Monday, September 23, 2013

The Pull List: September 18, 2013

I read too many comics.  It's a habit that so far has only benefited my local comic shop.  That changes now as you can learn from the mistakes of my purchases, and perhaps even be intrigued to check out some of the cool picture books of the week.  There's always the option to make fun of my tastes, too.


-Superior Spider-Man #18 (Dan Slott, Ryan Stegman)
Doc Ock's web of control keeps unraveling.  I know I say this all the time.  There were some seriously unheroic actions undertaken in this issue though.  To the point where he violated the first rule of Spider-Man, the one of great power and responsibility.  Man, I really want the real Spider-Man back.  Spider-Man 2099 is still involved and unfortunately the little scuffle he has with Spidey/Ock is very breif and Stegman doesn't get a chance to cut loose.  Maybe next time the Spider-Men will actually fight.  

-New Avengers #10 (Jonathan Hickman, Mike Deodato)
Marvel's Infinity event is in full swing and New Avengers is along for the ride.  The two are somewhat organically tied together, but it still feels like the Illuminati's search for Thanos' son comes out of nowhere.  It's a pretty weak plot point.  There's a lot of talking in this issue which would be fine if it seemed like anything really got done.  Instead it comes across as boring with more emphasis on tell over show.

-Daredevil #31 (Mark Waid, Chris Samnee)
Look, do I really need to say that Daredevil is a great comic again?  It is.  Daredevil remains the best superhero comic around for a number of reasons.  Daredevil saves people with his own hands as well as using his quick wit to ask a my favorite scientist, Hank Pym, for help.  The way Daredevil handles the present crisis reflects the heroism of the character, because he does so while trying to throw as few punches as possible.  There's an great opening scene, but I'll let the picture tell that story.  Also, Daredevil is confronted with his greatest weakness: LED screens.  Think about that for a second.  It's not too late.  You too can find out why Waid and Samnee are two of the best storytellers around right now.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

The Pull List: September 11, 2013

I read too many comics.  It's a habit that so far has only benefited my local comic shop.  That changes now as you can learn from the mistakes of my purchases, and perhaps even be intrigued to check out some of the cool picture books of the week.  There's always the option to make fun of my tastes, too.


-Captain America #11 (Rick Remender, Carlos Pacheco)
Dealing with the aftermath of being trapped in a hostile dimension for twelve years, this issue takes on a more low key tone as it shows Captain America getting reacquainted with the present day.  What this results in is a rather touching character moment as he tries to let go of the past so that he can move forward and protect the present.  Some might find it corny, but I thought it was well done.  Carlos Pacheco's art remains remarkably similar enough to the established look of the book that the transition in artists is seamless; I suspect the colorist is to thank for maintaining consistency.  Nuke's appearance in the subplot assures an interesting set of upcoming issues as it will provide Cap with a nice ideological foil as well as someone to punch.  

-Deadpool #16 (Brain Posehn, Gerry Duggan, Declan Shalvey)
Comedy takes a backseat as the current story arc really cranks it in gear.  Laughs are to be had, but they're more a result of the general setting, North Korea, and some humor can be found if you're really into dark stuff.  I'd like to take a moment and mention that this is a story about Deadpool breaking out of a North Korean prison/experiment camp.  Who doesn't want to read that?  The set-up is a great homage to Barry Windsor Smith's classic "Weapon X."  Along the way there are some very tight action sequences, and once again Shalvey impresses me.  If you're still on the fence about checking out this issue then I have three words for you: North Korean X-Men. 

Sunday, September 8, 2013

The Pull List: September 4, 2013

I read too many comics.  It's a habit that so far has only benefited my local comic shop.  That changes now as you can learn from the mistakes of my purchases, and perhaps even be intrigued to check out some of the cool picture books of the week.  There's always the option to make fun of my tastes, too.


-Iron Man #15 (Kierron Gillen, Carlo Pagulayan)
Look, I was ready to make a crack about how this comic is currently poop, but being spared additional Greg Land interior work mellowed me out some.  This issue looks nicer than the previous couple, not that this is a hard thing to accomplish, however I very much appreciate looking at Pagulayan's power armors. It's still not a good comic as it seems this storyline has been going on forever.  Pacing and bizarre retcon choices have plagued Iron Man for a while now so I've come to just grudgingly accept them.  Introducing a giant robot and then doing absolutely nothing with it is a sin that cannot be ignored though.

-Superior Spider-Man #17 (Dan Slott, Ryan Stegman)
The Goblin subplot simmers in the background as Spider-Man 2099 decides to stop by and engage in some time shenanigans.  There's not much to say.  It's an inter-temporal crossover.  That's a concept you like or you don't, and I like.  I'm looking forward to seeing Stegman draw the inevitable fight between the two Spideys next issue.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Comfort Gaming

  It’s that time again.

  Every couple of months, I feel the need to relax in something warm and familiar, like most of us, I’m sure. Also like many of us out there somewhere, I have a hella clogged backlog of new games that I desperately need to play so as to render them good purchases rather than wasted money. Games like Max Payne 3, Assassin’s Creed III, Deadly Premonition: Director’s Cut, Fire Emblem: New Awakening, Monster Hunter 3, and many others are just sitting in my small Japanese apartment, waiting to be played. More than that, there are even some new games I don’t yet have that I am super excited to play eventually like The Last of Us and very shortly NHL 14. But fuck that.

  As many new games there are, there are many games I have played and enjoyed thoroughly in the past that I would rather enjoy again than venture into a new saga where I have to play carefully and pay strict attention and read every word… Sometimes, that just sounds tiring. You may think, “what a lazy bastard this guy is,” and, no doubt, that’s partially true, but shit, we all need a lie down sometimes. That’s what these games have become for me, and the most difficulty they pose me these days is just deciding which one to start up and play through, again.

Final Fantasy
Poor Aeris, those flowers always get terribly mistreated.
  I love Final Fantasy, from I to XII (sorry, XIII just didn’t do it for me, but I’m looking forward to giving Lightning Returns a fair shake), and this is the comfortiest of the comfort games I own. I’ve played these the most, and that’s saying something, considering the length of Final Fantasies as a general tenet. The easy main quests with a good mix of collecting and entertaining mini-games (I admit that Tetra Master from VIII and Chocobo Breeding from VII are my favorites, though I’m partial to X’s Blitzball, too) make these just… fun, to play.

  My choice among the thrall, however, is Final Fantasy VII. It starts fast and the first three or four hours just blow by, but then the game just… slows down. The world opens up, the story starts to self-explicate, and the journey begins. The trendy choice is Final Fantasy VI, but I have to say that I just don’t have as much fun with that one. Or with VIII, IX, IV, etc… Cloud is charmingly amnesiac in a way that Locke, Squall, Tidus, and Zidane just aren’t. I like all of these games, but none as much as VII. It’s the ultimate comfort Fantasy for me.

Katamari Damacy
Truly, the most under-appreciated hero.
  I still remember the review I read of this game when it first came out that originally inspired me to give it a try in the first place. Paraphrased, “who knew it could be so much fun to pick up stuff by rolling a ball around?” That line had me hooked. I had to see what this game was about. Add in the amazing soundtrack, intuitive control scheme, and incredibly clever growing dynamic (starting with thumbtacks and moving to candy > candy bars > candy bar boxes > people who carry candy bar boxes > trucks that bring candy bar boxes > etc.) and this game is a true classic, unique video gaming experience.

  This game is so easy and fun to play that at a whim, you can pick up a controller, turn on the system and either start up a new game for a nice size-sequential roll through the universe or just go for an eternal roll around the world while some infectiously catchy music plays on. For my money, this game is relaxation. Thank god this game has finally come to PSN so that I don’t risk destroying my physical disks from overuse. Now, I’m just waiting for We <3 Katamari to make the same jump.

This is one of the more lucid ideas this game has to offer.
  Another RPG, yeah. Another Squaresoft RPG, yeah. I’m a huge fan of RPGs in general (I’m also a fan of long, confusing movies and short, confusing books) and this game is long, confusing, involved, and epic. The first time I played this game (after having bought it and Metal Gear Solid on the same day in October 1998 – best game release date ever ;-) ), I was 12 turning 13 years old. And, being a teenager, I was an idiot. I actually muted the TV and listened to The Offspring’s Americana for the entirety of the first full playthrough of that game. Little did I know that I was missing some of the best music in video games to that point, and upon my second playthrough to try to make more sense of the story, discovered that the music almost entirely by itself added a new dimension to the scope and tone of the game.

  If you’ve never played it, play it. The first time will be strange and some parts will be difficult, so, in that sense, this is in no way a comfort game, but if you make it through the first time and enjoy it anywhere near as much as I did, you’ll find yourself breezing through the difficult parts and even relishing the endless amounts of battles it takes to build up your deathblow abilities.

  Doesn’t sound much like a comfort game, though, does it?

Silent Hill 2
There's nothing I don't like about this game.
  Potentially the best game I’ve ever played, it’s so far down on this list simply because of the attention it requires to play (and these aren’t in any particular order outside of the order in which I thought to include them). It’s not an RPG, so there is no opportunity to sort of phase in and phase out of the game while playing it, not to mention the time and attention it takes to scour the town for the necessary health items and ammo just to make it to the end (especially at higher difficulties).

  The story is complex and riveting. The atmosphere is unmatched; the slow, difficult combat adds to the player’s edginess; and the original voice acting is so generally bad that it perfectly represents the mental state James is in (in my opinion). I just can’t say enough about how much I enjoyed the game, even its perceived foibles. When I’m in the mood to play a game more actively that I know I’m going to enjoy, I almost always pick this one. Unless I’ve just played it.

Mega Man Legends
Mega Man Legends in a nutshell.
  It’s amazing that Capcom killed this series. This game is a 3D Metroidvania with a charming, friendly atmosphere with fun platforming, fun battles (albeit with some terribly dated control schemes), fun characters, extensive upgrading, and an excellent side story to the whole Mega Man mythos. The one story problem I have with it is that the evil Dr. Wily is absolutely nowhere to be seen (he is, in fact, owner of a boat harbor on Kattelox Island – at least, I’m pretty sure that’s him), but, ultimately, it’s not a big deal. This is another game that requires more attention to play than the traditional RPG genre, but it’s utterly disarming in its presentation and is easy to get into.

  The crux of this game, however, is the exploration. It takes a little while to get to the point of the game where you can start exploring pretty much at will, but once you do, it’s heaven to run around to all of the different mines attempting to find all of the treasure and to destroy the walls to connect all of the mines, together. (Now that I think about it, though, those were probably load-bearing walls. Mega Man and the citizens of Kattelox Island probably should have been horribly killed and crushed many times over…) The characters are cute, the town is fun with lots, but not too much, to do, and the relaxation factor is off the charts. You just feel at ease playing this game. You feel happier playing this game. Legends 2 is good, also, but Kattelox Island is a much better designed, tighter experience.

Dark Souls
Ah, finally: peace and quiet.
  You might think this is a departure, but, really, this is simply another exploration game with an incredibly steep mastery curve. This is truly the game that requires the most vigilance to play. Every move must be watched, every enemy feared, every soul used wisely. However, if you manage all of this, the satisfaction gained from progressing is like no other game. Every victory is major: opening a new door, killing a boss, ringing the bells. Everything is important.

  How in the hell is this relaxing? So, because you have to pay so much attention and think so damn hard, you can kind of get used to it. You find yourself getting in a groove and a sort of autopilot turns on in your head, and you can coast along, slaying enemies, saving up souls for upgrade, and learning the terrain’s subtleties for more profitable slaying. And the game becomes fun. It becomes easy. And you start to relax.

  Until you die.

  It’s an acquired taste, certainly, but those minutes where you’re coasting are wonderfully cathartic. If you manage to slay a boss within the groove, the satisfaction and happiness only exponentially increases.

  These are the games that first come to mind whenever I feel the need for some comfort gaming. And going through my list, I find that my personal comfort gaming has to do with exploration. Every one of these games has you exploring the world (a world, anyway), making progress, and, generally, collecting things. It’s September, and school has just started, so a need for some old comfort is welcome. But fuck that.

  I'm going to play Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Super Mega Madden: Third Down

Madden is misunderstood because people think it's a "sports game".

It's not.

The Pull List: August 27, 2013

I read too many comics.  It's a habit that so far has only benefited my local comic shop.  That changes now as you can learn from the mistakes of my purchases, and perhaps even be intrigued to check out some of the cool picture books of the week.  There's always the option to make fun of my tastes, too.


-Thanos Rising #5 (Jason Aaron, Simone Bianchi)
The foolhardy and brave decision to place this comic at the top of the weekly read pile was based on the theory that every comic I read after it will be better, so might as well start off with the turd.  I stand by this decision, but it caused me to put off reading comics for a couple hours.  Boy was it bad.  Instead of resorting to offensive language might I suggest that Marvel offer reparations for all the poor souls who went into this mini-series expecting a passable story about Thanos.  Passable was all I needed; it didn't need to be good for I knew to lower my expectations since our world is one with such little goodness left.  It didn't have to be good dammit.  

When you can take a comic that expresses passage of time as "many, many murders" and turn it into something that is way too serious and far up its own ass then you have essentially committed comic book infant murder.

-New Avengers #9 (Jonathan Hickman, Mike Deodato)
Completely unfair reviews returns.  I've a better grasp as to what Infinity is so the lack of fairness is only partially based in not having read all the important pieces of the story.  The main factor in the bias is that I had to read an issue of Thanos Rising.  Someone has to take the fall for this affront, and an event in which Thanos is a key player seems to be a good candidate.  Therefore, damn you New Avengers.  Damn you to hell.

Tea: a way of life

It’s a late British Summers day. I am in Carrickfergus, just northeast of Belfast.  The morning sun is glaring through the windows of my girlfriend’s family home, and I am in the kitchen preparing a cup of tea for her. As I stand here looking out over the lush green garden, keeping an eye out for Freddy the Frog, the kettle clicks off. The sound whisks me away from my daydream and I turn to prepare the teapot. As I fill the aluminum pot with a splash of boiling water, it hit me. Tea, as the Brits know it, isn’t just a drink. It is a staple of our culture. Tea is a way of life.

The perfect cuppa. Look at that colour!

Tea Time

Tea... Tea, tea, tea. It is quite simply the best drink on the planet. When Brits say tea, they don’t mean herbal tea, for when we want herbal tea we will ask for “herbal tea, please.” No, when any member of the British public asks for a “cup of tea,” a “cuppa”, a “brew,” or just simply “tea,” they mean, “Give me a cup of black tea, with some milk, and possibly a few sugars.” You see, it’s the perfect recipe, the perfect combination of flavours and textures, and it just makes any situation better. The reason why it works so well, why it is so popular is due to the easy adaption of the recipe. Why? You can make a good cup of tea with any balance of the three main ingredients. However you look at it, at the end of the day, you can’t make a bad cup of tea.

The cuppa can take many different forms, all depending on the balance and blend of ingredients poured into your cup, and they all have a name, too.

Builders Brew or Spider’s Piss?

I’ll start with the weakest cup of tea, Spider’s Piss. This kind of cuppa is simply the first lot of tea poured from the pot. As it is poured first, the strength of the tea is weak because it hasn’t lingered near the tea bags and hasn’t had time to begin stewing. Due to the weakness of the tea, Spider’s Piss is very light and has no colour to it, so when you add the milk there is a more milky texture and taste to the tea. Do you want tea with that much milk?

Next you have the standard Cup of Tea. This form of cuppa is the perfect blend of well brewed tea and just enough milk to give it that creamy texture, but not enough to impose on the taste of the tea. It is the most popular form of tea and people generally take it without sugar, but I know a few who take one sugar... well, now and again they do.

Finally you have Builder’s Brew. This is my favourite. Builder’s Brew is simply the bottom of the pot, the strongest of the strong, the dregs, and you take it with nothing but a splash of milk and lots of sugar; in my case, two. This form of cuppa gets its name from all the tradesmen and workmen of the UK, in honour of all the long lasting roadworks they provide us with.

Yorkshire tea, my favourite
Slurp it

There is a ritual that surrounds tea preparation. It is the solution to most of life’s problems, and every British family takes part in it. We prepare it like no other nation. We drink it, slurp it, sip it like no other culture. Most importantly, it brings people together like no other drink can. In the British household, making tea isn’t just putting a tea bag into a cup, pouring boiling water over it, and then just adding milk, no, no, no, no, no. Making a cup of tea is much more than that. It all starts with the call up.

“Who’s for a cuppa?”

The tea process begins with the all too familiar call of “Who’s for a cuppa?” At this point every member of your family, and any guest in your house at that time, will immediately stop what they’re doing, look up with intrigue, and... well, say “Yes please.” If someone says “No,” you simply ask them over and over again until the pressure is too much, they crack, and say “Yes please.”