Spring Gaming

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Jie Xi, my “create-a-warrior” avatar.

Spring Break this year involved plenty of writing/research but also some much needed gaming. I recently acquire a copy of Dynasty Warriors 8: Empires for PlayStation 3 and I immediately jumped into the new create-a-warrior mode. My customized character’s story is the stuff of Mary Sue fan fiction – a European traveler turned mercenary during the Three Kingdoms Period of ancient China. Along with slaying, on average, about 900 peons per battle, she violates all kinds of historical gender and fashion norms – complete with charmingly anachronistic hipster glasses. I’ve been playing this series for over 10 years and I still enjoy the inevitable and increasingly ridiculous sequels.

As a veteran of the Dynasty Warriors series, it’s refreshing to play Empires mode with a customized character in a fairly open-ended narrative after playing the same story several times with the same cast of characters across the core games and the spin-offs. I haven’t actually played the core version of Dynasty Warriors 8 or Xtreme Legends – but honestly? I don’t feel like I have to because I’ve “been there, done that” since Dynasty Warriors 3. The last core Dynasty Warriors game that I played was DW7 and prior to playing DW8:E, I also tried DW4:E and DW6:E. I loved DW4:E but DW6 was lacking. I don’t think I ever finished it (thankfully, it was gift). Surprisingly, Dynasty Warriors 8: Empires feels the most tactical the series has in a long time… perhaps, ever.

I particularly like that musou attacks are more varied, requiring different combinations of buttons to perform variations of the flashy but fatal attack. Evidently, Dynasty Warriors 8 took the best additions from all of the sequels and crammed them into one installment. Rage attacks from DW5; tomes a la DW6 are now strategems; and EX attacks from the seventh installment also return. Overall, the combat feels more dynamic then ever. I don’t think I want to play every single game in this series – but it’s certainly nostalgic returning to the Three Kingdoms era once again.

Even if I don’t understand why every one is praising me in Japanese.

Tonight’s Reading is A New Beginning

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Testing the WordPress app for Android and sharing my nightly reading: The Walking Dead Vol. 22 A New Beginning… because who doesn’t love zombie-filled emotional roller coasters before bedtime?

Edit: The WordPress app is kind of slow/buggy if you make changes to the post format…

Rise of the Timed Exclusive: Why a Deal with Microsoft is Unfair for Tomb Raider Fans

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Photo: GameSpot

I think I get how the video game industry works: 1) Develop an amazing video game that’s widely available on all consoles and PC; 2) Ensure that said game builds a loyal player base; 3) Sell millions of copies; 4) Plan the inevitable sequel; 5) Secure a sequel deal with the publisher that offers the most $$$; 6) Agree to exclusively distribute the sequel on the publisher’s console; 7) Potentially alienate about half of the loyal player base; 8) … Profit!

The sequel to 2013’s Tomb Raider reboot may be one of the the worst examples of scummy backroom console exclusivity-deals. Several game journalism outlets have discussed that Rise of the Tomb Raider will release exclusively on Xbox 360 and Xbox One for an undisclosed period of time later this year. What I haven’t seen discussed is how this deal is simply unfair for Tomb Raider fans who play the games on PlayStation consoles and PC. In case any gamer needs reminding, the 1996 debut of Lara Croft arrived as a multi-platform release on DOS, PlayStation, and Saturn systems.

What irks me about this unfair deal is that it’s not supported by much logic. Sure, I’ve heard the news that Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End is also rumored to release later this year and that this last entry of Nathan Drake’s saga risks competing with the sequel to Lara’s re-imagining. Frankly? That’s bull. The genre of both of these games may be similar but they also have the same fan bases – Nathan’s fans are not going to not buy Lara’s game just because the titles are released in the same fiscal quarter. If anything, the original Tomb Raider series inspired Uncharted which in turn influenced the TR reboot; they practically advertise each other!

If my argument hasn’t convinced you yet – here’s the evidence that’s the real linchpin of this whole debacle. Tomb Raider sold far, far better on PlayStation systems than on Xbox consoles – and that includes the PS3 version as well as the ‘Definitive Edition’ on PS4. But don’t take my word for it; VGChartz.com has the numbers to prove it.

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The Xbox version of TR ranked 35th best-selling game of the year on the 2013 global video game sales chart: http://www.vgchartz.com/yearly/2013/Global/

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The PS3 version of TR ranked 21st best-selling game of the year on the 2013 global video game sales chart: http://www.vgchartz.com/yearly/2013/Global/

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The PS4 version of TR: Definitive Edition ranked 98th best-selling game of the year on the 2014 global video game sales chart: http://www.vgchartz.com/yearly/2014/Global/; the Xbox One version did not break the top 100 sales of 2014 global video game sales chart

I’m not “whining” about this particular timed exclusive deal just because I played the 2013 Tomb Raider on my PC. I’m thinking about all of the loyal Lara Croft fans who own PS3s, PS4s, and PCs who will have to wait longer than Xbox gamers to play the sequel. Personally? I won’t have the money – or time – to play the game when it launches Holiday Season 2015. Heck, I’ll be lucky if I have a chance to play it to completion by Holiday Season 2016. This little rant is for all the fans who are dying to play Rise but won’t be able to – not due to a shortage of money or time – but because they don’t own the right console.

The VGChartz.com sales data is the cold hard facts, ladies and gentlemen, why the timed exclusive release of Rise of the Tomb Raider on Xbox consoles is unfair to the most loyal and dedicated Lara Croft fans. PlayStation gamers were a huge reason why the Tomb Raider reboot was the massive success that it was – to give them the sloppy seconds is simply unfair and unjustified.

4 Characters in “The Walking Dead” Who are Arguably Better in the Comics

I love The Walking Dead. Correction, I love AMC’s, Image Comic’s, and Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead; it’s one of my favorite transmedia franchises. I actually read the first volume of the comics before season one aired on AMC in October of 2010. However, I didn’t continue with the comic books until August of 2014 – currently, I’ve completed the series up to Vol. 18, or issue #108.

Every reader of The Walking Dead comic series knows that the plot of AMC’s television adaptation diverges in its own unique, and sometimes surprising, ways. It is also sometimes strange, or even frustrating, when certain characters in the comics are radically transformed on the screen to fulfill new roles, personalities, and tropes. Sometimes, yes, it’s a positive change; Carol is the best-case scenario when I think of characters in the show who are far more interesting and dynamic than their comic book counterparts. If Carol had a different name in the comics, you’d never recognize her as the same character from the TV show; her personality and development are just that different in the comic book and TV plotline. However, for every Carol, there are characters who fare less favorably – they are, unfortunately, poorly developed and pale in comparison to their comic book equivalent. Below, I list four characters from The Walking Dead TV show who I believe are actually more interesting and better developed in the comic books.

*** COMIC SPOILERS BELOW – READ AT OWN RISK ***

 

4. Dale

Dale during the “tainted meat” incident in the comic book. The role was fulfilled by AMC exclusive character Bob on the TV show.

Oh, Dale… your tragic death arrived much too quickly on AMC’s adaptation. Unknown to the casual Walking Deadite, you lived a slightly fuller life in the comic series. That’s right: you survived a leg amputation after a walker took a chunk of meat out of your calf while scouting for much needed fuel to run the prison’s power generator; you outmaneuvered the Governor to protect Andrea, Sophia, Glenn, and Maggie when Rick Grimes vowed to stay and defend the prison; you fought and searched to give Andrea a better life… in short, Dale was a badass who took charge when Rick’s stability deteriorated after Lori’s death. Unfortunately, the TV show’s characterization of Dale was more like a parody of his comic book counterpart: overly concerned and bothersome towards Andrea, his relationship to her is a strong foil to their actualized romance in the comics. To his credit, AMC Dale convinced Andrea from committing suicide at the CDC facility and he did offer other characters valuable advice – comparatively speaking, however, comic book Dale is easily superior.

3. Carl Grimes

Carl Grimes: Shot twice, but still alive and kicking arse.

Oh my gosh – think what you want about TV Carl but his comic book character develops phenomenally. He is, in my opinion, the biggest badass in the comics. He’s only like eleven but he has more bravery and guts than most people twice his age. Yeah, the TV characterization is pretty tough for a kid, I’ll admit, but comparing him to comic book Carl is like… well, let me explain. For example, comic book Carl straight up shoots and kills Shane. You may be thinking, “but wait, didn’t that happen in the TV show?” Not quite. You see, Carl “kills” the revived zombie Shane after Rick guns him down in self-defense. In the comic, Carl shoots a very-much-still-human Shane after he threatens his father. Furthermore, Carl becomes judge, jury, and executioner after a child named Ben kills his own twin brother, Billy. After the adult members of the group hesitate to take action, Carl covertly assassinates Ben in the middle of the night to ensure that he won’t harm the lives of anyone else in the group. Additionally, when the adults are too frightened to take action against a major villain named Negan – including Carl’s father, Rick, who develops a long-term plan – Carl hides, all by himself, in the back of an enemy vehicle with an assault rifle to attempt the assassination. If that doesn’t take you-know-what than I don’t know what does. My biggest hope is that the TV show will go on to do him justice.

 Attention TV Rick: Comic book fans everywhere are waiting for the episode where you manically scream this at the top of your lungs.


Attention TV Rick: Comic book fans everywhere are waiting for the episode where you manically scream this at the top of your lungs.

2. Rick Grimes

I loved Rick Grimes the moment I read the first issue. He has many character traits that I admire. He perseveres in the face of adversity; doesn’t hesitate or waiver when faced with difficult decisions; and, the icing-on-the-cake: protective of the ones he loves. I don’t know what it is exactly about TV Rick, but I don’t always find him as compelling. Frankly, sometimes he’s a bit of a bore when I think about his comic book counterpart. Part of my thinking may be attributed to the fact that, comparatively, TV Rick actually has life a little easier than comic book Rick (at least, so far). I know, that might be hard to believe, but let me put it this way: Rick lost his right hand to the Governor. No, I don’t mean his right hand “man;” Rick actually had his right hand chopped off by the Governor in the comic books. Understandably, AMC may have decided to censor this particularly graphic and violent scene by removing the TV plot line (or it may simply be the case that it would be a technological nuisance to conceal actor Andrew Lincon’s right hand and replace it with a computer-generated stump in every episode?). Furthermore, you know his precious baby girl Judith? She also died at the prison along with Lori. Suddenly, TV Rick doesn’t seem to have it so bad – and comic book Rick is all the more unpredictable and badass for his hardships. Every trial and struggle shapes him into the leader that he becomes – someone who still makes many mistakes, mind you – but also someone who has learned from many painful experiences.

1. Andrea

Comic book Andrea is useful, unlike her TV show counterpart.

Andrea, Andrea, Andrea… where did AMC go wrong? How could they go so terribly wrong? I sympathize with you, I really do, but you made some really terrible choices, even stupid ones, on the TV show. In the comic books, I simply love you, and I think the TV fandom deserves to know just how awesome you are in the comics. When I say “awesome” what I really  mean is “the very best character.” Let me tell you why: Andrea survives a knife fight with a murderous criminal who sneak-attacks her in the prison; she goes on to be the best sniper in the entire group; she forges a loving and loyal bond with Dale until he tragically passes away; she returns to the prison to snipe the Woodbury army after her and Dale take the children in the group to safety; and importantly, she remains strong, stable, and level-headed through it all. In contrast, AMC Andrea shares the blonde hair and the marksmanship skills; beyond that, not much else. On the TV show, she’s often ambivalent whether she lives or dies; is attracted to horrible, evil men; and has difficulty making smart decisions when presented with simple solutions to her problems (why you no kill Governor, Andrea?). Comic Andrea is fiery and true to her convictions – when there are conflicts with her romantic interest, Rick (after Dale), she demands the truth – and only resolves to stay with him once he confides in her the true intentions of his plan. Also, Andrea has a few facial scars – the testaments of her badassery.

Wanted: Generically good-looking brunette male to rescue a damsel in distress.

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I recently consulted Google for images of Bioshock Infinite and this fan-made wallpaper appeared on the results page. You know, many female video game characters get a lot of beef for being attractive in very similar ways, but I suppose the same argument might be mounted against male protagonists if Uncharted’s Nathan Drake is similar-looking enough to be confused with Bioshock’s Booker DeWitt. Somehow, I don’t get the impression that this wallpaper is promoting crossover DLC or someone’s fanfiction…

Whosoever holds this hammer, if she be worthy…

I’ve never redeemed any of my GameStop PowerUp Reward Points. Until about two weeks ago. I don’t have a Pro membership, and my game purchases are sporadic at best. I’ve never really kept track of how much I was earning. So, when I got an email from GameStop suggesting that I redeem my 7,500 (or so) points, I took them up on the offer (before I forgot about them again). I browsed the website for a few minutes until I saw, what I think, was the best piece of merchandise available at the cost of my humble accumulation of points.

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A mini-review of the product: It’s well made, quite sturdy, and even has a bit of heft to it (for a key chain). It’s pretty solid, and I wouldn’t worry about it breaking if I were to drop my keys onto the pavement. The hammer itself it quite detailed, with little Norse iconography engraved on the edges and a small piece of leather string tied to the handle. I also like that I have the option of using the key-ring or the clip.

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So, I might be more than a little enthusiastic about this here key chain, but I remember seeing this product a couple years ago at Hot Topic. I couldn’t warrant the purchase of a key chain for approximately $4. It seems my patience/loyalty for GameStop was rewarded, in the end. Perhaps I discover something here? GameStop PowerUp Rewards: Where outdated Hot Topic merchandise is re-branded as prizes.