Blogger Blitz Finale: One Thousand Strong

Blogger Blitz Finale: One Thousand Strong

Okay, folks.  This is it – the Blogger Blitz Finale.  And after some intense writing, researching, and last-minute editing, I actually have a story I’m really proud of.  Is that weird to say?  I’m not sure I’ve ever truly been proud of something I’ve written, but this time I really am!  I can’t believe that this challenge is almost over.  I’ve learned so much through this.  Ian, as always, blows me away with his creativity and his ability to push boundaries, and, with the help of the other guest bloggers, of course, really brought out my creativity.  These last challenges have been harder than I thought I was capable of accomplishing and yet, I’ve been able to do it.  So thanks to Ian and his magnificent competition for helping me stretch myself a little bit and open up to a world I wasn’t sure I was capable of being a part of!

And, with that emotional introspection, let’s get on with the show!  As always, I want to acknowledge my challenger, Michael over at Git Gud at Life.  His submission to this post can be found here.  And if you haven’t read his past submissions, go do it.  They’ll blow you away with their unique writing!

And then a HUGE thank you to Ian at Adventure Rules, where the results of this competition can be found on Friday!

Here is the prompt for the final:

Anyone can take on a single enemy. Taking on a dozen or so enemies isn’t really that tough either. But fighting an army of 1000 monsters born of the darkness left behind when a human body is deprived of its heart – now THAT’s scary! But that’s exactly what our lovely antagonists will have to do in this event if they plan to make it somewhere very important – the venue for their best friend’s wedding.

Villains keep strange company, so really it’s only natural that they would hang out with someone who thought a monster-infested canyon would be a cool place to tie the knot. As the best friend, your chosen bad guy (or gal, or gender-non-binary person) is obviously expected to be in the wedding. But to get to the front of the crowd, you’ll have to fight your way through one thousand Heartless, beings that feed on the darkness inside of hearts – and there’s a whole lot of dark hearts at this wedding!

Luckily, you’re not alone. One of the most iconic parts of the Battle of the 1000 Heartless in Kingdom Hearts II is the series of cameos from previous allies who show up to kick some tail and help you make your way through the Heartless army. In the Blogger Blitz championship, these partners are the characters you’ve defeated in battle! You can include in your post cameos from the two opponents you defeated directly, as well as the character your semifinal opponent defeated, giving you a total of three characters to partner with when taking on the Heartless menace.

And, without further ado, let’s get on with the show…


Ugh.  If he weren’t my most faithful servant, the actualization of my precious sword, I wouldn’t bother with this stupid wedding.  I need to focus on the death of the boy called Link.  Even now, years after my last setback, I feel my hatred and malice for him growing, becoming more refined.  That boy, who has overthrown my plans again and again!  HOW?!  He, the holder of the most worthless piece of the Triforce?  Power and Wisdom, and then “Courage”.  That simple brat continues to best me with courage…

I need a new strategy.  I need to focus, not gallivant off into the sunset to watch Ghirahim marry himself.  The invitation was ridiculous. 

Please, my Master, attend this precious moment, where pure beauty and finesse shall marry the only possible match – itself.  I, Ghirahim, request the presence of Ganon, the reincarnation of Demise, at this joyful union of me to myself, at the Breach of Demise Canyon at sunset.

ghirahim

How could anyone possibly take seriously the sharing of power in some kind of “union”.

Sigh

And yet… he is my most faithful of servants, the very blade I wield in the fight against the goddess.  I must attend.  His deference for me, even the place he has chosen, in homage to me.  I suppose I can give him a few moments of my time.  Especially if it means he will be better focused in the future.

I stand, stretching to relieve the cramping in my muscles that remain from a night of plotting.

It feels like a few weeks only have passed since I reveled in the Forbidden Fortress, enjoying an evening of my triumph.  And yet, years have passed.  Enough time to have been defeated again and again by that brat.  No… never defeated.  Merely slowed down.  He is simply putting off the inevitable.

I quickly dress in my best robes and, as I pass the dresser, hesitate slightly, my eyes passing over the cards of all the previous villains I’ve recently been in contact with.  I quickly pocket all three, knowing that, if any problems arose, I could easily call on those pathetic weaklings to take the brunt of the issues.

After all, there’s no one better at manipulation than Ganondorf, wielder of the Triforce of Power.

I release a shrieking call and a gargantuan black stallion comes whipping up the trail to my hiding place.  I mount, and with another shriek, send the stallion along the way to the canyon known as the Breach of Demise.

breach of demise

Mere hours later I slow to a trot, suddenly wary of the unnatural darkness settling in.  The canyon is within sight, but, with an hour left till sunset, the shadows playing across the land are unsettling.  I know that my own creatures, the Bokoblins, Moblins, even Lynels, wouldn’t dare harm their King.  So what is making that soft scratching noise where the shadows are deepest?

I dismount, creeping closer to the nearest rocky shadow, and am surprised.  A creature unlike any I’ve ever seen crouches, half-hidden in shadow.  His yellow eyes shine bright and the antennae which are just visible wave slightly as it shudders.

heartless

Is this some new being I can harness to my will?  Something that will give me an edge in the fight against Link?

The creature shifts its weight, making a soft padding sound.  I stiffen and quickly glance around as I hear that same noise echoed countless times.  Peering into the darkness settling around me I see hundreds… no, at least one thousand of these creatures, their strange yellow eyes glinting in the shadows they’re hiding in.  I throw my hands to my side, calling my purple ball lightening and ready to attack when I pause.

Yes, I could defeat this swam myself.  I am Ganondorf, the most powerful being to ever live.  But when have I ever been the first to take the brunt of an attack?

I slowly back into the light, hand slipping into a small pocket, and bring out the cards I so brilliantly brought along.  Each card bears a single name: Sigma, Marjolaine, and Xehanort.  Selecting the first of the cards I use my considerable skill to summon the first of my opponents to my side.

Let’s see how these creatures of darkness handle a man of metal and code.

As an arc of purple lightning flashes across the sky Sigma, the enemy of Mega Man, appears at my side.

sigma

“Ah, Sigma.  Delighted you could join me” I say, a slight smirk on my lips

“Ganondorf.” Sigma says dispassionately, “Why have you brought me here?”

“You see, Sigma, knowing how… desperately you enjoy researching new, insidious ways to bring down your robot friends I thought I’d invite you to share with me the discovery of a new species.  And look,” I gesture around the landscape, “there’s plenty for the both of us.”

I fold my arms and watch as Sigma stares me down, wary of any help.

“What could possibly be in this for me?”

“Oh, Sigma, I thought you were more intelligent than that” I see his eyes narrow at the insult.  “You see, I don’t know these creatures.  They are completely new to this land.  And you, Sigma, you can interface… compute… even understand animals.  If you do this for me I’ll ensure that, when you share your knowledge, I send you back home with a few of these monsters.  You can utilize them in your next fight against your nemesis.  If they’re new to him, won’t they be more difficult to defeat?”

I see Sigma processing this information.  After a moment he nods once and begins to tread softly toward the darkness.  I continue to watch, but as I do so I notice something slightly disconcerting.  As the shadows lengthen the creatures move from their hiding places, keeping to the darkness, moving slowly toward Sigma and myself.

I see Sigma pause, just slightly out of reach of the nearest creature, then see his hands whip out, attaching long metal cords to the creature.

“They are searching for… hearts.  They consume hearts, breeding from the darkness found within them.  I cannot see where they originate from.  Some land full of anthropomorphic animals dressed in ridiculous clothes.  But I… I cannot… I…”

Sigma’s voice slowly fades away and he begins convulsing slightly.

“Sigma?” I shout.  “Sigma, what’s going on?”

There’s no response.  He slowly turns to looks at me, eyes changing to a luminescent yellow.

“I have no heart” he dispassionately intones.  “But I do have a body.  Easier… to… possess”

I quickly summon a ball of lightning as Sigma throws himself at me and blast him to the ground.  He shakes and sputters, the electricity frying his circuits.

Useless…

With a simple incantation and another flash of purple lightning I send him home.  Quickly removing the next card, noticing that the shadows are deepening, I summon Marjolaine.

marjolaine

“Yes?” her sultry tones echo slightly as she materializes.

“Marjolaine, I bested you in the last competition.  You know what I’m capable of.  Together we can destroy these monsters, keeping just one or two for ourselves.  Apparently they consume hearts.  I’m sure you’ve got plenty of hearts in your world just itching to be destroyed for the… well, the fun of it.”

“I do enjoy games” she croons, finally turning to face the swarm of monsters straining to reach us.

I hear her gasp.

“So many…”

“I would have thought someone like you would be itching for a fair fight?”

“I can only destroy so many with a bow” she spits at me.  She pauses.  “There may be a way.  I can stun them.  Every one of the enemies within the sound of my voice, for a short period of time.”

“So what are you waiting for?”

She glares at me, venom in her eyes.  Then she opens her mouth and begins to sing.  The song is haunting and as the shadows finally reach where we stand the creatures, running at us, are frozen.  I laugh.  It’s so much easier to defeat an enemy when someone else does all the difficult work.  I begin blasting the creatures with my ball lightning, turning and spinning to reach all I can see.  After several seconds I pause, looking back, waiting for the woman to spring into action and join me.  But she merely continues to stand, singing her song.

Wait…  In performing her best ability against a swarm of monsters she’s… completely useless herself?  What a worthless companion.  Do I have to do everything myself?

I let out an angry roar, lightning arcing from my fingers, stretching out and destroying the remaining creatures within my vision, their bodies vanishing into puffs of smoke.  I hear the padding of hundreds of feet as more creatures attempt to take their places.

Turning swiftly to Majorlaine I snap my fingers.  Her voice cuts off and she vanishes back into the useless world I stole her from.  Chest heaving with frustrated breaths I pull out the last card.  With an angry bellow and one last arc of lightning I summon the man to my side.

xehanort

He appears, looks calmly around him, and his face cracks into an evil grin.

What?

“I see my plan worked… This world, so full of people with so many hearts and so much light, was just itching for a cleansing.  A balance, if you will…”

My eyes narrow as the realization hits me.  This man planned this attack.  He wanted me to invite him here… to MY realm?!

“Do you truly think you can take over my kingdom?  Steal from me what I’ve earned, what I deserve!?  DO YOU THINK YOU CAN MAKE A FOOL OUT OF ME?” I shout, my rage building inside.

“Of course.  Sending one thousand of my Heartless to your kingdom, on the eve of your pathetic puppet’s wedding?  Why, this worked out better than I could have imagined.  You fell for my plan.  Like the simpleton I always thought you were.”

I scream in rage, malice building inside me as he lets out a cold, mirthless laugh and his minions begin to surround me.  As I glance around me, preparing for battle, I notice that several have stopped stalking me and have, instead, merely sat upon the ground.  Odd…

“I am Ganondorf, the most powerful, the most evil of all beings.  I, the reincarnation of Demise the Demon himself, can NOT be overruled by a worthless, pathetic master of a simple sword.  I cannot be defeated!”

As my echoes die out the creatures, Heartless, Xehanort called them, all stop and slowly turn away from me and toward their master.

“Enough of this!  Attack!”  Xehanort cries, pointing the tip of a long key at me.  I brace myself but the attack never comes.  I see my enemy glance around, a look of fear replacing the triumph.

“NO!” he cries “I am most evil.  You bow down to me!  I am your master!”

“Most evil, you say?”  I chuckle.  It has finally dawned on me that these Heartless, born from darkness, must gravitate toward true evil.  And I know exactly whose heart contains the most evil.  “It seems that your gamble was… mistaken.  You should have known better than to mess with a Demon King.”  I lift a finger and point at the trembling form of my adversary.  The Heartless begin padding toward him at a run, rushing to consume the man they once served.  Xehanort lets out a shriek of terror before raising his Keyblade and vanishing, like a coward.

I chuckle again, triumphant in the knowledge that I have a new monster to let loose on the world.  What is the goddesses chosen hero to a swarm of creatures born from darkness?  I call my noble steed and set off toward the canyon and my servant’s wedding, my horde of Heartless trailing behind me, confident that I, Ganondorf, will soon conquer this world.

ganondorf

To Thine Own Self Be True

To Thine Own Self Be True

It may be hackneyed, I know, and quite honestly, this particular phrase can be digested into a thousand meanings, both for your good and to promote selfishness…  But in spite of those facts, and possibly because Hamlet is my second-favorite Shakespeare play (any guesses which is first?), I still think this quote embodies what I want to talk about today.

To thine own self be true.  Be true to who you are, who you want to be, and what you intend for your life.  This has been the theme of my therapy sessions for the last, oh I don’t know, forever.  And guys, this is the big one, the massive post I hinted about around Thanksgiving.  The post where I finally talk about gaming, shame culture, letting go of judgement, and accepting myself.  So who wants to dive into the deepest recesses of my depression?  ooh, ooh, me!  Cool.  Let’s get going.

Once upon a time, as a child, I didn’t have a lot of friends.  It was pretty hard to be a girl who loved gaming, sports, fantasy, science, and reading and either no one could relate to me or everyone pretended they couldn’t.  Even if I finally found a new friend I’d usually wind up losing them after only a few months when they realized I was way nerdier than they were willing to put up with.  It was lonely.  It was hard.  It lasted until my senior year of high school.  And it helped me develop a desperate need to feel wanted and accepted by those around me and an absolute fear of abandonment.

Cut to years later and I still had that overwhelming need to be liked, wanted, and praised.  Because if people were praising me, liking me, wanting to be like me, and telling me that the things I did were great, then maybe that person would stick around.  And while this is not healthy behavior I was always able to keep it under control because deep down, I knew I was an achiever.  And the constant series of accomplishing tasks and goals in my job, hobbies, and personal life helped fill the gaps left by my loneliness.

But then the baby came.  All of a sudden I was 20 pounds heavier than I’d ever been in my life (and, frankly, as a very tall girl with a medium build I’d never been good on the whole “body image” front), a mother with massive new emotional and financial responsibilities, unable to find time to do the dishes or grocery shop, and without the energy to really excel at any and all projects, professionally or personally.

And at the very moment that I started to lose myself it seemed like everyone else found themselves.  It was the time when my in-laws all decided who they were going to be, where their lives were going, and somehow still had the energy to accomplish everything they wanted.  It was when my sister solidified that her calling in life is to teach others and help them learn as she raised and babysat both her little girl and my son, still finding the time to seemingly have it all together.  It was the time all my friends seemed to “grow up”.  Everyone’s Instagram feeds were full of the “socially acceptable” adventures and hobbies they’d discovered.  It was at this point that my anxiety and depression were uncontrollable by myself alone.  So I found help by seeking out a trained professional and, after digging up so much of the past and pushing so much toward the future, I think I can finally say that I know who I want to be.

While it isn’t the biggest issue I’ve faced, accepting my hobbies and my love for them have been one of the major obstacles I’ve needed to overcome.  You’ve seen the media, you’ve all been watching the news, and the idea that “gaming is bad” is a constant issue we, as gamers, have to face.  Several of the bloggers who I really admire and look up to have done posts on this recently.  One, in particular, stood out so well.

NekoJonez, some of the best emotional support you’ll ever find in a community, ranted about non-gamer’s perceptions of gamers.  When people around me started deciding who their “grown up selves” were going to be I started hearing this a lot more.  Or maybe I’d just never listened before, because I didn’t care that person X didn’t like my choice of hobbies.  When my anxiety started coming to a head I started questioning every single hobby I’d ever had.  Was it too childish?  Did I need to grow up?  Was I supposed to fit in the current culture and live life like literally everyone else on Instagram/Facebook/insert social media platform of your choice?  How could I like games and still be accepted and appreciated?  And even among gamers, how could I exclusively enjoy Nintendo and not be mocked as “childish”?

It wasn’t until my brother-in-law, an absolute saint, metaphorically sat down with me (we were on the phone), and had a long chat about the fact that he has struggled through, and come out the victor, in these exact issues that I started to feel like maybe I was going to be okay.  Maybe other’s impressions of my choices and my life didn’t matter.  Maybe loving something, even if other people don’t approve, was more important than being who I was “supposed” to be.  By sharing his advances in determining how he wanted to play games and the benefits he derived from them, and the emotional and physical support he and his wife have showered on me, I gain confidence in my own struggles with this perception of gamers and, ultimately, of myself.

It’s a tough road, guys.  There’s so much out there telling you that you’re unhealthy, lazy, wasting time, childish, promoting whatever gaming is supposed to be ruining nowadays, addicted, a part of the problem with society, missing  the fullness of life, not enough of a gamer, not the right kind of gamer, not playing the right things, etc… Whatever mean thing someone can think of, trust me, they will.  If they can shame you into feeling like you’re not good enough, hey, maybe you’ll change and validate their lifestyle.  It’s so hard not to buy into what they’re saying.  They have the support of the current societal norms on their side, after all.  How can we overcome this bombardment on our personal choices?

So, while I don’t need to go into all the gory details, let’s talk about how I’ve learned to cope with these fears and stressors.  Because ultimately, this post isn’t so I can tell you all my personal life stories.  It’s to help others who may be feeling the same fears and thoughts.  Who may be going through their own young, mid-life crisis.

There is NOTHING wrong with your hobbies.  Gaming or otherwise.  There’s nothing wrong with choosing to continue gaming, or choosing new hobbies, or heck, doing both!  Nostalgia Trigger, a fantastic blog you should definitely follow, wrote an incredible post about a year ago talking about these very things.  Gaming is a hobby, it isn’t a lifestyle.  And so is every other passion and pursuit you turn to.  Yeah, it can consume you, it can be your number one thing, but it doesn’t define who you are, what you stand for, and your value as a human being.  It’s a hobby.  And it’s just fine to fall in love with your hobby.  Everyone has them.  And no one hobby is better than another.  So accept yourself, accept your hobbies, and be happy that you’ve found things you love to do.  Not everyone has.

Just because you found something (or somethings) you’re passionate about at a young age doesn’t make them childish.  It makes you lucky.  4 out of my 5 favorite hobbies are things I adored as a child.  Gaming is one of them.  My entire family are gamers, it’s something we did as a family, something we pursued on our own, and something nearly all of us have continued as we’ve grown.  Just because it’s something I did as a child does not make it childish.  I’ve had decades of loving who I am and enjoying one of my favorite hobbies.  That’s years longer than so many people.  How lucky am I?  Decades of refining my tastes, discovering my niche, and really knowing what’s worth my time and what isn’t.  That isn’t childish, that’s maturity.

Stop the comparison, take away the judgement.  One of my biggest problems is that I judge myself incredibly harshly.  I compare and, instead of being jealous, I simply find some way of turning that comparison into a criticism of who I am/am not.  I find ways to devalue myself based on these perfect boundaries I’ve decided I have to fit inside.  Well guess what?  No one is perfect.  Which means I constantly break those boundaries and rules and, when I do, I leave myself open to me saying some of the meanest things anyone has ever said of me.  Do you have this problem?  Are you, quite literally, your harshest critic?  While it’s 1000% easier said than done, stop the criticism and take away the judgement.  Everyone makes mistakes, you face problems you can’t overcome or set-backs that completely take you away.  But instead of turning it into a rant about the horrible, terrible human being you aren’t, take away the judgement and make it about accepting you for your faults and the growth that you achieve when you fail.  No one achieved anything through perfect success.  It’s only through failure that we learn.

So what if so-and-so thinks you’re silly for gaming?  Instead of taking what they’ve said to heart simply accept any critiques that may be true and throw the rest in the garbage.  Don’t use it as fuel on your fire to be harsh and unkind to yourself.  Instead of judging ourselves on whether we spent 6 hours doing playing a game or 6 hours doing any other hobby, simply accept that you did something that brought you pure joy and move one.  Instead of allowing someone’s belief about how you should spend your time ruin your night simply brush it aside and do the things you love.  Accept that you are who you are and leave the judgement where it belongs-nowhere near you.

It’s taken me a full and solid year to finally start comprehending some of these facts.  I love video games.  I love tabletop games.  I’d rather spend every night of my week watching Overwatch League than anything else.  I’m obsessed with the Legend of Zelda and have an entire shelf of LoZ games and books to prove it.  I’m proud of the fact that one of my son’s favorite things is Mario.

It’s okay to love yourself.  It’s okay to be yourself.  You don’t have to look like person X, because you never will.  You’re not them, from your DNA to your beliefs.   So stop trying.  Just accept who you are, pants size and everything.  It’s okay to enjoy gaming.  No one person’s hobbies will ever be better than another’s.  They are a portion of all the wonderful things that make you who you are.  They shape your ability to change your world.  The world needs gamers, and hikers, and readers, and sports enthusiasts, and every other possible hobby.  Because those things help build a civilization that works.  Embrace the differences and accept yourself.  Because you are, and will always be the very best at being you.

Triforce Heroes and the Power of Nostalgia

Triforce Heroes and the Power of Nostalgia

Sorry for the major posting today but guess what, readers?  It’s another collaboration post, but this one is, dare I say, even bigger than the last one I was involved in!  This series, put on by NekoJonez, is a nice retrospective on everyone’s (or at least my) favorite series: The Legend of Zelda.  In his article you’ll find links between blogs, sharing all the amazing posts by other bloggers discussing each of the LoZ games.  I am so glad and grateful to be involved in this article because, as you all know, I’m a little obsessed with Zelda… Just a bit…

I get to talk about Tri-Force Heroes!  I’ll be taking you through my favorite part of the game: the nostalgia.  This is something Nintendo really tapped into in order to make the game a massively enjoyable multiplayer experience.

triforce heroes

Triforce Heroes, for those of you who never played it, is a multiplayer game for the Nintendo 3DS handheld consoles.  The game was created to improve on the limitations of the GameBoy Advanced Four Swords multiplayer game, which required a lot of finagling to be able to play with others.  Utilizing the built-in WiFi and capability to interact with people all across the globe, Nintendo was able to recapture the enjoyment and excitement of a multiplayer Zelda game in a much more user-friendly way.

Once you start playing Triforce Heroes it seems like Nintendo wanted to recapture a lot of past feelings.  The nostalgia factor is incredibly high while playing, with nods to previous characters, abilities, and artistic styles throughout the game.  It may seem like a simple move to include these little hints but it sure made all the difference for me!  As a bit of a stickler for story the idea of saving an entire kingdom from a “fashion emergency” put me off right from the start.  I was skeptical about the fun I would have playing a game that not only cut out Zelda and Hyrule, but also cut out any semblance of a real story.  But every time I came across another nod at the Zelda series I felt excited, happy that I understood the reference, and eager to continue playing.  For me, that was the real masterpiece of the game.  Nintendo’s ability to capitalize on our love of these characters is what keeps us coming back for more!  What are some of these references, you might ask?  Here, let me show you…

First, let’s talk about concept and artistic style.  This game is heavily based off of the art and world of A Link Between Worlds.  In an interview with Polygon the developer, Hiromasa Shikata, explained that it was A Link Between Worlds that really sparked his interest in creating a multiplayer Legend of Zelda game.  So, naturally, the game would have plenty of elements of LbW throughout it.  The enemies we encounter in each of the levels, the 2D-but-actually-3D visuals, and the stepped terraces and environments are each elements that hearken directly back to LbW.  And, if you know anything about LbW you know that this hearkens back to A Link to the Past, one of the first Legend of Zelda games and a favorite among fans.  So right in the initial development is a double-hit of nostalgia.

In Triforce Heroes Link is able to enter a realm of Doppel’s, which are character’s he inhabits in order to complete levels on his own.  This ability ensures that players can complete the levels they need to even when other players aren’t available.  Shikata, who helped develop Spirit Tracks, explained in his Polygon interview at E3 in 2015 “That element [the ability to control phantoms] really intrigued me and brought out the idea that I wanted to try multiplayer as well.”  So, if we read that correctly (and trust me, we did) Link’s ability to play and inhabit other characters is a direct link to Spirit Tracks.

But we can’t just spend the entire article talking about development, can we? There’s far too much to see and remember to focus just on that!  We’ve already talked about how the art style was heavily influenced by LbW and ALTTP but it seems the character’s were, as well!  There’s no need to go in depth on the enemies, who are a perfect match to the enemies found in LbW.  Did Match Master and Doppel Master look strangely familiar to anyone else?  Yep, to me they looked and reminded me exactly of Sahasrahla from A Link to the Past.  Sahasrahla, the wise old sage, is a perfect match up to the Masters, who are supposed to be guardians of the gates to the outer drablands.  This character, who is able to communicate with Link in ALTTP makes perfect sense as the Masters, who would need to communicate with outside Link’s to create matches.  And then there’s the Street Merchant, a perfect match to the one found in LbW and ALTTP.  This character even makes a little nod when he first shows up at having “seen” Link before… possibly in another world?

And then there’s the outfits.  So many of them are reminders of the characters and things we loved from LoZ games.  Shall we list them?  I think we should, just for the fun of it.

costumes

There’s the Goron garb and Kokiri tunic are a perfect match to those races from Ocarina of Time, while the Zora garb comes straight out of LbW and ALTTP.  Was anyone else reminded of Dodoh from Skyward Sword with the Rupee Regalia outfit?  And Linebeck from Phantom Hourglass and the Fierce Diety armor from Majora’s Mask shows up in the DLC. The Tingle outfit needs no introduction and in a game without Zelda the legendary dress was sorely needed to remind us of her.  The Timeless tunic, from the original Legend of Zelda, is the perfect little nod to the one that started it all, changing all the music to 8-bit sounds throughout the entire game.  And, in a fit of inclusion Nintendo added the hammerwear, a perfect match to the Hammer Bros. from Mario and the Cozy Parka looked very similar to Ice Climbers from Smash Brothers.

But now for my favorite nostaglia moment of them all – the music balls in the waiting room.  I decided, when I was asked to help contribute to this awesome collaboration, to replay a little of the game.  While it held up (mostly) from when it was first released I got stuck in an awful lot of waiting rooms.  It seems like there are fewer and fewer people playing, which means waiting for matches can take quite a while.  And while I waited for a team to show up I spent what amounts to hours playing with the music balls.  If you haven’t played the game you can run, full tilt, at the wall and a music ball (looking like a beach ball) will bounce down from the ceiling.  If you’re able to keep the ball off the ground using your sword you get to hear all the classic Kondo tunes that make Legend of Zelda great.  There’s something, it seems, from nearly every game, and each one brings to mind exactly how much I loved that game and makes me want to play it again.  It was like a few perfect minutes remembering things I loved and still loved from every single game.  I would even get a little upset when my match would begin and it would prevent me from playing with the music balls…

Nintendo created an incredible franchise when they developed The Legend of Zelda.  They created memorable characters, places, stories, items, and music to immerse us in a world we can continue to visit again and again.  In Triforce Heroes, where they needed to create a different type of story and a different type of gameplay, Nintendo capitalized on the elements of LoZ that really capture our hearts, making it another classic we will continue to revisit as time passes on.

Featured Image Credit: Pieter-Jan Casteels https://zoef.deviantart.com/

 

 

Better Gaming Through Criticism

Better Gaming Through Criticism

It seems like game journalism and critics are a hot button topic right now in social media and on other gaming blogs.  I think it’s finally time that I put in my two cents about it.

Last night on the commute home I was listening to a RadioWest Podcast episode in which A. O. Scott was discussing his new book, Better Living Through Criticism: How to Think About Art, Pleasure, Beauty, and Truth.  Scott is the chief film critic for the New York Times and has quite a lot of experience critiquing films and other art.  Just a few days earlier The Well-Red Mage posted an article discussing whether video games are considered art.  Now, I know it seems like these are two unrelated events but it was like lightning had just struck my brain and today’s post, which had at first seemed impossible, was now impossibly easy.  So let’s talk about the importance of criticism (proper criticism, mind you) on the gaming industry.  And yes, in case you were wondering, I absolutely think video games are art…

First, let’s discuss some science.  I, if you’ve read my profile, am a microbiologist and love infectious disease.  I specialize in human pathogens and in my studies had to learn a lot about how viruses and bacteria evolve.  There are two major ways they do this: antigenic shift and antigenic drift.  Drift occurs slowly, over time, making small changes in the genetic code that eventually lead to a new organism.  Shift happens when a large factor is changed in the genetic code, creating a new organism right away.  Criticism in the game industry lead to these two types of changes: slow, small changes that occur over time and big leaps that happen almost immediately.

So now let’s discuss criticism.  There are two different types of criticism and I want to talk about both, because each one leads to the advance of the industry.  Let’s start with the easy one: “the expression of disapproval of someone or something based on perceived faults or mistakes”.  This is the criticism I think most of us encounter – the twitter rants, the angry Reddit posts, the comments section on Amazon.  This form of expression seems to be everywhere.

It’s interesting to think of these critics as important for the gaming industry because I think, in general, they are looked down on.  But have you ever liked a tweet expressing displeasure with, say, Nintendo for not producing enough SNES mini’s to meet demand?  Or left a review of how a game’s mechanics are difficult, not intuitive, or broken?  Whenever you do you are telling the game industry what to produce and what not to produce next time.  If a game is unpopular, has terrible reviews, and no one purchases it you’ve just told the developer to never make that kind of game again.  If there’s a twitter rant about not enough consoles for the masses, the developer will change tatics and immediately begin reproduction on that console (thank you Nintendo for more SNES mini’s!).  If everyone is complaining about the mechanics of how a particular gun is made in Destiny, it’ll be fixed in the next patch.

These kinds of criticism produce the massive shifts in the industry that responds to what the gamers want right now.  It’s a way to ensure that developers are meeting popular opinion and demand.  If you want something done, express your frustration and, if enough people agree with you, you can bet it’ll get fixed, either for the next game or in the next update.

The second form of criticism is “the analysis and judgment of the merits and faults of a literary or artistic work”.  This is where game journalism comes in because these are the critics of the industry.  In Better Living Through Criticism, Scott discusses the idea that art cannot exist without criticism.  I loved this idea because it rings so true to me.  Without criticism, without thinking clearly and examining our emotional response to something, we cannot give that something meaning.  Without meaning, that something cannot be art.  So in order to continue to ensure that games are taken seriously, these kinds of critics are a valuable part of our industry.

A critics job is to look at something and figure out why it has meaning.  Why did it evoke certain feelings?  What is the underlying tone and vibe of the game?  How did it affect the general population and what will the impact be on current societal trends?  These questions provide new insights, even insights the artist wasn’t intending, into the games and consoles that are being released.  In turn, these criticisms evoke antigenic drift, the slow process of small changes that adjust the way the industry behaves, the games that are made, and the stories that are told.  When critics ask hard questions and come up with new answers, it provokes though and ingenuity in the developers.  Sometimes it’s something no one had considered before.  Because of these new ideas we are able to change the way that we think about games and the way that games are created, produced, and told.

And you know what?  These voices are important, whether they are good at something or bad at it.  Just because you aren’t capable of playing every game on the market doesn’t mean that your in-depth analysis is invalid.  We don’t expect sports commentators to have necessarily been pro players, but we still accept their opinions and their commentary as valid.  We don’t expect film critics to have been producers or actors at some point in their career.  The point of a critic is to be able to think about something a little outside the box in order to invest new, and sometimes groundbreaking ideas into the mix.  We should extend the same courtesy to game journalists.   Most of them have an area of expertise and they are pretty good at sticking to that area.  But they’re allowed to be humans and step outside that range for non-professional moments.  Let’s let them be human.

A word of caution: just because we can be critics doesn’t mean we should be.  This post isn’t a call to arms, trying to make sure everyone remains harsh and unforgiving in their opinions about new games, new consoles, new media.  In fact, I think we can be just as influential in our positive opinions and reviews as we are in our criticism of how things are done.  By showing Nintendo that the masses love Zelda (obvious by the sales numbers) we are ensuring that something we admire continues to be made.  By expressing our delight with the mechanics of Overwatch, we continue to provide support for the loving tweaks they give the characters to help make the game even better.  People’s disappointment that the Uncharted series was over may have ensured that spin-off’s like Lost Legacy continue to be made.  So let’s use criticism to help make the things we love so much become better, but let’s also use our positivity and optimism to make them better, too.

My conclusion?  The criticism from both gamers and critics introduce novel changes to the industry that help it stay active and alive.  I think it’s an important aspect of gaming and something that we should be proud to be a part of.  What do you guys think?  Do you believe that criticism and critics are important for the game industry and how could it be different and better?

 

It’s Okay to be a Hero

It’s Okay to be a Hero

Lets chat for a bit about heroes.  The new, modern, trendy, super cool, trench coat-wearing thing nowadays is anti-heroes.  Batman, Joel from The Last of Us, Aloy from Horizon Zero Dawn.  All these characters are dark, mysterious, brooding, kind of morally ambiguous, and dreamy.  It seems that the media and critics are obsessed with the anti-hero and anything even remotely resembling a hero is a boring trope that’s obviously been done before.

But you know who I love?  The hero.  I love Link, Mario, and Captain America.  I love the brightness, the hope, the radiating goodness that pours out of a hero and into our lives.  Heroes are absolutely still relevant and, especially in these dark times, still necessary in our games, movies, and media.

So what’s the exact difference, you may ask?  Well let’s check Wikipedia – because that’s what we do nowadays.

A hero is defined as a “person or main character who, in the face of danger, combats adversity through impressive feats and ingenuity, bravery, or strength, often sacrificing their own personal concerns for the greater good”.  Let’s break it down.  A hero is someone who utilizes their natural abilities to overcome evil.  They are always found giving up what they want to help others and are good, true, honest, and kind.  These characters always do the right thing and have a fantastic moral compass.

An anti-hero is a “protagonist who lacks conventional heroic qualities such as idealism, courage, or morality.  Although anti-heroes may sometimes do the right thing, it is often for the wrong reasons and because it serves their self-interest rather than being driven by moral convictions”.  So these are the people who fight against the system, break the rules, live by their own code, and do their own thing.  And somehow they usually end up doing the right thing for the people around them.  But it’s not always the best way to do it or the best reasons.

Because anti-heroes are much more flawed and much more like us they tend to be more loved.  They appeal to us because we relate to their circumstances, they struggles, and dilemmas.

But…

Just because a character is a hero doesn’t mean they’re flat.  Or outdated.  Or boring.  It just means they are a good person with good morals who does good things for people.  It’s because they are heroes that makes them people we should emulate.  I mean, add a couple of cut scenes of Batman sneaking through a window with an ax and this just became a horror film.  Instead of focusing on the parts of a hero no one feels they can relate to, lets focus on the fact that these are characters we can strive to be!

My sister-in-law and I have this debate semi-regularly.  She is a hard-core anti-hero fan and I am a die-hard hero worshiper.  It’s why she loves Brontë and I love Austen.  Why she loves Rogue One instead of Force Awakens and I… well I love both.  And I wish I could help her understand that a character doesn’t need to be an anti-hero to be worthy of praise or positive critique.

Lord David Cecil once said (when talking about Austen’s novels, but let’s be honest, it can be applied to any hero character, “There are those who do not like [heroes]; as there are those who do not like sunshine or unselfishness”.  These character’s can bring light and happiness into our lives and into our perspectives.  Instead of focusing on the flaws and negativity and selfishness we are given the option to look at the selflessness, the integrity, the courage of characters doing the right thing because it’s the right thing.  Link saving Hyrule in every iteration simply because he’s in the right circumstances.  Mario rescuing the kidnapped girl and freeing countless worlds from the clutches of tyrants.  These are the people with hope and the ones who can teach us to hope.

The website Literary Devices explains that “in modern society when we are presented with a character that is overly righteous and upright, we find it too good to be true. The social turmoil that the entire world as a community has been facing recently has disposed us to be skeptical of almost everything. . . So, we relate better to a character that has suffered through life and has both good and bad sides than a character that is only seen doing good.”  And maybe that’s true, but I like to believe there’s some good left in this world and that heroes exemplify who we can become in order to make things right!

Who are your favorite heroes?  Or, if you prefer anti-heroes, which is your favorite and why?

P.S: Special shout out to the artist Kurama805 on DeviantArt for the artwork I used as my featured image!  This is a downloadable wallpaper and is gorgeous!

It’s Poll Day!

Last week’s poll got more votes than I anticipated, which felt really amazing!  So here’s next week’s poll!  I’m in a dessert mood, so let’s make that happen.  Happy voting!

Thursday Thoughts: E3 Edition

Thursday Thoughts: E3 Edition

With E3 slowly winding down and coming to a close I wanted to join the hundreds of people expressing their feelings on the turn out this year.  I know quite a few of my fellow gamer-bloggers have been live-blogging E3 this year.  I appreciate their stamina and insight, particularly because it allowed me to skip a lot of it due to other conflicts.  If you want a really good exploration of a lot of the showcases I highly recommend Adventure Rules.  His posts made me laugh and were pretty good at capturing the feel of the presentations.

Bethesda:  Let’s start with one I didn’t watch.  Thanks to Ian, my little brother, and my brother-in-law I got a pretty good idea of what happened.  It made me feel very lucky that I didn’t stay up for it… Nothing was announced that sparked my interest, including Skyrim for Switch, because, frankly, that guy stealing Link’s stuff was just weird to me.

Microsoft:  I don’t own an Xbox and I probably won’t ever own an Xbox.  But their overwhelming focus on something that’ll be difficult for people to afford utilizing technology hardly anyone can afford painted them into a serious corner.  So what if your console has 4K resolution?  Are you going to drop $500.00 on a new console only to play it on your TV that’s still 1080P?  In order for this truly to work you’ve got to spend the thousands on a new TV, and then buy the console, and then buy only the games that have 4K capability!  Am I impressed with the technology they presented?  Of course!  It’s a huge leap forward.  But do I honestly think it’s going to work out for them?  I think that’s an obvious no…  At least not right now.

Ubisoft:  I’m not an Assassin’s Creed fan.  I know the stories are pretty interesting, in general, but I think the gameplay is pretty boring.  I didn’t even like Black Flag despite the fact that you’re a pirate and pirate’s were in that year.  But an ancient Egyptian storyline has so much potential!  I think I’ll still feel the same way about the gameplay and, frankly, even with the coolest concepts Ubisoft hasn’t delivered on a storyline I care about.  But then there’s Mario + Rabbids.  It looked like a mixture of straight-up weird and cool.  I couldn’t tell what my feelings were on this one.  At first I pushed back, thinking it was something I would never play.  But the more I see of it, the more willing I am to give it a chance.  It’s a Mario game, after all.

EA:  Confession time: I love Star Wars.  When I went to my very first Comic Con and saw Dave Prowse I started crying because I was so overwhelmed.  He thought that was pretty cool and invited me and my family to dinner with him and Peter Mayhew.  Definitely worked out in my favor.  So when I see a newer and much, much better Battlefront coming, I get excited.  Nothing else really stood out, but Star Wars is always worth it for me.

PlayStation:  Every year my brother-in-law throws a PlayStation party where we gamers come together and watch the showcase.  This year we even had a game.  Each of us wrote down a list of games we thought they’d present and there was a point system and everything.  I don’t always play something other than Nintendo, but when I do, I play PlayStation (keep gaming, my friends), so I was pretty interested in what they’d be showing.  However, since I don’t play it very often, PlayStation would have to show something incredible to get me excited… But that didn’t happen.  I didn’t see anything that blew me away.  Even the new Uncharted, a series I actually love, didn’t appeal because I really don’t like Chloe!  What surprised me, though, was how little the people around me cared.  All the games we had guessed and games we were excited for weren’t discussed and the gameplay didn’t wow.  Though I admit, the zombear was pretty awesome.  Luckily they closed with Spider-man, which has some serious potential for making the Arkham fanbase happy.

Nintendo:  Now for the cream!  I don’t know what I was expecting from this but it wasn’t what we got.  Other than the weird voice-over for Xenoblade 2 (seriously, what was that?), they blew me away with their animation, titles, color, and excitement.  A new Pokemon RPG, a new Metroid, the Breath of the Wild DLC, a new Kirby, an amazing-looking Yoshi, followed up with Super Mario Odyssey.  It was like eye candy and happiness had a baby.  I’m so excited for nearly every single thing they announced and now I’m anxious for it all to get released!  I’m so excited for these games it feels like I’m a kid again.

So who, in my opinion, “won” E3?  I think that’s not really a fair question.  Everyone has different tastes, opinions, and ideas about what they want from their gaming experience.  I am a pretty exclusive Nintendo gamer so Microsoft (obviously) didn’t appeal to me and, while I enjoy PlayStation games and the stories they tell I wasn’t wowed by anything they brought to the table this year.  So it’s pretty fair to say Nintendo, with their colors, graphics, lack of mindless intro’s, and announcements of some new heavy hitters was my absolute favorite.  But it was last year, too, when the only thing they talked about was Breath of the Wild.  I think, based on preferences determined by a quick poll at my laboratory of all the serious gamers there, everyone got pretty excited about something someone was releasing.  Which means that, to me, E3 itself was the winner, bringing another year of excellent games to excellent platforms that appeal to a wide audience of gamers.

So what did you guys think?  Any games you’re super excited to play?