Saturday, November 19, 2011

Zelda Ruminations

Some thoughts on the Legend Of Zelda franchise. Hope that getting this out there will help me sleep tonight. With Skyward Sword being released tomorrow, I've got that giddy Christmas-come-early buzz.
I focused just on the console games, as they've had the most lasting impact on me.

Beginning the very first game with no weapons, items, or defense of any kind. This is perhaps the first game where the player is thrust into a strange world with absolutely no help whatsoever. But walk into the first cave you see and a strange old man gives you a sword. Is he simply a good samaritan? Does he know something about your destiny that you don't? The Legend Of Zelda is short on answers, but still manages to convey a sense of wonder.
I remember seeing the game display in the store for the first time (I would have been five years old), making it one of my earliest gaming memories.
And when our copy of the game inexplicably died one day, and no amount of tapping on the console or blowing in the cartridge would fix it, I remember my grandparents buying us a new copy. Only to have the first cartridge start working again sometime later. Two Zeldas!.

Despite being way too difficult for me when it came out, I still loved Zelda II. The combination of overhead world exploration with side scrolling combat opened up the series in exciting ways. Running away from Ganon's shadows as you explored the map, learning new abilities from basement wizards, discovering towns that each had their own distinct local flavor, and conquering insane maze-like dungeons. But the thing that is still seared into my brain to this day is Ganondorf's horrible, mocking laughter that greets you at the GAME OVER screen. I hear it in the back of my mind sometimes when I'm feeling less than heroic.

This is the first Zelda game I ever played to completion, as I was old enough to really start playing games properly. To this day it remains one of my favorite games of all time. The world, despite it's Saturday morning cartoon aesthetics, felt so serious and real to me at the time. I remember actually caring for many of the characters I came across throughout the adventure, in a way that wouldn't be rivaled until the release of Majora's Mask. Seeing the flute playing boy in the forest slowly turn into a tree still fills me with a twinge of sadness.
This was the first game in the series that really seemed to be trying to tell a story - foam the rain drenched prologue, to the rousing final cinematic that shows a destroyed world restored (very reminiscent of the final scene of The Neverending Story). The closing credits also contain what is still my favorite arrangement of the classic Zelda theme song. I could go on and on about this game.

This seems to be the undeniable favorite of many Zelda fans. This game continued the trend of broadening the world and mythology of the series, and did it in strides. It's difficult to pinpoint any specific thing that I remember with particular fondness, because the entire game is just a massive collection of those. But if I had to choose, I would choose the game's implementation of music. The Legend Of Zelda series has always had a great soundtrack. But bringing the music front and center with the ocarina empowering Link was a stroke of genius. So many beautiful melodies will be forever stuck in my head because of this game.

I've only played this game to conclusion once. It's a difficult one to get into. But once you're in, it becomes one of the most rewarding games in the entire series. Like Ocarina, there is a time jumping element to this game. But unlike Ocarina, you're at the mercy of time rather than its master. The game's time limit turned a lot of people off, which is a shame. Because the world of Majora's Mask, while smaller, is perhaps even more rich than that of Ocarina.
Majora's Mask features the same attention to detail and diabolical dungeon design that made Ocarina so great. But where it really excels is in narrative and tone. Easily the darkest game in Zelda's history, you are plunged into a doomed world whose inhabitants are only too aware of their fate. Every person you encounter knows the moon is about to come crashing down on them, and a major part of Majora's Mask is about helping these people find closure before their final moments. The fact that (of course) you save the world in the end, doesn't diminish the fact that everyone around you is contemplating their mortality throughout the duration of the game. Major's Mask is still as fun and vibrant as any other Zelda game, but it also has an emotional depth unequaled in the series (or most game series, for that matter). How many games have you played that are about conquering regret? I can think of just the one.

Ah, the game some people just had to hate because it was too cute. After the beloved "realistic" turn of the Zelda franchise on the N64, the cell shaded cartoon graphics of Wind Waker just turned some people off. Part of this was probably due to the Zelda preview video Nintendo showed at E3 the year they introduced the Gamecube. The video showed an Ocarina-style Link battling Ganon, with the much improved graphics of a new generation. Then the Zelda series went into hibernation until Wind Waker was finally announced. The sudden juxtaposition of a much younger, cartoony Link with the previously shown footage pushed some people over the edge. I can't think of any other time a game was so feverishly debated before it was even released. To this day people try to hate on Wind Waker. I call those people idiots.
I admit that sailing the boat around the vast oceans of Wind Waker was probably a bit more tedious than riding a horse through Hyrule. But if that's a make-or-break deal for you, then you don't deserve nice things. Every aspect of Wind Waker retains the polish we've come to expect (perhaps even take for granted) from a Zelda game. And despite what one thinks about the graphical style, it is perhaps the most beautiful looking game in the series. At least, I expect, until Skyward Sword.
Once again, the mythology of the Zelda series is broadened, even adding shades of depth to the series' constant villain, Ganondorf. His final scene is breathtaking. Actually, most of the game is breathtaking. And that sailing some people found so tedious - I loved it. The sense of adventure you feel as you set sail is wonderful. You can practically smell salt in the air, and feel wind in your hair.

It's like this entire game was made to appease the Wind Waker haters. Twilight Princess is the next generation Ocarina Of Time the masses were clamoring for. Perhaps it is that to a fault. Despite the addition of becoming a wolf in portions of the game, this one almost seems to play it too safe. It doesn't add any wrinkles to the mythology the way each of its predecessors did. There aren't as many moments from this game that have a lasting impression on me the way earlier ones do. It's not that it's a bad game, it's just that it all felt so familiar.
That said, Twilight Princess takes the familiar and amps it up. This is a beautiful game, with all the spit and polish one can expect from the series. The cut scenes are the most cinematic in the series up to this point. The world feels huge and inviting. And turning into a wolf is pretty damn cool. The motion controls work nicely, even if they don't always feel essential (something I understand has been corrected for Skyward Sword). I have revisited this one less than the previous games. Partly because it hasn't drawn me back in yet, but mostly because it is the most recent game. I'm sure this one will be remembered fondly. Even the weaker Zelda games are incredible.

To be continued:

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Why Was Six Afraid Of Seven?

We have a regular customer who comes into the store with her daughter. Their drinks almost always come out to $6.66, which the woman doesn't abide. Her daughter usually adds a second shot of espresso to her beverage to fix the situation.

Yesterday this prompted a conversation. This was awkward for me, being in a position where it wouldn't really be appropriate for me to state my true feelings on the matter. This sort of thing tends to happen to me.

Apparently this woman has a thing with numbers in general. They are moving to a new address and the woman expressed concern about the address being 911.

Her: "Would you move into a place if the address was nine-eleven?"

Me: "I once moved into an apartment that was 1313..."

Her: "How was it?"

Me: "It was probably the best apartment I ever lived in."

Her: "Nothing really bad happened to you there?"

Me: "No."

I think I was pretty diplomatic. I stated my general opinion on the matter without negating her view, and delicately avoided having to answer her original question. And before she left she thanked me for making her feel better about the situation. She managed to rationalize that 911 was actually a good number, seeing as how it's our lifeline in times of emergency. Fair enough.

I always feel weird when put in these situations. Every part of my rational brain tingles when people talk about superstition and supernatural gobbledygook. And it's separate from people with religious belief. Maybe it's because religion is such a common thing in this country, but someone simply stating a religious belief doesn't cause the same thing in me, even though I think it comes from the same place.

I can understand the appeal of certain religions, while I don't subscribe to them myself. But the pure superstition of assuming that some numbers are good while others are bad seems somewhat primitive to me. Even if you take the religious stance that 666 is somehow related to the devil, where did that come from? That number isn't from the bible (at least not the original bible). It was someone's invention much later on.

I worry that attributing these imaginary values to ordinary and common numbers might drive someone insane, like in that Jim Carrey movie I never saw.

I have a feeling that every bad thing that happens to this woman at the new address, no matter how small, is going to be attributed to the number 911. A completely pointless and arbitrary association. Whatever sort of structure this kind of thinking provides someone in their life, I can't imagine it's a balanced one.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Gold Digger

I stumbled across this photo series featuring androgynous model, Andrej Pejic. I'm kinda crazy about them.

Several more from this Anthony Maule series can be seen here

Monday, May 09, 2011

I'll Have What He's Having

David Lynch is releasing his own line of damn good coffee. Here's the commercial:

David Lynch Signature Cup Coffee from David Lynch on Vimeo.

I'm sure it would make Agent Cooper proud.

[via Ebert]

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


Tarsem Singh's The Fall is one of my favorite films, and almost unequaled in visual panache. Part of that is because so much of the movie is filmed on location in astounding places in multiple countries around the globe. With his new movie Immortals, it seems he's going the 300 route. From what I can tell from the first trailer that's been released nearly all the locations are computer generated. This is an obvious choice from a budgetary standpoint, and not entirely out of step with Tarsem's previous film, The Cell, which was cold but visually impressive.

I'm hoping Immortals manages to keep some of the warmth and emotion of The Fall, despite having the heavily stylized CGI venear of The Cell and 300. I'm glad to see Tarsem's taste for wacky costumery seems to be intact here, at the very least.

Friday, April 22, 2011


Tim Minchin's delightful little song story, Storm, is candy for skeptics. And this new animated video for it makes it eye candy as well.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Things That Exist Part 3

While the previous two Things That Exist entries focused on extremely bizarre ocean creatures, this is...something else. I'm not sure how to describe this, really. Wait until 1:33 and see for yourself. My god.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Initial 3DS Impression

Now that I've spent a few hours messing around with my shiny new 3DS, I thought I'd share some of my thoughts about it. Maybe this will encourage some of you to go out and buy one.

Things You Can Do With The 3DS Hardware Right Out Of The Box (After The Excruciating Initial Battery Charge):

1. Take 3D photos of yourself and anything else. These are somewhat nifty but on the gimmicky side, considering the only way to view them is on a 3DS and the resolution of the camera is quite low.

2. Record and edit short audio clips, or listen to music from your SD card (2GB card included with system.

3. Play AR Games with the AR cards included with the system. These include a target shooting range, and fishing game that are projected onto any surface you place the card on. One of the coolest things about this is how it makes the surface you're playing on appear to bend and stretch in reaction to the game. These are generally fun little toys that amuse for short periods of time.

4. The oddly named Face Raiders is a more fun AR-type game that doesn't require aiming the camera at a card on a flat surface. It imports pictures of your face (and friend's faces) and maps them onto little floating orbs. These are then cartoonishly animated (which is much funnier in play than it sounds), as they attack the screen. You have to shoot at them to score points while you move the DS around. The camera just uses your surroundings as the background, so you have to aim the DS all around you to hit the different enemies. There are even boss battles, and it keeps track of your stats.

5. Create Miis, just like on the Wii. But now there are a few more options to choose from, and more to do with them. In addition to trading Miis with other players and importing them into select games, there are now a couple small bonus games included into the Mii package itself. These include collecting puzzle pieces to form 3D Nintendo-themed images, and a little RPG adventure in which you fight ghosts to rescue your Mii. In order to play these games you need to collect Miis from other players to help you. This is done simply by leaving your system in sleep mode. If it comes within range of another 3DS, they will trade Miis and other information (more on this later.

6. The initial system update downloaded OK GO's 3D music video "White Knuckles" to the menu screen, which was a sweet little bonus. But it says this will be erased with the next system update (which I believe is scheduled for May). Still pretty cool.

7. While in sleep mode, the 3DS records your steps like a pedometer. Every 100 steps earns you a play coin. These can be used for lots of things, including buying items in certain games (like character statues in Super Street Fighter IV 3D Edition), or buying random Miis for use in the Mii mini games. This is one of those features that future developers can use to add more content to their games, and I'm really interested to see how some of them incorporate it.

These are some of the main features I've enjoyed just with the system alone.

As for the games, I picked up two: Nintendogs + Cats and Super Street Fighter IV.

I've spent more time with the latter so far. I won't get into much of a game review (it's great), but I wanted to mention how it uses some of the unique 3DS features. I mentioned that you can use play coins to buy character figurines in the game. These are based on each of the 30-something characters in the game, and come in different levels with varying stats. You can then choose which ones you want on your roster (five total), and save this information to the system. If you then come into contact with another 3DS owner who has this game, your figures will auto battle, and you will see the results later and earn rewards. This happens automatically, even if you don't have that particular game in the system.

I imagine a lot of games are going to use a variation of this StreetPass system in the future. It's an exciting prospect that you can collect stuff for any number of games just while traveling around with your system in sleep mode. This will get better as more people own the system and more games are released to implement it.

Nintendogs + Cats is essentially a pet simulator. There are three different versions, each with its own initial selection of seven dog breeds (though they can all be unlocked eventually on any of the games). I went with the French Bulldog edition (because those things are freakin' cute!). After selecting my dog (a female Frenchie), I brought her home and named her Ponyo. You name your dog by recording yourself saying it a few times until it understands. This is also how you can teach your dogs tricks by voice command. Let me say, that as cheesy as this sounds (and I strongly resisted buying the last incarnation of this game on the DS), it is surprisingly addictive. I've already found myself talking to the dog far more than just the few commands it recognizes. I'm not sure what that says about me.

You can take your dog for a walk, go shopping for all sorts of needs and accessories, and enter it in competition. You can eventually have up to three animals at a time (I understand the cats are less impressive and more of an after thought, though).You can also use the AR cards to snap photos of your pets in the real world - I've got a couple of Ponyo sitting in the palm of my hand. And you can unlock new breeds and items with the StreetPass mode.

I haven't spent as much time with this game yet, but it is fascinating having a little virtual pet that responds to my voice.

As for the 3D, my experience so far has been mixed. In many cases it comes off as a bit gimmicky (much like 3D movies), but it is nonetheless a very cool effect. No glasses required.

For action games like Street Fighter it's sometimes easier just to turn the 3D off. Especially if your vigorous button mashing jostles the screen too much. If you're not looking directly straight at the screen from the right distance it gets askew. I also noticed this during the AR games. It can be difficult keep the system the proper distance from the AR card while at the same time keeping the screen at the correct angle for your eyes. However, it was very cool while playing Face Raiders. Overall, I'm curious to see how future games make the 3D screen actually necessary, other than just a very pretty effect. I do like Ponyo poking her cute little nose out at me, though.
What? What are you all looking at?

I have to say I am incredibly pleased with the 3DS so far, as I was with the regular DS. The graphics are much improved. The AR has a lot of potential. The StreetPass feature is going to add tons of extra value to future games. And online gaming is much improved.

Each 3DS system will have a friend code that works for ALL GAMES as oppossed to the previous Nintendo strategy where each game required its own friend code to be traded. Your system will also alert you when friends are online and what they are playing, allowing you to set up games easier.

If you are on the fence about getting a 3DS I would say go for it. Even if the 3D turns out to be a gimmick, it is still a very pretty one. And everything else is such an improvement over the original DS, which was a tremendous system. Future updates are going to add a simple web browser, and a store for downloadable games (including old GameBoy and Game Gear games, similar to the Wii's Virtual Console).

It Has Begun...

As with the Wii before it, early reports of 3DS-related maladies are already beginning to hit the internet, apparently. I expected this to happen.

For several months after the Wii's release, stories and images of black eyes and broken tv sets from errant Wii remotes were everywhere.

With the impending release of their latest system I wondered how long it would take for the eye strain and brain damage complaints to appear; despite abundant warnings - on the packaging, on the menu screen, and pretty much everywhere - about prolonged use of the 3DS (not to mention a prominent switch that just turns the 3D effect off).

I haven't had any trouble so far, but I've only used the 3DS in short spurts since getting it yesterday. But I generally don't have trouble with 3D movies or motion sickness in general, so I probably have a higher threshold then some.

Nintendo claims that taking a short break will alleviate any problems, and that there is no long term damage. But no one knows how an all day 3D marathon will effect people yet.
My theory is that it could look something like this:

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

This Would Really Tie The Wall Together...

Abide is one of the best paintings I've ever seen:

Oh, that expression on the Dude's face. I wouldn't mind having a painting of just that.

[via Laughing Squid]

Monday, March 21, 2011

Art For Japan

Ransom Notes has a couple links to some interesting art prints you can buy and help benefit relief in Japan.
They include a red version of Alex Pardee's "Guilty Smurf":

I bought this one:

[via Boing Boing]


Here is an awesome short film about a robot named Blinky. He's friendly!

Blinky™ from Ruairi Robinson on Vimeo.

[via io9]

Sunday, March 20, 2011

To Boldly Go...

Excellent things are in store for the second season of Star Trek: The Continuing Mission! Season one was a tremendous amount of fun for me. The work continues to be a labor of love for everyone involved. It's a small, dedicated crew. For that reason it sometimes falls behind schedule, but it's only so the final product can be as good as possible.

One of the major changes you'll notice is that I've gotten a bit of a promotion. In season one I played science officer Lt. Stephen Knight (as well as one or two other smaller guest spots). I enjoy playing Knight, although the character hasn't had a chance to shine quite yet. Fortunately, Knight gets some more action in the season two premier. But he will be voiced by another actor.

I will be playing Captain Paul Edwards in future episodes of the show. I'm honored to have been chosen to play the head of the Montana's crew, after the fine work that Tim Renshaw did in season one. My characterization will be a little different (as my voice is different), but the writing and spirit remains true to the original character.

Also, listen for Dani in a guest role!

I'm happy to post the brand new trailer for episode one, entitled "Earth":

We're starting off with a bit of a wacky episode, which is a lot of fun. Star Trek can't be serious all the time. Some of my favorite classic episodes are ones where the characters are just cutting loose and having a good time.

Later in the season there are going to be some other great episodes, which I can't wait to hear.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Ultimate Home Videos

TED talks are always impressive, but this is one of the best I've ever seen. An MIT researcher wired his home to record 90,000 hours of audio and video. He did this to study his baby son learning how to speak. The data they are pulling out of this experiment is pretty remarkable and has much larger implications than they originally intended.
But this video gets me on a very human level. Some of the family moments, including an audio time-lapse of his son learning to say "water", gave me chills.

[via Boing Boing]

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Sword & Sworcery EP

Wondering why you threw down all those bones on that iPhone or iPad? This brand new trailer for the upcoming game, Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP, finally puts that question to rest. I've been looking forward to this game since early video of it was first released, and it now looks better than ever. I love the minimalistic pixel graphics and animation, which somehow recall 8-bit classics like Out Of This World.

The EP in the title suggests that this may be a sort of mini adventure, hopefully with promises of more to come later. I hope any potential sequels aren't as long in development, and possibly even come in the form of free updates.
Anyways, watch:

Audience Calibration Procedure from Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery on Vimeo.

Looks like the release is just around the corner! Drool drool drool...

[via Joystiq]

Thursday, February 24, 2011


Selene is a hip hop concept album based on the movie, Moon. It's one of my favorite science fiction movies (featuring a full on double Sam Rockwell!), and these tracks sample the film's atmospheric soundtrack.
The music may contain some spoilers, so don't listen if you want to experience the movie as it's intended. Which you really should have done by now.
Selene by Max Tannone
I suggest they follow this with an EP based on Primer. That would be rad.

[via io9]

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


So, The Legend Of Zelda turned 25 this week. When the original game came out in that beautiful shiny cartridge, it was pretty much the most epic thing I'd seen up to that point in my life. I was six years old, so that's not really hyperbole. The open world was unlike anything we had played before. We became obsessed with the land of Hyrule (Was it called Hyrule back then? I'm not sure.) and the strange idiosyncratic characters that inhabited it.

I also remember being completely despondent when the cartridge refused to work one day. No amount of blowing on it or tapping on the NES would revive it. Our grandparents saved the day by buying us another copy. And then the first one started working randomly some days later. Score!

Twenty-five years later, and I have yet to defeat Ganondorf in Link's first outing. Yet I still start up the game from time to time just to explore that world.

Now check out this awesome painting someone did.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Slow Motion Kitten/Chipmunk

The danger of watching cuteness at this speed is potential shortness of breath, or jaw cramping from protracted awwwww's.

This footage also depicts most accurately how I feel after a couple glasses of red wine.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

The Wicker Tree Trailer

Just to be clear, this is the upcoming sequel to the Wicker Man. That's the original British Wicker Man, not the American remake starring Nicolas "NOT THE BEES" Cage. It's from the original director, and has Christopher Lee returning. So while it's less likely to become another YouTube sensation, it might actually be good. Here's hoping.

[via io9]

Tuesday, February 08, 2011


All of this happens multiple times a day. It is not an exaggeration. Well, maybe less swearing.

The Chapel

I'm a big fan of HDR photography. This is the first time I've seen it applied to video, and it's pretty awesome. I half expected to see Link ride in at the end and start wailing on some Deku Scrubs.

TheChapel. A short film. (HDR timelapse) from Patryk Kizny on Vimeo.

[via Geekologie]

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Enter Genki Sudo

I guess making the leap from MMA fighter to dance pop artist wasn't such a big stretch for Genki Sudo. He apparently brought that same style and showmanship every time he entered the ring:

Genki Sudo Presents World Order

World Order is a new music project by a retired UFC fighter, and it is my new favorite thing.
Oh, Japan. I love you.

[via Laughing Squid]

Friday, January 28, 2011

Axe Cop...The Movie!

Here's a fan film adaptation of the sensational webcomic (also, book comic) Axe Cop). Hopefully there will be more.

Axe Cop: The Movie - Part 1 from Peter Muehlenberg on Vimeo.

[via io9]


Few movie trailers take me by surprise any more. Usually by the time I get around to seeing a movie all the previews are for something I'm not interested in at all, or something that is already on my radar. So I was pleasantly surprised to see this trailer for Hanna in front of Black Swan the other night. Hanna looks so very cool I can't believe I haven't been reading about it online for months already.

Can't wait to see it!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Fight The Foot

Here's a pretty nifty little fan-made film in which some gritty Foot Clan goons get the grit beat out of them by a gritty ninja turtle. Gritty.

I would love to see the Turtle franchise rebooted. The animated film, TMNT, that came out several years ago was a lackluster attempt. 2010's made-for-television flick, Turtles Forever, in which the modern turtles join forces with the 80's turtles and the black and white comic turtles, was actually quite entertaining though.

Fight The Foot [via io9]

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Symphony Of Science - "The Big Beginning"

This Is An Actual Movie

Genre: Horror-ish
Premise: Possessed car tire rolls around, explodes people's heads.


Genre: Horror-turned-unintentional-comedy
Premise: Wooden actors wave their hands in the air, overlaid with animated clip art birds.


Monday, January 17, 2011

It's A Gas!

While birthday shopping for my 5-year-old niece, I came across a book called Walter The Farting Dog on Amazon. It had several five star reviews and a one star review. The one star review is pretty funny, but I don't think the writer would get it.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Things That Exist Part 2

Add the Korean Penis Fish to the list of things that will haunt my dreams forever:

And not only does it exist, but is considered a delicacy all over Asia.
Dig in!

[via Nerdist]