‘Levius’

Levius is an a steampunk action anime available on Netflix that features a kid named Levius Cromwell battling other opponents in a sport called “metal boxing,” which is just normal boxing, but they use robot arms. Unlike most anime, this show uses 3D models instead of 2D drawings. The models are done really well and gives the show a sense of energy that you don’t see in other shows of the same type.

The plot of Levius revolves around an upcoming metal boxer named Levius. Metal boxers have metal arms filled with a special water called Agartha Water, that when mixed with a drop of the users blood, turns into steam and falls under their control like a natural extension of their body. When contained inside a prosthetic arm, it’s like the person using it has a normal arm that can hit a lot harder. I like the inclusion of Agartha Water as a plot element because it makes the metal arms seem realistic when the show takes place in an 1800s time period.

Levius lost his arm in a war before the series started, and after moving to his uncle Zack’s house, they bonded through their love of boxing. Soon afterwards, Levius became a rising star in the metal boxing world. The premise is simple enough, a lot like you would see in any other sports anime. But what sets this show apart is the characters.

The supporting cast, which consists of Levius’s one-eyed uncle Zack, his personal mechanic Bill, and his rival Natalia are all great and unique enough that they don’t get boring, but the real star of the show is Levius himself. Right away in the first episode we learn that he doesn’t really know why he boxes, and that he is looking for a reason through the sport. Watching him trying to discover his reason for fighting through the show is easily the most intriguing part of it.

Also, the action in Levius is amazing. Even though every single fight takes place in the same boxing ring and it’s not like they can have weapons in there, the animators still make each fight unique, with each boxer having a unique fighting style and every single fight turning out differently. Each punch has energy you can feel, and the sound effects make you feel the action.

So, if you’re into anime, steampunk, or just like fast paced action shows, then you’ll love Levius. For those into deeper plots and more intricate storylines, Levius’s relationship with his friends and his rival boxers keeps the story moving, and the music is top tier when it comes to a score for a show. 

My only real complaint I have for this show is that one of the episodes near the climax feels like it’s just filler and interrupts the final fight, but because it is so intense, I think it works, and doesn’t interrupt the action. Other than that, sometimes the lips of the characters seem like they don’t match up with the voices, but I think that’s just my brain being too slow.

My final rating for this show is a 9/10.

‘Link’s Awakening’

Link’s Awakening, is yet another remake of a Zelda game, since Nintendo isn’t in the business of producing anything original. Originally released on the Game Boy, sometime in the 90’s, it was one of the first Zelda games ever, meaning that it is in turn, one of the most influential.

The remake of this game came out last year, and I got it for Christmas. The Legend of Zelda franchise is my favorite game franchise of all time, so I was excited to play this for the first time. But, I can firmly say that after playing it for just a few hours, this is a forgettable entry in the Zelda series.

Link’s Awakening should be a fun game, and for the most part it is, but it never really captivated me like other Zelda titles have. For starters, it’s a lot more linear, up to the point where once you leave every dungeon a talking owl just tells you where the next one is. It’s still up to you to find out where they are and how to get there, and that’s my main problem with this game.

There is absolutely no sense of direction. After every dungeon, it’s implied that you need to go back to areas you couldn’t before with whatever item you got, but the map is so big, it’s hard to figure out where you are supposed to go. Also, there’s a bunch of forced side quests in between that make you travel across the map several times over for no real reason. This gets confusing very quickly, and even though it takes the mystery out of it, I would just look up a guide.

One thing this game has going for it is its looks. It has a toy style of artwork that makes everyone in the game look like, well, a toy. The top down perspective of the game makes you feel like you are in a plastic diorama moving characters around.

However, while the art style is awesome, Link can only move in 8 directions, making movement very analog. The problem with this is that every single time Link turns, there is no animation for him changing directions, and it looks so forced. The fact that you have to deal with this throughout the entire game is such a bother.

The game plays well enough, like most top down Zelda games. The sword swinging animation is satisfying enough, and once you get Roc’s feather, which lets you jump and battle in 3D, the combat really shines. But like most things in the game, it has an underlying flaw. 

To use almost any item in the game that is not the sword or the dash boots, you have to select it to one of two item spots. This was understandable in the original game, because the Gameboy had a lot less buttons than the Switch does, but now that we have so many buttons, why should we be limited to using two items at a time? I wasted a lot of time switching items in the menu because of this.

So yeah, those are my thoughts on Link’s Awakening. Did I like it? Yeah, it was fun enough, but I have a hard time recommending it to anyone who is not a diehard Zelda fan or a 12-year-old. I mean that seriously, my little brother loved this game. It was one of the only Switch games he’s ever beaten before me.

My final rating for this game is 7/10.

‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’

The Star Wars sequel trilogy has concluded, and just like with the last movie, fans’ opinions are as mixed as ever. Some say the most recent movie, The Rise of Skywalker is terrible, and others are in the completely opposite field. I personally enjoyed it, but can’t overlook some really dumb stuff that the movie includes for no reason. This is as far as I can get into the movie without spoilers, so leave now if you haven’t seen the movie yet.

Right off the bat, The Rise of Skywalker is filled with problems. It deals with the return of Palpatine, the BBEG (big bad evil guy) of the first two trilogies. First of all, I don’t mind the fact that they brought him back, but because they didn’t set up this twist in either of the previous movies, it feels like a cheap reveal. If you didn’t watch the trailers, where it was revealed he would return, then seeing his name in the opening title crawl would feel so wrong without any set up.

On a first viewing, the plot of this movie is hard to follow. It involves Poe, Finn, and Rey tracking down a Sith way-finder that can lead them to where Palpatine is hiding. Palpatine’s endgame is that he’s building a fleet of star destroyers that can destroy planets, and has sent Kylo Ren to kill Rey. The first two-thirds of this movie are about the heroes going to different planets and following leads to find the way-finder.

But when I say it’s incoherent, I mean that literally. J.J. Abrams, the man who directed the movie, doesn’t waste a lot of screen time, so it often feels like things just happen way too quick. There’s no time for any of the themes to develop as the characters are moved from one planet to the next so quickly. 

There is one moment where the plot slows down for a second, which is when Rey is in the desert about to confront Kylo Ren, the shot that was in the trailer. It takes its time to build up the tension before the confrontation, and is honestly one of the best scenes in the movie. If more of the movie had been like this scene, I believe that it would be a lot better.

One thing I really don’t like about this movie is how Rey’s backstory is treated. For two years, her parentage was a mystery, and just about everyone thought she was a Skywalker, or a Kenobi, or a Jinn, or basically a descendant of any other major Star Wars character. In The Last Jedi, it was revealed that she was a nobody, and I particularly liked that reveal, because it made the Force seem special, like anyone could use it if they believed in it. 

The Rise of Skywalker mostly threw that assumption in the trash. Partway through the movie, it is revealed that Rey is Palpatine’s granddaughter, and the reason she is so good with the Force is because of her blood. I hate this so much. They ruined most of Rey’s development in the last film, and the theme that anyone can use the Force, even random loners, like the slave boy grabbing the broom with the Force at the end of The Last Jedi.

However, even though I don’t like that they make Rey a Palpatine, I absolutely love how it plays into her character development throughout the film. It all starts when Rey accidentally uses Force lightning, which is a power that only Sith have, which foreshadows her origin. Then, later in the movie, she decided to run away from the fight and hide on the old Jedi temple because she believed she couldn’t fight anymore because she was a Palpatine. Then, Luke appears as a Force ghost, and his conversation with Rey is one of the best pep talks/motivational speeches in the entire saga, talking about how it doesn’t matter who Rey shares blood with, it matters where her loyalties lie.

On the flip side, Kylo Ren goes through an emotional arc that completes his journey throughout the films. Even though his commanding officers want to join forces with him or want him dead, he is intent on ruling the galaxy side-by-side with Rey. He tries to get her to join him by destroying the way-finder, meaning that she can only go to the emperor if she joins forces with him.

Rey rejects his offer, and from across the galaxy, Leia uses the Force to distract Kylo Ren, giving Rey an opportunity to stab him. I will admit, this scene is kind of shot in a confusing way, but since Carrie Fisher died before this film started and they were using previous footage of her with CGI clothes, I’m willing to overlook it.

Meanwhile, the last of Leia’s force powers connects Kylo to an active memory of his dad, Han Solo, in another great scene. Han isn’t a Force ghost or anything, but instead is just an active memory type thing. Anyways, they have a conversation that mirrors the one they had in The Force Awakens, with Kylo saying that, “He knows what he needs to do, but doesn’t have the strength to do it.” Han comforts him, and this time, instead of stabbing his father, Kylo Ren throws his lightsaber away and leaves to face the emperor with Rey. I feel these were the strongest scenes in the entire movie, and because they happen right before the climax, it recenters the focus of the movie and gets rid of all of the chaos and side plots.

So while the first half of the movie is kind of a mess with some cool scenes and character development, the finale is awesome. It features a giant space battle with the resistance going up against the hundreds of star destroyers called the Final Order while Rey goes to fight Palpatine and Kylo trying to catch up with her. 

This climax continues the underlying theme of hope that is prevalent throughout all of Star Wars by having Lando and Chewie going around the galaxy to spread the word that there is going to be a final attack on the Sith, and it culminates in a scene where thousands of spaceships from around the galaxy attack the Final Order. However, even though the ship battle is awesome, it pales in comparison to how Rey and Kylo beat Palpatine.

Simplifying a lot, it ends with Rey using both lightsabers to deflect Force lightning into Palpatine, and Kylo defeating the Knights of Ren, his former allies. This ending is great for two reasons: One, it sticks with the theme that Rey’s family doesn’t define her, and two, it actually had tension, and I didn’t know how it was going to end. 

However, once again, the movie pulls a stupid, and resurrects Rey using the Force heal ability. It would have been so much better if she died right there. Once she’s resurrected, they kiss for no reason at all, a scene I actually cringed at in the theatre, and then Kylo dies. Yeah, that was the grand finale of the two best characters in the entire saga. Pathetic.

Rey then goes back to the resistance base, and after hanging out there, goes to Luke’s home on Tatooine and bury’s Luke and Leia’s lightsabers in sand. A random passerby asks who she is, and she responds, “Rey Skywalker.”

I like this, because even though she’s a Palpatine, she can move on from her bloodline and decide who she is. It goes back to what Luke said in the film, about how your blood doesn’t define you, but your allegiances. It’s a good ending, and makes you feel like they name of the movie actually means something.

However, I think there would be a better way to end this film. Rey stays dead, and Kylo takes her place. Since he is a Skywalker, the ending still makes sense, and it doesn’t have to deal with the backlash of resurrection, which is kind of a stupid move to pull in any movie.

Anyways, those are my thoughts on The Rise of Skywalker. The ending would have been a lot better if Rey stayed dead, Poe and Finn were wasted throughout most of the film, and the entire first two thirds are kind of nonsensical, but if you can overlook that, the love is pretty fun. It’s just another Star Wars adventure about people tracking down a random object with a bunch of lightsaber fights. 

In that way, it’s a bit like Revenge of the Sith. A lot of people don’t like this movie, and some say the plot is stupid and confusing, but if you’re willing to overlook the stupid and just watch it because it’s Star Wars, it’s an enjoyable movie that any Star Wars fan can watch without feeling the need to watch the previous two movies.

My final rating for this movie is an 7.5/10

The Game Awards

So the Game Awards happened again. The 2019 Game Awards. If you don’t know, the Game Awards is basically one giant advertisement for upcoming games, and they announce things like game of the year. Normally, I look forward to the Game Awards, but this year, it was kind of a mess.

First off, a few new things were announced, most notably, the Microsoft X series Xbox. The X series will launch in 2020, and features a console that is taller than it is wide. I’ve also noticed the controller looks a bit different from the current Xbox controller, and not in a good way. Before you buy it next year, make sure the grip is comfortable, ask a friend or something.

Before the game of the year was announced, Vin Diesel announced a new Fast and Furious game: Fast & Furious Crossroads. A trailer was shown, and from what I could tell at a glance, the gameplay looked good enough. I’ve never seen any of the Fast & Furious movies, but as far as I can tell it features people in cars shooting at each other. That sounds like fun, but this game has a major flaw in it.

It looks like garbage. Save for a few clips of cars in the trailer (which look like they were out of a cutscene anyways), this game is hard to look at. The character models look like bulky robots with human skin stretched over them, and then they lost half of their pixel count. Seriously, the models look like they were made at 480p when the rest of the game looks like 1080p.

Screenshot taken from: https://youtu.be/1bAtuMIIvyk

But that’s not nearly the only problem with the game in the trailer. First of all, there is lag. Take a moment to let that sink in. There is lag for the trailer to a game that the creators had time to edit and produce properly. If there is lag in the trailer, how much lag is there going to be in the actual game?

There is a bunch of other problems with the game, that just shows a lack of effort from the creators. For one, there is a scene where a car starts shooting at another car and hits it several times, but there are no bullet holes. The bullet effects themselves look more like lasers or energy than actual bullets. Also, and this part is kind of funny, there is an awkward animation of this guy jumping onto a train, and the animation is so ridiculously stupid it’s funny.

But this colossal fail of a trailer is nothing to the real problem of the Game Awards: the choice for best games of the year. Every year, the Game Awards sets up an online poll for a bunch of different awards, like the best action game of the year, or the best fighting game of the year. However, they have way to many categories, and that doesn’t work in their favor.

For the most part, I like how they have so many ways to vote. It shows appreciation to all of the genres, including indie titles, and gives all of the good games of the year a chance to win. However, this isn’t true in the slightest sense. The Game Awards are based on a vote, which means the most popular games are going to win. Nobody is going to vote for a game they haven’t even played. Also, only the pick for Game of the Year is actually said onstage, and the rest are shown online, meaning that they won’t receive any praise from a live audience.

When you break it down, the Game Awards this year were just a three hour slog of watching advertisements for video games, trailers for video games, and a disappointing game of the year announcement. In case you’re wondering, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice won, which admittedly looks like a cool game, but considering Super Smash Bros Ultimate was also in consideration, it doesn’t seem justified.

And that is the flaw with the Game Awards. Because they choose a variety of games on different consoles for game of the year, most people who vote will have only played one or two of those games. That turns voting into a popularity contest.

So does this mean that the Game Awards should pick game of the year a different way? Should they do it based on a Metacritic score, or get a group of professional reviews to voice their opinions? No, then people would feel even worse than they would when their favorite game loses. 

If you want my advice, which you do, because you are reading this article, just ignore the pick for game of the year. Hearing that Sekiro won doesn’t devalue how fun Smash is at all. If the Game Awards continue to put on an advertiser-first display every year, people will start to catch on. But until the show improves, I don’t plan on tuning in next year.

‘Dungeons and Dragons’: The world’s greatest role-playing game

Dungeons and Dragons. What comes to mind when you heart those words? Perhaps you are a veteran of the tabletop role-playing game, and just hearing those words brings back memories of your adventures in the D&D world. More likely, you have no idea what I am talking about, and maybe think Dungeons and Dragons is some kind of video game. At the very least, one phrase comes to your mind: nerd stuff.

There is a common misconception that Dungeon and Dragons is only played by socially outcast nerds with no social life. I am here to dispel that myth; it is false. It’s not a video game either. D&D was made before video games existed. Instead, D&D is what is called a ‘tabletop role-playing game.’

But what does that mean? Basically, in D&D, there are two types of players: the Dungeon Master (called ‘DM’ for short) and the players. The DM referees the game, and is sort of the god of the world he creates. In a video game, he would be the system, the thing that controls all of the monsters and non-player characters, as well as describing the environment and world that the players are in. There is typically only one DM, and everyone else is a player. 

The players each create a character from a variety of races and classes, which are jobs, and they pretend to be their character, and react how their character would react in the world that the DM describes. The best part about character creation is that you can really be anything. If I want to be a dwarven merchant who lost his parents to a dragon attack when he was four and now wants revenge, I can.

Once characters are created, they enter the world that the Dungeon Master has created. He’ll describe the environment, and the players get to choose what they want to do with the scenario he has set up. This is the real draw of the game: the freedom. You can do anything in the D&D world if you want to. If the DM says, “you are surrounded by orcs, and help is miles away,” you can respond to that situation however you want. You can attack them, try to make peace, even bribe them to let you pass.

Does this mean there are no rules? No, of course not. The way randomness is handled in D&D is through the use of exotic dice, ranging from a four sided die to a 20 sided die, also called a d20. Whenever you want to attempt something that has a chance of failing, you roll a d20 and try to get over the DC, or difficulty class. For example, if you want to arm wrestle one of the aforementioned orcs to assert your dominance, the DM might say, “Okay! Roll a strength check.” You would roll your die, and if it got higher than the DC the DM set in his mind, then you succeed, and beat the orc in arm wrestling.

But of course, not everybody is going to have equal skill in every category. A rugged barbarian would have a better chance at beating the orc in arm wrestling than a shrimp wizard would. To show this in the gameplay, everybody has six different ability scores, which represent your expertise on one of the following attributes: strength, dexterity, constitution, intelligence, wisdom, and charisma. Each of these scores has a modifier, a bonus you add to your d20 roll that increase your chances of passing the DC. If a barbarian, who has a +4 to strength attempts to arm wrestle the orc, then the DC is technically 4 lower for him because if he rolls 4 under the DC, his check will still work because his strength modifier increase the total of the roll to be over the DC.

I know that’s a bunch of mumbo jumbo, but that is just the technical stuff, for those curious about how the game works. To sum it up, you pretend to be a character in a fictional world in your imagination, and you make decisions, as in that world, and the success of those decisions is determined by your dice rolls and how good your character is in that particular field. This system is the basis for the technical part of the game, to make sure the game is fair, but the rest of it is up to you. 

I’m serious about that. Although this game is designed for the world you create to have a medieval-fantasy setting, you can make it whatever you want. If you want your story to take place in outer space, you can do that! Want to add laser guns? Simple, just make up some basic stats for it, and it’s as good as real. Remember, the stats are not what drives this game, imagination is what is. As long as you adhere to the core rules, you should be fine.

Making your own things for D&D, whether they be rules, weapons and armor, classes, races, items, or anything else, this process is called, “homebrew.” Homebrewing your own things can really make your adventure stand out. But say you don’t have time to create your own stuff, you just don’t have the free time to whip up some unique ideas. First of all, as a DM, it takes a lot of planning and effort to make a successful adventure. You’re going to want to spend a lot of your free time preparing for the next time you play if you want to get into this game.

But for those who really don’t have the time, or just want to see what other D&D players, both DMs and players, have come up with, then may I suggest www.dandwiki.com? This site is home to thousands of user generated pages, including everything from homebrew classes and races, to entire settings for your worlds. The site even has fan-made content from existing fiction, meaning you can play as people like Link from the Legend of Zelda series, Iron Man from the Marvel franchise, and even Jedi Knights from Star Wars.

Why else should you use D&D Wiki? I would say that it really helps you understand the full concept of D&D itself. By spending time on fan-made pages, you learn how to effectively make your own homebrew stuff by seeing what others are doing. You may have a concept or idea in your head, but don’t know how to implement it into the game. Chances are, you can find a rule or take inspiration from something on the Wiki and use it in your game. 

Here’s the thing: www.dandwiki.com is currently blocked by the school, meaning you can’t use it on your iPad at all, even when you are at home. Now, I know that the school has good reasons for blocking sites, and those reasons usually boil down to one of two things: they are not appropriate or they waste time. Allow me to explain why D&D wiki should not be blocked for either of these reasons.

First, the argument that this site wastes time in school. Well it’s true that I would spend a considerable amount of time on the site, both in and out of school, that doesn’t change a thing about wasted time. There are plenty of ways to waste time on your school iPad, even if the district were to block all the gaming sites in the world. Basically, using your iPad to waste time is a choice that the student makes, and blocking time wasting sites is not an incentive not to waste time.

Secondly, this site is by no means inappropriate. It’s true that Dungeons & Dragons is a generally mature game, that usually refers to the mental age required to play it effectively rather than if it has blood or not. You have to be older to play it, but that doesn’t mean every game is an edgy blood soaked battlefield. It’s up to the DM and players to agree upon if they will describe mature things in the game. There is a total ban on all foul language and mature content on D&D Wiki, if that is the issue.

So yeah, that sums up my article on Dungeons and Dragons. If this sounds like something you would enjoy, go ahead and check it out. All you really need to play is a Player’s Handbook, which you can find online for like $30. If you want to check it out, you can buy a starter pack for even cheaper, which gives you a premade adventure and premade characters for you to play. 

Also, as it turns out, the co-creator of D&D, David Lance Arneson, is a graduate from this very school! I didn’t even know that until I wrote this article. I mean, I knew the game was made by people in Minnesota and Wisconsin, but I never knew how close I really was to the creators of this game. 

If you want to find out more about David, check out this article:  https://www.minnpost.com/mnopedia/2019/05/david-arneson-the-co-creator-of-dungeons-dragons-developed-the-game-in-minnesota/

So, if you have a creative mind, and are feeling bored with the limited choices of video game adventures, then consider playing one of my favorite games of all time: Dungeons & Dragons.

‘Untitled Goose Game’ review

Untitled Goose Game is a game where you play as a goose who tries his best to mess with the inhabitants of his village. Released by House House on September 20th, it has since been praised with critical acclaim, as well as a 98% “liked it” score according to Google Users. But is this game really that good? Does it deserve the 81/100 on Metacritic? Let’s find out.

The first thing you notice about Untitled Goose Game is how it looks. For starters, there is very minimal outlines on anything, and shadows are often subtly shaded so they are generally unnoticeable if you are not looking for them. This gives the entire game a cartoony vibe, but does it in a way that doesn’t sacrifice depth. It’s very hard to explain without pictures, so here one is:

Everything you need to know about this game can be seen in the picture above. You are a Goose, and your job is to steal the human’s belongings and mess with their lives every way you can. The game has a unique art style, not one I particularly like, but definitely one I don’t despise. 

Untitled Goose Game has simple controls. You move around with the control stick, can zoom in or out with the triggers, and you press A to grab stuff with your beak. You can grab most things, whether they are apples, radios, or even harmonicas. Oh yeah, you also have a honk button, which does just what you think it does. With this dedicated arsenal, you are ready to control the townspeople to your every whim.

The music in this game plays a big role in the over all experience, although not in the way you would expect. There is no real soundtrack, no background music that plays during the game. However, whenever you try to attempt something, like sneaking up on a villager, classical music will play at the same intensity as the situation. In this example, it would start to play creeping piano music as you approached the villager, and the music will intensify when you start to steal their stuff.

This is a good base for a game, but in my opinion, this entire game is lacking in fun. Even though it is a sandbox game, it feels like there is nothing to do. You have a checklist of things you need to do to beat the game, like locking the Boy in the telephone booth or getting the Groundskeeper to hit his own hand with the hammer. The game doesn’t tell you how to do this, so you have to use your limited arsenal of honks and beak grabs to achieve everything. Sometimes, this is simple, like honking at the exact moment the Groundskeeper attempts to hit the sign with his hammer.

But because the game doesn’t give you any hints on how you have to figure things out, every puzzle in the game is one you need to solve on your own. Normally, I like puzzle games, but because this game doubles as a stealth game, there is no sense of progression when solving puzzles. In a game like Portal, you have every piece of the puzzle, and through trial and error, you can slowly figure out how to solve a puzzle. In Untitled Goose Game, there is still trial and error, but instead of discovering new ways to solve the puzzle, you simply try the same thing over and over again, waiting a while in between attempts for the villagers you are messing with to go to the spot you want them to.

That’s my main problem with this game. I have some other minor issues, like how the camera never really angles itself on what you want, and there are no camera controls besides zooming in and out, which don’t really accomplish much. It doesn’t ruin the experience by any means, but I wish there was someway to toggle the zoom out button so you didn’t have to hold it.

So, is this game worth it? Despite its flaws, is it worth the 20 dollar Nintendo Eshop price? I would argue not. Even though it has the word “game” in its title, I don’t really consider it a game. It’s an experience, something you’ll play a few times to fulfill that desire to mess with some people for a few hours. At best, I would wait for one of your friends to buy it, and then just play it when you’re at their place. 

My final rating for Untitled Goose Game is 6/10.

What it is like to only have one arm

By 2050, there will be approximately 3.6 million people in the United States missing a limb. According to www.pewsocialtrends.org, the American population will be approximately 438 million. After doing a bit of quick math, I calculated that about 0.8% of our population will be missing either an arm or a leg.

But what is it like to be missing a limb, specifically an arm? I wanted to find out. I’ve had a passing interest in the idea of having one arm, thanks to anime and TV, believe it or not. In Volume 3 for RWBY, Yang, one of the main characters, gets her arm cut off during a fight. In Season 2 of Attack on Titan, Erwin Smith loses his arm to a titan in one of the best scenes in that show. As for TV, in The Walking Dead, Merle, Hershel, and Aaron all either lose a hand or a leg.

So, with the inspiration of some of my favorite shows on my back, I decided to go armless for a day. To do this, I simply put my left arm in my shirt and pulled in my sleeve so I wouldn’t feel tempted to take it out. If any safety issues ever came up that required me to use two hands, I could simply just take off my hoodie.

The second I left the door on my way to school, I put my arm inside my shirt and was already noticing a problem. Having only one arm means the weight of my backpack wasn’t disturbed evenly, so my one arm got tired quickly. I found myself pushing the bottom of my backpack upwards so it could stay on longer, because I feared it might fall off.

During first period, I noticed the major problems most amputees face: everything is slower. Typing takes much more time, because I only had one arm to type with. This may go without saying, but I think it’s an often overlooked part of having one arm.

Here’s a fun challenge: try to find the commonality with the following sentences. 

  • I had to ask people to zip up my backpack for me when class ended.
  • Eating my lunch was much slower.
  • I couldn’t play video games at all.

In case you forgot what you were reading, the commonality is that all of these sentences can be ended with, “because I only had one arm”. Anything from basic tasks like zipping my backpack to complex stuff like playing video games becomes nearly impossible.

For an example, let’s take a look at how lunch went for me. I had to open the front pocket of my backpack to grab my lunchbox. The coat I stuffed in there earlier was also there, so I had to remove that before I could grab my lunchbox. When I got my lunchbox out, I tried to put the jacket back in the backpack, but it kept falling over. I ended up using my feet to prop it up so I could fit in the jacket. Even so, I couldn’t zip my backpack, so I just had to wait for a friend to do it at lunch.

I’ve practiced eating with one hand before, so besides the fact that I couldn’t hold my cup of lemon pudding down while I ate, I was basically OK. However, that’s not the main challenge I faced.

My friend brought his Nintendo Switch to school that day so we could play Super Smash Bros: Ultimate during lunch. I forgot to inform him that I would only have one arm that day. Anyways, I ended up playing a round, and needless to say, I didn’t do very well. I figured the best way to play was to hold it like you do when the Joy Cons are split, so you hold it vertically. This means that you would have to switch which way the control stick moves the character in settings, so it’s conceivable that this would be a valid way for a one armed person to play the game, although still at a disadvantage. I didn’t have the opportunity to switch the way the stick moved, so I ended up losing the match badly.

Because video games make up an embarrassing amount of my free time, this made me think about what opportunities are taken away from people missing limbs. One armed people are limited to the most basic of mobile games that only require tapping or swiping, meaning one of my favorite pastimes would be gone if I ever lost an arm. 

You know how I talked about how even basic stuff takes a lot of time with only one arm? Well, I really noticed that during 5th period, which for me was Beginning Drawing. We were working on our perspective summative, which involves drawing lines from a ruler to a specific point. Normally, you use one arm to hold the ruler steady and another to draw the line, and you can already see my dilemma. I ended up having to adjust the ruler where I wanted it, setting it down, putting my iPad on it to act as a weight while hoping it didn’t mess up the ruler, and then drawing a line. The entire process took at least 5 times longer at least.

One thing I wasn’t able to emulate that many amputees face is discrimination of any sort. Whether it be weird looks or being told outright that I wasn’t normal, I never experienced any of it. Even if you’ve never met me before, it’s obvious that I have two arms, even if one of them is in my hoodie. Whenever a friend or a teacher asked why I was only using one arm, I explained that it was for journalism class and they didn’t really ask beyond that. At worst, they silently judged me for my weird life choices.

Before I end this article, I quickly want to address how Amputees are viewed in popular culture. Earlier, I mentioned how in the show RWBY, a character by the name of Yang Xiao Long loses her arm in a fight. It’s a common fact that people tend to relate to people like them, so having a character with one arm can resonate with fans who maybe went through the experience of losing a limb, or people who were born without a certain limb to begin with.

However, I feel like this character moment falls flat on its face just a few episodes later. While losing her arm does play into her character development, making her more cautious instead of headstrong, the fact that she loses an arm at all is stupid, considering she gets a highly advanced robot arm just a few episodes later. 

Now, I know prosthetic arms are a real thing, and they are quickly becoming more and more usable, but not to the extent shown by Yang’s robot arm in RWBY. It’s hard to relate to a character that has a cybernetically enhanced arm. RWBY is a show that revolves around a lot of hand to hand combat, so maybe the writers felt too restrained with her just having one arm, or maybe they just thought a robot arm would be cool. Either way, I find it kind of lazy, because even if robot arms are a technology in the RWBY universe, that doesn’t mean you have to use it. Besides, there are plenty of ways the fights in the show could become more creative with one of the characters only having one arm. 

So, in conclusion, it sucks having one arm. Of course, my experience of having one arm is limited, and I’m sure people get used to it over time, but still, spare a thought for the people who don’t have an arm or leg. Thanksgiving is coming up soon, that would be a perfect time to give thanks for what you take for granted.

‘Skyrim’ for Nintendo Switch

The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim, is an open world RPG made by Bethesda, which, as we all know and agree upon, is the best video game developer in history. The reason it’s called Skyrim is because they were to lazy so simply say “horizon.” In Skyrim, you play as the Dragonborn, a mythical hero with the blood and soul of a dragon, that can speak the language of dragons, but spends the entire game killing dragons.

Skyrim starts out with you being taken towards your execution, with some other side characters that will either die in a few minutes or will never come up again. Actually, they might. I don’t know, I haven’t beaten this game yet. 

When you get to the execution, you get to create your character, by which I mean you pick from 9 playable races and spend way too much time deciding facial features that will never come up or aren’t noticeable. You also get to pick a name, which doesn’t matter either, because the game has voice acting and might not be able to pronounce your name. 

And you’re off, as a dragon attacks the execution and ironically saves you from being beheaded. After spending the first few minutes with your hands tied, you finally make it to a safe area with either an imperial soldier or a rebel (the choice doesn’t matter, you go through the same dungeon to escape from the town anyway). On your way out, you learn useful mechanics, like sneaking, fighting, and how much bows suck.

Once you finish the first dungeon, you have access to all of Skyrim. The guy you escaped with will give you a quest marker, but you can ignore it and just sorta do what you want. In my first session, I traveled to the northeast and ended up in this one town with a murder mystery, and I had to help solve it.

“Cool!” I thought. “What could go wrong with this?”

Everything. First of all, Skyrim has a problem with quests. The menu you access that shows your quests is bland and unorganized, and it doesn’t do a good job of showing which quests you want to do. 

Secondly, the game has a mini-map problem. A compass at the top of the screen will always show which way you are headed, and marks the directions of stuff like the nearest town. However, it also marks quest trackers. Here’s the problem: Every objective in the quest is marked, meaning to complete a quest, you basically just have to go where your mini-map tells you to.

I ended up abandoning the quest and decided to play the actual game. Speaking of the game, how does it play? Well enough, I would say. Except for motion controls. Motion controls suck. Don’t use them. 

For basic controls, you have two buttons mapped to each hand to use whatever is in that hand. If you have a shield in your left hand, and a sword in your right then those buttons will either use the sword to attack or block with the shield. If you are holding a two-handed sword, then you attack with the right hand button and block with the left. At first, I had a difficult time with the controls, but then I realized you can change any buttons to do anything in the settings menu, so I got over it pretty quick.

There are basically two pause menus: one for saving, settings, and stuff like that, and another for actual gameplay. The gameplay pause menu has four branches: Inventory, Map, Magic, and Skills. Inventory and Map are self explanatory, and the only thing you need to know about the Magic menu is that it also shows your active affects, like any poisons or disease you have, as well as your powers, like Amiibo support and dragon shouts, which we’ll get into later.

But the Skills menu is special. You have about 30 different skills, like one-handed, alchemy, sneak, restoration, etc. The more you use a skill, the more you level it up on a scale from about 10 to 100. When you level up a skill, you also get experience, which goes to leveling up your character. When you level up your character, you can choose between increasing your magic, stamina, or health, and also get to pick one feature from a certain skill, like increasing the damage of two handed weapons, healing more hit points from restoration spells, or being able to sell anything to any type of merchant.

It’s worth mentioning that this game is freaking huge! I’ve been playing for 10+ weeks and haven’t come close to discovering everything. My quest log is flooded with quests, both main and side, and I haven’t even been to every major town yet. However, the size of the game doesn’t always work in it’s favor.

See, Skyrim is what is known as an “RPG”, which means role-playing game. Role-playing means taking on the role of someone else and acting as they would, like playing pretend with rules. The RPG category is pretty broad, so normally I wouldn’t discredit a game for how it handles character interactions, but Skyrim is a special case. 

In Skyrim, when you are in a character interaction, you will have several dialogue options to choose from. Most of the time, the options they game gives you are pretty diverse, so you can make your character, at least in your eyes, friendly, hostile, sassy, basically any personality you want or can invision on your character. Sometimes the options are pretty sparse, but every game with detailed character interactions is like this, so I’m willing to let it slide.

“But Oliver,” you ask. “How does the character interactions have anything to do with the size of the world?”

I’ll tell you. The world of Skyrim is so huge you are bound to get distracted by anything and everything. Every side quest offers new possibilities for adventure, so of course you’re going to delay the main quest. But the size of Skyrim’s map means the game is going to be much longer, and in between play sessions the average player is going to forget what they are doing.

This means that you don’t really care about the character interactions because you just want to go onto your next quest by following the marker on the minimap. This issue is made even worse by the fact that all of the dungeons are very similar, and so is the quest design. 

Most quests follow the same formula: Go to a town, talk to a guy, now talk to another guy, now go complete a dungeon, and then go back to these guys called the “Greybeards,” which are sort of like your protectors to learn a new Shout, which is a special power only you and the Greybeards have.

Despite the formulaic plot structure, I really like some of the plot design in Skyrim. It focuses on certain “wow” moments that you get when playing, like fighting your first dragon, and hearing the “Song of the Dragonborn” play in the background. Another example is a remarkable character interaction, like when you find out that the innkeeper in the first town is secretly part of this underground organization.

By far my favorite dungeon was the one where you had to sneak into a party for a bunch of royal snobs and then sneak out and find information the host was hiding. It was a super unique quest, and I remember every aspect of it fondly. There was even this one part where I interrogated a prisoner and then punched him to death, and a glitch activated where he flew out of his chains and started flailing around on the floor for 30 seconds. It was surprising, not intended by the game developers, and honestly one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen.

Unlike other RPGs, there are no classes in Skyrim, but the game is designed around three unique play styles: Thief, Warrior, and Mage. Thieves focus on the lock picking and sneak skills, and try to get critical hits by sneaking up on enemies. Warriors tend to use a variety of weapons and level up their one handed, two handed, block, and heavy armor skills. Mages focus on upgrading their magic, and skills like destruction, restoration, illusion, and conjuration skills, which are all different types of magic.

What I like about this system is that you can choose what you want to do with your level up abilities. Your character can be whatever you want, and it’s not really limited to the three main play styles. For example, I played a Warrior, but spent some of my levels into increasing my restoration skill, so on paper I was like a Paladin, which if you don’t know, are holy warriors that derive healing magic from their gods. If you wanted to be a Ranger, you could focus on the archery skill and also have some conjuration spells to summon a beastly companion. There are so many options.

Even if you don’t play a Mage, you have access to some magic called, “Shouts,” that you learn from those Greybeard people I mentioned. They will teach you how to do it, you can equip them in the Magic menu to the special powers button. Each one has a unique effect, like one pushes people away from you and another just sets everything on fire. The best part about them is that they don’t require magic to use, and instead have a cooldown timer, so that anyone can use them and no play style is better at them than others.

Oh yeah, this is the Switch port of Skyrim, so I have to talk about Amiibo. Amiibo can be used once per day, and when they are used, a Breath of the Wild style chest falls from the sky. 90% of the time, it will contain useless ingredients, but you have an off chance of getting some rare Breath of the Wild gear, like Link’s blue “Champion’s Tunic,” or even the Master Sword. I actually got the Champion’s Tunic, but died before I saved, so I didn’t get to keep it. It’s okay, because you can find both of them hidden on the actual game, so you don’t need Amiibo to get them.

I could talk about this game forever. To recount all of my adventurers would take hours and several more pages, so I’ll leave it out with this: Skyrim is a great game, and I would recommend it to anyone, but only if you have the time. If you’re in it for the long haul, just sit back and relax, and don’t expect a super engaging story. My only complaint is that there should be more to do on the title menu so you have an excuse to listen to the title theme for longer.

My final rating for this game is a 9/10.

‘Mario Kart Tour’ review

Nintendo just released a Mario Kart game for mobile platforms, called, “Mario Kart Tour.” I’m not going to lie, when I first heard this, I almost lost it. In my mind, there was almost no way this game could work. “Mario Kart 8 Deluxe” is already playable on the go, thanks to the Switch, and I just didn’t see a need for a mobile Mario Kart game. At the start, I was mildly annoyed that Nintendo would put one of my favorite games on mobile just for money.

Then I saw how the game played, and things got a whole lot more complicated. You see, my first real experience with this game was watching my friends play it at lunch. After just a minute of viewing, I could already tell something was off. The swipe controls were comically bad, and you had to play the game vertically. My blood was boiling. How could they make such a good game awful. YOU HAD ONE JOB NINTENDO!!! ONE JOB!!!

I put off playing the game for another week, until finally I couldn’t put it off anymore. Begrudgingly, I fired up the app. The first thing I noticed was that they randomly give you a character. I got Toad, which is good, because he’s my favorite. Still, I don’t like any system that practically forces you to play as someone you don’t want to.

Lakitu, that floating turtle on the cloud, acted as my tutorial. I mentioned how the swipe controls are bad, but here’s the real kicker: it isn’t even explained well. The tutorial simply says, “swipe which way you want to turn,” not “swipe from the opposite side to turn a little bit. Also, it doesn’t work sometimes.” 

Controls aren’t even close to the only issue with this game. First of all, it looks like garbage, even for a mobile game. All of the textures look blocky and unfinished, and take one moment to look off the track, you can see how little thought was given to the art.

Oh, but you can’t even look off the track, because the game is played vertically. Look at every other Mario Kart game; they are all played on TVs so of course they are played horizontally. But “Mario Kart Tour” is played the same way you play “Knife Hit.” Your view of the road is extremely limited, and this means you have less time to dodge or maneuver around other players.

Whoops, silly me! There are no other players! This game doesn’t support multiplayer yet! But for some reason that we mere mortals cannot begin to comprehend, it still pairs you up with other players names! This means you are racing against CPUs, but you still have to have an internet connection to play because it needs to load in their names! 

This is stupid for multiple reasons. One, it means people can’t play a mobile game outside of their house unless they want to use data. Two, it means that when you pause the game, the other races, which are computers might I remind you, still keep racing, just like if you paused any other online game. But remember, it’s not an online game! Nintendo’s strange desire to have us on an internet connection whenever we play this game is hurting the game design because it makes us commit to a race.

But the most bizarre thing of all is when you leave the match, the game pauses for real. Let that sink in. When you press the pause button in game, all it does is bring up the settings menu. But when you leave the app, the game freezes and waits indefinitely for your return, as long as you don’t close the window. All this horrid system does is let the game keep running when you want to change settings, or adjust the music volume.

That was it. After a single race (which now only have two laps, for some odd reason), I was ready to write this game off as a cheesy cash grab that people would spend money on because it’s, legally speaking, “Mario Kart.”

But then, after my first race, I went into settings and saw this:

You can change to motion controls. I don’t even remember why I even went into settings, as soon as I saw this, I turned it on and was in the next race.

As it turns out, the motion controls aren’t half bad. You still have to play the game vertically, which sucks because when you tilt the device, the position of the screen changes, and sometimes you can’t see it when turning. There is no sensitivity adjuster, so you’re stuck like this until they release an update.

But, as luck would have it, I found myself enjoying the game a lot more. It was nice to have some semblance of actual control over my Kart, and before I knew it I had completed the first world. The game is actually kind of fun.

Of course, I still have a lot to go over. First and foremost, the app is free, but does have in-app purchases. There are two in-game currencies, gold coins and rubies. The thing is, you can only buy rubies, just like in “Clash of Clans,” where you can only buy gems. However, in “Clash of Clans,” the other two currencies (gold and elixir) actually have uses in-game other than to spin loot boxes (which we’ll talk about in a sec). In “Mario Kart Tour,” rubies are just a way of confusing the player in how much money they’re spending. 

Oh yeah, rubies can also be spent on loot boxes, sorry, “Mystery Pipes,” which give you items like new racers and Karts. Of course it does the tutorial thing, where it gives you free in-game currency and lets you spin it for free. This is stupid, because as of right now, there is no way to access the stats of the Karts, so any more Karts is just for aesthetic. I was lucky to get my favorite character in the tutorial, but I can’t really imagine playing as someone I don’t like the entire time.

Even so, this game is still fun. Most of the gripes I mentioned can be overlooked, and the game isn’t awful when you have motion controls on. If you just don’t spend money on the game, and enjoy it as a mobile game, I recommend downloading it.

My final rating for this game is a 7/10, when I was expecting something like a 3/10.

‘A Link to the Past’ Review

 

A ‘Link to the Past’ Review

So for the 1st anniversary of the Nintendo Switch online service, they finally released Super Nintendo games for the Switch. I have been waiting for these games forever, and now that they’re here, I decided it would be a good idea to review one of my favorites: The Legend of Zelda: a Link to the Past. This game is incredible and ahead of its time, and I’m about to explain why.

Graphics

A lot of gamers today are super obsessed with good graphics, which is ridiculous considering how many people play Minecraft. I grew up playing a Wii, so I never really had the luxury of caring about graphics.

I initially thought that the pixelated graphics would be a detriment to the game. I was wrong.

A Link to the Past was originally released on a 16-bit system, so you would think it wouldn’t hold up today. You would be wrong in that assumption. A Link to the Past looks great for it’s time, and a cartoonish theme can be distinguished from the pixels. 

The biggest complaint I had with how the game looked was the repetitive assets. Every tree, rock, and bush looks identical, and at times it got a little boring. 

However, all the repetition makes you notice when something is different. A single tree on the map is slightly lighter than the others, so it’s no surprise that running into it reveals a secret cave.

Sound Design and Music

A Link to the Past is part of the Zelda games, a series that is known for its stunning music. Even though this is only the third game in the series, it has some of the best music. 

The main Overworld theme is a new rendition of the Overworld theme from the first game, created to sound triumphant to fit the setting, while not being so good or loud that it distracts the player.

The Dungeon theme isn’t as good, but it serves a more important purpose than sounding awesome. The dungeons are the most difficult areas of the game, and they have a sense of danger that you don’t feel in the overworld, even when exploring dangerous areas. The dungeon music also makes you feel relieved when you exit a dungeon, and makes you feel like you’ve just been in a movie theatre and just went into the sun for the first time in hours.

What I really love about this game is that it feels satisfying to hit an enemy with your sword, all because of the sound design. Every successful hit from a sword rewards you with what sounds like a tiny vibration, and a miss is signified with a little dink. It actually frustrates me every time I miss an easy shot because of that sound, and incentivizes me to improve my aim and therefore my skill in the game.

Story

I love a Link to the Past’s approach at storytelling. You start out on a set quest that you have to complete before the world is open for you to explore. This quest sets up the main villain of the campaign, the ways you can attack, how to use an item, how to solve puzzles, how to interact with the environment, and most importantly, rewards your exploration. 

When you do get out of that first dungeon, you have options. The main quest tells you to go to Kakariko Village to talk to this lady, but you can completely ignore it and head for the next dungeon, or explore the world to get upgrades. 

Upgrades and hidden items play an important role in exploration. As an adventurer, you want to become more powerful, so naturally you seek out as many of those upgrades as you can. However, some items require certain items to get, items which can only be found in dungeons. This invisibly makes the player want to do more dungeons to get more loot, and that’s how they provide you with story.

Gameplay

A Link to the Past features a top down zoomed out camera angle, which is perfect because it shows just enough of what is ahead on the map and gives you enough time to maneuver around enemies and other obstacles.

The main weapon in Zelda is the sword, but every other item you get is just as useful. You have a green magic meter on the side of your screen, which limits how much you can use some magic. If I am being totally honest, the magic meter is a bit too limiting, even with the upgrade that halves how much magic you need.

The dungeons are one of the greatest parts of the game. Each one provides a unique theme and has interesting puzzles. My biggest complaint is that many of the enemies are reused, and it got a little frustrating to kill the same things so many times. 

The puzzles in the dungeons are great. They require a perfect balance of using your items and using your brain. If you get around to playing this game, try not to look up the solutions for any of the dungeons. The moment of satisfaction you get when you figure it out yourself is worth it.

I Just Like This Game

I just have to say it, this game is awesome. It’s one of the best additions to a legendary game series, expanding on the first of its line and setting the formula for the dozens of games that followed it. 

Every random feature of A Link to the Past amuses me. There’s this one part where you drain a lake in the light world to gain access to the dungeon, and it’s a great way to do world building.

In that same lake, you can find a fish that you can carry for absolutely no reason. If you bring it to a man in Kakariko Town, he’ll randomly give you a bunch of items in exchange for it. I have no idea why this is a thing, but it’s awesome.

The Master Sword, the main weapon of the game, is talked about in literal terms. People describe its power, and going back to what I said earlier, you want to find it to make yourself more powerful.

There’s this mushroom you can find in the Lost Woods, and if you bring it to the witch she’ll give you the magic powder. You can sprinkle this on monsters to turn them into weird creatures, an example being it turns electric slimes into these goofy monsters with handlebar mustaches. You can also sprinkle it on anti-fairies to turn them back into fairies to heal yourself.

Every item has a double use. The Cane of Somalia can be used to create blocks to hold down switches, but you can throw those blocks and make them explode by pressing the Y button again. The Hookshot can be used to zip across rooms and over gaps, but can also be used to stun enemies.

A lot of people complain about the difficulty of games that came out before they were born, and most of the time, they’re right. The original Super Mario Bros game is difficult, so much so that I’ve never beaten it. But A Link to the Past doesn’t have any super huge difficulty spikes, and the more you play the more you naturally get better in certain situations. 

They could’ve made this game very dependent on items, but instead it was very freeform. The item you get in a dungeon is sometimes optional, and sometimes you don’t need it for that dungeon but the next one. Sometimes you need to beat a dungeon with an item you got in the overworld. There’s this one point where you need to grab a book to translate the text outside a dungeon, but that same book can be used to translate certain texts throughout the land to gain magical pendants.

Every sword upgrade is found in a different way. The Master Sword is discovered by collecting three pendants from different dungeons. When you finally get to it, the moment is epic, as the three pendants collide and you finally draw the Sword that seals the Darkness. You can temper your sword by rescuing one of the dwarves trapped in the dark world. He’ll power up your sword as thanks. You can increase the damage output again by throwing it in a fairy pool.

Everything about this game is unique, and it never pulls the same trick twice. I’ve only put it down for a few days, and I’m already itching to play it again. If you have a Nintendo Switch, or a SNES classic, or even a Gameboy Advance, I highly suggest playing this game.

My final rating for this game is a 9/10.