25 Years of Zelda!

Happy 25th Anniversary Hyrule! This iconic and legendary game has influenced 100’s of games, inspired millions of kids, and has made people understand the true power of the Tri-force.

On my phone I have a ringtone that is the sound when you find a hidden entrance. Everyday there is someone that perks up and tries to find where the sound came from. I was in Books-A-Million one day, my friend Burney texted me and the sound chimed. I heard this woman swoon “Zelda?” You could hear her love for the game.

Burned into our brains and eardrums forever. Thank you Zelda!

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The Damned Things : Just go buy the damn thing!

The release of Ironiclast, from The Damned Things, has had me excited for many months. I had been reading that members of Every Time I Die, Fallout Boy, and Anthrax were recording something since early 2010. I have always been  fan of Anthrax and their newest lead guitarist, Rob Caggiano is a very under rated player. So to see that Rob and Scott Ian stretch out into a new project got my blood going. The other members include Keith Buckley and Josh Newton from Every Time I Die and Joe Trohman and Andy Hurley from Fallout Boy.

 

Keith Buckley has always intrigued me as a vocalist. I wondered if he  do the ETID screaming or if he would approach The Damned Things differently. Needless to say, I am happy that he took a new approach. He swoons and holds such  catchy melodies with ease.

From the very first song Handbook For The Recently Deceased you realize that this is different for every member. There is a poppy, singable, can’t get it out of my head songwriting, that is refreshing and needed. Let’s face it, 2010 has not been kind to the rock music genre.

My personal favorites out of the 10 tracks released are; The Blues Havin’ Blues, Friday Night, Graverobber, and the title track Ironiclast. It is nice to hear that members from thrash/metal, rock, and punk groups can get together and make something new.

I hope that this is not a one-shot for this group. With luke warm or non-existent new releases from the members other groups, I would hope that they continue a winning combination with The Damned Things.

Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light : Go get it!

Tomb Raider is a beloved series in my family. Since the first polygon of the British archaeologist landed on the PS1, I was hooked. Every game kept me up for hours, days, and multiple playthroughs. My wife and I have shared stories of our adventures in the games over dinner. We wait for every installment. So Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light has been the most anticipated game in our house this year.

For anyone familiar with Lara Croft and her games, you expect certain things. But Crystal Dynamics departed from the typical 3rd person over the shoulder look, for a isometric viewpoint, fixed camera. This is also the first game that introduces a co-op play. Your partner is a Mayan warrior named Totec who can speak perfect english. Amazing for a Mayan who had never heard spoken english prior to what Lara says to him. But let me tell you the story of the game first …

“Two-thousand years ago in ancient Central America, a battle began between Totec, the Guardian of the Light, and Xototl, the keeper of darkness. Totec’s army was defeated when Xolotl used the mirror of smoke to unleash hordes of ghastly creatures. Totec survived said battle, and found a way to defeat Xolotl, imprisoning him in the mirror of smoke and watching over the mirror as an immortal stone statue. In present day, Lara Croft reads of the legend and attempts to find the mirror. After a long and dangerous hike she is successful. She stops to observe the mirror, only to find that a band of mercenaries led by the local warlord followed her into the temple and took the mirror from her. Unknowing, or unbelieving of the curse upon the mirror, the leader of the mercenaries handles the mirror and recklessly releases Xolotl. The stone statue of Totec comes to life and warns Lara that Xolotl must be stopped before the light of dawn. Depending on whether playing single player or not, Lara and Totec either join forces or go separate ways to try and stop Xolotl.”

This game is a lot of fun! Gameplay is fast paced, controls are tight, and it offers a lot of replay value. There are some downfalls but nothing too serious. The controls take a little bit of time to get used to. Once learned though, actions will become second nature.

During the Co-op play, if your partner is slower than you, it will cause problems. There is not a split screen option and it forces you to truly work with the other gamer. Which is always  good thing. Why play co-op if you are not going to “play nice”?

The graphics are fresh and stay constant. You never feel as though something doesn’t belong. In typical Tomb Raider fashion you will be asking, “Why did this ancient culture build this?” And of course as the game progresses enemies become larger and more hellish. Nothing becomes too frustrating. Some areas might make your blood boil, but that is just because the game knows how to challenge the player.

Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light is at the perfect price point of $15 or 1500 MS Points. Two thumbs WAY up on this game!

 

Final Fantasy XIII : Where has the past week gone?

First off, I am not going to go into the story line of the game. Just know two things : 1. Good vs. Evil and 2. Big monsters.

I knew that Final Fantasy XIII was going to be different but I didn’t realize how much.

The very first thing that I noticed was the linear, tunnel like, “exploring” that your character/party did. Almost like the Tomb Raider series, running through buildings, caves, and the what not. There is very little expansive territory to search through. Of course there is an area where you go through side quests and massive beasts are all around.

Second thing is the battle system. In past games I would make two teams, making each person with certain strengths knowing that if my team leader died that I would have to use the next in line. Nope, not this time. If your team leader dies during battle, you have to start the fight over. This is frustrating when you have been hacking away at something for 10 minutes. There were several times where I would just stare at the screen in dismay,going, “I almost had it! WHAT THE CRAP!” But overall, the battle system is easy to learn and upgrade.

The cutscenes are gorgeous. This is where you spending big money for that TV and sound system comes into play. The playing graphics, for that matter, are gorgeous as well. Often I could not tell the difference. The one thing that I did find funny is that each character had to have their “We can do this speech!” cutscene. Some of it is quite high school drama and some can get to the point where you want to turn the volume down.

The main problem, it is very petty, with the game is the map. You are able to view a map of the area and some of it is difficult to see. There are no markers saying where each spot leads to and you do not have the ability to mark it. I can’t remember if other FF games did the same. I just find it odd and annoying. Some of the caves start looking the same and running down a path for 20 minutes before realizing that you are going the wrong way is a time waster.

I also find it funny that every and I mean every Final Fantasy follows the same character stereotypes.

  1. There is always a bad ass lead character that is driven and will throw themselves in harms way no matter the cost. You will play them the most.
  2. Always a macho, testosterone, “dude”.
  3. A cute, flirty, giggle giggle girl that can do major damage.
  4. A random, easy going black guy that feels like he has nothing to live for. You always want to use him but in the end he is a so-so character.
  5. Someone with a staff who is rough, tumble, and secretive.
  6. The useless guy. Sometimes is a animal.

Overall Final Fantasy XIII is wonderful. Even with little flaws and occasional bad acting, it is still worthy of your attention. If you are the type that does not enjoy long epic adventures, you might want to look somewhere else. I am currently clocking in 60+ hours, still have all the side quests to complete, and have not beaten the final chapter.

This is a buy for those who know what they are getting into.

Summer, bands, Red Dead and FF13

Well, I got a lot going on and nothing to really write about. I am playing through Final Fantasy 13 and Red Dead Redemption. Both are huge games! So far both are worthy of anyone looking to really sink their teeth into epic games. Also, I am busy with my band, The Great Liars. You should check us out!

Until I finish a game or come across some awesome new music, it might get light here during the summer.

The Future is Me : Return to Earth Again

Seeing bands grow, especially when you personally know the band, is great to witness. In the case with Raleigh, NC’s,  The Future is Me, I have known members of this band for several years. I have shared the stage with them in various projects and bands. Their debut self released EP, Return to Earth Again, is a great blend of modern alternative rock and (I hate this term) screamo.

Return to Earth starts with a great builder called The Calm. TFIM throws out the typical song structure and gets right to the meat that leaves you pumped into the next straight forward Heresy in the Age of Reason. I hear remnants of The Bled, Thursday, Minus the Bear, and Glassjaw. TFIM touches on them but quickly breaks loose into their own style and feel.

Paul Kelley throws the lyrical hooks out and always catches the ear. He is one of the best vocalists in the Southeast rock scene. He pushes emotion in every line and you feel where he stands. The muscianship of Kelley, Mike O’Donnell, John Tomasevich, and Matt Szalecki is top notch.  Nothing seems forced or out of place. Fluidity of songs keep you wanting more.

I have not seen TFIM live yet. I plan to. Playing live is the true testimony of how a band stands. They have never failed in past projects and I expect only the absolute best from them now. The Future is Me could quickly sail the flagship of North Carolina rock. Please listen to them at www.myspace.com/thefutureismemusic You can also find them on itunes.

Mini Ninjas : Its like Calgone and Japanese feudal warfare wrapped up in one.

Charming, relaxing, and simply fun. Mini Ninjas is a great game from start to finish. The game offers a surprisingly long gameplay adventure, I logged in around 12+ hours.

I was not thinking that this game was going to be too difficult or frustrating. Knowing by the cover that it would appeal toward younger ages, I figured that if I wanted it to be more difficult I would have to make it that way. The replay value is fairly low and for the perfectionist player it offers several trophies/awards to obtain with multiple runs at different difficulty levels or replays of different stages.

The story is wrapped around a little ninja named Hiro. His master has sent him, along with Futo, on a journey to destroy the Evil Samurai Warlord. Along the way they rescue other ninjas that had been captured. The rescued ninjas are playable characters and have certain strengths. Hiro, for the most part, is the most used and is the only one that can use the powerful Kuji magic.

The graphics are quite stylized and the music is very relaxing. Some of the levels are fairly large and offer a lot of exploring. Parents watching their kids play will want to join in because it is very inviting. My wife and I shared gameplay duties. It was just fun!

The game has been out since September 09. I would figure that you could find it for fairly cheap or easily available to rent.

Godhead : At the Edge of the World

Okay, first off, this album came out in 2008. I just found out that they had released it about a week ago. I first saw Godhead in 1999 at DragonCon in Atlanta. Their mix of electronica and metal just struck a chord in my heart. I purchased their first three albums and then did not hear anything from them until 2003 when they released Evolver. Let’s just say I was not a fan of that album.

Let’s all thank Steve Jobs and iTunes. Without iTunes I would have lost track of a lot of bands. Godhead being one of them.

Godhead released At the Edge of the World in 2008. This is a perfect album from this band. Dark, moody, and emotional at points. Nothing gets too busy, it can make you drive fast. By the end of the album, you want to start the ride all over again.

People have described the music as gothic rock, At the Edge of the World should be described as a damn good hard rock album. Nothing against gothic rock, I just can not hear it as that.

Godhead is supposedly in the studio working on a 2010 release. I hope that they are working in the same direction as this album. If so, they could become a household name. It pleases me that Godhead have been around for so long and have not thrown in the towel. Sure, I forgot about them for a couple years, but they still made an impression on my ears in 1999. Thank goodness they still are in 2010.

PS – Pick up their 1998 release Power Tool Stigmata

Heavy Rain : It will get in your head!

I knew that Heavy Rain had already received good reviews. Mainly due to the unique gameplay and mature story line. Everything you read about the game is true. It is that good!

Mind you, if you are a person that has a hard time making split second choices, you might have a very short game. Your characters will die and the killer gets free, simple as that.

The story revolves around a city with an unique serial killer known as The Origami Killer. The killer only strikes during the rainy season and only targets 10 year old boys. The main character that you play is Ethan. His son was kidnapped and he is desperately trying to save him. His own past is haunting him, which only makes things tougher. Along the way he meets Madison who helps him in her own way. The two other characters are Shelby (Private Eye with torrid past) and Jayson (FBI Agent trying to do good).

If you are expecting running around like Laura Croft or Modern Warfare, forget it. You are playing the lives of these four characters. If you choose a wrong move or do not press the right buttons, they die . . . forever. You will not know how their story plays out. At least not until you decide to play through the game again and again. I played through 4 times and received 4 different endings ranging from very sad to moderately happy.

The beginning is slow, but needed to understand parts later in the game. It introduces the controls and basic gameplay. Getting you use to the button configurations and timing aspects that are needed through out the game.

I give Heavy Rain 10 Stars of Awesomeness. It broke the basic routine of playing a video game, introduces fresh ideas of story telling and gameplay. I would rent it and see if it is your thing and then buy after it sucks you in.

Deftones : Diamond Eyes

Let’s step away from the games for a moment and applaud the Deftones. The past 6 years has been riddled with discouragement, band failure, and tragedy within their ranks. Each album since 2003 has been filled with experimentation that had not hit the mark. We knew what they were doing but it never seemed to fit together.

With Diamond Eyes, they hit it. Every note, every word, every thing is exceptional. It has been a long time since I have heard a band with this much raw passion for the music they are creating. It is truly inspirational.

The Deftones have always created an unique sound, they have now created a new bar for themselves.