Friday, January 30, 2015

MadCap's Game Reviews - "Yu-Gi-Oh! Eternal Duelist Soul"


Oh, god, am I doomed to review every Yu-Gi-Oh! video game that has ever come out? I suppose I'll have to so long as my inbox keeps getting sent with links to ROMs. I'm not one to complain about free material to work off of, so here's Yu-Gi-Oh! Eternal Duelist Soul.

Right away, the game brings you to a main menu.



From here, you can select one of the seven choices. "Campaign" is pretty self-explanatory, if a little bit of a complete lie, but I'll get into that.  "Link Battle" is also pretty self-explanatory - you get your friend who also has a Game Boy Advance, you link, you battle.  "Deck Edit" is another no brainer, allowing the player to construct a deck (and you are given one starting out) that must be comprised of no less than 40 cards - split between monsters, magic, and trap cards as evenly as possibly to assure that the deck is at least playable.  "Record" is where you can look to see who you've won and lost against, and how many times you've won and lost against them.

Then there's "Calendar", which also allows me to look into the "plot" as it were. EDS really doesn't have a plot per se. But the calendar system is largely there to mark the days where the player will get a bonus booster pack from Grandpa Muto, as well as the bi-weekly tournaments and the big tournament in November that the game builds up (also, distanced from the show - each duel will take up one day of time). So there is no "plot", it's just a dueling simulator, like the much-maligned last game in the franchise that I played. And don't get me wrong, Millennium Battles was no Sacred Cards in terms of how bad it was, but it was...no, actually, it was worse than this, but I'll get into the why of it later.

"Card Trading" does exactly what you think, and "Password" is where you can bunch in those seven digit numbers at the bottom of a Yu-Gi-Oh! card to get the card in real life.  Of course, it has limitations. Some of the codes outright don't work until you've at least seen the card played in game. And, of course, the game is limited by the time period it comes from - the early 2000s. So if you're wanting to put your Stardust Dragon into the game to totally wreck little Yugi, Joey, and their friends, you're out of luck.  Lucky for you, you don't have to sort through your cards to find out which ones work and which don't - There's a wiki page for that.

So, how does the game play? Just like the trading card game of the time under the official tourney rules. Selecting "Campaign" will bring up a screen as seen above. The first tier of duelists is Yugi and the Friendship Brigade.  Once you have defeated each of them twice, the second tier opens that contains all the duelists that Joey defeated at Battle City...and Mai Valentine.  This process will continue, going through Marik and his Rare Hunters as well as Seto Kaiba, Yami Yugi and Bakura, and  eventually reaching the likes of Pegasus, Grandpa, and "Shimon"...who I thought was an Egyptian priest in the distant past and not blue, but hey, Forbidden Memories reference.

So basically, the game ends up being the same as any other Yu-Gi-Oh! simulator. There is actually some personality from the various duelists in small cutscenes before and after each duel, and that is far more than we were given in Millennium Battles, so I'm inclined to be slightly more charitable to this game than that one.  An attempt was made, though I'm wondering how exactly both versions of Yugi and Bakura are all hanging around the same Game Shop...or why the Rare Hunters are allowed to the tournaments after nearly killing - oh, wait, I'm sorry, "sending to the Shadow Realm" - Yugi's entire posse several times...

But then trying to figure out logic in an anime plot is a bit like trying to weld a car frame back together with bird seeds and gum, you just end up with sticky hands and a terrible humiliated feeling deep down in the pit of your soul.

...I may have been thinking about something else there.

Point is, not a bad game, but it's a simulator. It's actually a step up from games of the same kind that I've played before, but it's not too much better.

Yu-Gi-Oh! Eternal Duelist Soul is now available from Konami and Konami Computer Entertainment Japan for the Game Boy Advance.

For the latest from the MadCapMunchkin, be sure to follow him on Twitter @MadCapMunchkin.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

MadCap's Pokemon Emerald Nuzlocke Challenge - 11 - "Father! The Sandslash Has Awakened!"

They say God made Route 111 to train the faithful.
And thus, to the desert!  In the depths of the sands...and by that, I mean within a few steps...Andrew encountered a Sandshrew now added to the team as "Muad'Dib" (read a book).  And so, Andrew wandered into the desert to prepare himself for his battle with his "father" at last.  And so, he wandered. And, thus, epic grinding ensued!

...at least until Andrew found a tower that seemed to be flickering in and out of existence.

"Uh...Paul? Something's emerging from nothing, so suck it."
Thinking that he'd either found the plot, or that he was tripping on some serious peyote from the desert, Andrew did the only logical thing that one would do in such a situation and journeyed into the tower that appeared out of nowhere, learning of it as the "Mirage Tower".  Though he did encounter some wild Pokemon (including a Trapinch who was knocked out by Leviathan), Andrew could not discern the mystery of the second floor and - again, assuming it was all some drug induced hallucination - left the Mirage Tower behind.  Upon healing and returning to the desert, he found that the Tower had disappeared entirely...
"And how can this be?"
But as the grinding continued, Muad'dib finally gained enough power to evolve into a Sandslash.
"For he is the Kwisatz Haedrach!"

After brief celebration, grinding continued.  In the deepest depths of the desert, Andrew discovered the TM that teaches Sandstorm.  On the return trip back, the egg given to Andrew in Part 10 finally hatched, revealing...


Because, why not?  A female addition to the team, Wynaut took on the nickname of "Alia".  With that, Andrew headed back south to Slateport to meet with Mr. Briney, and they sailed back to Petalburg where Andrew would, at last, come up against his kidnappers in a final showdown...

***

"Hot damn!" Slott whistled as they walked over another slab of volcanic wreckage.

"It's pretty much that way all the time up here, the bodies aren't standard fair." The Mountie they'd run into, now all of them surveying the devastation across the peak.

"And the kid was here?"  Norris asked.

"A couple of the Team Magma grunts we caught on their way down mentioned him.  Said he took out their leader without breaking a sweat."

"Pretty impressive for up here..." Slott quipped as he knelt down to examine a bit of a Team Aqua bandanna that had been left behind and been burned at the edges by the volcano ash.  "Shouldn't we be wearing suits or something this high up?"

"And you didn't catch the kid?" Norris asked while his partner's question went unanswered.

A shake of the head came as response. "Sorry, Detective. Didn't even see him during our round up."

"This kid is good...or he's got the dumbest luck of anyone I've ever met." Norris said. "And you say you brought the device down from further up the peak?"

"Yes, sir, looks like Maxie was trying to set the volcano off."

"Any idea if he could have done it?"

"'Fraid not, sir. Not much of an egghead myself..."

"Right, right. Thanks anyway...will do some rooting around and get out of your hair."

"Thank you, sir...still got quite a bit of cataloging to do."  With that, the trooper returned to the cable car.

"So we know he didn't double back from the peak." Norris muttered, speaking more to himself than to Slott.

"Jagged Pass?"

"Most likely. We need to check Lavaridge, that's the next most likely stopping point."

"The kid's got a day ahead of us...maybe two.  We have no idea where he might have gone." Slott pointed out. "I say we head back to Slateport, see if the database on new trainers got a hit on something?"

"Why trainers?"

"The kid's got his Pokemon, right? And a Combusken? Had to start somewhere. If he's League registered, they'll have him."

"Slott, that's brilliant!" Norris clapped him on the shoulder, heading back toward the cable car.

"I have my moments." And he followed after.

**

Pokemon Emerald is brought to us by Nintendo and GameFreak.

For the latest from the MadCapMunchkin, be sure to follow him on Twitter @MadCapMunchkin

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

MadCap's Trailer Reactions - "The Fantastic Four"

Well...here we go again.

The Fantastic Four are a commonly known superhero team.  Created in 1961, they were made as the answer to DC's "Justice League of America". Yes, the FF predate even the Avengers in the Marvel universe.  Caught in a cosmic energy storm, four individuals were granted powers.  Reed Richards, utterly brilliant scientist seeking to study the universe itself, was given extreme elasticity and became Mr. Fantastic.  Sue Storm (later Sue Richards) was granted the power of invisibility and the ability to generate force fields over herself and others as the Invisible Girl (and later Invisible Woman).  Her cocky, hot-headed brother Johnny was given the power to generate and control flame, as well as wrap himself in a cocoon of pure flame simply by saying "flame on!", taking the moniker of the Human Torch.  And their pilot, Ben Grimm, arguably got the worst of the storm - his body mutating into an orange, rock-like flesh but becoming virtually indestructible as the Thing.

Unlike the traditional superhero conundrum of having to hide their secret identities, the Fantastic Four have been public about who they are and what they can do almost from the jump, and they're some of the most beloved superheroes in the Marvel universe. Sure, it means that their foes not only know who they are and how to find them, but the Four have always been a dysfunctional family that, when the chips are down and the need is dire, they can take on any foe or face any challenge if they're working together.  Whether it's against the dreaded Galactus, the fearsome Annihilus, or even the sinister machinations of the dreaded Doctor Doom, the FF are always up to the challenge.  So naturally - with a team that has such prestige and awesomeness - someone would want to make a movie out of it.

They did.  It sucked. But it was supposed to suck, since it was only made so the rights could be kept.

Not to be dissuaded (after all, they were the people who would later greenlight "X-Men Origins: Wolverine"), Fox got the rights from Marvel to produce a live-action adaptation of Marvel's First Family. This seemed like a sure-fire thing, given the team's long-standing history and popularity to comic fans. In fact, it could even be a chance to bring in a whole new audience into comic book films. Sony was doing amazing things with Spider-Man at the time, and Fox itself had had great success with the X-Men franchise - coming in with two films that were box office hits at the time. So, this seemed like it would go well.

It sucked, but it also made a lot of money.  So, naturally, because Fox wants to run all its assets into the ground that aren't Firefly (seriously? Joss Whedon gives you a jewel-encrusted egg and you've got no idea what to do with it? REALLY?!), they commissioned a sequel, this time based around the storyline from the comics known as the "Galactus Trilogy".  Galactus, for those who don't know, is (to put it as simply as possible) a gigantic alien being who eats planets.  In that storyline, he came for Earth - his herald being the mysterious Silver Surfer. So, high stakes, good villain, could very easily be made into a blockbuster, right?

It sucked. And I mean, sucked. Audiences who had loved the first film didn't much care for this one, and it only fared slightly better with critics than the first film did. Even so, this was enough that Fox decided to reevaluate its options...and make more X-Men sequels...which is an issue for another time and I'm getting severely off-topic.

Flash-forward to now, the present. Fox, continuing their longstanding trend of wringing money out of things that don't belong to them in the first place, have released a teaser for the rebooted series of films that they intend to do with the FF. Unlike certain other films that have released teasers of late, this actually has some things of substance to it and...well...it looks good.

No, I'm serious.

I've got some healthy skepticism, as we all should in particular with teaser trailers. Still, they seem to be going for a much more serious, The Dark Knight-esque style. I would normally be against this, seeing as Batman is not - despite his hype - the end all and be all of superheroes and should not be remotely treated as such, but for a series that's at this point gone through three terrible films that did not really seem to take the premise as seriously as it should have, this is really a welcome change.

The trailer has a voice over of an unseen individual, speaking of the human desire to discover, and we see what I assume to be Reed Richards (Miles Teller) both as a man and as a child performing experiments, who we know to be Sue Storm (Kate Mara) working computers, Johnny Storm (Michael B. Jordan) repairing a car, and Ben Grimm (Jamie Bell) playing baseball. The rest of the teaser details an experiment that is being run by Dr. Storm (Reg E. Cathey) that seems to be taking the place of the cosmic space trip, which is fine. After all, it's an adaptation.

Oh, and you're probably wondering why no comment on Michael B. Jordan? Don't care. If Samuel L. Jackson can play Nick Fury, I think we can give him a shot at Human Torch.  I mean, he can't be any worse than the last guy who played him...
...oops, sorry, Cap.
The voiceover, who I believe is Doom (Toby Kebbell), speaks of the consequences of human discovery and tells Richards to prepare for "what's coming". When Richards questions the individual (who is not seen clearly), he gets the cryptic reply of "the answers", leading into a short of the team from behind while facing what looks like the Ark from Halo.

I have to admit, I'm a bit intrigued now, which I thought I wouldn't be. I've pretty much become entirely disillusioned with the X-Men franchise (I didn't even go to see Days of Future Past) and I was more than hesitant about one particular change about Doom - namely that he's become an internet troll in this version instead of a megalomaniac ruler of a small Eastern European country - but again I remind myself of the Mantra of Adaptation - "it's only a movie/game/book/TV show, the original thing isn't ruined". Of course, that doesn't mean I won't critique it when it comes out. So, Fox, you've got me for this one, let's see the FF get a good movie for once.

Or, hey, you could just give the rights back to Marvel and we'd know they'd do it right.

...if Shane Black isn't involved, anyway.

The Fantastic Four is slated for release on August 7, 2015 from 20th Century Fox, Marvel Entertainment, and Marv Films.

For the latest from the MadCapMunchkin, be sure to follow him on Twitter @MadCapMunchkin.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

MadCap's Pokemon Emerald Nuzlocke Challenge - 10 - "How High Can You Get?"

"Hello, good sir! Do you have a moment to talk about Shroomish Highs?"
And thus, with his pirate brethren, Andrew stormed his way up Mt. Chimney to fight the imperious forces of Team Magma. At the peak, near a device, he encountered "Maxie", who apparently knows of him from meddling in the affairs of Team Aqua.  And now, believes he wishes to meddle in the affairs of Team Magma...who are kind of idiots with an idiotic plan.  When Andrew thought to call him out on this, Maxie challenged him to a battle, which Andrew's team managed to pull through with only a few scratches.  Maxie ranted something about an "Orb" and then ran off, Andrew assuming that the guy was already tripping.

And then, Archie came around to congratulate him on his victory and question what side he was on.  Cutting the child off before he could answer, Archie resolved to keep up their pursuit of Team Magma and to stop them in their insane plots - declaring that they would meet again.  Since Archie and Maxie had both left the Meteorite, Andrew snaked it and stuffed it away in his pack for extra scratch later.  From there, it seemed the path to Lavaridge was open to him at last - through the Jagged Pass, at least.  And another Team Magma groupie was running scared from the events at the peak, so Andrew handily took care of him and several other trainers as well on the way down.

Also, a Spoink was caught, now going under "O'Brian" (read a comic book).  O'Brian was sent away to join the rest of the B-Team and the walk down Jagged Pass went on and at last, the path was walked and Andrew finally set foot in Lavaridge Town.  Passing through the Pokemon Center, and then the hot springs, Andrew was offered an egg and then had to go to the Pokemon Center to deposit a member of the team for the time being.  Starburst took the hit, breaking with the Bs for the time being.

Apparently Andrew's services are not needed here...
Wandering around Lavaridge, Andrew got Not-Groot taught Mimic and tried to waste time in steps (even taking to the bike) to see if he could hatch the egg.  When wandering about bored him to no end, Andrew decided to hit the local Gym...finding a haze that would have made Cheech and Chong proud.  Quickly he figured out, beyond the smell of weed, that the Gym was comprised of several teleportation holes - some of which were decoys leading to the hidden trainers.

Fighting a contact high, Andrew and his team did their best to fight valiantly, eventually reaching the Gym Leader, Flannery, who was apparently so high that she had to go through her own introduction...three times.  However, she proved to be a more than apt battler - her Camelrupt decimating Muninn completely.  In the end, Andrew prevailed, Leviathan having a battle of attrition against her Torkoal and coming out the victor, earning Andrew the Heat Badge...and Flannery being one of the many hundreds that have added their number to Andrew's PokeNav.

So, after passing on the gift of Shroomish to go with that which was already being smoked, Andrew decided to head out.

And, of course, May was there to greet him outside after Andrew had been fairly certain he had lost her.  She once more attempted to woo him with the gift of "Go-Goggles" that would allow him to see through that sandstorm on Route 111, and hinted that it might be time for Andrew to battle his "father" at the Petalburg Gym.
Bye-bye, indeed, old friend...
Before it was time to face his kidnappers again, however, Andrew was forced to say goodbye to a friend who had been with him since Part 3.  Released from his service, Muninn was another life that Andrew had to avenge...and soon he would avenge himself against those that had brought him to Hoenn in the first place.

Pokemon Emerald is brought to us by Nintendo and GameFreak.

For the latest from the MadCapMunchkin, be sure to follow him on Twitter @MadCapMunchkin.

Friday, January 23, 2015

MadCap's Game Reviews - "Shadow of Mordor"

One cannot deny - largely due to the Peter Jackson-headed films of the early 2000s known as the Lord of the Rings trilogy and the oddly similar trio of movies known as the Hobbit trilogy more recently - that Middle-Earth has become an institution all it's own.  The original novels as written by J.R.R. Tolkien have evolved much beyond their humble beginnings as the start of every facet of fantasy fiction that exists today. Every novel, every video game, every film in the fantasy genre owes at least some of it's existence to Tolkien even if the connection isn't direct.

Dungeons & Dragons...Dragon Age...actually, this inspired a lot of RPGs.  Like...any in a medieval fantasy setting.

But with great fame comes great licensing.  Whether it's in the form of the aforementioned movies or, as we are so fond of here, video games.  As is the case with Shadow of Mordor, a title that very interestingly isn't going under the Lord of the Rings banner and is just going with a simple Middle-Earth as the pre-title. For some other titles I might find this a little ballsy but, again, this is the Tolkien epic that we're talking about and, again, the entire thing is an institution.  It's become so deeply embedded into popular culture that we know it by name without even needing to know the name of the franchise.

Sometimes, that can go really well and produce a game that becomes one that stands on it's own merits as a classic.  Other times, you get a game so bad the lead developer blocks you on Twitter for pointing it out (yes, Randy, I know I do it incessantly. Apologize and I'll be happy to stop). So where does Shadow of Mordor fall on the scale?  Let's look deeper within.

We are introduced to Talion, a grizzled ranger of Gondor with a broken sword (never heard that one before) and a sad backstory in which both his wife and son were killed by orcs and his own throat slit in a ritual sacrifice to summon...something. However, this gets Talion a Yu-Gi-Oh!-esque alternate persona in an elven wraith who has fragmented memories and gives Talion shiny new powers like being able to tear information out of the heads of enemies. So together, the pair of them take the emergency exit and must traverse the landscape of Mordor in order to get to the Black Hand of Sauron and defeat him so that the curse that keeps Talion from ever dying can be broken.

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Now, I'm not going to spend this review going on about the differences from the books and the films - that would be silly and take up way too much time.  After all, it's an adaptation and one has to take that into account in criticisms of things that don't work with the lore, but do work from a gameplay mechanics standpoint.  Thus why Mordor is looking a bit more leafy green than the "barren wasteland, riddled with fire and ash" that was so aptly described beforehand.  Speaking from experience, one can't very well hide with any skill in a barren wasteland. Against and between rocks? Maybe, but eventually you'd be found out unless your enemies are either blind or just astounding stupid.

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So, I do understand that. And, by extension, I understand why there are leafy patches around so as to justify the leafy bushes.

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Oh, you're wondering what the "Loading..." text is about? One of my gripes with this game. The loading screens. This game loads when you first start, it loads upon entering a mission area, it loads when you pause, it loads when you select a menu option, it loads when you leave the pause menu, it loads before a cutscene, it loads after a cutscene, and this game does have to be downloaded directly to the Xbox 360 Hard Drive, by the way. I wouldn't mind this so much except...well, it had to be downloaded directly onto the Hard Drive. Why all these pauses? If there so much being rendered on the screen that you can't load everything?

That might help to explain why - in spite of this being a triple AAA game - there are texture problems in certain areas, even in areas where the player has been standing for a while. You rotate the camera and a section of wall or the ground is blurry before it suddenly "pops" into the same appearance as that around it.  Compare Dragon Age: Inquisition from a few weeks ago, which also had to be installed from a first disk, but had no problems of the sort when playing from a second.  And that game had much larger areas to boot. Several larger areas.  It really confuses me to no end, and really drags down the game quite a bit.

I'm not kidding, this irritated me to no end when I first started playing to the point where I was ready to chuck it out a window.

However, where the game does redeem itself is in the combat.  And how does it do this? By shamelessly ripping off the Batman: Arkham series.  If that doesn't sound like a compliment, trust me, it is.  Considering rangers are set up in Tolkien's universe to be these combat-hardened badasses, it only makes sense that Talion can weave about through combat, moving seamlessly from sword slice to rolling over the back of an orc to slam your wraith-powered fist into the chest of another orc to stagger it just so you can pull a sweet finisher combo move (also, side note, the finishers are all pleasantly visceral. They clearly put quite a lot of work into them). It feels very organic like the moves of Batman atop the rooftops of Gotham City. So, yes, it does get a point in that regard. It is very good.

Also, the stealth that it borrows from that series is also good, but while also adding some new skills to the mix as well. With the Wraith inside of him, Talion can assault the minds of orcs that attack him to cause damage that otherwise renders him immobile and open to attack (but the time can be shortened with upgrades). There's the standard stealth attack which guarantees an insta-kill on everything but the bosses (and, sometimes, even on bosses depending on their health).  There's also, once it's unlocked, the Brutalize technique in which Talion mercilessly skewers an orc again and again in a manner that makes all orcs in a surrounding area run away with pants crapping fear.

However, on the subject of stealth, I do have to come to another gripe I have.  It's entirely possible to sneak out in the open, right up to an orc, and bury Talion's broken sword repeatedly in their face, before immediately moving to another and another if they happen to be close enough and somehow he remains unseen.  Apparently he has learned Monty Python's art of not being seen.  Or the enemy AI is rather useless when not engaged in combat.  Can they not see the not-at-all disguised man rummaging around the rocky terrain? While it is fun, and indeed hilarious to traipse about Mordor's rockiness stabbing orcs in the face and laughing over their mangled corpses, there's really no challenge in it and the orcs really only provide it when in packs, a la the boss battles that crop up (and those can be a real pain).

Boss battles that you're directed to via the "Nemesis System", a system that was apparently cut down considerably for the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 versions because the development team wanted to be "focusing on the next-gen platforms".  "Dicks!", I reply, but the system as it works is essentially the same I've been told, simply dumbed down a bit.  Not that I really find this excusable, of course.  If you're going to half-ass for one system, you should half-ass all the way, or put the full-ass behind all of it.

The system as it works plays off the Always Chaotic Evil nature of orcs, namely that they're all more than happy to stab in the back the next person up in line so they can take his spot.  On their own, the orc captains, chieftains, and war chiefs will fight one another to jockey for position.  Talion's objective in getting to the Black Hand of Sauron involves taking out the war chiefs.  To do this, he joins up with an orc by the name of Ratbag who's more than willing to cut a deal so that he can become the sole war chief.  Just like Frodo's decision to help Gollum in the latter two volumes of the Lord of the Rings, I'm certain that Talion's kindness and charity will pay off in the end.

Oh, also - despite being modeled on the appearance from the films - Gollum shows up and isn't voiced by Andy Serkis.  Their choice for his voice actor isn't bad, and they had me fooled for a bit. Though if he starts going on about the Savior and how he's going to destroy Dante and rule humanity with it, I'm out.

Needless to say, however, the Nemesis system is rather neat and I do enjoy it.  It's especially funny if one of the bosses kills you, they'll remember doing so after Talion regenerates at one of the white towers that dots the landscape and goes after them again.  The common soldier orcs can also be promoted to captain or higher if they kill the player as well, increasing their power and standing within Sauron's army.  With some of them, I almost think it's worth it to allow yourself to be killed just so you can have certain opponents to fight, particularly during the time when the identity of the war chiefs is in question and Talion has to fight his way to them to get to the Black Hand and you actually do have to fight their immediate subordinates to gain intel about where their bosses are.

Which brings me to the upgrade system.  Talion gains experience from every kill and every quest. Once he gets enough, he gets an attribute point that can be put into either a ranger skill or a wraith skill. Ranger skills tend to focus on sword combat, defense, or health while wraith abilities will increase the amount of ranged arrows that can be shot, increases the amount of damage from Talion and the wraith's mind probe hand gesture, and some stealth properties.  These are arranged in tiers, with some not being able to be unlocked until the player progresses a certain distance in the main campaign.

Talion's weapons - sword, broken sword, and bow - can be upgraded with runes (dropped by bosses), slots on each weapon being unlocked for a certain amount of points.  They can range from doing more damage to staggering enemies on impact to restoring the player's health after a certain number in a chain of hits is met and much, much more.  It's interesting to find the right balance and - to give credit - it is nice that you can switch out your runes for any given situation that you might find yourself in, bringing in a facet of strategics that most hack n' slashes tend to either dumb down or avoid entirely.

So yes, this game is basically Batman: Mordor Asylum in structure, and that's not a bad thing. More games in the hack n' slash genre should follow the examples of that series, and Shadow manages to keep the flow moving from unarmed into sword combat.  A definite bravo!  Beyond issues with the development team didn't put the time or energy into making the Xbox 360/Playstation 3 versions up to par with the current-gen versions, this game is pretty good. I've definitely seen far worse adaptations of J.R.R. Tolkien's work in video game format.

Or has everyone forgot The Lord of the Rings: Final Fantasy Edition? ...I mean, The Third Age?

Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor is now available from Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, Monolith Productions, and Behaviour Interactive for Microsoft Windows, Playstation 3, Playstation 4, Xbox 360, and Xbox One.

For the latest from the MadCapMunchkin, be sure to follow him on Twitter @MadCapMunchkin

Thursday, January 22, 2015

MadCap's Pokemon Emerald Nuzlocke Challenge - 9 - "Magma Mountain Hop"

I guess property rates are a real pain in the ash here...
We return to Andrew not far off from Fallarbor Town.  He arrived their, healed, and to prepare himself for the task ahead, well...he needed the appropriate montage music.  So, this epic grinding brought to you by Rocky IV, the greatest movie about an Italian-American who can barely speak beating a Russian half to death you will ever see.  Just play this every time "grinding" comes up. Trust me, it really improves the experience.

Try it now: Epic grinding ensued!

See? Totally helps.

After some deliberation in the grinding, it was decided that Kelvin could be placed in the Box, joining Buu and Dreugh as Andrew's back up team (due to, much like the situation before with Leviathan and Dreugh, already having a type on the team to fill in for that element.

In the Pokemon Center, also ran into Lanette, the creator of the PC for the Hoenn region. Nice of her.

Then it was on to Route 114. A few trainers were down, and a Swablu was caught that we now call "Q-Tip". Q-Tip, much like Kelvin, was deposited in the PC so as to build up a potential second team should the first fall in combat.  Further along, Andrew came to a mountainside and continued his trek along the path, eventually finding a mountainside and making his way to Meteor Falls, a path to Rustboro City.

Entering, he came across two more of the dorks in faux red Pikachu outfits - Team Magma - who apparently had taken possession of a meteorite.  They turned upon Andrew, but was immediately saved by people dressed as pirates - Team Aqua.  Andrew encounters Archie once more, the leader of Team Aqua, who claims the two teams are rivals.  Aqua wants to expand the sea and create Waterworld, wheres Team Magma wants to expand the land.

Apparently recognizing their fellow pirate, Andrew was spared another victory as the group gave chase to the Team Magma goons and headed toward Mt. Chimney, no doubt a destination for Andrew to go to at some point soon enough. Beyond them, however, he found a "Professor Cozmo", who feared what Team Magma would do with the meteorite.

Ignoring the dangling plot hook, Andrew went to explore the Falls and caught a Solrock now known as "Starburst". Leaving the cave brought him to Route 115, and a few jumps later brought him to...Rustboro City. Heading back to the Devon Corporation got Andrew the gift of Exp. Share from the President, a handy tool for grinding later, to be certain. Then it was back through Rusturf Tunnel, back to Verdanturf and then to Mauville and then finally up the way back to Mt. Chimney...where those Team Magma grunts guarding the way to the Cable Car had suddenly gone missing.

Andrew D. Luffy, giving "high" a whole new meaning...

Andrew took a trip up the mountain to the peak, and upon reaching it found a Team Magma and a Team Aqua grunt fighting it out. Though he watched, the two didn't even seem to notice Andrew and went about running up against one another with their Pokemon.  Though he'd fought against his fellow pirates before, it seemed that Andrew would be assisting them as Team Magma is apparently planning on throwing the meteorite into the volcano, which they believe is going to flood the land with lava and...create more of it. Archie calling on his aid, it looks like next time, Andrew will indeed be putting back on his swashbuckling gear to save the world...and his buyers...

Pokemon Emerald is brought to us by Nintendo and GameFreak.

For the latest from the MadCapMunchkin, be sure to follow him on Twitter @MadCapMunchkin.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

MadCap's Mad Rantings - "It's The End of the Marvel Universe As We Know It"

Oooooh, boy.

And if you can't read the sarcasm in that, welcome. You must be new here.

So, I was traipsing about the internet and came across this.

...well, it was bound to happen eventually.  I mean, in spite of the fact that Joe Quesada said back in 2005 that if the main 616 and Ultimate universes ever crossed over, Marvel would officially be out of ideas (though he later reversed his position like we wish he would about One More Day),this was going to happen at some point and in some shape or form.  Nobody can really deny it. Why? Because comic book writers love their retcons.

Ah, yes, retcons!  Things that - when used well - can wipe away any inconsistencies or flubs in a story or - when used poorly as is often - can screw up things for years.  In this case...I don't know.  Throwing together not only the main Marvel universe and the Ultimate, but several others from What Ifs and spin-offs? Very tricky.  And then, of course, there's the title.

Secret Wars.

...really? You took the most beloved and well-remembered crossover in Marvel history (y'know, the one crossover that actually does what a crossover is supposed to do in comic books?) and decided to make that your title? Congrats on handing yourself a massive pair of shoes to fill.  Really, Secret Wars seems to be the last great Marvel crossover that anyone cares to remember (though, as I've heard, Mutant Massacre in the 90s wasn't terrible).  While Civil War tried to make Captain America the bad guy in a moral debate (which is insane), Original Sin had a very interesting whodunit story about the death of Uatu the Watcher that turned into being more concerned about advertising the tie-in comics than about telling a decent or even intelligible story, and even Spider-Verse has had some questionable moments (though I have enjoyed it, by the way), Secret Wars had only one thing going for it.

It. Kicked. Ass.

Thrown onto an alien world by an immensely powerful entity, it was a simple fight of good versus evil.  Heroes on one side, villains on the other, badassery ensues.  Now, that's not to say that stories that give us heroes versus heroes can't be good.  However, the problem is...none of Marvel's crossovers that involve heroes versus heroes have been. This is because either, A) Marvel attempts to flaunt a ridiculous premise that they don't actually bother to explain fully and attempt to turn the person who is the paragon of all things good, decent, and moral into the villain (Civil War), or B) Marvel has done so many of these types of crossovers by this point that even if the attempt were made to do this, it would fall completely flat.  The "hero vs. hero" concept has become so played out that it's become passe.

Needless to say, I'm hoping the new Secret Wars really isn't going to be that.  Though now, I can actually say a few good things about it.  Namely how everything is now together in terms of characters and ideas.  This is actually good, since it would allow new ideas to be created and new opportunities to be explored.  However, where this is going to trip up - if it does anywhere - is in the execution.  Like with many, many Marvel events before it.

That I can't really speculate on.  I admit, despite my previous sarcasm they do have me in - hook, line, and sinker.  I, like many I'm sure, are very curious to see how this will be done.  Am I going to be surprised if it's terrible? Nope.  Will I enjoy it if it is?  ...well, yeah. I'll be surprised, but yeah.

To be truthful, all I've been reading of late has been Amazing Spider-Man (a tip of the hat to Mr. Slott for a thoroughly enjoyable return of the character thus far), Scarlet Spiders, and Nova and while I know at least the first title will be involved in it, not entirely sure about the others - though I sincerely hope that the adventures of Sam Alexander will continue.  Really, been very much enjoying that.

Of course, I speak of this event as though it were just another crossover when Marvel has gone out of its way to say that this is how the Marvel universe will be from now until the end of time.  Axel Alonso himself said so.  My response?

"Sure, until you retcon it."

Marvel's "Secret Wars" will begin publishing in May of 2015.

For the latest from the MadCapMunchkin, be sure to follow him on Twitter @MadCapMunchkin.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Madcap's Pokémon Emerald Nuzlocke Challenge - 8 - "Over the Mountain"

Oh...another house in the middle of nowhere...
And now, to Route 111.  Thought Andrew was going through the Tunnel? Bet you did.  Alas, upon a return to Mauville, Andrew remembered that entire north direction from the City and decided he was going to go check it out.  He came across a house in the middle of nowhere and decided to check it out because, y'know, the last time he did that it turned out so well.  This time it seemed that they did not have the sociopathic edge of the Trick Master - they were simply a family of kindly folk who Andrew tore through with all the grace and subtlety of wiping with tissue paper.

Our hero, ladies and gents!

And upon making his way through some Rock Smashed rubble, Andrew found himself accosted by a television reporter and her camera man. Challenged to a battle, he defeated them and quickly declined an interview for fear of too much recognition.  Eventually, his path trailed northward until the spot where Route 111 turned into Route 112...and he could continue no further north due to a massive sandstorm.

Eventually, he reached the steps of Mt. Chimney and decided to double back, wanting to get the Rusturf Tunnel out of the way, though a few levels had been gained in routing through the grasses along the way. People of the town outside spoke of an individual who, in spite of the cancelling of the tunnel, is braving his way through to dig it himself.  So, naturally, Andrew wants to get down there and help him...by either selling him spores or taking all his stuff (or both).

Oh, and ran into a Whismur. Sadly it was only seventh level and Leviathan knows Bite. Really ought to put Not-Groot to the front of the party, Andrew. It knows Sleep Powder.

Going further into the cave, Andrew found a woman waiting at some rocks and smashed them. The young man who was badass enough to try and dig the tunnel solo is on the other end, and gives Andrew the HM for Strength before running off with his girlfriend to do as young couples do (or so I'm told).

At the other end of the tunnel, Andrew encountered the man who he'd gained the package from who needed it to go to Slateport, who thanked him for the delivery and gave him a Repeat Ball before disappearing in the style of a 60s Batman villain. Heading back through the tunnel, Andrew found another exit to the tunnel...which...really makes it more of just a cave, doesn't it? And, boom! Route 116 where a man has apparently lost his glasses and was wandering around looking for them.

...unwilling to help, Andrew headed back to Mauville and back up Route 111 to check out Trainer Hill...which wasn't ready and hence, he went back on the road he traveled toward Mt. Chimney, heading up those steps at last.  Battling some hikers, Andrew encountered some dorks in those red Chinese-made knock-off Pikachu helmets. Talking about their boss wanting a meteorite for awakening something, and the rest of the team has gone to Fallarbor, with the instruction to let no one else pass.

In fact, they didn't seem to even acknowledge Andrew, who didn't wish to be bothered with their bizarre rambling and headed into the cave of the "Fiery Path" and eventually found himself on Route 112. There, in a battle, he caught a Numel that now goes by the name of "Kelvin". With the new addition to the team, Andrew rested up at an old lady's house, but refused any of her lemon and sleeping pill tea.  As the new member of the team, Kelvin was taught "Secret Power", and attempt was made to test the Secret Base concept in a tree...which Andrew decided not to, instead heading further ahead to Route 113.
I...I don't want your sack...god, please, no...
In the ashy grass, a Spinda attacked and was defeated so as to add to the team, now called "Crazy-Eyes".  Navigating through the ashy landscape, Andrew eventually found himself  at the home of a man who turns volcanic ash into glass, who gave him a nice sack to put ash in so items could be made.

I wonder if he can use the remains of the Mystery House...

Next time, Andrew continues his quest. Will he reach Lavaridge Town? Will we have a second episode where a joke about grinding experience points isn't used?  Will the guy writing these up resort to some other than asking a bunch of questions for the end of episodes?

Probably not.

***

Back in Slateport, Detective Sam Norris watched the remainder of  the news report, the only footage being that white hat as the young man headed away from the camera crew.

"Know what this means?" He asked, his eyes not turning to his partner, Detective Slott.

"I'll call the Mounties, see if they can catch him there." Slott's hand grasped the receiver of the phone nearby on his desk.

"Just in case he decides to head up that way, yeah..." Norris added, his eyes only flickering from the screen as the footage ended.

The boy with the Combusken and the Gloom...now they just had to make sure they were the same. His eyes flickered over to the suspect sketch drawn on the wall.  Pale, Caucasian male. No older than ten...and a suspected arsonist.

This had to be one messed up kid...

***

Pokemon Emerald is brought to us by Nintendo and GameFreak.

For the latest from the MadCapMunchkin, be sure to follow him on Twitter @MadCapMunchkin.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Madcap's Pokémon Emerald Nuzlocke Challenge - 7 - "Ride The Lightning"

"A whole field of whacky weedus!!!"
On Route 110, taking the low road, Andrew encountered a wild Minun that was defeated before it could be handily captured. One day soon, perhaps, he will have an electric mouse to call his very own.

...unfortunately, he also found May, her usual stalker-y, cheerful self. Not dissuaded from their first battle, she challenged Andrew to another...and was handily defeated, though Muninn nearly fell to a Ember attack from May's Slugma that burned him. Apparently still not taking the hint, May nonetheless handed off an Itemfinder to Andrew before she took off on a bicycle. And so, Andrew trudged through the grass, fighting wilds, collecting fallen items, and deflating the egos of trainers who passed him by.

With his team beaten down, but alive, he finally pushed his way through to Mauville City, healed up, and followed the ancient RPG tradition of rooting around through random people's houses for loose change and items to take a five finger discount on.  Swinging by the local Gym...he found Wally (the boy who, back in Part 2, Andrew aided in catching a Ralts). He claims that he's gotten a lot stronger since he last met Andrew and wants to battle Andrew to prove it. Hardly being the type to refuse someone who he was forced to aid by both his kidnappers and the plot, Andrew mutely accepts and they undertake a battle.

Andrew, of course, gets through with no scratches because Leviathan knows Bite.

Wally's discouraged and decides to go back to Verdanturf with his uncle, and Andrew is once more approached by Scott, just saying that he's impressed with the battling and will be cheering for him before disappearing. To an outside observer, this may seem like foreshadowing of some kind, though Andrew's just doing his best to not be creeped out.  Though this was immediately juxtaposed upon him entering the bike shop and finding that the owner is one of many people who just wants to shower him with free stuff - and so gives him a bicycle. Right out of nowhere.

Why is everyone in this game coming on to me?!
Taking the bike and going for a joyride, Andrew found himself accidentally hopping right out of town and in between two trainers, who he rewarded for ambushing him by handing them their posteriors. The rest of Route 118 didn't do much better, though Andrew found once more that he was blocked by the sea and forced to double back. To the west, and Route 117, Andrew found himself at the Pokemon Day Care. Leaving Goomba behind to produce some more spores for sale after working out a deal with the Daycare Man...I mean...level a bit.  Yeah, level a bit...and spare Andrew some grinding, taking the rest to grind for a bit in the whole new realm of 117.

An Oddish was encountered, captured, and added to the team under the name of "Not-Groot" in order to fill the void of Goomba's absence.

And, as you can expect given the Level gap...grinding ensued anyway.

Eventually, Andrew found himself in Verdanturf, which is noteable for being the other side of that tunnel that he was unable to get through back in Part 3. However now, he has Rock Smash...but the gym in Mauville City beckons. Will the electrifying Wattson (...subtle pun, that) put an end to Andrew's Pokemon journey? Keep an eye out for Part 8.

I mean, eventually. You're going to get a few more answers here, so I'd wait for that. Wouldn't you?

Andrew headed up with his team to the Gym so that he could turn off the power...and found himself in what appeared to be an electrical grid.
Lt. Surge has nothing on this maniac...
It looks like an electromanic's dream come true which, given the Gym Leader and his choice of 'mons, seems to only make sense...Andrew, of course, found it borderline insane due to the risk of injury of people standing around with no sort of protective gear against the active electrical grids. He could only assume that the trainers therein were so cowed by Wattson's power as to never speak out against the madness...or were willingly into the sadistic behavior themselves. Despite the best efforts of the trainers, Andrew's team managed to prevail and Munlinn evolved into a mighty Swellow.

Wattson is a jolly sort. Built up on his own brilliance and more than happy to see himself outwitted if only to reconstruct new and better traps. The man, to Andrew's reckoning, is a nutjob...though basically harmless enough before the insane electric fences.  The battle was long and hard fought and was a time of great triumph and great tragedy...

Following the battle, "Not-Groot" evolved into a Gloom.  However, as the sun rose on the start of a new Pokemon, the sun set upon two members of the team. Lodestone and Leto, through maneuvering and lack of proper planning on Andrew's part, were defeated by Wattson's Manectric. As per the rules, they were released from Andrew's care, joining Veruca in the legions of the lost who have fallen to the quest.

Now, Andrew is down to a team of but four. Will he add more to the team? Will he return for Goomba? Will the Verdanturf Tunnel crumble before him, now that he has Rock Smash and the means by which to use it? Now you need to keep an eye out for Part 8...coming soon...

Pokemon Emerald is brought to us by Nintendo and GameFreak.

For the latest from the MadCapMunchkin, be sure to follow him Twitter @MadCapMunchkin.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Madcap's Pokémon Emerald Nuzlocke Challenge Part 6 - "Have the Lambs Stopped Screaming?"

I came to the wrong neighborhood...
So Andrew made his way to the "Battle Tent Challenge", which kind of looks like the Good Humor Truck threw up on a circus tent and was assaulted by Scott, who attempted to school him on a feature that he wasn't planning on using anyway.  That settled, he journeyed to Route 110, where he was accosted by Professor Tree #3...who immediately asks Andrew where his daughter is.

Yeah, no, he's not trying to hook them up at all.

But Andrew gets the Professor's number for reasons that don't involve flirting and he leaves with literally no explanation as to why he was ever there. Well, at least he's consistent.  And, at last, there came the trainers aka more people for Andrew's team to steamroll. And steamroll they did, all the way to the Mystery House, where Andrew walked in and found himself monitored by a man hiding under a table. The "Trick Master" challenges him to go through the Mystery House.

And, of course, more trainers within. Some CUTting was needed and XtraCrispy masterfully trimmed the hedges.  Andrew even found someone who wandered into the Mystery House by accident and had been entrapped there after losing, questioning not only the sanity but the true motives of the "Trick Master".  After all, this man apparently is one who kidnaps Youngsters. Given his own backstory, Andrew felt he had all the more reason to tear his way through the maze and stop this maniac.

A maniac who keeps the answers to codes needed to open doors on scrolls.  So a Japanese child-kidnapping Riddler who apparently considers himself "fabulous"...
...please tell me he's not making a child suit.

Terrified, but determined, Andrew stepped into the room to find the Trick Master lamenting how long it had taken him to plant all those trees, which apparently sprung up overnight. And Andrew's reward for getting through the madness?

A rare candy.

But the Trick Master resolves to create even more complex puzzles for his nemesis...before escaping like a 1960s Batman villain...

Leaving that behind him, Andrew made a beeline for Route 103.  However, following the downing of so many a trainer, he found that it was route that could only be crossed by sea. Though Leviathan is tough, it is not quite enough yet to cross the roaring waves of the...lake.  Andrew figured it was still waving off the last of its Magikarp-ness and decided to head to Mauville on the high path...and then discovered he needed a bike to do so.

Next time, it looks like taking the low road...and trying to find new sales opportunities...

The Slateport City Police and Fire Departments responded rather quickly to the report of a raging fire on Route 110. After the flames were tamed, the forsenics team was sent in - determining that the residence, formerly that of one "R. Iddle", had been burned down with the burn pattern consistent of one produced by an Ember attack. The entire structure, which had been all but condemned by city authorities for shoddy construction, had had no chance of surviving intact.

Eyewitness reports, including those from several who claim to have been held captive by Mr. Iddle (some even claiming to have been severely beaten by him), point to a mysterious young man in a white hat as being responsible for the fire. All description that could be given on him is that he was young, Caucasian, and wore a white hat, as well as seemingly being a complete mute. Though those rescued from the home call him a hero, Slateport Police still put out an APB to nearby cities to keep a watch for the individual so that, if taken in, they might extradite him for questioning.

Neither Mr. Iddle's body, nor any remains were discovered through multiple exhaustive sweeps through the ruins of the home. He is believed to still be on the loose.

Another interesting note was the greenhouse behind Mr. Iddle's home, which was shockingly completely intact following the fire. Several bags of a custom "quick-grow" mulch were found squirreled away within...with a clear pattern away from the pile that looked as though one of the bags was dragged away from the scene...

Pokemon Emerald is brought to us by GameFreak and Nintendo.

For the latest from the MadCapMunchkin, be sure to follow him on Twitter @MadCapMunchkin.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Madcap's Pokémon Emerald Nuzlocke Challenge Part 5 - "Non-Illegal Museum Heist"

"Damn, I knew I should have changed out the batteries..."
Andrew now descends deeper into Granite Cave, Goomba's Flash illuminating some of the screen around him.  And so, Andrew wandered through the tunnels being assaulted by Zubat and Makuhita at every turn, but he finally prevailed and navigated his way through the intricate maze that basically came down to being a tunnel...and found Steven, who got his letter and Andrew got a TM to teach Steel Wing for his trouble. Score!

And now, everyone who knows Andrew is trying to give him their phone number.

Leaving the cave and preparing to get rid of the package at Slateport so he could finally get back on his quest of avenging himself against the insane Gym Leader and wife who kidnapped him and brought him to Hoenn in the first place, he got just such a call from Roxanne. She promises to fight him again and win this time...delightful.

Returning to Mr. Briney, the one sane man in all the madness, Andrew elects to go to Slateport at last so that he might finish his courier job up, and it is once more to the high seas!  Landing right on the beach, Andrew stepped up amid the various beachgoers with his packet of Devon Goods to deliver to Captain Stern...and was immediately assaulted by two trainers for a double battle.

...and then immediate hit by another trainer for a battle.

After handling the irritant, Andrew entered Slateport City proper to find some Team Aqua goons that seemed to be lined up. Clearly seeing they were up to no good, he journeyed over to learn they were at the Slateport Museum...and found no way to barrel through the line, and so he found himself at the Pokemon Fan Club to further the spread of Shroomish Highs...and learning about Pokemon Contests from the President.

No wonder the 10 year old is pushing Shroomish through Hoenn, the authority figures are useless.

But Andrew decided to go and do some leveling to the north in Route 110. He also added a new member of the team in an Electrike, now named "Lodestone". Andrew returned to the Pokemon Center to swap out Dreugh from the team, bringing in Lodestone for both an Electric type and better party balance.  Following some more grinding, Leviathan evolved into a Gyarados.

Aww yeah, you live up to that potential!
Taking a break from grinding out levels, Andrew headed for the Shipyard to at last find Captain Stern...only to find that he wasn't available and his subordinates had no idea where he was.  Once again, the grown ups are completely useless in Pokemon. Heading back out, however, Andrew found that the line to the Museum was mysteriously shorter. Paying for a ticket, Andrew found the museum had been overrun by Team Aqua...who had waited patiently in line, paid for a ticket each, and were around not doing anything remotely criminal...



...yes, obvious, I know.

On the second level, Andrew found Stern and delivered the Devon Goods...only to immediately be attacked by Team Aqua again. Striding forward, Andrew's team leveled the Team Aqua grunts...and then the leader of Team Aqua, Archie showed up to explain that their organization has been founded for the sole purpose of expanding the sea. Something which Andrew is apparently too young to understand and appreciate...as he's running around giving free hits of Shroomish to the kiddies so they can get their friends in on it.

But they leave, and soon so does Stern after getting his package for some deep undersea expedition, and Andrew leaves the museum himself to be found by a man named Scott...who tries to hit on Hoenn's littlest Jesse Pinkman impersonator by giving him his number.

Really, what exactly does the mute child have that's so appealing to everyone?  Two people kidnap him and bring him to a remote island chain, the professor's daughter is trying to ship him with her (with her parents trying to encourage that thinking), and now random strangers are giving him their phone number. Where does it end?!

Well not here, as next time Andrew continues his quest to make fat stacks of Pokedollars.

...and, y'know...before a Pokemon Master or whatever.

Pokemon Emerald is brought to us by Nintendo and GameFreak.

For the latest from the MadCapMunchkin, follow him on Twitter @MadCapMunchkin.

Friday, January 16, 2015

MadCap's Game Reviews - "The Oregon Trail Deluxe"

Oh, hell, I remember this game.  While it's not the original, it was also released online with a bunch of other old MS-DOS computer games from the long, long ago time of the late 1980s and early 1990s (including the original), and it was actually the first incarnation of The Oregon Trail that I ever played on school computers back when I was but a wee little Madcap.  But what is the Oregon Trail, you may ask? What exactly was the event that inspired Minnesota Educational Computing Consortium to release a game that, to date, has had as many incarnation as everyone's twin-hearted hero in a big blue box?

Well, get yourself a three-ring binder and some loose leaf, because Madcap's gonna take you back to school!

...quit your griping, you gotta learn something.

A quick search of the internet (and, by internet, I mean I checked the Wikipedia page), I learned that the route that starts in Missouri (which loves company) and heads out west was actually first and most commonly used by the mountain men of the 1830s who were heavily into the fur trade and sought streams where beavers would be plentiful. However, forget about that because it has little to nothing to do with what it became which was a route West in order to seek gold and other opportunities in the golden land of Aquilonia...I mean, California. After James Marshall found gold and the California Gold Rush was sparked, a mass exodus occurred as many a folk were closing up their shops, packing up their families, and leaving their homes to go to the new Land of Opportunity.

And, as this game demonstrates, many of them died in gory, horrendous, and painful ways without ever making it to their destinations.

The game sees the player dropped into 1848, at the height of the prominence of the Trail. Starting from the town of Independence, Missouri, the player must buy supplies and travel out with four other individuals to California. On the way, you'll face the dangers of the open road in the 1840s. These include, but are not limited to: cholera, dysentery, having your wagon being set on fire, having your oxen wander off, having your oxen die, drowning in a river, losing all your supplies in a river, snakebites, having someone steal things out of your wagon, being caught in a blizzard if you leave too early in the year, being caught in a blizzard if you leave too late in the year, and much, much more.

And here's the worst part: there's nothing you can do about it.

Picture being a child, about seven or eight years old sitting in a computer lab at your school and then suddenly a message pops up smack in the middle of the interface that tells you that someone in your group has died, with the image of some individuals mourning over a fresh grave while the funeral march blares at you through the speakers - with literally all the subtlety of a nine millimeter round through the skull.

Y'know, forget Dark Souls.  You wanna be a man? You wanna show that you've got a giant ballsack to make Chuck Norris look like his is like a prepubescent boy's who was in the pool too long? You get through The Oregon Trail as a teacher and then you come to me with your testosterone-filled BS. You think taking on Gwyn, Lord of Cinders makes you a man? You go tangle with one person with dysentery, one person with cholera, and another person with a broken arm while you've got the elements themselves coming to wreck your day while you're running low on food, you have one ox left, and you're not even halfway through your journey. Until then? You are no man!

I cannot stress enough how completely distraught this made me when I was a kid, horrified as I watched person after person from my group die off before I'd even made it a quarter of the way through the game. The game will randomly bring up ailments for people in the party, including your character, such as disease and limb breakage. In adverse conditions, very few of which you can actually control, characters will die quickly if they're crippled or diseased. The deaths seem to come just as much at random as the diseases that precede them and it cultivates a sense of dread and hopelessness as you watch people who were in your group die off one by one.

Oh, and if you die, it's an automatic game over.

And again, you have no control over when these things happen and if you either get cured or die. The game chooses, and is plenty happy to rub it in your face. Perhaps this was the attempt by the gamemakers to make the player feel but a fraction of the horror that the pioneers heading out to the West felt, and I'd have to say they managed that masterfully. Considering the state of the world back then, lack of medicinal knowledge and the elements along meant these people had some serious testicular fortitude in even attempting this.

Speaking of medicinal knowledge, the player has a choice of professions that they had before travelling out West, each of which affords the player a bonus of some kind. Bankers start out with an insane amount of money, blacksmiths have a better chance of their wagon not breaking down and being able to repair it more efficiently if they do. Then you have professions such as Teacher, which awards no perks at the beginning but greatly increases the number of multipliers the player gets to their score upon reaching Willamette Valley in Oregon...provided that you ever actually do.  The best strategy I've worked out is to pick Doctor, so your people have a better chance of staying alive and in decent health until the end. But, again, the game will still more than occasionally just shove one up hard and you just have to take it.

The interface remains the same throughout the game, a picture that takes up about a fourth of the screen showing the towns and forts you visit along the way as most of the time you'll see your little wagon making it's way forever from the right side of that screen to the left.  A click of a button can see you trade and talk with fellow wagoneers, rest (a crucial tactic in completely wasting time...and fighting off occasional bits of exhaustion), checking your group's status, controlling how much everyone eats, setting the pace of your trip (which can have adverse conditions on everyone's health), and buying things at forts.

Also a map that you'll never use. Even when the group "loses the trail", just wait a bit and the game will put you right back on it.

Also a guide book, which you'll also never use.

The name of the game is continuing to move, keeping your people alive, and making sure you don't run out of food, especially if you start too early and get pummeled with blizzards. You may not go full Donner Party on one another...mostly because you'll be dead long before that becomes a problem. Out on the road, your best - and, indeed, only - option for food is hunting, which brings you into a nice little mini-game. You're shown a field and can switch to several different viewpoints in the area, eight in total, From there, it becomes pretty much as simple as point and click to kill any animals that come into your path. The further they are away from your position, however, the more I would advise aim your shot for where your target is going to be instead of where they are.

Your options for game are fairly simplistic - squirrels, rabbits, deer, bears, and buffalo. The bears and buffalo are the slowest moving, and yield the most meat. Once you figure that out, you naturally go for that and take them out as soon as you see them and not even bother going for the faster-moving rodents. Unfortunately, the game only lets you take back about two hundred pounds and won't let you hold more than two thousand points in the wagon at a time. Also, don't spam hunting in the areas where you can, because eventually the game will warn you that if you keep doing so, food will be scarce. If it tells you that after your first hunt, move on for a bit and then try again.

And that's really all there is to it. Don't die, keep moving West, and remember to eat. It's brain dead simplistic, and really only takes about twenty to thirty minutes to play through, provided you don't die.  So why has it endured for as long as it has? And in so many incarnations? Honestly, I think it's because it's addicting as all get out. I question it's use as an educational tool, mostly because what I knew about the era I knew from history class and didn't really learn anything new from playing it (like I said, you're never going to use the guide book).

In the end, though, the Oregon Trail was meant to teach the little children about life back in that time, and the execution of one of the greatest undertakings in American history. And it did that.  This game in particular taught my generation that everything in the 1840s was trying to kill you if you left home. That's probably why there are so many of us locked up in our homes typing out rants about video games on the internet.

The Oregon Trail Deluxe comes to us from MECC, and has various incarnations available on Android, Apple II, iOS, Macintosh, BlackBerry, Commodore 64, DOS, Facebook, Java ME, Nintendo DSi, Nintendo 3DS, Wii, Windows, Mobile, and Phone 7.

If you'd like to recreate your own traumatizing childhood memories, or you just want to see what all the fuss was about, click here.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Madcap's Pokémon Emerald Nuzlocke Challenge Part 4 - "Say Hello To My Little Leviathan"

"Seriously, dude...have you ever seen music? It'll make you see music..."
Now in the town of Dewford, Andrew continues his brilliant quest to...deliver packages. Hey, it's better than the Mojave run. So after corrupting the youth of Hoenn with the latest drug craze (as seen above), Andrew walked into nearby Dewford Hall to learn that it had really taken off in the last fifteen seconds and that he really, really should have gotten the merchandising rights. Still, can't blame him. He's ten.

Just keep that in mind. A ten year old is responsible for the next great drug craze. Imagine if he played D&D, the Pokeservative Right would have a field day.

But following becoming Hoenn's newest drug peddler as well as King of the Pirates, Andrew happened upon a fishermen who gave him an Old Rod and taught him a little about fishing, namely that you have to pull very hard on your rod to get a bigger catch...and as Andrew was walking away, he happened to pass a man by the name of Chris Hansen, but gave no further thought as he went to the seaside to go and fish. While still within the boundaries of Dewford, he caught a Tentacool, which he dubbed "Dreugh".

Further up the beach, on Route 116, XtraCrispy finally evolved into a Combusken!

"Dreugh" got the chance to prove itself against a wild Magikarp caught on the line, which was very easily caught in a Poke Ball and added to the team under the name of "Leviathan", a sign of things to come for the scaled creature...one can hope, anyway.
Soooon...maybe...

Along Route 116, Andrew found Granite Cave and began to explore through it. A friendly hiker was kind enough to hand Andrew the Flash HM while mention that Steven was further within, but to use it outside of battle he would need to gain the Dewford Gym Badge.  Being accosted by a Makuhita did little to help his glumness at being stopped in his tracks until winning his second badge, though it did get a seventh member to the team to sit within the PC Box. And because it looks like him, Andrew decided to name the creature "Buu".

And then, to prepare for the Gym Leader battle to come - intense leveling montage!

With everyone fairly on the level (after around two hours), the time came to assault the Gym! Sadly, Andrew couldn't say there was too much to be illuminated on. The trainers were, thanks to grinding, the gym leader proved a bit more difficult - his Makuhita nearly defeating XtraCrispy in a fight, though the fiery bird prevailed and a new badge was acquired.

Yay! Now he can use a flashlight!
The Knuckle Badge on his belt, Andrew headed back to Granite Cave along the way teaching Goomba "Flash" so that he might navigate the nether regions of the cave and find Steven and complete just one of the two jobs given to him by the president and then...continue on his quest to find the One Piece, start new drug crazes all across Hoenn, and become a Pokemon Master.

Not necessarily in that order.

Pokemon Emerald is brought to us by Nintendo and GameFreak.

For the latest from the MadCapMunchkin, be sure to follow him on Twitter @MadCapMunchkin.

Madcap's Pokémon Emerald Nuzlocke Challenge Part 3 - "Looking For One-Piece!"

FEED ME, SEYMOUR!!!...I mean, Andrew...
Well, Route 104 saw Andrew heading into a pretty little flower shop to learn the meaning of Berries and their special place in the world before heading out to battle trainers, then going back to Petalburg Woods to...you guessed it...grind levels.  A grinding trip that eventually got Andrew to Route 116, where he encountered a Taillow now baring the nickname of Muninn. And from there, the level grinding went into double time!

Once the team had been brought up to level 15, Andrew decided that the best course of action was to put "Goomba" to the front of the party and take on the Rustboro Gym, upon learning that Roxanne preferred the Rock type 'mons. With the help of Goomba, Andrew found that Roxanne's underlings were quite easy to beat. Almost insultingly so. Roxanne herself, besides a dragged out battle between her Nosepass and Goomba, proved just as much of no challenge.

Badge Get!
A Stone Badge and a machine to teach "Rock Tomb" under his belt, Andrew left the Gym just in time for the plot to rear its head again, answering to the call of a man chasing another man for "Goods". Apparently Team Aqua is up to their relatively new (to me, at least) tricks. Not one to refuse the call of greater XP, Andrew charged off to bring the dastardly fiends to task. The trail led Andrew down Route 116 to Rusturf Tunnel where yet another Team Aqua thug lined up to get knocked down. Again, not so much a challenge after so much power leveling. Defeated, he returned the "Devon Goods" and a Pokemon he had stolen.

An encounter with a Whismur occurred, though sadly Muninn knocked it out with a single Wing Attack.

For Andrew's efforts in retrieving the goods, a brief trip was made to the third floor of the Devon Corporation...and a request to deliver the package he recovered to the docks in Slateport...and, from the President himself, a letter to someone named Steven in Dewford.

And, of course, being the mute protagonist, Andrew is unable to question why a multibillion Pokedollar corporation has to get ten year old boys to be Couriers. Take it from me, Andrew, that leads to some pretty crazy stuff.  Nevertheless, the ability to say "no" isn't given, so Andrew is saddled with the package and a letter. But the President gives Andrew a "PokeNav"...Alex, I'll take "Things That Are Useless" for 600. Oh, look! The daily double!

To get to the cities in question? They're on the ocean. But luckily, old Mr. Briney - who's Pokemon Andrew saved - happens to be an old ornery sea captain who still has a boat...just back on the other side of the Petalburg Woods.  Andrew decides to set out for them and adventure!!!

But who should stop him but the woman who everyone believes should be the object of his affections...May...

"Who are you again?"

 May gives Andrew her number to dissuade any hopes of the shipping dying off and then immediately challenges him to throw down...in a battle. He did his best to beat her quickly in the hopes that she would take the hint, though she seemed distracted by thoughts of the burly seafaring man and Andrew made his escape shortly after winning the battle, and he ledge jumped his way back through the Woods to Mr. Briney's house.  Apparently his gratitude is such that he's more than happy to let Andrew sail the seas with him.

That's right. His name is Andrew D. Luffy, and he's going to be King of the Pirates.
It's a big blue watery row...Lugia, look at me!

Setting sail for all our hopes and dreams is interrupted by the PokeNav, Andrew's father calling him up to check up. And then, Mr. Briney's Tour Boat of Awesome docks at Dewford Town. Will Andrew deliver his letter? Will XtraCrispy evolve into the next state of fire birdiness?  Will someone who has played Emerald before come to tell me I'm doing it wrong? Find out in the next exciting installment of...One-Piece! ...I mean, Madcap's Nuzlocke Challenge.

Pokemon Emerald is brought to us by Nintendo and GameFreak.

For the latest from the MadCapMunchkin, be sure to follow him on Twitter @MadCapMunchkin.