Archive for the ‘Misc’ Category

Mega Man Dying

A day or two ago, my 9 year old son got an urge to play a Mega Man game. As a NES fan from the 80’s, I heartily approved. We have the Anniversary Edition, so he could pick from 1 to 8. He settled on the original, despite my warnings that it is probably the toughest one. Ignoring my advice on such matters is a talent of his but, as he had played Mega Man Powered Up on the PSP quite a bit, he did have some idea of what he was getting into.

Let me give some background before I go on. My son loves playing “Twitch” games on his Fire Tablet. I’d say he spends most of his game playing time on those, and he is super good at them, just FYI. He does play a good chunk of console games though. He’s played through Ocarina of Time on the 3DS. Completed Super Mario 3D World before I did, if I’m not mistaken, and has mastered Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker. But, those games aren’t Mega Man.

So, anyway, he played through and beat Bomb Man (no easy feat, frankly), then went to Guts Man’s stage. Anyone that’s ever played Mega Man knows how horrific the lifts are in that stage, and that is where things got bad. He had trouble getting the timing down (been there myself), and eventually just cut it off after only a couple of tries. This is not the first time this has happened, and it is almost always on older games that he likes or that I’ve recommended. Tonight, the same thing happened with Mega Man 5. He was able to get to Gravity Man, but couldn’t beat him. He was turning it off, but I actually took over and played a bit. On a side note, I can still rock Mega Man 5.

Mega Man Guts Lifts

There is no joy in this place.

The bottom line here is, he has very little patience for games that require some memorization along with trial and error. Basically, any game prior to the Nintendo 64/PlayStation era. The thing is, I don’t think it’s just him, I think it’s something that affects most gamers that missed out on the pre-3D era of gaming.

Why is it though?

I believe it has to be that games are just easier now than they were on the NES/Super NES/Sega Genesis. In many ways, this is a good thing. Some of the lost difficulty is due to better design and more in-game options (in terms of how to tackle different challenges). There’s also the fact that dying in a game now does not penalize you very much. Most games have auto-save features that mean a loss only penalizes you a few minutes of play time, if that. I come from the era of Ninja Gaiden. One mis-timed jump or stray hawk with no lives left could totally wreck your day.

Ninja Gaiden

Oh, come on!

So, while I wholeheartedly approve of the advances in gaming, I do think that patience in gaming has been completely lost on this generation. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, I suppose, and I’m not faulting the current generation of gamers in any way as they’re playing with the hand they’ve been dealt, just like those of us that grew up in the 80’s and 90’s did. We had no choice but to try and try again. If that last life was gone, it was a lesson learned and in most cases, we just started over from Level 1. Even when passwords and saves became the norm, there were still punishments for having lost that just don’t exist all that often now. It was just the way it was.

When I started this blog post, I wasn’t sure where it was going to lead me, and now I see that the answer is nowhere. I try always to write with a conclusion in mind, but sometimes when I’ve written my thoughts out, I realize that it’s nothing more than an observation, and that seems to be the case here. I suppose it’s just interesting to me to watch someone steeped in today’s games try games that I cut my teeth on, and the reactions that doing so elicits.

For the past few console iterations, we’ve witnessed a changing of the guard that continues even today. I’m out. My son’s generation is in. Such is life.

Now, if you need me, I’ll be in my room playing Castlevania.

Castlevania

Never gets old…

X-Files Title

 

Time is quite fleeting. It only seems like yesterday that I was waiting with baited breath for The X-Files revival series. Now, it has passed us by. Last night, the finale of the six episode event aired, acting as a bookend to the mythology heavy premier. Beware, here there be spoilers.

The episode opens with a monologue by Scully, mirroring Mulder’s from My Struggle (I) and ending with her morphing into an alien (citing the fear of what her alien DNA means). Once the episode proper begins, Scully shows up for work to find Mulder missing and his laptop open to the latest episode of Tad O’Malley. Skinner and Agent Einstein drop in, a conference ensues, and Scully and Einstein wind up at Scully’s former hospital to…well, I actually can’t recall. Suffice it to say that they are there for something important. Testing Einstein’s blood for the alien DNA, I think. Anyways, the first sign of trouble is a former soldier showing up with exposure to Anthrax, which he wasn’t actually exposed to.

X-Files alien

It’s what’s on the inside that counts, but yikes.

Meanwhile, we have also learned that Mulder was supposed to meet Tad O’Malley, but when he and Scully each arrive at his house they find it wrecked, with no Mulder. A flashback shows us that Mulder was assaulted by an agent of the CSM, whom Mulder has set out to track down. Scully realizes that the sickness she saw in the soldier is the beginning of what was hinted at in the first episode, and sets out trying to fix it. A meeting with Agent Reyes clears this up a bit. Agent Reyes is now the CSM’s go to woman, and has been saved from the coming extermination. Scully, as it turns out, is saved as well due to her alien DNA (given to her when she was abducted). She has had it backwards the entire time. Her alien DNA is not going to kill her, it is the only think that is saving her (thank you Agent Reyes, you may have redeemed yourself). Scully and Einstein successfully make a vaccine based on Scully’s DNA and begin administering it.

X-Files Reyes

Seriously, would a passing mention of Doggett been too much?

At the same time, Mulder has found the CSM, but is quickly deteriorating due to what is called the Spartan Virus, which shuts down most people’s immune systems and is the culmination of what we learned in My Struggle (I). The CSM fills in some missing spots regarding the current situation (population control, etc…), and simply waits as death approaches for Mulder. Using Mulder’s laptop to track his (Mulder’s) phone, Einstein’s partner, Miller, has tracked him down and pulls him from the home of the CSM, and makes plans to meet Scully to administer the vaccine. Once they meet on a crowded bridge, Scully states that Mulder is too far gone and needs stem cells from William to survive. Obviously, William is MIA. Out of nowhere, a blue light comes down from a UFO that is hovering over Scully and…cue credits.

X-Files UFO

Annnnnd wrap. That shouldn’t leave any plot elements unanswered.

Okay, this has been a quick and dirty recap, but if you’re reading this, you probably watched the episode anyway. I apologize for anything I got mixed up, but I really did just want to hit the high points.

Now, what does this mean for The X-Files? I was certain there would be no cliffhanger since this was a special event with no guarantee of future episodes, but it would appear that Chris Carter and company were not thinking in those terms. They went all in, renewal or no, and did manage to deliver one of the best cliffhangers of the series’ 10 seasons. Also, as I commented to my wife, this episode seemed to have the grandest story scale of any mythology episode I can recall watching. Traditionally, the world may have been at risk, but it was a future risk. In this episode, for the first time, we see one of these sweeping plans actually enacted. It was truly larger than I expected it to be, and I expected big.

So, will there be a renewal? I firmly believe so. The series was clearly a hit, averaging around 9.5 million viewers. Also, from most reports, the main principles are all interested in returning to the series again, though probably not for any kind of a full season (22 episodes or so). I expect there to be a Season 11 with a run of 10 to 12 episodes that will continue the story, as well as having the monster-of-the-week type episodes placed in between the story-centric episodes. I am very much in favor of this format. It keeps interest high and makes each episode feel that much more special because it doesn’t have time to become the norm again. It isn’t a show that just becomes a part of our schedule, it is truly an event that those of us that love The X-Files will anticipate for months. It also allows for anyone associated with the show to take part in other shows and/or films. It’s essentially a win/win for everyone involved.

The only change I would like to see is a bit more focus on the story. In a normal season, there would usually be 6 to 8 story episodes. That can’t happen here, obviously, but for as much as I enjoyed this finale, it did feel rushed from time to time. I think the same story, with the same cliffhanger, could have been handled much better over a two hour/two episode span. I understand that that wasn’t a choice here, but if this goes forwards, it would be nice to have the central story a bit more drawn out.

However the future of the show goes, I simply hope that I’m right in expecting a future. Fictional characters or no, I’m simply not going to be happy until I find out where Carter is taking this story. Just would have been nice if we could have gotten some minor confirmation at the end. Just a “The X-Files will return in 2017” would have sufficed.

Voltron - Title

Note: Many times when I’m thinking of blog topics, I only go forward with them if I can reach a point or conclusion of some kind. I’ve decided that, instead of working that way, I’m going to just write those as more personal blogs. Recollections, if you will. What better place to start than Voltron.

So many of us, as kids (and adults), are mesmerized by giant robots and/or monsters of some description. I’m guilty here. Pacific Rim is one of my favorite movies of the past few years. I shamefully go see the Transformers films. There’s something magical about watching these behemoths go into battle.

For me, that fascination didn’t start with Transformers, as it seemed to with most kids in the late 80’s. For me, that started with Voltron. We didn’t have cable or satellite when I was a kid. I grew up, like many people in that time period, with the outside antennae that you had to go turn if you wanted a different channel. This meant that I often explored the video rental stores in search of new cartoons to watch. One such show I was drawn to was Go-Bots but, even more so than Go-Bots, I fell in love with Voltron.

We had two rental places in my town. One had a few videos that had a couple of episodes each. The bowling alley though, had a VHS that had about eight episodes, including the origin “movie.” God only knows how many times I rented that video and watched it over and over again while I had it. There was no buying these videos in the stores I went to, so renting is how I got my fix. When I couldn’t get videos, I would find the book/record or cassette tape sets based on Voltron episodes. I also made Voltron and Robeasts out of Legos. Before that, I would draw them, color them, then cut them out and have them do battle. I may have been a little bit obsessed.

Voltron - Tape

Yes, I actually had this one.

As much as I love many of the episodes, I will always remember the rush of the origin movie/episodes. To this day, I can still feel the excitement when the fifth key is found after the other four lions have been beaten down by the robeast. The thrill when they are finally able to form Voltron is as fresh now as when I was 10 or 12 years old. I make no excuses for that as a 34 year old. I’m sure it’s a nostalgia thing, but it’s definitely there.

Voltron - Robeast

This thing was scary as a kid.

As I’ve gotten older, my love of Voltron has stayed strong. I have the DVD collection now, and have finally seen all those episodes I had only read a bit about or heard of. I even watched the one season of Voltron Force that aired. It wasn’t great, but it did honor the original series while acting as a continuation, and I appreciated that approach and what the show’s creators were trying to do. I’ve been a bit sad because no season two ever materialized, which signaled to me that Voltron was probably going to be dead for the foreseeable future. I’m so very happy to have been wrong on this.

In January of this year, Netflix and Dreamworks announced that a new Voltron series would be coming in 2016. For a few minutes, I was a kid again. One of my favorite shows was getting new life. New life in the hands of two companies that have a fairly stellar track record. Once that new series launches, I am sure that I will be binge-watching it. Again, no shame there. It may equal or even best the original series. It may be a bit more sub-par, such as Voltron Force which I mentioned above. However it goes, I’ll be there, on the couch, watching with wide eyes (hopefully with my 9 year old beside me), and experiencing that same excitement I used to get when I’d get home with my latest Voltron rental. When it comes to Voltron, I’m most definitely still a kid at heart. And I love that.

Voltron - New

X Files

In late summer of 1996, I was 14 years old. I had never had access to a Fox channel, but knew through word of mouth about The X-Files. It was shortly after school started back that my parents purchased a satellite dish (one of those big monsters that you had to move from satellite to satellite and with which you could pick up off air news-feeds). I wasted no time getting in on this phenomenon I had heard so much about.

The first episode I ever saw was Home. Is it any wonder that I fell in love with The X-Files. I watched it religiously from that point through the disappointing finale, while catching up on reruns when I could (this was before the days of buying a season on DVD or finding it on Netflix). Imagine my excitement when I found nearly all the VHS tapes on sale at a Wal-Mart for about $3.00 each. I could finally catch up on the mythology of the series, as well as seeing classic episodes such as Squeeze, Tooms, and Jose Chung’s From Outer Space.

X Files - VHS

These used to be magical, and didn’t remind me that I’m old.

When the show went off the air and the second movie came out as a standalone story, I just assumed that we’d never get resolution to the 2012 invasion that was revealed in the finale. I’m not sure that I’ve ever been happier to be wrong about something. Last Sunday (January 24th), The X-Files once again graced our television screens. I’m not sure I could have enjoyed it more.

Some points to keep in mind coming into this new story, regarding the mythology of the series:

  • In Season 5, it was revealed that an alien invasion would come via a black alien ooze that caused a creature to incubate within those afflicted with it
  • The Syndicate (the Cigarette Smoking Man and his compadres) were working with these aliens in order to, essentially, save themselves and try to create a vaccine against the ooze
  • Alien rebels were working to stop this invasion, but the Syndicate opposed them. Possible to save themselves and possibly because they felt the rebels stood no chance.
  • The invasion is nearly upon us in Season 6, but the rebels kill the Syndicate and short circuit the plan, leaving on the CSM alive.
  • The invading aliens then shift to creating super soldiers because reasons.
  • Scully and Mulder have a super weird baby.
  • The CSM informs Mulder that the invasion is happening in 2012, then gets shot with a missile. Mulder and Scully share a moment in a hotel room. Fade to black.
  • A second film adds nothing to this story.

Okay, you’re all caught up now. It’s convoluted, but I’ve always felt that it was pretty concrete through Season 6. After that, it feels like Chris Carter couldn’t really figure out where to go and just threw ideas at the wall, hoping something would stick.

The premiere of Season 10 opens with Mulder and Scully separated (they were an item in the second film). Scully works in a hospital. I’ve no idea what Mulder does other than watch Jimmy Kimmel on Youtube. A popular internet show host contacts them regarding a conspiracy he believes he has uncovered. This brings them to a woman claiming to have been abducted multiple times. Scully takes some blood from the woman while Mulder is shown an ARV (Alien Replica Vehicle) which, admittedly, is pretty cool. It is being built in secret by some scientists based on alien technology.

The most impactful plot element of the episode occurs when Mulder visits the woman again and she admits that it was men that take her. Mulder (with some minor confirmation from a source that was at the original Roswell crash) comes to the conclusion that it has been men, masquerading as aliens, that have been guilty of abducting people for 50+ years. This is going to ultimately lead to a takeover of the country by these men, through the use of fear and manipulation. It’s quite a leap. The episode closes with the woman at the center of the story being killed by a flying saucer, the ARV being destroyed by men in army uniforms, and the reveal of the CSM making a phone call, stating that the X-Files had been reopened.

X Files - CSM

How could we have possibly seen his reveal coming???

Firstly, let me say that the chemistry between Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny is perfect. It’s been nearly 15 years, but you would never guess it by watching this episode. Secondly, regarding the story line of the premier, there is quite a bit to digest in this episode. Primarily, the revelation that men have been behind abductions (mostly) for over 50 years and are part of a larger plan bent on power and domination. The largest criticism of this turn of events is that the show threw 9 years of plot away by creating an entirely new explanation for UFO’s, abductions, and the like. Not that the show discarded aliens, just that they changed the role aliens have had in the story, that they were actually drawn to Earth by the atom bomb and were concerned for our welfare. This is tough to reconcile with the long running invasion plot, and lends credence to the charge that Chris Carter has trashed the story with 10 minutes of dialogue. This is a fair criticism, and I understand where it comes from (I mean, Mulder outright stated that maybe all they had done had been a lie), but I’m not buying it…yet.

X Files - Poster

Of course, maybe this was representative of what they were figuratively doing to the story.

Let’s recap again. In seasons 5 and 6, as well as in Fight the Future, we see alien incubation happen. We see attacks by the rebels. We see the Syndicate, along with their families, assemble in a warehouse, expecting to be taken away by the invading aliens. This can’t be dismissed by a few lines in the newest episode. Now, I may be proven wrong when the second mythology based episode airs in a few weeks, but I believe this newest revelation has to work in conjunction with the plot lines we’ve already seen in past episodes. One invasion has already failed due to the rebels. I believe we can assume that the second was thwarted as well, though we don’t know why. It could also be that the CSM was simply lying in the finale. That has been his prerogative multiple times in the past. Why should that prediction be taken as the gospel? At this point, there’s simply too much that we don’t know about what’s going on behind the scenes of the show’s mythology. I do have faith, however, that Chris Carter and others involved with the show wouldn’t, on a whim, ignore all that they have written in the past. Maybe I’m giving them all too much credit or am just a foolish optimist. We can only wait and see. At least no one can accuse me of taking the show too seriously…

 

On a Personal Note…

Posted: August 26, 2014 in Misc

If you’re friends with me on Twitter or follow me here on WordPress, then it has become quite obvious that new posts have been lacking in recent weeks. All too often, people drift away from a social media platform with no explanation. That is not the case here. I’m going nowhere, but did want to drop in and give an update on why I’ve only been on intermittently over the past month or so.

First of all, I initially set a torrid pace for myself with this blog. Once I got rolling, I insisted on doing three blogs per week. Two actual blog posts, along with a Top 8 on Wednesdays. I don’t think that was a negative or anything, but it did force me to burn through quite a few things I wanted to blog about when I started, which left me sometimes grasping for new ideas. I’ve since abandoned that self-imposed schedule and try to do one a week. Also, I’ve been playing the Mega Man X series lately, and that has shifted my focus a bit.

Secondly, and more importantly, I’ve been going through some major changes in my employment. Back in March, I left my job of 5+ years to return to my previous office (where I had worked for the 6 years or so prior). The job I was leaving was going under, and I saw it coming. The opportunity presented itself for me to switch and avoid a possible layoff, so I took it. Unfortunately, due to business falling off quite a bit, I’m being laid off at the end of this week.

The positive side of this is that I had enough notice to start putting something else together, and also that it forced me to make a bold decision that I would have otherwise avoided. With the help of my current employer, I’ve formed a corporation and will be self-employed, as an independent title searcher/abstracter (I’ve six years of experience in it and rather enjoy the research). I loved the idea of being an independent searcher that solicits business from different offices, but was always too nervous to step out on my own. It just seemed far too risky. Now though, I really don’t have very much to lose by doing so.

That ties back into my blog in that I’ve been killing myself the past month getting that ready to launch on 9/2 (damn Labor Day!). Things should calm down a bit over the next couple of weeks and I’ll get back on the horse. The bottom line is, I’m not one of those guys that’s just disappeared. Just think of me as having taken a sabbatical from the blog. 😉