20 Years of Pokemon Red & Blue

This past February marked the 20th anniversary of Pokemon Red and Blue releasing and Nintendo honored this glorious event by re-release Pokemon Red, Blue, & Yellow on 3DS’s Virtual Console. Some of the staff have been playing, while others have been enjoying the reemergence of Pokemon, like the upcoming Pokemon Sun and Moon announcement, along with oncoming releases of Pokken Tournament and Pokemon Go! We’re all just excited to see the rise of Pokemon on different platforms and are excited to share our thoughts on one of the most iconic video game franchises.

From the original game, what part hooked you the most?

Alex: I liked the journey of venturing around and being the best. The silent trainer let his training do the talking; beating a gym would allow you to have your name engraved right in front, you filled up the pokedex, and your reward for defeating tough opponents and pokemon gave you relevant and key rewards. The sense of accomplishment from dismantling a huge crime organization and beating everyone to be the best was rewarding to no end.

 

Willy:Definitely the joys of challenging all the gym leaders. Since all the gym leaders were based off one pokemon type, it was always fun to go out and find a specific Pokemon to counter that gym leader. I had the most trouble with Brock and Misty since I picked Charmander but then I learned about the power of Butterfree. Since then, Butterfree has become one of my first picks every time I started the game over (since Beedrill sucks). Butterfree using Confusion was my jam, carrying me places I never knew about.

Yeksson: It had to be the theme music. I was immediately hooked when I first faced Brock in Pewter City. I remember always saving before the Gym Leader battle and turning up the volume to hear that awesome theme. It’s the closest I felt to being Ash from the anime. In a sense I was turning my cap backwards and about to throw down!

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What was your team back in the day and with another shot at the game, what would your Hall of Fame team look like?

Alex: Way back when, I picked up Pokemon Blue and since my brother got Charizard, I had Blastoise on my final roster. Alongside the big turtle was Venomoth, Flareon, Hitmonchan, Omastar, and Zapdos! I mostly picked Pokemon that looked cool, and I think my new team will do some of the same. As I’m playing through the game again, my final team will probably consist of Charizard, Nidoking, Pigeot, Gyrados, Alakazam, and Jolteon.

 

Willy:I don’t remember too much about my starting team but I know it had Charizard, Pigeot, and Gyrados for sure. As for my new team, I’d definitely run three Eevees and Vaporeon, Jolteon, and Flareon. I’d name the Eevees Glaceon(<3), Espeon, and Umbreon since they didn’t exist at the time.

Yeksson: I started off with Red and remember picking Charmander because he looked the closest. Every play through had at least Pidgeot and Charizard. I liked to mix in Gyarados, Jolteon, Aerodactyl, Nidoking, Arcanine, Dragonite, Zapdos, Articuno and Mewtwo.

What is your favorite moment of the original games?

Alex: Anytime I beat Blue when I was completely taken off guard (Rt. 22, Cerulean City, SS Anne), I was so proud and glad to shove his bragging back down his throat.

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Willy: Abusing Missingno and going mad with power, harvesting rare candies for the rest of my life. Occasionally evolving the Missingno into a Kangaskhan that knew sky attack was hilarious.

Yeksson: Beating the Elite Four and Blue for the first time. Lance’s strongest Pokémon was a level 62 Dragonite whereas Blue had a level 65 fully evolved starter that countered your original in-game pick.

Pokemon Yellow was a follow-up game made to capitalize on the anime and overall Pokemania. Mainly featuring a Pikachu that follows you and a quest that resembles Ash’s from the show, what aspect from the anime would you have loved to have in the game?

Alex: Dodging. Anytime a Pokemon was able to dodge, I was so jealous. Still waiting when that type of move (similar to a Defend command) can be incorporated into a main franchise game.

Willy:I would’ve loved to see more Team Rocket trolling you around. Constant attempts of snatching my Pikachu would’ve made for an enjoyable experience. AND IF THEY PUT IN MEOWTH’s LOVE STORY. OH MY GOODNESS, GREATEST LOVE STORY EVER TOLD. HE LEARNED ENGLISH FOR HER!!!

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Yeksson: Being able to use more than 4 moves. I always found it phony that Ash also made up some moves. For example, using water gun, powered by a Thunderbolt.

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2014’s Twitch Plays Pokemon event was a fantastically bizarre experiment where countless Twitch users controlled one trainer in an emulated Pokemon Red game. Of the countless memes, which are your favorite?

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Alex: The religious connotations that came with the game’s play through were hilarious. Praise Helix and the False Prophet Flareon always crack me up.

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Willy:I didn’t dabble too much in the twitch plays Pokemon era so I wouldn’t know. I only heard stories.

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Yeksson: Bird Jesus, the Messiah.

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Most importantly, what’s your favorite Pokemon from the original 151 and why?

Alex: Eevee. I always thought his potential for growth was great and continues to expand.

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Willy:Probably Pikachu with Vaporeon being an extremely close second. But I mean Pikachuwilly sounds so much better than Vaporeonwilly. How unfortunate indeed.

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Yeksson: Jolteon. I remember having a first edition Jolteon card and seeing the move Pin Missile. As I kid I was like “that’s so cool! I want one!”

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Video Game Retrospective: Earthbound

Super Smash Bros, as a series, celebrated Nintendo’s rich history of great games and characters will always be cherished for honoring our beloved heroes and shining a light on new ones. In 1999, I played the first entry in the series and loved seeing Kirby, Link, Pikachu, and Samus battle it out. But did I know who Captain Falcon and Ness were when I unlocked them? No. Looking up Earthbound on the internet at the time, it was hard to find a new copy, let alone a good used one, as Earthbound included a player guide in its original box.

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Fast-forward to July 2013 when the game was rereleased on the Wii U’s Virtual Console. With no expectations of than the game is an RPG, I’m a complete blank slate when I jump into this game. Well, as they say in the business:

Here We Go!
Here We Go!

I Can’t Stop Laughing

With any RPG, there’s bound to be heaps of dialogue. While this is expected, the humor completely took me off guard, as Earthbound’s timeless characters had me laughing time and time again.

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Bizarre, self-referential, timely, and sometimes informative just to add detail, every character has a set of dialogue that makes talking to NPCs (non-playable characters) worthwhile. On top of that, there are plenty of occasions where the thing you run into are simply bizarre. Some of Ness’s enemies are random people, stray animals, and inanimate objects come to life. One of Ness’s early adventures leads him to a town corrupted by a cult leader that makes everything blue.

 

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LET’S FIGHT!

In the overworld, you travel mostly on foot and fight enemies as they approach you. Depending on if you surprise them or they run behind you and get the jump on you, you receive various advantages and disadvantages. Actual battle will remind players of Dragon Quest, in which you view enemies up front, but do not view your own party members.

Screenshot from Dragon Quest VIII
Screenshot from Dragon Quest VIII
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Typical Battle in Earthbound

Earthbound’s battles aren’t terribly complicated or complex, but the enemies, moves, and items are creatively original. Using ordinary items, status ailments that are seemingly reasonable, and increasing stats that are simple to understand, the game is increasingly approachable in comparison to more fantastical and classically inspired RPGs that precede it. You use items like bats, toys, household items, and outside of the telekinetic powers, your party consists of ordinary kids doing the extraordinary. The primary thing about this RPG is the level of difficulty. Enemies hit hard, drain your magic, and make you use items. There’s no holding back and any seemingly harmless battle can become your last. Oftentimes, enemies call in backup or attacks miss and the odds can seem unfavorable. The wins outlast the loses however; when you are high level and encounter enemies that are lower, you instantly defeat them without having to battle. It’s incredibly satisfying, especially if those enemies used to take you down with ease before.

I’m still a bit early on in the game, but I’m surprised at the big and little moments in the game. Ness’s whole family being a part of the game (his dad is hilarious to talk with via telephone), traveling from different cities by tour bus, and interacting with all sorts of strange characters. The charm of the game never ceases to go hand in hand with the serious difficulty, always keeping me on my toes.

The game is the Wii U’s virtual console, or if you can find it, also on the Super Nintendo. If you’ve ever wanted to jump into the world of Earthbound, let us know your experiences with the game in the comments below, or via our Facebook and Twitter pages!

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Video Game Retrospective – Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask

Taking another crack at a Zelda game is both an absolute joy and a trial in frustration. On the one hand, playing through a near perfect franchise with more creativity and innovation is incredibly rewarding. It can also be a pain being unable to remember puzzles, side-quests, and enemy patterns that were solved in the past, as the game continues to engage and taunt you whenever possible. A game that has had the pleasure of challenging me at every turn is Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3DS.

Making the Familiar Unfamiliar

When most people hear Legend of Zelda, they think of a few things: the guy in green (Link, not Zelda), the princess (actually Zelda), Ganon/Ganondorf (the big baddie), dungeons, puzzles, magic, and great story. While Majora’s Mask is the fifth canonical entry in the series, it is by far one of the most unique. One can say its reuse of the famous Ocarina of Time engine, graphics, and enemies can be considered a shortcut, but I argue that the time saved one those elements allowed the development team to create one heck of an emotional story. There’s 4 main dungeons (6 in total, as opposed to Ocarina of Time’s 10+), there’s a 3-day timer to stop the end of the world, and there are transformations that take the place of most of the major weapons, and a major focus on sidequests. You can run through the game pretty quickly by just going through the four dungeons to the final boss, but the true ending lies in the world of Termina.

Link: Hero Of The People

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Termina is filled with despair, as if Termina wasn’t explicit enough. As the world watches a giant moon closing in on the land, many of the citizens of the land are trying to make their final restitutions. For the three days that Link is in Termina, he has to save the lives of these strangers. But how do you help a whole world? Fortunately, as a sequel to Ocarina of Time, Link still has the titular instrument that allows him to travel through time. Before the moon strikes the world in 3 days, Link can travel back to the first days. All of the problems Link solved are recorded in a notebook and he is rewarded with a mask to commemorate the event. By collecting all the masks, Link finds the truth behind the evil mask.

The World of Despair Paints a Colorful Portrait

The world is definitely discouraging, but there are beautiful stories everywhere. Link doesn’t speak, but his actions give life to every character he encounters. The masks, the characters, the art; the game, especially the remastered 3DS version, successfully translate official artwork to gameplay.

 

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While I can’t give away too much, I absolutely adore this game. For all of its emotion, innovation, and cast, the game remains one of my favorites in not only the Legend of Zelda series, but of all time. For that, here is a few pieces of artwork inspired by the game.

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The game is available on the Nintendo 3DS, but the original version was rereleased on the Nintendo Gamecube and the Wii’s virtual console. If you’ve loved every moment of Majora’s Mask troubling and inspiring story, let us know your experiences with the game in the comments below, or via our Facebook and Twitter pages!

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Video Game Retrospective – The Uncharted Series

With the Playstation 4’s upcoming big release of  NaughtyDog’s Uncharted 4 (March 18, 2016 for now), I’ve been running through the Uncharted series on the Nathan Drake Collection. Weirdly enough, I played NaughtyDog’s The Last of Us before I touched Uncharted and seeing how the progression of Uncharted lent itself to the development of The Last of Us is incredibly satisfying.

Jump and Climb and Shoot and Jump

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If you’ve never heard of this series, Uncharted is an action/adventures game that follow the exploits of Nathan Drake as he fights off people in hunt of the same treasure he’s after. I think action/adventure genre truly needed a game series like Uncharted to truly blend the two together in a seamless fashion. On the one hand, you follow Nathan’s adventures of shooting bad guys, exploring, running through action sequences, and solving puzzles. On the other, you’re taken away on a larger than life expedition as you uncover mystery upon mystery. Scaling mountains, having a clear-cut goal, and switching between a few guns, less is more with Uncharted‘s gameplay. Sure, no powers or anything fancy takes you away from the realm of fantasy, but Nate’s resourcefulness knows no bounds. Drake takes notes on anything he finds useful, notes behavioral tendencies, and can sneak as well as he can brawl.

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Nathan Drake: Our Hero in Shambles

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Nathan Drake: adventurer, charmer, and descendant of Sir Francis Drake. Nate takes the best parts of Indiana Jones and gives him an everyman level of appeal, naivety, and luck. Drake just makes the jumps he takes, his aim is not perfect even if yours is, and he often keeps going after treasure after running into misfortune again and again. However, he’s more than capable of handling himself in the diciest of situations.

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Movie Magic in A Game

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Visually, the Uncharted series is just a sight to behold. The games take you on the rollercoaster that is Nathan Drake’s adventures and it’s hard to stop once you get started. The quality and direction of the voice acting brings every single character to life, the environments are a joy to traverse, even if some pass you by quickly, and the story is linear enough for anyone to enjoy. The games are each based on an ancient mystery that Nathan is trying to uncover, and everyone he brings along for the ride is a lucky guest into the crazy world, rich with history, culture, and enough intrigue to keep you guessing.

Above all, when I’m playing any Uncharted game, it’s great to be in charge. The game feels so naturally fluid and the action is so visceral, truly engrossing me as a player and as a person enjoying entertainment. While I’m not one for replaying, it feels more like rewatching your favorite movie and earning every beautifully crafted scene.

I could not be more excited for the upcoming Uncharted 4, which will be the final installment of the series. While I am sad that this series will be ending, I can’t wait to experience what the new title is offering so far.

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The whole series is available on the Playstation 3 individually and as the Nathan Drake Collection on Playstation 4. If you’ve loved every moment of this movie-inspired epic, let us know your experiences with Uncharted in the comments below, or via our Facebook and Twitter pages!

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Video Game Retrospective – Super Mario RPG

There are countless games in the Mario Universe, but in my mind, there is one game that sticks with me the most; Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars. One of the last games on the Super Nintendo, Super Mario RPG was a one of a kind collaboration between Nintendo and Square Soft (now Square Enix) that took Mario in a direction never though possible. From today’s point of view, it seems logical that Mario can fit into any genre in the realm of video games; Mario’s venture into the role-playing realm inspired a new franchise all of its own and has continued to contribute to the beautiful library Nintendo boasts.

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The Mushroom Kingdom’s new look.

Dismantle and Reassemble

The game takes great inspiration from the Final Fantasy series (which, at the time, had been Nintendo’s exclusive franchise with six game releases in Japan) and mixes Super Mario elements. The game shakes things up right off the bat: Mario sets off to Bowser’s castle rescue Princess Peach. As you approach Bowser, the stakes pick up as they would whenever Mario and Bowser face off. Right when Mario is about to defeat Bowser, a castle quakes, sending Mario, Peach, and Bowser in drastically separate directions. Mario leaves the castle to a giant sword (with a face) descended into the castle. The following two images are a testament to the game’s humor. Using Mario’s role as a silent protagonist, he acts out what happened at the castle to the chancellor of the Mushroom Kingdom.

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Afterward, Mario sets off to find Peach, gathering new teammates along the way. He finds a boy named Mallow, who is a citizen of Cloud City who believes he is a tadpole. The two later meet a doll named Geno who comes to life to join Mario and defend the star spirits. Along Mario’s quest to find Peach, he discovers the sword is from King Smithy, who comes from an alternate universe wishing to seize control of Mario’s world. The story ventures into so many different directions, but it all plays out in one beautiful epic. Further into the quest, you discover Bowser in isolation, who is saddened because his troops left him for Smithy. Wishing for revenge, Bowser and Mario join forces to take down Smithy. We find Peach being betrothed to a madman named Booster, and as we rescue her, she decides to take a more direct approach to change in her kingdom and joins your party as well. These dynamic changes to the Mario formula are a refreshing turn of events; having such pivotal main characters be playable together, alongside enigmatic and original characters such as Geno and Mallow, make every part of your team have both an emotional investment and a diverse party.

Action: Play Mario RPG. Reaction: Hilarity Ensues

If you ask any person who has played Mario RPGs, ranging from this game to the Paper Mario series and Mario and Luigi series, they will all note one thing in common: the games are hilarious. Mario RPG coupled great inspiration and comedic timing to make the game enjoyable for all ages. Whether you find easter eggs, pop culture references, slapstick humor, or just silly animations, the game keeps a genuine smile on your face to distract you from how difficult this game can be.

Pop culture reference: The Power Rangers as a boss battle.
Pop culture reference: The Power Rangers as a boss battle.
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Nintendo heroes hang out in each other’s cribs and have sleepovers.
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Bowser crying. This happens a lot.
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Bruce Lee is somewhere in the Mario universe. Hallelujah.

New Tricks for an Old Plumber

Super Mario platforming requires precision, focus, and the right amount of bravery, while Final Fantasy battles are known for having a player assemble a balanced party and work together to prepare for battle. Super Mario RPG blends these two world in a large melting pot of video game greatness. Overworld interaction is heavy in platforming, with diverse environments and menacing hazards impeding your travel. In towns and around people, you need to talk to the townsfolk as you would in an RPG, because even Mario doesn’t know everything. Battles can be initiated by jumping on enemies, giving you an advantage. Once you’re in battle, you take turns like in normal RPGs. When you attack, or are attacked, you can time key moments before you take/deal damage to increase the effectiveness of your move.The game shows steady progress of the whole party and each member is equally useful and powerful. Lastly, items, enemies, environments, and weapons homage to both universes.

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Hitting a red shell into a Donkey Kong looking baddie.
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Geno using one of his most powerful special attacks.
Bowser summoning a large Mechakoopa.
Bowser summoning a large Mechakoopa.

The game is rich with surprises and brings joy to those both familiar with these franchises and ones who are just learning what treasures the Super Nintendo had to offer.

The game is now available through the eShop, so make sure to pick up this title whenever you’re looking to redefine what that mustachioed plumber is all about. If you’ve loved every moment of this epic action-rpg, let us know your experiences with Super Mario RPG in the comments below, or via our Facebook and Twitter pages!

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Video Game Retrospective – Meteos

Aside from the Nintendo 3DS, handheld games are almost synonymous with mobile devices. However, gamers who have the incredible time playing with a Nintendo DS had the opportunity to play one of the biggest surprises in puzzle gaming: Meteos. Here’s the introduction for this amazing title.

This puzzle game features a simple but unique story, innovative game mechanics, beautiful design, and a usefulness for every action in the game. The premise is that a sentient planet is launching meteors at other planets, destroying them on impact. One fortunate planet survives the onslaught when three meteors collide together, sending them upward. Discovering this newfound phenomenon, other planets hear the discovery and fuse meteors together, sending the oncoming asteroids back into space and use this innovation to fight back against the sentient planet.

This translates to what you do in-game. Matches are against opposing planets and you play to launch your meteors to the opposing planet. You are given the touch screen of the Nintendo DS to do all the work . You are given colored tiles to start and more come as the game goes on; with your movement limited to sliding meteors vertically, you make sets of meteors and they fly back into space. These launching meteors carry everything on top of them but also may run out of fuel on their way up, so you must launch more meteors midair. It seems simple, and takes cues from Bejeweled and Tetris, but once you start playing, the action and multiple elements to keep track of make this one incredibly distinct. Check out a clip of some gameplay from the single player campaign below.

As you watch the video, you notice the music changes depending on how well you’re doing and what combinations of meteos you’ve been able to assemble. The characters dance as you succeed and worry as you fail. What is exciting is that the campaign leads to unlocked planets that you can assign as your home. As you play through the campaign, you realize each planet has its own gravity, frequency of dropping different elements (colored tiles), symbols, and music. Each tile represents an element in the galaxy and as you send them up into space, you earn points for sending them. You can use these points to buy tools to help your game, new planets, music, and more! There’s no DLC shortcuts, so you learn to play through each planet, mastering new levels of difficulty and working through the unfamiliar. There’s always a clock ticking, a challenger approaching, and multiple things that go through your mind as you simply move tiles. The game also features challenge modes and multiplayer play, but sadly no online, which is the biggest heartbreak considering the Nintendo DS online system was to go up a few months after the game released.

I’ve loved Meteos since I first saw the game and place it above Tetris, Puzzle Quest, and many popular puzzlers because of how engaging, colorful, and deep this game is. If you find it at a local gamestop or online, scoop it up. I hope Nintendo will rerelease it through the eShop so that people will find the game, now 10 years old, that changed my outlook on giving new genres a try.

Were you fortunate enough to try out this game when it dropped in 05? Let us know your experiences with Meteos in the comments below, or via our Facebook and Twitter pages!

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Retrospective: Akira

We don’t get too much spotlight on anime here at Nerdswole, but with such great features and some Dragon Ball news here and there, it’s about time we shed spotlight on one of the greatest animes of them all:

Akira

 

If you’ve never heard of Akira, the general premise is that there was an explosion of a nuclear weapon in Tokyo in 1988. This started World War III. Fast forward to 2019: we are now in Neo-Tokyo, a city built upon a landfill and completely transformed into a shining city with shadowy corners of corruption and desperation. The movie follows two friends, Tetsuo and Kaneda, as they find themselves in the middle of a conflict that was the basis for the war; psychokinetic power. There is plenty going on in this epic film, but it all begins from an even bigger manga.

Translating Manga to Animation

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One of the most defining characteristics of Akira is the jaw-dropping detail that goes into every scene. There were no corners cut here; just wonderfully animated cells that created the 120 minute masterpiece. The detail is also seen in the original manga, which spans over 2,000 pages. The most drastic shift to animation is that the movie took inspiration from the first three volumes and narrowed the story. The focus of the film is more character driven, while the magna tackles politics, gangs, corruption, isolation, and an unbelievable amount of subplots.

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As I mentioned, the movie is known for its animation. A major complaint of anime before Akira is that many anime shows used repeated animations, cutting costs animating new scenes, and having lackluster voice recording. Akira proved that anime could be perfect; most animation is flawless, as both dubs of the film are praised, the computer generated effects mesh perfectly with the hand drawn scenes, and there is movement in every little detail.

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Tetsuo & Kaneda

 

The two major characters of the film are Tetsuo and Kaneda. Kaneda is the leader of the biker gang, while Tetsuo is a new recruit who has not yet proven himself. In the opening moments of the film, Tetsuo’s curiosity, jealousy, and insecurities are perfectly contrasted to Kaneda’s brashness, confidence, and loyalty. The two drift as Tetsuo gains powers, while Kaneda is simply trying to save his friend from himself. The two seem like brothers until one takes things too far and the audience is treated to one of the greatest tragedies in anime.

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Legacy

While many anime series are considered fantastic (Dragon Ball Z, Ghost in the Shell, Cowboy Bebop), no anime will accomplish what Akira did with only 2 hours. The depiction of the fallout of war in both the citizens and the leaders, the relationship built between order and rebellion, and the traumatic experiences that youth endure on a daily basis are all painted beautifully in a movie that also has psychic experiments, motorcycle fights, and explosions everywhere. You will also note that there are specific scenes which have been used in other animated shows. Take Kaneda’s iconic bike dash:

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Now take a look at this scene from “Robin’s Reckoning” in Batman The Animated Series.

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How about that?

While both the manga and the anime have to be seen to be believed, I’ll leave you with iconic movie poster that remains a cult favorite today.

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How Shadow Of The Colossus Brought Me Peace – Video Game Retrospective

When new games are being released, I feel on edge, excited, and nervous. I feel like there’s a new journey to unfold, there’s new experiences to be had, and plenty of new shining moments to be had. Sadly, what happens far too often when you complete a game (completing meaning finishing a single-player campaign/story mode), you find yourself seeking more, feeling there’s more to be done, looking for more content, and finding new ways to recapture those satisfying moments. There is one game that does not invoke tension through completion, but a sense of peace and a lucid revelation through each playthrough. That game is Shadow Of The Colossus. (Note: Spoilers to follow).

Shadow-Of-The-Colossus

Considered one of the greatest games on the Playstation 2 console, Shadow Of The Colossus (SOTC) is a game that follows a young man named Wander on a simple quest: save the love of his life, Mono. Unfortunately, at the beginning of the game, she has fallen and Wander travels with his horse, Agro, to a forbidden land to find a spell to revive his beloved.

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Wander and Agro stand beside the stoic Mono.

Residing in the temple they find is a spirit named Dormin, who offers Wander a deal for making it to the land. Dormin tells Wander that if he slays the 16 colossi that guard this abandoned world, Dormin will be able to revive Mono, but at a great cost. Wander agrees and sets off to fight these beasts, no matter their strength, powers, or size.

That’s the basic quest of the game. You fight these 16 intricately designed colossi, each with new designs, environments, and tactics. You have a horse for transportation, a sword with a light to guide you to your next destination, and a bow with arrows for long distance attacks. How hard can these things be to destroy?

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This is only one of the gargantuan beasts that Wander goes up against in this game. The game follows a simple cycle of starting Wander from the center of the world (the shrine), traveling on horseback to the next colossus, and then figuring out how to defeat the colossus. Even though each one features a weak-spot that can be struck, Wander finds that these colossi grow stronger and wiser when attacked. Once defeated, Wander faints and finds himself back at the shrine to be assigned the next colossi to defeat.

Now how do I find peace in a game where it’s basically me against a giant a hundred times my size? Perspective.

From the journey, you get a cycle that makes a task seemingly impossible become methodical. Like everything in life, progress is baby steps, even if those steps are taken by twenty-story titans. Wander, a man on a journey alone, has no powers, experiences fatigue, and is not invulnerable, as he takes damage from great falls, losing his grip, and even from swimming too long. He has limits, and yet he makes do. For both the character and the player, the threat is real, the limits are realistic, and we have a David vs Goliath dynamic for the whole game. It rewards persistence, ingenuity, creativity, and patience, things which are valuable in everyday interactions. Whatever challenges are introduced, whether it be a flying serpent or a towering buffalo, every situation can be analyzed, broken down, and tackled with the right strategy. Nothing is impossible.

However, we come the dramatic conclusion: what happens when the 16th colossus is defeated?

As you’ve been destroying the colossi, Wander becomes paler, looks more sickly, and withered.

sotc_wander_progressWhen Wander returns to revive his beloved, he discovers that Dormin had actually been using Wander to gather the essences of himself which were sealed in the other colossi. As Wander falls in the final conflict between a sorcerer preventing the resurgence of the evil and Dormin in his new found body, Dormin dies, but not before restoring the life of Mono.

So what does this tell us? That hard work, no matter how well intended, is doomed to fail? Are we to not reap to benefits that which we sew?

Well, there’s a few things going on here.

  1. Wander made this deal with the spirit, knowing there would be a great cost (in this case, Wander’s life). Wander feels these essences entering his body when a colossus is defeated (here, you can see what happens after the first colossus falls). The whole process is a very conscious and deliberate act, which is Wander finding these colossi in their natural space, provoking them, and slaying them. You can say that this was deserved and Wander simply should have accepted what life had handed to him, which was someone dying. He should not have provoked spirits and forbidden spells which he did not fully comprehend.
  2. Wander feels tricked, because Dormin held up his end of the deal, but Wander does not get to live to see the life he intended to share with Mono.
  3. Have you been playing the bad guy the whole time? Working with a demonic spirit, you have destroyed guardians who were meant to protect the world from the coming of these malevolent spirits.

What has all of this been for?

While there are negatives that challenge what you have done as a player, there are beautiful moments to this game that give gamers something new to take in, instead of simply gaining achievements and then placing the game back on the shelf.

  • This game actively makes us question what we are doing. As a player controlling a character, you are to find a way to progress in a game, complete a mission, or accomplish a task. However, in this fantasy, it seems great and epic to defeat beasts when the odds are not in your favor. The plot and mysterious nature of the task gives you ample room to ask questions such as who is this spirit, why are these colossi so far apart, and why has this land been abandoned (as remnants of civilization are apparent). In this spirit, the game asks the player to ask why, other than simply “doing what you need to do.”
  • The story of fleshing out a desperate character without much of any dialogue. We get a sense of who Wander is through his action and we feel both ordinary through our limitations and great through the feats we accomplish. We get a sense of empowerment as Wander can be anybody determined to complete a mission.
  • The music only occurs during cutscenes and battles. While beautiful, sometimes the silence is more serene and effective at encapsulating the expansive realm. The exploration of the land is a daunting task, as the simple compass system allows for ample exploration, but little directive. With a lone man wandering a world alone, it’s very liberating to simply ride and take a breather in between battles. Even saving is inherently calming, as Wander finds save spots and rests himself beside the shrine. We don’t need a Wii reminder to tell us that we may need to rest.

There are several messages here that can oppose each other, but in essence, the game asks us to take things into perspective. While some games focus on the dramatic to evoke a message, SOTC’s gameplay, inherent mission, and story all tell us to look at things differently and complete the game knowing that winning does not grant you happiness. Just as important as finding your place in the world is understanding the world around you and realizing the impact you make in your every action.

If you have never had the glorious pleasure of playing this game, I highly recommend checking it out, whether you pick up the original Playstation 2 release or the HD remake for Playstation 3.

How do you feel about this modern classic? Share your thoughts on FacebookTwitterInstagram, and Pinterest

Interested in writing for Nerd Swole? Contact Brian at twentytwo.le@gmail.com for more details?

 

Video Game Retrospective – Golden Sun

When gamers think of RPGs (Role-Playing Games), there’s Final Fantasty, Dragon Quest, Pokemon, Elder Scrolls. I put many of those on my to-play list, but there is one RPG that’s hidden back in the early days of the Game Boy Advance. No, not Fire Emblem. We’re talking about Golden Sun, the Game Boy Advance gem from 2001.

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The Story, She is Epic

The story starts out in a small village under siege from a torrential downpour. The main characters of the whole series are split up as young children and the ones who remained in the town are taught the questionable art of alchemy. These children are declared Adepts and are sent on a quest by their master to prevent the unleashing of a terrible dark power. The story follows each of the main four characters as the quickly assemble into a united party and venture off to discover how grave the situation is.

An Active World

One of the great features that sets Golden Sun apart from many other RPGs is that exploring the overworld is a completely active part of the game. As adepts, our heroes learn simple skills such as telepathy, telekinesis, and time manipulation. These powers can be used outside of battle to manipulate the environment.

Cloaking. 'Nuff Said.
Cloaking. ‘Nuff Said.
Freezing puddles of water into strong pillars to travel on.
Freezing puddles of water into strong pillars to travel on.
Moving heavy objects.
Moving heavy objects.
The forever useful skill of mind-reading.
The forever useful skill of mind-reading.

These abilities and more become integral to completing the game, along with tons of side quests, and make our protagonists more than just monster slayers.

Return of the Random Battle

As the game progresses, you find yourself fighting a lot of baddies. Critics complain the rate at which battles happen and their difficulty shy gamers away from this title, but I find the challenge welcoming and the onset of battles prepares you to be at the appropriate level when reaching main boss fights.

Check out this gameplay video to get a sense of what all the hype is about.

In case you simply skipped it, Golden Sun’s battle system is a turn based engine that works a bit differently than most standard games. The battles happen as you walk the world map at random, thrusting you into the heat of combat. Once the cameras stop, you select the actions of your party from an array options: Attack, Magic, Djinn, Summon, Items and Flee. As you learn what these kids can unleash (as I’ll discuss below), you find how customizable these four are.

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Moving battle sprites before Pokemon.

The game is incredibly cinematic and detail oriented; the narration at the bottom is vivid and the character sprites will change depending on which weapons are equipped. The graphics, for the time, were incredible and are still a beauty to look at, even more impressive for a Game Boy Advance launch title. Now while Attack, Magic, Items, and Flee seem simple enough, let’s look at the other two options.

Djinn

You get to select which opponents to attack, what to attack them with, and what sacrifices to make. What do I mean by sacrifices? Well, as you move along in your journey, you find these creatures called Djinn.

Little, powerful scamps.
Little, powerful scamps.

When you find one, you either have to solve a crazy puzzle to chase the Djinn down, or defeat it in battle. Once they become yours, they’re with you forever, and with 28 scattered throughout the world, you’ll be busy hunting them down.

Now, these little buggers are the most interesting part of Golden Sun because of how customizable they make the whole party. Each Djinn encapsulates a certain element (earth, wind, fire, water), as do the main cast. The Djinn journey with the cast and it’s up to player to mix and match as they choose. Mixing and matching will give characters different classes, spells, and stats.

Letting Issac tap into the Earth Djinn's powers give him access to incredible spells such as Ragnarok.
Letting Issac tap into the Earth Djinn’s powers give him access to incredible spells such as Ragnarok.

Djinn have a cycle of use: STANDBY, SET, and REST. When you assign Djinn to certain characters, their attributes create new classes and help define the character’s stats. In battle, Djinn’s unique abilities can aid the party in several ways, such as providing party-wide stat boosts, enhancing attacks, healing, and so on. So when you use a Djinn, it goes on STANDBY.

Oh, and the Summons

What Djinn being on STANDBY means that it can be transformed into a summoned creature. You can either summon that monster or save up several Djinn to be SET. Once many of them are SET, the monsters you can summon become greater. Once these summons are used, the Djinn rest for a round or two and then the cycle can be repeated. It’s a bit difficult to follow, but it gives plenty of customization in and out of battle.

So for your viewing pleasure, here’s a few of the more powerful summons in all their animated glory.

Summon_Judgement
Judgement
Summon_Ramses
Ramses
Summon_zagan
Zagan
Summon_meteor
Meteor
Summon_thor
Thor
Procne
Procne
Nereid
Nereid

So in case you don’t have an old GBA like I do, you can pick up Golden Sun on the WiiU eShop and see what all the fuss is about. While the sequel (Golden Sun: The Lost Age) is not up yet on the eShop, I recommend playing both on the GBA so you can experience the full story.

SNES Konami Classics: The Retrospective

This is an age of modern games where $5 is the most someone will spend on a mobile phone to play the best. However, classic franchises are still around. Castlevania is releasing new titles under the Lords of Shadow title. Metal Gear Solid is the current successful franchise and is set to release its fifth full entry, MGS V: The Phantom Pain. Looking back, Konami was a huge part of what made video games great, much like Capcom. I’m taking this opportunity to replay some games that I grew up with and remind the people about what made them so great.

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Gradius III is a side scrolling shooter that seems basic enough. Select the powers up you want to upgrade, select a control scheme, and off you go. However, once the ship launches into space, there’s no hope. Enemies burst onto every corner of the screen. There is a learning curve that sky-rockets after the first level. Aliens, monsters, dragons, bombs, and everything else in the galaxy coming to attack. However, the ship gains upgrades as waves of enemies are cleared off the screen. The longer the ship lasts, the powerful it becomes. Also, players taking turns in between lives adds to fun because who doesn’t love multiplayer?

Have fun dodging those.
Have fun dodging those.

 

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SUPER is what every game added onto a game for the SNES after Mario made it cool. Castlevania literally took a game that had already existed, slapped a Super and IV (Street Fighter style) and remade the first game. However, the game included extended levels, new maneuverability for the whip (8 way attacks is a big deal for someone as sluggish as Simon Belmont), and new enemies with smart attack patterns. The difficulty of Konami games has a reputation for throwing everything at you and measuring how long it takes for the player to cry. However, nothing makes success so great than triumphing over incalculable odds and Castlevania has built upon that ever since this game.

 

It's all downhill after this.
It’s all downhill after this.

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Long before the Arkham series came out, Batman had a weird history with video games. However, one side-scroller inspired entry was iconic in making a real attempt to make a movie tie-in game incredibly. Batman Returns took what was fantastic about the sequel and brought it back into the game. The style, the designs, the music, and of course, the Batman! Our caped crusades knocks skulls, flies through the air, grapples, and drives his batmobile like he owns the city. Although this game takes from beat ’em ups of the past, it takes what makes Batman unique (tool belt, affinity for jump kicks, vengeance) and puts him against the Penguin, Catwoman, and his goons.

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My love for the turtles started not by Vanilla Ice’s amazing cameo in a certain sequel, but with the incredible animated series. If any game channeled the energy of the show and amplified it tenfold, it was Turtle In Time. This side-scroller, that takes the design from the arcade game, takes the turtles on a crazy romp through time. Picking your favorite turtles, you (and a friend) can beat up, hack and slash, and throw foot soldiers at the screen. While it is super simple in premise…..it’s really that simple. It’s a side-scroller beat ’em up game that perfected the formula and defined a generation. The game has remained one of the best SNES games of all time. The music, the graphics, and the gameplay all combine to make one incredible classic.

We feel the pain, Leo.
We feel the pain, Leo.

 

 

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What does every action movie have? Rugged men with guns? Check. Alien taking over? Check. Guns and bullets flying everywhere? Check. Contra is a series known for being unapologetically brutal and this third installment raises that difficulty all too much. As if an onslaught of every military weapon, soldier, and alien wasn’t enough, you can only get hit once (without a shield) and then you die. Contra is straight up torture and it’s that difficulty that has given our generation of games their hardcore appeal (Dark Souls, Devil May Cry, Sin & Punishment, etc).

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School may be back in session, but it’s never too late to take on these old favorites. If you don’t have classic systems, many of these titles are available for download on Wii, Xbox 360, PS3, on computers, and are coming to next-gen systems such as Wii U and Nintendo 3DS. Comment below on what Konami games you’ve played and what makes them great.

Remember, Konami may look like this now…

Konami-logo

…but it will always remain this classic look (click on the logo for the jingle) and the code will always work (if you remember it. Snake and Otacon sure do.

tumblr_mwovnjYV8l1rsk0loo1_r1_400Konami Logo