Nintendo announces Fire Emblem Gaiden remake is coming to the Nintendo 3DS this Spring

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…Before there was Eirika and Ephraim, there was Alm (Alum in Japan) and Celica. Before Magvel, there was Valentia.

One the four new Fire Emblem titles announced in this week’s Nintendo Direct was Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia. Echoes is a remake of the 1992 game Fire Emblem Gaiden, which was only released in Japan on the Famicom (NES). it is the little-known sequel to the first Fire Emblem game. Echoes comes to the U.S. On May 19.

 

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…Of course, there are Amiibos. It’s not yet known how the Amiibos will work in regards to Echoes. In Fates, you could import Robin, Lucina, Ike, Marth and Roy using their Amiibos. Presumably an update will come to Fates so you can import Alm and Celica using their Amiibos. Both Amiibos are one set as you can see!

 

 

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Alm and Celica are both recruitable Einherjar Characters in Fire Emblem Awakening. The DLC Version of Alm comes as the DLC-Obly Dreadfighter Class.

 

There are not one but two versions of both Alm and Celica that can be recruited in Fire Emblem Awakening. The DLC Versions of both characters have unique artwork and the DLC Version of Alm comes as the Dreadfighter Class, which you can get the scroll to change to for completing the map Rogues and Redeemers 3.

The Spotpass version of Alm is a Level 20 Hero and comes with the Skills HP + 5, Zeal, Sol, Axebreaker and Aegis. The DLC Version of Alm is a level 20 Dreadfighter and comes with the Skills Resstence, Aggressor (both Dreadfighter Skills) and Rally Resistence. The Spotpass version of Celica is a level 20 Sage and comes with the Skills Magic +2, Focus, Rally Magic, Tomefaire and Dual Support+. The DLC Version of Celica is also a level 20 Sage but comes with the Skills Rightful King (in reference to her status as a Princess), Tomefaire, Aegis, Dual Support+ and Miracle.

All four versions of Alm and Celica in Awakening are like Robin and the other Einherjar Characters: They can be promoted or Class Changed to every class in the game. The DLC Version of Alm comes with a unique Class while the DLC Version of Celica comes with a unique skill.

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The original game Fire Emblem Gaiden was released in Japan on the Famicom (NES). Thanks to the magic of emulation and an English patch I found online, I started playing Gaiden the day the remake was released. I’m about halfway through Chapter 2 (Celica’s intro Chapter). It’s obvious Gaiden is where Sacred Stones and Awakening got the idea from for a traversable map. Gaiden/Echoes has two protagonists (Alm and Celica), which was brought back 11 years later in Sacred Stones (2003) with Eirika and Ephraim.

Gaiden was clearly a game ahead of its time. Much of the core features in Gaiden were brought back in later games like I said before. That said, the game IS 25 years old. Without question, it pushed the NES/Famicom to its limits. You have a “Simple” promotion tree, traversable map, separate campaigns, dungeon crawling and skills learned by leveling. Oh, and the staple Fire Emblem battle mechanics.

That was virtually unheard of 25 years ago. Gaiden was a BIG game in terms of content, which is pretty impressiven given it was one of the last NES/Famicom games released. It kinda flew under the radar even in Japan since the SNES/Super Famicom had been released the year before. To complicate things, a direct sequel to the first Fire Emblem was released on the SNES: Mystery of the Emblem. It was a remake of the original game and also came with the an all-new campaign set a few years after the first. Gaiden was virtually forgotten to time…or so it seemed.

The release of the Gaiden remake worldwide has renewed hope we may yet see Binding Blade, (Roy) Geneology of the Holy War (Sigurd and Seliph) and Thracia 776 (Lief) get released in the west. I’ll speak more to those three games in a separate post.

 

 

 

Posted in Brendan Aurabolt, Fire Emblem, NES, Nintendo 3DS, Preview, Retro Gaming, RPG, Serene Adventure, Video Games | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Nintendo of America confirms The Switch will NOT replace the Nintendo 3DS

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…To those of you thinking of putting your Nintendo 3DS down as a deposit at Gamestop for the soon to be released Switch, not so fast. Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Amie announced today the 3DS has “A long life in front of it.”

As a reminder, the 3DS was released in the U.S. on March 27, 2011 (A month and a day after its release in Japan). The Wii U was released the following year in November (US) and December (Japan). The Switch will be released on March 3, 2017 worldwide. This will be the first time since the  Game Boy Family that a handheld console will span not just one but three home consoles. The Game Boy family consoles–Game Boy, Game Boy Pocket, Game Boy Color and Game Boy Advance–spanned the NES, SNES, Nintendo 64 and the Gamecube. The 3DS Family–3DS, 3DS and New Nintendo 3DS–will span the Wii U and now the Switch.

…As it happens, I plan to buy both a Wii U (so I can retire my Wii) and a New Nintendo 3DS (so I can retire my Ambassador 3DS) by the end of this year. Of course, I also plan to buy a Switch for one game that has been announced but I’ll save that for a separate post.

Anyway back to the main topic, which is AWESOME news for 3DS owners: The 3DS has plenty of good years ahead of it. I do think Nintendo will start to push the New Nintendo 3DS a bit more next year. As of right now, it’s basically a more powerful version of the 3DS. There are no console-exclusive games to push sales. Not yet, anyway. I have a backlog of 3DS games from last year to both buy and play myself on that note. LOL.

Posted in Brendan Aurabolt, News, Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo Switch, Serene Adventure, Video Games, Wii U | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

First Look Review: World of Warcraft: Legion

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…In the 5 months since its release, Legion has been a tale of two cities. Universally viewed as having saved the franchise after the forgettable Warlords of Draenor (two raid tiers, painful rep grinding and no meaningful new content), Legion is not without its shortfalls in a few areas. I’ll get to everything by category so here we go.

Main Story – 8/10

Legion’s story picks up where Warlords of Draenor leaves off. Gul’dan is sent to Azeroth where he raises the Tomb of Sargeras and brings the Legion to Azeroth. The Alliance and the Horde suffer devastating defeat at the Broken Shore. King Varian Wrynn sacrifices himself so Alliance forces can escape and Warchief Vol’Jin dies shortly after returning to Orgrimmar, naming Sylvannas Windrunner his successor.

The fallout from the Broken Shore has the Alliance and the Horde at each other’s throats. Genn Greymane (the King of Gilneas), already has just reason to have beef with Sylvanas. For those who never made a Worgen, she killed his son Liam and devastated his homeland. Meanwhile, Sylvanas has a vested interest in the Val’kyr of the Broken Isles. As a race, the Forsaken can’t reproduce since they’re Undead. Few of the Val’kyr she recruited after the Northrend campaign remain. She travels to Stormheim in the hopes of recruiting the most powerful Val’kyr on Azeroth.

Khadgar usurps leadership of the Kirin Tor from Jaina Proudmoore, who leaves the city in disgust. With Khadgar at the helm, the Horde are allowed into the city for the first time since the Sunreavers were kicked out during the Pandaria campaign. An unexpected but powerful ally in Northrend awakens to join the fight against the Legion.

Cordana Felsong, a Warden who accompanied Khadgar during the Draenor Campaign was corrupted by Gul’dan. Now with the Burning Legion, she leads Gul’dan to the Vault of the Wardens to retrieve a certain body. Caught offguard by the Legion’s attack, Maiev decides to fight fire with fire and releases certain prisoners held captive since the fall of The Betrayer…

Broken Isles – 6/10

Almost all of the events of Legion take place on the Broken Isles, which is the land around the Broken Shore and is several miles from the Tomb of Sargeras itself. The Kirin Tor teleports Dalaran to the Broken Isles so the armies of Azeroth can take the fight directly to the Legion. Lorewise, Dalaran is above the Broken Isles (clearly visible from Azsuna, Stormheim and Suramar) but for gameplay reasons, it is also floating above Northrend. Aside from the different factions, the two Dalarans are virtually identical in layout.

Unlike Warlords of Draenor in which the questing experience was very linear, in Legion players can quest in four of the five zones in any order they want. Azsuna, Stormheim, Highmountain and Val’Sharah are the four zones for leveling. Once you start your first zone, you are locked out of the other three zones until you hit level 102 or finish the zone’s main story. The mobs level as you do. Let’s say you do Stormheim first, you’re level 103 by the time you finish the main quest chain including the dungeon at the end. You go to Azuna next, the mobs are all level 103. If you did Azsuna first, the mobs would be level 100.

When you hit level 110, Suramar is where you go. Be warned: At level 102, you will get a quest from your Order Hall that will send you to an area in Suramar but it’s a 1-way trip. Use the Dalaran Hearthstone once you’re done with the quest since all the mobs in Suramar are level 110. Each zone has their own story. The main quest chain in each zone ends with a dungeon, three of which are to retreive one of the Pillars of  Creation. You get the Tears of Elune in Val’Sharah at the end of the main quest chain but are sent into the Darkthicket to rescue Malfurion Stormrage.

 

Class Order Halls – 8/10

The battle at the Broken Shore left the Alliance and the Horde devastated. The 12 Class Orders have decided to band together, transcending faction division to fight the Legion. The player character is chosen to lead the Order Hall. Paladins of the reformed Order of the Silver Hand are based in Light’s Hope Sanctum under Light’s Hope Chapel. Hunters join The Unseen Path and gather at the Trueshot lodge hidden somewhere in Highmountain. Shaman of the Earthen Ring meet in a previously hidden cavern near the Maelstrom. Warriors become the honored guests of Odyn in Valhallas. I could go on and on for all the rest.

Order Halls make Class Lore relevant for the first time since Vanilla WoW. The Death Knights of Acherus for example reform the Four Horsemen and are backed by the new Lich King. It’s your base but you won’t be “living” there like you did with your Draenor Garrison. There are only a handful of followers you can recruit and quests take you out into the world. Order Hall Missions are prettymuch irrelevant at max level. Most take on average double the time of all the Draenor missions, which were nerfed HARD halfway though WoD.

In short, the only reason you have to visit your Order Hall on average is to modify your artifact or research Artifact Knowledge. More on that in a bit. I give Blizzard props for making classes relevant again but I share the concern of many as to if this will continue after Legion. The message being sent loud and clear is clearly “Bring the Class, not the Player” and to that I say it’s about time!

The higher end Order Hall Perks and Artifact Research take days to complete–up to a month for the last tier. More on this in a bit.

Demon Hunter Class – 9/10

Demon Hunters (DH for short) are a Hero Class–the first since Death Knights were introduced in Wrath of the Lich King. UNLIKE Death Knights (start at level 55), Demon Hunters can start questing in their theme expansion right away since they are level 100 (101 if you equip Heirlooms) when you finish the DH starting experience.

The DH story is Illidan Stormrage’s story: When the armies of Shattrath City and Azeroth led by Maiev Shadowsong attacked the Black Temple, Illidan sent the Illidari on a suicide mission to Mardun, a Legion world. The Illidari were tasked with retreiving the Sargerite Keystone, which would allow the Illidari to travel to any Legion world at will. By the time the Illidari return from Mardun, Illidan has been slain (obviously). Maiev and her Wardens imprison the Illidari along with Illidan’s body in the Vault of the Wardens forever.

…Or rather, that was the plan.

10 years pass between Illidan’s defeat at the Black Temple and the Legion’s attack on the Vault of the Wardens. Backed into a corner, Maiev decides to fight fire with fire and releases the Illidari to join the fight against the Legion. After cutting a swath of destruction through the Legion forces, the Illidari travel to Stormwind and Orgrimmar to establish diplomatic ties with the Alliance and the Horde. Only Night Elves (Alliance) and Blood Elves (Horde) can be Demon Hunters. The Demon Hunter class speaks to Illidan just like the Death Knight class speaks to the Lich King Arthas.

According to the Lore behind Illidari initiation, only 3 in 10 initiates live to become full-fledged Demon Hunters. Initiates are infused with a Demon’s soul and have three choices: Dominate and survive, go insane or die. The demon soul unleashes horrifying visions on its new host in an effort to drive them insane. Because of what they’ve seen, they gouge out their own eyes. Those who survive the initiation with their sanity intact are considered Demon Hunters. They are more demon than mortal but willingly sacrifice everything to put an end to the Legion.

 

In short, no one would willingly become a Demon Hunter under normal circumstances. As eluded in a cutscene at the end of the DH starting experience, the Illidari become Demon Hunters because they’d seen what the Legion had done to their people and didn’t want to wait around for the Legion to attack again. Lorewise, it’s not hard to believe the Illidari faction were just Night Elves until Kael’thas Sunstrider and the Sindorei joined forces with Illidan. This brought the Blood Elves into the fold during the events of The Burning Crusade.

During the Black Temple raid, most of the Illidari were on Mardun. There have been debates as to weather or not Illidan would have won if the Illidari had remained behind. Illidan’s not the type of guy to leave things to chance in my opinion. He likely sent the bulk of the Illidari away because he knew there was a very real possability he wouldn’t survive the battle. A topic I’ll get into more another time. LOL.

Before I forget, Demon Hunters only have two specs: Vengeance (DPS) and Havoc (Tank). Blizzard couldn’t think of a way to make a third spec work and decided to just keep it at two. Druids have four specs (Feral, Guardian, Restoration and Balance) so I don’t see a problem with the DH having two.

Artifact Weapons – 9/10

The third most talked-about aspect of Legion after the Legion Invasion and Demon Hunters: At the beginning of the expansion, Heroes of Azeroth will take up powerful weapons in the fight against the Burning Legion. Retribution Paladins get the iconic Ashbringer and Enhancement Shaman get the legendary Doomhammer. Frost Death Knights get the Blades of the Fallen Prince, which is forged from the shattered Frostmourne. Fire Mages get Felo’Melorn, the legendary sword last wielded by Kael’Thas Sunstrider during his battle with Arthas in Icecrown. Balance Druids get the Scythe of Elune, a relic sacred to the Worgen.

There is an Artifact for each class and spec. After you get your first artifact, you will be locked of getting the remaining artifact(s) for your class until level 102. There is an advantage to getting all the artifacts for your class. You enjoy a nice boost in power for one and second, The questlines are pretty cool anyways. Once you retrieve an artifact, it is locked into that spec. If you change specs, you will automatically unequip your artifact. If you have two or more artifacts, it will change to match your active spec.

Blizzard has said players will not have the artifacts after Legion. Speculation is rampant as to how exactly players will “lose” their artifacts.

 

Artifact Power and Artifact Knowledge – 3/10

I feel like with this–as does many others–Blizzard really dropped the ball. Artifacts are upgraded with Artifact Power (AP for short). The problem–weather you focus on just one Artifact, want to work on your offspecs or want to develop your alts–is AP comes at a slow trickle. It makes sense for about half the leveling experience. At level cap, it shouldn’t take a few days to get your next artifact trait.

Artifact Knowledge is a catchup mechanic for alts. Blizzard has promised things in this regard will improve “soon” but it’s clear Blizzard underestimated how many more folks would create a boosted character or boosted an existing character to 100. More on this revamped Boost to 100 in a bit.

Dungeons and Raids 7/10

I have only done the dungeons relevant to zone storylines during the level experience so far. As of right now, I have no plans on doing any progessive raiding in Legion, mostly because I’m currently unemployed and have no guaranteed means of playing longterm.  That aside, due to how divisive the topic of Progessive Raiding has been in WoW since the beginning I’ve decided to just wash my hands of it off the bat. I haven’t done any progressive raiding since Cataclysm. That was also the last time I did all raid tiers when they were current as well.

Gearing up by doing Mythic+ dungeons is a new standard for getting gear outside Raiding. Since many guilds are selling carries (players pay ALOT of Gold to have a group run them through Mythic+ Dungeons), many causal players have started to experience Mythic+ content. Speaking of, the new Karazhan Dungeon that went live last Fall requires players to go into several dungeons at Mythic+ difficulty to unlock it. Similar attunement should be expected for the previously announced Tomb of Sargeras Raid.

 

Mythic+ Keystones – 4/10

The four points are for the idea and intent behind Mythic+ Keystones. That’s it. The intent behind it was to add a level of challenge to repeat Mythic+ runs: For each successive Mythic+ run, everyone in the party will get a Keystone. The Keystone, when used at the start of their next Mythic+ run will put a handicap on the group. In addition, they stack when doing successive Keystone runs.

The way it was executed…I’ll put it this way: Those who Beta tested it said it needed a bit more work. Blizzard said the intent was to make each handicap feel inconvenient and frustrating the more consecutive runs you do. Mission accomplished to say the least. Of course, for a difficulty that can escalate quickly between runs there are rewards to match: There are Artifact Appearances that can only be unlocked by clearing level 10+ Mythic Keystone runs.

In addition, Mythic+ is now the new second alternative to Raiding: You get Raid quality gear from Mythic+ and Keystone runs. So, for those of you who either don’t have enough players in your guild to do 10 and 20-man raiding, you can just do Keystone runs instead to get geared. I forgot to say this before but Keystones are consumed when used. It’s a matter of deciding when to use a Keystone in short. In addition, what type of Keystone you get is decided bv how you did during your run. Wipes reduce the quality as is taking too long to finish.

 

Broken Isles Pathfinder – 3/10

…We all knew this was coming after how the Devs flip-flopped in regards to Draenor Flying. Difference is things were put in place from the beginning in terms of unlocking Flying on the Broken Isles. Like Draenor Flying, you are expected to 80% of the content to unlock Flying on the Broken Isles. In addition, it’s accountwide so one character can do it and it’s permanently unlocked. Blizzard has decided it will be the new standard for unlocking Flying from now on: On the one hand, you’re not just handed Flying and other the other hand, all who unlock it will have experienced most of what the expansion had to offer. That’s Blizzard’s reasoning behind it: “You WILL get the achievement if you want to Fly”.

Like Draenor Pathfinder, my biggest beef with The Pathfinder Method is there is no Option 2. That’s basically it if you wanna fly in the next expansion moving forward. They also satisfiy the Internet Trolls at the same time. As someone who gets the Explorer and Loremaster Achievements every expansion, I obviously have no issue with doing the actual content. Unlike Progressive Raiders I prefer taking things nice and slow.

What I DO take issue with are the reputation requirements being Revered as well as the World Quest count being 50. I have yet to get Draenor Flying for these two reasons: Rep grinding is painful and slow. When Blizzard decides to take the pain out of Rep Grinding, then my opinion will change in regards to the Rep Requirement being so high. The World Quests grant rep upon completing tasks which are themselves grindfests. It was meant to repleace the Master Treasure Hunter Meta-Achievement from Draenor (Find 100 Treasure Locations on Draenor) so you’d essentially kill two birds with one stone.

I will concede Rep Grinding is not as painful as past expansions if you do ALL of the story content first but only if you’re playing a Melee Class with some decient to good ranged options–Paladins, Death Knights or Demon Hunters–or as a Hunter or Warlock. If you main any other class, just do yourself a favor and level one of these to 110 just to unlock the achievement.

PvP – 8/10

After years of neglect, PvP got some much needed love and I don’t just mean Battlegrounds and Arenas. You can now level straight to 110 just from doing Battlegrounds now. PvP Talents are unlocked at level 110. You can then work towards unlocking some additional talents that can only be used in PvP. Well done on Blizzard’s part. My only complaint is you have to be at max level to use the PvP Talents. If you could work toward unlocking them at level 10, that would be awesome.

 

Music – 9/10

Always underappreciated in WoW is the music. My only real complaint is Blizzard doesn’t release the soundtrack on iTunes. If you want a copy, you’ll have to get it off Amazon or buy the Special Edition package. Legion’s music is beautiful and sets the tone for each zone. It makes you feel totally immersed in the Broken Isles.

 

Social Aspects – 1/10

This should come as a surprise to no one.

As much as I hate to say it, Guilds are a dated mechanic and hasn’t been relevant since Cataclysm. I know most are quick to point to Dungeon Finder (introduced halfway through Wrath of the Lich King) and Raid Finder (introduced at the end of Cataclysm) as what killed server community but I disagree with that.  I’ve played WoW since mid-Burning Crusade. LFD and LFR had an impact, yes but they weren’t the main factors. It would be more fair to say Paid Guild Transfers (introduced in Cataclysm) and Paid Faction Change (introduced in Wrath of the Lich King) killed server identity and Faction loyalty.

Most players don’t feel any sort of attachment to their faction or server and haven’t since then. This includes those who started playing WoW after that time period. If someone is toxic on their server or faction, they can simply pay $25 or $30 and move on. It never ceases to amaze me how many of the same players who knock Faction Change, LFD and LFR simply for existing are usually the same reasons said features were introduced. That and more ironically, it doesn’t directly or indirectly effect them but they feel it shouldn’t exist because others benefit from it.

The WoW Community’s grown worse since Wrath of the Lich King. Blizzard has acknowledged this. The problem is as long as the WoW Community continues to normalize Toxic Behaviors and Attitudes, the problems will only get worse. It truly is sad and pathetic there are people who have nothing better to do with their time but to make the playing experience of others as miserable as possible. This is one area Blizzard can’t micromanage for a variety of reasons. For one, WoW is an MMO. It’s played by players all over the world. There are cultural differences all over the United States to boot as well.

I’ll close this section with this: This rating will improve when the WoW Community ITSELF improves. I don’t see that happening anytime soon of course so…yeah.

Fun Factor – 5/10

…One complaint I heard alot during the two months between Legion’s release and when I finally bought it was how quickly some players were burning out. It wasn’t from running out of things to do but the exact opposite: Folks were actually complaining that there was too much to do. For reasons a rational person will probably never understand, many peoeple tried to do everything possible in a single day.

I read the first “I’m burnt out” thread on MMO-Champion a week after the expansion went live. This is the new norm Blizzard started designing expansions around about halfway through Mists of Pandaria: Players sub for new content, consume said content and then unsub, then repeat the process. No longer do you have regular players inbetween content patches. In fact, that’s now considered “dated” by the vocal minority of the WoW Community. A bit of it has to do with the Paid Boost (introduced in Warlords of Draenor) being normalized to the point players buy a paid boost to bypass the 1-100 leveling experience entirely, allowing them to jump into the current expansion’s content off the bat.

The interesting thing worth remembering is new players as well as vets and returning players can and do use the Paid Boost to 100. The problem of new and returning players boosting and not knowing their class is still there of course. It’s a problem when these players que into a dungeon and have no idea what they’re doing. Even worse is knowing they’re likely to get booted from the group simply for doing an instance for the very first time. This has been a problem since LFD was introduced back in Wrath of the Lich King.

That aside, most players did feel Legion brought alot of fun they felt was missing from Warlords of Draenor. The problem as they saw is since there’s so much to do, it was easy for them to become overwhelmed and burn out. In my case, I’m an altoholic. I play as long as I’m able ^_^

 

Replay Value – 4/10

…Which brings me to this.

The one thing I do have to agree with critics on is how unfriendly to Alts Legion is. I’m referring to Artifact Knowledge mostly. As I mentioned before, Blizzard plans to make Artifact Knowledge progress accountwide. This will make Artifact Progression for Alts a bit less painful but the problem is no timetable has been given. The longer Blizzard waits to make Artifact Knowledge accountwide, the far less likely folks will want to bother playing Legion content as more than one class. It IS alot to ask of players who play multiple classes.

That aside, there is still the problem of the dated 60-90 leveling experience. The Paid Boost allows you to skip it, this is true. At the same time, players can use Heirlooms and passive EXP boosting items along the way to quicken the leveling experience. That still doesn’t address the overarching problem with the aging 60-90 leveling experience. Many of the mechanics introduced in the last few expansions would help address the problem. The problem is after how Cataclysm’s 1-60 revamp was received, there is little to no hope of a revamp of old content. It also didn’t help Blizzard blamed spending so much time on the 1-60 revamp as the reason for the disjointed level 85 content at the time.

I feel a rant coming on so I’ll just stop there. LOL.

 

Overall – 5/10

I’ll end with this: Those who talk about WoW on the Official Forums, MMO-Champion and other websites represent a small minority of the actual WoW Playerbase. They feel since they want to be seen and heard, the silent majority’s opinion doesn’t matter. Makes no sense, I know. In regards to Legion, you really have to try it and not go off what other people say. Most have mixed opinions. Legion deserves to be tried before you draw any conclusions though.

I have about a week left of my prepaid time. I bought 90 days’ prepaid time along with Legion. I used a bit less than half of that time. I leveled one character to 110 and then lost alot of my motivation when I started working on my other level 100 chars. It was easy to see how so many players burned out in the first few weeks of the expansion.

For the second expansion in a row, I do agree with much of the criticism Legion has received from others. Not the overblown bashfests but the coherently expressed negative critique, most of which I touched on above. Legion did its job of moving WoW in a good direction. There is still much that needs to be done, however

One last thing before I forget: One of the single biggest complaints from the vocal minority has been the lack of communication from the Dev Team since Legion launched. Contray to the fan theory “The Devs don’t wanna say anything” and “The Devs think everything’s fine”, the fact is there has been alot of turnover at Blizzard over the last two and a half years. Many longtime Devs have left the team to work on one of the other Blizzard IPs (Most notably David Kosak now working on Overwatch) or another company entirely (Most famously Greg “Ghostcrawler” Street is now with Riot’s League of Legends).

The one that tops them all is Chris Metzen (also voiced Varian and Thrall) retiring shortly after Legion launched. He dropped a huge hint in that regard with the Enhancement Shaman Artifact Quest Chain: Thrall decides to fade into the sunset so he can spend time with his family after helping the player Enhancement Shaman recover Doomhammer.

With most of the original Dev Team now gone, it’s actualy become easier to predict the direction of WoW. For starters, we now know the next major patch will at least in part take place on Argus…

 

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Posted in Blizzard Entertainment, Blog, Brendan Aurabolt, MMO, MMORPG, Review, Serene Adventure, Video Games, World of Warcraft | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

My thoughts on the SAG-AFTRA Strike

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It’s been a month since the union representing Gaming’s biggest and most known English voice actors went on strike. Many of these same voice actors lend their voices to the English versions of Anime as well. To say one effects the other is no understatement.

…Unsurprisingly to me, the gaming community has been far from sympathetic toward the Voice Actors’ Guild overall. In fact, the reception has been mostly hostile toward English VAs over the strike. I’ve seen comments range from annoyance over the reason for the strike (“Who do they think they are?”) to trashing their profession (“If they want to get paid more, they should get real jobs.”).

I want to restate something I said on my Anime blog a few years back: English Voice Actors get NO RESPECT. NONE. Not from the industry. Not from gaming critics. Certainly not from gamers. They don’t do it for the money (They make far less than people think). They don’t do it for fame (Though some are famous from their various voice acting roles). They certainly don’t do it because they’re contracted to (rumor has it the main reason Persona 5’s North American release is being delayed into 2017 is because they kept having to get new VAs and have to redub the lines of certain characters).

They do what they do because they love what they do first and they want to give fans of the game a great experience second. I have met several English Voice Actors. I met David Matranga, who voices Tomoya Okazaki from Clannad (Anime version) at Anime Boston. I met Reina Strober, who voices Azura from Fire Emblem Fates through Serenes Forest. They are both wonderful people and I know that they are nothing short of dedicated to what they do.

Voice Acting in Japan is very different from Voice Acting in the U.S. in regards to video games and Anime. It’s a big business in Japan and VAs have celebrity status in general. In the U.S., VAs aren’t always properly credited for their work. Unlike in Japan, they don’t collect royalties (which they should) for dubbing video games but they do for Anime. Only a handful of English VAs are well known such as Mark Hamill, Johnny Bosch Young, Luci Christian and Crispin Freeman. Of them, only Johnny Bosh Young and Mark Hamill don’t have to take several VA jobs to make ends meet: Johnny collects royalty checks from his days as a Power Ranger and Mark played Luke Skywalker in the first Star Wars Trilogy (Funny thing is he’s mostly voiced villains during his VA career).  Most English VAs are also live actors but some work normal jobs.

…Look, I’m well aware most gamers don’t give a damn about the people who make the video games they play, let alone the VAs. More shamefully, there is a growing belief I’ve noticed online where gamers have adopted an entitlement mentality. Let’s Play videos and review sites like Metacritic have alot to do with this. Basically, many gamers feel that if a video game doesn’t have everything they think it should have, they shouldn’t have to pay the sticker price or even at all.

It would be one thing if they didn’t want to buy the game. The problem is they WANT to play it but they don’t want to pay for it. “Why should I have to pay $40-$60 for a game when there’s only 1-3 things I like about it?” Last I checked, only reason is the only reason you really need to buy something. Regardless of the price, if you want it that bad you WILL buy it. For some reason, gamers have developed an entitlement mnentality where if they want to play a game but don’t want to play for it, they’re justified turning to piracy.

Speaking of which: Nintendo dropped the Banhammer on some gamers with hacked 3DS consoles who broke the street date with Pokemon Sun and Moon last week. What happened is apparently they used an exploit to play game after pre-downloading the game ahead of its official release (which is legal). The problem is they used 3rd party software to decrypt the game after it was downloaded onto the SD Card to unlock the game. Every 3DS with the hacked game file was banned when they tried to connect to the eShop. Unsurprisingly, the gamers blamed Nintendo for banning them. The audacity of people who refuse to take personal responsability for their own stupidity.

Anywho, It’s been about 20 years since voice acting started to became the norm in video games in the U.S. The first game I played with English Vocals was Starfox 64 in 1997 (Technically it was Mario Kart 64 the year before). Two years later, I played Metal Gear Solid. Can you imagine Metal Gear Solid being such a cult classic without David Hayter as Solid Snake? Almost 10 years later, I played Tales of Symphonia for the Gamecube. Scott Melville voiced Lloyd Irving and Cam Clarke voiced Kratos Aurion. Can you imagine if they weren’t voiced? Would the game have been as memorable to those who played it? How about Persona 4 Golden for the Vita? Fire Emblem Awakening for the 3DS? I could go on.

Me, I support SAG-AFTRA.

I’ve met many English voice actors from both Anime and video games over the last 7 years, mostly at Anime Boston. If you met them, you’d find it hard to believe they voice some of Anime and Video Games’ most memorable characters. They’re humble, down to earth and most are gamers themselves. Even so, they don’t let it go to their heads. Well…except maybe Greg Ayers. I’ve met him several times so I can say that. LOL.

You could easily make the arguement I’m being partial but it stands to reason. I feel like the open hostility I see online sets a dangerous precident for anyone considering getting into voice acting at all. The advent of the internet and social media opened the door to fan dubs. As someone who scoffed at fan-dubs until last year, I have since come to appreciate talent when I see and hear it. When an Anime doesn’t get an official dub, it falls to dedicated fans to do an unofficial dub of the anime. They do it knowing they won’t get paid and will oftentimes have to content with a DMCA Takedown when they put it on You Tube. They do it for their fellow fans.

The way I see it, when you disrespect official English VAs you disrespect Fan VAs too. You’re basically telling those who Fan Dub they’re wasting their time trying. Most official VAs have alot of respect for Fan VAs believe it or not. They were there themselves at one point. One thing almost every single VA I’ve spoken to has said is if you wanna get noticed, you need to record yourself and post it online for feedback. Don’t try to sound like the character’s original VA, just be yourself.

I’ve been looking at recording some lines myself but everytime I seriously sit down and type some lines, I have an ailment that effects my throat and nose like a cold. It’s true I’ve recorded videos while not 100%. That’s different since I’m not reading from a script. I wouldn’t dare record something that’s meant to be scripted unless I have clear airways!

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Nintendo confirms Wii U production in Japan is ending “Soon”

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…I’m probably the only person who was legit surprised by the news Gamespot confirmed over the weekend.

Kotaku reported two weeks back Nintendo was ending production of the Wii U. Originally released in November 2012, the Wii U failed bombed hard on both sides of the Pacific. The console sold 13 million units worldwide–a fraction of the 101 Million its predecessor, the Wii sold. Gamespot not only confirmed the Wii U is being phased out but there will be no more shipments to North America. The wording used was “No more shipments to North America are planned for the fiscal year” but we should assume the console’s being phased out completely in favor of the Switch (formerly called NX), which will be released in March 2017.

While the Wii U was a bit less of a gmmick compared to its predecessor, it’s easy to see why it failed so epically. The name ALONE begged that it not be taken seriously. The other problem with the name choice: The non-gamers who didn’t know the Wii and the Wii U were two different consoles. In almost every trip I took to Gamestop, I saw confused parents walk between the Wii games (which you can play on the Wii U) and the Wii U games (which you CAN’T play on a Wii), confused as to why they were both named “Wii” if they were different consoles.

It didn’t help the Wii U has a lineup mostly saturated with ports and HD Re-releases of older games (The Wii U was Nintendo’s first HD console). The Vita had the same problem on that note (LOL). It also didn’t help Nintendo 3DS consoles did most of what the Wii U did better to the point several noteworthy Wii U games have been getting ported to the 3DS (Hyrule Warriors says Hi ^_^).

Between the 3DS and the Wii U, the handheld was clearly Nintendo’s main cash cow since its release back in 2011. I have two 3DS consoles and around 100 games between them so I’m not complaining (LOL!). At the end of the day, gamers just weren’t feeling the Wii U. From what we know about the Nintendo Switch so far, it would be fair to wonder if the Wii U’s poor sales were considered acceptible losses from the beginning. The Wii U sold at a loss out the gate from the very beginning.

It’s no wonder Super Smash Bros. was released on both the 3DS and the Wii U. The same team worked on both games but the 3DS version sold more copies.The Wii U’s poor sales is also likely the real reason Nintendo asked Intelligent Systems (2nd party company that makes the Fire Emblem games) to backtrack on their original plans to release what became Fire Emblem Awakening on the Wii U and released it on the 3DS instead.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say Nintendo is making the same mistakes Sega made 20 years ago in regards to oversaturating the market with hardware but the Wii U had the shortest lifespan in Nintendo’s 32-year history in the console making business: 4 years. The Wii lasted 6 years (2005-2011), the Gamecube lasted 5 years (2001-2006), the Nintendo 64 lasted 5 years (1996-2001), the SNES lasted 5 years (1990-1995) and the NES lasted 7 years (1984-1991).

With all of the older consoles–including the Wii–it’s fairly easy to come up with a list of 10, 25 or 50 games (in the case of the NES and SNES) that you wanted to own the console just to play. The Gamecube has Tales of Symphonia, Super Mario Sunshine and Super Smash Bros. Melee. The Nintendo 64 has Goldeneye 007, Banjo-Kazooie and Ocarina of Time. The SNES has Super Mario RPG, F-Zero and Donkey Kong Country. The NES has Techmo Bowl, anything Super Mario Bros. and Contra.

I could easily list at least a dozen more for all of those consoles. The Wii U? Skyward Sword (rumored to be getting ported to the floundering New Nintendo 3DS), Super Smash Bros. Wii U (3DS version has sold more copies) and Mario Kart 8 (lowest-selling game in the franchise). So, yeah. It looks like Nintendo is starting to cut their losses with the Wii U and putting it all on the Switch.

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Nintendo can make all the new Hardware they want but it won’t mean a thing unless they backwater online networking system. The eShop (and the WiiConnect24 before that) is the most restrictive system compared to everything else out there. You’re basically punished for owning multiple hardware. I have two 3DS consoles but have two Nintendo IDs because it’s one ID per 3DS + Wii U pair. I have two Vitas, too but I don’t have the same problem. Don’t even get me started on iTunes and Android/Google.

I’ll say it again: As long as Nintendo insists on punishing gamers for owning multiple consoles–making transferring data and games between consoles 1-way and tedious–the Switch will be doomed to fail from the start.

I’m speaking mostly to the Virtual Console games if you wanna talk specifics. The Nintendo 3DS doeesn’t have Game Boy Advance games. The Wii U does even though it’s a CONSOLE emulating HANDHELD games. The New Nintendso 3DS can play SNES VC games but if you have a Wii or Wii U (or a SNES console), that means little to you. Early reports say Game Boy Advance, Genesis and select Nintendo DS games will be added to the New Nintendo 3DS (as a reminder, the 3DS family consoles are 100% compatible with physical Nintendo DS games).

To those who only care about the present and future of console gaming, think about this: The Playstation 2 was the first console to have backwards comapatability with its predecessor’s physical games. The Dreamcast had a library of select Genesis, Sega CD and Game Gear games you could download and play. All three of the current gen consoles–PS4/PS4.5, Xbox One/Xbox One S and the Wii U–have both backwards compatability with their predecessor’s physical games and the ability to buy and download games from older consoles (PS1, PS2 and the original Xbox). Vita owners can also buy and download select PSP games–85% of the original library–which is more than could be said for even the New Nintendo 3DS.

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…The next 12 months will be a buyer’s market for anyone looking to get a good deal on a Wii U or a New Nintendo 3DS. I think Nintendo will try to push the New Nintendo 3DS again next year while they quietly phase out the Wii U. I bought my PS3 after the PS4 was released so…yeah. I’m mainly buying a Wii U so I can transfer Virtual Console games off my Wii, which is what I mostly use for. The Wii U was a lot of good ideas that fell far short of both investors’ expactations and gamers’ expectations. Hopefully, the Switch will fare better. At the same time, the 3DS continues to defiantly prove beyond a doubt handhelds CAN thrive despite the lucrative mobile market.

 

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Review: Warcraft (Movie, 2016)

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…It took Blizzard TEN YEARS to deliver on the promise it made back in 2006 that there would be a Warcraft movie. In the decade since then, the world was introduced to the Lord of the Rings Trilogy and its prequel trilogy The Hobbit. One of the biggest praises fantasy fans had for the LOTR movies was their depiction of elves.

…On the other hand, one of the biggest complaints fantasy fans had with LOTR was its depiction of Orcs:

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Fans of the Orcs of the Warcraft universe had reason to be concerned when Blizzard announced a movie would come. Here is an early picture of Warcraft’s Orcs:

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Of course, the Warcraft universe’s Orcs were very different from the ones in LOTR. In the 2000 game Warcraft III, it’s revealed the Orcs are not the bloodthirsty killing machines they had come to think of themselves as only being good for. One of, if not the biggest point of critique fans of the Warcraft universe would have for a Warcraft movie is getting the Orcs right. It’s an iconic race and as has been revealed in the 16 years since Warcraft III, they have a rich and deep history steeped in honor and tradition.

I’m pleased to say Legendary pictures got it right.

Given Blizzard co-founder Chris Metzen co-produced the movie, of course they’d get it right. Having finally seen the movie for myself for the first time on DVD a few week ago, it truly was a labor of love. It’s both recognizable to Warcraft fans and accessible to those who know nothing of the Warcraft universe. It will help those who don’t “get” it understand the World of Waraft. *Rim shot*

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The movie itself loosely follows the plot for the first game Warcraft: Orcs & Humans. Some changes were made, mostly due to time constraints that are different from the established lore from the video games and novels (Lord of the Clans and The Old Horde). Here are the changes:

 

  • Dalaran is a floating city in the movie. This doesn’t happen in the official lore until the beginning of the events of Wrath of the Lich King when the Kirin Tor moves the city to Northrend.
  • Khadgar is a Mage who left the Kirin Tor to investigate Fel Magic. In the game’s lore, Khadgar is sent by the Kirin Tor to Medivh’s tower to be his apprentice and one day become the new Guardian.
  • Blackhand, Warchief of the Blackrock Clan loses his left hand when Lothar blows it off with a boomstick (gun). This is actually a reference to Kargath Bladefist, another Orc who is Warchief of the Shattered Hand Clan (so named because they maim themselves by cutting off a hand and outfit the limb with a bladed weapon). Little was known about the original Kargath until Warlords of Draenor: It’s revealed Kargath maimed himself and cut off his right hand to escape from an Orge coliseum and free his fellow clansmen. Kargath himself doesn’t appear in the movie so Blackhand getting maimed in a nod to him.
  • Stormwind City is not approached by the Horde. In the game’s lore, the First War ends in victory for the Horde after they sack Stormwind and burn the city. Its citizens are led by Anduin Lothar to Lordaeron and the young crown prince, Varian Wrynn.
  • King Llane is killed my Garona on his request so her life will be spared by the Horde. In the game’s lore, King Llane is murdered by Garona in Stormwind, which turned the tide of the war in the Horde’s favor.
  • Medivh opens the portal to Draenor from Karazhan. In the game’s Lore, Medivh opens the portal to Draenor in the Black Morass.
  • Medivh is poisoned by the Fel Magic he tried to contain and is ultimately put down by Khadgar and Lothar. In the game’s Lore, Medivh was Sargeras’ vessel and used Medivh as a pawn to bring the Orcs to Azeroth.
  • Khagar survives his battle with Medivh unscathed. In the game’s Lore, Medivh magically ages Khadgar into an old man before Medivh is overpowered and then decapitated by Khadgar.
  • It’s heavily implied but never outright said the half-Orc half-human Garona may in fact be Medivh’s daughter. In the game’s lore, Garona is half Orc and half-Draenei. She is revealed in the Warcraft comic to be the niece of Vindicator Maraad, whose sister was raped by one of Gul’dan’s underlings. The child born as a result was magically aged by Gul’dan and trained as an assassin. Her connection to Medivh? The comic-only Me’dan, who was born to Garona after she had an affair with Medivh is their child and temporarily became the new Guardian. Officially, Medivh was the last recognized Guardian of Azeroth.
  • Orgrim Doomhammer wields the iconic Doomhammer, which has the Frostwolf Clan’s logo etched in it. In the game’s lore, Thrall was the last person the wield Doomhammer until the beginning of the current expansion Legion. The Frostwolf Clan’s logo was added by Thrall after he became the World Shaman.

Those are the noteworthy ones that immediately come to mind. There are references and nods for Warcraft fans throughout the film  as well.

Here are just a few of the noteworthy ones:

  • Varian Wrynn makes a cameo appearance as a child. He ultimately succeeds his father as King of Stormwind.
  • Chris Metzen had a cameo but due to time constrains, his cameo ultimately didn’t make the cut and was released on YouTube.
  • Orgrim and Durotan “hand in” two sacks full of Draenei skulls at the Dark Portal on Draenor. This is an obvious reference to various types of kill quests in WoW (“…And bring me proof of your kills while you’re at it”). The scene is not in the movie but is part of the Deleted/Extended Scene Reel.
  • Warsong Clan Warchief Grommash Hellscream speaks to Orgrim and Durotan the night before Gul’dan opens the Dark Portal. He talks about how Gul’dan’s Fel magic made him stronger and reccommends they do the same. Orgrim declines and makes a joke about his green skin in response. The scene is not in the movie (cut for time) but is part of the Deleted/Extended Scene Reel.
  • By the way, Grom does appear in the movie and is easily recognized but has no speaking roles outside the deleted scene. He wields Gorehowl (later wielded by his son, Garrosh) during the second and final clashes between the Horde and the Alliance.
  • Lothar getting exhausted climing the steps ar Karazhan is a reference to the winding stairway players climb in the Karazhan Raid in World of Warcraft.
  • Moroes is actually one of the bosses in the recently released Kharazan 5-man Mythic-Only Dungeon in Legion. Echo of Medivh is the final boss.
  • Medivh’s demonic appearance during his battle with Khadgar and Lothar is a nod to his in-game self, which was possessed by the Dark Titan Sargeras before birth.
  • Khadgar and Lothar coordinating in their fight with Medivh is an obvious reference to boss encounters in World of Warcraft. Lothar “Taunts” the Golem off Lothar and “Kites” it to a certain spot in the room.
  • The flash of golden light that surrounds Khadgar after Medivh is subdued is a reference to the level-up animation in Blizzard games when a character levels up.
  • Go’el (Thrall) being found by humans at the end of the movie mirrors his fate after his parents are killed in the game’s Lore: The newborn Thrall is found by Lord Aedelas Blackmoore of Lordaeron and raised to be a pitfighter and gladiator. Thrall would later become Warchief of the New Horde after the Third War.
  • The theme music from World of Warcraft plays during the credits (See Below).
  • Before I forget: A Murloc appears near the beginning of the movie. Murlocs are an iconic part of the Warcraft franchise.
  • When the movie was in theaters, players who logged into World of Warcraft as Alliance and Horde got weapon appearances used in the movie plus an achievement per faction (Fight for the Horde and Fight for Alliance respectively). Alliance players got the sword and shield appearances, which can be used separately or together by certain classes (Alliance Only). Horde players got the two-handed Horde Battle Axe and Gul’Dan’s Staff (!), which can be used by certain classes (Horde Only).
  • Speaking of Gu’dan: Those who buy the home release get a voucher to unlock him as a playable character in Blizzard’s Heroes of the Storm game (100% Free to Play), which is basically Blizzard’s verion of DOTA and League of Legends using characters from all of their franchises (Warcraft, Starcraft, Diablo, Overwatch and even Lost Vikings!).

…I coould go on. I’m gonna ramble for a bit so I’ll give my review now. I give the Warcraft movie (2016) a 10/10. It was well worth the wait in my book and deserves a followup movie ^_^

Here is World of Warcraft’s iconic theme music Legends of Azeroth:

While the Warcraft movie did well internationally and ultimately broke even, it could very well share the same fate as The Last Airbender (movie adaptation of the first season of Avatar: The Last Airbender): Not a bust but not profitable enough to do the sequel. To top it off, the movie wasn’t mentioned at all at BlizzCon earlier this week.

At this point, Legendary Pictures and Blizzard have three options as I see it:

  1. Release the next movie in theaters (They’d have to be real confident it will at least do better than the first).
  2. Make the next movie straight to DVD/Blu-Ray (Not confident it would do well in theaters but have the funding to make it anyway)
  3. Make all successive films animated but with the voice actors from the movie (far cheaper than live-action and would open the door to making several movies in succession)
  4. Make all successive films the same as the opening cinematics for World of Warcraft’s expansions (see below).

Before I continue, here is Legion’s Opening Cinematic for reference:

It is worth noting moviegoers got a voucher to play World of Warcraft up to the previous expansion, Warlords of Draenor + 30 days prepaid time (as well as having the option to upgrade to Legion of course). It’s called the Warcraft Battle Chest, which grants you the game up to previous expansion and 30 days prepaid time. It would normally cost you $30 + $15, $41 or $67 for a 1, 3 or 6 month sub (recurring or prepaid) + $50 if you want to upgrade to the current expansion (In this case, Legion).

It’s cross-promotion and is actually a clever way of allowing those who watched the movie but are unfamilliar with the Warcraft universe to explore Azeroth fans have come to know and love as a member of the Alliance or Horde (or both if you want). There are 13 playable races, 12 classes and 3 worlds to explore (Azeroth, Outland and Draenor). As someone who started playing WoW almost 10 years ago, there’s something for everyone in my honest opinion.

Anywho, those who buy the home release (DVD or Blu-Ray) get the same voucher. I used mine and can confirm it can also be used to upgrade Starter Edition accounts (Starter Accounts can play for free up to level 20 as well as other restrictions) to the full game and gives it 30 days. Those who buy the home release will also get serial codes to unlock Gul’dan as a playable character in Heroes of Storm (as I mentioned before) and a Medivh card in the Hearthstone card game (100% Free to play). A Battle.net account and a computer are required to redeem the serial codes.

…Like I said before though, it’s up in the air as to weather or not we will see another Warcraft movie. The movie franchise wasn’t mentioned at BlizzCon and that isn’t a good sign for those wishing for a sequel.

Mind you, I WANT a sequel.

The story can branch off into several directions. The common fan theory is the second movie is it will focus on the divisions within the Horde eluded to at the end of the first movie and the formation of the Grand Alliance (Lordaeron, Stormwind, Ironforge, Gnomeregan, Quel’thalas, Arathor, Alterac, Kul Tiras and Gilneas). Arthas and Thrall would also be introduced for the roles they would play later. It would end with the Horde being defeated and the death of Gul’dan at the Tomb of Sargeras. They could actually bring back the guy who played Medivh to play Uther the Lightbringer.

The third movie would focus on Thrall’s rise as the new chieftain of the Frostwolf Clan (as eluded to at the end of the fist movie) and getting Doomhammer from Orgrim, leading Orcs to Kalimdor where they meet the Tauren and form the New Horde. Orcs’ story would end with Thrall and Grom slaying Mannoroth. The Human side would cover the rise of the Scourge in Lordaeron and Arthas’ battles with Mal’Ganis. It would end with Arthas getting Frostmourne and his return to Lordaeron…as a Death Knight. The movie would end with the Night Elves being officially introduced after being eluded to during the Orcs’ story where Tyrande and Malfurion meet Thrall and Jaina, agreeing join forces with them to fight Archimonde and the Burning Legion.

The fourth movie would focus on the fallen kingdom of Lordaeron and the Death Knight Arthas conquering Quel’Thalas as well as the long-secluded Night Elves stepping out of the shadows to fight with the Horde and the Burning Legion. Illidan Stormrage would also be introduced. The Forsaken break away from the Scourge as the Sindorei work with Illidan to attack the Frozen Throne. The movie ends with Arthas dueling Illidan Stormrage and then becoming the Lich King himself.

…This would catch the story up to the beginning of the lore in World of Warcraft.

If there is a 5th movie, it could be titled World of Warcraft and cover major Lore events from the beginning of WoW to the beginning of the current expansion at the time it’s made. It would be from the point of view of Adventurers narrating different stories to tell one. It would be powerful and introspective.

This ended up going longer than planned but the Warcraft story is a pretty immersive one ^_^

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Codename no more: Nintendo formally introduces its next console to the world

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For the last 3 and a half years, it was known simply by its codename “NX”.

This past Thursday, Nintendo unveiled the console by its official name: The Nintendo Switch.

…Let us all take a moment to sigh in relief Nintendo didn’t put the word “Wii” in the name of the new console (LOL!).

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I want to direct your attention to these 3 images: Nintendo seems to have finished a concept they originally introduced with the Gamecube and Game Boy Advance: A true Hybrid System. Back then, you could connect a Game Boy Advance console to a Gamecube to play certain games using both screens.

…Once again, Nintendo set the bar everyone else will soon follow. Sony actually tried to apply the same concept with the Vita, PS3 and PS4 but felt the rapidly growing mobile market was too much of a threat to their handheld division to invest in the Vita beyond its development. Sony wasn’t willing to give their hansheld, which had superior specs to the 3DS Family Consoles (including the New Nintendo 3DS) much attention and left the console to 3rd party companies.

…A mistake Sony can now correct IF they want to.

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Back to the Switch, above are all of the known 3rd Party Companies that got a Dev kit for the NX or soon will. It’s worth noting all though Skyrim was shown as part of tbe Switch’s tech demo Bethesda has neither confirmed or denied if Skyrim or Fallout 4 will be coming to Nintendo’s new console.

That said, here is everything known for sure about the Nintendo Switch:

  • The console will be released worldwide on March 17, 2017.
  • The Switch is NOT backwards compatable with physical Wii U or 3DS games. Digital versions of games for both consoles are a possability.
  • The Switch’s physical games will use cartridges, making it the first time since the Nintendo 64 a home console will not use Discs.
  • It WILL have Amiibo support
  • The LCD Screen is the main part of the console, not the Dock
  • The LCD Screen can be detatched from the Dock to switch to portable gaming (hence the name of the console, Switch); when it’s in the dock players can play games on their TVs
  • The controllers are called Joy-Con Controllers and each console comes with two. There are apparently multiple ways to use them akin to the Nintendo 64 and Wii Remote + Nunchuk Controllers.
  • The Switch will be a companion Console alongside the Wii U and the 3DS, not a replacement for both.
  • Nintendo will support the Switch, the 3DS and the Wii U all at the same time.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was confirmed earlier this year as coming out for both the Wii U and the Switch.

…That’s it so far.

If I had to guess, the Switch is to Nintendo what the Playstation Pro and Vita Slim are to Sony: Suped up versions of existing tech. This is Nintendo we’re talking about. They don’t have a problem throwing money at its third home console in 12 years (The Wii was released in 2005 and the Wii U was released in 2012). I say more power to ’em for doing what Sony felt was too expensive to attempt. LOL.

Since the Switch is being branded as a “Companion” to the 3DS and Wii U, don’t go selling your Wii U/3DS if you have one. In fact, cross-play should be expected at some point. While we don’t yet know the specs, it’s unlikely the cost will top $350 (the 32GB Wii U’s launch price). Unlike Sony and Microsoft, Nintendo tries to keep the prices of their consoles competative. That aside, the battery life of the LCD screen would be important: Most laptops can be optimized to hold a battery charge for as much as 12 hours with some models. The Switch’s LCD screen needs to be able to hold a charge for at least 6 straight hours in my book.

As of right now, I am unemployed so I can’t buy the Switch even if I wanted to. Before that, I’ll buy a Wii U. Gotta do things in order and all that more or less (LOL!). That and I’m ready to retire my Wii. And my Xbox 360. And my PS3. Gamespot and IGN are falling over themselves running spculation about the console and what they think it means for Nintendo’s future. To that, all I can say is the future looks good ^_^

 

 

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Review: Harvest December (Nintendo 3DS)

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…It’s not every day a Visual Novel is released on a console, let alone a Nintendo console. As the game’s lead male protagonist says, Reality is Merciless.
When I played the demo early last month–the first Episode–I knew I wanted the full game. The problem was I was broke and my last paycheck was 6 months earlier. As luck would have it, a random deposit into my checking account gave me the means to buy the full game from the eShop. I pulled an all-nighter last night so I could finish the Final Episode. After watching the final scene and sleeping for 6 hours, I immediately set to work on some Fan Fiction based on Harvest December. LOL.

Let me back up a bit and explain the flow of the game. The story spans 13 Episodes, each with their own chapters. Each episode tells a story but they are all connected and part of a larger story. Harvest December, the title Episode sets the stage for the 12 Episodes that follow: High School student Masaki Konno, who recently moved to the remote town of Tagami finds himself the love interest of Yuki Towada–heiress of the powerful Towada Family–and Shiro–The God of Tagami–but the problem is he doesn’t love either of them back. Masaki’s indecisiveness puts him at odds with not only them but many others as well.

Here is an overview of each Episode. There are minor spoilers:

  1. Harvest December: Told from Masaki Konno’s point of view. Most of the cast is introduced. Those who download the Demo can enjoy the full Episode from start to finish.
  2. Boundaries January: Told from Mizuho Touyama’s point of view. Mizuho meets Madoi, the God of Sakashima and decides to help him regain his lost powers.
  3. Gifting February: Told from Sanae Morino and Masaki’s points of view. Sanae comes to terms with her feelings toward Kouhei Touyama and decides to confess her feelings to him.
  4. Lovely March: Told from Masaki’s point of view. Yuki’s mother Mashiro sets up Masaki and Yuki to babysit a baby for a week. The two come to terms with the shortcomings they feel for both themselves and each other along the way.
  5. Typhoon in April: Shiro’s daughter Ao Tagami returns to town to reclaim his heart. Ao and Masaki, who met before Masaki moved broke up in the past. Masaki’s cousin Nuki is also introduced.
  6. Combat in May: Madoi’s older sister Mayoi returns after being away for 100 years. An eccentric but brilliant woman, Mayoi challenges Shiro in a fight but things don’t exactly go as planned.
  7. Bridal June: Told from Kouhei Touyama and Masaki’s point of view. Kouhei confesses to having been aware of Sanae’s feelings for him for some time now. The problem is he is not ready to make up his mind yet. To further complicate things, two other girls are vying for Kouhei’s heart as well. Shiro’s foretelling of what may lie in store for them points to the coming Winter season.
  8. Theological July: Told from Masaki’s point of view. Even though it’s summer, the weather has suddenly become winter. The reason: Shiro has lost her powers as a God and is little more than an ordinary human. Masaki’s father Takaki Konno, who has come to town to research Shiro proposes a plan that may work.
  9. Festive August: Told from multiple points of view. Masaki, Yuki, Shiro and their friends and family travel to Rokushiki Island. There they hope to help Shiro regain her lost powers. They meet new friends and things take an unexpected turn during the anual festival they arrives to take part in. Things are complicated further when Shino and Yuki make a shocking revelation after they return home.
  10. Maternal September: Told from Masaki’s point of view. Something strange is going on in Tagami. Yet another girl named Yukari makes her feelings for Masaki known. Much to his surprise, both Shiro and Yuki give their permission for him to date her for a month.
  11. Disunion in October: Told from multiple points of view. It’s School Festival time at Tagami High! The time for both Masaki and Kouhei to choose which of girl they will give their heart to is fast approaching. The inescapable truth they both accept is no matter what they decide, someone’s heart will be broken.
  12. Parting November: Winter has come a few weeks early in Tagami. Both Masaki and Kouhei learn there is a heavy price to pay for their indecision. Someone his brutally injured, Shiro and Yuki both leave Masaki and suddenly the promise made a year ago feels distant.
  13. Perfect December: The time has come for Masaki and Kouhei to choose who they will give their hearts to. The happiness they felt so close not too long ago feels so distant. As the year comes to a close, Masaki must decide what price he is willing to pay to show the one he loves how much he loves her.

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…I was tempted to go into more detail than that. Out of respect for the story I held back enough to not give too much away.

August takes place outside Tagami for the reaons given and several new characters exclusive to that Episode are introduced. Masaki is clearly his father’s son. That becomes clear when he’s introduced in July. The shocking revelation in August plays out for the rest of the series.

If I had to compare it to another VN, it’s similar to Clannad in terms of flow minus choice points. August and Perfect December are the longest chapters for separate reasons. The other Episodes separately take several hours to complete regardless and yes, there is an auto-scroll feature that you can toggle off and on.

Overall, I give Harvest December a 9/10. An in-game Glossary and Sound Library would have been nice additions. I would have paid an extra $5 to get both. It is worth noting this game was previously released in Japan a few years ago. It was released in the West on Android, iOS and the Nintendo 3DS. The 3DS port is the visual novel’s first release in the U.S. and you get all of the episodes at once. Those who play the demo get a look at how things looked when each Episode was released on a monthly basis.

It was originally released over a period of time but in the 3DS version you get all of the Episodes together in one package. I checked the game’s Mii Verse portal and apparently, there are alternate endings planned for Ao (Japanese for Blue) and Shiro as well as Kouhei & Sanae together. What I’m hoping for is a sequel given the game’s ending sets the stage for a whole new story. Reality is merciless!

Posted in Anime, Blog, Brendan Aurabolt, Nintendo 3DS, Review, Serene Adventure, Video Games, Visual Novels | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Visual Novels: A unique way to tell a compelling story


As many of you Anime fans might have heard–hopefully from my blogs–The Clannad Visual Novel was released on Steam last Fall. It was an important moment for Visual Novels being released in North America as Clannad had name recognition thanks to the anime, which itself is based on the Visual Novel. Western fans could now enjoy Clannad in its original form. That said, Clannad wasn’t the first VN to get a Western release and likely won’t be the last. Even though its Western release comes over 10 years after its original release in Japan and 8 years after the release of the Anime, the Clannad VN coming to Steam is a big step forward for the medium known as Visual Novels (VN short).

Predominantly used in Japan, Visual Novels are exactly what the name implies: A story told with pictures and music. Most VNs have choice points to make the VN interactive, in many cases meaning branching storylines and multiple endings. This adds a layer of replay value to the VN, which is technically considered a video game. Almost all VNs are on the PC though in recent years VNs have been getting released on or ported to consoles, making them far more accessible than they were in their early years in Japan.

While VNs are technically video games, they appeal to the non-gaming crowd more because of how simple and easy to get into they tend to be. While most gamers in both sides of the Pacific think of sexually explicit content in VNs, this is only part of the format. Like Anime and Manga, VNs are a format and not a genre. This is why I made the clear distinction between the Anime and VN versions of Clannad. The story is mostly unchanged but there are two different formats.

I posted this not just to talk about VNs but because I’ve decided to cover VNs on both this blog and my Anime blog. This is something I’d been thinking about since I got the Clannad VN last year. So I’ve decided If a VN is released on a console but doesn’t have an Anime and/or Manga, I will cover it here. If it’s released on the PC including Steam or has a Manga and/or Anime, I will cover it on my Anime blog. I do want to say I will NOT cover Sexually Explicit VNs on my blog. That’s not my thing anyway. If there are suggestive moments that’s one thing but nothing beyond that.

 

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Posted in Anime, Brendan Aurabolt, Serene Adventure, Video Games, Visual Novels | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Pokemon X, Y OR and AS Holo Caster Feature Now Offline

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I light of the news the PGL is shutting down later this month, this should come as no surprise. Serebii.net reported Sunday the in-game Holo Caster Feature, which was used to share news, promotions and updates with players is now offline. Players who use the Holo Caster feature will be greeted with the message “This feature has been discontinued”.

…At this point, those who have X/Y/OR/AS–or all four games like I do–can and should now disable the X/Y/OR/AS Streetpass. It will have to be done manually from the 3DS Settings App. PokeMiles no longer have a purpose since PGL going offline sometime this month in preparation for Pokemon Sun and Pokemon Moon.

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…Those of you with Pokemon Bank can relax: Your Pokemon will be unaffected. The Pokemon Company announced there will be an update to Poke Transporter that will allow players to send Pokemon from the Gen 1 Games (Red, Blue and Yellow) to the Seventh Gen games (Sun and Moon) but NOT the 6th Gen Games (X, Y, OR and AS). In addition, players will also be able to send Gen 6 Pokemon to Gen 7 but it will be 1-way.

Presumably, it will be a large update because of the changes being made and will hopefully make Poke Bank the standard for players to manage their Pokemon across multiple games and gens. First, the coding will be added to enable players to transfer Pokemon from Gen VI to Gen VII. It’ll be a 1-way transfer so it’ll be quick and easy. Presumably there will be some in-game gating like Gens 4 and 5 where you need to clear the main game first (Gen 5) or See every Pokemon in the Alola Pokedex (Gen 4). There was no such gating in Gen 6 in regards to Gen 5 thankfully (LOL!) and I hope the trend continues. I think there will be gating since almost everyone getting Sun/Moon likely has X/Y/OR/AS too.

The other Pokemon Bank update, which I think is both complex and interesting is the update to Poke Transporter. Currently, this is the App used to transfer Pokemon from the 5th Gen Pokemon games (Black, White, Black 2 and White 2) to the 6th Gen via Poke Bank. The update will allow players to transfer Pokemon from the 1st Gen Red/Blue/Yellow to the 7th Gen Sun/Moon but NOT the Sixth Gen. I can only assume there will be a separate storage for this purpose.

It is also worth pointing out all of the Alolan Pokemon introduced so far are 1st Gen Pokemon. There is definitely a connection of some kind. We may find out as soon as this Tuesday: The Pokemon Company is expected to share some big news regarding Poke Bank in regards to the 1st and 7th Gen games. It should be interesting.

Posted in Blog, Brendan Aurabolt, News, Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo DS, Pokemon, Preview, Serene Adventure, Video Games | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment