A Year of Positive Change For Me

It’s hard to believe that the year is almost over, it flew by so fast! With 2019 being just a month away, I thought it was a good time to reflect on how this year has been. I feel like I’ve accomplished a lot this year. I got a 2 day training course, which helped clue me into how accounting software works. This definitely helped my knowledge base, even if it was only a 2 day course.

I also got back into practicing driving, which felt very fulfilling for me. One of the biggest things that happened to me though was getting published. Having my “Living With Asperger’s” article published in the local “Star Phoenix” newspaper was one of the biggest successes of my life. Sure, some may argue that the newspaper is a dying medium. Still, the fact that I wrote something good enough to qualify for publication was a huge boost to my self-confidence.

The positive messages from my friends, family, and co-workers made what I write feel truly special. I also felt far more comfortable with having Asperger’s, and more comfortable with talking about it in general. On top of this, the great feedback I was getting on my writing resulted in me finally creating a Facebook page. I now link almost all of the posts I make on this blog to Facebook, which has really inspired me to write more than I ever had before.

In fact, this year has been the most active one for my blog. I’ve put out more posts consistently this year than I have in 2015, 2016, or even 2017. While my views haven’t been as high as they were last year, it’s still great being able to put out my work. In general, I feel that both my work and the output of said work has improved vastly. I’m glad people enjoy what I write, since my main goal with writing is to entertain people.

I’ve always been a wordy guy, so writing down all of this stuff that circulates in my noggin is a great pastime for me. Probably the biggest positive thing from this year was just my interactions with people around me, and how I feel I’ve gotten to better understand people in general. I talk more, mingle more, and found that I’ve generally gotten better at interacting with people.

I’ve gone to more parties this year than I have in previous years, and I’ve engaged more in social media than I have have in the past. I feel like this year I’ve evolved as a person, and I’ve grown. I want to keep evolving and trying to become both a better person and writer. I hope you guys continue to read what I write, since I have no plans in stopping any time soon!

Thanks once again for all your support!

Signed, James.

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Destiny 2: Better Late Than Never Review

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Stupid shoulder-pads: The Video-Game

What happens when titans fall? They create an earthquake when they hit the ground! This is what happened nearly three weeks ago when the development studio known as “Blizzard Activision” bombed their convention presentation. Blizzard shot themselves in the foot at their event, (known as Blizzcon) by announcing a phone game based off their popular Diablo franchise.

Normally, this wouldn’t be a big deal. However, they announced this rather small game on the stage usually reserved for big announcements. It also doesn’t help that they belittled the audience when they got booed, or that they acted like this little phone game would be some kind of “big seller”. Regardless, people were understandably annoyed with how Blizzard handled the situation.

This little stunt cost them billions of dollars, and made many investors lose faith in them. I bring all this up for one specific reason: Blizzard and Activision are trying really hard to do as much damage control as they can. This resulted in them purposefully leaking Diabo 4, a sequel to a game that most PC gamers would actually want.

However, one of the biggest things they did was make Destiny 2 free for a couple of weeks. Destiny 2 is a game that I would classify as “interesting”. Destiny 2 was a sequel to the first Destiny game, one of the most over-hyped games in the history of gaming. After it came out and underwhelmed audiences, while its developer “Bungie” kept trying to fix and improve the game.

However, these fixes were both good and bad. They fixed some of the more glaring issues, which included adding new PVP modes, new items and side-content, and actually like-able NPCs. However, it took forever for a lot of these fixes to be implemented. With each new expansion came new changes, which helped improve the game greatly. However, most people were understandably irked by the fact that they had to pay so much for a game that wasn’t even really finished.

To actually play what most fans considered to be the “good parts” of the story, you had to buy these expansions. Otherwise, you’re stuck with a very unsatisfying and incomprehensible story-line, one that only lasts a few hours at best. After releasing several expansions, Bungie and Activision decided to release a sequel. This sequel came a mere three years after the first game, and was met with a slightly higher reception than the first game.

That brings us to today’s subject, the controversial Destiny 2. I was never really interested in the Destiny franchise, but I finally decided to give this game a chance. After all, they just gave it out to everyone for free. So, why not dive into it and see what I was missing? Allow me to preface this by saying that I never actually played the first game, so this review is coming from a fresh and new perspective.

Destiny 2 takes place in a fictional sci-fi universe, revolving around a group of space heroes called “The Guardians”. The Guardians are magical immortals, given their powers by a giant floating planet-like thing called “The Traveler”. An evil alien named “Ghaul” has attacked earth and killed countless beings, all in an attempt to capture The Traveler. With The Traveler in his clutches, he steals “The Light” from The Guardians, which is effectively their power source. With their powers gone, Ghaul’s forces easily defeatsThe Guardians and takes control of the earth.

You play as a customizable Guardian who sets out to regain his Light, stop Ghaul, and collect a ton of rare and shiny items along the way. It’s a very basic plot, but it’s presented in a very poor way. The game does a terrible job of explaining who the characters are, how the universe works, or what The Traveler even is. I know this is a sequel, but I still found it hard to follow the plot. There’s also no in-game codex, so it’s hard to look up info on what happened in the previous game while playing.

There’s so much that goes unexplained through much of the game, to the point where it’s almost hilarious. The story is the weakest part of the game, that’s for sure. What about the game-play itself? Well, the game itself is fun to play, at least for the most part. The game is a First-Person Shooter/ Role-Playing Game hybrid. The game focuses primarily on gun-play, fighting various enemies, and gaining shiny new pieces of equipment.

Let’s start with the game’s gun-play and combat, which is its main focus. It’s pretty good, and features very responsive controls. There’s nothing “unique” or “revolutionary” about the combat, but it gets the job done. Shooting giant alien monsters is satisfying, even if the enemy AI isn’t very smart. Enemies will often just stand there and shoot at you, or occasionally charge at you.

The few times the combat becomes challenging is when you are forced to face a near infinite amount of enemies at once, or when you’re facing a boss with a ton of health. As long as you’re constantly changing out your equipment for new stuff, you’ll never really bump into a challenge that’s too much for you. Even the final boss was kind of a joke, as I was able to take him out fairly easily.

The biggest draw of this game is its “loot”, the gear you obtain by fighting the aforementioned enemies. You’ll constantly be fighting tons of nameless monsters in order to get these items, only to find that they look terrible. The problem with a lot of gear is that you’ll often find stuff with better stats, but it’ll make you look ugly as sin. I can’t tell you how many stupid-looking shoulder-pads I found, or how often I had to wear them just to get their stat benefits.

Sure, you can “Infuse” your weaker gear with something of higher stats. This allows you to wear something that both looks cool and is sufficiently powerful. The problem is that you need several different items to be able to infuse your gear, with the items changing depending on the rarity of said items. This means you’ll need to farm a ton of useless items to infuse your gear, some of which you may never have any real use for.

Defeating enemies isn’t the only way to obtain gear and items, there are plenty of activities in the game that can reward you such items. There are “Public Events”, which are basically special trials that happen somewhere on the map. Any player on the map can engage in them, resulting in most nearby players working together to complete them. Upon completion, you’ll receive a smattering of random items as a reward.

Unfortunately, Public Events are lacking in variety. There’s only a few on each map, and most of them are copied and pasted from the previous planets you visited. There are also “Adventures” and “Quests”, which tend to be fairly boring side-quests that don’t offer much in terms of world-building. There are also Strikes, which are large missions that require 3 players. These are surprisingly tough, and require you to have a lot of good gear in order to properly beat them.

And your reward for wearing more powerful gear to complete these missions is… Even more powerful gear. This is one of Destiny 2’s biggest problems, it’s constant need to shower you in gear. I’ve complained a lot about the loot system and how it functions in the game, but that’s because collecting loot is the game’s biggest draw.

The story is lackluster, most side-quests are forgettable, and most of the cast is fairly bland. Destiny 2 is an undeniably fun game, but it relies too much on gimmicks in order to pad out its run-time. When 90% of your game’s content is superfluous and forgettable, then maybe it’s time to go back to the drawing board.

The last thing I want to touch on is the games “Micro-transactions”, which involving nickle-and-diming the fans for everything their worth. You see, there is an in-game store called “Eververse”. In order to buy some of the rare items from said store, you’ll need a fake currency called “Silver”. As typical with a lot of modern games, you can only get Silver by buying it with in-game cash.

Thankfully, most of the Eververse stuff is cosmetic. It’s still annoying that so much of the cooler-looking things are gated behind paywalls, which is pretty annoying if you’re one of the people who have already paid full-price for the game itself. Sure, it’s superfluous content, but it’s also content you have to shell out a ton of money for.

To sum up my opinions, Destiny 2 is alright. It’s a game that focuses more on drowning its player-base in forgettable side-content, rather than making an experience everyone can enjoy. The story is bland, despite its stellar cinematics. On top of this, the game lacks any uniqueness in its structure. I know a lot of what I’ve said has already been echoed by a lot of other players.

However, I’d be doing a disservice to my audience by just glancing over the game’s many faults. To me, this is a “middle-of-the-road” game. The game is fun, but gets extremely boring fast. This is due to its lack of variety and its boring missions. Destiny 2 left very little impact on me, resulting in me uninstalling the game shortly after beating it.

I don’t hate what I played, but I can’t say I found it enthralling either. Destiny 2 is a middling game, one that I wouldn’t normally have played. The fact that I got it for free is what got me playing it, but the game’s mediocre nature kept me from continuing past that. The amazing graphics and sound did little to win me over. I suggest only getting this game if it’s on sale, or if they offer it for free again. I’d say it’s not a game worth paying full price for, or engaging in its shady micro-transactions.

Yakuza 0 Review

There’s often a fine line between playing a video-game, and watching a movie. However, this line is often crossed many times. A lot of video-games have taken on a cinematic approach over the years, focusing more on cut-scenes and story than actual gameplay. It’s often hard for modern games to find that right balance between gameplay and storytelling, but I think I may have found just the game.

Yakuza 0 is a game that is very cinematic in how it presents itself. It’s a Japanese crime-drama, one that’s centered during the 80s economic boom in Japan. It’s a story focused around two different protagonists: The rebellious Kiryu Kazuma, and the rather silly Goro Majima. Kiryu’s story focuses on him being framed for a crime he didn’t commit, while trying to fight his way out of being a Yakuza.

Majima’s story is different, in that its him trying to get back into the Yakuza. He tires of his life of riches and wealth, which involves running one of the most successful night clubs in the city. He wishes to fulfill a promise he made to someone in his past, while many obstacles get in his path.

The story of Yakuza 0 is presented in a very natural way, and highlights the changes that Japan was undergoing at the time. It’s interesting seeing how the older Yakuza members adapt to the climate of the 80s, with some of them embracing the older honor-based concepts of old, while others do whatever they want. It’s very similar to our modern day culture, how older individuals often find themselves so far behind the curve on what’s “hip” with the younger generation.

Yakuza 0’s story is one of its strongest aspects, but what about its game-play? Good news, the game-play is just as great as its story! Yakuza 0 plays like a beat-em-up, mixed with open-world and RPG elements. You travel across a large open-district, take on side-quests, collect items, fight random dudes, and upgrade your abilities.

The game’s overabundance of side-activities is its strongest asset. There are 100 of these “sub-quests” scattered across the game, split between the two cities in which the game takes place. These entertaining and varied sub-quests include: Protecting a Michael Jackson parody from a bunch of zombies, fighting a money-hungry thug named “Mr. Shakedown”, and even giving tax advice to a government official!

These optional activities also include tons of mini-games, including karaoke and disco dancing! These two distinct mini-games play like rhythm games, adopting a completely different genre of play than the bulk of the main game. There are also a ton of old arcade games you can play at “Club Sega”.

Yes, the side-activities in this game are quite diverse. It’s a stark contrast to the game’s main plot, which is surprisingly serious. The game manages to balance these two drastic tones very well at times, which is a great plus. Still, if you’re looking for a game that’s 100% serious, you’re better off playing something like “L.A. Noire”.

Let’s move on to the presentation, which is another fantastic part of this game. The entire game looks gorgeous and well-designed, especially the game’s areas and characters. Facial textures are fantastic, giving the character designs a realistic flare. While most characters look great in-game, a lot of the random NPCs tend to look pretty strange. A good example of this is Steven Spining, a parody of Steven Spielberg. Spining has a face so inhuman, that he could easily pass as one of the zombies in his music videos!

The music is top-notch, even if not all of the songs fit the decade this game was supposed to take place in. Likewise, the voice-acting is amazing and really well made! The voice-actors deliver their lines with a lot of spunk and energy, allowing them to breath new life into these characters.

I’ve gushed a lot about this game, but it ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. For one thing, the game doesn’t let you save everywhere. You can only really save in telephone booths that are randomly placed across the city, or at end of each chapter. It gets annoying when I’m trying to travel to another part of the city, only to run out of health items and get swarmed by enemies. This isn’t much of a problem on the lower difficulties, but it certainly be a nightmare on the higher ones.

Another problem I had with the game was how meaningless money was in it. In-game money is pretty easy to get, and most of it is spent upgrading your character. Since the game developers knew players would be spending all their cash on upgrades, they made items and mini-games ridiculously cheap. This means its way too easy to stock up on healing items, especially when the game hands out Yen like candy.

On top of this, I had a few minor hiccups with the PC version. While the PC port is polished to near perfection, it does have a few issues I noticed. For one thing, I find that the game likes to pop into windowed mode at random intervals a lot. I set it to full-screen, leave the game, and come back in only to find that I have to reset it again.

I also encountered a bug that caused certain cinematic cut-scenes to be skipped. Thankfully, this didn’t happen a lot, and I was able to find the cut-scenes online very easily. In spite of these minor problems, I feel Yakuza 0 is a top notch product. It’s one of the few major releases in recent years that I found myself really enjoying.

While I’m not the biggest fan of Sega anymore, this one game managed to make me a fan again. Yakuza 0’s cinematic quality and entertaining game-play make it a truly engrossing experience. If you’re looking for an epic beat-em-up, one with a good story that takes itself seriously, then this is the game for you!

Mummies Alive: A Show That Ended Way Too Soon

Halloween may be over, but my love for shows with supernatural elements is not. So, I think it’s the perfect time to discuss a Halloween-ish cartoon from the 90s: Mummies Alive. After all, mummies are technically monsters, and Halloween is all about spooky creatures of a similar ilk. So, what is Mummies Alive? Well, Mummies Alive is an action show from the 90s.

It revolved around an immortal mummy named “Scarab”, who wished to devour the soul of Pharaoh Ramses and become immortal. After Ramses’ death in the times of ancient Egypt, he is later reincarnated into a modern day kid named “Presley”. The warriors who protected Ramses were mummified, and are resurrected in the modern era to protect this new incarnation of the pharaoh.

One may think that with a description like that, the show would be extremely dark. This surprisingly isn’t the case, at least for the most part. While the show was originally aimed for an older audience, it was eventually retooled for young children. As a result, the show can feel quite tonally dissonant at times.

One episode could revolve around telling Ramsey’s tragic demise, while another episode has everyone swapping bodies and dealing with silly 90s shenanigans. As a result, Mummies Alive lacks a consistent tone. As the series progressed, it dropped the darker elements of its setup and focused more on being kid-friendly. This is especially seen with Scarab, who doesn’t try to steal Presley’s soul as much as he used to. In fact, Scarab’s plans kind of go all over the place as the series progresses.

That being said, I do like the show overall. It was one of the few cartoons that tackled death, even if it glanced over it more often than not. The show also some great action scenes, complete with some badass magical transformation sequences! Oh yeah, I forgot to mention this show was basically trying to cash-in on the “Sailor Moon” craze at the time. This means that the mummies have the ability to transform into stronger armored forms, which they do at least once per episode.

Using these armored forms, our heroes do battle against Scarab’s army of easily destroyed living statues. Most episodes usually revolved around Scarab, or some other villain plotting against Presley and the mummies. The series itself only ran for 1 season, but ended up getting a respectable 42 episodes. After the series ended, the show faded into obscurity.

Despite having some of the people behind the wildly successful Gargoyles cartoon working on it, Mummies Alive failed to garner any kind of long-lasting impact. It’s a shame too, because this series did have potential. However, it was going up against a lot of competition in the 90s. This was the decade where action cartoons thrived, so there was a near infinite amount of competition for Mummies Alive.

Looking back at the show now, it’s nothing too special. Aside from some of its darker elements, and usage of Egyptian mythology, there’s nothing really here that’s too unique. Still, it’s a fun little curiosity, that’s for sure. If you’re looking for some good old 90s nonsense, then this is certainly your show!