected anyone else to craft an emotionally striking experience like it ever again until Telltale announced they would be creating the very first Walking Dead game. My excitement went into overdrive after I heard the news and then it reached whole new levels when they said the game would be following the continuity of the original comics and not the show people were raving about. That was when I knew I was going to be in for a treat unlike any other.

Let’s get one thing straight: I HATE kids in movies, shows, and games. They RARELY contribute anything to the plot and most of the time the only purpose they serve is to create unnecessary problems for adult characters. I got into a heated debate with a friend of mine about the character Newt in James Cameron’s Aliens and how much I hated her and blamed her for the downfall of the franchise. Long story short, I felt that if it weren’t for Newt the character of Ripley never would have died and the entire story could have continued in a much different way. Kids ruin things and even in The Walking Dead comics the kids sometimes screwed things up, but it was forgivable because Carl was finding his own way of adapting to a world full of the living dead. If you read the comics you’d know that some really fucked up things happened with and to those kids and it got DARK. So here comes The Walking Dead game where you play as Lee and its your job to babysit this little brat named Clementine. “Great,” I thought to myself, “so basically I’m playing Resident Evil 4 again.” I was wrong again.

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I’ll give you ONE guess as to what this kid did to his twin brother. You’ll NEVER see this in the show.

Oh, Clementine. Poor, sweet little Clementine. Her name is odd in this day and age and at first glance she seemed like just another example of adorable walker bait with her little baseball cap and her big doe eyes. I was ready to hate having her around all of the time and the first thoughts that popped into my head was, “Can I get rid of her and save myself a lot of future trouble in this game?” Obviously, you can’t ditch her and letting her die in any situation results in the game ending, so protecting Clementine was priority number one. My feelings about her immediately changed before I even met her, though. It happened when I found out her parents were out of town during the beginning of the outbreak and struck a serious chord I didn’t even know I had when I heard the messages left by her mother on the answering machine. Clementine’s parents had obviously died and she had no idea because she had been hiding in her treehouse when things got bad; she didn’t know. It was the third and final message that got to me; it was her mother desperately trying to call her little girl to tell her how much she loved her. When I finally met Clem face to face my coldhearted attitude towards kids met its end.

She was smarter than most kids in situations like these. She knew where and how to hide, she knew to keep quiet, she kept a lookout, and she knew what could be used as a weapon. Clementine was already armed with all the knowledge and instinct she needed to survive in this world, but her only disadvantage was not being able to fend for herself. I didn’t mind having her tag along now, I actually wanted her to stay by my side the whole time just so I could make sure nothing bad would happen to her. I did my best to explain things to her in ways she would understand and, in the beginning of my playthrough, it felt like I was patronizing her. As time went on she began to notice things and she made me realize she was much more mature than I originally thought. By the end of the first episode I was determined to keep her safe from everything dead or alive as if she were MY kid. For all intents and purposes, she might as well have been mine.

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Clem is the only video game kid whose death would be devastating to me.

Having to watch out for Clementine and deal with the drama that came from being with other survivors was unimaginably more difficult than I thought it would be. Kenny had his whole family with him AND his annoying as hell kid, named Duck, Lily’s father was an asshole who just made things worse for everyone else, and I had to deal with everyone bickering while trying to make sure Clementine didn’t become a victim of their stupid decisions. I ended up getting involved with every other character and caring about them more than I probably should have and when they died it felt like I really lost someone I legitimately cared about. Through it all, the only thing that mattered in the end was protecting Clementine.

The Walking Dead game made me experience the full range of emotions from worry and concern for Clem’s well-being, to anger and hatred towards Larry, to irritation with Duck, tragic sympathy for Herschel when his son was killed (in large part thanks to Duck), respect for Kenny even when we butted heads, and admiration for all of the other people I met during my Walking Dead experience. By the time I reached the conclusion of season one I was devastated by Lee’s death and even now I worry about what will happen to Clementine in season 2. The Walking Dead game even with its faults and the problems it had every month (like not having a new episode available every month as originally promised) was an emotional experience that I’m grateful exists. They say violent video games result in violent people, but that simply isn’t the case this time. This game was INCREDIBLY violent and through it all the ONLY thing I cared about was protecting Clem. It tapped into a side of me that I really didn’t know existed and if I ever have a daughter… I might just name her Clementine.

Zero

Games I Miss

So last week I was sitting around the house with my cousin and brother rummaging through the PlayStation Store when we came upon Parasite Eve in the Classics section. For whatever reason we started going through all the ported games dating back to the old school Sega Genesis days and I think each of us came across a few that made us reminisce about other games we played growing up and every time we found something that struck a chord we’d always say “I miss playing [insert retro game title here].” My brother missed playing Crash Bandicoot, Oni (the first game I ever bought him), and the original Tony Hawk games while my cousin missed games like Duck Hunt, Rugrats games, and Pitfall. I’m not sure if it’s just nostalgia or if those games really had something that today’s games lack, but that conversation made me really think about the games I missed growing up, so that’s what I want to talk about now.

In NO particular order here are the games I miss and why:

Battletoads

Yeah, I know they were basically the poor man’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and they’re missing a member to be equal, but those games were some of the most fun I had during the NES era. I don’t remember any of the toad’s names except Zitz because well… pimples - and I have zero recollection about the game’s story if it even had one. None of that mattered to me in those days, though. To me the Battletoads were about one thing; beating the ever-loving crap out of giant alien space rats and robots and sometimes (by accident) the other player sitting next to me on the couch. I’ve got very fond memories of starting up the game’s two player mode and immediately going for the second player to kick their ass. There was just something special about the way they fought and killing each other in a cooperative game as giant anthropomorphic toads with shape-shifting limbs spoke to me as a kid who just wanted to have mindless fun before playing the game for real. Sure, today’s games let people kill each other all they want, but something about grabbing a pipe dropped from an enemy and smacking my co-op buddy with it just for a laugh brought the kind of enjoyment that I used to get from old Tom & Jerry cartoons.

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Frogger has NOTHING on the Battletoads!

Streets of Rage

I recently heard somewhere that this game was going to come back with a new sequel for the modern day and I can’t help but to think back on how terrible the last Golden Axe game was. I really don’t want Streets of Rage to be the next Golden Axe. I’d rather Sega just leave it alone, let the series stay in the past, and keep the original games available as downloads for people like me. When you look at Street of Rage you can see that it was a hardcore product of its time (the early 90’s). From a gameplay aspect it really doesn’t differ from all the other arcade style beat ‘em up’s of the era, but for me it shined in other aspects. The music was the very first thing that caught my attention when I hit the start button because it sounded like it was taken from some kind of 80’s-90’s techno club like the one seen in the original Terminator film. It was loud, catchy, cheesy, and it fit the rest of the game so very well. The game’s story was pretty farfetched too: a secret criminal organization managed to completely take over a city including its police force and government and it was up to ex-cops Axel Stone, Adam Hunter, and Blaze Fielding to put an end to the syndicate and save their city on their own. In later sequels they would be joined by a kid on rollerblades, a cybernetic old Asian man, and a boxing kangaroo. I never said it made sense. All of these elements made for a pretty fun game that threw logic out the window, but who cares?! It had a boxing kangaroo! With boxing gloves!

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If this Deviant Art rendition of Blaze Fielding was a cop in real life I’d probably do things to get arrested on purpose just so she’d whip out the handcuffs…

Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem

Okay, so it isn’t as old-school as the previous games mentioned, but it’s old enough to be considered retro. Deal with it. Eternal Darkness definitely isn’t a game for everyone because of all the things it didn’t have. It wasn’t heavy on action, it wasn’t graphically stunning even for its time (the Resident Evil remake came out the same year on the same system and looked gorgeous by comparison), and the puzzles weren’t that difficult to figure out, but the game more than made up for these faults thanks to the size of the story and its unique novelty which, unfortunately, has never been seen anywhere again: the sanity meter! It’s the first game I can remember that consistently trolled me by dwelling on my fears as a gamer. The horror from this particular survival horror came from a brand new perspective and managed to weave itself into the game’s history-stretching story a lot better than I realized before. When enemies made eye contact with the player character the sanity meter would drain a little and the only way to refill it was to immobilize them and finish them off. Having your sanity meter completely drained resulted in “hallucinations” that made YOU, the gamer holding the controller, freak out. The hallucinations included the following: Making you think your controller was disconnected/busted while you were being attacked by a group of enemies. Making you think your memory card data became corrupted. A sudden random screen that basically said “Congratulations! You beat the game!” A volume meter on your TV lowering itself. And my personal favorite: making you think a bunch of cockroaches started crawling all over your screen. I miss you, Eternal Darkness.

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”Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering… fearing… doubting” – Edgar Allen Poe

Classic Resident Evil

Okay, so this one is kind of a copout because unlike the other games Resident Evil still exists and just recently had a sequel come out, but classic Resident Evil and modern Resident Evil might as well be two completely different games for all intents and purposes. Gone are the days of wandering through a creepy mansion or police station decorated by mentally disturbing people with a fetish for puzzles. Ever since Resident Evil 4 I never felt like I had to slowly tread through an area listening closely for the quiet sounds of some nasty creature breathing or moaning or shuffling in my direction. There aren’t anymore journal entries from victims of the T-virus or creepy reports from researchers observing one of Umbrella’s manmade monsters tearing a living animal to pieces. Now, we’ve got monsters that make you very aware of their presence, an arsenal that would put Arnold Schwarzenegger movies to shame, and a partner to tag along for the ride. You have no idea how desperate I am for remakes of RE2 and 3 like the original on the Gamecube. I miss Resident Evil.

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Look at how CREEPY that is! I’d NEVER feel safe in a police station like that even if there WASN’T a T-virus outbreak happening everywhere! Get on it, Capcom! We’ll gladly fund it ourselves through Kickstarter!

Well, maybe we’ll get lucky and in a decade or two these games will see some kind of comeback for future generations to enjoy. So what games do you miss?

Zero

Your Culture Has Evolved!

Christmas Day 1989 is the day that changed my life forever. For weeks leading up until that point I kept asking my parents for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles blimp toy and a set of turtle figures to go along with it. What I originally asked for was much cheaper and less distracting than what I ended up with, but for whatever reason fate decided to plant a very different idea into the minds of my parents. I didn’t get my blimp or the turtles that year. Instead, when I tore the wrapping paper off the box that I thought was the accessory of my dreams, I found my very first video game console; the Nintendo Entertainment System. The very moment I inserted the Super Mario Bros./Duck Hunt cartridge into the system and hit that power button (with a wonderfully satisfactory click) I was introduced to a whole new world that I couldn’t begin to imagine would grow and evolve into what it is today.

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The birth of video game culture (technically…)

The arrival of the NES opened the floodgates for an entire new subculture in America that began almost immediately thanks mostly to Nintendo’s own marketing department and the various gaming magazines that started popping up everywhere. There was Nintendo cereal, crappy cartoons based on Mario and Zelda, the terrible Super Mario Bros. and The Wizard film, and even McDonald’s sold toys for Super Mario Bros. 3 in their Happy Meals. Then came the legendary rivalry between Nintendo and Sega and we all debated about which mascot was better; Mario or Sonic (I’m on Team Sonic). So many different games came out for so many different tastes. We had the aforementioned Mario and Sonic games, Metal Gear, Final Fantasy, Double Dribble, Tetris, Street Fighter, and so many others. Kids everywhere were either playing these games at home or talking about them at school. It was unstoppable and every year video games were showing up in more and more places, but for so long the only people who viewed the hobby as more than just a kid’s toy was us and through us an incredibly new and exciting culture was born.

I didn’t start calling myself a “gamer” until the sixth generation of consoles came out (PlayStation 2, GameCube, Xbox, Dreamcast) and until then I don’t think we even had a word to call ourselves. When I look back at that era now I realize that it wasn’t even the games that pushed our culture into overdrive; it was the internet. It started with simple websites like IGN just posting reviews, cheat codes, and industry-related news, but that’s where it took off. Now that the internet was thriving and sites dedicated to gaming existed we all had somewhere to gather and talk about our favorite hobby, exchange ideas, argue and fight about who would kick who’s ass, and share pictures of a badly rendered naked Lara Croft. For the first time ever, we were able to come together from all around the world and share our love for games and it only got better from there.

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This is where it started for me.

Shortly after the arrival of the internet came G4, the very first TV network dedicated entirely to video games. Back then every show they had was about gaming and I watched it as often as I could. X-Play, Cinematech, Arena, Cheat!, and every other show became my favorite things to watch. It was the first time I ever got to see what E3 looked like (someday I will go there) and that was when it really hit me that there were so many different kinds of people who enjoyed the games I did. Until that point I had never actually seen what other gamers looked like except the ones I went to school with. The first time I watched an E3 special I was shocked to see how much appreciation there was for the industry; I had never even seen a cosplayer until that point (the sexiest Chun-Li ever).

After G4 came YouTube and it was pretty much all over from there. Not only did we have magazines, ways to communicate with each other over great distances, and a TV network but now people could make videos about anything they wanted and post it for the world to see and share and like and comment. Suddenly, normal gamers everywhere who didn’t work in the industry in any capacity were now creating reviews for games, re-enacting scenes from their favorite games, and filming their own comedy sketches based on gaming! We were then treated to the likes of Hey, Ash, Whatcha Playing, Mega64, The Angry Nintendo Nerd (which then became The Angry Video Game Nerd), and Red vs. Blue which would lead to the creation of studios dedicated to creating content about video games instead of simply creating games such as Machinima and Rooster Teeth. Not only did we get a treat for our eyes, but we got something for our ears as well in the form of music appreciation with OCRemix leading the way for video game music lovers.

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Was it good? Meh, but how many movies have YOU made?

Gaming has grown up more than most people are willing to admit. We now have our own shows, our own music, live events, tournaments for all kinds of games, and organizations that compete all over the world for real money. People have made careers out of the video game industry without making games themselves and we’re everywhere. There are so many other types of subcultures that have grown from fan appreciation, but none are as open as ours. In the world of gaming nobody cares about what sex, class, or creed you come from and that is what makes us so strong and has allowed us to evolve into what we are today. I love this industry and I feel so lucky to have been born at just the right time to watch it become something so much bigger than a box plugged into a TV. We’re gamers. We’re unique and colorful and brilliant and so very clever and we’re not going anywhere any time soon. I have no idea what the future holds, but I’m damn excited to see what happens next and if I’m lucky I’ll get to be a bigger part of it.

Zero

So E3 came and went and now that the initial wide starry-eyed effect has passed I can finally say something about it without succumbing to the fanboyism that the event always has on people. This isn't going to be a best/worst of, though everyone is free to say what they felt deserved what kind of accolades, but if I decide to do one of those I don't think the "best" list would be very long and it'd definitely be pretty obvious. There were plenty of failures and WTF moments on all sides (What's up with the bananas, Iwata?) and I sat down to watch every single conference because I've got a thing for torturing myself. Enough about that, though. The debate is E3 and my hat goes off to Nintendo this year. Which is ironic considering how much I've bashed them in the past for their dismal failure with the Wii.

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I'm so confused, Iwata-san! What does it MEAN?

So why Nintendo? Well, the easiest and most obvious reason to defend my stance would be to say that they were the only ones showing off their horse in the next-gen race, but that really isn't it. The house that Miyamoto built managed to keep my eyes firmly locked onto my screen (the PS3 3D display btw. Irony!) for the ENTIRE conference, something everyone else failed to do. As I watched the other conferences (Sony, Microsoft, EA, Ubisoft, and whoever else I forgot to mention) there were plenty of moment when I didn't mind doing some pushups or whatever while they talked about their mostly unimpressive lineup. That doesn't mean they didn't have good things to show, because they did in all actuality, but what they presented for the most part was what we've been seeing for years now. I couldn't give any less of a damn when Usher showed up and I laughed at the Flo Rider (Is that how you spell his name? Damn rappers never use proper spelling these days) guy during his performance. I'm sure he's got fans somewhere, but just watch it. Seriously, watch all of the musical numbers. They felt like that embarrassing High School Musical thing all over again. And what the hell was on Flo Rider's microphone? Nintendo tried the dancing thing, too, but thankfully they knew to keep it short and they didn't do anything similar to it after it ended.

I'm so grateful this was so short. Except now I have that damn song stuck in my head!

Where Nintendo succeeded and won my vote this year was with the astounding potential the Wii U brings to the table. Yes, we've been down this road before with the original Wii and the end result was insulting amounts of shovelware and pandering to people who don't know a real game controller from those cheap plug-n-play "systems" you find in mall kiosks. So why are things different this time? Well, the answer is because Nintendo is doing the smart thing and they're turning the stain left by the Wii into a squeaky clean spot that even Billy Mays would be proud of. They're doing this in quite a few new/old ways with tactics that have been obvious to gamers for years, but were widely ignored by the companies because they want more money.

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Remember how this could've changed the way we play games? I try not to.

I'm talking about backwards compatibility. Hear me out, though, because this is a new type of backwards compatibility that could save the industry in the long run. The Wii U has its own unique controller which we're all familiar with by now, but it also uses the Wii remote and the Wii Fit board by continuing to expand on them. Yep, Nintendo is expanding older technology by not just making games that simply use it as an option, but continue to evolve the old accessories that would otherwise sit in a corner collecting dust like so many of our Guitar Hero and Rock Band controllers. Wii Fit is being injected with new life and new ways to stay fit without having to buy another board and they aren't even making a new board, so if you bought the original one years ago you don't have to buy a new one! It's totally unheard of! The Wii remotes still function the same way, but now they can work together with the Wii U's new gamepad in better ways. The best example of this was a small clip they showed of a person playing a golf game. We've seen this before when the Wii first launched and it was fun back then, but with the new Wii U gamepad you can set the pad on the ground and see the ball on its screen giving you a much closer sense of realism than previous attempts. You swing the remote to hit the virtual ball on the floor and then, like a real golfer, you watch it flew off into the distance on your TV screen. Then you can go off and find yourself some virtual prostitutes to bring yourself closer to that Tiger Woods experience. (I just remembered South Park made that joke, too.)

But we all know that hardware alone doesn't really win any console wars and Nintendo is very much aware of this, too. In fact, they're actually making a much greater effort to win back gamers like you and me with REAL third party support and mature-themed games that are in no way a good idea for the little ones or your grandmother to be playing. And these games are making great use of the new gamepad right from the start! ZombiU (easily my favorite pick from Nintendo's third party showcase) uses the pad in the obvious inventory/minigame ways you'd expect, but the game itself doesn't allow you to feel like you're playing a minigame. The player found a locked door that required a number combination which is fair game because we've seen that before, but the pad itself is where you'll input the code and while you're doing so the TV screen switches angles to show you what's behind you giving you a much larger sense of urgency than you've felt in past zombie games. You have to calm down and put the code in correctly and you can visibly see that, while you have your back turned, something is slowly making its way to you. It's the same thing as freaking out with a door lock while trying to escape something that actually wants to kill you. Everyone will start calling it a gimmick until the other companies start imitating it... oh wait... Microsoft's smartglass and Sony's PS Vita. Never mind the gimmick thing, then.

I have to quote Egoraptor... this game makes my dick ROCK HARD!

That's all fine and dandy, but what about online functionality? Well, Nintendo has learned their lesson (again) and they thought of that, too. Except the Wii U goes an extra mile because the gamepad it comes with already has a camera and microphone built into it, so chatting with your friends won't require ANY extra purchases and you can even do video chat in the same manner for free (or so we're being led to believe at this point). That idiotic friend code system is gone at last and everyone is now able to play and talk with whoever they want whenever they want. On top of that, they're using the Wii U as a sort of social network now. You can see what games other people are playing, talk about them, and play with them without having to jump through any hoops. This is nothing new to Xbox or PlayStation fans, but Nintendo is making it easier and much more accessible than the other two and you aren't limited to seeing only your friends. They're dumping you out into the world so when I say you can see what everyone else is playing and talk/play with them, I mean you can do this with EVERYONE without having them on any friend list. THIS is what social networking is all about; connecting with people all over the world at random.

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My last point to be made requires a little bit of backtracking. Remember how I talked about their unheard of backwards compatibility and continuing to expand on older accessories without forcing anyone to buy something new? This means the Wii remote, wheel, board, and whatever else crap has come and gone with the original Wii. The final FINAL reason why Nintendo has won my vote for the best showcase of E3 2012 is because they're giving developers complete freedom to choose whatever controller they want to have their game use. With the Wii some games used the Gamecube's controller, but the number was small and it was a little cumbersome because those of us without the Wavebird controller were wired into our consoles again. With the Wii U, Nintendo isn't forcing any developer into one controller style or the other, but there's one more amazing thing they've done to make it so that nobody can complain about creating games for their new system. Motion controls turned out to be a big disappointment and touchscreen controls may or may not make a splash even though the DS proved it can be done properly, but there's one more controller type Nintendo is giving us that nobody expected. Traditional. Along with the Wii remote and Wii U gamepad, they've created what they call the Wii U Pro Controller. We've seen this before with the Wii, too, but this time it's everything we originally wanted. The Pro Controller is wireless (unlike the Wii Pro Controller) and if you look at it you can plainly see that, for once, Nintendo has ripped off someone else's design; Microsoft. The Wii U Pro Controller is identical in shape to the Xbox 360's controller, so now there isn't a single soul out there that can bitch about it because here in Amurica most people love their Xbox and if the controller had a dick to suck they'd go down on it faster than a fratboy goes down on Activision's Call of Duty series.

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Yeah, they're the same, but deep down you know this is what you've always wanted.

So that's it. Nintendo won E3 for me and I can honestly say I'm looking forward to owning a Wii U. I'm more than aware that its graphical capability will be quickly surpassed by the next Xbox and PlayStation, but I've always been the type of gamer that can look past dazzling graphics and see a good game where one exists. It doesn't mean I won't be impressed by the stunning visuals the other systems will undoubtedly bring, it just means I'm not that shallow. Nintendo, you're starting to win me back and I hope you don't fail us core gamers again.

Don't forget you can follow me on Twitter or add me on Facebook. (They're underlined because they're direct links in disguise! Shhh, don't tell anyone.)

Zero

Last week, we talked a little about some of the things that are wrong with Best Buy and where they've failed... and continue to fail out of pure greed. So, let's move on to part two of "This Month's FAIL" featuring Best Buy! :D

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Treating Your Customers and Employees Like Expendable Pieces of Sh*t

Yeah, let's go there. We've covered Best Buy's shitty online experience and their retarded recovery plan, so let's dive into the heart and soul of what Best Buy has become: a douchey predator. The previous two problems led into this one starting with customer service and employee training. Before things took a turn for the worst in our wallets Best Buy used to teach its employees all about the latest technology so they could pass it on to the consumer and customer service was actually all about that; the customer... who would've thought? Somewhere along the way, the company got the brilliant idea to focus their training more on shady sales tactics reserved primarily for used car salesmen and employees were now being trained more on how to cleverly (and sometimes idiotically) ask certain questions that would trick the customers into buying more than what they needed/wanted. Basically, it can all be summed into one line:

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What will it take to get you to buy this?

The way Best Buy trains its employees is to basically teach them sneaky ways to sell things and then pressure them into attaching as many unnecessary accessories and services as possible along with credit card applications. Then, when things don't work out, they blame their bad decisions on the employees and they make new policies to punish some (usually the ones that speak up) while rewarding the ones who see no problem with any of this. The best example is when the company reduced its in-store discount to useless levels and then handing it off (the way it was) to employees who are part of some kind of special sales program.

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I won't even go into how they hunt down employees who share their opinions online and then fire them. But I WILL mention it. Anyone who works for Best Buy that says anything about the company or the products it carries is promptly terminated if it spreads out on the internet. They've even fired a small group of employees who recorded a cheesy rap video that actually advertised and praised Best Buy Mobile and their services. So basically, if you have anything to say online and you work for Best Buy (or anywhere now), you'd better keep your goddamn mouth shut even if all you want to say is that you work there and enjoy it.

The guy who made this video worked for Best Buy. It got him fired.

Your Attitude Towards the Gaming Industry and its Consumers

Best Buy, you've always made it clear that gaming was never something you wanted to take seriously. For years, GameStop dominated you in video game sales every time you looked over your shoulder and you always knew it was an industry worth billions. So, like the group of stuck-up older businessmen that consist of the corporate higher-ups you turned your nose and relegated it a corner somewhere in the back of the store. About 6 months ago you FINALLY decided to try dipping your hand in the pot with huge goals set in place and everyone riled up to see the fierce competition heat up.

Then, you did what you always did. You stuck it in a corner in the back somewhere, did NOTHING to draw gamers in, and you didn't even bother to advertise it anywhere! The only way someone could've known that Best Buy was now accepting trade-in games and selling pre-owned copies was if that person physically came into the store and was TOLD or if they stumbled upon something describing it in the weekly ad. You wanted to make GameStop your bitch and invested millions into setting up systems, training people, creating new positions, and remodeling that pitiful corner called the video game department. You even went as far as to start up a magazine strictly for gamers complete with a tie-in podcast! Well, the "remodel" consisted of a single sign that failed to attract any attention and a register, the "training" was equivalent to tutorials in the sense that you think gaming employees don't know what a console is, you had lots of employees who had far more experience with the crowd and subject than you do (you, of course, failed to utilize ANY of them), you placed unqualified people in leading positions, your magazine pussyfooted around saying anything negative or even giving what felt like a genuine human opinion, and even your podcast hosts talked about shopping with your competitors! It hasn't even been half a year and you've already announced to everyone that your glorious plans for gaming are being abandoned. Best Buy, you can't even say you made an effort.

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Even the half-assed bin is empty.

They've even managed to make trade-ins a long and uncomfortable process. At GameStop, trade-ins are fast, simple, and they feel somewhat rewarding even though they sometimes give you a small amount for a game and then sell it for four times as much. The only Best Buy does right is that they give customers a little more money for their games, but the way they determine the values makes no sense to me. The collector's edition of Mass Effect 2 fetched around 20 dollars, but a normal copy of Naughty Bear (one of the shittiest games ever) was worth 30 at the time. So the games no one would play bring in more money than the triple-A titles that progress the gaming industry. Seems like a step in the wrong direction to me. Even worse is the process itself. For some idiotic reason, when people bring games they don't want there's a lot of information the computer needs to complete the transaction. The employee needs to enter into the system your ethnicity, your eye color, hair color, height, weight, where you work, the phone number for your job, and notes have to be made about tattoo's or other markings. They say it's for security purposes, but I don't feel secure at all when a 300 pound woman comes into the store and I'm forced to ask her how much she weighs. I usually just guessed without telling them because that isn't anyone's business and it's just plain rude.

Failure to Communicate with ANYONE

God damn, if I had a nickel for every time bad news came from Best Buy and hit the internet before it reached its own employees I'd be living the high life right now. We haven't even gotten over the piss-poor communication with your customers during the holiday season, but now we're talking about withholding important information that the public should be aware of. So, an article started floating around not too long ago about how Best Buy could be facing extinction within the next few years if things don't change. That one article sparked a huge fire underneath the collective asses of Best Buy's leaders, so everyone was keeping their eye on the company for when they'd share the same fate as Circuit City. The article was especially critical of former CEO Brian Dunn and how the retailer failed to keep up with changing times and evolving customers. I think about two or three months later we found out that Dunn was resigning (because he was apparently screwing around with an employee under him...or on top, whatever), 50 stores were being shut down, the international stores were boarded up, and three more top executives were resigning. These were things employees and consumers all found out through Yahoo.com and other news sites. You couldn't even tell your own people that shit was hitting the fan. Yes, I'm aware that you also opened up 100 smaller Best Buy Mobile stores, but that doesn't mean you're not in serious trouble.

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Wanna know how employees find out anything important about their company? Same way as you; the internet.

And Finally, Credit Cards

This is the thing about them that really makes me look at the company in disgust. Best Buy receives a small amount of money from the bank for every new line of credit that is opened. On top of that, the bank usually likes to throw around recklessly irresponsible amounts of credit to almost everyone. So here's how it looks when you set it down on paper and look at it through the eyes of a someone who only cares about profit and not enough about people:

A] Best Buy gets free money from the bank for every new credit card approved.

B] The person who applied for the card (who only wanted one television, computer, etc.) now has more money to spend than what they originally had.

C] The sales associate is forced to try to attach as many products and services as possible to max out the card using 36 months (maximum) interest free as bait.

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This is a system that can't sustain itself and is a MASSIVE step backwards during desperate times of economic recovery and speeches about financial responsibility. Yes, people could be okay if they pay their credit card bill on time, but these days MOST people are living paycheck-to-paycheck and the idea of affording something big and expensive while making small payments every month seems ideal. So then what happens? THE SAME FUCKING THING THAT HAPPENED BEFORE!!! The banks take advantage of us, the stores rip us off, we end up broke and poor, and then the cycle starts over again when we try to fix things! Best Buy's pathetic short-term plans can only end in one way: the same way it ended for Circuit City and anyone else who feels they can pull one over on millions of people.

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Hello, cold harsh reality.

That's all I can say about Best Buy for now. It was a great place to shop, a fun place to work, and a good company to be a part of, but that now feels like a story once told forever ago from a book of fairytales. You can't step foot inside of one of their stores without being harassed and annoyed by employees who are being forced to sell and attach all kinds of crap out of fear of losing their jobs. And what's even worse is that they're too afraid to say or do anything about it. Now that I don't work for them and don't have to worry about them firing me for saying what everyone else is thinking, I can finally say and do all of the things I've been dying to say and do for a couple of years. If the company actually manages to somehow survive the next five or six years I'll be genuinely surprised. Of course, when it fails and they go out of business for good I can't say I'll be in any way sad (except for the good employees who would be out of a job as a result). Either way, it's all just a cycle that we're trapped in and unwilling to break and when things get bad again - when we sleep and have nightmares about living in the streets - I'll just say the thing most people hear me say a lot: Told you so.

Zero

This month I finally get to write the FAIL I've been dying to write for the past two years. If there's one thing a big name corporation doesn't like it's bad press. They all try their best to avoid bad news getting out or they flip it around so it doesn't seem as bad as it actually is, but in the end they always screw something up and word gets out pretty fast. Toss in something that connects billions and billions of consumers together like, oh I don't know, maybe something called the internet and suddenly people are talking to each other all over the world and they all want to do one thing: bitch. Naturally, they don't like that especially on social networking sites or, god forbid, YouTube. It's gotten to the point where some big corporations are trying to make it mandatory for their employees to hand over their login information for sites like Facebook and Twitter. After all, if you were a big company making bad decisions would you want your employees talking about your unethical or plain bad business tactics? Of course, the logical solution to this commercial conundrum would be to simply NOT make bad decisions and own up to your mistakes like a responsible person would do. SO, with that let's move on with this wonderful FAIL brought to us by none other than Best Buy!

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I've waited so long for this FAIL...

Oh, Best Buy, you once were such a great place to come in and shop or just waste a good fun afternoon to look at all the new gadgets. When I was a teenager (*ahem* fairly recently) I was so enamored with the way your employees were obviously having fun that I knew I just had to work for you at some point. Who wouldn't love a job where all you do is talk to people about technology and teach them how to use it? Well, that was how it started when I was first hired four years ago, but then something bad happened. The economy tanked and the good times suddenly became too expensive for everyone. The company did manage to get lucky when their arch rival, Circuit City, went out of business a couple of years ago. Then the man who founded its original incarnation, Sound of Music, finally retired and left his position of CEO to Brian Dunn...well things just went from good to what-the-fuck just happened? Thank god I don't work there anymore and can finally talk about your fuck-up's with some insider perspective and no fear of retaliation just because I spoke my mind to (potentially) the world. Let's take a look at just some of the places where you went wrong.

Your Awful Online Presence

Things were taking a very strange turn coming out of the early 2000's and you really didn't take too well to the changes. In fact, for a technology driven business, you ironically refused to accept the changes brought upon the world by the constantly evolving technological advancements you sell to the public. For instance, the concept of online shopping COMPLETELY went over your head and you continue to forget about that strange in-ter-web thingy. Gas prices are ridiculously high and the cost of living gets more and more expensive every time we turn around. Naturally as a result, people don't get around as much as they used to and trips to places like Best Buy turn into online trips to Amazon.com or eBay.

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The average consumer was getting smarter and more trusting of shopping online and, eventually, started researching product before purchasing it. Suddenly, everyone was either completely literate in technology or they had a guy who was. People aren't perfect, though, and they still want to talk to someone that might know more than they do which is mainly why a lot of people go into a Best Buy. You completely missed this point when you created a website that was so anti-user it became a hassle to find something as well-known as a Pokemon game! (We'll talk about their gaming failures soon, promise.) Your biggest online failure was the debacle of Black Friday last year. Someone tell me if this seems like the proper way to handle a business crisis.

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Pictured above: Best Buy failing at internet.

There are millions of people purchasing product online for Black Friday and the following newly-dubbed "Cyber Monday", but (for some stupid reason) you weren't prepared for this kind of online rush and your website fucks something up before it's even over. When it finally ends, you discover that a lot of people aren't going to have their gifts in time underneath their tree ready for Christmas morning. A reasonable person would've immediately come out and said "Look, someone dropped the ball and a lot of aren't going to get their purchases on time." Best buy isn't a person, though (despite whatever the laws state about a corporation counting as a legal individual human being), and like a lot of other companies they definitely aren't reasonable. Their response to this online crisis was to sit on the information for a while and then admit to it as late as possible when Christmas was just days away! You fucked up like a drunken Santa Claus lying in a puddle of his own vomit in a parking garage!

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Your Self-Destructive Response to Tough Economic Times

So shit's expensive and everyone is balls deep in credit card, medical, and mortgage debt. America's collective credit score is so below the red you might as well call it in and inform its widow of its untimely demise. People simply can't afford the lavish luxuries of what is essentially high-cost toys that are mostly unnecessary to survive, so they're spending less, saving their money, and the only money they want to shop with is their own, not a bank's. Best Buy was becoming less and less relevant now and the money stopped pouring in thanks to everyone shopping with the money they physically had in hand or on a debit card.

Unfortunately, Best Buy reacted to this by putting most of their eggs into a credit card and 36 months free interest financing deals. Well, that's a sweet deal and all, but not many people want to open a new line of credit after just recovering from debt. Credit cards and banks are a major player in the downfall of our economy, so nobody really wants to put themselves back into that situation again. It wasn't working and your profits were still sinking and you can't rely solely on that to help you get out of trouble. You probably could've gotten more people interested if you had advertising, too, but you also relied heavily on people flocking to your stores and didn't we already talk about online shopping and people staying at home more often?

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How Best Buy views credit cards...

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How people view credit cards.

I've only just gotten started with Best Buy and there's still so much left to say, so be sure to check out Part Two of this FAIL when I post it next Monday! And if you want to receive new updates about what I'm up to or what terrible games I'm playing you can check me out on Twitter and Facebook.

Zero

Every month it becomes more and more of a challenge to find something to FAIL mainly because the subjects tend to be so broad and obvious that the blog pretty much writes itself. This month, though, it was especially hard because I've been catching up on the big games I missed during the end of last year and the beginning of this year (the holiday season). I've been swamping myself with so much gaming goodness that my cynicism is starting to dwindle a bit. Luckily, though, I found something to talk about inspired entirely by the enormous releases most have finished and I have just started! Us! Yep, you read that right.

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It'll happen to ALL of our favorite games eventually.

The easiest way to explain it is to just say that, as a consumer market, we suck. We've become willing to accept just about anything thrown at us as long as it has a recognizable name with a number slapped onto the end of it and, unfortunately, all the biggest developers/publishers have caught wind of that. This is why we have a new Call of Duty (get ready to hate reading this title because it'll appear A LOT!) every six months and no brand new titles no one has ever heard of. Let's take a look at some fantastic games that deserved to sell better than any big blockbuster title, but didn't because they didn't share the same name! heavy Rain to date has sold around 2 million copies since its release back in 2010 whereas Modern Warfare 3 sold 6.5 million copies on day one! This says to me that the intelligent, deep, analytical group of gamers I grew up has now expanded to include the retarded assholes that picked on me for liking video games in the first place!

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Video games: the ONE thing left you assholes hadn't taken from me. You...bastards ;~;

There is now a CLEAR audience that everyone can rape for cash and that large audience just happens to be the idiot that lives next door and plays Xbox Live with his window open so I can hear things like "noob" and "pwned" and my personal favorite "don't teabag me, you fucking asshole"!! It isn't fair! They took our hobby and our industry away from us and, to make matters worse, it seems most of us don't care anymore! Hell, some of us have JOINED them in their idiocy! This is why nothing is done about being blatantly ripped off with DLC by Capcom or spoonfed the same crap from Activision and EA on a routine basis! The developers and publishers keep raking in so much cash that there's no NEED to improve anything or make something truly unique and full of imagination or innovation.

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Do you think Wario was meant to... personify something? He's lazy, he only cares about money, and he'd shake the shit out of you until the last few pennies you had dropped from your pocket. Sounds awfully familiar...

And now we've come to the point where even the games people cared about the most are starting to fall victim to "sequelitis". Tell me, after Halo 3 supposedly ended the trilogy and "finished the fight" what more needs to be said? It had an ending that was a bit open, but the Chief did his bit for king and country, yet there's a Halo 4 on the way! The one that REALLY irks me the most is the game starring Mr. Clean on steroids, Kratos in God of War IV. After Kratos slaughtered all of the gods, including friggin' Zeus, who else is left for him to kill?! Well, apparently, the question nobody asked will be answered and I wouldn't be surprised if somewhere down the line Kratos started invading other religions and mythologies just to kill everything in sight. I'd imagine it'd be like Kingdom Hearts only with a lot more murder.

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Might as well. It's not like there's anywhere else left to go...

When will it end?! When will the industry finally get out of this weird greedy phase? They've already ran their motion controls scheme into the ground, so that just leaves making gimmicky software and MORE sequels! And if we're gonna keep falling for it, then why not?! Why not make Final Fantasy XIII-3 and continue the story of how Lightning and Serah keep having to save each other's asses for some really confusing and boring reason. How about re-releasing Duke Nukem Forever as a special edition that everyone is required to play for the inevitable sequel: Duke Nukem Selling Out! Maybe we could even have the next Uncharted game take place in friggin' outer space! Yeah, they can make it so that Francis Drake was actually an alien, change the game to a FPS, and make Drake a space mercenary! Don't think for a second Sony wouldn't make Naughty Dog go that route because you KNOW they don't give a shit.

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There HAVE been worse ideas...like THIS!

There's ONE more crime I still need to vent about: stealing other people's ideas and ripping them off! I've touched on how Sony has done this throughout their entire gaming endeavors and they're at it yet again! If you haven't heard, Sony is developing a game called (for now): PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale. It's a pretty stupid name to me, but it doesn't matter because it's just a Super Smash Bros. rip-off. I can't believe how much Sony is trying to pander to the Nintendo crowd lately when the Big N only has major success by churning out the EXACT same games once every couple of years or by appealing to those who have no idea what a REAL game plays like. Doesn't matter, though, because we'll just keep buying whatever they throw in our faces. And if you don't believe the industry is starting to blatantly follow a VERY soulless path, just check this image out.

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I guess that's it for this month. I doubt this little rant will change anything, but damn it felt good to get that off my chest. Anyway, in two weeks I've got a fresh new game review and it'll be a real crapfest that I'm sure will be fun AND will make me want to vomit until all of my insides are on the floor. Ironically, it's something that not many developers have dabbled with, but every time it was done throughout gaming history it was ALWAYS perfectly awful. Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water...

And don't forget you can follow me on Twitter or add me on Facebook. (They're underlined because they're links in disguise! Don't tell anyone!) And if you have any suggestions for reviews, FAILS, or debates you can email me at vVvZeroLogs@gmail.com!

Zero

So it's time again for another round of the new favorite piece of mine: a Gamer's Debate! last time, the topic was the best Sonic game ever made and it really got people engaged. I'm hoping I can strike lightning in a bottle again and pull it off a second time... and then a third... possibly a fourth time after that... what I'm saying is this is here to stay. So, this month I want to talk about something I think I did in a FAIL once and talked about how things spiraled out of control until the end result was sheer and utter crap. However, there IS another side to that coin and some very good exceptions do exist. I'm not a big fan of Hollywood, but sometimes someone gets it right. This debate is all about the best live-action movie adaptation of a video game!

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Yeah, we wish!

So what IS my favorite video game movie of all-time? There have been DOZENS of films based on video games, but we're only talking about the live-action ones, so that means CGI movies like both Final Fantasy films and the supervised-by-Capcom Resident Evil films. Another thing to keep in mind is that any films NOT released in the American market can't be taken into account for me because I don't know what they are. That means we'll be looking at gems buried underneath an infinitesimal pile of sh*t. Yeah, it was difficult for me to believe when I first came up with the idea, but when I thought about it and went back and watched all the movies I remembered (and some of the ones I swore to never ever watch) it became so clear to me. Unfortunately, not many people would agree simply because of the starring actress and the movies that she did after this one in particular.

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It's cool, Angie. I'll explain what everyone forgot.

Angelina Jolie, whenever I think of Lara Croft, I think of you... and vice-versa. I don't care what anyone says, the first Tomb Raider was the closest thing to a PERFECT adaptation that we'll ever get to. Personally, I'm still a huge fan of the first Resident Evil film (the one I refer to as "the ONLY good one"), but I can easily admit the little flaws that keep from reaching the level of fun and excitement that this movie translated from a video game. Angelina Jolie's reputation (like it or not) should NOT be a deciding factor for anyone because A] Really? If I can admit SEGA can make a good Sonic game, why can't you admit some actors do a GREAT job??? And B] This is the movie that brought her into the mainstream limelight! Anyway, let's get started on the part where I get all anal... on the movie, I mean.

Can you honestly look at this promo shot and tell me this isn't Lara Croft?

One of the biggest problems many video game adaptations face is translating an 8-10+ hour game into a movie clocking in around 2 hours. When this happens, things get chopped up (Resident Evil: Apocalypse), compressed (Mortal Kombat), or they're COMPLETELY altered altogether (Super Mario Bros., Resident Evil: Extinction, King of Fighters). That problems comes from the fact that the original story might be too complicated or too simple, but Tomb Raider is the one exception where the movie can come up with a new story using the game as a starting point.

Case in point:

Super Mario Bros. is centered around two plumbers on a mission to rescue a princess [simple premise = terrible movie].

Street Fighter is centered around a tournament where 16 contenders with vastly different and heavily detailed crisscrossing backstories are pitted against each other [complicated premise(s) = terrible movie].

Lara Croft isn't remembered because she's got a rich history filled with colorful memorable characters. Fans that haven't played much, if any of her games, remember her because she's Indiana Jones and James Bond wrapped up in the ultimate eye candy. She's undeniably sexy, but she's more of a badass than any man she ever runs into. She's dangerous and she finds joy in thrill. Angelina Jolie is f*cking crazy if you read up about her and watch interviews and I mean that in the most awesome way possible. You just know that if Lara Croft's job existed in real life, this chick would throw herself into that career field without second thought. The character herself is what makes the games so much fun to play, so that's the ONLY thing they needed to get right.

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Yes, please!!!

You basic Tomb Raider adventure is all there. Lara is travelling all around the world collecting ancient artifacts and ends up in a plot that involves the end of the world. The first time we were introduced to her near the end of 1996 she was already a fully developed character and we were just looking into an average day in the office for her. Any time we got backstory from the games, it was usually about something so simple and human that it's impossible to misinterpret. The first film easily handles this by having Lara talk about her relationship with her father and how much she misses him since his untimely death. Through more and more flashbacks, we eventually learn that her father was a bigger part of the plot than she thought and that's where the supernatural ancient artifact comes into play.

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Does anyone ask Indiana Jones how the Ark works? NO! So don't ask!

A secret society known as the Illuminati is seeking the Triangle of Light which has the ability to control time itself, but the triangle was so powerful that it destroyed an entire civilization, so it was broken into pieces and taken to opposite ends of the planet. Her father joined the group in order to find the triangle before them and destroy it so it can never be misused the way the Illuminati plans. Lara then sets off with letters from her father providing clues to places she needs to explore, she solves puzzles in temples, fights monsters and bosses (in a movie!), and saves the world from something she was brought up to believe was a fairy tale. And it needs to be exciting, of course, so the game has lots of gun fights and action sequences involving ancient traps and whatnot. That's what playing a Tomb Raider game is all about!

The one REALLY stupid argument people like to make is about the first action sequence in the very beginning where she fights a robot. Dude, you've got Lara Croft (the sexiest video game character of the time) fighting a frickin' robot, using guns and aerobatic maneuvers. What the hell are you complaining about?! That the games don't have robots? It's not like it was something that was plot-related! It was just to introduce first-time audiences to the fact that this chick is rich and hardcore!

Every single line of dialogue delivered felt like it came straight from the people that first dreamt her up. She was witty, confident, smart, seductive, adventurous, and more ballsy than anyone else in the world! The extensive and heavily detailed sets really felt like they belonged to a people forgotten by history. If Heavy Rain could be called a video game that felt like a movie, then the first Tomb Raider film is the perfect example of a movie that felt like a game. The sequel... not so much. And that's mainly because they took Lara out of natural environment and stuck her in modern day cities for most of the film.

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Of ALL the promotional photography they took and THIS one made the movie poster?! She was in that wetsuit for, like, 5 minutes in the beginning! And why the water splash?! Again! First 5 minutes of the movie!

So there we have it! I feel that the first Tomb Raider film is the best live-action video game adaptation and this is why. Let's hear what everyone else thinks and talk about films you think are better and why. Comment away!

Zero

It's been a while, but the time has finally come to FAIL the one series I throw money at more than any other. I've lightly touched on what's wrong with it in the past and dedicated a very early version of these monthly FAILs solely to the movies before the release of the fourth installment. Well, we're now coming up on a fifth terrible movie, I just recently finished playing the somewhat disappointing latest handheld game, a new squad-based shooter is right around the corner, and a fantastic trailer for the latest game in the main series floored me. It seems only appropriate to at last talk about the collective missteps in the game that coined the term "survival horror". Time to FAIL Resident Evil.

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I never tire of these.

I shouldn't have to go much into the origin of the series, since I'm pretty sure I've probably mentioned it before at some point. So, here's the skinny on its primary origin. An old school game released in Japan only on the Famicom called "Sweet Home" which was based on a Japanese horror film of the same name. The game was set in a giant mansion and players were in charge of leading around a group of five people trapped inside the haunted home. It had a strong emphasis on survival and, as a consequence, if a character died he/she was gone for good. As if that wasn't difficult enough, in order to get the best possible ending and escape the mansion the player needed all five characters to make it through because each one had unique abilities/items. One carried a lockpick, one had a lighter, one was a healer, etc. The game was actually an RPG that told its story mostly through old diary pages found scattered throughout the mansion from fifty years prior to the events of the game. Sound familiar? Even the opening door sequence had its origin here and, oddly enough, the original Resident Evil was, at first, going to be a reimagining of Sweet Home. I'm not sure why it was changed, but it would be difficult to imagine a world without the Resident Evil games...which would've meant a world without the Devil May Cry games, but that's a story and a FAIL for another time.

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The grandfather of Resident Evil...or Biohazard if you're from Japan.

Survivor Series

So, with that little intro out of the way we can safely dive into one of the series' earliest flops: Resident Evil Survivor. The game was an enormous departure for the series and was a first person arcade style shooter which used a light gun exclusive to Japan. When the game was brought to US soil, it was altered to use the original PlayStation's standard controller. The game had nothing to do with the main series and the only character mentioned from the true canon was Leon S. Kennedy, mentioned, but not seen. It featured an amnesiac protagonist who crashed on Sheena Island only to find that the whole place is crawling with zombies and monsters known to fans like the lickers and the hunters. It was forgettable and garnered a lot of negative attention, but it somehow managed to get two more sequels before The entire Survivor spin-off series was permanently shelved. It's probably safe to say that it came back in the form of the Chronicles series on the Wii, but those were pretty decent arcade style games and I enjoyed them for what they were: a substitute for the House of the Dead arcade games I can't play anymore because arcades don't exist! ;____;

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No, thank you.

Outbreak Series

When I heard that Capcom was developing a multiplayer Resident Evil game I remember almost shitting my pants in excitement. This was around the time the PlayStation 2 and Gamecube were released so it had been a couple of years since the last time I saw Raccoon City and the game was set there during the infamous outbreak! I was so pumped to play this thing and it even had online co-op for up to four players at a time. Around this time, only Microsoft knew what they were doing with online gaming, so it was a pretty big gamble to have an online game on a Sony system. I remember renting it and getting excited to sit down and play it with my little brother watching next to me. The opening cinematic was beautiful and retold the story of how the city got infected in the first place which played to a very eerie and almost sad theme. I watched the whole thing with my mouth hanging open and then I started playing it. It was one of my first disappointments in gaming and, obviously, wasn't the last. Ammo was limited, if not almost impossible to find, zombies kept respawning giving you no time to rest, and there was a timer in the form of an infection counter. Once you were fully infected, the game was over. You played as a random character caught up in the outbreak and the goal is to simply survive, but the problems came when you were given a choice to select characters. Each one had a special ability required to make it through certain areas and if you chose the wrong character you were fucked. The game didn't even drop a hint as to which one would be more useful, so it was a process of trial and error...and error... and error...and goddamn error! I never made it past the first level because my character died and I nearly snapped the disc in half! From what I've heard, the online multiplayer was so embarrassingly bad that it made people cringe. There was no way to communicate with other player because there weren't headsets to use at the time and if you played alone...well, let's just say the AI of the zombies is smarter than your partner AI. The game was given one last sequel before being dropped and now we're about to play a completely revamped version in the form of Resident Evil: Operations Raccoon City. It took a while, but it looks like Capcom may have finally gotten the whole online group co-op thing right, but only time will tell and you'll definitely know what I think of it when it releases later this month.

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Really? A giant flea? I hope someone was fired for this.

Portable Games

I once saw Resident Evil Gaiden out of the corner of my eye in a Toys R Us and I came so close to turning around to get a better look at it. I don't know why I didn't move in to inspect, but I was already a huge Resident Evil fan by that point, so there must've been a really good reason why I didn't pick it up. Anyway, the name was now stuck in my head where it would fester for years to come. Then, one day in my late teens, I decided to download a Gameboy Color emulator and some roms (Don't act like you haven't done this! YOU'RE NOT BETTER THAN ME!!!) and, as luck would have it, Gaiden was one of those roms and it was the first one I loaded so I could FINALLY see what the hell it was about. Good lord, it was bad. It was so bad I deleted the damn thing after about ten minutes of frustrating gameplay. You played as Leon and Barry (I want a sandwich all of a sudden) on a cruise ship where another T-Virus outbreak has infected everyone onboard. Being a Gameboy Color game the graphics were as terrible as you can imagine, the music was TRYING to be creepy, but came off as high-pitched irritating beeps, and the battle system was... I don't even know what to call it. Judge for yourself!

If you've never played it count yourself lucky.

(Fun Fact: Capcom was secretly working on a port of the original Resident Evil game for the Gameboy Color. Footage can be easily found, but let's be thankful it wasn't made because why would a zombie stay kneeling after you shoot it? There was also plans of a game called Resident Evil Portable which was going to be released for the PSP Go, but we all know what happened with THAT system and the game suffered the same fate.)

Props to Capcom for WANTING to make this, but...REALLY?

Resident Evil Mercenaries 3D is a game for the Nintendo 3DS that I already bashed in my Capcom video FAIL, so if you want the details on it, check out the video. FYI the volume goes up and down and I didn't know it was a problem until the whole thing was already made, so I apologize in advance to anyone that hasn't seen it and again to everyone that has. It was my first big video, so I'm totally allowed a few mistakes! Anyway, the 3DS game I wanna talk about is Resident Evil Revelations (or Resident Evil Revelaitons if you picked up one of the hilariously misprinted copies). It's good AND it somewhat sucks, but not because it was bad. When the trailer came out it made it look like Revelations was going to...well...give you some kind of revelation about the series! It failed to deliver on that promise and told a completely new story revolving around Jill Valentine, Chris Redfield, and a bunch of other characters nobody cares about or will ever hear form again including a ginger with a dead gaze and a really bad hair style. The game played like an amazing mixture of old school Resident Evil with a hint of some of the newer games. And you can walk AND shoot at the same time! Amazing! It definitely offered classic horror and the graphics are fantastic for such a tiny machine. If you haven't played it, I suggest you do, but don't expect to learn something about the main story you don't already know because it doesn't add anything to it. Hey, Capcom, next time you add "Revelations" to the title of something you better make sure there's actually some kind of revelation in it! Nobody would like it if they played Devil May Cry Revelations only to find out that the game was centered around a daycare center run by Dante's third cousin's mother's neighbor!

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Everything you should know = NOT A GODDAMN THING!

The Live Action Films

Goddamn it, here we are...AGAIN! The fucking trailer wasn't even really a trailer! Half of it was an ad for Sony's shitty products! Oh, fuck it, just watch the goddamn trailer and you'll see what I'm talking about.

THE FUCK?!?!!

So, that was it! I'm done bashing Resident Evil until Capcom's next violent bowel movement. I'm sure by that time I'll have more awful things to say and there will probably be eight more unrelated-yet-somehow-still-called-Resident-Evil movies to talk about. Now, it's time for me to start working on next week's review. ;____; Why do I play these awful games?!?!

Don't forget you can follow me on Twitter or add me on Facebook. (They're underlined because they're links in disguise! Don't tell anyone!) And if you have any suggestions for reviews, FAILS, or debates you can email me at vVvZeroLogs@gmail.com!

Zero

This week I'd like to try something new and different. While I was playing The Bachelor I was also playing Sonic Generations to help offset the crappiness of the game I was actually reviewing. I usually like to play a good game to help me get my mind of the terrible one and I had high hopes for Sonic Generations. Playing the different levels from Sonic's once glorious past made me realize that, even though the series has considerably dropped in quality, it STILL has fans and people that swear the games are great even at their absolute worst. Playing through Generations was like playing through an abridged timeline of the decline. It started out amazing in the Genesis era, started strong in the Dreamcast era before hitting its peak in the middle, and then it was all downhill from there. The Sonic Heroes level was decent enough, but then I got to the level from the sin against God that was called Sonic the Hedgehog 2006. Everything that was wrong with that game somehow culminated into this one level and then the Sonic Unleashed level after made you feel like it was starting to ATTEMPT improvement. The Sonic Colors level was surprisingly good (just like the game) but it was still missing something.

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This isn't a review of Sonic Generations, though, so I'll get back to what I originally wanted to experiment with here with all of you. Sonic the Hedgehog as a game, character, and story reached its greatest peak during Sonic Adventure 2 in my opinion. One of the main reasons I kept my Gamecube was so that I could go back to playing Sonic Adventure 2 Battle (the Gamecube port of the original Dreamcast version, but with a two player mode added. Think early DLC). When I posted my review of Sonic Unleashed I remember someone wrote in the comments section that even though I felt the game was only half acceptable (the daytime hedgehog half, not the nighttime werehog), he still enjoyed the whole thing and liked the nighttime stages as much as the daytime ones. He just didn't see anything wrong with it and felt it was the best game to date at that point. The truth is that Sonic has been around for a long time now and we've all got different fond memories and varying opinions about when the series was at its greatest and when things started to go wrong.

So, this is what I'd like to try. I want to hold a debate every month about varying topics and I'd like everyone to weigh in and through their opinions out there for all to see. Let's engage each other here and discuss our favorite subjects, explore the good and bad, and get a better understanding of each other.

This month's topic: Which "Sonic" game is the best and why?

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I feel that Sonic hit his greatest moments in Sonic Adventure 2 Battle for a multitude of reasons. The biggest being the story itself and how dark and heavy it really was while still being accessible to younger gamers. It almost like how cartoons like Animaniacs had jokes only adults would understand and find humor in, this game had undertones that mature gamers could comprehend and become invested in. Let's start with Robotnik (or Eggman as he now refers to himself). In every game until that point, his goal was always purely to build his empire (Robotropolis if you read the comics, Eggmanland if you're brain dead). He was narrow-minded and would constantly go with the same approach and fail miserably like the way Bowser is constantly kidnapping Peach only to be defeated time and again by Mario. This time, however, he discovered his grandfather (Gerald Robotnik) had developed a powerful secret weapon that was placed under protection by the military. So, he breaks into the base to steal this weapon only to find out that this weapon was a life form named Shadow the Hedgehog. Shadow himself was a conflicted character with a tragic past that felt he owed a debt to Eggman and agreed to help him.

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Shadow the Hedgehog: The only character with a REASON to be emo and get away with it.

Together, the two set out to gather the chaos emeralds and use them to power up an abandoned colony hidden inside an asteroid called ARK which houses a powerful weapon capable of wiping out entire civilizations called the Eclipse Cannon. The sudden appearance of Shadow on Earth leads to everyone mistaking him for Sonic which led to the blue hedgehog being placed under arrest. Shadow's past is revealed during flashbacks and we quickly learn he isn't the villain we thought he was. It turned out that when Shadow was created, he befriended a young girl named Maria who taught him heartfelt life lessons and brought out the good in him. The military showed up one day to seize Gerald Robotnik and his creations and eliminate anyone who put up a fight. Shadow ran off with Maria to get her somewhere safe, but she was shot during their escape and, with her dying breath, sealed Shadow in a stasis pod to make sure he couldn't be harmed. These are the events that led up to Eggman breaking into the base to free him and it instantly changes everything you know about Shadow as a character. His life was peaceful with Maria until the rest of the human race decided to interfere and she died in front of him as a result. Shadow went from being kind to wanting revenge for what happened to her because she was the only innocent person to show him compassion.

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People seem to have forgotten why he is the way he is. Well, THIS is why. Poor girl was shot and killed for no reason!

Eventually, Shadow and the Eggman manage to gather all seven chaos emeralds and activate the Eclipse cannon. What they discover after that is when the game changes for all characters involved. As a final act of revenge against humanity for their attacks on him and for taking away his entire life, Gerald Robotnik triggered the colony to crash into the Earth when they used the weapon and played a message of his final words of warning during his execution. He told them they'd pay for their greed and ungratefulness, but he didn't know the weapon would be activated by his own grandson years later.

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Watching a video of someone's final words before being executed is something I'll never forget..especially in a Sonic game! Damn, Sega! You guys got dark!

Together, the heroes and villains of the game are forced to work together to stop the colony from crashing into the planet and wiping out everything they know. They race to the core where Shadow's "biological" brother is awakened from stasis to prevent them from stopping the crash. The creature is an early prototype, though, and comes in the form of a giant lizard-like monster known as the Biolizard. Sonic and Shadow manage to defeat the Biolizard and stop the colony in its descent, but then the prototype merges itself with the colony, becoming the FinalHazard, and begins dragging it down towards the Earth to complete its mission. This is when Sonic and Shadow use the chaos emeralds to change into their super forms and put a stop to it once and for all. They manage to stop the FinalHazard, but at a cost. During the fight, Shadow realizes that Maria would have wanted to him to protect humanity and forgive them for their flaws. Then, he makes the ultimate sacrifice and depletes his energy into a final attack that stopped the FinalHazard but made him lose his ability to maintain his super form which causes him to plummet to the Earth and, presumably, burn up in the atmosphere.

A Sonic game never had a death in it before, and this one was a very well done and heroic first.

This was a kid's game that a story about revenge and redemption of a very dark kind and it was great! The gameplay was a lot of fun and nowhere near as frustrating as the games to come after. My last favorite thing about it, though, was the music. I don't care what anyone says, Sonic Adventure 2 had some of the most fitting, the most fun, and the most epic soundtracks of any game. From "City Escape" to "Live and Learn" this game had great rock tracks to accompany the game's most adrenaline pounding moments, and some cool R&B/Rap music that somehow felt right during the stages with Knuckles. The same goes for Rouge with her jazzy tunes. The voice-acting was great in some moments, decent in others, and them.... there was Tails. Let's not talk about him. Look, I said it was the best, I didn't say it was flawless.

Oh, god, please stop talking! Who hired that kid?!

Anyway, all those reasons combined make me feel like Sonic Adventure 2 is the greatest Sonic game in his entire history and it makes me feel bummed because I know there will never be another game like it again in the series. For one thing, they felt that adding a new character (Shadow) was why the game was so successful, so every game after that featured new friends for Sonic that became more annoying and insipid with each new game like Chip from Sonic Unleashed or any of the retards from the Sonic Riders games...or Cream and Cheese. These days, the story is childish and the characters are one-dimensional cardboard cutouts of themselves. Eggman himself went from being the potential destroyer of Earth to having dimwitted robot sidekicks meant for comic relief. The Sonic games feel like cartoons written by 8 year olds for 5 year olds now.

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This rabbit SUCKS! But...

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THIS rabbit kicks ass!

So what would I do differently? I'd team up with Archie Comics and make a truly epic Sonic game that could never be topped. Why Archie Comics? Well, in case you didn't know, Archie has been producing a comic book series based on Sonic the Hedgehog for over a decade now and it's STILL going! The series started out extremely cartoonish, but then, in a single issue, it took a much more serious tone. Sonic went from being a thorn in Robotnik's side to being a freedom fighter helping an entire civilization rise up against him and take back the kingdom he conquered in a coup during a war. Robotnik himself was a scientist who defected and became a military general to this kingdom and, when the timing was right, he set his robotic troopers out to take over and occupy the kingdom before he exiled the king and declared himself the emperor with his sights set on the world itself. Characters actually died, there was betrayal, romantic relationships, psychological drama, questions of morality, and everything you'd expect from a movie about war or something. Also, if you ever wanted to know the origins of the weird furry subculture, it comes from this comic in the form of two characters named Princess Sally Acorn and Bunnie Rabbot. Just do a Google image search for them, but you might want to keep the safe search on.

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Yeah, they're sexy in a really weird way that makes you feel uncomfortable.

Anyway, that's my cents about the best Sonic game ever and what could be done to make the games great again. Now, I want to know what you guys think. Use the comments section to share your thoughts and let's get this dialogue going!

Zero

Somehow, "reality" shows have been broken down into three different types of shows. We've got our classic reality shows that follows a person or group of people living their day-to-day lives (The Real World, Jersey Shore, etc.), we've got our business reality where the show is centered around a career (Dog the Bounty Hunter, Pawn Stars, Dirty Jobs), and then we have our competitive reality shows where the whole thing is centered around some game where contestants compete for a prize (American Idol, Hell's Kitchen, Top Model)... which to ME sounds like a game show, but what the hell do I know, right? The last few games I've reviewed have been centered on some of the worst reality television programming in the history of the medium. Unfortunately, the game I bring to you now falls into the "competitive reality" subgenre and is the epitome of crap TV...at least until Jersey Shore the Game comes out and you damn well know it's coming!

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STD's! Gotta catch 'em all!

This month, I'm reviewing a video game based on The Bachelor. Yeah, this is the one I've been avoiding since August and the time has finally come to come to peace with the fact that I played this... thing. Now, the first things that come to mind when I think of this poor excuse for a show are desperate TV whores looking for their 15 minutes and cash, asinine drama, and people proclaiming they love someone despite knowing them for no more than a day! So I was expecting a Sims style game consisting of sabotaging dates, getting into cat fights, and romancing some shmuck I despise as a human being. Nothing could be further than the truth when I actually started playing this crap. It was so far removed from the show that I think it actually turned out WORSE than my already lower-than-low expectations.

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Why, God, why?!

Story

Again, this is a game based on a horribly scripted reality show, so there isn't much story to talk about. You play as one of four men or women competing for the love of one of the show's past contestants/stars. Yeah, apparently, their previous relationships forged on the show didn't work, so they came back to give it another try. Y'know, after the prize money ran out from the first time. I think the host from the original show does the narration work for the game. If not, his annoying way of announcing things certainly makes him qualified to host a competitive reality game show. We never see him which I'd count as a good thing because if I saw him walking down the street I'd spit in his eye, kick his shin, and punch him in the throat!

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I present to you a MUCH more compelling story

Graphics

This is probably the funniest aspect of the game. Okay, so the development company (Ludia Inc.) is obviously some kind of garage developer trying to work their way into the industry and they've chosen to start the easy way by making licensed games based on existing properties. It's fast, it's cheap, and it already has a fan base somewhere regardless of how shitty the property is. From what I've heard, anyone that wants to make a game on the Wii that utilizes a Mii character has to pay Nintendo to use the coding or something and, as we all know, Nintendo is in it for the money these days and the cost was probably too high for Ludia to use Mii characters. So their solution is to use character models that look like the bastard offspring of the avatars from PlayStayion Home and the Xbox dashboard. Yeah, Microsoft and Sony ripped-off Nintendo's Miis and those rip-offs made their way into a Nintendo game. The only time you ever see them move around or interact with something is during a horrifically pre-rendered cutscene or after a mini-game when the scores are being tallied up. And that leads us to...

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He's every bit as bland as you think! And then some!

Gameplay

Yep, The Bachelor is another mini-game compilation that adds to the already over-saturated mini-game library. This game, however, has the very distinct honor of being one of the worst ones I've ever played...so far. There are 5 "seasons" in total and in each season you go on dates to win the heart of whoever with the hopes of being the last guy to win and get married. Funny thing is, you play as the SAME character throughout each season which leads me to believe that your character wins, gets married, gets divorced, and comes back the following season to try again. Same thing with the other characters that get eliminated during the season. They just come back for the next one to try again and compete to marry some other dumb broad. It's pathetic, but they probably didn't have money in their budget to rip-off more avatars.

Anyway, the actual mini-games themselves are so idiotically simple that it becomes insulting. Here's the press release:

“In single player mode, the game is structured like the TV show. It is comprised of multiple ‘episodes’ where the player competes against the game characters for time alone with the Bachelor or Bachelorette. The Wii version offers multiplayer mode for a fun party game enabling players to compete against their ‘frenemies.’ Opponents can sabotage others’ dates and prevent them from receiving a rose! During each ‘season’ or game, contestants go on a variety of Group Dates and a One-On-One Date to earn hearts. These dates include fun challenges, puzzles and mini-games, which test skills such as memory, speed, observation and precision. At the conclusion of each ‘season,’ players will participate in the rose ceremony, where the Bachelor or Bachelorette must take into account the number of hearts that each competitor gained throughout the dates. Who will receive the Final Rose and who will be eliminated? Stay tuned to find out!”

It almost sounds like it could be a good way to waste two or three minutes, but you'd be better off picking your nose until you start digging away at your brain. These mini-game dates you participate in are so insipid I'm not even sure how to describe them. In one game, you use the Wii remote to trace a picture, in another you put together preschool jigsaw puzzles, then you answer trivia questions based on pixilated images that clear up slowly over time (that was the most infuriating because you can't make out what the pictures are supposed to be, but the computer can and it always ends up winning!), then there's some kind of grid based game that feels like it was taken from a Nokia phone or something, a game where you hold the A button to make a cake or fill up a balloon, and lastly there's a race. The racing game sounds like the most exciting but it's probably more disappointing than anything else. You hold down the A button and basically move a cursor along a path...so again you're tracing. You will ALWAYS play these mini-games during each season, but with a different theme each time. I guess they thought they were changing things up by slapping on a different coat of paint. So, you'll be putting together winter themed puzzles in one season, and then putting together tropical puzzles in the next, and so on. There are things you can do to increase your score like getting hearts that randomly float on the screen, but from what I've seen they don't actually help out in any goddamn way!

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You got a heart! And it's entirely f*cking useless!

To make matters worse, the games are so simplistically retarded that the game itself can't explain them properly for whatever reason. So to make up for this, before each "date" (which has nothing to do with wooing someone), the game explains how the controls work and then gives you the option of playing a practice round to figure it out for yourself. I had to do two practice runs of the grid game because the way it explained it didn't make any f*ckin' sense! AND I ALWAYS had to do practice runs of the trivia games just to find out what the hell the pictures were supposed to be depicting so I could get the answers right in the real thing. It doesn't even try to throw you for a loop between the practice round and the real thing. The pictures you're shown and the questions you're asked are identical! Get it wrong in the practice round and the game will show you what it really was so that you can cheat during the real thing to get it right! It's pretty damn pathetic when the game has to allow you to cheat so you can make progress!

Controls

The entire game uses the remote by itself and only uses the A button. Think of it as the Atari 2600 joystick: you've got one button and, instead of having a control stick, you point the remote at the screen and waggle your dignity away. There was a scene in Despicable Me where Vector, the guy in the orange jumpsuit, is playing a Wii game. He's sprawled out on his couch sipping a soda in one hand and mindlessly waving the Wii remote around in the other and he's winning. This is that type of game.

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No. Just...no. Hey, do you think Nintendo realized that Dreamworks was showing audiences how retardedly easy most Wii games are?

Sound Design

This laughable excuse for dog shit has music so generic that you'd swear it was put together on a Casio keyboard, not even a computer! At least it sounds like one of the GOOD Casio keyboards. Other than that, the only dialogue comes from the douchebag narrator we never see. It also has public domain sound effects that are so horribly lame you'd swear it was made by some kind of internet critic... like me. Except, I probably would've done a much better job by NOT making this game!!!

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That actually explains a lot about this game.

Final Verdict

Oh my god...oh my god... my brain hurts so much. I can't believe I played this. I can't believe this exists! This game is so terrible I wouldn't even recommend it to the person you hate the most! I wouldn't even give this game to a terrorist because it would be the most inhumane form of torture imaginable. If I was forced to choose between playing this game or being murdered by some psychopath, I'd kill myself. This game has NOTHING to do with the shitty show it was based on! It doesn't even have anything to do with bachelors trying to win the heart of some bitch that can't make up her mind! It's just four retards playing generically themed mini-games until another retard decides that one of them is worthy of having their retarded offspring! This thing isn't even a game! It's just an insulting disgrace to the word "videogame"! But it's over! It's finally over! Now I get to play...oh god damn it....

If you wanna see what I'm up to at all times you can follow me on Twitter or add me on Facebook. And if you have any questions, suggestions, or feel like suggesting a horrible you'd like me to play you can email me at vVvZeroLogs@gmail.com!

Zero

Zero Updates

So, it's been a little while since the last update on me and I'm sure people are probably thinking to themselves "Did he finally die of alcohol poisoning?" The answer is "Not yet, but I'm probably well on my way to that." Believe it or not, I've actually been more busy than I ever thought I would be and I haven't had much time to play any shitty games to review. Have no fear, because those terrible games are STILL in my Gamefly queue mocking me every time I open the page.

Speaking of Gamefly I was recently approached by a freelance publishing group to write a short review of their services! And they're going to pay me based on how many views it gets! So, here's the link http://bit.ly/rC5NVH and, if you're curious to try out their services, there's a code at the end of the review to get a free 10 day trial. You don't even have to read the review. Just click the link. Seriously, I need the money.

On a lighter note! Shooting for "The Haunt Hunter" is coming along amazingly! We just wrapped up the pilot episode about two weeks ago and we're anxiously waiting for the editing process to finish so we can see it for ourselves. When it's done we're going to have a small showing of it just for the cast and crew and you can bet I'll bring my camera for the occasion. The special little side project I promised everyone, "The Haunt Hunter Diaries", is going well and I have some pretty funny footage, but I don't have anything recorded with cast and crew on a one-on-one basis yet. That will happen at the showing when everyone is gathered in one place, so the video is coming. You'll just have to wait a little bit longer. Sorry, guys :(

While all of that's been going on, I've actually been busying myself more and more with my personal projects and have recently expanded them. Me and a very good friend of mine (who just happens to be the most talented artist I've ever known) are working together to create a comic combining some of our work and meshing them into a new storyline separate from anything else we've done. She also does commissions, so if you need some eye-catching beautiful artwork done, she's your girl and here's her link: http://bit.ly/sw78oB. She's even been interviewed on IGN http://bit.ly/vVs0Tf.

That's pretty much all I've got for now, but I know you guys like it when I have pictures with funny captions or videos, so here's a very small teaser for my latest video. Enjoy ;)

Remember, if you wanna see what I'm up to at all times you can follow me on Twitter or add me on Facebook. And if you have any questions, suggestions, or have a horrible game you'd like me to play you can email me at vVvZeroLogs@gmail.com!

And for the love of God, please check out that Gamefly review.

Zero

Absent Zero

First of all, I want to thank everyone for reading/watching The Zero Logs and for the feedback you guys have given me. I still find it hard to believe that my bi-weekly reviews and FAIL pieces have gotten so much attention. Thanks to you guys I've grown and developed new skills that I know I never would've learned if it hadn't been for all of you. Just to give you an idea, as of this moment the previous "This Month's FAIL" has had 6000 hits here on vVv and that is an insane number. Nearly triple what the previous post had. So....thank you all so very much.

Secondly, I want to be very clear in case anybdy has any doubts: I am not going anywhere. I'm staying right here on vVv and I'll keep bringing you new reviews and new FAIL's like I've always done. You've probably noticed that I haven't posted anything new since the Capcom FAIL and there's an extremely good reason for that. Even though in the Man vs. Wild sketch I'm not quitting lol! The reason I haven't done anything new is because, believe it or not, I was cast in a new show called The Haunt Hunter and I'm hoping we get picked up by a major network.

Unfortunately, this show and my day job have completely consumed all of the free time I had to play shitty games and get pissed off at stuff. (I seriously don't have time to get pissed off anymore) So, until we finish shooting the first season (which will only consist of five episodes for now) I won't be able to bring you any gaming related videos or articles.

BUT! Because you all have shown that you're interested in my work, I AM going to be bringing you all something very special during the course of filming. I have permission from the director and the producer of the show to bring my camera along for the ride and shoot my own little video diary while onset. So, you guys will be the very first people to get a little peak at our show before it launches. We'll probably be done shooting the whole thing by sometime in November, so I won't be back to my usual routine until then.

Again, thank you all so much for your support and there's definitely more to come, so keeping checking back here for new updates. You can also click the hyperlinks to follow me on Twitter or add me on Facebook to stay up to date with every single little thing I do.

See ya around!

-Josh "vVv Zero" Stiles

Zero

Sorry it took so long to get this done and posted. My workload went from 0 to 800 in a couple of days so it took me forever to set aside enough time to dedicate to this FAIL and I hope everyone likes it as much as the past ones because this time the whole thing is in video! That's right! There is no article to read (except for this)! So, sit back, hit the play button, and enjoy!

So, if you like the new format post a comment saying so. If you hate it and want me to go back to written articles just let me know. Unfortunately, I can't do video reviews yet because I still don't have a capture card, but that's the next step.

And with that if you wanna see what I'm doing next you can follow me on Twitter or add me on Facebook. And if you have any questions, suggestions, or have a horrible game you'd like me to play you can email me at vVvZeroLogs@gmail.com!

Zero

Here I am, yet again. Another month has gone by and, just like last month, I've spent most of my gaming time playing this...thing. If it wasn't for the fact that I offset these terrible pieces of garbage with good games I think I would've gone mentally insane by this point. There are no walls sturdy enough for me to bash my head against that would remove this crap from my memory. I think I should get a lawyer and sue Crave Entertainment and the Discovery Channel for the trauma they've caused me. I'm not sure how much more of these "games" I can take, but here it is: my review of Man Vs. Wild. May God grant me a swift and painless death.

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So, yeah, the winning team that brought us last month's Deadliest Catch 2 have come together once again to bring you Man Vs. Wild the Game. We should consider ourselves so lucky. I suppose they just wanted to cash in on his "popularity" as a real life survival expert despite the fact that he was discovered to be a fraud years ago and was found to have been staying nights at hotels when he was supposed to be in a desert, ate blueberry pancakes for breakfast after eating snakes for dinner, and tamed wild animals that were trained and brought in for him via trailers. Anyway, all those fake struggles for survival meant he was inevitably going to be given his own video game and, just like Deadliest Catch 2, it attempts to go for realism and desecrates that image with ridiculousness. Let's get this over with.

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That's not mud...

Story

When you create a video game based on a boring or fake "reality" show there isn't really any material to work with in order to craft a compelling story. Man Vs. Wild follows in the footsteps of Deadliest Catch and gives you, the player, different chapters in the form of different hellholes. Basically, the game just dumps you somewhere and says "There ya go. Get to the end of the level and we'll do this again." I suppose it's probably best this way, though. These companies have obviously learned from the SNES game Home Improvement based on Tim Allen's sitcom. If you've never played it, here's a brief rundown of one level: Tim Taylor fights dinosaurs. Remember when THAT happened in the show? No? Well, Bear Grylls doesn't fight dinosaurs, but he fights all types of wildlife with his bare hands like snakes and mountain lions. If they really wanted to make this game awesome they should've just gone over the top and have the guy fight and eat a goomba or something.

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This would've been an interesting story! Who eats who first?!?

Graphics

I remember, back in the 7th grade, I used to have a math teacher that graded our papers based on effort as opposed to whether we got the answer right or wrong. As long as you made an attempt to solve the problems the long way and showed your work without using a calculator, you'd get a good grade. Sometimes, depending on the game, I like to use that technique when critiquing a game. In this case, however, I feel the appropriate response would be to vomit all over my keyboard and force the developers to eat it! The 3D character model for Bear Grylls is so bad and creepy looking that it makes me wonder how he felt when he saw it for the first time. His skin looks like he's been decomposing for a while, his movements are very stiff and goofy to watch, and when the model tries to stretch or flex the joints seem to dislocate for a moment before popping back into place. I think using a photo of the man for the game's cover took up a large chunk of the funding which resulted in these piss poor graphics.

Notice how this trailer avoids showing too much of the game's graphics? There's a reason for that...

The environments are just as dull and boring to look at as Bear is. There are moments where you'll come across a cliff overlooking a forest and his voiceover kicks in to say something like "Look at this gorgeous view" or something to that effect. My response every time is something along the lines of "Super Mario 64 had more convincing trees in it" or "It's even more beautiful when I shut my eyes really really hard and start seeing colors and shapes everywhere." I never thought I'd find myself saying that I've seen better looking games on the Wii, but I truly HAVE seen better looking games on the Wii.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ocw1rsXJBgE

I didn't record this footage and that isn't my voice. Just FYI.

Gameplay

Since this is supposed to be a realistic game all about survival, let's have bear Grylls doing ninja flips over large gaps on mountains! Yeah, it happens, and it makes me laugh out loud every time. But you know what, whenever I'm stranded on mountains with no food or water I ALWAYS find myself doing super sweet ninja flips all over the place because that's how you survive in the wild! This is fact. The whole survival things comes down to four different types of gameplay techniques: doing tricks while skydiving (just roll with it), collecting crap, combining items, and quick time events.

The levels start out with Bear jumping out of a plane and doing different tricks while he plummeted towards the ground and this is apparently important for survival because, hey, if mother nature isn't impressed by your EXTREME SPORTS then she will smite your sorry ass of the face of the Earth. You pull off these tricks by memorizing a set of commands that appear on screen and then pressing them in the same order when the game tells you to. There's a bar on the side of the screen that shows you how close you are to certain death on the ground and when you should pull your chute. The worst part of this game is that if you don't unleash your parachute in time the games DOESN'T show you hitting the ground and dying what I would guess to be a pretty horrible way to go. You can't begin to understand how disappointed I was when I realized I'd never visibly see him die. The game immediately became a bore after I learned that sad fact.

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The things you'll be collecting are rocks, sticks, leaves, or whatever else you need to use to survive one particular challenge. Combining items is a kind of subsection of collecting since you'll often be combining things you've collected to make something else you need that triggers a context sensitive area in the game. For example, you need to make a grappling hook in an early part of the game and to do this you need to take a rope from your parachute and combine it with a sharp rock. Exactly how this creates a reliable grappling hook is beyond me, but I suspect a bit of alchemy might be involved. You'll also be collecting what the game calls "spirits of adventure" which look like clouds of piss floating around in the wild and collecting this lighter-than-air urine gives you experience points which increase Bear's stamina... just like in real life!

Quick time events usually come in the form of your epic battle against nature itself. You'll fight all manner of ferocious bloodthirsty beasts like... beavers. Seriously, you get attacked by a beaver at one point and Bear Grylls picks it up and slits its throat. I'm not wildlife expert, but I'm pretty sure beavers aren't particularly dangerous unless you making a living in the I-hate-natural-dams industry. You already know how these quick time events work: press a button at the right time and you avoid injury or death. The funny thing is that it seems like mother nature has something against Bear's dick because every time he falls over on the ground during an attack the animal begins attacking his sack like it somehow offended them.

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Cue the Final Fantasy battle theme...

Bear's survival techniques are both disgusting AND hilarious, though. He's got three bars in the HUD and they represent his stamina, his thirst, and his health. Naturally, to refill stamina you have to eat the animals you go around murdering like snakes and the beavers or by making a crunchy snack out of insects you find living in old logs which ends with Bear throwing up everything he just consumed if you eat poisonous ones. The best and most vomit-inducing survival technique has to be the thirst quencher because one of the ways which he fills that bar goes like this: kill snake, pee in snake corpse, drink piss out of snake's corpse, rejoice. I never in my life thought I'd see a game where you refilled your character's overall health by filling a poisonous corpse with your own urine and then drinking it from the freshly killed snake. Why do you have to piss into a dead snake, Bear? Why can't you just piss straight into your own mouth if you HAVE to drink your own urine? Just get it straight from the tap, you moron!

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Controls

Unlike Deadliest Catch you are actually in control of somebody and yet the game STILL sucks! Running around is pretty easy, but the response time leaves something to be desired. For being a survival expert, Bear Grylls makes really wide turns which can sometimes cause you to run into something you wanted to avoid. Climbing rock faces is pretty easy, but sometimes you'll hit a random unidentifiable spot that he'll just drop from and lose health once he shatters both of his ankles on the ground. Don't worry, incorporating individual body injuries is a tad TOO realistic for this game, so he'll easily brush off a drop like that and resume his awesome ninja flipping while climbing a mountain. The cursor in the minigames is FAR too sensitive and it'll take you a while to get the hang of the whole bug-catching thing since the little reticule flies off at the slightest tilt of the control stick.

Sound Design

Well, they were able to get the real bear Grylls to do the voice work for the game, so that has to count for SOMETHING, right? Well, no not really. In fact, he seems so far removed from the game that I have my doubts that he's ever even seen the damn thing. Any time he speaks it feels more like he's talking out loud to himself and slowly losing his sanity. There should've been a sanity meter just to make things interesting. Nothing he says has any weight to it and it might be safe to assume that the man thought he was stepping into a recording booth to do voice work for an instructional video: Snake Killing and Piss Drinking!

Final Verdict

You honestly don't need me to tell you this game is terrible. If you're a real gamer than you know what you're in for as soon as you read the title. If you're a casual gamer (the type that bought a Wii and got Redneck Jamboree because you thought it'd be a good time and lack taste in good games) then this just might be the best game you'll ever play especially when you consider most of your other choices! I think the most interesting thing about this game has to be its wikipedia page. Really, go look it up and read the description. I think one of the people that worked on that game wrote the information because it gives the game a lot more praise than it actually deserves! Real geo-mapping my ass!!!

And if you wanna see what I'm up to you can follow me on Twitter or add me on Facebook. And if you have any questions, suggestions, or have a horrible game you'd like me to play you can email me at vVvZeroLogs@gmail.com!