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Showing posts with label video games. Show all posts
Showing posts with label video games. Show all posts

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

My history as a Video Gamer part 1 - NES Era

I  got an email request recently asking about my history as a gamer and I think that now would be a good time for me to share my story.  Like most kids growing up in the 1980s and 90s, I have had lots of exposure to video games in many different forms.  My history is quite extensive too.  My history is too long to do in one post, so I will have to break it up into several posts.  In this post, I will explore the NES days

Above is a picture of Mountain View, California as it is today as of 2010.  It was in Mountain View where I was born.  Memories I have of those years are very faint at best (though I do have some pictures and videos of those years) considering that I ended up moving to Illinois when I was about 2 years old.  Though sometimes I do get that home style feeling when visiting northern and central California (especially the Sacramento area).  Interestingly, I haven't been to Mountainview in many years.  Probably would not mind going there again someday seeing how much it has changed since I moved, though my family rarely takes trips to that part of California so I don't see myself going there again any time soon.

My video game history in the 1980s (NES and Atarti Era)


I don't recall owning an Atari, but I did get my first game system when I was 7, the classic Nintendo. However, I do remember when I was about 4 years old, I used to visit my grandpa on my Mom's side (Joe Shackelford) in Rancho Cordova, California (he used to live there before moving to Washington State in 2004 and later passing away during the summer of 2005) and I remember getting to know one of his neighbor's kids and playing video games with him sometimes.  Back then, my dad was in the Navy (mostly stationed in Illinois, though he was stationed in Mountain View for a while, where I was born), and remember he got deployed to Japan for a few months and me and my mother flew out to California from Chicago (yes I used to live in the Chicago area long before moving to the Seattle area back in 1994) and staying with him for several months (it was a long time ago, so I don't remember all of the details).  Can't remember if he had an atari or sega master system, but he had at least one of the 2 game systems.  I also faintly remember Aunt Linda (one of my Aunts) used to have an Atari system at her apartment (she lives in the Sacramento area too and had a son too, though I can't remember his name since he moved out when I was still young) and play some games on that.  Around the time I turned 7, the classic NES was already becoming popular with fellow kids and friends in my neighborhood and remember playing nintendo games with some of them (such as Super Mario Bros and Contra).  Eventually, I got my own Nintendo and got games like Super Mario, Duck Hunt, and others.  That game system definitely brings back memories.  I still remember playing games like Mario Bros 1 and 3, Mega Mans 2-4, Contra, Duck Tales, Chip and Dale Rescue Rangers, Teenage Ninja Turtles 2 (The Arcade Game), and even Battletoads (took a long time for me to beat that game too).  I kind of got addicted to video games during those years too as I could spend long hours playging some of the games I had and often even visited friends and playing Nintendo at their houses too (most notably playing Mega Man 2 at this kid named Stephen's house).  Also was friends with Michael Blocker and he had games like Contra, Super Mario 2, and Mike Tyson's Puch out and used to play those games from time to time as well.  I remember some of the kids gave me a hard time for being hooked on video games too, and at least one kid spreaded false rumors about me plaing Mega Man 3 while he was gone at his house, though I faintly remember that day and have no memory of going there while he was gone (hey even if I did I probably didn't know better back then considering that I was probably only 8 or 9 years old at the time).

Most memorable games from the NES days:
- Mega Man 2, 3 and 4.  I remember used to have a friend named, Stephen Santiago (lost touch with him after moving to Washington State) and I remember how I used to often have sleep overs at his house ang play video games like Mega Man 2 and 3 with him sometimes.  By the way, I did get the Mega Man Anniversary collection for the Xbox, which was fun to play through (as it features all of the classic mega man games, except for Mega Man and Bass, Mega Man 9, and Mega Man 10).  I remember I used to spend long hours playing through that game (sometimes spending several hours in one sitting playing the games from beginning to end).
- Super Mario bros.  You know you are a typical 1980s kid when you have played through classic Super Mario bros at least once or twice.  I remember getting hooked on this game too and would often spend long hours playing through the 8 worlds. I remember visiting friends and doing 2 player super mario bros with them from time to time (one person plays as Mario while others play as Luigi).  By the way, this was far cry from say New Super Mario bros Wii or Wii U where 2 or more players can play simultaneously.  Back then, players usually switched off between their characters die (which can mean long or short waits for the other player depending on how good the other player is).
- Super Mario bros 3.  This was definitely one of the better sequels in the series (besides Super Mario World and others).  The game is huge compared to the first game and features huge maps of each world.  By the way, good luck playing the game from end to end without using the whistles since back  then, there was no save feature, so if you wanted to play from end to end, you would either have to use the hidden whistles to get from one world to the other or if you are the diehard type, you could spend long hours playing the game from end to end too (definitely could take an entire day to play from end to end in my opinon considering that each world is long with several boss fights in between each world and each getting progressively harder than the previous ones).
- Contra and Super Contra.  Definitely 2 classics in the contra series.  By the way, who remembers the Komnai code (up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, b, a, start)?  It is almost essential to know for players serious about beating the game considering that getting hit even once usually results in instant death for the players and you only get so many lives and continues before you have to start over from the beginning.
- Ninja Turtles 2 Arcade game.  I remember playing this game in the arcades before a version came out for the consoles too.  Forget the first ninja turtles game, Ninja Turtles 2 was definitely awesome.  Given the difficulty of the game, along with the fact that you only get 3 continues, most people probably won't make it to the final boss against shredder though there are some cheats players can exploit to get there.  Also, the game even has its classic villans for enemies and boss fights too, such as foot soldiers, mousers, krang, baxter, beabop and rocksteady, casey jones, and even shredder himself.  The game is also one of several arcade style ninja turtles games for consoles since developers would later develop Ninja Turtles 3, Ninja Turtles 4 Turtles in Time (for the Super Nintendo) and later Ninja Turtles Hyperstone Heist for the sega genesis.  I remember you can also either play the game on solo or team up with another player and work together to play through the game.  By the way, wouldn't it be awesome if a version of the games came out for Xbox One and utilized the 4 player system either locally or via Xbox Live?  That would be awesome.  They could even remake the games and give them arcade style graphics instead of the old 8 bit or 16 bit graphics too.
-  Mega Man 3.  This game was definitely a hit in the classic mega man series.  Set sometime after the events of Mega Man 2, Dr Wily is at it again and it is up to Mega Man to foil his plans once again (a theme that would happen again and again over time).  This game is also unique in several ways that in addition to fighting the usual 8 robot masters, you also have to fight a whole another set of robot masters from Mega Man 2 (in the form of the gamma robots that uses the abilities of their fallen comrades) in remixed versions of some of the levels you went through earlier.  It is also the first game in the series to introduce Protman too (back then he seems to be hostile to Mega Man, at least till the end).  It is also one of the few classic mega man games where the boss music changes between  the regular robot master bosses and later the wily castle bosses.  In many other games, the boss music either stays the same most of the time or doesn't change till the final boss.  It is also one of the last games in the series where capcom gets creative with Mega Man's final confrontation with Wily.  From Mega Man 4 onwards, the final boss (where Wily telports around the room) is more or less the same (barring capcoms creativity for Wily's first form).  I remember some kids used to bully me over this game and one kid spreaded false rumors about me going to his house while he was gone and playing mega man 3.  My memories from the incident are sketchy, but even if I did do that, I probably didn't know better back then (was probably about 8 years old at the time) and was probably set up too.
 - Battletoads  This game was definitely one of the most challenging games I have played on the NES, but definitely one of the more fun ones too.  You play as one or 2 super hero toads in their quest to save Pimple and their girlfriend Angelica from the evil Dark Queen in an adventure consisting of 12 huge levels full of enemies, obstacles to overcome and other challenges to get through along with the occasional boss fights along the way too.  By the way, if you thought level 3, the turbo tunnel was hard, that was just the beginning my friend as the game is 12 levels long with each level getting progressively tougher to play through than the previous ones, plus you do have several more similar levels such as surf city (where you are riding a surf board instead of a bike) and volkmire inferno (where you fly a plane through a fire filled level).  The final 3 levels get insanely hard too and you only get so many lives and 3 continues before it is game over.  I also like how the dark queen taunts the players on the way.  It took me many attempts to beat the game, but eventually I was able to get to the end and defeat the dark queen on the top of the tower of shadows, with help from game genie of course.  Good luck beating the game without game genie if you insist on not cheating.
- Castlevania Simons Quest as well as Castlevania 3.  I remember the earliest incarnations of the castlevania series.  Took along time to beat Simons Quest, but it was pretty fun to play through non the less and is one of the more different titles in the series.  Castlevania 3 was pretty fun to play through too considering that you can either play as Trevor, Alucard or their allies going up against Dracula and his cronies.  It is also the first Castlevania game to feature the "big battle" boss music too (which would eventually happen again in Circle of the Moon).  By the way, newer castlevania games (especially Symphony of the Night Style castlevania) games would give the series a huge boost.  So far my favorites are probably Dracula X, Symphony of the night, portrait of ruin, dawn of sorrows, order of ecclesia as well as Castlevania Harmony of Despair.
Other honorable mentions:
- Double Dragon
- Mike Tyson's punch out - I remember playing this game with Mario posing as the referee and you do several levels' worth of boxing matches with Mike Tyson himself being the end boss in the game.
- Duck tales and rescue rangers.  These were fun game based on their cartoon counter parts, both developed by capcom.  By the way, there seems to be a remake version of Ducktales for the xbox one.
- Adventure Island
- North and South - I remember me and my brother Brett would play this civil war themed game sometimes where one of us would play as the union soldiers and the other plays as the confederates.  Doing various battles and even doing these levels where you have to try and rob a train or steal an enemy flag.  Usually Brett would beat me, but it was still fun playing through sometimes.
- Superman.  This was a classic rpg game where you play as Superman in his quest to rid the world of its villans.  Never beat the game myself, but it was fun to play nonetheless.  Kind of hard to get to the end of the game if you don't know what you are doing.
- Bart vs Space Mutants - long before the simpsons game on the Xbox 360, there was Bart vs Space Mutants.  Only rented this game, but never actually beat the game (back then, you usually had to go to the local store like Blockbuster or even Ben Franklin if you wanted to rent games).  Not sure how people rent games now that Blockbuster and many other well know video stores have gone out of business.
- Super Mario 2 (this game was definitely an odd bunch in the series compared to the other super mario games)
- and many others

Other noteworthy memories:
Picture of my former house on Timber Lane when I was living in Lindenhurst in Illinois.  The area is more developed than it used to be and obviously has new owners (also I don't always remember the extra floor there), but that is where I used live back when I was in Illinois. By the way, back in the 1980's the house used to back up to a cornfield (with a farm in the distance) and the McDonalds Forest preserve was a short walk away, providing easy access for families who want to go on a hike there.  

- Back then, I was living in Lindenhurst, Illinois (situated about half way between Chicago and Milwalkee maybe about 5 miles south of the Wisconsin border).  Lots of fond memories there (even have home videos of those years).  I remember I used to take more trips to Wisconsin than I did going to various places in Illinois.  Of course, I was too young to drive back then, so I had to rely on my parents to take me places.  I also remember going on camping trips to places like Door County and Minoqua in Wisconsin.  Even went on a cabin trip to Ely Minnesota once (north of Duluth).  Interestingly, my family is  talking about going on a trip to Door County this fall.  Not clear if or when we will do such a trip, but it would mark my second time going to Wisconsin since moving to Washington (the first time occured back in the summer of 2000 when I visited my old friend, Matt Bleich and we went on a camping trip to Sturgeon Bay in Wisconsin).
- I remember having this toy red jeep that I would drive around along with Brett and Matt.
- I had some other friends like Megan Kasper, Michael Blocker (lost touch with him, though my mother is still friends with his mother, Debbie along with her older sister, Joni), Sara Koth (lost touch with her) and Stephen Santiago.  Sometimes I would go to friends houses and play nintendo with them too.
- I don't remember doing the Sega Master system back then, though I did eventually get the Sega Game gear, which does seem to have some the games from the sega master system.  Most if not all kids back then either had an atari or nintendo.    
- I definitely have lots of other fond memories from those years, such as going to several different elementary schools before getting mainstreamed at Millburn (before then, I also attended school at BJ Hooper in Lindenhurst, a school near Lake Villa and later a school in Antioch).  Was placed in an early childhood program too, so I was pretty much in some form of schooling from when I was about 3 years old through the end of my college years.
- Used to do block parties on 4th of july, Halloween parties at my old house, etc too.
- Remember going to Chuck e Cheeses for birthdays sometimes too (most notably when I turned 5 years old).  I also used to like this girl named Heidi too (though I ended up losing touch with her after moving to Washington State).
- It was also during my time in Illinois where I would break a bone on 3 different occasions.  First time I popped my shoulder after messing around on a one of those spider web poles you see in some playgrounds (did this thing that some kids would do where you would climb around the poles before sliding down, and that proved to be a mistake for me since I lost my grip and fell).  Ended up in a cast for a while then.  Also broke my pinkie finger once not too long after that (I think I tripped on something and broke it that way).  The third time it happened was when I was living on Mallard drive and fell backwards from a playground bridge.  Was taunting some kids (didn't know better) when I slipped and fell (definitely learned my lesson from that) and ended up in a cast for the whole summer.  Luckily I haven't broken any bones since then so far.
- Unlike present time where I live with 2 dogs (a golden retriever and a shih tzu), we did have a dog for a little while there, a springer spaniel named crocket (he looked like snoopy).  Unfortunately the dog had behavior problems and did not fit well in the family so we ended up giving him away.  It wouldn't be till 1997 till we got our second dog (Teddy the golden retriever).

Well that is all for this post.  Stay tuned for post number 2 (the 1990s').

Noteworthy moments in the 1990s': Sega Genesis Days, computer games (such as Xwing and Mech Warrior 2), Sega CD, Nintendo 64, Sega Dreamcast, and Playstation.  Even moved about 4 times during those years too.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Top 10 Unlikely Allies and Heroes in Video Games and shows

In many video games, you control a protagonist bent on foiling the schemes of one of the many different video game villians in the industry.  Of course, one can't always save the world alone.  In this post.  Of course,some allies come from unexpected places.  In this game, I will talk about some of them.


1. Yoshi from Super Mario Bros


Yoshi was first debuted in Super Mario World (Super Nintendo era Mario Bros) and is a dinosaur that is pretty much capable of swallowing just about anything in his path, even enemies.  Of course, he becomes a useful ally of Mario and Luigi in their neverending quest to defeat Bower and rescue Princess Peach (who often finds herself kidnapped by Bowser).  Yoshi's appetite can definitely be a blessing or a curse for the plumbers as he could easily view them as food and *accidently* swallow them if they do not keep him well fed.  Of course, is very useful to have as he can easily defeat enemies, fly, eat and shoot fireballs, eat pirana plants and has even been a very good babysitter for Baby Mario in Yoshi's Island (Super Mario World 2).  As you can see in the video above, Yoshi can be a nuisannce sometimes.    

2. Alucard from Castlevania Symphony of the Night


Did you know that Alucard's name spelled backwards spells "Dracula"?  In the Castlevania series Alucard has proven to be a powerful ally of the Belmonts (and similar protagonists) in their quest to stop the latest schemes of Dracula and his goulish army.  Of course, Alucard is a vampire, son of Count Dracula and was supposed to be evil like his father is in the series.  Unfortunately, Alucard has often alligned himselves with the humans and helped foil Dracula's plans on more than one occasion.  Perhaps the most notable role for Alucard was in Castlevania Symphony of the Night, where he becomes the primary protagonist in the game after Richter Belmont gets kidnapped by the evil priest, Shaft and is given his own castle (brainwashed by Shaft and Dracula).  Death (Dracula's closest associate) even tries to dissuade and even stop Alucard from his quest, but gets defeated in the end too.  Hey, if it weren't for Alucard's intervention, Symphony of the Night could have ended alot differently, with Dracula taking over the world and using Richter as his puppet.  This is not the only  time Alucard has a role in a game.  He was also an ally of Trevor in Castlevania 3 as well as a support character in Aria on Sorrow and Dawn on Sorrow (disguising himeslf as Arikado) when Dracula's spirit tries to possess Soma.  In Dawn of Sorrow, in Julius mode, Alucard becomes a playable character in the quest to stop Soma after becoming "Dracula" (Julius mode follows an alternate storyline that assumes Soma turns into dracula based on the second bad ending of the game and Alucard is one of the 3 playable characters in that mode).  He is also a playable character in Harmony of Despair (Xbox 360) as well aimed at defeating his father once again.  Can't you imagine having to fight against your own father?  Even Luke Skywalker from the original star wars trillogy was faced with the same dilema after learning the truth about Darth Vader (him being Anakin Skywalker after turning to the dark side in Episode 3)  and Darth Vader was definitely a monster in the Star Wars universe considering his track record (i.e., betraying and killing former Jedi allies including Obi Wan Kenobi, destroying Alderaan with the Death Star, killing Biggs, using Lando Calrissian to betray Han and Leia on Bespin, etc).  Alucard's quest begs the question: is it ever okay to go against your father?  If so, when?

3. Protoman from Mega Man 7-10

Protoman has  been a close ally of Mega Man starting with Mega Man 7.  He is even a playable character in Mega Man 10 (helping Mega Man in his quest to defeat Dr Wily and foil the Robofluenza outbreak).  Of course, Protoman was not always an ally.  In Mega Man 3, for example, he was one of the boss characters you had to fight (aka "Break Man") and proved to be a hinderance for Mega Man.  Apparently earlier versions of Protoman had him being more antihero and alligned with Dr Wily.  Protoman's loyalty to Dr Wily seemed to have fractured in the events of Mega Man 4 (after Mega Man defeats Dr Cossack, who was an unwitting puppet of Dr Wily after his daughter was kidnapped by Wily) and more so after being framed by Wily in Mega Man 5. Even after joining Mega Man's cause, he does seem to have an antihero personality, as was the case in Mega Man 7 when challenging Mega Man to a duel (Protoman is an optional boss in that game) possibly out of jealousy/  Hey, envy can do that sometimes, causing people to become jealous of one and another and somtimes corrupt otherwise good people and we do see that happening time and time again in various video game storylines (for example, in Castlevania Circle of the Moon, Hugh becomes envious of protaginist Nathan Graves and unwittingly becomes a pawn of Dracula and even becomes one of several boss encounter Nathan faces during the course of the game).  Protoman is also a playable character in Mega Man Power Battles 1 and 2, once again helping Mega Man stop Dr Wily once again.


4. Zero from the Mega Man X series
In the opening sequence of Mega Man X4 Zero has a vivid dream about Dr Wily (who orders Zero to destroy Mega Man X)
 In Mega Man X5, you can see X and Zero duking it out in a boss style fight:

Have you ever watche the old Disney Movie, "The Fox and the Hound"?  I used to watch the movie when I was a kid.  Anyways, the movie is about a tamed red fox named Todd who friends a hound dog named, Copper.  Initially they had a close knit relationship.  However, Copper's owner is a poacher that likes to hunt red foxes and has another dog that hates Todd and both want to drive a wedge through Todd and Copper's friendship.  Of course, if you have seen the movie, eventually the poacher succeeds in causing Todd and Copper to turn against each other, though eventually they become friends once again at the end of the movie.  Anyways, if any video game friendship or alliance were to closely resemble that of that of "The Fox and the Hound", it would probably be Mega Man X and Zero.  From the beginning of the series, Zero has been a close ally and mentor of X.  In Mega Man X1, Zero even saves X when he was about to be destroyed by Sigma's henchman Vile both in the prologue sequence of the game, and later in the first level of Wily's fortress and even helped X to get stronger in the process.  From time and time again Zero proves to be a powerful ally of X too.  In X3, he helps X defeat Dr Doppler and Sigma.  In X4, Zero and X work together to stop Repliforce (on seperate storylines).  In X5, he works with X to stop the Eurasia Colony from crashing to the earth. This list can go on, but what X probably does not know is that Zero was actually created by Dr Wily (presumably before he died sometime between the events of Mega Man 10 and X1, though the gap between the 2 series has yet to be bridged and might never be bridged anytime soon) and was supposed to be an enemy of X (much like Bass was in the original series, though more powerful than Bass).  Wily even tries to goad Zero to kill X in his dreams (much like what happens at the beginning of Mega Man X4).  Sigma tries to turn Zero against X too on at least 2 occassions (first in Mega Man X2 and later Mega Man X5).  Interestingly, at the end of Mega Man X3, in the ending credit sequence, the game hinted that X will have to destroy Zero someday, and vice versa in Mega Man X4).   In Mega Man X5, the Dr Wily subplot seems to reach a climax as Sigma tries to turn Zero into a Maverick by causing a virus infected space colony to crash to  the earth (which can happen should the colony crash to Earth or if both the Shuttle and Laser missions fail with X facing off with a more powerful version of Zero in the 3rd Sigma stage).  Mega Man X5 even makes some obvious references to Dr Wily (such as when Sigma faces off against X as the final boss of the game, talking about someone other than him hating Mega Man, obviously referrencing Wily).

Interestingly, the Dr Wily subplot seems to disappear after the events of Mega Man X5 and the series has yet to reach a definitive conclusion (apparently, according to the wikipedia article of Mega Man X5, the game was supposed to be the final game of the series, but that was before Mega Man X6-X8 were released (unless if those ones are not canon).  The series seems to be on hiatus mode after the events of X8 and it is not clear if or when (if ever) the series will reach a definitive conclusion, but there could still be an epic duel to the death between X and Zero someday that surpasses that of X5 (maybe Wily will make his first official appearance besides appearing as a shadow in Zero's dreams in the series too when that happens along with the Elf Wars that bridge the gap between X8 and Mega Man Zero 1, but those remain to be seen).  Till then, Zero remains a major ally of X and is a primary protaginist in the series.  He also appears in the Mega Man Zero series (presumably after freezing himself at the end of Mega Man X6) and helps foil the schemes of the evil Dr Weil in that series too.  
5. Knuckles from the Sonic the Hedgehog series

In Sonic's never ending quest to defeat Dr Eggman's (aka Robotnik) latest schemes, he has acquired many allies in his quests, such as Tails, Amy Rose, big the cat, silver the hedgehog, and others.  He often teams up with Tails and Knuckles as well.  Of course, Sonic and Knuckle's friendship was not always there.  In Sonic 3 and Knuckles, he was tricked by Dr Eggman into thinking that Sonic was a villian bent on sending Angel Island into the sea) and becomes a thorn in Sonic's side to stopping Eggman, creating various traps and obstacles in Sonic's path.  Perhaps one of  the more insidious of Knuckles' traps (among many others) was that in the Sandopolis Zone where Sonic is ventures through a massive pyramid and inadvertantly releases ghosts stumbling across a trap presumably by knuckles, making for an extra dangerous adventure for sonic as the ghost quickly become hostile and start attacking sonic (especially when it is dark) with the only way to ward them off is to make sure it never gets real dark (unless if he manages to become super sonic and then the ghosts are no match for him).  Eventually, Knuckles challenges Sonic to a boss fight in the Hidden Fortress Zone and is quickly defeated by sonic before finding out that Eggman was the real villian in the game.  Interestingly, Sonic 3 and Knuckles is not the only time that Knuckles gets brainwashed by Dr Eggman.  He also gets tricked by Dr Eggman in Sonic Adventure 1 and becomes hostile towards Sonic when they first meet in the game not knowing that Dr Eggman is trying to create a powerful monster in his plot to take over Station Square, as well as the Sonic Adventure Series.  There seems to be some rivalry between the two sometimes as well.  

6. Tommy the Green Ranger and later Kat from Mighty Morphin Power Rangers
Picture of the green ranger (Tommy)

I have to admit that I was a power rangers fan when I was younger (especially back in the 90s).  Who else had a celebrity crush on the pink ranger Kimberly (aka Amy Jo Johnson) by the way?  Anyways, in case if you never seen power rangers, it is an ongoing series about these teenagers who become heroes after being recruited by Zordon (an interdimensional being who becomes the supreme leader of the rangers, at least in the old school version of the series) who team up to battle the latest monsters and cronies created the evil Rita Repulsa (who literally wants to destroy the planet) and later Lord Zedd (along with other villians in the series, such as King Mondo, Master Vile, Divatox, and others).  Anyways, a well known leader / figure of the classic power rangers (besides Jason, the red ranger) was Tommy the green ranger (later known as the White Ranger, Red Ranger, etc).  Tommy was perhaps the most powerful ranger known in the classic series (wouldn't know if that is still the case) and even became an adept leader of the team after Jason stepped down in season 2 and even had a romance going with Kimberly (the pink ranger) before she left the show in season 3 and later broke up with him in Power Rangers Zero (via a "Dear John" letter).  Anyways, Tommy was not always an ally of the rangers.  Initially, he was recruited by Rita Repulsa to help destroy the rangers (see the first season) and nearly succeeds in doing so but was eventually subdued by Jason after a lengthy duel with him and eventually he redeems himself by joining the other rangers.  Interestingly, Rita gets back at Tommy by having his power drained by Golddar and later on lord Zedd manages to sap the rest of his power, but eventually he becomes the more powerful white ranger and becomes a powerful leader of the team (at least through the Power Rangers turbo season becoming a major foil to the plots of the villans).

(video or pic will be added a later date)

Interestingly, in season 3, Kat (aka Catherine Sutherland) does the same thing, starting off as an ally of Rita and Zedd and even develops shape shifting powers to spy on the rangers as an ordinary kitty cat (she even becomes one of Rita and Zedd's monsters too in one of the episodes before gettign defeated by the rangers).  She even manages to wreak havok against the rangers and help zap Kimberly's powers.  Like Tommy, eventually learns the errors of her ways and redeems herself by taking Kimberly's place after she steps down as the new pink ranger. Interestingly, allies in the series can start of as enemies as we have seen on more than one occassion.

7. The Borg (Star Trek Voyager series

 I used to watch Star Trek Voyager when it was on back in the 90's (the official sequel series to Next Generation besides deep space 9) and did you know that the Borg temporarily become allies of Star Trek crew?  At one point in the series, the crew went up against a hostile alien race known as species 8472 and proved to be defenselsess against them.  Eventually they were forced to turn to the Borg for help, and while they did help neutralize the Species 8472 threat, their help did come at a price as they tried to assimilate the Voyager crew afterwards.  On the positive note, eventually the Voyager crew was able to redeem at least one person that was turned into a borg: Seven of Nine (who became a permanent member of the star trek crew for the remainder of the series).   

8. Shadow and Silver in the 3D era Sonic the Hedgehog games
(video or pic will be added a later date)
Ah, Shadow and Silver the hedgehog.  Prior to Sonic Adventure 2, one used to think that Sonic was the only hedgehog in Sonic's world, however that soon changes from Sonic Adventure 2 onwards.  Shadow is first introduced as one of the primary antagonists in Sonic Adventure 2 and works with Dr Eggman in his scheme to take over the world and even manages to frame Sonic in the early part of Sonic Adventure 2 for his crimes.  Eventually, Shadow and Eggman get defeated and Shadow's alliance with Eggman seems to get fractured after the events of Sonic Adventure 2 and he becomes more of an antihero.  Depsite being rivals with Sonic on more than one occassion, he has known to align with him sometimes, as was the case in Sonic the Hedgehog 2006 when he helps Sonic in his quest to defeat Dr Eggman, Mephiles (basically an evil twin of Shadow) and later teams up with Sonic and Silver to  take down the monster Solaris at the end of the game.  He has also helped Sonic in Sonic Generations going against the Time Eater machine that Dr Eggman creates too.  Still, he can be a wild card and sometimes he can ally of sonic or an enemy too.  Silver the Hedgehog is another hedgehog that was introduced in Sonic 2006, and like Knuckles before him, he was tricked (by the evil Mephiles) into believing that Sonic was evil and tries to defeat sonic.  However, he later becomes an ally of Sonic after Shadow reveals that Silver was being brainwashed by Mephiles and he eventually helps Sonic and Shadow take down Solaris in the final boss of the game.  He has made a few other appearences in the series, such as Sonic Generations.  Interestingly, Amy seems to have feelings for Silver in addition to Sonic, there could be a love triangle between the 2 in future sequels.

9 . General Morden and his army - Metal Slugs X, 2, 3, and 6
In the Metal Slug series, the games are loosely similar to contra, where you control one of several commandos in a shoot em up arcade style game going up against the villianous General Morden (basically a Saddam Hussein look alike in my opinion) as well his army of thugs.  Usually Marco and his allies are fighting against Morden's army, but when things don't go as planned for Morden and his army, sometimes they are forced to form an uneasy alliance.  This happens the first time in Metal Slug 2/X (pretty much the same game) at the final boss when the aliens turn on Morden and his men and launch an Independence Day style invasion and a co-op final boss fight takes place where Maro, Tarma, and their allies team up with Morden's army to destroy the alien craft (btw, much like Independence Day, a fighter pilot sacrifices himself by flying into the ufo's main core and taking out the ship with him).  And this is not the only time that Morden and his army form an uneasy alliance with the herose.  The same thing happens again during the last mission of Metal Slug 3 where "Morden" turns out to be an alien disguised as him and the real Morden gets abducted by the aliens once again and the heros are forced to team up with Morden's army once again to defeat the hostile alien forces in a more epic final showdown than that in Metal Slug 2.  Interestingly, even Allen (usually hostile towards the players) makes and appearence fighting along the heroes (doesn't happen every time though) as they up against the aliens during the final level.  They also team up once again in Metal Slug 6 when mutant insects launch an invasion against the human race as well.  Of course, the alliance usually falls apart in the aftermath of the games ad the two sides are usually fighting each other once again in the sequels (with the exception being Metal Slug 5 since the heroes are up against a new foe in that game with Morden and his men mostly absent from that game).  Metal Slug 7/XX marks the first time since Metal Slug 1 when Morden is the sole antagonist and final boss character at the end of the game, recruiting soldiers from the distant future in his plot to take over the world and challenges Marco and his allies to an epic multi-tier show down at the end.

10. Trevor Phillips Grand Theft Auto 5


If you haven't played through Grand Theft Auto 5, you have definitely missed out on perhaps one of the best Grand Theft Auto games yet and the first game in the series that I am aware of where you can control up to 3 characters throughout the game (plus the online mode character).  Initially you control Franklin (at least after the prologue), but as the game progresses, you can also play as Michael (a former gangster who becomes a family man living in Rockford hills) and later Trevor Philips, who is basically the red neck type in the game.  Trevor is definitely the most scandalous and antihero character you will meet in the game.  Initially, he is living out in a trailer in the desert near Sandy Shores (GTA's version of real life Desert Shores in California) and literally soon goes to war with a biker gang after an incident where he pretty much steals Johnny's boyfriend (a biker gang member) and later kills Johnny) and develops other enemies as well (such as the Aztecas, a chinese gang known as the Yakuzas and many others).  Trevor is very short tempered and is known to kill sometimes (as is the case when he is first introduced after the Jewelry Store heist mission as well as an incident while stying at Wade's cousin's house) when angered to a point.  After learning that Michael is still alive after the events of the game's prologue (which inevitably happened when the FIB agents learned about Michael's Jewelry store heist mission) he soon seeks out Michael and later meets up with Franklin as well.  Initially he is friends with Michael, but he grows hostile over time (especially while exiled from Los Santos after double crossing a mexican kingpin called, Madrizo) and Michael and Amanda soon seperate after Trevor resurfaces.  Trevor also inevitably meets Franklin too.
Throughout the game, Trevor is definitely a loose cannon.  At one time he can be a powerful ally, but when his temper gets the best of him, he can become a fierce enemy (as players see time and time again) and his storyline is arguably the darkest of the 3 (moreso then Michael and Franlin in myopinion) and will likely be offensive to some players.  He is definitely the type you probably woudn't want to have as a room mate in a dorm or apartment type setting (like Floyd finds out around the midpoint of the game) and is great at making enemies too.  Throughout the course of the game, he makes enemies with biker gangs (such as the Lost and Damned from GTA 4), the Merryweather security firm (especially after his infamous Merryweather heist mission), Chinese gangs, the Aztecas (rival weapon smugglers), and many others.  Despite his scandalous and borderline antagonist nature, he does have some redeeming sides to him making him an unlikely ally.  For example, in a mission where he is forced to help interrogate a mexican immigrant the FIB agents want Trevor to kill him, but Trevor cuts the guy loose and helps him to escape back to his own country.  In a drug deal gone wrong mission (Hood Safari) that Franklin does, Trevor comes to the rescue and help Franklin and Lamar escape an otherwise dire situation (especially with Ballas and later cops constantly gunning for them).  He even helps rescue Michael and Dave Norton towards the end of the game when Steve Haines tries to betray Michael and Dave by having them arrested with Merry Weather, FIB agents and AIA agents joining in on the fray despite officially being enemies by that point in the game. He also proves valuable on some of the later heist missions of the game as well (especially the Paleto Bay score and later the Big Score mission).  By the way, Trevor, like Michael can be killed of permanently by Franklin at the end of the game if the player chooses (can be useful for players who hated Trevor during the course of the game), though that action is permanent so you might want to save before the final mission and be sure to complete all of Trevor's missions and side missions before killing him off if you are going for 100% completion. Trevor is definite quite a character in GTA 5 and is definitely the classic redneck type.

Well, that wraps up my top 10 list.  I hope you liked it.  If you have more to add to the list, feel free to share them in the comments section below.

Honorable mentions:

1. Klingons in Star Trek Next Generation - although the Klingons were common enemies for the Federation when Captain Kirk was captain, by the time Captain Picard came to the scene, the hostilities between the klingons and the Federation seems to have largely come to an end by then.  The USS enterprise even recruits a Klingon to help run ship (aka Lt Warf).
2. Cerberus and the Illusive Man in Mass Effect 2 - When the evil alien race known as the Collectors start abducting humans and processing them for the reapers (the primary antagonists of the series) from various colonies across the galaxy, Cerberus forms an uneasy alliance with the alliance (particularly with Commander Shepard and his crew) much to the the distrust of the council on the Citadel as well as Shepard's closest ally and potiential love interest, Ashley (male captains) or Kaiden (female captains),  temporarily straining Shepard's relationship with them.  To cerberus' credit, they did help save the human race from certain extinction at the hands of the Collectors (considering that they were killing off their prisoners at their base near the center of the galaxy) and literally raised Commander Shepard from the dead after his apparent death after being ambushed by a reaper ship during the game's prologue (Shepard would have been dead as a door nail if it wasn't for cerberus resurrecting him). They even helped him reunite with some of his former crewmembers (such as Garrus, Lliara, Tali and Mordin) and even provided him a potiential love interest too that rivals Ashley (Miranda).  Still, Cerberus was not entirely insane as they almost got Shepard kidnapped by jailers on the Purgatory jail ship that Jack was on (she seems to have been driven insane by Cerberus), sent them on a suicide mission to take out the Collector base (the Illusive man probably didn't care if Shepard came back alive or not) which could prove tragic for the crew depending on the choices the players make throughout the game and especially on the final mission, and even creating some mistrust for Shepard (they were probably one of the reasons what Shepard was detained at the beginning of ME3 besides the incident involving the Batarian race and their system's relay).  Of course, after the events of Mass Effect 2, the alliance with Cerberus comes to an end and the Illusive man and his cronies become hostile towards Shepard and the alliance by the time Mass Effect 3 comes around (though some cerberus agents like Miranda and Jacob side with Shepard in ME3).  They even take over the Omega space station too.

3. Magneto in Xmen Clone wars - in Sega Genesis' X-Men Clone wars, Magneto (usually an antagonist in the series) becomes an ally of the X-men when they face a threat from a hostile alien race that has the ability to clone the mutants and wreak havok across the galaxy.

4. Clone Troopers, Anakin Skywalker, and Palpatine - Star Wars Prequel trillogy as well as Clone Wars - long before the events of Episode 4-7, the peace of the galaxy was threatened by the Trade Federation, Commerce Guild, Corporate Alliances and other hostile alien races, with Count Dooku leading the charge between Episodes 2-3.  Of course, what the Jedi and republic heroes don't know was that Palpatine was really Darth Sidious and was pulling the strings on both sides of the conflict and in episode 3 Palpatine's alliance with the Jedi came to an end after Anakin turned to the dark side, the infamous order 66 was given, and the clones soon turn on the jedi permanently.

5. Malificent and Pete in Kingdom Hearts 2 (World that Never Was world) - although Malificent and Pete are considered antagonists in Kingdom Hearts 2, often clashing with Sora, Donald and Goofy throughout the course of their quests in the game, the real villians pulling the strings was Organization 13, lead by Xemnas.  In the final world of the game when Sora, Donald, Goofy, Mickey, Rikku (initially disguised as Xehonort), King Mickey, Ansem the Wise, and Kairi officially go to war with the entire Organization 13 (with boss fights against the remaining Organization 13 members they have not defeated), Malificent and Pete join in the fray against organization 13.  Of course, Malificent has ulterior motives for the alliance as she wants to take over Castle Oblivion (which she presumably does in the aftermath).  What she does with the castle and remaining heartless remains to be seen in the sequels (Dream Drop distance and later KH 3).      

Sunday, April 26, 2015

#KimKardashianBI Hollywood Video Game -Let's Play (Gameplay), Sponsored Post (updated)

Here is a

I think it is time for another sponsored post.  Are any of you Kim Kardashian fans?  Here is an interactive adventure game where you can "work" for Kim.





You can get this game at: http://bst.is/yVENW8 



1. Game features and information:
Join KIM KARDASHIAN on a red carpet adventure in Kim Kardashian: Hollywood! Create your own aspiring celebrity and rise to fame and fortune! Have you ever dreamed of visiting Hollywood?  This game offers a simulated Hollywood experience (IOs style).  Obviously it is not the real Hollywood, but it is based on it.

? CREATE YOUR OWN STAR and customize your look with hundreds of style options, including Kim Kardashian’s personal picks!  The game lets you customized your own character.

? STAR in a huge interactive adventure as you encounter other celebs, dedicated fans, persistent paparazzi… and even hang out with Kim herself!  It is basically an interactive story game (choose your own adventure style).

? RULE THE RED CARPET as an A-list movie actor, cover model, fashion designer and more – what you do is up to you!  The goal of the game is to become a virtual celebrity.
? TAKE OVER L.A. in a virtual world complete with exclusive clubs, upscale boutiques, and luxury homes! Travel to New York City and Miami!  Probably based on some of the locations the Kardashians have been to (such as New York and Miami).
? DATE AND DUMP CELEBS at the best parties and hottest clubs! Flirt and become the next huge celebrity power-couple!  Reminds me of of dating simulation games on Newgrounds a bit.
? BRING YOUR FRIENDS ALONG FOR THE RIDE using Game Center and Facebook – help each other rise to fame, compare styles, send gifts, and see who can be the biggest star!  Like many Facebook style games, you can invite friends to play as well.

Commentary
I don't have an iphone, so I haven't been able to try this game yet, but it looks pretty neat and creative.  It also seems to promote the Dash brand too.  I can't say I have ever been to Dash (only been to the Hollywood area once and that was back in 2001) considering that Dash doesn't seem to exist in the Seattle area, but I do work part time at Kohls, which is kind of like Dash in a way (retail clothing store environment) so I could almost relate to the Kardashians that way.  By the way, Grad Theft Auto 5 also makes you feel like you are in LA too in a much bigger world and adventure.  
Have you tried The Kim Kardashian Hollywood video game yet?  Feel free to share your experiences with the game below.

Update (April 27, 2015)

I noticed that there is also a Facebook version of the Kim Kardashian Hollywood video game and to be fair (sadly I don't have an iphone or ipad, have a Windows Phone and Dell Tablet instead) I will play that version of the game and post a full review of it at a future date.  Though I could share my first impressions of the Facebook version of the game in my next post.

Similar games: Grand Theft Auto 5 (you are basically in a virtual version of Southern California in that game too, barring some obvious differences).

Foods for thought:

1. My experiences in California.
I have only been to the Los Angeles area twice in my life.  The first time was during the summer of 2001 and in 2006.  In 2001, I had recently graduated from high school that year (at Jackson High School in Mill Creek) and for my senior trip, my family flew on a plane to the Los Angeles area.  Highlights of that trip included:

  •  visiting Disneyland and staying there for a whole week (lots of time to see the many different rides and attractions they offer).
  • Visiting universal studios in Hollywood
  • Driving around the Hollywood and Beverly Hills area
  • Driving up the Coast to Monterey via highway 101.  Stopped a a beach near Santa Barbra (forgot the name of it) and San Luis Obiso along they way.  Probably drove right past Calabasas that time on the freeway (obviously I didn't know anything about the Kardashians back then, at least not till the tv show started airing).
  • Visiting my grandpa in Sacramento before flying home.
In 2006, my family did a road trip to the Los Angeles area.  Stayed at my aunt's house in West Sacramento for a few days and then drove to Palm Desert and stayed at club intrawest there for a whole week.  Afterwards, we visitied Disneyland again for a few days and then instead of taking Interstate 5 home, we went up 15 and visited Las Vegas (marked my first time there, we stayed at the Luxor casino / hotel that time)), Bryce Canyon, and Twin Falls, Idaho on the way home.  By the way, I have been to the Sacramento on various occasions too, especially back when my grandfather was still alive (he passed away back in 2005), with the most recent trip being back in 2012 when I visited my aunt there.  

2. I do have some experience working in the fashion industry myself (at least in the way), via Kohls.  I can't say I have ever been to Dash retailers (the business Kim helps run) or similar retailers in Southern California, but I do have a part time job working at Kohls, usually working in the men's department, so I do have some experience when it comes to apparel and similar kinds of merchandise (even helped in the Misses and Juniors departments on more than one occassion).  In the video game, your characther works in a clothing retailer, which I am quite familiar with.





Monday, March 30, 2015

Commentary on the article: Cheshire, England: Schools Intend To Call The Police On Parents Who Let Kids Play Violent Video Games Pic

Here is a Big Brother is Watching you photo with Tony Blair (image source: flickr.com)
Picture of Halo 3, another video game that could be affected by the new rules

Here is an interesting and potientially controversial article I found on Inquisitr and at Infowars (http://www.infowars.com/schools-to-parents-if-you-let-your-kid-play-call-of-duty-well-call-the-cps-on-you/) worth talking about.  Apprently in England, some schools are adopting a new policy where if kids are allowed to play violent video games (such as Call of Duty, Grand Theft Auto 4 / 5, Dogs of War, etc) or use social media like Facebook, schools can calls Child Protective services or even the police on their parents.  Here is the original letter posted on the info wars website:

(source: http://www.infowars.com/schools-to-parents-if-you-let-your-kid-play-call-of-duty-well-call-the-cps-on-you/)
My Commentary:

Who here have kids or even teenagers that play video games?  Talk about a Nanny State style system.  Can't you imagine this: you have a typical teenage son (say 16 or 17) and he plays Call of Duty Advanced War Fare with his buddies or maybe he does Halo Masterchief, Assassins Creed, or similar games (which I am sure many teenagers do) and should nosy school officials learn what games he is playing, they might call the cops on the parents.  Interestingly, the proposed rules would also prohibit kids from using Facebook (possibly twitter and myspace too) or apps like WhatsApp, apparently because they might encounter cyberpredators online (which is definitely an inherit risk people can take when online considering that you never know who you might meet online).  What do you all think of such policies?  Should schools or even the government be able to dictate what games kids or teens can play or wither or not if they can use social media like Facebook.  

Now, I have mixed issues when it comes to what kids can play and do.  Sure there are games that kids probably shouldn't be playing (especially games like Grand Theft Auto 5, where you pretty much control 3 different criminals in a huge open world environment that mimicks Southern California and gets into things like drugs, gangs, crime, murder, and similar elements that are likely to be offensive to some, especially kids and mothers).  On the flipside, you can get a grey area when it comes to video games and some people can handle violent video games better than others.  I remember when I was in high school, the Nintendo 64 and Sony Playstation were the style and I remember playing 007 Golden Eye on the 64 on many different occasions (even bought the 64 and golden eye back during my college years) which was very similar to Call of Duty in many ways, and definiely a predecessor game that probably helped inspire games like Halo and Call of Duty (especially the multiplayer modes).  Also, back then there used to be a flight similar arcade called The Otherside (which seems to have gone out of business since then) where people can pay $20/hour and play online games, such as World War 2 dogfight games, Duke Nukem, Quake, and similar games over a huge network.  So should teenagers (let alone parents) be punished by schools or even the government for what games they play on their game systems?  Also, would be restrictions just be aimed at MA 17 games or could they be expanded to T rated games too (such as the Sims 3 or say Mortal Kombat)?  

I found the Facebook restrictions interesting too.  By the way, according to Facebook, people have to be at least 13 or older to sign up for Facebook (though back when I was in high school, facebook and myspace did not exist and I did not sign up there till when I was going to Northwest University).  Sure there can be shady people on social media sites like Facebook, Myspace, etc such as trolls, cyberbullies, scammers, and even the occasional pedophile types.  Even I sometimes get random ladies online that I don't know trying to flirt with me on MSN Instant Messenger and Facebook too sometimes and I usually ignore them since I don't really know them and want to protect myself.  Last year I won't name names, but I met a random lady from Wyoming (she contacted me first).  She was apparently in her 30s, had 2 kids and no husband (apparently he died sometime ago) and she obviously seemed to be in a hurry to get into a relationship with me.  She wanted me to drive out to Cheyanne, Wyoming at least once or twice (which is definitely at least a 2 day away from the Seattle area) and even wanted me to call her, and even meet her at a state park in Montana once,  but obviously I did not know her personally and knew better than to rush into such a relationship (after all, I did know know what her intentions were).  Even if she was legit, I knew I wasn't ready to have kids of my own, which probably would have come with the relationship with her and obviously I would not be able to support them considering that I am only working part time and living on low income.  Luckily she unfriended me and moved on before things got out of hand.  Anyways, people like her do exist on Facebook and Myspace and people have to be careful when it  comes to meeting people online.  But at the same time, Facebook (and similar social media) can be used for more productive things too, such as connecting with friends, sharing photos they take, keeping in touch with people, etc.  Blogging sites, such as Blogger can be good to have too, as it can help kids develop their writing skills, which is pretty crucial to have, especially once they go off to college as writing quality papers do become a part of the daily routine in college and papers not living up to standards usually get Ds and Fs.  

By the way, while the new rules concerning violent video games and social media mainly affects England, I am sure it is only a matter of time before American schools take up similar laws and rules (after all, America and England are similar in many ways, even when it comes to politics and schools).  Also, this is not the first time schools have tried to impose their policies and rules to students even when they were not in school.  I rmember when I was in college at Northwest University, students were not supposed to drink alcholic beverages, even when off campus, so if students went to nearby bars and pubs, they ran the risk of someone noticing them and reporting it to school authorities (which probably could lead to susepensions or even expulsions in some circumstances).

1. In Virginia Beach, Virginia, a pair of 7th graders were expelled for the "crime" of doing airsofting in their own yards, not far from the rest stop.  I don't know what all lead up to the expulsions, but the kids were playing some airsoft in their own yard (which is somewhat similar to paintball, where you you shoot small airsoft pellets at targets or sometimes even each other which is pretty harmless, though they can leave bruises and welts much like in paintball) and a neighbor complained about it and somehow the school found out about it and expelled the kids apparently for "possession, handling and use of a firearm" (apparently airsoft guns are considered fire arms as far as the school was concerned and not allowed, even at home). Not sure if the students were able to overturn their expusions or not. By the way, if me and my brothers were in that district, we probably would have been expelled too considering that we used to do mock civil war battles with cap guns in our back yards, even went paintball and laser tagging on a few occasions too.


2. In another incident a student from Louisianna was arrested because he was using an app called, "Real Strike" to "shoot" fellow students. Real Strike is an augumented reality app for the Iphone that mimicks Call of Duty in Real life settings (much like how it is with Laser tag, where people can shoot harmless "lasers" at each other). Now while "shooting" fellow students was definitely inappropriate in my opinion, having the student arrested shows how far the zero tolerance policies can go.


       (above is Real Strike in Action, it is a similared game, where app users can "shoot" things in a simulated setting, though of course nobody really gets hurt).  By the way, the Windows Phone has a similar app where you can "shoot paintballs" at "targets" (you tap the screen, the phone vibrates and a virtual paintball splatters).

3. Perhaps a more disturbing story: Student getting expelled for refusing to wear an RFID tracking chip
In this story, a girl named Angela was expelled from school because her family wanted to opt out of the RFID program apparently for both religious (apparently she thought it was the prophecized Mark of the Beast from Revelation in the Bible) and privacy reasons.  It was apparently a chip embedded in student asb cards that can track student werabouts at all times (both on campus and off campus) and apparently kids had to check in with staff members to go over the RFID data.  Apparently it was also used to reduce truancy as well. Personally I have mixed feelings about the chips.  First off personally I doubt that the chip is the "mark of the beast".  From Christian standpoint, the mark of the beast system is not supposed to be implemented until when the end time events happen, probably around the mid point of the 7 year tribulation period (just before the great tribulation that is supposed to take place during the last 3 1/2 years before Christ's return) and will be imposed by the Antichrist himself (he is a prophecised world leader that will appear, probably in Europe or the Revived Roman empire as a charismatic leader that will impose a global dictatorship on the entire world and will eventually be indwelt by Satan himself, claim to be God and demand to be worshiped, which will also lead to the imposition of the mark of the beast system).  Most likely it will likely be some sort of microchip, tattoo, or similar implant that goes on the right hand or forehead and people won't be able to buy or sell without it, with the threat of death (probably by beheading) for people who refuse it (you can read the book of Revelation in the bible for everything you need to know about the antichrist, mark of the beast, etc).  Obviously people will want to avoid the mark of the beast at all costs (even if it means martyrdom) given the eternal ramifications for people who take it.  Anyways, last I checked, t he tribulation has not begun yet and the Antichrist is not on the scene yet, so I doubt that the RFID chip is the mark of the beast.  It could be a predecesor to it for all I know, but it is not the mark of the beast (at least not the present form).  As for privacy concerns, while the school officials may have good intentions for it, such as being able to tell where students are on campus (especially in the case of emergencies or fire drills) and even help find kids who go missing (which can be useful considering some kids do get kidnapped or lost at times), the technologies can definitely get intrusive too.  I can't imagine what it would be like going to a school or college where staff members can track your every move both on and off campus (for example, I wouldn't even think about going into a bar or pub the schools I went to tracked my every move).

I am sure this list goes on, but this article definitely shows how far schools can go when it comes to imposing their policies on students on and off campus and how more authoritarian schools are becoming.  Personally, I think big brother and zero tolerance policies is a dangerous mix when it comes to people's freedoms both in England and here in the US considering that many unsuspecting students and kids can easily find themselves caught in the ever expanding system, especially when there already does seem to be school to pipeline style system in place in many places across the country and taking a big brother approach to things could definitely lead to more people falling into that system, which would be terrible for society in my opinion.  Hopefully people will work on setting up checks and balances for school systems to ensure they do not get too much power over peoples' lives and reduce unnecessary suspensions or interactions with law enforcement agencies.   I will try to keep you updated on this story as I come across more.

What do you think.  Should schools be able to dictate what games kids can play or should it be left up to their parents?  Do you have teens that play games like Call of Duty or similar games?     Feel free to leave a comment below.  For fellow Americans, what would you do if schools inacted similar parties.

Like this article?  Please be sure to "like and share" this post with others.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Introducing my new GTA Online Character: Uncle Steve

Well, I was finally able to get my Xbox Live account working with the help of my father.  Anyways, I have started a new game and career on GTA 5 Online.  Let me introduce you to my new character, which I dubbed: Uncle Steve (was trying to be creative with names and thought that name looked cool).
Did a "selfie" of my character
Interestingly, there was nobody else online last night so I pretty much had the GTA Online mode to myself and was able to explore the map and try out the online features.  It is also worth noting that this character will replace the character I had on the Xbox 360 version of the game (even if I wanted to resume that version of the game, I traded it in at gamestop and got the Xbox One version in its place).

Stay tuned for the latest updates.

Here are some other pictures I have taken so far:

Vinewood Hills
Siberian huskies at a dog park north of Los Santos.  Yes: sibes do exist in this version of the game and can often be found at parks like this one.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Grand Theft Auto 5 for the Xbox 360 Review

***Update***
On Friday, I traded in the Xbox 360 version of Grand Theft Auto 5 and got the Xbox One version in its' place.  Will post my experiences on the Xbox One version on a later post.


I remember almost a year ago, I purchased the Xbox 360 version of Grand Theft Auto 5 and beat the game back in November 2014 (even got the 100% completion rating).  This game was definitely a fun thrill ride for me.

Overview of GTA 5:


This game is the official sequel to Grand Theft Auto 4 and takes place in San Andreas / Los Santos.  Just as GTA 4 makes you feel like you are in a virtual version of New York City, GTA 5 will make you feel like you are in Los Angeles and Southern California.  The map is pretty big stretching all of the way from the city of Los Santos in the South and of the island to the smaller coastal city of Paleto Bay at the north end.  Lots of terrain changes too, as you have city, coastlands, mountains, farm lands, and even a good sized desert to trek through in the game.  Like GTA San Andreas, airplanes and helicopters are back too (besides helicopters in Grand Theft Auto 4, planes were largely absent in that game).  Unique to the Grand Theft Auto 5, you will be playing as 3 protaganists that you can switch off using the d-pad on the controller: 1. Michael Santos - family man with a criminal past that seems to be living a seemingly normal life, at leas till the events of Grand Theft Auto 5.  2. Franklin - he is an African American man who lives in the heart of Los Santos and was a former grove street gang member and repo man looking to move off the streets and live am more fulfilling lifestyle.  3. Trevor Phillips - a psychopathic kind of guy with a short temper..  The game follows the trio as they live out their lives, get back into the life of crime (what is a GTA game without crime after all?), and eventually go up against corrupt government officials.  Several unique features GTA 5 offers includes:

- Single Player mode and online mode
- Heist missions.  Heists are fun and yet challenging too.  Throughout the course of the game, the players have to peform various heists and they usually come with their own unique planning, set up, challenges, difficulties and rewards.  Besides the bank robbery mission that takes place in the game's prologue, the game's first real heist takes place relatively early on in the game.
- Working with 3 protaganists instead of 1.  This seems to be the first time since 2D era gta games where you control more than one protaganists.  By the way, one of the 3 can be killed off at the end of the game, depending on what you do for the final mission of the game
- 3 possible endings.
- Some choose your own adventure elements (such as choosing how to perform heists, how the game ends, how some side missions end, etc).
- Open world adventure, aside from storyline missions, side missions, etc, you are on a huge island Los Santos on the South End, Paleto Bay on the north end.  In addition, there are many roads and highways to explore, my favorite is probably the Great Coast highway that goes up the west coast, much like highways 1 and later highway 101 (North of the Eureka area, onwards to Oregon and Washington) do in real life.  Like GTA Andreas, the island also features a vast country site, farm land, mountains (with the biggest one being Mount Chillad), and even a large desert area to explore too.  Lots of collectable items to collect too, including hidden packages, UFO spaceship parts, letter scraps (there is a murder mystery you can solve in the game by getting all of the letter scrap), along with stunt jumps, under the bridge locations (there are achievements you can get by going under under bridges) as well as knife flight locations.
- There is a military base you can check out too (at your own risk, since going onto the base will increase your guy's wanted level), called Fort Zancudo
- There are several paranormal elements in the game too, including UFOs (though most won't appear till you have gotten 100% completion and you have to know where and how to find them), at least one sasquatch roaming the woods and even a real ghost you can find when exploring Mount Gordo on the north east side of the island
- GTA Online mode: if you thought that story mode was too short, that only covers 1/2 of the game.  You can also access GTA Online (assuming you have an Xbox Live account) and do more missions, competitions, and it even has its own storyline you are following.

Here is what I liked about GTA 5:
- Tons of things you can do.  Besides the missions and all, you can explore the land, play golf, rob gas stations, go on rampages, participate in races (including a triatholon events), play online, browse the net, do activities with fellow NPC's, go on a Vinewood tour (basically GTA 5's version of Hollywood), watch movies, play tennis, visit a movie studio, spot a ghost (yes there is at least one confirmed scary ghost in the game that you may come across if you know where to look or when to look, see http://rjvideogamer.blogspot.com/2014/10/halloweenish-moments-in-grand-theft.html for more info), drive on freeways, swim in the ocean and much more.  Plus by being able to switch between characters, there is much more you can do if you get bored playing as the same character every time (for example, if you get tired playing as Fraklin, you can always switch to either Michael or Trevor assuming they are available).
- Stunning graphics.  You definitely feel like you are in Southern California.
- More variety in missions.  I remember in Grand Theft Auto 4, Nikko was often an errands boy and doing other peoples' dirty work (like the many assassinations you have to do in GTA 4 where you have to chase a target down and shoot him/her).  Sure you might get a few errands boy style missions (especially some of the "Strangers and Freaks" missions), but you also get other kinds of missions too, including: performing heists, being a repo man (as Franklin at the beginning of the game), going on races, running an arms business as Trevor (where you drive a dune buggy or fly a stunt plane delivering weapons to customers for cash as well as taking out competition), and many others.  My favorite was as Michael where you can join a cult (the Epsilon Program) and take part in the missions they give you and possibly earn $2,000,000 in the end (depending on how you play the final epsilon mission).  There are so many different kinds of missions you can do, so it would be difficult to list them all, but I won't spoil the game for you.
- Some characters from previous GTA games make appearances too.  Perhaps the most notable one is Packie McReary from GTA 5 and he does prove to be extremely valuable for heist missions.  Even Nikko makes a cameo appearance on a Life Invader page (GTA's version of myspace).
- I also like how you can switch between 3 different players.  Besides the bank heist in the game's prologue, you start with one character (Franklin) and as you play through the storyline missions, you can also unlock Michael (he appears rather early in the game, about 4 missions in) and later Trevor (he appears after the jewlery store heist).  You can switch off between the 3 characters, have the characters hang out, and some missions do require the trio working together too.  It can be amusing when switching between characters too as you never really know what the other character is doing when you switch.  Michael can be hanging out with his family (being a family man himself), stuck in traffic on one of the several freeways in the game, or even going on a stroll in Los Santos.  Franklin can be hanging out at his safehouse (moreso after he unlocks his second safehouse which comes available as the game progresses), hanging out at the vanilla unicorn strip club, going on a drive somewhere, or even interacting with Chop (his rottwieller dog).  Perhaps the most random is Trevor.  When switching to Trevor, you never really know what he is up to as he could be hanging out at one of the airfields he owns (like the one he uses for the 2 arms delivery side missions you can do), hanging out at his trailer in Sandy Shores, get into fights with random NPCs (like scenes where he seems to throw someone off a bridge), or rarely getting pursued by cops (when that happens, you will have a 2 star wanted rating to evade).
- Long an interesting storyline too
- Online mode extends the gameply significantly too since story mode can get dull after a while (especially after beating the story mode portion of the game) and run out of things to do.
- I also like the new structure the game offers when it comes to failed missions.  In GTA 4, if you fail a mission, you usually have to start over from the beginning, buy more armor and ammo if needed,  and if you get busted during a mission, you lose the weapons you have which means you have to buy more.  In GTA 5, whenever you fail a mission (such as getting killed or busted), the screen will say mission failed and you automatically get options to retry a mission, restart a mission, quit a mission (which means that you will have to start over and if you were killed, end up at a nearby hospital, or if you were arrested: lose all of the ammo you have), or sometimes (though not always), skip a mission (can be useful if you are struggling on a particular mission).  Obviously hard core gamers will probably not like the new structure (though they can opt to start missions over if they want as well as resist the temptation to skip a mission), but I do like the new structure (especially when it comes to the harder and more frustrating missions).
- You can also win medals from missions from completing extra requirements (by completing missions you automatically get a bronze medal, but you can also go for silver and gold medals too by meeting extra requirements, such as completing a mission within a certain time frame, not getting scratches on your car, doing head shots, etc).  By the way, you can replay missions if you want a better score.
- If you get busted by cops, they don't confiscate your weapons like they do in previous games.  Instead, they confiscate the ammo you have.  While you still have to buy ammo, you don't have to rebuy the weapons.

Drawbacks of GTA 5
- Obviously being at typical Grand Theft Auto game, Grand Theft Auto 5 will likely be offensive to some.  I am a 32 year adult, and I can handle it, but I am sure that the same cannot be said for everyone.  The game does have some dark elements to it too.  Some examples includes: Franklin performing home invasion robberies (like the one he does at Michael's house early in the game where he has to "steal" a car in the garage), Michael's family issues (as well as dark past), issues with Trevor and is he is probably the most violent out of the bunch and does not hesitate to commit murder, (especially when he is in a rage mode, which does happen on more than one occasion during the course of the game) get into fights, and commit other crimes.  Plenty of other potientialy offensive stuff too, including being able to use alcohol (players can get drunk or even pass out), use drugs (such as smoking a bong in a safehouse, going on acid trips, and even huffing gas and blacking out), kidnap hitch hikers and deliver them to a cannibalistic cult (aka Trevor taking passengers to the Altruist cult near Mount Chillad), racial slurs, getting mauled by cougars, getting attacked by sharks and many others.  Definitely the type of game that mothers will hate (from personal experience) and may make you look over your shoulder sometimes.  Even in the online mode, people don't always play nice, they can troll, accuse you of being a "bad sport", and rarely, try to kick you from the game, even if you have done nothing to me wrong (almost happened to me once when I first started playing on the online mode, I guess somebody didn't like newbies).
- Replay value is kind of limited.  There are some missions and side missions where you will probably want to do again and see how they might end differently (for example: in the merrywetther heist mission where you can choose between using a submarine for the mission or infiltrating a freighter ship at port).  Also, there are 3 possible endings for the game too.  However, eventually you probably will run out of things to do (moreso after 100% completion) and then the game can get real dull,  Luckily the online mode can extend the gameplay significantly.
- Getting wasted (killed) in the game can be painful moneywise.  Unless if you are an expert at not dying in games like GTA 5, you probably will get wasted (i.e., falling of buildings, getting shot, getting attacked by animals like cougars, dogs and sharks, car accidents, etc) on various occasions and when that happens, you will respawn at a nearby hospital or clinic (like the one at Sandy Shores) and they love to charge you lots of ingame money each time.  At first they don't charge you very much, but as your money accumulates in the game (especially $100,000 or more), the fee goes up significantly, capping at $5000 each time you get wasted.  Obviously if you die alot in the game, that can get real expensive fast.   Saving the game often can be useful here (especially if you are in a situation where death can come very easily, like attempting the "under the bridge" side mission).  Also, when you fail a mission, I always try to resist the temptation to "quit" the mission, especially if my guy gets wasted or busted during a mission.  Also, if you decide to go on a rampage in the game, you will probably want to save first and reload later to avoid losing too much money or getting your weapon ammo conficated if you get busted.
- When playing online, watch out for trolls.  Some people online can be jerks and sometimes will try to kill your player, talks smack, etc.  There are also occasions where people will try to kick you from the game even if you have done nothing wrong (and I have seen stories online about people getting kicked for no reason).  I have only encountered a kicking attempt once (ironically, I was just starting out on the online mode when it happened, not sure why other than the fact I was a typical newbie at the time), but it seems to have tapered off (possibly because people are migrating over to the Xbox One and PS4 versions of GTA 5).  Also, people can place bounties on your characters too.
- Switching off between characters will definitely take getting used to for some.
      
Well, that is all for now.  Despite the set backs, GTA 5 for Xbox 360 definitely makes a very good final installment for the Xbox 360 era GTA series.  By the way, Rockstar has already released GTA 5 for both Xbox One and PS4, so you may want to opt for that version instead.

Official grade for the game: A

Want to get your own copy of GTA 5?  You can buy them on Amazon.com by clicking on the links below

Important disclaimer about Grand Theft Auto 5: this game is rated M for mature and is not advised for people under 17 or people that are easily offended by violent video games (considering that this game will likely be offensive to some).  Also, for your own good, anything you see on Grand Theft Auto 5 (and any other game in the series for that matter) should never be recreated in real life.  Like all GTA games, grand theft auto 5 does seem to glorify crime in many ways (even in comical ways too), such as rampages, heist missions, stealing cars, drugs, and just about any other thing you can't normally get away with in real life. Obviously getting ideas and recreating things you see in GTA 5 may lead to serious consequences, including trouble with the law, lengthy prison sentences, or even death.  Never try anything you see in Grand Theft Auto 5 at home.  Being a fellow gamer, I take no responsibility for making poor choices as a result of playing GTA 5 (i.e., stealing cars, committing other crimes, murder, etc).

Similar Games:

- Grand Theft Auto San Andreas (also features Los Santos, regular Xbox era)
- Grand Theft Auto 4 (in that game, you play in Liberty City, which is basically a virtual version of New York CIty).  By the way, GTA 5 assumes you have played through Grand Theft Auto 4, so if you haven't played through that game, feel free to check it out.
- Red Dead Redemption (wild west style game that has some GTA style elements).  By the way, there is an easter egg in GTA Online that lets you make a character that has John Marston as one of his/her parents.


Gamer to Gamer tips:
1. Money.  If you are a typical newbie looking for ideas on how to earn money in the game, there are several ways you can do so, including:
- Killing pedestrians (often times they do drop cash when killed), though killing people is risky since it will cause your wanted level to go up and cops will try to arrest or (more likely kill you) when that happens.
- Robbing stores: you can hold up stores in the game and earn cash that way, though like killing people, it will almost always cause your wanted level to go up and so you have to deal with cops as a result
- Buying properties.  As you progress throughout the game, you will be able to buy various properties (such as the Mckenzie air field, scrap yard, downtown cab company, etc) and they do generate income for your characters during the course of the game. As Trevor, you will be able to acquire this airstrip near Grapeseed where you can do side missions where you can deliver weapons via buggy or plane as well as taking out rivals and get paid that way too.  Some properties earn you more than others
- Driving a taxi cab.  Like in other GTA games, you can opt to drive a taxi cab and pick people up and drop them off at various locations for easy cash.
- Heists.  If you do heists properly, you can score lots of extra money (especially the final heist in the game, which can yield up to $30,000,000 for each character).  Poorly setting up for heists (such as choosing helpers that are not qualified for the job) can cause you to lose money though.
-  Buying the scrap yard.  This property can also yield good money as you get $150 per ingame week for every car you destroy in the game (or $1500 for every 10 cars you destroy).
- Diving in the ocean and finding hidden packages.  These often yield money.  Warning: sharks do lurk in the ocean (you will know when one is nearby because they will appear as red dots on your in game map and radar) and will try to eat you.  What happens is: if you dive in the ocean, and a shark is closeby, it will swim around you for a little while back and fourth like a typical fish, but after a while, a cut scene will occur showing the shark eating your character (much like Jaws) with one hit kills.

2. Dealing with cops
- Hiding can be useful for getting away from cops, but not always (sometimes they can find you and you and try to shoot you or arrest you when they do).
- Between getting killed or busted by a cop in the game, I'd rather get wasted by them.  I they bust you, they will confiscate your ammo and you will have to go to the nearest ammunation to buy more ammo.  If you get wasted, you keep your weapons and ammo, though it will cost you money each time though.
-  The higher your wanted rating is, the more aggresssive cops become.  Also, shooting officers will automatically result in a 3 star wanted rating.
- Restricted areas (like Fort Zancudo): enter them at your own risk.  Usually trespassing at restricted areas will result in your wanted level going up and will probably inevitably end with your character getting wasted (or busted).  At Fort Zancudo, for example, trespassing on base will result in a 4 star wanted level and tanks and military personnel going after you.  If you really want to explore restricted areas, you might want to consider activating invincibility cheats.
3. Skipping and retrying missions:
- Only use skip as a last resort.  If you find a mission too difficult, you can usually skip after several tries (though not every mission has a skip option).  Some missions will probably take several tries.
- I don't recommend quitting a mission unless if you have to since then you will have to start the mission over.  If you die during a mission and quit, you will be taken to the nearest hospital by he way.  Get busted and quit, you will be taken to the nearest police station and stripped of ammo.

4. 100% perks:
- when you have beaten the main storyline missions, the game is not yet over.  I recommend getting 100% at least once.  Plenty of perks for 100% completion too.  By the way, if you want to see the hidden UFOs in the game, most won't appear till after you have gotten 100% completion.

(more tips will be added over time).

That is all for now?  How was your experience with Grand Theft Auto 5?  Do you have a different take on the game?  Feel free to leave your comments below.

Note: I got the Xbox One version of GTA 5 recently, so I will share my thoughts on that version on a later post.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Got an Xbox One for Christmas

Merry Christmas everyone.  I have some exciting news from my end.  I just got an Xbox One for Christmas.
Picture of the Xbox One I got this morning.

Yes, it is official.  I now have an Xbox One.  I haven't set it up yet, but will probably do that sometime this evening.  Honestly, I had no idea I was going to be getting a new game system for Christmas (it is always hit and miss when it comes to getting new consoles).  It is the first new console I got since getting the 3DS about 2 years ago.

Here is the initial lineup of games I have:
-Lego Movie Game
- Assassins Creed Unity
- Minecraft for Xbox One (by the way, I have still yet to play through the Xbox 360 version)
- Lego Marvel game (yes a lego verision of the Marvel Universe)
and several others.

Other games I am considering buying when I have the extra money:
- Grand Theft Auto 5.  Yes I do have a 360 version and even beat the game a few months ago (though still working on the online mode), but I am curious about how the Xbox One version compares with the predecessor version.
- Halo Master Chief addition
- Kinnect for Xbox One (the bundle I got does not include a Kinnect)
- and others.

By the way, are you jealous?  Why not get your own Xbox One?  You can buy them at Amazon or Walmart here: