Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Video Game Review - Old Brains Versus New Brains: Original & Remastered Resident Evil

My husband and I met because of the Final Fantasy video game series.  I was talking to a co-worker, stating that I felt Sephiroth was the best FF villain ever.  My husband popped up and chimed in, saying "Nope.  It was Kefka all the way."  The rest is history.  Heck, our cake toppers were even Cecil and Rosa from FF2.  So you see, we're dedicated gamers and the Final Fantasy series is one of my top two favorites of all time.  My other favorite is not only (in my opinion) one of the best ever created, but is a family favorite.  Part five was an anniversary present from my husband and part 6 I have start co-oping with my teenage daughter.  I'm talking about Resident Evil, and if you love zombies, guns, and overall general mayhem and destruction then most games in this series are right up your alley.  I leave out Operation:  Raccoon City on purpose.  As far as I'm concerned that game doesn't exist...

With the news of early conceptual designs for the remaster of Resident Evil 2 I decided to do a comparative piece on the original Resident Evil and Resident Evil: Remastered.  Let's discuss the pros and cons of both and see which one that we gravitate towards for overall gameplay, if not both.  Shall we?

Monday, May 30, 2016

1986: Television

Thirty years ago I was ten years old, which means I was still at optimal receptiveness for the things that would in 2016 evoke fond memories and feelings of nostalgia. I got the idea for this post from the first Dragon Con panel I was a part of – 1982: Best Sci-Fi Movie Year Ever? (or some such thing). We had a great discussion about the movies that came out that year. Sadly nobody recorded it, but I thoroughly enjoyed having a topic that was both broad and focused. It was only 1982 sci-fi movies, but there were plenty to discuss!

Two weeks ago I reminisced about the toy lines of 1986 (because of course I did) and last week I wrote about 1986 movies. In this final post I’m going to look back on the television shows that were a big deal to me back then.

I was and still am a TV kid. I’m sure I’ve devoted far, far too many hours of my life to watching television. If I had spent all of those hours doing something useful, like learning how to build cabinets or play a trumpet or something, I’m sure I’d be much better off.

But I also wouldn’t have learned the magical lesson that sharing some cheesecake in the kitchen with your friends is the answer to all of life’s problems.

Like I said – much better off.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Needless Things Podcast 109 – X-Men

Phantom Troublemaker, Beth, and Chad J. Shonk discuss Marvel’s Merry Mutants – the X-Men!

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Comic Book Review – DC Universe Rebirth #1 from DC Comics

As you might have heard on the last episode of the Needless Things Podcast, I was not super pumped up for DC Comics’ Rebirth event.

All of my life Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman have been the world’s greatest superheroes. Spider-Man was up there, too, but DC’s Trinity were, to me, the definition of “superhero”. They were what I thought of when someone would use that term. That’s not to say that I have spent my whole life reading all of their comics. I know them from TV, movies, and cartoons more than anything else. I’ve read Batman comics on and off my entire life and I’ve certainly read plenty of comic books featuring Superman and Wonder Woman, but I am by no means a DC expert.

I bought pretty much any Batman book that came out in the 90s. I read Death of Superman and followed the resulting comics pretty much until he came back. I think Bloodlines was the first line-wide event that sucked me in. Then Zero Hour got me. I can’t tell you if I truly enjoyed it or just got caught up in the sweeping epic-ness of the event, but I bought most, if not all, of those tie-ins and waited every week for the newest issues.

Around 2004 and 2005 I was getting back into reading comics and I remember trying both Identity Crisis and Infinite Crisis. They were both confusing and deeply mired in the past continuities of DC. As someone with only partial knowledge of the secondary and tertiary charatcers, I was lost. I realize now that I was mistaking these events as an entry point for the DCU. I think I reasoned that a massive, line-wide event was a great time to bring in new readers.

By the time 52 came around I had gleaned enough from my prior attempts and from just being a comic book nerd on the internet to grok what was happening. There were still events that lost me a bit, but the narrative structure kept the momentum going, hopping around from scenario to scenario. None of the segments lasted long enough to truly lose me. And some of them got me invested in heroes I’d never read before, like Adam Strange.
At this point I’ve read Final Crisis, Blackest Night, and all of the other big events that happened up through the launch of the New 52. Some were better than others. Most lost their momentum at some point. Most were spread too thin across many books and sometimes I dropped titles I was enjoying due to their being mired in or sidelined by some big event.

I think if I have a point here – and I can’t guarantee that I do – it’s that DC Comics hasn’t been too concerned about being reader-friendly over the past couple of decades. And they certainly haven’t been worried about new readers. They’ve claimed that they have, but even the most “fresh start” New 52 titles had gobs of continuity hanging around.

But I’m not here today to criticize the New 52. I’ve done plenty of that as DC has disappointed me again and again over the past five years. Today I’m here to celebrate DC’s newest fresh start and the promise it represents for the future.

I have read DC Universe Rebirth #1 twice now and before I get any further I want to tell you to take your $2.99 plus tax to your Local Comic Book Shop and buy this 80-page comic book. It made me very happy and gave me the hope that Geoff Johns claims to want to bring back to the DCU. Every word of the story is an acknowledgement of everything DC has been doing wrong for not just the past five years, but perhaps the past thirty. I cannot help but be excited about what’s coming.

I am not going to spoil any of the major events or story beats of the book because I strongly believe that any comic book fan should experience Rebirth as I did – with no hints of what is to come and the ability to let the narrative sweep over them.

However, there’s no way to talk about the book without at least touching on certain things, so from here on out there could be very minor spoilers in that a few elements will be discussed. If you want to go into the book completely fresh, stop here.

If you need just a bit more convincing before you give DC another chance, read on.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The Trouble with Nostalgia

As of writing this I have just turned 42. And since I have just become the answer to life, the universe and everything I feel entitled to to wax philosophical. Because, as Philip J. Fry so profoundly put it, I'm "old enough to feel ways about stuff". I certainly am older, but I think the wiser thing missed me completely. I did get to thinking about how I've changed, and how people in general seem to change over the years. Changes that can lead to getting stuck in the trap created by nostalgia.

Monday, May 23, 2016

1986: The Movies

Thirty years ago I was ten years old, which means I was still at optimal receptiveness for the things that would in 2016 evoke fond memories and feelings of nostalgia. I got the idea for this post from the first Dragon Con panel I was a part of – 1982: Best Sci-Fi Movie Year Ever? (or some such thing). We had a great discussion about the movies that came out that year. Sadly nobody recorded it, but I thoroughly enjoyed having a topic that was both broad and focused. It was only 1982 sci-fi movies, but there were plenty to discuss!

Friday, May 20, 2016

Needless Things Podcast 108 – DC Comics Rebirth

Phantom Troublemaker and Mike Gordon discuss the past, present, and future of DC Comics, including the upcoming “Rebirth” event!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

"Method" or "Imagined" - Picking Your Character Design

Fantasy and reality are two separate worlds for a reason.  You dive into the realm of fiction to experience something new and different.  To take you away from your everyday life for awhile.  Granted, sometimes reality can mimic fiction in strange ways that can be interesting or unsettling.  You can find a character from TV or film that makes you convinced that the writers followed you around for ideas for its creation.  I can’t even watch Piper (Charmed) or Oliver (Arrow) without cringing or rolling my eyes for this very reason.  This could be good however, if you use these similarities to yourself to help you remember what you lost in you or to help you in a therapeutic way to deal with aspects of yourself you would otherwise sweep under the rug.  That being said, people enjoy fictional worlds and characters for varying reasons:  escape, entertainment, therapy, comparative analysis, etc.

But when this fictional world is a game and the character in it is one you are creating, how much of “reality” do you let bleed into your “fiction?”  In tabletop RPGs, what type of characters do you prefer to build?

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Ancient Toys of Yesteryear – Masters of the Universe 200X The General from Mattel

I’ve got a post going up in a couple of weeks that addresses some of the problems that modern toys are presenting to collectors. Essentially the days of high quality at an affordable price are gone and it’s harder for me to get excited about most of what’s being offered.

As such, I am looking to the past. Almost every toy line that I have ever collected has some holes in it. Figures or vehicles that have eluded me for one reason or another. Sometimes I might have gotten frustrated with a line and just quit, but liked the toys enough to hang onto them.

Monday, May 16, 2016

1986: The Toys

I turned 40 last Tuesday, which means this post would have probably been a bit more relevant to put up then. But I didn’t think of the idea until just now because I AM AN OLD MAN AND MY BRAIN IS SLOWING DOWN.

Thirty years ago I was ten years old, which means I was still at optimal receptiveness for the things that would in 2016 evoke fond memories and feelings of nostalgia. I got the idea for this post from the first Dragon Con panel I was a part of – 1982: Best Sci-Fi Movie Year Ever? (or some such thing). We had a great discussion about the movies that came out that year. Sadly nobody recorded it, but I thoroughly enjoyed having a topic that was both broad and focused. It was only 1982 sci-fi movies, but there were plenty to discuss!

Over the next few weeks I’m going to touch on a broad range of pop culture subjects from 1986 – movies, toys, TV – and just share some memories about the things that affected me the most. Today I’m starting with the toys and cartoons (all of which are related) because this is, after all, Needless Things.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Needless Things Podcast 107 – Mick Orton

Phantom Troublemaker talks to Mick Orton of The Silvers!

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Collector Problems

I seem to be becoming a bit of a toy snob.

I like to think of myself as a guy that can appreciate all things. An Everyman that can find a perspective from which to admire any kind of toys. From gimmicky kid-oriented stuff to insanely expensive Hot Toys to the simplest Imaginext action figures and playsets. I feel like there’s a toy for everyone and that standards and expectations – what people want out of a toy or action figure – are rightfully different from person to person.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Why Aren't You Watching Star Wars Rebels?

I'm late writing this I know. Two excuses though: I thought it was better to put this up closer to May 4th, and it's also one of those shows I like to binge watch so I naturally run behind. I am not the target audience for Disney XD, and I think they create their commercials specifically to drive away anyone over the age of twelve. If I can't skip the commercials I'm just not going to watch it. The other reason for the binging is that up until recently the show has been a bit inconsistent. An episode important to the story and world they're building followed by an episode where they run into Lando isn't going to keep me on the edge of my seat if I have to wait a week to see what happens next. Not that I don't enjoy seeing him, but it felt a little more like fan service rather than an important part of the story.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Movie Review – Phantom on Captain America: Civil War

A co-worker recently told me that he just wasn’t as excited about Civil War as he had been about the other Marvel movies. He’s not a comic book guy, but he goes to see almost every movie that comes out, to the point where he runs out of domestic releases and has to hit up theaters that carry foreign films.

It would be fair to say that he is a much more avid consumer of film than I am.

When he said that, I told him that I totally understand. We agreed that we’re much more excited about the forthcoming Suicide Squad just because it looks like something different. The Marvel movies are a fairly homogenous source of excellent entertainment. They share an overall look and tone even if the subject matter and stories vary wildly. All of that is totally fine because that’s how you build a brand and have success.

To date, I have loved every single Marvel movie to some degree and have watched all of the official Marvel Cinematic Universe films multiple times. My favorite is still Captain America: The First Avenger. I haven’t retroactively decided that some are bad like many people have. I have zero desire to see Disney and/or Marvel fail in any way. I don’t ever want to be the one pissing in the Cheerios because I love and admire what they do.

Guys – I still think Iron Man 2 is pretty awesome.

I think you might see where I’m going here.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Needless Things Podcast 106 – Happy Phantom

Phantom Troublemaker flies solo with a discussion of random dorkery including Game of Thrones, Keanu, Six Flags Over Georgia, the Ghostbusters franchise and more!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Devlin's Domain - The Bridge

Thanks to the recent film release of The Forest, a lot of people are just now learning about the legendary suicide forest of Japan. It's just a shame it couldn't have been done in a better way. But as haunting and appealing as the story of that forest is, the United States is actually home to the biggest suicide hotspot in the world. Now we have something to brag about. The best thing is that if you want to know more about it you don't have to suffer through an overly fantastical, jump-scare, garbage horror film. There is a documentary and I am taking a look at it this week in the Domain.

Comic Book Wednesday – Previews May 2016: “Image=”

If you don’t know, Previews is the catalog that Diamond Comic Distributors use to offer the products they distribute to comic book stores around the country. This is where you can view and order (through your favorite Local Comic Book Shop) comic books, trade paperback collections, t-shirts, books, media, and toys and other collectibles from hundreds of different vendors that deal in geek-oriented merchandise. The genius part is that you actually have to pay for your copy of Previews for the privilege of ordering other things to pay for. It’s like the Ren Fest except without the horse poo smell.

So every month a new edition of Previews is sent out to comic book stores. Contained in the pages within are products that might be currently available or could be released anytime in the next year; but typically about two months away. Or sometimes never. I’ve ordered lots of things that have just never come in. Without getting into the specific politics of Diamond, let me just say that they aren’t quite a monopoly and also aren’t quite the worst distributor anybody has ever dealt with in the history of the universe.

But I’m not here to discuss that. I’m here to discuss a few of the weird and/or wonderful items offered in this month’s edition.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Ancient Toys of Yesteryear – Star Wars: Attack of the Clones Zam Wesell’s Speeder from Hasbro

I’ve complained plenty about what Hasbro is doing with 3.75” scale Star Wars figures. I’m sure you guys are tired of it and there’s not really any more ground to cover there.

But I’ve barely even gotten started on all of the problems I have with their current vehicle offerings!

Monday, May 2, 2016

Gaming and The Written World: The World of The Written RPG

Photo Credit from submission to Foter.com

Gaming comes in various forms:  Platforms and computers.  Tabletop board games and RPG campaigns.  Card games and party games.  I’m really not even scratching the surface.  Writing is not that different:  Fiction and Non-Fiction, Thriller, Suspense, Military, Romance, Paranormal, Self-Help, Biography, etc.  And let us not discount, blogs, magazine, fanzines, newsletters, and the world of ebooks for all of the above formats.  The biggest similarity that ties these two worlds, however, lies in the RPG gaming aspect.  In both writing and RPG campaigns you are creating characters that you infuse with personality and inserting them into a vast world in which they have to adapt, survive, and grow as people.  You wanna know another interesting thing about their similarities?  In the world of gaming it isn’t uncommon to have people crossover games and try to mash them together; heck, there’s even a game called Smash-Up.  In the writing world crossovers happen regularly.  Writers will cross their own series or if building a world will contract with other authors to bring their characters into their world to visit.  Why then, can’t the world of writing and the world of RPG Gaming cross?  Guess what?  They do.

Writing RPGs have been around for years.  Since the Internet crawled from the primordial digital ooze, places such as Proboards and Livejournal existed, making perfect breeding grounds for the creation of the written world with gaming mechanics.  If you’ve never tried a writing RPG then let me talk to you about what you’re missing.