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    An Open Letter to Ellie and Joel

    By Softballchic10

    There are certain games that come along from time to time that really get your attention. It could be for the action, the graphics or game play. However, it is a rare occasion that a game grabs you for all of these, plus the amazing experience of becoming emotionally attached and involved in the actions of characters. It is to this that I write this open letter to Ellie and Joel. I met them in the “The Last of Us.” *(Please note that I've tried to write this to contain no spoilers. Personality of the characters is mentioned as well as reference to generic type actions that happen in game.) Dear Ellie and Joel, I want to thank you for letting me join you on one of the most amazing adventures of my life. I know the journey was long and brutal. There is never a reason a death should be simple or a casual thing. But a person has every right to fight for their own right to live. It is to that I acknowledge and understand why at times death followed in your footsteps. Know that I don't blame you, nor do I condemn you for it. Joel, you said yourself along the way “It was him or me.” Simply stated, but true to fact. We all wish that we could walk again in relative harmony the way we once did. That time may come again, but not now. Not now. Joel, at times you were a hard man for me to like, but you had your own personal reasons, your own demons that you fought every day. But even when I disagreed with your words, your actions always spoke louder and with greater heart. There were moments when you were an enigma to me. You could be harsh and bitter one moment, protective and wise at another. As I think on it, I believe it is because the man that knew a world before everything went to hell is still there inside you, wrestling the man you have had to become to survive. Ellie, you are an amazing young woman. I refuse to acknowledge you as a girl as most people do. Yes, there are times when you were goofy, silly and playful. But those are wonderful traits to carry on, even as you get older. It was refreshing to watch as you, for the first time, saw the world as it used to be, even if it was only in shattered pieces. Your wonder was childlike, not childish, and full of amazement and wonder. I smile now thinking about some of those moments. But that is only part of who you are. You are also fierce, tough, loyal and caring. These traits to me and your actions when times were tough are what shaped you into the young woman I have come to know. You have such strength of character. It didn't matter if it was Hunters, the army or Infected, you always were there, looking out and helping out. You never ran away from danger when you could have given up. Your determination to see every situation though, no matter for good or bad, it is inspiring. We adults could learn so much from you, if we only would accept the fact that sometimes the best of what we are lies in the hearts of people like you, not warped and changed by a world gone sideways. A final thought before I close this letter to both of you. Joel, I know the world as it is now has forced you to build up walls around you. It would be almost impossible to survive as long as you have without such things happening to the best of us. I hope that you find, however, that letting a little light in, be it found in people or in something else that makes you happy, there is still good in the world and the good man that you’ve buried inside you deserves to see and enjoy it. Ellie, I firmly believe that you will never give up. The world may be violent and brutal but its people like you who give us hope that we can be better then what we've become. Whatever happens though, don't ever lose that since of amazement that you get from seeing things for the first time. I hope you always have a joke and a ready smile. Oh, and one more thing. Don't trust people that do acupuncture, they're back stabbers. I know you'll understand. Once again, thank you for letting me come along on your adventure. It wasn't easy and I hate some of the things we had to do. But since we had no choice, I'm glad we went through it together. Godspeed to both of you.
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Nintendo Power Retrospectives: Part 66

This time we’re covering issue # 49 of Nintendo Power for June of 1993 Please support my Patreon at http://www.patreon.com/countzeroor
Member of The Console Xplosion Network: http://www.theconsolexplosion.com/
Watch my Live-Streams on http://twitch.tv/countzeroor/ Games Reviewed:
B.O.B. – Electronic Arts
Taz-Mania – Sunsoft
Vegas Stakes – Nintendo
Super Caesar’s Palace – Virgin Interactive
Battletoads in Battlemanaics – Rare
Battletoads in Ragnarock’s World – Rare
Battletoads & Double Dragon – Rare
Bubble Bobble Part 2 (GB) – Taito
Titus the Fox – Titus
Raging Fighter – Konami
Fire and Ice – Tecmo
Pro Sport Hockey – Jaleco
Hit the Ice – Taito
Filed under: Video games Tagged: Game Boy, NES, Nintendo Power, Nintendo Power Retrospectives, Retro Gaming, SNES

Count_Zero

Count_Zero

 

Anime Review: Fate/Kaleid Liner Prisma Illya (Season 1)

The Fate universe has, in the works I’ve reviewed thus far, has generally formed a cohesive narrative whole – with the exception of clear comedic side-stories that are deliberately intended to be outside continuity like Carnival Phantasm. Others have adapted alternate routes of the visual novels that are part of Type-Moon’s Nasuverse (like Fate/Stay Night mostly adapting the Fate route and Unlimited Blade Works adapting that route). Fate/Prisma Illya is a true alternate take on the Fate Universe. If I was to draw a comparison to another work of anime or manga, I’d compare this to the Shinji Ikari Raising Project manga. Like Shinji Ikari Raising Project, it’s set in an alternate universe where the parents (or foster parents in the case of Shirou) of the protagonist of the original work are still alive. The protagonist(s) have to contend with a challenge which is similar to but not exactly identical to the challenge of the original work, with a mostly similar cast and a similar themes, but with less severe stakes, and a less dire tone, and shifted to a different genre There are a few differences here from that formula – Kiritsugu and Irisviel are still alive, but are generally absent, with Kiritsugu and Iris traveling on work, with instead the two Einzbern maids – Sella and Leysritt, acting en loco parentis while Kiritsugu and Iris are absent. Also, the series shifts the protagonist status to Illyasviel (Illya), which fits with the genre shift – to a Magical Girl show. The show follows Illya and a new character, Miyu. They are each recruited into being Magical Girls by two sentient Magical Girl Wands – Ruby and Sapphire (respectively) – both with the voices and personalities of Kohaku and Hisui of Tsukihime (respectively). Ruby and Sapphire were originally assigned to Rin Tohsaka (from Fate) and Luviagelita (Luvia) Edelfelt (who first appeared in the epilogue of UBW), who were in turn sent from the Magic Academy in London to retrieve a selection of “Class Cards” which has made an appearance in Fuyuki City. However, as we saw in the epilogue of UBW, Rin and Luvia get along like the components of a binary explosive. So, once Ruby and Sapphire have enough of Rin and Luvia’s bickering – they quit and find new masters. Rin and Luvia end up serving as mentors for Illya and Miyu (respectively), as they fight to acquire the class cards, which means in turn defeating dark versions of the various Heroic Spirits from Fate/Stay Night (except for Assassin – that version is True Assassin, instead of Koujiro). This gives series a structure like a more serious version of Cardcaptor Sakura, with Illya and Miyu having to take on the Servant of the Episode, with two servants already captured by the start of the series – Lancer and Archer. Illya and Miyu have an interesting character dichotomy. Illya is a more conventional magical girl – not only in costume design, but in terms of worldview. She’s a fan of magical girl anime, and when Ruby tricks her into being a Magical Girl, she rolls with it pretty quickly, and completely gets the genre conventions. However, this means that when things get too dangerous and very serious, she falls into a real depression, due to the rather scary situation she finds herself in. By comparison, Miyu falls into the archetype of the Dark Magical Girl. Like most versions of the archetype, the costume is more risque than the main magical girl. Miyu also has a more cynical outlook on life – and also a comedically serious worldview. Finally, she has a mysterious backstory that isn’t exactly explained in this season. The show has a few significant minuses. For starters, this show has a little too much fanservice. Because the show is a magical girl show, instead of Illya being the age she is in Fate/Stay Night (16-18 – but with her growth magically stunted as a tactical decision for the next Grail War), she’s clearly middle-school aged. Putting aside where it puts things in terms of the timeline (Shirou, Rin, and Luvia are the same age they are in Fate/Stay Night), this brings up the issue of, well, middle school characters in skimpy outfits. Specifically the “Install” costumes that Illya and Miyu have when they Install the various class cards are the worst offender of this. It’s like the various alternate “Equips” that Erza Scarlett has in Fairy Tail, except Erza is an adult, and these characters clearly aren’t. There’s some additional fanservice elsewhere that is unnecessary and off-putting, particularly in the episode where Illya learns Miyu is working as a maid for Luvia. Additionally, to shove some additional moe tropes into the show, Illya is a bro-con. Illya having something of a twisted romantic attraction to Shirou worked in the main timeline, as while they are semi-related, they have also been raised completely apart. Here, they’ve been raised together, so there’s no excuse. Genshiken said it best about these sort of tropes: The pacing of the show is also rather rushed. Most TV anime, minimum, have a 12-episode cour. This show has a 10-episode cour. The series had already been approved for a second season by the end of the first season – but a little research has shown that season (and the two following seasons) have all run 10 episodes as well. Missing those two episodes actually hurts the pace of the series considerably. I can’t speak for how well the material in the show covers the same amount of the material in the manga, but from where I sit as a viewer, the show just felt rushed. That said, having three seasons coming after makes this more forgivable, as we can get more character development and world building in later episodes of the series. If you’re interested in picking up Season 1 of Fate/Kaleid Liner Prisma Illya (god that’s a mouthful), it’s available from Amazon.com (DVD, Blu-Ray) and RightStuf.com (DVD, Blu-Ray).
Filed under: Anime Tagged: Anime, nasuverse, Type-Moon

Count_Zero

Count_Zero

 

G2A, Gearbox, and the Problem of Good and Evil

The recent Gearbox-G2A-TotalBiscuit debacle (reported on excellently at Vice’s Waypoint by Patrick Klepek over a series of news articles here, here and here) that was the result of a deal struck to officially distribute Bulletstorm via G2A, was in the offing for the longest time. It had to happen, because the legitimate online price-race (one that has now cooled, to be frank, after several online retailers have, or are in the process of, shutting down shop) drives a portion of consumers to find the best available price every time, and every time they are caught unawares by the illegitimate practices of various services such as Cdkeys, Kinguin and the titular G2A, it is principally because of the way we are being sold games, and because of a lack of consumer education. Therefore, such a burst of activity around this topic has been a good refresher and reminder to gamers that not all is above the board with these cd-key shops. Of course, by now it should be so very clear to all of us that anything that has the word “keys” plastered to it is morally bankrupt in the general view of the retail establishment. But it isn’t, and won’t be, not until the system changes – and that change will probably be to the worse. The thing is, the framing of Gearbox’s brush with the Bad Guys was largely from the point of view of the scorned developer, as with the help of TotalBiscuit, Gearbox navigated the situation deftly and swiftly, which had the unfortunate side effect of distorting the crux of the issue, and perhaps side-stepping other relevant questions of digital distribution that absolutely led into the intended (or unintended) result of blending questions of legitimacy with illegitimacy, and proper practice with improper practice. Again, this is not to discount all the egregious instances of the morally bankrupt enterprise of G2A sabotaging developers – Natural Selection 2 developers Unknown Worlds suffered from such offenses as early as 2013 – especially by allowing credit card fraud to blossom. But it seems that in their willingness to jump in to avow their support of Gearbox (discounting Jim Sterling, of course), a company that has a long-running consumer-unfriendly corporate policy (remember when CEO Randy Pitchford called refunds “mafia style extortion tactics”), the video games media has done us consumers something of a disservice. Gearbox is the perfect example for this topic, because of their historical position in the video games industry. To us here at The Slowdown, the company has taken the significance, and the chief position as the very symbol of the industry-wide practices of anti-consumerism, false advertising, and corporate lies – perhaps to a larger degree than any other major video game developer in the world. Because of this fact, every move that Gearbox makes seems deeply embedded in a lineage of mistakes, a constant comedy of errors; their moves and plays beg to be called out, with past mistakes always invoked together with future ones not yet made. Who, if not the caricaturish Randy Pitchford, would have greenlit the coincidental release of a Bulletstorm remaster, at three times the price, with that of Bayonetta‘s? Ars Technica’s Sam Machkovech brings up several salient points regarding the pros and cons of the way the remaster was ultimately sold, but the chief one remains that at the time of writing, the latter has successfully sold over 3x more copies than the former. That Bayonetta should be published by SEGA, again, seems to fit into a framework of karmic justice, slotting right in as a historical response to Gearbox’s abuse of their contracted funds for Aliens: Colonial Marines being allegedly spent on Borderlands. Only a company so fumbling and bumbling as Gearbox can gain goodwill from this G2A debacle, finally scoring some much-needed PR Points ™ (not yet available as a micro-transfer or as an in-game currency.) In fact, only Gearbox seems to have adept enough publicity relations staff to afford a CEO so intent on sabotaging their business, year in and year out. While Gearbox’s history of flubs may seem tangential at first, it is the company’s complete public disdain for their consumer base that serves to underline the fact that this kind of unified perception in favour of publisher conduct is ultimately untenable; instead, we must always give ourselves the chance of heaping legitimate criticism together with defense or praise. A discussion on the basis of the cult of a brand never does anyone good. Remember when Google was to not be evil? Well, they “should” be doing “the right thing” now, by dabbling here and there with military robots. Therefore, no matter how corrupt G2A’s practice in practice is, we must not allow ourselves to lump those practices together in theory with other grey-area industry practice. We must be wary of the philosophical framing of the entirety of the discussion, which seems to currently slant in the media in a way that blurs the lines of our rights as buyers and owners of video games. No matter what harm G2A have ultimately caused to the industry, these aspects of the retail of video games remain philosophically and societally problematic in today’s inter-connected world: Video game keys and retail games as “licenses,” “services,” or “subscriptions” Purchasers as “licensees” or “subscribers” Viewing the resale of legitimate purchases as “illegal” or “against the TOS” Regional restrictions on purchases Regional pricing of goods The chief problems with G2A are undeniable; indeed, they have visibly and tangibly strong-armed publishers by first birthing a problem and then offering a solution to that problem in a way that only further benefits them, and them alone. The closest analogy is the external destabilization of a region to gain access to oil. But we, as a collective, should not be lulled into accepting the aforementioned untenable consumer positions only because the current winds of PR and news paints them in a certain light, lumping them together with other issues as a pre-digested and pre-mediated package. Instead, we must be alarmed by how extremely easy it seems to muddle the lines between a) fraudulent resale and b) legitimate resale of keys. I understand that it is a terrifically grey area in practice, but in theory none of us should have any problems with it. I paid for it, it’s mine to sell or resell, right? It is a similarly slippery a slope to accidentally defend the industry practice of video game licensing simply because it is our primary platform of delivery and we are accustomed to the ease of use of Steam, Origin and uPlay. But in no way are any of these platforms ultimately philosophically acceptable practices of delivery of goods in this capitalist trade society of ours. These services are the reason this problem exists in the first place; they are the reason we have been deprived of proper ownership of our goods, of material and immaterial rights, behind the veil of words such as “service” and “subscription”. To reiterate: We must not allow ourselves to be blinded into accepting or taking a position as a “whole” or a “sum” of positions of good and evil; that way, we will lose our rights and access to the valid resale of legitimately purchased keys, and we will lose our (intellectual) legitimate position of ownership of goods. I understand fully that some of these are already lost. But there’s more still to lose: It’s perfectly clear to me that in today’s partisan world, societal, political and technological ideas are clumped together in bunches of ideas, they come in political colours, and become defensible or indefensible on the mere basis of the lines that are drawn. Whether this has been the aim of the media that contributed to this recent spur of publicity on the topic, whether it has simply been the side-effect of having to paint the stories in a certain light for clicks and views, or whether it makes the most sense to frame the discussion intellectually between only good and evil, we need remind ourselves constantly, consistently, and vigilantly, of our positions, to retain the proper accuracy of our views, and to de-bundle and de-package our viewpoints, and ultimately take ownership of what we feel is right and wrong.

vrap

vrap

 

Book Review: Swords & Deviltry

This time I’m taking a look at (chronologically) the first book in the Fafhrd and Grey Mouser series – Swords & Deviltry. Please support my Patreon at http://www.patreon.com/countzeroor
Member of The Console Xplosion Network: http://www.theconsolexplosion.com/
Watch my Live-Streams on http://twitch.tv/countzeroor/
Filed under: Books, videos Tagged: book review, Fritz Lieber, swords & sorcery, Videos

Count_Zero

Count_Zero

 

Movie Review: Samurai Cop

It would be reductive to say that Samurai Cop was is what you should expect from a film from the late ’80s, and early ’90s titled Samurai Cop. Reductive, and not entirely accurate. Not because the film is better than that description would imply – but because the film is actually worse. The film is a shockingly mean-spirited film, to such a degree that it overwhelms some of the charm that the film’s incompetence would have otherwise merited. The film follows Joe Marshall, a cop from San Diego known as “Samurai” due to his knowledge of martial arts and fluency in Japanese. He’s brought up to Los Angeles to take on the “Katana” gang – a Japanese gang that’s been pushing drugs on the streets of LA, and which the LAPD doesn’t have quite enough evidence to bring down. At which point, over the course of the film, the Katana gang stages a bunch of broad daylight assassination attempts against Joe and his partner, including blowing up his car, and the boss’s #2 – Yamashita (played by not even remotely Japanese actor Robert Z’Dar), infiltrates the hospital to kill one of the boss’s men who was taken alive. Oh, and Yamashita repeatedly guns down his own men before being taken into custody. The thing is, aside from knowing martial arts, Joe doesn’t particularly demonstrate any of the skills that explain why he’s called “Samurai”. We don’t get any scenes where he gets to speak or understand Japanese (not even the old gag where two characters try to insult him to his face in Japanese, leading to him demonstrating that he knows their language). All the LAPD members in the film – including Joe – drop insults against the Katana gang members that are almost racist, if they were comprehensible. The Katana gang itself is a perfect example of the film’s issues. Most films that engage in some variety of orientalism for their plot at least are willing to take the time to watch a few movies or maybe read a (singular) book on Japan to get a couple ideas to incorporate in the film. The film’s writer and director, on the other hand, heard a couple things about the samurai (that they exist, that they know martial arts, and heard about seppuku), and saw a Katana, and decided to base the Katana gang around that. Additionally, this film can’t not show women as sex objects. Joe Marshall stalks the daughter of the woman who runs a restaurant that the Katana gang uses as their base, in order to get information from her, and through stalking he gets her to fall in love with him. He’s constantly flirting with the one female cop in the film. During one sequence in the film where the cops are staking out a building to arrest one of the gang’s members, her only line is to turn to her male cop who is also serving as backup, to ask “Since nothing is happening, wanna fuck?” In a later scene in the film (which was cut from the version shown at the Rifftrax event where I saw it), she is tortured – presumably to death – with hot oil while topless. The male cop’s wife is also killed in front of him by having her throat slit, and the director puts the focus not on her dead body, but on her blouse which has exposed cleavage. The rest of the LAPD characters who aren’t female aren’t much better. Joe’s partner, Frank Washington, basically exists to be subject of racist jokes and stereotypes of varying degrees of severity (from the incomprehensible to jokes about his very large dick – because he’s black). The chief is almost the standard cliche about the chief from this kind of cop film (chewing out the protagonist because he’s a loose cannon) – until he’s straight up telling the protagonist to engage in an extrajudicial assassination of the Katana gang. It was bad when Out for Justice did it. It’s bad when this film does it – though this film at least has the “excuse” that the movie was made on no budget with an incompetent writer and director. That said, were it not for how nasty the film feels, the incompetence in the film’s production would, at least, give it a little charm. The film was shot in two different chunks months apart, during that time Matt Hannon, who plays the lead, had got a haircut and thus had to wear a fairly obvious wig. There are some very obvious situations where scenes shift locations but are supposed to be the same place. This doesn’t just happen in exterior shots, or transitions on interior shots, but also in reverse shots on dialog scenes. Shervan tries to cover for this by breaking the 180-degree rule and then picking the most nondescript wall possible for a background, but it just draws larger attention to the problem. Additionally, writer/director Amir Shervan either could not afford to get some of the cast back in for ADR recording, either due to time conflicts or lack of money, so there are large portions of the film where the voice over dialog is the director trying to do a voice, and not only failing, but instead doing a robotic voice. This film would, on its own, have a degree of charm based on how bad the film is, if it wasn’t for how generally aggressively mean the film is. If you watch the film, I’d recommend seeing it on Rifftrax on Demand. The Rifftrax for Samurai Cop is available digitally on demand from Amazon.com, along with the Rifftrax web site.
Filed under: film Tagged: Film Review, rifftrax

Count_Zero

Count_Zero

 

Legends of the Force: Part VII – The Dark Times

This time we’re taking a brief look at the West End Games RPG – and the times between the original novels and comics, and the more familiar era. Rebel Propaganda Poster by Harpokrates: http://harpokrates.deviantart.com/ Opening Credits: Star Wars Theme from Super Star Wars on the SNES.
Closing Credits: Chiptune Cantina Band from Chiptune Inc. – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCvJtiGFudFlvYMfjiU1NKJg Please support my Patreon at http://www.patreon.com/countzeroor
Member of The Console Xplosion Network: http://www.theconsolexplosion.com/
Watch my Live-Streams on http://twitch.tv/countzeroor/
Filed under: Role Playing Games, Star Wars Tagged: Role Playing Games, Star Wars, Star Wars Expanded Universe

Count_Zero

Count_Zero

 

Anime Review: The Garden of Sinners (Kara no Kyokai)

Before Kinoko Nasu created Tsukihime or Fate/Stay Night, he put out a light novel series titled “Garden of Sinners” (or Kara no Kyokai). The books set up some concepts that would be folded into to the collection of series that is generally known as the “Nasuverse” – though the series aren’t exactly in direct continuity with each other. In the mid-to-late 2000s, they were adapted into a series of animated films by Ufotable, prior to them getting the gig for Fate/Zero and Unlimited Blade Works. The Garden of Sinners series is much closer to a mystery series than the majority of Nasu’s other works. The films follow Shiki Ryougi and Mikiya Kokuto. Shiki is a girl who Mikiya fell for in high school. She had a case of multiple personality syndrome with two personalities – one feminine (Shiki), and one masculine (SHIKI). After an incident that lead to Shiki attempting to commit suicide (for reasons that are explained later in the series), Shiki loses the SHIKI personality, but ends up developing Mystic Eyes of Death Perception, much like Shiki Tohno did in Tsukihime after his brush with death. Mikiya and Shiki end up getting a job with a magus named Touko Aozaki (the sister of the woman who made Shiki Tohno’s glasses from Tsukihime which blocked his sight) – doing private detective work. Over the course of seven films, we see them working to investigate various supernatural related killings – along with the serial murders in Shiki and Mikiya’s home town that set off her suicide attempt. Tonally, this is probably the bleakest of Nasu’s works. Sexual assault and suicide are recurring themes in the show, and issues of drug addiction also come up in the course of the plot. Actually, that last is particularly unique, as in most works of anime, with a handful of exceptions, drug use is a thing that happens elsewhere, with only a handful of works that I’m familiar with (that are set in Japan) bringing up recreational drug use in any respect. That said, the show doesn’t exactly handle drug use well – though I don’t think Nasu had anyone in particular to consult on these points. As with the other Nasuverse series that Ufotable has done, these films are very well done, with the animation looking great, and the action scenes in particular being very fluid. The fifth film, Paradox Spiral also does some really interesting stuff with narrative structure. I’m not sure if this was present in the original novel – but if it was, I’d be interested to see how it was executed there, as if it’s done there as well as it was in the film, then I’d be surprised that Nasu didn’t catch much attention as a writer earlier. Paradox Spiral‘s plot does stuff with time loops and non-linearity that I’ve never seen done to this degree and this well before. The series is very light on humor though, which makes sense considering just how dark the covered material is. There are moments of humor every now and then, but they are few and far between. Also, the length of the films vary wildly. The first quartet of films are each about a hour long, as is the sixth film. The fifth and seventh films, on the other hand, run about 2 hours each. This also can make the pacing very variable. The series is available on Blu-Ray from RightStuf, but it will cost you over $300, so maybe you might want to wait until it goes on sale.
Filed under: Anime Tagged: Anime, Garden of Sinners, nasuverse, Type-Moon

Count_Zero

Count_Zero

 

Book (Vlog) Review: The Cloud Roads

This time I’m taking a look at the first book in the “Books of the Raksura” series by Martha Wells – The Cloud Roads. Please support my Patreon at http://www.patreon.com/countzeroor
Member of The Console Xplosion Network: http://www.theconsolexplosion.com/
Watch my Live-Streams on http://twitch.tv/countzeroor/
Filed under: Books, videos Tagged: Books, Books of the Raksura, video review, vlog

Count_Zero

Count_Zero