Lost in the Woods

Ever since I wrote about the gorgeous Link to the Past comic some time ago, there has been this nagging desire to read more paneled Zelda stories.  But where could I find them?  There hasn’t been a Hylian on the comic book store shelves in years and the graphic novel section at Barnes and Noble is surprisingly scarce for video game stories.  Giving up on a physical hunt, I did what any stumped player would do: check the internet.  After a quick search, I found where Link has been hiding all this time: in the Children’s Section.

It seems in 2008, Viz Media translated and released a pair of manga based on Ocarina of Time for American audiences.  The books, which were split between the adult and child story arcs, were originally published by the Japanese company Shogakukan in 1999.  When Viz brought the books over, they decided to print them under their “Viz Kids” label, and have continued to do so for every Zelda comic since.  It is for this reason why I went hunting through the Children’s Section at the bookstore for my quarry: a comic based on Majora’s Mask. Continue reading Lost in the Woods

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A Week in Gaming – inFAMOUS: Second Son

Guess what – I’ve been playing inFAMOUS: Second Son all week and oh man, I’m so ready to share my experiences with you all! This was the biggest game release of the year thus far and a game I have been looking forward to since the day it was announced. It’s a big deal for me, you dig? I’m going to casually go over some of my favorite things about the game, then you all can jump in and tell me about your week in gaming. It’ll be like a book club, but with less books and more video games.  Continue reading A Week in Gaming – inFAMOUS: Second Son

Gearing Up For Season 3 of Continuum!

Some of you may know that I’m a big fan of the Canadian science fiction show ContinuumLike, I once wrote a ridiculously long post recapping the entire first two seasons and giving some thoughts for where the show might take the story in the future.

Now that the third season is premiering, I’m here to recruit some new fans — so here are some reasons to watch (with no big spoilers, don’t worry!):

The Time Travel Twists

The show is about a cop in the year 2077, who is on duty when a group of terrorists calling themselves Liber8 is going to be executed for their crimes. At the last second, these terrorists use a time travel device to escape to 2012 — and the cop, Kiera Cameron, is sucked in with them. Stranded in our time period, she wants to stop Liber8 in the present while trying to preserve the timeline to make it back to 2077, where she has a husband and son. If too many things change in the present, the future might shift accordingly — meaning her family may not exist if she ever does make it back to 2077.

continuum-kiera-target-sighted
Kiera’s gun, which also makes it back to 2012 with her…

It’s an original premise and allows the show to be sci-fi yet set in the present day, with no need for major special effects, etc. But what I really love about it is how surprising it is. It plays with familiar time travel concepts such as the grandfather paradox, but it always makes them feel unique. Part of this is because the show’s characters are so strong, and everything presented in the storylines is personal to someone.

A Cop Show That’s Not Your Average Procedural

I would describe Continuum as a cop show, but it’s not an episodic procedural. Kiera teams up with the local police force in 2012 to help take down the Liber8 terrorists, which is the big “cop” arc that the show has. There are no separate crimes that are solved at the end of each episode; instead, Kiera and her fellow cops are specifically tracking Liber8 throughout the series — plus all of the other stuff going on. And while I’m all for a good cop procedural like (Almost Human), I prefer Continuum‘s long game.

The Importance of the Tech

The futuristic technology in Continuum is mostly limited to whatever Kiera has on her when she time travels, such as her cop suit that lets her decipher codes, turn invisible, create crazy shields to block bullets, and more. She also has a Cellular Memory Review (CMR) that records everything, as well as a HUD that can show her readings on people she’s interrogating so she knows when they’re lying, among other things. Plus, during flashbacks to 2077, you get to see a lot of the tech that makes that future world go ’round. Still, if you’re really into lots of tech, it might feel like Continuum doesn’t have enough.

Personally, I like that the tech is limited but well-developed. The Liber8 members are always after Kiera’s cop suit because they know what it can do; there’s even a very cool episode about the suit falling into the hands of people like us, living in modern times, who don’t know what it is. (But don’t worry, I won’t spoil it!) The rarity of the tech, and the fact that not everyone knows Kiera has it, works its way into interesting storylines and adds a lot to the stakes. It also makes the flashbacks to the future more exciting.

The Focus on Characterization

I love Continuum‘s characters. When I haven’t watched the show in a while, I sort of miss them. And what’s really cool is that the “villains” in Liber8 outnumber the good guys and are just as well-developed as Kiera and her friends. Each of the Liber8 members has a unique purpose, personality, and back story, and they have their own conflicts with each other as the story unravels.

1
Alec and Kiera.

Kiera also meets interesting allies in the year 2012. One is her cop partner, Carlos, who defends her when the rest of the station doesn’t know what to make of Kiera. But the most important of Kiera’s allies is Alec Sadler, a teenage computer genius who is able to tap into Kiera’s tech… because he’s the one who designed it in the future.

Kiera herself is one of the less accessible characters, which I actually love. She’s serious — sometimes too serious. She’s also got tunnel vision on getting back to her family, which can make her seem selfish sometimes with people in the present. And though the Liber8 members use terrorist tactics to spread their message and further their cause, they champion freedom from corporate rule — something that a lot of us probably agree with today. Meanwhile, Kiera is the one who is actually okay with corporate rule. In the first episode, she even makes a joke that it’s corporations that make life so comfortable for her family and her friends in 2077.

I’m kind of hoping Kiera will go through a character arc that has her believing in Liber8’s cause. Or maybe she and Liber8 will meet in the middle. Or maybe that’s not what Continuum is even about. The show loves to present different ideologies, but it doesn’t seem to condone any single one, which is very cool.

———

If you’re interested, the first two seasons of Continuum are on Netflix, and the third season premieres this coming Friday here in the States. I am so ready to jump back in at last season’s cliffhanger…

— Ashley

Full Force: Twitch Plays Pokemon

Full Force is GFN’s weekly look at some of the biggest news in geekdom, from video games to anime to movies and everything in between. We also welcome your comments below, if you want to join the conversation. This week, our panelists take a look at the phenomenon that is Twitch Plays Pokemon.

twitch_plays_pokemon

Twitch Plays Pokemon managed to beat Pokemon Red, a feat that took about 16 ½ days and more than eight million button inputs. What did you think of the social experiment (anarchy/democracy, working together, etc.)?

Chris: When I first heard about it on day three, I thought it was silly. Just another way to waste time on the internet, I figured. But I underestimated the community that built just about as quickly as the stream went viral. Inside jokes and religions sprung from nowhere. Even in times of strife (like the epic battle against Misty, for example), the collective somehow managed to string together the correct inputs. Whatever data the creator was searching for when he first created the Twitch channel, even he had to have been surprised by the end result.

Chip: Generally speaking, I cannot stand the mindless flow of comments that comes from Twitch chat. During Awesome Games Done Quick, I couldn’t fully enjoy the stream when watching on a mobile device since the flood of inane chatter took up half of my display. That being said, I think Twitch Plays Pokemon has shown that there is a demand for this sort of gaming.

What I would like to see spring up from Twitch Plays Pokemon is a sort of competition or challenge-based livestream where random “players” get dropped into groups to square off against each other. Twitch Plays Pokemon took so much longer to play through the game because there was so much purposefully antagonistic input, but imagine an uncoordinated team working together to finish a game in a race against other random groups of players. Almost like a speed-run challenge, but with the random element of TPP.

Cary: I tuned into TPP a handful of times, and was utterly mesmerized by what I saw, from the stream of inputs to the bizarre actions happening in the game. I can’t speak to the anything specifically Pokemon-related, but watching a collective attempt to progress in a meaningful fashion was really astounding. In my mind, it’s akin to comparing, say, the activities (physical or otherwise) of a single person to the output of an entire group. Sure, we’re all going remember people like Einstein, Tesla, and Abraham Lincoln for their individual contributions to history (just as we remember our friend who beat Super Metroid in less than an hour), but we also have a lot to appreciate from the accomplishments of the Civil Rights Movement and the inventions of ancient civilizations. True that the output of TPP was the completion of just a single video game (not much when compared to the Mayans), but it proved that when people have their minds set on a singular task and work together, things get accomplished, and this despite the naysayers and inputting troublemakers.

Shaun: Knowing what goes into it a little bit, and considering things like trolls, conflicting inputs, and lag, I’m just amazed that they managed to make any progress, at all, let alone beat the game. It might not be a feat of much importance, necessarily, but it’s a pretty amazing feat nonetheless.

One of the most interesting aspects of Red’s adventure turned out to be the multitude of memes and references that sprung forth from the community. What was your favorite inside joke from the series?

Shaun: I think the early memes were the best, mostly because they took me by surprise, as I had no idea what to expect here. And because, for whatever reason, the events spawned a sprawling religious epic narrative, rife with overseeing gods, false prophets, and the consequences of giving into temptation.

The funniest one for my money was the early story of the Helix fossil and Bird Jesus, culminating in the false prophet Flareon banishing Jay Leno and Abby into exile. The images and jokes created from this phenomenon were hysterical, sometimes simply in the fact that the scenes they were reflecting are depicted with such solemn sincerity and heartbreak.

Chris: In general, I agree with you, Shaun — the earlier stuff was more funny in general. I especially liked the devotion to “consulting” various things; that’s what spawned the Helix devotion in the first place, but we also loved the Secret Key and the Coin Case. Plus, every time they accidentally played the Poke Flute, the chat rained down a slew of “THAT’S A CATCHY TUNE” comments.

Still, I think the highlight of the entire stream for me was everyone’s favorite All Terrain Venomoth (from his name AATTVVV) and his underdog battle against Lance’s Dragonite the first time Red fought him. With the rest of the team dead, things looked bleak. Venomoth had a terrible moveset with only one attack (the pitiful Leech Life) and was 25 levels below. One Hyper Beam and the Elite Four was over. But no! He poisoned Dragonite, and thanks to a little-known glitch, Dragonite was unable to use any attack moves — he kept trying to use Psychic moves for a super effective hit, but they were Barrier and Agility! From then on, our hero became known as All Terrain Venomoth the Dragonslayer.

Now that TPP’s original run is done, the next step was Pokemon Crystal and Emerald. If you were running the stream, however, what video game would you most like to see the collective tackle?

Chip: I am not sure that many other genres outside of RPGs would work for something similar to Twitch Plays Pokemon. I cannot imagine the difficulty in hundreds of people trying to play through a platformer or something with more than six buttons, let alone the programming effort behind the scenes. Additionally, I think what made Pokemon such a good choice is the fact that this series is already strongly tied to a wealth of inside jokes and memes across the internet. From a perspective of just keeping the theme as a sort of online drama, Pokemon Gold was a solid choice.

However, I wouldn’t mind seeing other old RPGs get some time to shine. The key would be picking a title with a limited number of commands, so the amount of options would not be overwhelming. Maybe the original Dragon Quest would work, either the NES version or the remake for Game Boy Color.

Cary: I’m with Chip in thinking that RPGs are probably best suited for this kind of play, maybe a simple (control-wise) one from ye olden days like Dragon’s Lair. But I think it’d be really interesting to see if an old-school shooter like DOOM or Wolfenstein could be played collectively. I imagine it’d be horribly frustrating, but, again, the key inputs would be pretty simple. Oooo, even worse, how about a text-based game? Questprobe or Mystery Mansion? The number of commands would be outrageous and the chances would be extremely high that the game would get completely stuck, but that’d be something to watch.

Chris: Yeah, it’s difficult to imagine this working too well for many other games. Twitch Plays Pokemon was something akin to lightning in a bottle. There will be derivatives, and the original stream itself is going through Crystal as we speak (although it’s nowhere near as good). An original Legend of Zelda stream popped up around when TPP was finishing, but even that required exceptions like infinite health to have a chance.

I think something like Dragon Warrior would be a good fit, but the key is that whatever game it is has to be forgiving to mistakes. That’s what worked so well with Pokemon — suboptimal play very rarely resulted in an impossible situation (except Safari Zone, Rocket Hideout, releasing 12 Pokemon on Bloody Sunday, etc.).

Shaun: Pokemon was sort of the perfect play here. Tons of recognition, so the memes could really catch fire, and the stream could attract a lot of attention. Simple inputs, relatively simple gameplay and progression. Not a reliance on reaction times or active health. Plus, punishment for failing wasn’t severe — you go back to the Pokemon Center, sure, but most importantly, you don’t lose the levels or experience you gained. That’s HUGE to a series like this working. I’m sure if I thought about it long enough I could give you another game that could work, but until it happens, I’m not really sure we can find one that will match this phenomenon.

 

More Tournaments!

Greetings GFN!

So this week’s post is mainly an update on what’s to come! Big things are on the way as promised – and here’s a sample of what’s on the way:

More tournaments: jDL Season 1 is winding to a close but there’s plenty more on the menu – we’re sniffing around a bunch of other tournaments from NADota’s secs/tecs to the AD2L.

More WAVE Stuff: Season two of KOTH is drawing to a close, but season 3 will kick off soon, and we’ve got plans for a more regular tournament starting soon as well!

Wave Gaming: jDL season 2 marks the rebranding of Ra’II into Wave.Int, and we should also see the Wave.USA team enter the frame. Its on guys…

But of course, I’m here as a vid guy so here’s the best match from the last week!:

https://www.youtube.com/edit?video_id=i5vM9kY_wWs&video_referrer=watch

A Tribute to a Tribute — Mortal Kombat: The Album

MKTheAlbum

There are video game soundtracks – the background/theme music that is prevalent in most games – and then there are video game companion soundtracks. I don’t know that such albums exist in multitude, but they could be considered the equivalent of “inspired by” soundtracks, i.e. compilations of music related to but not used in a particular game, TV show, or movie. I have a little bit of game music on my iPod – it’s not something that I dabble in much – and I have exactly one video game companion soundtrack that literally yells at me each time it cycles round: Mortal Kombat: The Album.

Continue reading A Tribute to a Tribute — Mortal Kombat: The Album

At the Buzzer (03/27/14)

Episode 125: Setting the Stage — The guys actually convince Dave to talk about some big upcoming films, including the first Peanuts movie in three decades and some important Disney sequels. Also, Chris swears for a second straight episode, Dave needs an 18-inch corn dog in his mouth, and Shaun wants everything to become a movie about football.

Headlines

Credits

Music:

  • “Main Theme (Rhythm Thief)” by Tomoya Ohtani
  • “Main Theme (Valkyria Chronicles)” by Hitoshi Sakimoto
  • “With Mila’s Divine Protection” by Noriyuki Iwadare
  • “Arkham City Main Theme” by Nick Arundel
  • “Night at the Octodrag” by Thee Jaguar Sharks

Production Assistance: Tony Robinson, Executive Producer

Announcer: Molly Robinson

More At the Buzzer

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