Monthly Archives: January 2015

Ms. Marvel More than Satisfies the Hype

When a certain movie, TV show, or in this case, comic book, is hyped up there’s a certain amount of expectation you have for it. Sometimes, the hype can be to such an extent that no matter how good that thing may be, it still is not as good as you hoped it would be.

Ms. Marvel is thankfully not that.

The amount of hype surrounding her release was astonishing during 2015. First, when it was announced that there would be a new Ms. Marvel and she would be played, of all people, a Muslim-American teenager, the amount of press this got was crazy and for good reason too. This would be Marvel’s first Muslim superhero that starred in her own series. As such, this was a pretty big deal.

After the initial release of the revamped Ms. Marvel, a new hype took over the first one as people began to realize that the comic series was actually pretty good! For months, I would hear or see little things here or there, maybe a few pages from her comic or a few responses from people who read the series and it gradually took my interest. It wasn’t until I saw her humorous interaction with Spiderman that I decided I wanted to check her out and see what all the fuss was about.

Let me just say that after buying and reading volume 1, I’m already looking forward to volume 2!

Kamala Khan is climbing fast to be one of my favorite superheroes. She’s likable, she has emotions, she has goals, and she has self-doubt. Both her good and bad traits make her a well-rounded and relatable character. I just like how dorky she is in general. She definitely has a modern vibe about her and that’s pretty relieving actually.  And oh my God is she funny!  She has this attitude about her that’s just so likable!  She’s not grim or depressing, she’s funny and uplifting!  I adore that.

I was wondering about her Muslim identity. How much will that come into play for her story? Thankfully, I was surprised how natural it felt. Her and her family’s religion was treated pretty normally and they could have easily been a Christian or Jewish family. Just because she was Muslim doesn’t mean that’s all she is. She has interests and hobbies such as idolizing her superhero Captain Marvel.

That’s the second thing I like about this comic. It’s very feminine driven. Her idol is a well-respected heroine and there’s not an over reliance of a man to help her out. Instead, she has friends of both sexes to support and give her advice. I kinda like how natural her friends are and how non-hokey or problematic they are. But again, her identity as a woman is just like her identity as a Muslim, it’s there but it does not fully define who she is. She has many parts that make up Kamala.

Also, her fangirling is one of the best parts about this comic.  I don’t know if it’s the way Kamala is interpreting the world or if that’s how the world actually is but random things have an element of cuteness to it like her visions or her fighting that trash monster.  It’s great.

The only problem I have so far is that since I only read volume one I have to go through all the introductions and backstory. Who she is, what her problems are, her powers, her awkward reaction to the powers, her first crime-busting scene, and so forth. It’s very formulaic and has been done many times. A lot of it is necessary but nonetheless you see all these awesome issues covers with her in costume and you’re really hoping she’ll kick butt in this issue but it doesn’t happen. I’m hoping that once I read volume 2 that Ms. Marvel will pick up and continue to carve out its own storyline.

As a final note, whoever Marvel has hired to do marketing for them should get a bonus. Not only was I enthralled with Ms. Marvel, it made me want to learn more about the Marvel Universe such as the Inhumans and Captain Marvel herself. I’m looking forward to her movie and what’s more, I hope they reference, in one form or another, Kamala Khan. Now wouldn’t that be sweet?

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Chrononauts the Board Game should get an Updated Edition!

When some board games begin to show their age or are plagued with problems due to broken gameplay, unreadable rules, or untapped potential, publishers may reprint these board games in a newer edition.  For Chrononauts, it needs an update because of both reasons.

For the unfamiliar, Chrononauts is a board game, produced by Looney Labs, about time travel and alternate histories.  Ah yes, alternate histories, perhaps my favorite subject in science fiction.  What if Nazis won World War 2?  What if Lincoln wasn’t assassinated?  What if the South won the American Civil War?  There is so much potential for great and in-depth stories that can take the reader on a wild ride.

…and in some cases aliens invading Earth during World War 2 (awesome series btw)

Chrononauts is the embodiment of that alternate histories and it does so wonderfully.  Unlike other board games, the board is actually a group of cards aligned up in neat rows and columns.  You have two kinds of cards, lynch pins and ripplepoints.  Lynch pins are important events (say Lincoln gets assassinated) while ripplepoints are events that are affected by them (Andrew Johnson gets impeached).  Reversing the fate of the lynch pins (Lincoln is only wounded) affects the ripplepoints (Lincoln is now impeached instead).  Once you reverse event, the ripplepoint is a paradox that can only be cured by placing a patch on it (they’re the orange cards in the images).  One of the ways you can win the game is to get back to your own timeline as designated by your ID card.

Okay, so why does Chrononauts need an updated edition?

The drawback of a time traveling game is that it can be outdated easily.  This game came out in 2000 so many of the most recent events depicted seem unwarranted.  True, the Waco Siege and John Lennon’s assassination are important events but I wouldn’t place them as truly historical.

This was remedied in 2009 when an expansion was released called the Gore Years (lol, gotta love the name).  Anyway, as you may have guessed, the expansion adds new cards expressing the pivotal moments that happened during the 2000s decades.  Mainly, Gore winning the election instead of Bush, the events of September 11th, and the Afghanistan War.  I don’t know if it’s because these events are more recent but I like these events more so than the 1990s’ ones as they seem more important.  Plus, I just love that outcome if Gore wins the presidency then Palin wins in 2008, haha.

But there’s a problem with this.  Unlike expansions in other board games where they blend naturally with the original game, the Gore Years is simply stapled onto the original game.  Events from the 1800s or 1900s do not affect anything from the 2000s and that seems a bit odd to me…

There’s actually another version of this game called Early American Chrononauts.  This version looks fuuuuuun and I want to play with it.  It adds a lot of awesome events from the 1700s and 1800s of American history such as the Boston Tea Party, the Battle of the Alamo, and the Louisiana Purchase.  But this game is just a standalone game and does not add to the original Chrononauts game.

As such, Chrononauts would do wonders if a second edition came out for it.  This edition can have more historical events that tie all the way back from the late 1700s to the early 2000s.  These events can interweave and drastically affect each other even if they may be a century (or more) apart.  What I’m basically saying is combine the original version with the Gore Year expansion and the Early American Chrononauts to create an expansive timeline.

But wait!  There’s more!

There are two things that Chrononauts does that can be greatly expanded in the second edition.  The first thing Looney Labs can do is add more patches for the same event.  Okay, for example, the 1945 ripplepoint has three different patches.  In the original timeline, the allies with the Second World War.  BUT, one patch has the Nazis conquering Europe, one patch has the U.S. invading Japan (and doesn’t drop the atomic bomb), while the final patch is world peace (no World War 2).  The reason for these diverse events is that the ripplepoint is dependent on three lynchpins instead of the normal one or two.  As such, several events can happen for the same year.  If Looney Labs, created an edition that has more of these multiple ripplepoints for the same year, that would be really cool.

The second thing they can do is have more items that come from specific timelines.  The German Cake is the only item in the game that works as a special action.  However, this can only happen if Germany attends the World Fair with Chocolate Cake (this takes place in 1939, the real event it replaces is the German invasion of Poland).  There should be other special cards as well such as say…an open bottle of champagne celebrating the Titanic’s successful maiden voyage or the autobiography of Davy Crockett.  These items from specific timelines can make the game deeper with more possibilities to exploit.

Mmmmm racist-free caaaaaaake… Image from http://www.wunderland.com/LooneyLabs/Chrononauts/Mysteries.html

Chrononauts is already a fun, engaging, and humorous game that has the potential to be that much better.  With a few modifications, it can achieve a higher status of a more in-depth game that can balance off the chance aspect of its gameplay with strategy while still retaining its original charm.  I hope Looney Labs does come out with another updated edition to this game as that would be awesome.

Also, and on an final, unrelated note, while doing research for this article, I stumbled onto Andrew Looney’s website, the creator of the game, and his explanation of the weird historical events that happen in the game. If you ever wonder why the prevention of the Hindenburg disaster would prevent the Korean War then you should check it out!  http://wunderland.com/LooneyLabs/Chrononauts/Mysteries.html

2014 was Definitely Year of the Rigby

Cartoon Network’s Regular Show is full of hilarious characters that keep the show fresh and fun for every episode. These characters have well defined personalities that are, for the most part, grounded and are immutable from episode to episode. We expect Pops to act as the cheery old man, Muscle Man to prank and love Starla endlessly, and Skips to come up with a reliable solution.

Likewise, Mordecai and Rigby’s personalities were set in stone until 2014 rolled around. For this year, something special happened to them that changed both of them as how we perceive them as characters.

In the episode “New Year’s Kiss,” which premiered on December 31st, 2013, Mordecai’s accidental kiss to CJ culminated to the end-of-the-year disastrous episode “Merry Christmas Mordecai.” In that same episode, Rigby made a promise that 2014 was going to be the “Year of the Rigby.”

Mordecai, Regular Show

Pretty much sums up his entire year. Image from http://imgur.com/Q0gdrm2

To sum it up, yeah! He was right! Rigby was pretty ballin’ in 2014!

For a show such as…er…Regular Show…I was highly surprised, but happy, that Rigby of all characters grew while still retaining his personal identity.

For instance, during the uncomfortable Mordecai and CJ pre-dating episodes, Rigby was the voice of reason for Mordecai. He gave him solid advice to follow mainly that he needed to stop pulling a Mordecai and get over his awkward feelings with CJ! This was most prevalent in the episode “I Like You Hi.” Rigby’s role as a close friend wanting to help Mordecai out seemed natural as well as the information he gave him.

Rigby also matured during his respective year as he became more reliable. He began to take selfless actions to save the people around him at the cost of either his time or sometimes the threat of his life. His new selfless attitude made me realize how much of a dick Mordecai was when he didn’t trust Rigby to do work without him.

In fact, since the beginning of Regular Show, Rigby seemed to be the one that would do work only if Mordecai was doing it as well. He was the hardest to convince to stop being a slacker. Mordecai would many times tell him to do his job and stop being lazy.

Rigby’s slacker attitude finally came back to haunt him in “Lift with Your Back” when he realized nobody could trust him to do an honest day’s work. Understandably angry, his decision to quit the park and work at the moving company was reasonable. His determination to work hard and get that paycheck was both hilarious and tear-inducing (yes, you heard me! TEAR INDUCING). That paycheck he earned was a symbol to his tenacity.

This is still one of the best episodes that premiered this season. Image from http://www.bubbleblabber.com/review-regular-show-lift-with-your-back/

But what caused all of this? What caused Rigby to be selfless and reliable?

The theory that I hear being toss about is that because Mordecai hung out with CJ so much during the year it forced Rigby to find someone else to hang out as well. In this case, he found solitude in Eileen of all characters. Eileen! Rigby didn’t even like Eileen in the beginning of the Show! Sure, over time, his feelings for her have grown to toleration and then to amicable at best but there was never any sort of drive for him to get to know her more.

I think through Eileen’s constant support, such as “Tants” or “One Pull Up,” Rigby found someone who was willing to go the extra mile for him without looking any favors. He grew to like Eileen and as such, when Mordecai started dating CJ more often, he went to her to shoot the breeze. As such, through constant exposure of Eileen’s moral and responsible attitude, Rigby became more mature. She’s a good influence on him.

Good influence or not it would be mean to say that the only reason why Rigby changed was because of Eileen. It wouldn’t do him justice. As much as I like this theory I think it’s more than that. Remember, Rigby was giving Mordecai solid relationship advice that Mordecai would not follow up with. All this happened before he started hanging out with Eileen. He was already becoming a better person without anyone driving him to become one. I believe it was Rigby who wanted to become a better person because that’s what he wanted.

Year of the Rigby will be missed but I know it is not the end of Rigby’s growth. He has grown, admittedly slowly, throughout the course of the show and it really showed during 2014. I’m excited to see what’s in store for Rigby this year and how he’ll be able to flex his responsible muscles. And who knows, maybe this time Rigby will teach Eileen something. Now wouldn’t that be crazy.

Favorite Games I Played in 2014

2014 was the Year of the New for me as I never before had played this many games that were either just released or released within a year that I played them.  This mainly stems from my 3DS which even though I got in October of 2013, I wasn’t able to exploit the games on it until 2014.  Another small boost came in the form of my used Wii U which I bought it and Mario Kart 8 at a decent price.

Even so, I still played many games that were released several years or more ago including quite a few for the DS, one on the PS3 (Arkham City), and one on the Gamecube (Metal Gear Solid: the Twin Snakes).

With this being a noteworthy year for my video games, I will give you my list of the new games I played for the 2014 year along with small awards for the “Best of” for that category.  Here’s the full list of them:

DS: 999: 9 Hours 9 Persons 9 Doors, Professor Layton and the Last Specter, Miles Edgeworth Investigations, Phoenix Wright Trials and Tribulations

Gamecube: Metal Gear Solid: Twin Snakes

PS3: Batman: Arkham City

3DS: Bravely Default, Pokémon ORAS, Fire Emblem Awakening, Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright, Animal Crossing: New Leaf, Pokémon TCG (via Virtual Console), Super Smash Brothers

Wii U: Mario Kart 8, Super Smash Brothers

Most Hyped: Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright

Okay, this was pretty close for me, it was either PLvPW or Super Smash Brothers.  True, I’ve been waiting for Smash Bros longer than PLvPW but I just love the professor and the lawyer so much.  It was very agonizing for me to just sit here in the U.S. seeing Japan get the game…and then Europe get the game…and we don’t!  I was sure it wasn’t going to come…and I was soooooo happy that it finally did.  You see, I knew Super Smash Bros would get to the U.S. eventually but not PLvPW.  But opening up that game and turning it on and hearing that music and seeing that title screen and seeing the characters gloriously animated was quite a treat and would have been hard to top.

Best Multiplayer: Super Smash Brothers (WiiU)
This should be pretty obvious, Mario Kart 8 was super fun and it’s nice to play against your friends on the 3ds version of this game but come on, 8 players!  That just seals the deal for me right there.  Playing with my friends on a variety of controllers with a variety of characters was just simple fun with simple madness.  Can’t be beat.

Best Game to Play with Mary: Animal Crossing: New Leaf

We smashed, we raced, and we played Pokemon together but Animal Crossing is the best game to play with her.  True, I love doing all three of the previously mentioned games with her before but Animal Crossing is different.  We are in a town together with our own homes interacting with our own villagers.  And though we can’t directly interact with each other, our interaction with the town and its quirky villagers makes this a nice gem to play.  Animal Crossing towns do have a vibe of loneliness if you’re the only human player but this is cured if you have other people inhabiting your town, it makes it feel more active.  Plus it makes funding projects that much easier!

Best Story: 999
I played games that had a good story in them whether it was the trials in Phoenix Wright, Snake infiltrating Shadow Moses, or Professor Layton duking it with Phoenix Wright but none took me on the twist and turns of 999.  Perhaps it was because I was not familiar with the series but the game took me on a wild ride and that never stopped (until I failed an ending and had to restart).  I was legitimately creeped out by some of the moments in the game and I regretted playing it while I was in bed.

Special shoutout though has to be done for the story behind PLvsPW as that story took me on an emotional roller coaster with some good twists.  Another special shoutout has to be done for PW: Trials and Tribulations because that final trial was definitely a doozy and remains among the best in Pheonix Wright’s cases that I have done so far.

Unexpected Hit: 999 and Pokemon Trading Card Game
These two are on top of the list for different reasons.  I knew 999 was critically acclaimed but I just didn’t get why until I played the game.  I devoured this game in less than two weeks (normally it takes me at least a month to finish games).  On the other hand, Pokemon Trading Card Game was just so much fun to play.  I first played this game more than ten years ago and I suuuucked at it even with the cheat codes.  My brief dance with the TCG in real life made me learn how to play the TCG and so when I bought it on the Virtual Console it was just too much fun.  Creating your own deck was fun and beating the game (which is hard mine you) was quite rewarding.  I definitely hope Nintendo decides to release an updated version of this game!

Biggest Disappointment: Bravely Default

For all the hype and praise surrounding this game, I was honestly burned out by it.  The amount of grinding I had to do was intense and it just got to me.  I haven’t played the game in awhile but I’ll probably pick it up again later.  The same thing happened for Fire Emblem Awakening (which was fantastic btw) where I got frustrated by it and stopped playing for three months.  I picked it up again, powered through it, found out I loved it, and finished it rather quickly.  I’m hoping BD will be the same thing but I won’t be touching it again for awhile.  I’m still surprised by people’s praise, anyone want to give me their thoughts on this game and why you might have liked it?

Best NPC: Joker from Batman: Arkham City
999 had a host of characters that I enjoyed interacting with.  Most of the characters I originally passed off as Trope characters that had only one particular trait, however, as the game went on, they would continuously surprise me by the things they did, their knowledge, and their history.  Number 7 was one of my favorites.
However, Joker was by far the best NPC.  Mark Hamill was as usual great in his role as the Clown Prince of Crime.  Plus, Joker’s role in the game was a I think better than his main antagonistic role in Arkham Asylum.  His joking personality was at his height here and let’s not forget those hilarious answering machine messages he left for Batman.  Classic Joker.

Best Line Delivery: Twin Snakes

Enough said.

Best Sequel: Pokemon ORAS
I played a lot of sequels during this year of franchises that I love.  A good sequel in my book is one that retains the original charm of the first game while adding new stuff to it that makes it a refreshing experience.  For that, Pokemon ORAS was probably the best sequel of them all.  ORAS not only was a good Hoenn remake but a good step forward in the evolution of Pokemon games.  The sneaking mechanic for Dexnav made catching pokemon a whole new level of fun!  Hidden abilities, special moves only learned normally through breeding, and held items made it fun to find the best pokemon.

Not only that but the map and pokedex features improved a lot making you want to catch odd pokemon even if you didn’t want them in the first place.  The New mega evolutions are great and Hoenn getting a full 3D remake was just amazing.

Best Item(s):  The Brave Weapons from Fire Emblem Awakening
In the Awakening game, weapons matter a lot to you especially for the higher ranked ones as they can give more damage with better bonuses as well.  The brave weapons as such were among the best weapons in the game that I liked to equip my warriors with.  True, they may not be the strongest ones, but they’re among the best weapons to buy and that goes a long way.

Best BossThe Grand Masters from Pokemon Trading Card Game

As said before, defeating the Pokemon TCG was challenging mostly thanks to the Grand Masters.  All of them were packing Legendary cards that I couldn’t access yet.  Getting my butt kicked by Courtney, the first Master, several times made me rethink deck strategies to the point of dismantling them entirely and working from the ground up again.

Ironically, one of my easier battles came from the final battle against Ronald, your rival in the game.  He flat out refused to call back his Zapdos despite the fact that he only had fire and water energy cards.  I chose not to kill him on a gamble that he wouldn’t return him so I just outwaited him.  He ran out of cards before I did and I won.  One of the most hilarious victories I ever had.