NUReviews @ New York Comic Con 2013 Part 1



This is part one (of three parts) of our NYCC video coverage! Join us as we explore the biggest nerd gathering on the East Coast!

Music: Kyoto Jazz Massive – Stargazer

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A Smashing Ole Time: A Personal Super Smash Brothers Retrospective Part 2 (Super Smash Bros.)


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BIFF

This is a multi-part editorial about my experiences with the Super Smash Brothers series and the importance it played in my life. Click here for the introduction.

Side-note: You know, even though this is the first actual entry for the editorial series (aside from the intro), it’s kind of hard to figure out a proper place to begin. I could just delve straight into the first Smash Bros, but I believe I do need some build up before I get to that. I apologize if the next paragraph or two seems out of place or feels like filler.

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In the introduction, I said that I got my start with video games with arcade games. But the place where I played the most was at home. I started off if a Sega Genesis, since the local Blockbuster Video Store had one set up to try out games. I only owned two games for it: Toy Story and Sonic 3D Blast. But every weekend, I’d rent out a game from Blockbuster. Of course, being about 5 or 6 at the time, I really had nothing to go off on in terms of selection except for what I saw on TV, which was why a lot of the games I rented were games based on TV shows or movies, like ‘Ren and Stimpy’ and ‘Ninja Turtles’. I really didn’t get much too many of the big Genesis games aside from the Sonic games and Vectorman. Same thing happened when I got my next console, the Playstation(I got the Crash Bandicoot demo kiosk at KB Toys to thank for that.) Hell, I didn’t even have a memory card for it. But thankfully, I believe I had a fuller console experience with the Nintendo 64, especially since game saves don’t need a memory card.

The Nintendo 64 had a quite of bit of first for me. Aside from my GameBoy, it was my first Nintendo home console. I didn’t have Super Mario 64 (though I rented it) or Ocarina of Time (since I didn’t even know what it was at first), but I did get a well rounded experience with its library. I played games like Mario Kart 64, Mario Party 1-3, F-Zero X, Donkey Kong 64, Goldeneye, Kirby 64, Paper Mario(still need to beat that), and so on. It was really the first time I really enjoyed multiplayer on a home console as well. Many of those games mentioned before were memorable because of the appeal of 4 player multiplayer. For me, I played multiplayer N64 games with my friend, Pat, and his two brothers at his house. If we weren’t outside playing basketball or on the trampoline, it would be video games. I would like to say that we were evenly matched…but that just might be me repressing memories of constant losses(nowadays, there’s too many to count). But after a certain game came out, the level of competitiveness reached a whole new level between us. Furthermore, this game helped tighten the friendship Pat and I have, since has been going for almost 18 years now (I’m currently 22 now). To put it in simple/relevant terms, we are Smash Bros.

Of course, no article about Super Smash Bros for the Nintendo 64 would not be complete without that commercial. Just seeing the Nintendo characters that I was able to recognize at the time, all in the same frame no less, was mind-blowing. Pokemon was still huge at the time, so even just seeing Pikachu was awesome. Finally, a Nintendo fighting game? I’m in. I played Tekken 2 and Marvel Super Heroes quite a bit at the arcade (OK, more like button-mashed). I was never amazing at fighting games (I’m still only decent now), but since it’s a fighting game I can actually practice whenever, it could be cool.

Although I didn’t get the game until my birthday, which was 6 months after the game was released, I did get very familiar with it at Pat’s place. It became a staple of our hangouts. We’d all have our main characters; I typically used Pikachu and Mario, while the brothers would rotate between Kirby and Samus. We’d play it until my dad came to pick me up. Once I got my hands a copy of the game, I got a much better look at the game, aside from the Multiplayer mode. I’d do speed runs of the game without a timer just for fun. I learned the movesets of all of the characters. I’d do 1-on-3 matches against computers just to see how I fair (still can’t win against three level-9’s). I’d go to Training Mode to see how much damage I can deal out with the fan without KO’ing the CPU player.I’d look at the character profiles to learn the backstories of the characters I wasn’t familiar with and made note to check out their games. That last part really helped me familiarize myself with Nintendo’s franchises. I honestly don’t think I would have checked out any Kirby or Legend of Zelda games if it wasn’t for Super Smash Bros.

But my initial love for Smash Bros didn’t stop there. At school and at summer camp, I wouldn’t shut up about it with my friends. I would ask how to get unlockables, the best way to speed through single player mode, whose the best character in the game is, and so on. It even led to a semi-creative project that a friend and I worked on. One year, I spent a summer at a different summer camp than the usual YMCA day camp. This camp was held at the campus of a college, so many of the activities we did took advantage of that, like the bowling alley and the Olympic-sized pool. But the coolest thing there, and I apologize if this seems lame, was the computer lab. I didn’t have a home computer until 2004, so I didn’t spend too much time on them except from at school. The lab instructor encouraged used to work on creative projects like making birthday cards or banners with computer programs. I did remember working on a door hanger, since I didn’t have much of a clue on what to work on. However, two guys in my camp group were showing everyone what they worked on. It was a Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time card game. It kind of played like the Pokemon TCG, except without the evolutions or energies. After playing it a few times, I asked how they did it. It was actually rather simple. They made the cards in PowerPoint. They switched the orientation of a slide to portrait (taller rather then longer), and add things like a picture, health, and attacks to the card. Then they printed out the cards in groups of 6 per page, so the cards came out at a decent size. On top of that, the lab instructor offered to laminate the cards as well, so the cards came out very slick. Impressed and slightly jealous that I didn’t think of doing that sooner, I turn to my friend said asked “You know what video game would be perfect for a card game adaption?”

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This was the background used for the back of the cards. Everyday, for a while now, though, I regret not keeping them in a place where I’d know where to find them.

Of course, being around 10 years old, and realizing that you were actually suppose to play with Pokemon cards, not just collect them, the Smash Bros cards had no sense of balance whatsoever. I think Sonic, you know we had to have had a Sonic card, was overly powered, due to his dodging ability and quick attack. But nevertheless, I was ecstatic that an idea of mine became something tangible, as in I can actually hold and show people what I made. However, we literally had the cards printed out and laminated at the last minute/day of camp. So we did one or two quick rounds before we got picked up. But since we both had a set of the cards, along with the template saved on floppy disks, we both decided to make new cards ourselves and play each other next summer.

Nowadays, when it comes to playing Smash 64 in its purest form (as in being played on a console connected to a television), that is something that occurs occasionally. Currently, my video game backlog is quite overwhelming, so it doesn’t get as much playtime as it used to. If I got friends over, we’d opt for Brawl, since it’s the most accessible game in terms of controllers and gameplay. Although now, thanks to smartphone technology, I’m able to play a quick round or single player run on an N64 phone emulator if I’m waiting on a line or something. Every time I boot it up, I however, I can’t help but be amazed that I’m able to play a game that defined my childhood at any time, any where. Sure, there are some things like graphical issues and touch screen controls that slightly damper the experience, but I’m appreciative, nevertheless. In fact, I’m appreciative of all the ways I can enjoy Smash 64, whether it’s on a couch, on a phone, or on a computer, being played online. That last part, though, is a writing entry for another time.

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In a sense, the next two parts of this editorial series branch off of Smash Bros 64, due to both parts being intertwined. The next part is obviously Super Smash Bros Melee. However, the part after that is a revisit of Smash Bros 64, but now with online play. Online Smash Bros 64 is something I feel is significant enough to warrant its own part, since it brought an new element that would change the future of my gaming experiences.

Until next time, smash on!
(I’ll get a better sign off phrase for next time, promise!)

LAN gaming is in dire trouble


LAN gaming is downplayed too often for the success of games. It was vital to the success of Doom in the 1990s, and until recently it was how PC games were played in tournaments. Even on consoles, the original XBox’s allowing of LAN multiplayer made Halo a lasting franchise. Yet now developers that had previously included the option are ditching it in order to fight piracy; the result is a game that will be completely dead as far as multiplayer goes once a central server is removed.

I’ll start by blaming Starcraft 2, the Call of Duty franchise, the Battlefield franchise, and the numerous Defense of the Ancients clones. Both the Battlefield and Call of Duty franchises started requiring a dedicated, non-LAN server for games; the LAN club at my university had people that would play the game, but we would never have the full room involved. Call of Duty was already shunned (we were PC gaming elitists), but Battlefield, a game that was known for it’s large player battles, was never played officially once Bad Company 2 hit (although we played it a lot on our own time). We reverted back to playing UT2k4, TF2, and CS:Source instead. Old games do get old eventually though, and nothing could prepare LAN events for Starcraft 2 and Dota 2/League of Legends.

Starcraft was played often along with Warcraft 3. It was common for one person to even get a Diablo 2 speedrun going in the middle of a day-long LAN party. They were loved games, and when Starcraft 2 launched it nearly killed LAN events for one of the largest universities in the USA.

It’s worth mentioning that removing LAN capability was a great anti-piracy measure. It killed the need for anyone to pirate it in the first place. Piracy happened at a LAN party unofficially. No one was allowed to talk about it, but if you didn’t have a game you just needed to speak up; someone would get it to you and get it working.

Starcraft 2, and after it Diablo 3, proved that you could force players to be online always to play with eachother and not suffer sales. Any boycott, same with Call of Duty, Medal of Honor, and Battlefield, would be ignored once the hype train arrived. It not only didn’t involve LAN options, but it was one of the most competitive games to date. The original game is/was a national sport of South Korea. Starcraft 2 almost killed my LAN club in everything but name only, and this is university that hosted the CSL Grand Finals in 2012.

It wasn’t just the DRM that Starcraft 2 incorporated, but it was the very competitive nature that made it popular. LAN parties were now segregated between SC2 players and everyone else; rather than try something new, or attempt to get a free game like Savage working, one game would be played all day. People stopped showing up as SC2 player took officer positions, because what’s the point of going to a LAN if you could play at home? Dota 2 and LoL only exacerbated tensions further. LANs that used to include over 100 diverse players were now down to 20-30 at most.

One of the disgruntled members started holding private LANs with a vast array of classic games, but anti-piracy gave him a headache at least once very LAN party. Westwood has been the worst (defunct) company so far; Nox has problems with the latest GOG version, and Red Alert 2’s anti-virus has completely broken it. Westwood Online would be the other option, but with the company gone it’s a non-option. These games are hardly viable any more because of the anti-piracy measures, and no one wants to give money to the IP’s current owner for supporting similar measures.

Anti-piracy and DRM effectively killed the multiplayer aspect of these games. Nox eventually worked, but only because someone grabbed an older version of it.

LAN gaming needs to be brought back. Valve has done a good job of keeping it in CS:Go. Smaller companies like Tripwire have been great about including it their games; if you haven’t played on a hacked (over six players) Killing Floor server at a LAN party, I actually recommend it (you’ll probably die due to the lack of perks, but it’s a great amount of fun). A few of us still enjoy the larger releases, but without LAN play they’re severely lacking an aspect that made the previous games fun. Diablo 3 hasn’t been played once. A Use-Map-Settings creation from Starcraft: Brood War is preferred over it’s sequel. Red Orchestra or Battlefield 1942 is played over 3.

EA is already facing troubles for it’s measures against gamers. Blizzard and others can’t survive on good name only. It’s not just LAN gaming on the line in the end. It’s games surviving their decade, and the consumer being able to actually use their purchase. The latest Sim City release is the biggest example of the horrific troubles of anti-piracy DRM; if EA ever went the THQ/LucasArts/Atari route, it’s doubtful they’d pull a Relic and incorporate the game into Steam. Diablo 3 and Starcraft 2 set that precedent for EA. When the companies fall, their games will too. All because a person may pirate it at a LAN, and they might derive joy from the multiplayer without paying for it.

tl;dr: DRM and anti-piracy is bad and evil. LAN games are fun, and you should buy them even if you ignore my rant.

My Gamer ID


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A lot of people play games. Some do it for fun, some actually do it for work and some actually make games for a living. A lot of the time they all get squashed together under the “gamer” label, which for me was actually something I wanted to be acknowledged for. Granted I’m not the type to go around screaming “Gamer Pride,” I just try to be myself like Steve mentioned awhile back. The thing is though I didn’t grow up in a Western society where the idea of individuality was encouraged. It’s not that the people where I’m from were against it more like it was just considered an oddity, an alien concept if you will. Conformity was their comfortability and that made me quite uneasy and very misunderstood for the most part. Over there people generally did the same thing (of course with variation) and the only labels people had were either you were “in” or you were “out.” I remember the first time the topic of conformity was brought to my attention; if you’ve watched the movie 21 Jump Street then you’ll get what I’m talking about somewhat. I was a “one strapper” when it came to wearing my back pack and one my friends took notice of that. After a brief discussion on why “two strapping” is “cooler” and me defending my want of being comfortable and myself, she looked at me and said “individuality isn’t really that cool.”

Some may say that that was a good thing. More generality than specialty. As mentioned everyone did the same thing; hobby wise people were into watching anime, playing video games, listening to music or playing sports. But there are no “gamers” in my hometown but everyone I know loves playing videogames, hell if you owned a console you were actually considered “cool.” Well more like “that guy has money, I can play on his system for free.” I actually had a guy come to my house in the morning just to play DoTA the whole day just so he wouldn’t waste money at a cafe (I don’t put out that easy, he’d buy me lunch and dinner :P). Anyway, I didn’t want to be another sheep in the herd so I tried to identify myself with something close to me which was gaming. You could say I was a hipster back then, when people were listening to popular music on the radio I was listening to Ska on my mp3 player. I was really on my own when I wanted to talk about games because most of the people I talked with only played a certain game somewhat comparatively to western gamers and the general love of the Call of Duty games. I wasn’t a social outcast, I was generally out going, hell I was a cheerleader at one point in time.  I’m not trying to get dark or anything but I was alone in what some may consider a lifestyle I tried to indulge in. But that’s the weird thing, labeling myself as a “gamer” wasn’t a negative connotation, sure people found it weird that I tried to dissect the meaning behind Shadow of the Colossus or once used The Power Rangers’ Megazord as a metaphor for the Holy Trinity (I went to Catholic school), instead I was regarded as creative and unorthodox in a good way.

Usually this is the part where you’d hear about “what gaming has done for my life” and all that jazz but that’s not really the point of this little article. I mean sure gaming has influenced my college and career path by wanting to become a game designer, but that was actually a calculated choice more than it was a desire. Gaming is what it is; a culture, a hobby or whatever. Sure you can say it defines me but I spent most of my time trying to define it. I don’t need it in my life but I certainly want it to be. I hear it a lot of the times that being called a “gamer” is a certain “social crutch” which leads to a lot of problems.

Being a certain label isn’t a bad thing. It’s isn’t something that you need to call attention to either. Most of the time it just so happens it is a part of you who are and I believe there’s nothing wrong with that at all. Let it identify you but don’t let it define you. I’m Ted and that’s my Gamer ID.

Comics Review: Age of Ultron #1


Hank Pym really does have some problems. I really do enjoy him as a character though. Seriously, people hate on him too much. Hopefully Edgar Wright changes that.

Why can’t he hold all these Avengers?

Ultron is the mistake that Hank Pym should be remembered for. For the uninitiated, Hank Pym is the original Ant-Man. He was one of the founding Avengers, constantly deals with an inferiority complex since he works in the same universe as Mr. Fantastic (Doom has the same problem), and is known for a comic in which he smacked Wasp up; the actual writer stated decades later that Hank Pym was never a wife beater, but the idea has been cemented in Marvel canon. It’s also what people always bring up.

Ultron is the real menace though. Ultron is the AI based off of Hank Pym’s brain patterns that conveniently decided it hated organic life. The latest appearance of Ultron was during Abnett & Lanning’s cosmic Marvel run where it was very good at what it wanted to do (unless it has shown up in the mean time). This however appears to have no basis in the actual 616 universe, but rather it’s the Avengers’ version of Age of Apocalypse. It’s a dystopian society ran by Ultron; an Earth that’s his base to wreck havok on the rest of the galaxy. It’s also not perfect.

Brian Michael Bendis’ best work was his street level heroes and not his Avengers’ run. Spider-Man, Moon Knight, Daredevil, and especially Alias (AKA Jessica Jones) were all fantastic; his Avengers’ run suffered from having too slow of a development along with some of his other work. It’s just particularly obvious when he’s dealing with a wide variety of characters. Bendis is a big champion of story decompression; to him, a story should be as long as it needs to be and not necessarily be contained in a 26-page comic in any way. This makes it better to wait for a trade paperback over buying singles.

Age of Ultron seems to be suffering this; the start of it was interesting, riveting, and engaging, but it felt a bit hollow. Swamp Thing and Animal Man (the current Nu52 versions) have suffered recently from such developments, and Age of Ultron may be following suit. The art by Bryan Hitch resembles the Marvel in-house style; it’s standard cape comic fare without much variation, but it isn’t horrible either. It’s clear he was on a deadline, but it doesn’t completely distract from the script he was portraying.

Bendis’ story is very reminiscent of both Age of Apocalypse. Ultron has taken over, and he has the ability to infect people with nanotechnology (think more Prey from Michael Crichton than Deus Ex). It’s also including Bendis favorite Luke Cage in a role, but not exactly the primary one. Hawkeye and Spider-Man (Peter Parker) are the focus of this first issue. If you’re a fan of post-apocalyptic, especially Robot Apocalypse storylines, you’ll enjoy this. To me, this was a disappointment, but my judgement is reserved for the second issue.

Moon Knight, my favorite crazy hero, had his last run build up to this (also written by Bendis). It ended abruptly for Bendis to work on this. He doesn’t appear until that second issue, and from the build-up on that comic it was expected that this would be a universe event. It’s merely an alternate universe setting which may very well be better in the end.

Pick this up if you’re a fan of Bendis, Bendis’ Avengers’ cast, or apocalypse settings. Otherwise, wait until it’s finished and buy the trade paperback at the most. Or just stay away; there’s plenty comics and games that could use your patronage.

An Explanation of My Rating System


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I’ve been meaning to do this write up for a while, mainly due to some colleagues asking why I use a “1 – 6″ rating system. I figured now would be a good time as ever to do a break down of it, especially before I do reviews for ‘Fire Emblem: Awakening’ and ‘Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance’. I’ll go over what each rating is suppose to mean, one by one. Then, I’ll briefly explain my philosophy towards review ratings. Please note that I’ll primarily using video games to help describe the individual ratings. However, this rating system is universal for whatever I review, whether it’s a movie, TV show, hand soap, and so forth.

1  out of 6- Terrible

The game is absolute trash. There is absolutely no redeeming factors whatsoever. Avoid this at all costs, even if you can get the game for dirt cheap.

2  out of 6- Bad

The game fails on multiple levels, from a technical, storytelling, and  originality standpoint. There is little reason to play this particular game. There may be a certain aspect that is notable, but the game ultimately fails to deliver.

3 out of 6- Average (Meh)

The game is tolerable. This rating would be seen on games that are ‘run-of-the-mill’, meaning that the game has little to no surprises. The game is underwhelming, but it can have a bit of entertainment value.

4 out of 6- Average (Good)

The game is average, yet there’s an element that makes it more enjoyable. It could be the storytelling or a certain gameplay element. There is a yearning for more, but odds are you’ll find this game enjoyable.

5 out of 6- Great

The game, as a whole, is great. Overall, the game is very enjoyable. However, there is something that holds the game back. Examples: lacking multiplayer mode, little replayability, underwhelming ending, and so on. Nevertheless, this is a game worth playing.

6 out of 6- “Uncanny!”
This game is excellent. The game excels at accomplishes what the developers wanted the audience to experience, whether a unique twist with the story telling or gameplay mechanics. This doesn’t mean the game is perfect (what game is?) However, any imperfections with the game are easily overlooked. You need to experience this game. In other words, this game is…

Now that’s out of the way, let me explain why I decided to use this system, rather than an 100/10 point system or even 5 stars. I feel that 6 is the perfect number for a rating scale. It allows me to be specific while still having enough room for other ratings. Plus, the reason that why I opted for 6 rather than 5 is that it forces objectivity on my part. If a game turns out to be average, does that mean it necessarily mean that it’s a bad game? Well, that answer is subjective, but aren’t all reviews in a way subjective? It’s why I’ll do my best to be as unbiased in my critiquing as possible. However, in the rare case that I do have a bias (such as myself refusing to like PlayStation All Stars Battle Royale purely on the premise of its existence), I’ll hand the review to another contributor to the site.

Also, I’m not enforcing this rating system for all of NUReviews’ contributors, since I believe they should review how they feel they’re comfortable with. But no doubt that we aim to provide a solid critique of media we feel that audience wants to know.

Video Games: Worse Than Hitler (According to Some)


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While I was driving my mother this to the pharmacy to pick up medication, she mentioned that there was a mass shooting in a school in Connecticut. This was news to me since I didn’t look at my computer or watched any TV yet. So while she was in CVS, I got out my cell phone and looked up what happened on the CNN News App. In case you don’t know what happened, look at this article before continuing reading.
http://news.blogs.cnn.com/2012/12/14/shooting-reported-at-connecticut-elementary-school/?hpt=hp_t1

So when my mom returned to my car, I mentioned new details on what happened, including the amount of casuals, which turns out to be around 30 fatalities, about 20 of them being children. We were both taken back hearing this. After reflecting regarding what happened, my mom mentioned that the killer, who was thought to be Ryan Lanza at the time, may have done this because he was influenced by violent video games. Being aware of my mother’s way of thinking, I corrected her by saying that there was been no reports of the killer playing any video games. I also mentioned that even if video games happened to factored in, it’s not the fault of the video game developers, but rather the parents are to blame, since they should be aware of what activities their child partakes in. Thankfully, my mom realized the points I made were valid and redacted her statement.

Unfortunately, there are other people out who have jumped the gun and already were blaming video games. When the killer was first identified as Ryan Lanza, people looked him up on Facebook to gain some more information about him. There, you can see that under ‘liked pages’, you can see Mass Effect is. So with that, people put two and two together and began blaming Mass Effect.
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You can find many of this kind of comments on the Mass Effect Facebook page.

I just want to make a point that please do not jump to conclusions based on a minimum amount of information. I’m sure I have said this before in another article, but I’ll say it again. Video games are not the cause of this. Adam Lanza, who is now properly identified as the shooter, is to blame. I’m imploring you, the reader, to please inform yourself as much as you can before formulating an opinion.

Our sympathies, from all of us at NUReviews, goes out to the victims and families of Sandy Hook Elementary.