The Digital World War: Prologue

Author’s Note: This is something I started work on shortly after seeing the movie “Ready Player One”. I enjoyed the movie to a small extent, but was annoyed with its flaws. As time went on, I found myself liking less and less of the film. It was also around this time that I was kicking around ideas for a potential ongoing writing series I could create for this blog.

This lead to the creation of “Digital World War”, a story revolving around a fictional MMO. I wanted to parody and deconstruct the themes of Ready Player One, while also creating a story that was its own thing and completely original. As a result, I came up with “Digital World War”. Work on this began back in April, and so far I’ve only created a few chapters.

I plan to release the chapters sporadically. Some chapters may be released on a weekly basis, some may come out after a month. I thought since this was my 350th post, I’d finally release the prologue for this story, to help set a basis for the series overall. I hope to have chapters 1 and 2 out in mid-October.

I’m always looking for constructive criticism on the series, so please feel free to leave your comments below. My main goal is to release as many chapters as I possibly can, before collecting them together into a novel/novella and trying to get it published. Constructive criticism would help me quite a lot in this area. Anyway, I’ve talked long enough. Let’s get in on with the show!

P.S. My goal with this series isn’t to make an “anti-war message”. I mainly use a fictional virtual war as a backdrop. The themes and messages will become more clear in later chapters.

Prologue

The constant evolution of mankind is a surprising thing. Tens of thousands of years ago, humans were nothing but grunting apes. So many things change about humans, from what they wear to what they do with their time. If there’s something that has always been a never-ending struggle with mankind, it’s their perchance for violence and war.

For thousands of years, humanity waged war with each other. The reasons were always different, sometimes for religion, sometimes for money. People thought that humanity’s history of violence would continue for thousands of years until the end of time. This all changed in the year 2200, when the “Worldwide Peace Treaty” was signed. Most countries had no choice in signing the treaty, due to the economic crises the world faced.

This problems included lack of clean drinking water, overpopulation, and the constant smaller wars that broke out between the countries of the world. Due to this, the countries had little choice in the matter. It was either sign the treaty, or watch the government and the people within crumble beneath the weight of its own problems. The only option for the survival of the world was to band together, and to ban war in its entirety.

What was seen as a “a morally-charged publicity stunt created by hippies” by some, soon turned out to be one of the greatest decisions ever made by humankind. With no one waging war, the world settled into a time of piece. Violence was at an all-time low, and the nations of the world found themselves befriending each other more so than they had in the past.

As great as this new world was, it wasn’t destined to last. While humanity had made peace with each other, a strange event had taken hold of the planet. Centuries of continental shifting and climate changes had caused a massive shift in the earth’s crust. These shifts would eventually result in the unthinkable: The creation of a new continent.

The continental shifts resulted in the formation of a new land, which many scientists refer to as “Little Pangaea”. Over the course of two centuries, the continent slowly arose from beneath the glistening water. By the year 2412, the continent had fully emerged from its watery cocoon.

After emerging from the Atlantic Ocean, the new continent immediately made problems for the world at large. With this new continent seated beside several countries and lands, deciding who owned it was a large issue. A continent had never emerged from out of nowhere before, so there were no laws about who would gain this new piece of land.

Countries argued for 2 whole years about who would get this new continent, which strained on the peace treaty greatly. This arguing eventually carried over into the “Worldwide Peace Conference”, which was an organized meeting of the world’s leaders. This meeting would’ve resulted in a war, had one man not interjected. Simon Sunder was the newly elected president of the United States, and suggested that the continent should be given away in a sort of “competition” between the various countries.

However, this competition wouldn’t be a sports game, or an Olympic event. The president was a huge nerd and thought of the best way to decide which country should get it: By winning ownership of it in an online video-game! Of course, everyone thought the president was crazy. Some may even say that he was “slipping some Mary-Jane into his American Brew”.

As the discussion continued however, it soon became aware that the president was onto something. Having a war in real-life would break the treaty and end countless lives, but a virtual war in a video-game didn’t have that problem! Within the realm of a video-game, the nations would be able to fight each other without fear of losing lives.

Creating a new game from scratch to facilitate such an event would be an expensive undertaking, so it was decided to place this war inside a pre-existing game. The game that was chosen was a MMORPG (which stands for “Massive Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game”) that had already been running for five years, known only as “The Pocket”. The Pocket was called that because it was an amazing place hidden from sight. The only way one could view this world was through the lenses of a “Integro VR Helmet”, a special virtual reality setup designed solely for this game.

The game was remarkable for when it was made, using the most cutting-edge technology to create a realistic and vibrant world for its various players to explore. There were no limits, no set classes, just the freedom to tailor one’s character and experience to their own personality. The game was so popular that it drew the attention of various copyright holders, ones who own the licenses to many pop culture icons.

This resulted in a game filled with nostalgia, from characters and places that were birthed from entirely different franchises. Much like how the game was obscured from sight to those without a helmet, the characters that were licensed were mostly from obscure franchises from the 20th and 21st centuries.

The reason a lot of these old characters and concepts were inside the game came down to a simple fact: Brand recognition. Over time, it became way too expensive to create new iterations of beloved or obscure properties. As a result, the copyright holders started allowing game developers to use their characters in any way they saw fit.

Over time, film and television mediums became obsolete. In the current year, the only way a person could even indulge in these old mediums was through old internet archive websites. People were more focused on enjoying these franchises as games, as opposed to watching them in film or television format. This attempt to create more interest for other mediums through the use of video-game adaptations backfired, killing the population’s interest in seeing these characters in their native habitat.

As a result, copyrighted characters existed solely within the realms of virtual worlds, such as The Pocket. This single game housed the most copyrighted characters in all of history, and holds the Guiness World Record for “Largest crossover game in history”. This was one of the more entertaining aspects of the game, even if a lot of people nowadays knew nothing about said characters.

The copyrighted characters weren’t the main draw of the game, however. What was the key selling point was character creation, as well as the game’s death system. In the game, if you died you would just lose all your currently equipped items. All your Tachyons (The game’s currency) , experience, and stored items would remain untouched.

Losing your items tied well into character creation. Having a complex and intricate character development system, it was easy to find multiple builds to suit your play-style. A player was often rewarded with more skill points than they could ever need, allowing them to customize their character in any way they see fit.

Losing one’s items often allowed for the player to experiment with new builds, trying different weapons and armor pieces that one might not normally use. To a lot of people, the experimentation and customization is what gave The Pocket it’s appeal. Due to this game’s popularity and large player-base, it was the perfect place for the governments of the world to wage a new war.

After choosing The Pocket as their testing grounds, it was decided to implement a new mode separate from standard play. This mode would be a special war-zone, separate from the main areas. If you lost in this mode, you would still lose all your items, but with a catch. In order to dissuade people from blindly using this mode, a massive limit was placed on it. If your character were to die during this war, then you lost that character for good.

All of the items, Tachyons, experience points, and history you had built up with this character would be lost forever. You’d never be able to use that same username again and as a result, this character would disappear from the game world permanently. If you wanted to get back into playing the game, you’d have to make a new character from scratch.

This wasn’t the biggest draw of this new mode, however. The goal of this mode was to collect 8 “Sacred Sigils”. They were scattered across randomly generated worlds, dungeons, and special areas housed within this war-zone. The warriors of a specific land who collect all 8 will gain the new continent for their country. Players who join the war, but are not associated with the real-life military of any country can still collect the Sigils on their own.

If said players were to collect the Sigils on their own, they’d have one of two choices: Choose a country who they feel should own the continent, or destroy the Sigils and cause the entire competition to be null-in-void. Of course, most players enter with the intention of helping their country and receiving a vast reward from their government. Most countries offer huge bounties to guilds that will help them collect the Sigils.

Of course, there are some who would prefer the second option. Many people who play the game just want this stupid war to end without a concrete winner, or for the countries of the world to build their own game to fight out this war in. As a result of this, some have dedicated themselves to finding ways to get rid of the sigils. There were also players within this game who just don’t want to get involved, who would rather just play the game for fun. This is the story of one such gamer, the high-ranking player known as “Vik-Rik”.

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Darkwing Duck Volume 1: Orange Is The New Purple Review

Darkwing
“When there’s trouble, you call DW!”

Disney is a company that has been on the forefront of both animation and entertainment for decades. The company has had its ups and down, while also having impacting the lives of many of its fans in various ways. It’s hard to find someone who doesn’t have a favorite Disney show/movie. For me, my favorite Disney series will always be “Darkwing Duck”.

Darkwing was an interesting show for the time, serving as a parody of pulp superhero comics from the 40s and 50s. It revolved around a bumbling superhero named “Darkwing Duck”, who would fight crime and make tons of alliterative puns. Darkwing’s real identity was “Drake Mallard”, a hard-working duck who has to deal with his annoying neighbors outside of his superhero antics. Joining Darkwing is his daughter Gosalyn, who proved herself useful to Darkwing’s crime-fighting operations many times.

Darkwing Duck became a very successful series on the Disney Afternoon block, mostly due to its focus on action and occasional dark storytelling. The show did well enough to run for three seasons, and amassed a respectable 91 episodes. Even years after its cancellation, people still flock to the series to watch it.

A series this popular is just begging for a continuation, revival, or reboot. We finally got one this year, with Darkwing appearing on the new Duck Tales show. However, this version of Darkwing Duck is just a show within a show. As cool as his cameos are, they just don’t pack the same kind of punch a true sequel would have.

Something that most people don’t know is that we did get a Darkwing Duck sequel, several years ago in 2010. “Boom Comics” were given the license to Darkwing Duck and Ducktales, allowing them make comics for both franchises. While the comics were generally considered to be pretty good, their contract with Disney expired after a year. They tried to release new Darkwing comics in spite of the license expiring, but ended up sued as a result. Afterwards, the Darkwing franchise laid dormant for five whole years.

Enter Joe Books, a publishing company who Disney often contracts for work. They were given the comic book rights to Darkwing Duck, as well as the rights to previous comics in the series. This meant that when making their new series of comics, they were allowed to incorporate as many pre-existing elements as they wished.

The result was the 2016 Darkwing Duck comic, a perfect blending of 25 years worth of material. DW 2016 is a pretty interesting experiment, mixing the continuity of four different iterations into one: The original cartoon, the Disney Comics imprint, the Disney Adventures comics, and the comics done by Boom.

This allows for the newer comics to pull from a vast database of old characters and stories, a fair amount of which may be unknown to the average reader. So, is this a good comic book? I’d definitely say so. This Darkwing Duck comic won me over instantly with its artwork, which was of a very high quality. The comic’s art-style is near identical to the show it spun off from, making it feel like a legitimate continuation.

The writing is also top-notch, featuring the creative and subversive dialogue the original series was known for. In terms of writing and art, they captured the original show down to a tee. The stories contained within are pretty good as well. The first three issues contained within this volume are great, serving as the eponymous “Orange Is The New Purple” story arc.

This story arc revolves around Darkwing and Gosalyn getting trapped in a prison filled with all of Darkwing’s arch-enemies. DW must battle his entire rogue’s gallery, both the well-known and obscure parts of it. On the other hand, the fourth issue of this volume is pretty bad. After an amazing three-parter, Joe Books decided to follow it up with a single-issue story.

There’s nothing wrong with that, it’s good to give the audience a breather after something intense happens. However, “A Midsummer Gnat’s Spree” is not the way to do it. This standalone issue focused an entirely new villain, one who went by the name “Gnatmare”. True to his name, he was a pest.

Unlike most of Darkwing’s villains, Gnatmare isn’t that interesting. His backstory was that he was a bland henchmen who got picked on a lot, accidentally got zapped by a laser, and gained super-powers as a result of this. Nothing about him is all that interesting, and his design is pretty bland overall. Not only that, but the way they defeat him is pretty underwhelming.

On top of having the first four issues inside it, this volume also contains a lot of characters bios at the very back of it. I can always appreciate that even in a world where Wikipedia is prevalent, writers and artists are still willing to put character bios in their books. The bios themselves are super nice, containing a lot of great original artwork.

Overall, I think this volume was pretty darn good. The characters are well-written, the scenarios are interesting, and the character bios are fantastic. Again, the only major problem is that fourth issue. It introduces a new villain who is just lacking in terms of uniqueness, and comes off as just another bland comic-exclusive villain.

Regardless, this volume was certainly worth the investment. It was great being able to see new content from a show I grew up with, and done in a way that pays homage to 25 years worth of history. It’s far from perfect, but definitely a great send-up to an old show. I suggest buying this comic, especially if you’re a hardcore fan of the series like I am. As DW would say: “Let’s get dangerous!”

The Awesome-ness That Was Sask Expo 2018

Comic Book Conventions are something that will never truly go away. While it’s true that most of them have evolved into all-encompassing “Entertainment Expos”, this doesn’t stop them from being any less fun. I recently attended “Sask Expo 2018”, an Entertainment Expo focused on everything nerdy. I loved the time I spent at the convention, and the things that I did there! While I didn’t take many pictures, allow me to show a few of them here. I’ll also show a few pics of what I bought there as well.

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It’s Super Mario Bros all over again!

Here’s a pic I took with Yoshi The Dinosaur. The guy holding the camera was a friend on Facebook, who was nice enough to take a picture of me hanging out with a dinosaur. I would’ve gotten a selfie, but I prefer having full-body pics. Regardless, the guy in the Yoshi costume was super cool. The guy was awesome, and his suit was pretty much one of the best Yoshi costumes I had ever seen!

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The next three are of the “Ecto-1”, which is a replica of the eponymous vehicle from Ghostbusters. It was really cool seeing it here, even if it wasn’t the original car from the movie. The things they added onto it (such as the statue of “Slimer” atop it) really give it a unique flair.

The guys running the Ghostbusters booth were also pretty nice. They had an awesome offer going on, where you could wear the Ghostbusters suit in a photo with both the car and them. It cost 10 bucks, which is a bit pricey. The did donate all the proceeds to charity, which made the price worth it in my opinion. Photos of the car itself were free though, allowing me to take several pics of this beautiful vehicle.

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Finally, here are my acquisitions! First up is volume 1 of the 2016 Darkwing Duck comic. I actually bought this from the artist of the comic, who was nice enough to sign it. The comic serves as sequel to both the TV show, the Disney Adventures comics, and the Boom Comics imprint of Darkwing Duck.

I spotted this little beauty when walking through the “Artist’s Alley” with a friend, and caught sight of it out of the corner of my eye. I grew up loving Darkwing Duck, so this was an instant buy for me. I read through the book in one day, and loved everything about it! I’ll save my full opinions on it for a later date, so stay tuned for the full review!

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Here’s another purchase I made, a 3DS game called “Rune Factory 4”. I had heard many good things about the series, and have always been curious about the franchise. After playing through Fantasy Life and Ever Oasis, I developed a taste for life-simulation/RPG hybrid games. So when I saw this, I just knew I had to have it.

I was originally looking for a copy of the old Megaman Starforce games for DS, but I couldn’t find any. I made an executive decision, and decided to finally try Rune Factory. I’m less than an hour into the game, so I can’t give a fully informed opinion of it yet. All I can say for now is that I’m enjoying it a lot.20180916_200748

Here is the last thing I got: Marvel’s Secret Invasion. I never actually read this book until now, and I gotta say it’s pretty solid! It involves Marvel’s superheroes going toe-to-toe with the shapeshifting aliens known as the “Skrulls”. The art is fantastic, along with the fake ads shoved into certain parts of the book. Overall, it’s a great book, and I’ll be sure to talk more about it in a full-on review!

Well, that covers Sask Expo. I probably should’ve taken more pics, but I doubt I’d be able to fit them all on my phone. For the 2019 one, I will definitely make space in my phone for more photos. In short, my experience was Sask Expo 2018 was amazing. Hope you all enjoyed what I shared, and have a great day!

Dance Dance Revolution: Disney Mix Was a Thing That Existed

If there’s something I cannot truly live without in this world, it would have to be catchy music. If a song is catchy enough, I’ll dance to it. Naturally, if there’s a game that encapsulates my love of music, it’s Dance Dance Revolution. The DDR series features soundtracks filled with nothing but Japanese and European dance music, with the occasional American song sprinkled in there.

Almost all of the songs featured in these games are quick and energetic, while being very fun to dance to. DDR was a very popular series, with many sequels, spin-offs, and variations. Some of these versions have become insanely rare, becoming highly soought after over the years. Unfortunately, some of said iterations are also bland cash-ins. What happens when you combine blandness with rarity? You get “Dance Dance Revolution: Disney Mix”.

Let’s flashback to the early 2000s for a bit: The Disney Renaissance was over and the company was in a “Dark Age” of sorts. As a result, Disney became more experimental with how they utilized their licenses. This eventually lead to the creation of Kingdom Hearts, a crossover between Disney and Square Enix’s Final Fantasy franchise.

However, there was another crossover featuring Disney and another Japanese property. This is the aforementioned “DDR: Disney Mix”. The game featured Disney characters, along with a ton of remixes of old Disney songs. This version of DDR is extremely rare, to the point where a single copy could go for hundreds on Amazon. I remember seeing this game in stores as a kid, and asking my parents for it. Of course, it was expensive even back then.

The game was around 100 bucks, and it certainly wasn’t something my parents would casually buy me. I didn’t mind too much, as the game quickly faded from my mind after a week or two. Years later, I would rediscover this game and the memories flooded back immediately. I ended up finding a copy on an emulation site, and downloaded it so that I could finally experience what I was missing.

Turns out, I wasn’t missing much. DDR: Disney Mix is a pretty lame version of the franchise I’ve come to know and love. 90% of the songs are super easy, only a handful of them are Disney related, and there is a severe lack of substance here. Each song features an animation of several Disney characters, usually dancing or singing to the song.

That’s fine on paper, but each character only has one set of animations. This means that you’ll be seeing your favorite Disney characters doing the exact same things for each individual song. On paper, this isn’t bad. The problem is that there is a severe lack of variety when it comes to the animations. There are about 8 different sets of animation in the game, all of them featuring classic Disney characters.

Now, almost all of these animations are actually pretty good and watchable. That’s until you get to the songs featuring Mickey’s dog Pluto, which are really bad. I don’t know why someone thought it was a good idea for Pluto to “twerk” in a rhythm game, all I know is that it’s there for pretty much no reason. Kind of a weird thing to put in a game aimed at children, in all honesty.

As you can tell, I didn’t like this game all that much. Probably the worst part of the game is the song selection. As previously mentioned, this game only has a few Disney remixes in it. Most of the song selection comes from previous DDR games, and is haphazardly tossed into the mix. This means songs like B4U, Higher, and Share My Love are all included on the disc. While I love all these songs, they don’t really fit in a Disney-themed game.

If there is anything good to say about this game, it’s that the few remixes they have of old Disney songs are pretty good. On top of this, the classic Disney characters are given new “urban” outfits. It’s pretty cool to see Dale in a tie and sunglasses, or Mickey in one of those “cool” backwards hats. Still, it’s not enough to really save this title from mediocre.

I’ll be brutally honest, I’m glad my parents never bought me this when I was younger. The game was clearly not worth its 100 dollar asking price. If you want a good DDR experience featuring beloved characters, I recommend tracking the “DDR: Mario Mix”. It’s one of the best DDR spin-offs I’ve ever played, features a ton of good remixes, and is overall a fun experience.

Unfortunately, I can’t say the same about the Disney Mix. It just doesn’t hold water like the Mario version does, and is overall very bland. Nowadays, it only has worth as a collector’s item. It looks good on a shelf, but it’s useless beyond that. It’s definitely one of the more forgettable Disney crossovers.

Scatman John: A Truly Amazing and Inspiring Musician

Success and fame are two things that are often hard to obtain, depending on the individual and their particular skills. Every person dreams of being a rich director, actor, or singer, but only a select few can ever climb that ladder. Sometimes, one may not even achieve this level of success at first. There are some who won’t even become famous until later in their lives, when their golden years had already passed them by.

That brings us to Scatman John, a musician who made it big in his 50s. Scatman John started life as “John Paul Larkin”, and had a serious stuttering problem. This would occasionally make communicating with other people a bit difficult. However, John found a way to turn his disability into an ability. He modified his stuttering into “Scatting”, which usually involves singing non-verbal/made-up words at a rather fast pace.

John’s first album was released in 1986 and had very little scatting in it, and is often considered his worst album. A few years later, John would completely reinvent himself and his music. He took on the name “Scatman John”, and started scatting much more in his songs. He combined his scatting with rapping, and fast-paced pop music to create a truly unique sound. Scatman’s fusion of genres was a truly spectacular thing to hear, like a chorus of angels singing catchy dance music.

Scatman released released his fight single, appropriately titled “Scatman”. This song would become Scatman’s “theme song” in a way, the song that most people remember him for. It helps that it’s catchy and establishes the style of music that he helped create. To a lot of people, this is the single best song he ever put out.

Over the course of the 90s, Scatman would release a ton of really good songs. One such song was Scatman’s World, which was truly a great one. Scatman sings about the problems of the world, and talks about a fantasy world called “Scatland”. In Scatland, said problems don’t exist.

In a way, Scatman was inviting us into his fantasy of a better world, one where peace and joy are an utter constant. It’s a powerful song, and the visuals featured in the music video compliment it well. Another Scatman song that came out during this time was “Everybody Jam”, a song that’s decided to John’s idol: Louie Armstrong.

Using special effects and techniques, they were able to digitally insert the long-gone Armstrong into the music video. We were able to see Scatman John side-by-side with his hero, even if it was just special effects wizardry. The song itself was super catchy and energetic, a trait shared by most of Scatman’s songs. This particular song felt like a song that’d be right at home at a dance club.

While Scatman was popular at the time, his popularity didn’t initially come from his home country of America. Instead, he was popular primarily in Europe and Japan, due to the catchy dance-beats of his songs. This eventually lead to the creation of one of Scatman’s last singles, known as “Su Su Su Super Kirei”. This single was only released in Japan, and managed to outdo Everybody Jam, at least in terms of energy.

Unfortunately, John was diagnosed with lung cancer in 1998. Despite this, he still came in and recorded several songs for his third and final album. The album was called “Take Your Time” and was released on June 1st 1999. Sadly, Scatman himself would pass away 6 months after the album was released.

Despite John’s unfortunate passing, his legacy lived on. While not originally being a hit in America, Scatman’s songs later gained new life through the internet. Scatman John’s material became “memetic”, causing his popularity to spike considerably. Even though John was gone at this point, his music lived on in the hearts of many.

To me, Scatman is a hero. He shows that just because a person has a disability, it doesn’t mean they can’t achieve great things. He turned his stuttering problem into a solution, and was able to create truly great music because of it. I strive to be like Scatman, and accomplish amazing feats in spite of a disability. In a way, I think there’s a lot about Scatman’s story one can learn. Truly, he was a great man with a great legacy.

Syrup’s Short Stories: Dream The Game

Author’s Note: I had originally intended to enter this story into the CBC fiction writing contest of last year. To be honest, I didn’t really feel my story was “first place worth”, so I decided to enter next year instead with something different. I wanted a story that was absolute perfection, as I wanted to aim for the number one spot. I unfortunately found out about the contest too late, and rushed to make something good within the course of a month.That’s not to say I hate this story, not at all. I’m glad I came back to it this year and looked over it again.

What I initially thought to be a bit bland I found to be interesting, and even re-wrote certain portions of it to give it more flare. I liked the idea of a MMO contained within one dreams, which is why I wrote this story. Surprisingly enough, this wasn’t inspired by Ready Player One, but rather my love for online gaming as a whole.

The nameless protagonist in the story was originally meant to be an adult version of Nemo from the “Little Nemo” series, at least in my eyes. Of course, due to copyright, it’s a separate unrelated character. The idea in my head while writing this was that it was Nemo as an adult, thinking he’s moved past the joys of both his childhood and dreams. The story was meant to be him recapturing his lost childhood, while discovering new wonders. Anywho, I hope you all enjoy!

Dream: The Game

I was lost, I had no idea where I was. I was surrounded by purple swirling clouds, and nothing felt real. I knew what was going on though, I was in some sort of dream. It was easy to tell, nothing felt truly real. Dreams combined the real with the surreal, and made it into something truly alien. Still, I never had a dream quite like this before. I had gained lucidity in this dream, a state of mind where I had a modicum of control over what happens in it. I have had lucid dreams before, but I never managed to pull them off this easily.

I looked how I normally would in my dreams, possessing my regular coif of black hair. I stood at my usual height of 6 feet tall, with my usual semi-muscular body build. I was clad in a white T-shirt and pair of brown sweat pants, the attire I typically wear to bed. I continued traipsing through the mist, while my bare feet pressed against what felt like solid ground.

I pushed through the smog and made my way into what appeared to be a large open area. The smoke around this area was practically non-existent; it gave off an almost eerie vibe. I noticed that at the front of this large area was what appeared to be a gate, with a rather intimidating gatekeeper protecting it. The metal sentry towered above me with its enormous size, had a dull-grey paint job, and appeared to be bolted together with large bulbous screws.

Sticking out of the metal leviathan’s back was what looked like a pair of large pipes, which gave me the impression that the machine was steam-powered. “Why ‘ello there, guv!” Exclaimed the robot in a thick Cockney accent, which caught me off guard. “Um… Hello.” I said in a voice that wasn’t entirely my own. It sounded like me, but it had a strange echo.

“Oi, welcome to “Dreamscape Online”! The first online game ever that connects to a server through dream-waves, Guv!” I reached my hand up towards my head and began to scratch it out of sheer confusion. “An online game in a dream? That just doesn’t sound possible. Even if it was, I’m beyond the age of playing a video-game.”

The robot then let out a bellowing laugh, causing large clouds of steam to billow out from the pipes on his back. “If ya didn’t believe or care, ya’d have already walked away! No one is too old for a good game, even if they say otherwise. Ya can lie to ya’self, or ya can go deeper in. That, or ya could walk away and never learn of the treasures that await ya.”

The robot was correct, if I wasn’t interested than I would have already left. I was morbidly curious what about lied beyond the gate, it was something that I knew I had to see. “In that case, I will enter. Let’s see what makes this game so special.” Without saying anything, the robot shuffled to the side of the gate. It let out yet another billow of steam, as the gates slowly slid open.

The metal gates let out a rather melodious noise as they pulled themselves open, revealing a humongous city before me. The city was truly massive and was also covered in a veil of absolute darkness. Normally when I have a dream that takes place at night, I feel this overwhelming dread. I wasn’t feeling any such sensation this time, only an overwhelming urge to explore.

The robot backed up and disappeared into the mist, as I found myself uncontrollably walking forwards towards the gate. I entered through the gates, and found myself assaulted by a strange sensation. It felt as though my body was cold and hot at the same time, as if a mixture of different levels of temperature were assaulting every part of my body at once.

I found this especially odd, as I usually didn’t feel anything in most of my dreams. I walked through the landscape of the city, while gazing at how empty everything seemed. This was an online game, so where was everyone else? Despite this being an experience meant to be shared with multiple players, there wasn’t a soul in sight.

I then realized I was in a dream, a dream that I supposedly had control over. Why look for other beings, when I can just summon them here? I started to concentrate deeply, trying to summon a being into the Dreamscape. I stood there in solemn silence, as I focused my mind on the summoning. As I did so, I thought of how wizards in fiction would often summon beings from other universes into our own.

As I stood there concentrating, I wondered that if I should really be summoning anything at all. Before I could contemplate too hard on the issue, a massive blue ball of energy emerged before me. The ball flattened itself out and formed into a large blue portal, one that was emitting a strange energy.

From beneath the the portal’s powerful pull emerged a pretty large scaly paw. The emerald green scales combined with the thick white claws gave off the impression of a large mythical beast. Another paw came though afterwards, planting itself firmly on the ground. The beast threw its paws further through the portal, revealing a pair of scaly front legs.

The creature then dug his claws into the cement, before pulling his body through the shimmering blue gate. Emerging from the portal was what appeared to be a humongous green dragon! The massive scaly monstrosity stuck its head through the gate, before pulling its entire body through.

The dragon stood on four legs, was covered in green scales thicker than the strongest armor, had a pair of massive wings, and an overall intimidating appearance. The dragon looked down at me with its big yellow eyes, as if it was staring right through me. “Greetings, mortal.” Said the dragon in a surprisingly calm and gentle tone.

“Um… Hi.” I responded, somewhat confused by the soft voice of the big burly beastie. “I believe you summoned me. Is there anything I can assist you with?” I paused for a moment, feeling a little nervous about asking a dream dragon a question. “Well, I was just wondering where all the other players are.” The dragon chuckled softly in response, as if my question was amusing to it.

“This game is vast, they are most likely elsewhere in this gigantic labyrinth of a world. Considering this is a very early version of the game, we still don’t have a large player-base.” I crossed my arms as I stared intently at the dragon, while trying to fully comprehend what I was seeing and feeling. “So, you mean I won’t be able to meet a single player before waking up?” I asked, as I tried desperately to ignore the fact that a massive mythical monster was standing before me.

The dragon grinned, right before spreading his wings wide in front of me. The dragon’s grin intensified, as he started to beat his wings heavily. “Well, how about we look for them together? After all, you still have a few hours before your alarm goes off.” I stared at the dragon, my sheepish nature once again taking hold. “W-Well, I wouldn’t want to be a bother. After all, I don’t really play games and I’d just be wasting your time!”

“Everyone plays games, even those that say they don’t. Regardless, this dream is more than just a game. Here, let me show you how grand it can be.” I blinked in confusion at the dragon’s words, not noticing that I was now high up in the air. I looked down and found that was I now seated atop the back of the gigantic dragon!

“H-How did I get up here?!” I shouted as I threw my body down on the dragon’s back and gripped tightly. I was incredibly afraid of heights! “Who knows how you got up here? A dream is always changing, always morphing. What I do know is that you need to throw your anxiety away and enjoy yourself!” Exclaimed the dragon in his usual soft-spoken voice.

“I can’t, I’m afraid of heights!” I shouted out of desperation. The dragon didn’t care too much and started to flap his wings, as he prepared to take off. “Good thing this is just a dream and falling from heights can’t hurt you. Now, let’s see the world!” Despite my protests, the dragon took off into the air. The two of soared of us high into the sky of the Dreamscape.

It was odd though, the higher we soared, the less nervous I got. It was as if my anxiety was vanishing, while my attempts at over-rationalizing something that didn’t make sense became non-existent as well. I felt a calmness wash over me, something I rarely feel outside of my dreams.

As I soared high above the clouds with my draconic ally, I regretted the fact that I would soon awake. A game within my own dreams still seemed like far-fetched idea. Still, I couldn’t deny how alien and strange this dream felt compared to all others. This was a world I felt I could truly get lost in, a game that I could truly enjoy. For the first time in years, I felt like I could take on the world. And to think, all of this was because of just one little dream.

A Review of Portal Knights: A Game of Unending Worlds

Something I’ve been fascinated with since my youth was the concept of “portals”. Colorful shimmering gates of energy that could lead a person to other worlds was always an interesting concept to me. The game “Portal” nearly scratched that itch, but sadly the portals could only be used to solve puzzles. You couldn’t jump into another dimension, reality, world, you could only portal-hop to other parts of the room.

One game that really captured what it was like to enter a portal and venture into a strange world was the game “Portal Knights”. This game is rather interesting, as it plays very similarly to Minecraft. The game used “voxel” graphics, giving everything a cube-like shape. You mine, search for new materials and items, and vanquish monsters and bosses. All of these are things you would normally do in Minecraft.

However, Portal Knight sets itself apart in various ways. For example, Portal Knights has strong Role-Playing Game elements. PK features quests, leveling up, gaining new equipment, using skills, assigning stat points, and being able to select special traits. It’s not something super in-depth, but it’s enough to distance itself from the much more popular Minecraft.

Another way this game sets itself apart is the use of portals. In Minecraft, you could leap through a few portals to get to special specific areas, but these weren’t the main draw of the game. You usually only went into other areas in order to obtain rare special items, or fight unique bosses.

In Portal Knights, entering portals is the name of the game. Each portal houses a unique world that’s independent from all the others. Each world is distinct, with its own NPCs and diverse assortment of enemies and items. Some worlds may even have a forest, multiple dungeons, or a giant fort situated in the middle of them. On top of this, special events sometimes happen in these worlds.

 

For example, a magical thunderstorm could ravage an area, forcing you to destroy three crystals in order to stop. Another event involves a treasure chest appearing underneath a waterfall, requiring you to search for it and uncover the treasures inside. It’s stuff like this that gives these worlds more diversity and flare to them.

These are all well and great, but how does the game itself play? It plays alright. Combat is pretty basic, requiring you to dodge and attack in order to properly beat opponents. Playing as a warrior with health regeneration abilities often made the game too easy, at least in my opinion. I often found it easier to attack repeatedly with my sword, rather than dodge the attacks of my enemies.

Just mashing attack appeared to be a more adequate strategy than dodging, as my health would usually regenerate pretty quickly after taking damage. That’s not to say the game is easy, because it certainly isn’t. Sometimes, dodging is necessary for certain enemies, mostly bosses. It’s just that I found the early portions of the game to require way too little strategy.

Let’s move on to the game’s presentation, which is surprisingly good. The game takes the voxel graphics of Minecraft, but gives them a High-Definition paint-job. The worlds look amazing, the characters well-detailed, and is truly an all-around beautiful game. The soundtrack is really solid, with a lot of the worlds have really distinctive tracks. Overall, the presentation is top-notch!

The last thing I’d like to touch on is the game’s story. It’s very simple, revolving around you travelling to fractured worlds and restoring the portals. The game’s characters have some rather flavorful and entertaining dialogue, which makes it stand out from the competition. The characters mix charming and cute, with occasional dark undertones.

I think my favorite is the guild-master, who appears just as adorable as everyone else, but is dying of a deadly disease. One of his quests involves you getting him medicine, just to prolong his life a little more. Things like that make this world feel more alive, and gives some added depth to its cutesy cast.

Overall, I’d say Portal Knights is an amazing game. I’ve only spent 5 hours in it thus far, but I’m already enthralled with the world it presents. Portal Knights feels like an action RPG that combines the best elements of action games, crafting games, and MMORPGs together. It creates a world that feels unique and ever-changing, and gives you the tools to play the way you want to. Better yet, you can get the game for just 8 dollars Canadian on Steam right now! In my opinion, that’s one sweet deal.

The Surprising Popularity of Dragon Ball Heroes

 

 

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If you can name all of the characters on this cover, then you are officially the alpha-nerd.

Dragon Ball is one of those shows that will never go away, due to its massive worldwide popularity. This epic action series about a goofy alien dad and his constant need to get stronger and fight gods has captured the hearts of millions of people. The story of Goku, his sons, his friends, and the adventures he goes on have entertained the masses for over three decades at this point.

With a franchise that has had so many iterations, continuities, and characters, one may wonder: What if there was a single series that combined all these iterations? Well, that’s Dragon Ball Heroes! This Japanese exclusive game was Japan’s attempt at selling trading cards based off popular Dragon Ball characters. How the game would work is that you would buy booster packs of cards, take them to an Dragon Ball Heroes arcade machine, scan them, and then use them in the actual game.

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Three Goku’s?! That’s a lot!

What made Dragon Ball Heroes interesting was that everything was canon to it, and I mean EVERYTHING! The movies, games, spin-offs, and even that obscure arcade game from the 90s are all canon to this one sub-series of the franchise. Of course, Heroes isn’t canon to anything in particular. This hasn’t stopped characters and elements from the game making it into other series, such as Xenoverse and Dokkan Battle.

Heroes revolves around a young human boy named “Beat”, who is pulled into the Dragon Ball Heroes game in-universe. He ends up in an amalgamated version of the Dragon Ball universe, and has to ally himself with various characters from a multitude of different realities and continuities. All the while, he seeks to improve both himself and his newfound Saiyan abilities.

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A badass nerd in a trench-coat, that’s new!

Heroes isn’t solely focused on Beat, as the game boasts thousands of different playable characters. Unfortunately, having this many characters in one game comes with a catch: You have to buy them all separately. You see, the game works by scanning in Dragon Ball Heroes trading cards. You buy packs of them at the store, scan them, and are then allowed to use them in-game.

While Heroes is popular in Japan, the game never left its home country. A lot of this comes down to the fact that most people won’t buy dozens of individual trading cards just for one game. Another part of it could do with the machines themselves, which are pretty pricey to make and ship. Games with characters from Heroes in them have been removed from the US releases of recent Dragon Ball games, due to Bandai-Namco not wanting to advertise the game out of Japan.

Despite this, Heroes was still able to be enjoyed by people outside of Japan. Due to the widespread nature of the internet, hardcore Dragon Ball fans were able to get their hands on various pieces of Heroes material. This included the trading cards themselves, the 3DS ports of the arcade games, and the animated shorts made to advertise the game.

On top of this, fans were able to watch the Dragon Ball Heroes anime on Youtube, and enjoy a show that was only meant to be seen in Japan. Due to Dragon Ball’s overwhelming popularity, fans clamor for anything related to Dragon Ball. As a result, Heroes has caught the eyes of many American fans.

Despite Bandai-Namco’s decision to not bring the game over here, it still hasn’t stopped fans from trying to get their hands on it. Pretty much any YouTube video on the game usually has at least 50 messages that read like this: “PLEASE bring Dragon Ball Heroes over to America!”

It’s ironic that in Namco’s attempt to not sell/advertise the game over, they ended up making the game semi-popular in America in spite of it. I think a lot of that comes down to it being the “Forbidden Fruit”, a game that will never officially be released here. People want what they cannot obtain, and one such thing is Heroes.

Still, that doesn’t mean that a release will never happen. For example, most people weren’t expecting Metal Wolf Chaos to get a US release, but it’s finally getting one after all these years! So, maybe there is hope for Dragon Ball Heroes to be released in the West. After all, if a game about the president piloting a giant robot can get released here, pretty much anything can!