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Sunday, December 13, 2015

Star Wars Universe's unlikeliest couples

Here is another Star Wars themed post (especially with the new movie coming out soon).  In this post, I will go over some of the galaxy's unlikeliest relationships.  Though I suppose even in real lift, the man/woman tht God intends for you to marry might not be someone you would expect.  Even my parents once lived on opposite ends of the US from each other long before they met and got married (my dad grew up on Long Island in New York and my mom was a California girl, living in the Sacramento area before meeting my dad).  Anyways, let's look at some of these relationships.  Note that this post contains spoilers (assumes you have watched the movies and read the books).

Relationship 1 - Anakin Skywalker (formerly a slave on the desert planet of Tatooine) and Padme Amidala (aka Queen Amidala in Episode 1)
Random picture of Anakin and Padme from Attack of the Clones(img source:

Random picture of Anakin Skywalker as a kid

Random picture Padme as Queen Amidala

Who would have thought that Anakin Skywalker, a slave on Tatooine who would later become a jedi knight and eventually Darth Vader, would marry a royal queen and later Senator from Naboo? Well, it did

Is there anyone here who haven't seen any of the star wars movies yet particularly the prequel trillogy (episodes 1-3)?  Despite the obvious flaws in episodes 1-3, in my opinion they do an amazing job in chronicalling the back story of Anakin Skywalker (who was destined become the evil Darth Vader).  Obviously, in along with the whole story about the jedi order along wth the infamamous clone wars as well as Palpatine's eventual rise to power as the emperor of the Galactic Empire (formerly the old republic).  In Return of the Jedi, when Luke reveals to Leia that they are actually brother and sister and that Darth Vader (aka Anakin) was their father, she does seem to reveal that she had some faint memories about her birth mother (though she must have had an amazing memory if she remembered Padme considering that she dies shortly after Luke and Leia are born) and their mother is none other Padme Amidala, herself.  When we first see Padme in episode 1 (Phantom Menace), she was recently elected as the queen of Naboo (apparently kings and queens are Naboo are elected officials much like presidents are here in Amerca and only serve several terms before they get replaced by a new king or queen) and her planet was facing invasion by the trade federation (who were under the influence of the villanous Darth Sidious).  A younger Obi Wan Kenobi as well as his master, Qui Gonn Gin are caught in the middle of the conflict (after the trade federation tries to kill the two when ordered by Sidious) and eventually manage to get Padme (who disguised herself as a handmaiden at the time) and a bunch of other people off of Naboo and head towards Coruscant.  However, they barely make it past the blockade (thanks to R2 helping them to get their shelds up) and are forced to make a pitstop on Tatooine on the way to get new parts of their hyper drive system.  Natually, Padme tags along with Qui Gon and Jar Jar binks as they venture into Mos Espa to try and buy parts for their ship from junk dealers like Watto.  Coincidentally, a young Anakin Skywalker happened to be working for Watto that day and had his chance encounter Padme, a meeting that would definitely help set up their relationship story that takes place in Episodes 2 and 3.  By the way, considering that most of us work, have you ever met a famous person where you work?  I remember meeting former Seattle Mariners Baseball player, Jamie Moyer once at the QFC in the University Village.  Was doing a demo for New Concepts in Marketing (long before getting hired onto Advantage) where I was tasked with working with him during a calendar signing event, which was pretty interesting to do, especially considering that I didn't have any real experience working as a body guard or security person.  Haven't had any demos like that since then.  I liked how Anakin said to Padme, "are you an angel.." and she giggled about it.  You can definitely tell in Phantom Menace that Anakin quickly develops an attraction towards Padme (even though he was probably only about 8 years old at the time) and that attraction would definitely grow significantly during the course of the prequel trillogy.  By the way, can't you imagine what it might have been like if Padme and Qui Gon did not stop on Tatooine or if Anakin wasn't in the shop that fateful day (or by chance if Anakin lost the pod race that Qui Gon betted Anakin's freedom on), probably would have messed up the whole prequel storyline unless if Anakin's path with Padme crossed another way.  Interestingly after Anakin gets off of Tatooine and goes to Coruscant with Qui Gonn and Padme, she does seem to develop some motherly love for Anakin too (definitely showing that the 2 had some degree of chemistry for each other). Eventually after defeating the Trade Federation's invasion on Naboo, the two would part ways for over 10 years, at least till the events of Attack of the Clones (episode 2).    

In Episode 2, things get alot more interesting between Padme and Anakin.  By episode 2, Padme is no longer queen (apparently the monarchy system on Naboo is more like the presidential system here in America where a king or queen has to be elected and can only serve up to 2 terms before being replaced by another king or queen), but a senator instead, and Anakin is training to be come a jedi with Obi Wan as his jedi master, and after she returns to Coruscant to oppose a bill to create a clone army, she survives an assasination attempt by Jango Fett and his crony,Sam (we learn later on in the movie Viceroy Gunray had a grudge against Padme after his defeat on Naboo and hired hitmen like Jango Fett to kill her along with the help from sith lord, Count Dooku).  At Chancelor Palpatine's suggestion, Padme and Anakin's paths would cross once again (probably the first time in over 10 years).  Obvously by the time Episode 2 comes around, Anakin was quite infatuated with Padme and those feelings only grow dynamically during the course of the movie and culminates with them getting married on Naboo.   By the way, considering that many of us have had crushed on someone at some point in our lives, have you ever crossed paths with your former crush or old flame (whatever you want to call him/her), especially if you were both still single?  I remember at one time, I used to have this crush on this cute blond girl, named, Kim Carlberg during my middle school and high school years.  Although I did get to know here somewhat, long story short, I was the typical shy guy type and I did let my shyness get the best of me (you know how we guys can be when  there is a girl we like in our lives) and missed my chance to get to know her better and possibly get into a relationship with her.  I know know I probably should have at least tried to "break the ice with her" and at least try to get to know her better, but it is what it is now.  We used to live in the same neighborhood (in the South Everett area), attended various classes together (both at Gateway and Jackson) and even did some sports together (such track and field).  However, life happens, as I ended up moving to Snohomish (where I live now), and after high school graduation, we parted ways.  I understand that she went off to the University of Washington in Seattle and I ended up going to Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma (at least during my first year and a half of college), though about a year and half later, I would transfer to Northwest University in Kirkland and spend the remainder of my college years there.  Interestingly she also ended up moving away too (probably to the Tacoma area, at least at the time I last saw her, though that was back in 2002 and I have no idea if she still lives there or not, considering that I lost touch with her since then).  To date, I only encountered her once after high school (bumped into her at a Starbucks in Mill Creek while running errands with my mother back in the spring of 2002), but like Anakin and Padme, we parted ways and I haven't seen or heard from her since then.  I have no idea if our paths will ever cross again considering that she has been out of the picture for a long time now, but I am not sure how I would react should she resurface in my life, especially if she was still single by chance (which seems unlikely at this point).  Would I be shy?  How would I react?  Who knows?  I suppose I will "cross that bridge" if and when I get there (like some of the contestants would say on Celebrity Apprentice).  By the way do any of you have similar stories (where you encountered a former crush much like Anakin and Padme do)?  I would love to hear your stories in the comments below.

Moving on, after a second assasination attempt on Padme's life by Jango Fett's associate, Zam, the Jedi Council would have Anakin become her bodyguard and have her watch over her on Naboo (isn't that convenient situations for him to "catch up" with her).  Soon, a romance sub plot emerges (much like that between Han and Leia in Empire Strikes back), and eventually the 2 would fall in love with each other despite her serving as senator and his vows to the Jedi (which does seem to forbid romantic relationships, a rule that Anakin seems to ignore after falling in love with Padme). Reminds me of a line from Pyro in Xmen 2, where he tells Rogue, "do you always do what you are told" when at one point in themovie.  Like Leia after her, Padme resists Anakin's advances at first probably due to their obvious differences, but understandably she develops feelings for him too and even flirts with him while on Naboo too (with her feelings for him becoming more pronounced by the time they survive an execution attempt on their lives on Geonosis at the hands of the separatists).  She could have rejected him if she wanted too (and I am sure she thought about it too), but her falling for Anakin is understandable considering that the original trillogy assumes everything in the prequel trillogy happened as they did.  After all, can't you imagine how the story might have been different if they broke up on Naboo instead of falling in love with each other?  That definitely probably would have messed up the rest of the storyline and it is possible that Luke and Leia might never had been born if that were the case.  By the end of the movie, Anakin and Padme secretly get married on Naboo, further establishing their bonds and would also have implications for episode 3 (and help lead to Anakin's downfall too, at least in a way).

By episode 3, Padme becomes pregnant with 2 babies (Luke and Leia) and Anakin does seem to like the idea at first, despite the fact that it might cost him a position on the Jedi council if discovered as the father.  Sadly, a happy ending for the 2 was not to be since Anakin would eventually turn to the dark side of the force much at the goading of the soon to be, Emperor Palpatine (aka Darth Sidious), who had already had his sights set on him after the death of Count Dooku when looking for a new apprentice, and become the evil Darth Vader (even murdering jedi padwans in the jedi temple at the commands of Darth Sidious (around the time he did his infamous "order 66" stuff causing the clone troopers to turn on their former Jedi comrades).  The irony of his transformation is that he had nightmares of Padme dying in childbirth (much like the dreams that Anakin had of Shmi before she died at the hands of the tusken raiders) and he thought that he could save her by turning to the dark side, but boy was he wrong since Padme would end up dying anyways in childbirth (in part at the hands of Vader when he used force choke on her when she confronted him on Mustafar with Obi Wan stowing on her ship too) thus fulfilling his dream she would die in childbirth (perhaps the dream was supposed to be taken as a warning not to turn to the dark side, but he probably did not think about that at the time).  I like the line that Darth Sidious towards the end of the movie where he says to Vader regarding Padme's fate, "it seems in your anger, you killed her" and Vader shouts out a huge "noooo!".  Despite the sour ending to their relationship, there relationship was definitely one of a kind and definitely one of the more coveted types of relationships in the star wars universe.  Who would have thought that a royal queen from Naboo would marry a slave boy on Tatooine?  But it happened.

What makes Padme and Anakin an unlikely couple?
Talk about winding up with someone "outside of your league".  Before Padme and Anakin met, not only did they literally live worlds apart (Padme on Naboo and Anakin living out in the deserts of Tatooine), but their lifestyles were radially different.  Before they met, Padme was queen on Naboo and Anakin was a slave working for Watto in Mos Espa on Tatooine (possibly a farm boy too).  I bet when Natalie Portman's character was a little girl, if someone told her that she will one day marry a slave on Tatooine that would later become a jedi and eventually Darth Vader, she probably would laughed it off in disbelief, but that is exactly what happened.  Can't you imagine the odds of such a relationship?  In addition, Anakin and Padme's age differences were different too (probably at least 8 years apart), though I suppose sometimes that does happen in real life too (even my parents are 6 years apart from each other).   In Episode 2, Anakin becomes a jedi padwan under Obi Wan and Padme becoems a senator and interestingly, the jedi code forbids romance relationships, which inevitably happens betwen Anakin and Padme, which puts him at odds with the Jedi counsil, especially after they secretly marry on Naboo and moreso after it is revealed that Padme is pregnant with Luke and Leia in episode 3.  Interestingly, Anakin seemed to have had a hard time keeping the marriage a secret, such as during the Clone Wars series when he gets jealous when another man develops feelings for Padme (forgot who he was) and when he gets the dream warning that Padme would die in childbirth, he goes great lengths, even turns to the dark side to try and prevent her death.  Eventually Obi Wan finds out about their relationship when he learns that she is pregnant with Luke and Leia which puts their relationship in a more awkard relationship.  Sadly their relationship disintegrates after she learns about Anakin's transformation to Darth Vader and she ends up dying from a broken heart after giving birth to Luke and Leia.  I liked the quote that Palpatine said "it seems, in your anger, you killed her".

Anyways, in real life, I am sure relationships like Padme and Anakin are very rare.  Padme marrying Anakin would be comparable to say Princess Kate from England marrying say a random farm boy from say Arizona or Nevada.  Interestingly, Owen Lars (Anakin's step brother) entered into a relationship within his league with Beru.  I don't know too much about Owen or Beru's history besides what is shown in the movies, but if I had to guess, I am sure they would have grown up together as farmers and a relationship formed between them more naturally.  Even I don't see myself marrying say a hollywood celebrity (rarely visit the Los Angeles area anyways) or a political figure.  More likely if I did get married, I would probably wind up with someone form here in Washington State, whoever that is.  Though, I suppose you never really know who you might encounter in your everyday life.  I remember when going to college, I met lots of fellow students who were from other states (like Oregon, California, Idaho, etc) and sometimes people do get into relationships with fellow college students too (even from out of state).  At my jobs at Crossmark and Advantage, I go to all kinds of different retailers and grocery stores all around the seattle area and sometimes even visit stores and areas that I might not visit otherwise (like the Ballard Fred Meyer, Burien Fred Meyer, or the QFC in the University Village near Seattle).  I never know who I might encounter at the stores I visit.  It can be fellow classmates (like Shannon Bates from Jackson High School at Albertsons in Mill Creek), friends from Church or even family members.  I am sure that there are famous people lurking around the Seattle area too (especially people like Bill Gates and Paul Allen who seem to live in the are too).  I still remember the time when I met baseball player, Jamie Moyer for the first time.  By the way, if you go to comic con events (like the Emerald City comic con here in Seattle), you just might meet a celebrity (I have sit in on several celebrity panels myself at those events) or even get an autograph or picture with one if you know where to look for them and when to look for them (though I wouldn't be suprised if some of them wander around the convention center during their breaks so you could meet one while wandering around too, though unlikely).  Even my parents lived in opposite ends of the US before they met (my dad lived in New York while my mother lived in California) and they eventually met at a party in the Bay area.  Despite the obvious differences between Anakin and Padme, it appears that they were destined to meet on the fateful day when Anakin happened to be working for Watto when Qui Gon, Jar Jar Binks and Padme (who decided to disguise herself as a handmaiden) showed up while on the run from the Trade Federation as well as the sith for that matter.   By the way, has something like this ever happened to you?  Have you ever met someone you never thought you would meet?  Has any celebrities ever flirted with you?  Feel free to share your stories in the comment section below

Relationship 2 - Han Solo (a smuggler) and Princess Leia (a princess on Alderaan and daughter of Padme).

Spoiler alert: I have seen Star Wars Force Awakens, so I will update the info on Han and Leia to reflect the new movie 

Random Picture of Han Solo and Princess Leia together (source: http://assets.vg247.com/current//2015/10/leia-and-han.jpg)
A smuggler and a princess together?  Happened to Princess Leia and Han Solo.  I don't know much about Han Solo's life before he met up with Luke and Obi Wan other than him being a smuggler, befriending a Wookie named, Chewbacca (apparently he has a life debt to Han) and presumably working for Jabba the Hutt and was known for his famous "Kessel Run" with the Millenium falcon, though both of which have yet to be explored in the cinematic star wars universe, though hopefully, the stand alone Han Solo movie (and possibly Star Wars Rogue One) will explore Han's back story, along with Han's friendship with Lando (along with him acquiring the falcon from Lando during a game of sabbac) as well as that he is a wanted man with a bounty placed on his head by Jabba the Hutt (presumably due to a botched smuggling run).   Of course, the course of Han's life would forever be changed on the day he met a then, young Luke Skywalker along with an aged Obi Wann Kenobi (who had finally come out of exile in the aftermath of the events from Revenge of the Sith), who were both on their way to Alderaan to help Princess Leia, who was in trouble after obtaining the stolen Death Star plans and was trying to flee from the Empire before getting captured by Darth Vader in the process.  Han thought that it was another routine trip for him to take and possibly an easy way to earn the extra money needed to pay off Jabba the Hutt, but it turned out that the Alderaan was destroyed by the Death Star and he along with Luke and Obi Wann inadvertantly found themselves on the Death Star too after getting caught in one of its tractor beams.  While they were on the Death Star, Obi Wan broke off with Han and Luke and went to disable the tractor beam along with confronting Darth Vader for the last time, while Luke and Han set out to rescue the princess much to the discovery of R2 and Luke goading Han into attempt the rescue.  Interestingly, Han almost missed out on Princess Leia considering that she was actually sentenced to death after witnessing the destruction of Alderaan (Tarkin even wanted to speed up her execution too after learning that she lied to him about the rebel base being on Dantooine) and she could have been days or even hours away from her scheduled execution when Luke and Han rescued her.  If Han put his foot down on rescuing her if they arrive to the death star too late, she could have been dead upon arrival and Luke (and Vader/Anakin for that matter) would never have known that she was his sister (doesn't get revealed till Return of the Jedi) and Han would have missed his chance with the perfect love interest in his life (plus she along with Luke, Chewie and Lando would later return the favor since they would later rescue Han from the clutches of Jabba the Hutt and even help him escape an execution attempt on his life too via the sarlacc pit on Tatooine).    
Princess Leia was definitely a feisty type and even resisted Han's advances on her at first much (which was pretty evident in Empire Strikes back) but she slowly falls in love with him (especially while spending lots of time with him on the Millenium falcon while trying to flee the empire) and they really do seem to fall in love with each other by the end of Return of the Jedi.  Interestingly there was some rivalry between Luke and Han over Leia (considering that both of them liked her) though that would change when Luke later finds out that Leia was in fact his long twin sister, seperated from birth at the end of Revenge of the Sith (though Luke didn't know that at first).  After the Events of Return of the Jedi, there are 2 versions of what happens in their relationship.

Legends Universe:
I haven't read all of the novels or comics (I've read some such as the Thrawn Trillogy, Jedi Academy trillogy, and others), but it appears that they would inevitably get married and give birth to jedi twins, Jacen and Jaina Solo, who would both later become jedis themselves.  Interestingly, it appears that Jacen pulls an Anakin Skywalker and turns to the dark side at that point, creating some extra friction in the family, though it seems like he eventually gets redeemed.  Chewbacca actually gets killed too at the hands of the yuuzhan-vong (I haven't read the yuuzhan-vong trillogy yet though, so I don't really know the details other than that chewie dies), which sends Han into a depression which also creates some more drama in the family too.    

What makes Han and Leia an odd couple:
A scrufty smuggler and a princess becoming a potiential couple?  I am sure in real life that such relationships are very unlikely if not impossible.  I live in the USA and we don't have a monarchy (though I suppose a president of the united states is very similar to having a king or queen barring some obvious differences such as being elected as well as limits on power).  Han Solo and Leia would be comparable to say a member of the criminal element like Al Capone (who was an alcohol smuggler during the prohibition years) marrying one of the president's daughter or a princess from colonial era England marrying say a pirate like Blackbeard.  Such relationships are very unlikely.  Though for Han and Leia, technically they were both finding themselves on the wrong side of the law.  Leia was one of the leaders of the rebel alliance, which I am sure that the empire did not take kindly to (along with having a target on her back after acquiring the stolen death star plans which she would later use to bring about the eventual destruction the death star by Luke Skywalker), and Han had a huge bounty placed on his head by Jabba the Hutt and had bounty hunters (especially Boba Fett) hot on his tail.  In the aftermath of the battle of Hoth, they were both on the run from the empire and were eventually united by facing common enemies.

Revised Star Wars Canon Han Solo and Princess Leia

***Spoiler alert***
This section assumes you have seen Star Wars Force Awakens.  It has been out for several weeks now (since December) and I am assuming most people have seen the new movies already (hey, I have seen the movie 3 times myself). If you haven't seen the movies yet or procrastinating on seeing the new movie, I might recommend seeing the movie soon while it is still in theaters (it will be in theaters for only so long before getting replaced by another movie) if you are trying to avoid spoilers  Of course, if you haven't seen the movie yet and want to be suprised, feel free to skip over
Star Wars 7-9 version of events.
Picture of the villanous Kylo Ren, who was also an offspring of Leia and Han too.  Image source:

As you probably know, Disney has scrapped the Expanded Universe version of the post return of the jedi storyline, and only time will tell what elements, if any, survives the cut and which ones don't.  That being said, like in the books, it does seem like Han and Leia do seem to get married and instead of having twins, they give birth to a boy named Ben Solo.  It is not clear if they had any other kids (though there does seem to be speculation that Rey might be their daughter, though it is not clear if those rumors are true or not and seems unlikely to be the case in my opinion).  While Ben's details are sketchy, he ends up joining Luke's "Jedi Academy" where Luke even attempts to rebuild the Jedi order, which was virtually non existant by the time Force Awakens comes around, largely due to the Empire trying exterminate all of the jedi starting with Darth Sidious' infamous "order 66" tag line in Revenge of the Sith and later culminating with the great jedi purge that occurs afterwards (especially between episodes 3 and 4 with Darth Vader leading the charge to helping the empire to hunt down and destroy the remaing jedi knights who survived order 66 and heeded Obi Wan's warning to stragglers to stay away from Coruscant). Of course, Luke is no Yoda (who was much more experienced with the force than Luke was and definitely better Jedi master in many ways), and eventually, Ben turns to the dark side (having "too much Vader in him" as General Leia Organa would say, presumably being seduced to the dark side by Snoke, much like how Darth Sidious seduces Anakin to the dark side in Revenge of the sith and seems to replace Darth Sidious as the "overlord" in the new trillogy).  It appears Ben (like Vader before hi)even sets out to kill all of Luke's jedi padwans and even wants to kill Luke too if possible (which leads him to go into hiding, much like how Obi Wan goes into hiding after Anakin turns into Darth Vader).  Sadly, the rise of Kylo Ren also causes Han and Leia to seperate (though not offically divorce).  Leia becomes a general of the resistance (formerly the rebel alliance) leading campaigns against the New Order (formerly the Galactic Empire) and Han returns to smuggling (evidently transporting Diagona or Sarlacc like creatures called Rathiers for various criminal organizations). He even loses the Millenium Falcon too, at least till it gets recovered by Rey and Finn (who was a former storm trooper that eventually defects to the New Order) as they are trying to evade capture by the first order on Finn and wind up on the freighter Han was on.  Eventually, Solo and Leia would reunite at the new resistance base before working with the resistance to destroying the Starkiller base (basically a huge planet version of the death star).
In the end, Han tries to get Kylo Ren turn back to the light side of the force (much like what Luke does with Darth Vader in Return of the Jedi) and help set things right, but long story short, he gets betrayed and murdered by Kylo Ren (who impales Han with his light saber and sending him falling to his death).  Interestingly, according to the IMDB, Harrison Ford is supposed to reprise his role as Han Solo in Episode 8, but it is not clear what his role to be after his apparent death on the Starkiller base.  It also remains to be seen whether Kylo Ren turns to the lights side of the force or not considering that he killed Han and seems to be beyond redemption by the end of Episode 7.

Other Odd Couples in the Star Wars Universe

Relationship 3 - Mara Jade and Luke Skywalker (Mara actually hated Luke long before they married), Star Wars Legends Universe.

Random picture of Luke and Mara from the EU (source:
Long before Star Wars 7, Force Awakens came out and prior to Disney's aquisition of the Star Wars Franchise, most of the star wars story, both between the episodes (such as Shadows of the Empire bridging the gap between Empire Strikes back and Return of the Jedi) as well as most of the story that takes place after Return of the Jedi was explored by the Expanded Universe (particularly the books such as the Thrawn Trillogy, Truce at Bakkura, yuuzhan-vong trillogy, jedi academy trillogy, and many others).  There were even various games that seem to have continued the story too, such as the Dark Forces Jedi Knight franchise (which does provide one of the few onscreen appearances of Mara Jade along with several other EU elements), along with Force Unleashed (helps bridge the gap between Episodes 3 and 4 and aims to explain the rise of the rebel alliance and shows Darth Vader's infamous quest to rid the galaxy of the jedi) and even the "Knights of the Old" republic series too.  One prominent character that appeared in the Expanded Universe was Mara Jade.  She was a smuggler working with a man named Talon Kardde and apparently served in the Empire as one of Emperor Palpantine's most trusted agents.  What makes Mara and Luke an odd couple is that after the events of Return of the Jedi (most notably the death of Palpatine at the hands of Vader), she develops a hatred for Luke and even tries to kill him on various occasions.  I don't know too much about Mara's story after the Thrawn trillogy (haven't read all of the books), though I am sure you can read more about her on Wikipedia, but it appears that eventually she gets married to Luke and they have a son named Ben (much like Han and Leia do in the revised canon).  But I bet it had to be somewhat unsettling for Luke to wind up marrying her, especially considering that she wanted to kill him for a while.  I mean would you want to marry somone that hated you, even if it was like that in the past (for example, marrying say a Charles Mansion type)?  Definitely an interesting couple to watch in the EU version of events.

***Spoiler alert - this upcoming section assumes you have seen Star Wars Episode 7, Force Awakens.  If you haven't seen the movie yet and want to avoid spoilers, feel free to skip this section. **** 

Note about the revised version of the post Return of the Jedi Star Wars universe.

After Disney's acquisition of the Star Wars franchise and scrapping the EU version of the Star Wars Universe as canon, it will be interesting to see whether Mara Jade makes an appearence in the revised canon or if someone else will take her place (if anyone else).  I don't remember seeing her in Episode 7, though Luke himself doesn't appear till towards the end of the movie and exiled himself to some island on the outer rim, probably due to the rise of Kylo Ren and his quest to kill Luke (much like how Obi Wan goes into hiding on Tatooine after Anakin turns to the dark side) but it will be interesting to see how Luke's story plays out in the Episodes 8 and 9.  Does he survive to the end?  Does he die at the hands of Kylo Ren or even Snoke? Does he have a love interest (such as Mara Jade)?  There is speculation going around the net that Rey is in fact either Luke or Obi Wan's daughter (search "Rey as Luke's daughter" on google or bing to see what I mean), but it is not clear whether the rumors or true or not.  Personally, I doubt that she is related to Obi Wan, though if you saw the clone wars saga, you would know that he did seem to have a romantic connection with Dutches Satine, though seems unlikely they would have married or had kids like Anakin and Padme did considering that Obi Wan seemed to be more strict about following the Jedi code than Anakin was, plus she seems to get killed off by a resurrected and vengeful Darth Maul towards the end of the clone wars series.  If Rey is Luke's daughter, who is his wife?  If not, who else is she related to?  Does Mara Jade make an appearence in Episodes 8 or 9 or does someone else take her place?  I am sure Episodes 8 and 9 will expand on Luke's story, especially now that he has been brought out of hiding by Rey as well as the resistance, but it will be intersting to see how things play out. I could see reasons why Mara might not appear in the new movies, especially considering that she hasn't made any formal appearances yet in the cinematic Star Wars canon (no sign of her in the prequels, clone wars, star wars rebels or even the original trillogy) so it would be easy for Disney to exclude her if she want considering that it is very possible that she might not exist as far as the cinematic star wars universe is concerned.  My guess is that if she doesn't appear in Episodes 8 or 9, then she probably doesn't exist in the cinematic Star Wars Universe.  What elements from the EU version of the Star Wars Universe (if any) crosses over into the cinematic Universe, if any, remains to be seen.  Does she appear in Episodes 8 or 9?  Only time will tell for sure.

Honorable Mentions

1. Bastila and Darth Revan (knights of the Old Republic)

If you have played through the first Knights of the Old Republic game, you probably know that Bastala is a romance option for the player.  In the game, you play as a character who was once, Darth Revan who became a reformed jedi in an open ended pre Empire Star Wars universe.  As the game progresses, you can enter into dialogues with various NPCs, including those in your crew and you do develop relationships (both good and bad) with them depending on your choices.  Interestingly, Bastala too gets lured to the dark side by Darth Malek and the player can either try to dissuade her from joining the dark side or join her and it is possible to have romance dialogue options too.  An odd thing about this relationship is that Bastala was as a jedi master and Revan was once a sith lord (at least prior to the game) so that is worth mentioning.  It is not clear if Knights of the Old republic is considered part of the Star Wars canon (especially under Disney), it was definitely a fun an intersting Star Wars game t play through.
Random picture of Revan (the game's protaginist) and Bastila (from Wookiepedia)

2. Daisy and Rey (a desert scavenger and potiential future jedi from Jakku and an ex storm trooper who defected from First Order)

Random picture of Finn and Rey as they flee Storm troopers on Jakku

Although it remains to be seen whether they become a couple or not, there did seem to be some chemistry between the 2 from when they meet on Jakku and throughout the course of Force Awakens.  Interestingly in both the prequel trilogy and original trilogy, the second episodes in each trilogies usually expands on a romance sub plot (such as Anakin and Padme in Attack of the Clones along with Han and Leia in Empire Strikes back respectively), so it is possible that Disney might follow that tradition and feature a romance sub plot in Episode 8 too (such as possibly between Rey and Finn).  Obviously I don't have all of the answers about the upcoming movies, but it will be interesting to see how their relationship plays out during the course of Episodes 8 and 9.

3. Obi Wan Kenobi and Dutches Satine
Random picture of Obi Wan and Satine from the Clone Wars Saga.  Image source:

If you have seen the Clone Wars series, you probably know about the history between Obi Wan and Satine.  Apparently, long before Obi Wan became the jedi as we know him, he did seem to have a love interest: a Dutchess from Mandalore named Satine.  It is not really clear how close they were or if they ever married (let alone had kids), but it is worth mentioning.  Unlike Anakin and Padme, he seems to resist the temptation to fall in love with Satine though. Who would have thought that Obi Wan once had a love interest considering that he is was a very active member on the Jedi Counsil (and was strict about following the rules too) and even lived as a hermit for a while on Tatooine

Well, that is all for this post.  By the way, who all here have seen Force Awakens?  I have seen it 3 times myself.  Definitely an epic start to the new Trillogy that will explore the Star Wars story in the aftermath of Return of the Jedi.  Episode 7 has come and gone and 2 more movies are on their ways in the next several years, with several stand alone movies coming too (such as Star Wars Rogue One and the upcoming Han Solo movie too).

What do you think about this post?  Do any of you have similar stories to share about unlikeliest relationships?  Have you ever met a famous person or developed a relationship with them?  Feel free to leave a comment below.

Feel free to "like and share" this post if you like it.  Your support for this blog will be ost appreciated.

Wookiepedia  I only know so much about the Star Wars universe.  For more exhaustive information about the saga, feel free to visit Wookiepedia (Star Wars' official wikipedia)
www.starwars.com (main website for Starwars)

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Bear in Whistler Village ringing door bell.

Here is something you don't see everyday: a bear ringing in the doorbell.  I have been to Whistler several times, but have yet to see a bear in the village (though they say that sometimes there are bear sightings in the village).  Here is a video about a crafty bear trying to get into a building.

(actually I meant to post this on my other blog)

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Top 10 Most Memorable Star Wars games (work in progress)

Well, the new Star Wars movie, Force Awakens is supposed to come out in a less a month away from now (sometime in December) and for this post I will share some of the top 10 most memorable Star Wars themed video games I have played.  Note: I haven't played the Xbox One Star Wars Battlefront game yet (planning to buy it sometime when I get the chance though).

*warning: this blog post contains spoilers as it does assume you have played through the games.  If you rather play through the games instead, you can always buy them as well the platforms they play on on Amazon.  As for Star Wars arcade games (like Star Wars Trillogy arcade), I am sure you can find them at various arcades in America or by used machines either on Amazon or ebay)*

Game 1 - X Wing PC

This game was ahead of its time (especially for one that mainly used floppy disks instead of CD Roms).  This game is best played if you have a joystick as well as a good soundboard for the computer.  In this combat flight simulator game, you assume control of an X-wing, though sometimes you will be flying a Y wing or an A Wing too and do Tour of Duty missions for the Rebellion's campaign against the empire.  More casual players can do training missions and just for fun missions too.  Game does have cheats that you can enable from the menu (such as invincibility as well as unlimited ammo), but you have to play the game without cheats to advance in the tour of duty of missions.  Players who make it to the end of the game are treated to an assault on the first death star (including piloting down the infamous trench much like Luke did in A New Hope).  By the way, I remember you needed a code in the game to play it (was printed in the manual).  Lose the manual, and the game basically becomes unplayable unless if you remember some of the codes.  Similar games: Tie Fighter and Xwing vs Tiefighter.

Game 2- Star Wars Rebel Assault (Sega CD)
This was fun game for the Sega CD, though there is also a version for the PC.  You do various missions and levels.  I remember this game for the Sega CD, though there is also a version for the PC.  You play as a young rebel pilot and solider doing missions for the Rebellion against the empire.  It has been a long time since I have played this game yet, but it was definitely a fun Star Wars gaming experience.  The final mission has you reliving the battle of Yavin, where the rebels go up against the infamous Death Star Trench.
Game 3 - Dark Forces Jedi Knight as well as Mysteries of the Sith

Ah, this was a fun game.  Never played through the first Dark Forces game, but I have played through its' sequel Jedi Knight.  You assume the role of Kyle Katarn, the mercenary who stole the Death Star plans in the first game in his latest adventure to stop the evil dark Jedi, Jerec, who wants gain ultimate power and become the new emperor of the empire.  In this game, Kyle gains jedi powers and can either become a light jedi or dark jedi depending on how players play through the game and choice players make (killing bystanders can cause you to turn dark for example).  Never played through the game's extension pack (Mysteries of the Sith) but it goes on record of being the first onscreen appearance for Mara Jade and several other Starwars Legends (formerly expanded universe) characters and creatures (for example, it is one of the few Star Wars games to feature Noghris, which are grey skinned aliens that served as assasins for Darth Vader, though eventually became alligned to the Rebels thanks to efforts by Princess Leia in the Thrawn Trillogy).  Food for thought: with Force Awakens coming out later this month, will Mara Jade make a debut appearance in the new movie?  In the Legends universe, she was a lady who was originally working for the Empire and was a close associate for Palpatine, and even develops a hatred for Luke in the aftermath of Retun of the Jedi, but eventually changes her ways and even marries Luke.  Speculatively speaking I want to think she will in the new movie, but since Disney is taking the franchise in a different direction and declaring the books no longer to be cannon, it is not clear if she will be in the new movies or not.  Considering that she hasn't appeared in any of the original trillogy movies, prequels, clone wars, or Star Wars Rebels cartoons, it is possible she doesn't exist as far as the cinematic Star Wars Universe is concerned (you would think she would have been introduced by now if she does exist in the mainline storyline.  Only time will tell whether if any elements of the Legends universe crosses over into the cinematic universe, so it will be interesting to see how the new movies play out in relations to the Expanded Universe.

Game 4 - Star Wars Trillogy Arcade
This is not to be confused with Star Wars arcade for the Sega 3DX.  This was a game in the arcades where you can play through the Star Wars saga on various missions and events throughout the series.  Most people will probably not make it till the end unless if they have plenty of extra loose change to spend on continues as they play through the games. 

Game 5- Lego Star Wars (Playstation 2 and Xbox)
These were some fun games featuring Lego's version of the Star Wars universe.  There 3 different versions of the game (prequel era, original trillogy era, and complete saga).  Where you can play through various events and levels from the different star wars movies.  Plenty of twists too, such as being able to revisit levels as different characters (for example, playing as Darth Maul on Naboo, Darth Sidious, droids, soldiers, etc).  There are even several boss battles throughout both games.  By the way, although I never did it, hard core gamers in the Original Trillogy version of Lego Star Wars could even access Lego City in the game too by finding all of the hidden items in the game.

Game 6 - Star Wars Shadows of the Empire (Nintendo 64)
This was one of the few Star Wars games to be based on the Expanded Universe novels (not sure if any other Expanded Star Wars novels were converted to video games).  You assume the role of mercenary, Dash Rendar as he does missions for the Rebel alliance as well as serving as Luke's body guard who not only becomes a fugitive from the Empire (Darth Sidious wants him dead while the Anakin Skywalker in Darth Vader wants to convert Luke into the Dark side, despite the fact that there can only be 2 siths at a time) in the aftermath of Empire Strikes back, but also becomes a target for assasination attempts by the Blue Suns criminal organization who want him dead.  The game is fitting for the Nintendo 64 being in a huge 3D style environment.  Noteworthy levels includes: Battle of Hoth, Escaping the Rebel base on Hoth (there is even a cheat that lets you control one of the several wampas lurking in the base), boss fight with Boba Fett, reliving the mission where you have to help the Bothans (not seen in the game) steal the plans for the second Death Star, battling a giant diagona, as well as playing through the game's climatic final missions and levels.  Food for thought: considering that Disney is planning to make several stand alone Star Wars movies, I think a movie adaption of Shadows of the Empire would be cool, especially considering that it helps bridge the gap between Empire Strikes back and Return of the Jedi (much like the clone wars saga does between Attack of the Clones and Mysteries of the Sith).  Whether a movie adaption of Shadows of the Empire is possible, I have no idea (though probably unlikely unless someone wants make that movie), but it would make an interesting installment to watch.  

Game 7 - Star Wars Battlefront 1 and 2 (Xbox)
Long before there was the new Star Wars Battlefront Reboot for the Xbox One and PS4, there were older versions of the games for the original Xbox.  Much like the reboot, you revisit battles and events from both the Prequels and the Original trillogy (such as the battle of Endor, Geonosis, clone wars battles, battle of Kashyyyk, Hoth, and even the battle of Coruscant from Revenge of the Sith).  Battlefront 2 focuses more on the events of the clone wars and Revenge of the sith (including the infamous order 66) and even lets you do space battles too, where you can either fly as fighter pilot, help defend your cruiser (manning the guns) or even working to sabotage the enemy ship.  

Game 8 - Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic and Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic 2

I am going to list these 2 games together because they are very similar to each other.  The same people (Bioware) who made the Mass Effect Series also teamed up with Lucasarts to make Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic.  These games are set about 4000 years before Revenge of the Sith, yet ironically still very futuristic worlds (in real life Earth was a completly different world 4000 years ago, with modern style technology and transportaion either being non existant or primative at best and you would have been living in the ancient world).  In Knights of the Old Republic 1, you assume the role of the former Darth Revan (this doesn't get revealed till later in the game), who was stripped of his force powers after being captured by the Jedis at the time and even had his memory erased too.  This game is unique as not only is the game not confined to the movies, but it has a huge open world environment and plenty of cutscenes and dialogue too (it is almost like a movie in itself).  In these games there is a huge choose your own adventure style element.  Some things you can do in the original game includes:
- saving your allies and friends
- being a "dick" to people (choosing mean dialogue options)
- Falling in love with a female jedi named Bastilla
- Lying to the jedi counsil (interestingly, they do buy your lies)
- Turning to the dark side and betraying allies
- Being a light jedi and saving the galaxy
- Becoming a bounty hunter and collecting on bounties
- engaging in gladiator style duels (including one where you can fight to the death).
There are plenty of interesting NPC characters too, including an ancestor of Yoda (he looks like yoda and even has his own jedi counsil, but is not the same character), a protocol droid known as HK 47 who is also an assasination droid and is great for characters who want to create dark jedis and loves to talk smack about other characters and even has the tag line of: "meat bags" and many others.

Knights of the Old Republic 2 was the official sequel to the first game and you play as this "exile" character who was cut off from the force by the jedi (apparently the jedi counsel can do that as far as the game is concerned) and introduces a cunning sith lord known as Kreia (who also functions as mentor for the Exile) who apparently wants to get rid of the force all together and take over the galaxy).  In that version of the game, your force alignment is determined based on your actions and you beome either a light or dark jedi around the mid point of the game (the game changes based on your alignment) and you can even take sides in ongoing struggles various worlds are going through.  For example, I remember a world lead by a queen (similar to Naboo) with an evil dictator that wants to launch a coup de tat and take over the planet and you can either side with the queen or the miltary coup.  Also, much like in Revenge of the Sith, there are several sith present and in power and are hunting down the Exile as well as other light jedi, making things interesting for the player as the game progresses.  Besides the Knights of the Republic game for the PC, Knights of the Old Republic 2 is currently the last of its kind for the consoles, though it would be nice to see a remake or sequel for Xbox one someday, much like what they are doing for Star Wars Battlefront.   These 2 games are definitely classics in my opinion and you were definitely missing out if you didn't play through them  What other Star Wars game takes place 4000 years prior to Revenge of the Sith and lets you make your own choices during the play through, and even plays like its own movie?
Game 9 - Star Wars the Force Unleashed
This game is set sometime between Episodes 3 and 4 and is one of the several stories in the Star Wars saga that aims to help bridge the gap between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope (considering that the movies are set almost 20 years a part) along with Star Wars Rebels and the upcoming Star Wars Rogue one movie (the one that is about the operation where rebel spies steal the Death Star Plans prior to A New Hope).  In this game, the Empire has established its grip across the galaxy and Darth Vader continues on his quest to kill off the jedi knights who survived the infamous Order 66 and headed Obi Wan's warning to stay away from Coruscant.  In the game, Vader recruits protaganist, Galen Malek (aka Starkiller) to help hunt down the Jedi Knights while secretly wanting to use Starkiller to help kill the Emperor (probably in part due to Padme dying at the end of Revenge of the Sith which Anakin did not take kindly to when he learned about her fate) and you do go on various missions where you go after some of the jedi (such as Rahm Kota and even Shaak Ti).  Eventually Vader betrays Stark killer and Star Killer is forced to join forces with the rebels (lead by Mon Mothma, Baal Organa, Princess Leia, Garm Bel iblis, and others) in their struggle against the empire  This game is definitely a dark installment in the series, but was pretty fun.  You wield a lightsaber and gain force powers (I like how he can use force lightning on enemies, gain special shields to deflect blasters, and even ligth saber throw).  He can also manipulates objects and hurl them at enemies too (such as hurling explosives at storm troopers or chucking thermal detonators back at jawas who try to kill Starkiller).  Lots of cut scenes worth watching too.  This game seems to mark the first onscreen appearance for Garm Bel Iblis (one of the well known rebel leaders in the Expanded Star Wars universe) and possibly one of the last appearances for Bail Organa (who presumably died when Alderaan was destroyed by the Death Star in episode 4).  At the end of the game, Starkiller can choose to be a "light jedi" and save the rebels who were about to be executed by Palpatine or turn "dark", defeat Vader and side with Palpatine (though he also tries to betray Palpatine too which ends up backfiring on Malek).  There are several DLCs you can download too, which pretty much assumes that Malke turns to the dark side at the end of the main storyline and has several non cannon missions, such as hunting down Obi Wann Kenobi on Tatooine and assasinating Luke on Hoth along with others.

Game 10 - Force Unleashed 2, particularly the Battle of Endor DLC

Though not quite as good as the first Force Unleashed game, Force Unleashed 2 is the official sequel to the first Force Unleashed game, and you basically assume the role of a cloned version of Galen Malek (the original Malek is presumably dead in the aftermath of the first game after sacrificing himself to save the rebel leaders).  In the game, Malek escapes Kamino (while being pursued by Vader and his cronies) and ultimately sets out on a mission to save is former love from the first game (apparently clones maintain memories and feelings that the host body had) and even sides with the rebels in taking on the empire.  The game does seem like it could have had been longer, though it does seem to have some epic boss battles too (my favorites were the ones where you fight a giant rancor as well as the epic duel with Darth Vader).  I also got to play through the Battle of Endor DLC pack where you assume the role of dark side Malek in his missions to take out the rebels while also battling ewoks, rebel soliders, and even storm troopers in his mission to take out the rebel leaders, Han Solo and Princess Leia.  The Battle of Endor mission was actually quite amusing, especially if you have the Jedi mind trick ability (which basically causes enemies to turn on each other) which proves quite handy throughout the level  Obviously, Force Unleashed 2's version of Return of the Jedi is not cannon, but was pretty fun and amusing to play through.  You even fight a "Jedi Master" version of Princess Leia at the end of the mission too.  In the movie version, obviously Leia had only discovered her powers (much like how Luke was in Episode 4) and was more of a learner.  Interestingly Luke never makes an appearance in the DLC version of Return of the Jedi and it is Darth Vader that gets struck by Palpatine's force lightning attack (Emperor Palpatine seemed to know about Vader's schemes to overthrow him and did obviously not take kindly to that).  There were several other DLCs, but I didn't play through them

Honorable mentions
- Star Wars Battlefront Xbox One (can't say I have played through the game yet though)
- Dark forces (played through part of the game, but not all of it)
- Jedi Knight Jedi Academy (played through part of the pc version of the game)
- Star Wars Rebellion

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Top 12 Video game and movie veteran characters (work in progress)

As you probably know, today is Veterans Day and I thought that I would do a Veterans Day themed Post.  In this post, I will pay some tribute to some well known "veterans" in the video game and movie universe.

1. Super Mario and Luigi - going on countless adventures to save the princess from an evil dragon named Bowser, bent on world domination

2. C 3PO and R2D2 as well as the Rebels in the Star Wars Trillogy -

3. Mega Man

4. Mega Man X and Zero

5. Commander Shepard - Mass Effect Series

6. Call of Duty soliders

7.  Master Chief - Halo Series

8. The Power Rangers

9.  The Avengers and Justice League

10. Sonic the Hedgehog

11. The Belmont Clan - Castlevania series

12. Bill and Lance in the Contra Series

Honorable Mentions:
- Donkey Kong
- John Marston - Red Dead Redemption
- Star Fox

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, August 16, 2015

Serbio's Castlevania Fighter Arcade Review

Hey, who here is a Castlevania series fan here?  I came across a fan made game called Castlevania Fighter Arcade Created by Serbio.  Here is a gameplay video (featuring Shanoa) below showing how the game works:

Note that Shanoa is just one of many characters you can play as in Castlevania Fighter Arcade

Before I write this review, have any of you played Mega Man Power Battles 1 or 2?   Mega Man Power Battles actually came with the Mega Man Anniversary Collection for the Xbox (probably PS2 as well).  In that game you can play either as Mega Man, Bass, or Protoman and each "level" consists of a boss fight from a previous Mega Man game usually chosen at random from previous games.  After you beat all of the robot masters, there is one Wily Castle boss, and the end boss is none other than Dr Wily himself (much like how it is in Mega Man 1-10).  Anyways, in Castlevania Fighter Arcade, you can choose from a whole host of characters to play as, such as Simon Belmont, Richter, Julius Belmont, Soma Cruz, Alucard, Shanoa, Death the Grim Reaper, and many others.  Interestingly, you can also play as non castlevania characters such as Ronald McDonald (since when was he in a Castlevania game?) and several others.  After choosing a character, you can choose a difficulty level (with beginner being the easiest mode and "nightmare" being the hardest) and then the ggame begins.  Like Mega Man Power battles, each "level" consists of a boss fight from various Castlevania games (such as Circle of the Moon, Dawn of Sorrow, Portrait of Ruin, Dracula X Chronicles, Order of Ecclesia, and others).  The boss fights chosen for each level is generally randomized (meaning you might fight different bosses in each play through) though there are definitely some recurring bosses you are likely to encounter in most if not all playthroughs.  Of course like many Castlevani games (despite not being an official castlevania game) Count Dracula (the primary antagonist in the series) is back and serves as the game's final boss and his close associate, Death the Grim reaper marks the second to final boss in the game.  Other noteworthy boss fights I have encountered includes:
- Giant bat
- Dario and Aguni (usually happens back to back of each other)
- Carmillia (from Circle of the Moon)
- Richter (plays out much like the SOTN version of Richter)
- Albus
- Stella (from Portrait of Ruin)
- Brauner (one of the primary antagonists in Portrait of ruin, besides Dracula and Death).
- Barlowe from Order of Ecclesia
- Zephyr from Dawn of Sorrow
and many others.

Pros about Castlevania Fighter Arcade
- This game is definitely going to be a hit for long time Castlevania fans in my opinion.  All of the boss fights in this game are pretty well known in the Castlevania franchise (especially for people who have played through the game).
- Multiple difficulty levels.  If you think the game is too hard, I might recommend starting with beginner mode.  Think the game is too easy, you might consider cranking up the diffiulty.  By the way, some of the characters will have a better chance of beating the game than others.
- Characters come with both basic and advanced attacks and moves.  By the way, at the Serbio website, it does list all of the characters as well as all of the moves they can perform.
- Follows the classic scheme of castlevania games.  Boss music is very similar to the ones in previous games and changes for each boss fight.  Also, this is definitely one of the few newer Castlevania games that features Dracula as the final boss.  Not every new castlevania game features dracula as the final boss.
- Leveling up system.  As you beat each boss you can use points to purchase potions, power ups, defense boosts, extra continues, etc from Renon (from Castlevania 64)  by holding the start button (I have mine mapped to the enter key) after beating a level till the screen advances to the next level.  Also, there is a unique trick where if you jump and catch orbs while attacking right after they appear, you can get bonus hit points, defense boosts, level ups, and possibly continues too (I haven't confirmed it yet).
- Bosses do have patterns they follow (much like their counterparts in the games they were in) so the game does get easier over time if you find yourself struggling.  For example, Dracuala's first and 3rd form are very similar to those in Order of Ecclesia.  Gergoth, Aguni, and Zephyr function much like themselves from Dawn of Sorrow.  Some bosses are faster though (such as Brauner) and unpredictable too (such as Richter).
-  With all of the difficulty modes and characters you can play through as, replay value is pretty high in my opinion.  By the way, Dracula has 3 forms on Beginner Mode, and 4 forms in Normal to Nightmare Modes.  Also some of the boss patterns changes by the change of difficulty.
- Multiple gameplay modes.  Besides arcade mode, there is also a survival mode, vs mode (can be useful if your computer supports 2 players), co-op survival mode, and training mode where you can test out your character's moves before playing through the game.

Cons of Castlevania Fighter Arcade
- I might recommend checking the installation requirements before downloading. Also some versions do work better than others.  By the way, I have encountered crashes of the game a few times too.  It has gotten better for me over the months and seems to be rare, but it can happen.
- No save feature.  Once you start a new game, it is recommended you have at least 1-2 hours to spare since there is no save feature.  Also, you only get a limited amount of continues (sometimes you might not start with continues at all, especially early in the game) to work with and once they run out, game is over and you will have to start over.  This can make the game extra challenging, especially as you get farther in the game and bosses get progressively harder to beat, and there are some recurring boss fights that will likely take multiple attempts to beat (some of the most challenging bosses I have encounted includes: Aguni, Stella, Brauner, Barlowe, Death, and Dracula).
- Controls can be a bit confusing at first.  By the way, there is an app that lets you configure the controls.  Also, some of the moves each character has are going to be easier to learn than others.  Consequenlty, I might recommend starting with characters with less moves such as Simon Belmont or even Ronald McDonald (he can actually hold his own in the game and is suprisingly formidable to play as too).
(more will be added over time)

Over all, I thought that Castlevania fighter arcade was a pretty fun game to play through.  It certainly is challenging and might not necessarily be for everyone, but I definitely recommend it to the many long time castlevania fans out there (at least if you have a good computer to play it on).  Sure fighting boss after boss can get repetitive and might be a turn off for some people and devoting time to play  through the entire game will likely be challenging for some people, but it is definitely one of the best fan made castlevania games I have played through.  You probably won't beat the game as every character, and you will likely find yourself having better luck with some characters than others.

If you are curious, you can check out the game at http://serio.piiym.net/cvbla/.  The game is currently free to download.

General gameplay tips (based on my experiences with the game):
- I might recommend starting the game on beginner mode (at least for your first several times through).  It can seem easy, but it lets you get familar with the game, how each boss fight plays out and it is a little more forgiving than the higher modes.  I would advise against "nightmare" mode until you are fully confident as the enemies get tougher to defeat the higher the difficulty.
- Whenever you defeat a boss, red orb will appear that you can collect to beat the stage.  Interestingly, the game has an interesting reward where if you jump and hit the attack button right after the orb appears and get the orb at the same time, the game offers bonus health, strength, hp upgrades, defense upgrades and other bonuses (possibly extra continues as well, though unconfirmed).  If you see the video near the beginning of this post, you can see what I mean (it actually works best with whip users like Simon), but if you do it correctly, you should see a good, excellent or great message when done right.  It can take several tries, but it is very useful when you get it down.
- Each boss has his or her own unique pattern of moves and attacks.  Familiarizing yourself with the enemies' attack patterns can be very useful for your success.  By the way, many of them follow the same patterns as they do in their original games.  Dracula's pattern (at least the first and 3rd form) is very similar to that in Order of Ecclesia.  In his second form, he is very much like his demon form from Circle of the Moon.  Aguni (one boss fight that will likely be a challenge for some) has several patterns.  He can swoop in one or more directions, try to swat your player, shoot fire at the player, and even try to divebomb the player (much like how he does in Dawn of Sorrow).  Dario behaves much like he does in Dawn of Sorrow (same with Zephyr).  Brauner's attacks are very similar to that in Portrait of Ruin, though he seems to be somewhat faster and some of his attacks can be harder to dodge (especially the poison attack), and he can also try to suck the player's blood too (which doesn't happen in the original game).  I will post more detailed tips on the boss fights (at least ones I have seen) in a future post.