Comics, Movies, Video Games, and More

"Making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil."

~Ephesians 5:16

Friday, December 27, 2013

Is the Wii U Actually Nintendo's Greatest Console?

It was seven Christmases ago when I first laid my hands on the Nintendo Wii. The company has always been my personal favorite, mainly because of Super Mario. One of my first consoles was the Gameboy Color and soon after the Gamecube. The Wii system was a revolutionary console in its day, paving the way for motion-control in video games. It's one of the highest selling consoles of all time. Sadly for it, in recent years the positive reviews started to die down. Why? Because Nintendo had seemingly forgotten about its gaming audiences and instead decided to focus on family-related activities, such as Wii Fit and Wii Music. By the time 2012 hit, the Wii had run its course and the time for a new console was imminent.

This next-gen console for Nintendo was called the 'Wii U.'

Before getting my own, I was skeptical then. The first mistake I thought was the title. I would have thought Nintendo would have liked to distance itself from the Wii, but nope they decided to add a U. And then the Gamepad was shown, and as you can you see, it's a rather large controller.
Insane, eh?

The Wii U was not off to a very happy start. Already it seemed like it was just going to be a Wii extension with an over-sized controller. The launch window wasn't exactly a gang-buster either. And if you look at the numbers from previous months, the Wii U hasn't been selling well at all. It remains to be seen if this month's holiday sales will give it a much needed-helping hand. I wasn't expecting much from the system, but I was going to get it no matter what, being a longtime Nintendo fan.

Well I'm certainly glad I did, because it's actually a really interesting console. 

The Wii U is a pretty slick looking system, the black version anyway. The white one sadly just looks like a bigger Wii. But as you'll notice, a lot of the marketing isn't on the actual system, but rather the Gamepad. 

The Gamepad is one of the most ingenious concepts I've ever seen video game wise. 

Obviously the rather large size can be off-putting to some, but once you're actually in the game playing, you get used to it. The biggest factor about the controller is the screen on it. You see, the big thing about this controller is that it's also the Wii U itself, in itself, You can literally play any Wii U game on the Gamepad...with the TV off! Basically, if someone is using the TV, you can still play any Wii U game without the need of a TV screen! (All you need to do is just turn the console on and you're good to go!) And if someone is using the TV or if there's noise, you can plug in a pair of headphones thanks to the headphone jack. Often you'll find yourself using the Gamepad screen more than the actual TV screen. To be able to play big console games without the need of a TV screen is a great concept that no other company has implemented. 

The only thing I wish is that the range was longer, you can't go too far away from the actual console. But, despite limited range, the Gamepad is one of the most fantastic ideas Nintendo has ever come up with. And of course for purists, you do have the option of buying the Wii U Pro Controller, which is a standardized and very sleek-looking controller.

The other major thing about this system I've noticed is that it seems to be doing away with many of the things Wii did. It looks to be an actual video gaming system for gamers, no more motion-gimmicks. Sadly the Wii U didn't have the best launch titles, but now it's shaping up. The problem with the Wii is that with every one all-star title, there was at least three "Huh?" games, such as Imagine Babies. *Shudder.* With quite a few all-star titles such as New Super Mario Bros. U, Super Mario 3D World, and Sonic Lost World, the Wii U has some solid games to pick up. And the future looks very promising, with games like Super Smash Bros. and Hyrule Warriors (Hopefully they keep that title or something similar), the Wii U's future looks bright.

The graphics aren't too different than the Wii, but they are HD and look beautiful on the right TV. The sound effects have noticeably become better and more cinematic, such as in Super Mario 3D World where you really hear the water splash. 

The title of this article is more hyperbole than opinionated, since it's still pretty early. However, with games such as Super Smash Bros. and Hyrule Warriors coming, the Wii U may end up being one of the greats. 

Friday, December 20, 2013

A Christmas Post

Ah, Christmas! Never is there a more joyous time. I remember last year just feeling the Christmas atmosphere. The air just felt happy, and it was only complimented by the many wonderful lights. Have you ever been to Manhattan on Christmas Eve? Sure, the traffic is insane, but it's truly awesome. There are so many lights and it just feels like a cheerful time of the year.

I heard something interesting while at work this week.

I'm a cashier at a busy supermarket, so I'm always interacting with people. You have the patient nice people and...well the opposite. Thankfully for the most part I haven't had much of the latter. (Though I could only imagine what working in the city is like...) But anyways, there was a pretty interesting occurrence. 'Merry Christmas' has always been a normal thing to say, yet when I said that to one customer, she said, "Not many people say 'Merry Christmas' anymore." This stood with me, because how can that be?? Has Christmas been sunken into just another holiday part of the 'Happy Holidays' slogan? 

Like Easter, Christmas has been adapted for people that don't wish to celebrate the meaning of why it exists in the first place.

But what is Christmas? Not too long ago I discovered a band called Kutless. If you haven't listened to them yet, check out 'Promise of a Lifetime' and 'Carry Me to the Cross,' But, the song in focus is called 'This is Christmas.' It's a pitch-perfect song explaining Christmas. Take a look at this piece of it...

What is Christmas?
If there never was a Savior wrapped in a manger.
What is Christmas without Christ?

Christmas wouldn't exist without the birth of Jesus. It is an event to be celebrated, but He has been replaced with Santa Claus. The other major Christian event, Easter Sunday, has also been adapted into a secular culture, replacing the Resurrection with a Bunny that gives out eggs. 

Good Friday we remember the Death, Easter Sunday we celebrate the Resurrection, and on Christmas we celebrate the Birth. Do you know why it's tradition to put a star on top of a Christmas Tree? Not because it looks pretty (but it certainly does!) but because it represents the Star of Bethlehem. 

So however you celebrate Christmas, it's important to remember that without the birth of a Savior, December 25th would just be another cold winter day.

Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. ~Luke 2:11

And of course, to anyone who is reading this,


Monday, December 16, 2013


The Last of Us is a post-apocalyptic survival horror game that released some months ago on June 14th. It's also the best game of the year and an example of what modern gaming has to offer. On the outside it doesn't appear much different than other zombie-related things. The Walking Dead, I am Legend, Dawn of the Dead, The Last of Us in concept looked to be another story taking place in a world overrun by mutants. In many ways that wouldn't be wrong, it isn't too different than those. It does however succeed in two things: cinematic quality and gameplay. Often it's one or the other with games, but with this one it's not only a video game but a movie-like experience too.

The story takes place twenty years after the world is infected with some kind of virus, turning the humans into mindless monsters. Only about 40% of the population remains. Joel is our main character, a smuggler who eventually comes into contact with a 14 year old girl named Ellie. Soon these two are thrust into a dangerous adventure to find the anti-government group known as the Fireflies because Ellie might hold the cure for the infection.

This is a very story based game, heavy on voice acting and characterizations. Characters that appear briefly, such as Bill, are made notable thanks to the game's excellent writing. Survival horror is a popular genre, and The Last of Us uses it well. Despite having an abundance of different weapons, you'll find yourself hiding and making plans to get out of every tight predicament alive. You can keep telling yourself it's just a game, but when you're in a dark room or a place surrounded by blinding spores, you're going to be feeling a sense of dread only the perfect horror film can replicate.

This being heavily story based, characters are of course a major factor. In the game's incredible prologue, we're introduced to Joel and his daughter Sarah. They have a very close relationship, it's nice. (And apparently, it appears he's a single parent.) Sarah is the first character you have control of. It's a unique and cinematic horror feel within that dark house. Slowly as you navigate you see on the TV about something chaotic happening. Soon you find yourself on the streets, in control of Joel as he runs while holding his daughter. What is he running from? Infected humans that have gone berserk and are trying to attack people. It's a scary scene, as you watch civilization crumble. There's so much people running and screaming with explosions all over that you have to wonder how amazing it will look when adapted for the big screen. At the end of the intro, Sarah is killed. We fast forward 20 years later...

So 20 years later the government appears to trying to be in control of the situation. There are quarantine zones housing the uninfected. Outside the walls lies the zombies and Fireflies, the latter being a group of anti-government people looking to get a cure. Here is when we're introduced to Joel's partner Tess. The story here is interestingly ambiguous. Are they more than friends? In the end it doesn't really matter, Tess was a great character and a lot of fun to have around. It's a shame she died, but I was expecting it, as I'm sure most were. She wasn't featured in any of the marketing or on the cover, so it's easy for the player to deduce that. But when she was alive, she was great, something of a modern Ripley.

It's hard to pinpoint an 'antagonist,' because there are none. The Infected are the background force. Throughout the story there are a couple of human antagonists. You see, while the Infected are the bad guys, the game doesn't shy away from making humans the main force. It perfectly showcases how savage and evil people can truly be in a world gone to chaos. The first 'antagonist' would be Robert, who is quickly dispatched by Tess. Now the second antagonist would be David, easily more notable. This guy is evil, but at first deceives Ellie and the player. In fact, he would be truly Ellie's enemy since Joel never really met him. The 'boss fight' against David was short but very intense as we saw how violent the 14 year old girl can be.

Then there's Marlene, the 'final boss' so to speak. She is established early on, apparently as a caretaker for Ellie before leaving her in Joel's hands. She's the leaders of the Fireflies, and eventually Joel brings Ellie to her in the final part of the game. She's not evil like David however, she believes what's she's doing is for the betterment of humankind. And she wouldn't technically be wrong. The recordings you find in the hospital shed light on her mindset, it was fantastic that Naughty Dog implemented those to make some players actually agree with her and question Joel's antics.

While all these characters are nicely developed, the game is carried through its two protagonists. Joel is a very interesting character. He's not exactly a Mario-like hero. The early scene where he shoots the guy trapped underneath debris comes to mind. Sure, the player thinks that's alright since the guy will end up just suffering there, and it's a cruel world. But as the game goes on, you see he's merciless. This doesn't make him an unlikable character, but by the end you may be questioning him. (The infamous doctor scene comes to mind.) 14 year old Ellie escapes the 'teenage girl ' tropes plagued in various media. Despite the over abundance use of her cursing, she's cool. She actually gets in on the action, proving to Joel that she's fantastic with a gun and knife. (Also arrows, when she goes all Katniss Everdeen later in the story when Joel is out of commission.)

The bond between the two is strengthened throughout the near 20 hour campaign. Somehow they go from her being cargo to Joel considering her as a second daughter. This brings us to an infamous part or the game, the ending. I personally thought it was very unsatisfying. Once the credits began to roll I was thinking, "That's it?" I won't deny that it's also smart, since Naughty Dog can technically build a series thanks to the non-ending. What I do like is that it makes the player think. Is Joel right in attempting to save Ellie and stop the doctors from extracting a cure for the virus, thus rendering her dead? Or is he being selfish because he only sees her as his second daughter and not thinking about the bigger picture? Is he right since Ellie never voluntarily said she was willing to die since she had been unconscious throughout the climax? This final part of the game is something that won't be forgotten anytime soon.

At every game's core however is how good the gameplay is. The Last of Us doesn't disappoint. It's third person and you get access to various types of weapons as you progress. From assault rifles to hatchets, the game lets the player have it. But, despite all that, you'll find yourself not wanting to rush into battle. This is especially where the gameplay succeeds, opportunity to make strategies. Sometimes it's not necessary to kill everyone to advance to the next stage, it's about just trying to get there quietly. There are numerous ways things could go down, it's all depending on the strategy made by the player. The environments are smartly done in every area that they give you a place to hide and formulate plans or for last second thinking.

Of course, the primary reason why everything's chaotic is because of those Matango-like zombies. They definitely do not disappoint, and are genuinely creepy. The game delivers one of the most annoying enemies of all time: Clickers. These things you can't fight with punches and it usually takes multiple bullets to take one out. And perhaps even more challenging are their final form, Bloaters. These brutes are the heavy hitters and always a challenge to bring down. The Infected differ from human enemies greatly. Sometimes they won't see you if you walk quietly, so it mixes up the strategy-making process between humans and zombies.

One of the best things The Last of Us succeeds in is generating genuine fear. I'll never forget some of those dark levels with the Infected. If you're playing at midnight with no lights on in some of those levels, it's going to be just as terrifying as the scariest movie you've ever seen. So when beautiful visuals such as the giraffes appear, it's a great contrast which the player can't help but watch. Seriously, the giraffe scene was so unexpected and beautiful. I can't wait to see how a film adaption will do it. The soundtrack isn't meant to be a focus, it's just there to deepen the impact of scenes and gameplay. It's definitely used very well.
Overall, The Last of Us is a truly unforgettable experience. It plays as if you were watching a movie. There's no chapters given, you just keep going. The story is very well done, fantastic writing and characterizations throughout. You feel for Ellie and root for Joel, even in some questionable circumstances. The game doesn't shy away from brutal violence, this is definitely the most violent title I've ever played. You will be making strategies throughout, whether it's against some of the human thugs or Infected. It's one of the finest offerings from the PS3. If it does get a movie adaptation, it could very well be one of, if not the greatest zombie film.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Why INFINITY is the BEST Marvel Event in a Long Time

Like it or not, in today's Marvel comic world, events are everything. Whereas in the past they were used scarcely, they come extremely fast these days. In fact, sometimes an event is announced while the current one is still going! Sadly, there hasn't been a really "wow, that's epic" event in awhile, until Infinity came along. Age of Ultron was a huge disappointment for many reasons. To this day I'm still wondering what happened to the 'epic conclusion' the final issue promised. What a great thing Marvel butchered, a slap in the face to people like me who had been waiting years to read it. Anyways, a little bit before that Avengers vs. X-Men came out, which was really solid for the most part.

Siege, Fear Itself and Secret Invasion were all lacking. Siege was simple and to the point, but lacked any real impact on the reader. Fear Itself had an absolutely fantastic first issue, but the rest fell flat. (I still can't get over how 'the Mighty' appeared literally out of nowhere with no hype whatsoever.) Secret Invasion had some neat ideas and the build-up was good, but the actual 8 issue series was anything but. (And because of it there's a running gag about Skrulls that's still in the comics today, it's really annoying.) AVX rises above all of those, but is it on the same level of Civil War or The Infinity Gauntlet? At this point nothing will ever be. But at least Infinity tries its best to be the most epic thing the comic world has seen.

When you have comic book movies releasing simultaneously with comics, you have to expect the company to capitalize. With Thanos gaining popularity thanks to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it was inevitable he was going to be brought back. It was definitely welcome, after his horrid appearance in Avengers Assemble, (what was Bendis thinking, oh right, Bendis, the same writer as Age of Ultron...) it was time for a true Thanos story. Infinity's writer Johnathan Hickman must love poetry, because the writing is very poetic. It's admittedly overdone, but some of it is very good. While no one can quite write Thanos like Jim Starlin, Hickman wrote a really good version of the Mad Titan.

The story is divided into two sections: The Avengers whom are conveniently in outer space and on Earth where Thanos hopes to find his only living son. The son, Thane, was an interesting character for the most part. Sadly by the end, it looks like he's going to be on the evil side, which is unfortunate since the comic basically showed us that he's not his father. It's too ambiguous, which is disappointing since a good chunk of the story revolves around him. Now the climax is pretty epic. Could the fight between Thanos and the Avengers been longer? Yes. But I'll take what we got. We had quite a few fantastic shots, such as an amazing one of Thor taking on the Titan. It actually felt like a true epic climax, something every major comic event needs to have. (Looks at Secret Invasion.)

How about some negatives? Not every event is perfect, unless you're Civil War or Infinity Gauntlet. Ex Nihilo joining the Avengers was an unexpected and cool thing. Readers like myself were looking forward to seeing this guy trade punches with Thanos. We got none of that, in fact Nihilo did practically nothing in the event, which is a true shame since he's one of the better new characters from Marvel. And this is more of a personal gripe, but I can't be the only one that noticed Issue 3 stole Ultron's 'Submit or perish' line from Age of Ultron. But beyond those things, there aren't many other bad things to say about this event. Unlike Age of Ultron, this feels like the story it set out to be: an Avengers vs. Thanos space epic.

Besides the climax, perhaps the best scene in the entire thing is the short fight between Black Bolt and Thanos. Bolt has remained an interesting figure in Marvel. He's always regarded as legendary thanks to his power. So when he loses, such as in World War Hulk, it's a big shock to the heroes and readers. The dialogue from Thanos is fantastic, such as him calling Bolt "Little King." And the way he beats him, by simply slamming him to the ground, is so simplistic and even gritty that it works.

Infinity is a poetic epic, something Johnathan Hickman seems to like writing. Admittedly sometimes it's a little difficult to follow what's happening in the space scenes, but I guess that shows just how complex this story is in comparison to previous events. It might not be as good as the other big Thanos story, Infinity Gauntlet, but it's truly a great read admist lackluster comics today. And once it comes out in trade format, it'll read like a really good poetic epic.

Monday, December 2, 2013


X-Men Origins: Wolverine is not a very liked film. But, Wolverine himself is a marketable character, everyone likes him. So it was inevitable that a sequel would come. The interesting thing is that this is more of a standalone, according to the people involved. We would see the title character heading over to Japan, which has been a popular fixture in the comics. This film is also significant because it's technically the first real sequel to The Last Stand, it takes place about two years after Jean Grey died. The first trailer didn't do wonders. Who wants to see a film where he loses his mutant powers? Thankfully this is one of those rare cases where the trailer is pretty dull while the film is anything but. THE WOLVERINE is one of the best films in the X-Men continuity. It's also a very unique comic film thanks to the Japan backdrop. Director James Mangold delivered the second best comic book film of the year.

The story begins in 1945, at the time of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki. Logan is in a bunker and saves the life of a rather kind Japanese officer named Yashida. In present day he has seemingly given up on being the Wolverine. When he's met by a mysterious Japanese woman called Yukio, he embarks to her home country to meet the man he saved in 45. He offers Logan a chance to be mortal, to take away his adamantium. Of course in comic book fashion, plot twists are abound and a blond-haired lady by the name of Viper takes center stage. The story is loosely based on a classic arc by Chris Claremont. There are very few negatives to be said, it's a great watch from beginning to end.

It's been quite awhile since we saw Hugh Jackman take up the mantle. (His unneeded cameo in First Class doesn't count.) I had forgotten just how great of a portrayal he can deliver, this film cemented that. This is by far the greatest portrayal of Wolverine the movie universe has seen. From his sarcastic wit to his brutality, it's like he was lifted straight from the comics. One of the biggest new characters is Yukio, portrayed by Rila Fukushima. This samurai girl is definitely cool and a fantastic addition to the story. Then we have the more helpless-but-still-able-to-fight Mariko. She's a nice character to have around, very genuine. I suppose the romance between her and Logan was inevitable, but from the film's point of view it was unneeded and felt forced.

There are two main antagonists. First we'll go with the much better one, Viper. She is one of the few female comic book villains to grace the screen. Sure, we have Mystique, but Viper was more of a mastermind. She was just a blast to watch, a true villain with her exotic look and pretty good dialogue. Unfortunately, the other antagonist Yashida is much less notable. You see, by the end it's revealed that he wanted to take away Logan's power for selfish reasons. By the end, the viewer is left thinking that he's nothing but a jerk. It's a shame too, since he was a really good character in the intro. The Silver Samurai should have just been an empty suit of armor. Speaking of that...

The Silver Samurai is one of Wolverine's biggest enemies, maybe second to Sabertooth. He was briefly featured in the trailers. Well, he's technically the final boss. He's more of an it, being a large suit of armor. Think Iron Monger just Japanese style. Unfortunately, the big plot twist is that Yashida was the one wearing it. In the end, Viper is the more engaging antagonist. There's a few side characters, perhaps the most notable being Hawkeye Kenuichio Harada. This guy could have easily been written out, he doesn't serve that much purpose. And what's with the arrows? It's like they were purposely mimicking The Avengers.

The action in this movie is very good and appropriately gritty. Wolverine doesn't shy away from unleashing his claws. It's violent, but that's expected from a Wolverine movie. One of the more unique action scenes was on the train, very clever.The soundtrack is solid, it blends into the movie well. There aren't really any standouts, but I did like the the theme that started playing at the ceremony when Wolverine unsheathed his claws. Now what I think is one of the greatest aspects of the film is the Japan backdrop. It's a whole different feel and look than New York. It's a nice change of pace.

Overall, THE WOLVERINE surprised me. It's a well-paced action drama. It proves that Wolverine can hold his own without any of his X-Men comrades. Yukio is a great character, and I hope she's used in the future. Viper was fantastic, one of the best villains of the year. The Silver Samurai...not so much. (At least the armor was cool.) The mid-credits scene is obviously awesome and a great tease for X-Men: Days of Future Past.