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.

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The Surprising Popularity of Dragon Ball Heroes

 

 

Durgon Booru 2
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.

Durgon Booru
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!

The Longhouse Tales: An Obscure Canadian Classic

You know what I loved growing up? Pretty much show that had puppets in them. I’m talking Sesame Street, Bear In The Big Blue House, Muppets, etc. So, when I heard there was a puppet cop movie called “Happytime Murders” coming to theaters, I was naturally intrigued. Of course, I heard so many bad things about the movie that I decided to not go.

As cool as a darker and more adult interpretation of the classic puppet show formula sounds, the massive backlash against the film just turned me away. To me, a good puppet show needs to feel both “unique” and “interesting”. I don’t need something super dark, edgy, or adult, just something entertaining.

Recently, I discovered an old Canadian show that fits this description. Very few people know about or remember this show, due to it only having lasted one season. I very vaguely remember it from when I was younger, but I recently rediscovered thanks to a friend show me several episodes. The show is called “The Longhouse Tales”, and it is probably one of the most forgotten shows I’ve ever come across.

There’s no Wikipedia page for it, no TV Tropes page, and zero old fan-sites for it. There only exists a few pages, most of which were made by people who actually worked on the show. It only aired on APTN in the year 2000 for a little while, before disappearing into obscurity for years. It eventually resurfaced on Amazon Prime, becoming part of their “Toonscape” service.

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The gang’s all here!

So, enough beating around the bush, what’s show all about? Well, the series revolves around a mystical storyteller named “Hector Longhouse”. One day, Hector arrives in an old shop run by an agitated turkey named “Tyconderoga”. The turkey lives with a pair of bats, who act as a comedic foil for the feathery shopkeeper.

Each episode involves Hector telling a story, usually centered within the “Animal World”. The Animal World is based on Native Canadian legends, and features a lot of mysticism and bizarre scenarios. The main character of the Animal World segments is a coyote named Dwight, who is implied to have some sort of connection with Hector.

Is Dwight Hector’s spirit animal? Are Hector and Dwight the same being somehow? We never get answers to these questions, as their connection is never fully explored in the series. What the series does like to tackle quite a bit is the two worlds and how they “connect”. The world that the turkey, bats, and Hector inhabit is referred to as the “Real World”.

The Real World, as well as the Animal World have a strange connection to one another. Much like how Dwight and Hector are connected, the two worlds have a strange symbiotic relationship as well. Events that occur in one world can bleed into the other, often in weird reality-warping ways.

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A turkey shopkeeper, can’t say I’ve seen that in a show before!

A good example of this is when characters from the Animal World end up in the Real World, or vice-versa. The way reality within both worlds can bend on a dime gives the show a surreal vibe. Despite clearly being mad for kids, the show has no problem in showing bizarre material to their age demographic.

A good example of this is the episode where Dwight ends up falling unconscious after a magic-based accident, and nearly ended up dying by the end of the episode.  To resolve this incident, Ish almost sacrificed his magic powers to the evil pterodactyl known as “Nevar”. The show had more stakes than your average puppet show, which really helped build up the show’s identity.

It also helps that this show had an abnormally high budget for a kids show. The show had a budget of 6.5 million dollars, which is pretty high for something made in the year 2000. The high budget did not go to waste, as this show looks amazing! Backgrounds are gorgeous and brimming with life, while the puppets themselves have an absurd amount of detail.

Characters are well-designed, and the special effects were fairly solid for the time. On top of this, you had some solid talent working on the show. Longhouse is played by Tom Jackson, a man with a fair bit of experience in television acting. Before this show, he would play a character in an episode of “Star Trek: The Next Generation”. One of the bats on the show was voiced by Fred Stinson, who most Canadian kids will remember as “Major Bedhead” on The Big Comfy Couch.

What made the show really good in my eyes was its world-bulding. While the series was mostly episodic, there was a strong sense of continuity between episodes. The characters changed and evolved over time, as more of these two worlds are explored in each episode. There’s tons of hidden details that make the show worth re-watching over and over again!

So, if this show is so great, why is it so obscure? Well, it aired on APTN for only a few months, and wasn’t given much advertising. The show appeared on the cover for a 2000s issue of Starweek, but that’s about the extent of its exposure. The only way to watch the show is by paying for the previously mentioned “Toonscape” service. Of course, barely anyone uses this service and it doesn’t offer much in the way of truly interesting shows.

It sucks that most people will never get to experience this show, due to how difficult it is to get one’s hands on it. No DVDs, no VHS tapes, no digital downloads, there is only one way to legally watch this show. Of course, one could always pirate the show. I don’t blame a person for taking this route, considering the limited amount of ways one can watch the series.

So, that was The Longhouse Tales. It was a unique puppet show for the time, that combined education with reality-warping shenanigans and fun character interactions. It’s not perfect or amazing, but it provided a solid experience based on Native Canadian legends. It may not have brought in the kind of attention Happytime Murders did, but at least Longhouse was actually watchable and entertaining.

Cartoon Network Universe: FusionFall Retro Review

When I was a kid, one of my favorite pastimes was watching cartoons. Nothing beat sitting down, grabbing a bowl of chips, and catching up on the newest episode of Cybersix. Some of the best cartoons I watched growing up had to be the ones on Cartoon Network, which were certainly enjoyable and entertaining in a variety of ways.

Despite not having access to Cartoon Network in my younger years, I had its Canadian equivalent “Teletoon”. Teletoon aired a lot of Cartoon Network shows, including Courage The Cowardly Dog, Samurai Jack, and Ben 10. Watching these shows in my younger years, one question always popped into my head: What if they all crossed over in one giant event?

Well, this very question was answered in 2009! During that year, Cartoon Network released a MMORPG called “Cartoon Network Universe: Fusionfall”. The idea behind it was that all of Cartoon Network’s shows take place in a singular universe, all located on a fictional version of planet earth. Earth ends up under attack by “Planet Fusion”, an alienotic world coated with green slime. This disgusting planet wishes to “fuse” with earth and absorb the world entirely.

You play as a new recruit, a custom character sent through time to help destroy the Fusions. Unfortunately for you, the time travelling sequence ends up getting interrupted, stranding you in the future. You now have to fight off the Fusion creatures, venture into the past, and put an end to the invasion altogether.

It was a pretty basic concept, but it drew in a lot of fans. The game was only available for about 4 years, and was eventually shut down. Fans were understandably upset by this, especially the ones who invested time and money into said game. However, where there’s a fan-base, there is a way! Flash forward a few years later, and the game had become somewhat forgotten. Despite this, interest in the game was still there.

Out of nowhere, a website run by fans is made called “FusionFall Universe”. The project is meant to be a fan-run private server, hosting two different versions of the game. The first one is FusionFall Retro, which is a straightforward private server. This is the version of the game that was available way back in the day, acting as an emulation of the game’s earliest incarnations. Then there’s “FusionFall: Legacy”, which is a completely new game built from the ground up.

Legacy will use the same engine and mechanics from the original game, but will feature completely new material. It’ll have a new story, and act as a sort of sequel to the original game. As of writing this, Legacy isn’t out yet. However, an early build of Retro was released just a few weeks ago. I think it’s a good time to discuss the awesome-ness that is FusionFall Retro!

The Chosen One
Gotta love that cyberpunk flavor!

Now, please keep in mind that this game is an early build. This means that you can only level up to a certain point, most areas are inaccessible, and you can only play through the game’s first 22 missions. Still, there’s enough here to keep you interested, at least for a few hours.

FusionFall starts with you creating your character, before being thrown into a forced tutorial sequence. After that, you’re free to explore and so side-missions. The combat system for this game is surprisingly fun, especially for a MMORPG. You can use either a melee weapon, or a ranged weapon. You click to attack, and can use other abilities by acquiring “Nanos”.

Nanos are tiny versions of pre-established Cartoon Network characters, which give you specific abilities. These abilities can be used either in combat, exploration, or both. Each Nano has 3 individual abilities, and only one can be selected at a time. You can have 3 Nanos equipped at a time, allowing for a lot of customization when it comes to your build.

You can equip various clothing pieces and accessories to make your character look unique, most of which comes from the Cartoon Network library of cartoons. Now, I’d like to discuss more about this game, but there just isn’t a lot there right now. The game looks nice and has several things to do int, but about 90% of the content has yet to be implemented.

Walking around this open-world and seeing all these details and Easter Eggs are fantastic, but there’s just not enough to enjoy yet. This is a “Sneak Peak” after all, not the full official release of the private server. Despite it not being finished, I still enjoyed what I played of it.

I may have never grew up with this game, but I’ve always been a fan of all the shows represented within it. This game speaks to my inner-child in a way most video-games never seem to. This game is best described as “nostalgia trip”, a collection of everything I loved growing up. This game isn’t special, unique, or amazing, but it’s certainly entertaining. I’m hoping Retro can continue to bring the world this forgotten game, and improve it for the modern age.

The Awesomeness of Namco Museum

If there’s something I love and don’t indulge in that much, it would have to be going to museums. A museum is a great little time capsule, allowing people to view pieces of the past at their own pace. Walking around a real museum can certainly be a treat, but what about museums dedicated to specific hobbies? Video-game museums fit the bill quite well, as they cater to the gaming demographic.

These museums show us the history of these games we grew up loving, showcasing the best that previous console generations had to offer. The thing about these museums is that they’re really spread out and are only being available in certain countries, cities, or locations. As such, visiting these museums can be somewhat of a hassle.

Thankfully, video-games themselves were able to provide such an experience! From the hallowed halls of Namco came of the best virtual museums ever made: The original Namco Museum series. The Namco Museum games were originally released between 1995 and 1997 in Japan. The first volume was brought over to America the very next year, and would receive releases a few months after the Japanese ones.

The idea behind Namco Museum was simple, which was to provide collections of classic Namco arcade games on consoles. These included games like Pac-Man, Ms. Pac-Man, Dig-Dug, Galaga, and Tower of Druaga. What made the collections great weren’t the games themselves, but rather the “Museum Mode” included with said collections.

You see, each volume had its own explorable virtual museum. Each museum had different “exhibits” based on each game, as well as having a hub area that connects to said exhibits. You can explore the museum, the library, or the exhibits at your own leisure. The museums in the first two games were surprisingly scarce, and was just a bland hallway connected to some rooms.

Each individual room housed a game and a small exhibit, but the exhibits themselves were fairly bland in the early installments. They were usually just rooms with small themes to them, and very little in the way of “pizzazz”. This changed in volume 3, when they really stepped up their game.

The museum itself was larger and grander, the exhibits were more detailed and even contained secrets. It was truly an interesting experience, allowing for players to walk around a fully realized Namco Museum. The library contained all these old-school gaming magazines, while exhibits featured 3D recreations of elements from all of these worlds.

My favorite had to be the Ms-Pac-Man exhibit, which featured a 3D rendering of Pac-Man’s house. For some reason, Ms. Pac-Man and her dog Chomp-Chomp are just dancing in the middle of the house as you walk in. I have no idea why they are dancing, I guess they don’t get a lot of visitors and have to keep them entertained somehow.

It wasn’t too uncommon for me to spend more time exploring the museum, then playing the arcade games themselves. There was so much detail and flare put into every exhibit, to the point where it’s a shame that most people didn’t play these games. The Namco Museum games sold decently well, but people came for the games and not the interesting museum modes.

As a result, the “museum” from Namco Museum was removed in future installments. After Volume 5, the Museum Mode was removed completely. Despite still being called “Namco Museum”, the newer games lacked anything showcasing Namco’s classics. Sure, the old arcade games were there, but all those amazingly well-constructed exhibits and locations were gone.

I’ll be honest, it’s cool that Namco Museum still gets occasional new releases. Still, they’re just not the same collections without Museum Mode. I’d love to see Namco one day return to releasing Namco Museum with its original Museum Mode intact, but that most likely never happen.

A Look Back At Omikron: The Nomad Soul

Ever heard of David Cage? This is a man who is a polarizing personality in the video-game industry. He has many controversies piled against him, and his company is criticized constantly. I won’t discuss the various controversies surrounding both David and Quantic Dream here, but rather the one game I felt they did right. For those who don’t know, Quantic Dream has made a ton of games.

A lot of their games tend to feel more like interactive novels, rather than fully playable games. Most of them are based entirely on choices and “Quick-Time Events”, which involve pressing buttons at the correct time and watching a cut-scene unfold. Quantic Dream’s games have never really evolved that much, and have been stuck in a rut for nearly 2 decades now. Surprisingly enough, they weren’t always this way. By far, their most unique and interesting game would be “Omikron: The Nomad Soul”.

While I have reviewed the game before, I thought it was worth talking about again. After all, there are very few games that are quite like it. Omikron was an oddity for the time, as it mixed a ton of different game genres together: Fighting Games, Role-Playing Games, First-Person Shooters, and Adventure Games. As a result, Omikron tends to feel like it’s trying to be too many things at once.

There are some elements in this game that definitely work better than others. For example, the RPG elements allow for some fun and interesting character building, while the fighting game stuff serves as a fun distraction from the game’s various flaws. Yes, this is a very flawed game, which isn’t surprising when you consider when this was made. Omikron came out in 1999, a time when game designing was becoming more difficult and expensive. As a result, Omikron reeks of having a short development cycle.

Omikron’s biggest faults come with its controls, its gameplay, and lack of direction. The controls were probably the worst part, especially on the PC version. Omikron came out in a time when “tank controls” were the next big thing, so controlling your character was often a tedious chore. Your character would pivot around awkwardly while walking, making it difficult to even walk in a straight line.

It probably doesn’t help that on the PC version of this game, it was nearly impossible to play without a controller. The inputs were read incorrectly on a consistent basis, and I eventually had to install a mod just to get the controls to work properly. Even then, the First-Person-Shooter sequences were hard to control. I had to use both the keyboard and controller at the same time to properly control my character during these sequences!

Something I always found annoying about this game was the lack of direction, often telling you to go to a certain place and not always telling you how to get there. Finding certain locations in the game tended to be pretty annoying, at least in my opinion. It wasn’t until later in the game that I figured out that I could a taxi to a specific location, which helped considerably. Once I figured out I could do that, I felt like such an idiot.

Still, the taxi only took you to certain locations, so navigation could still be a pain at times. Despite my grievances with the game, Omikron still did a bunch of stuff that I enjoyed. One of the biggest things was the soundtrack, the late great David Bowie helped create. The songs featured in the game are interesting, to say the least.

You have some futuristic cyberpunk in there, mixed with some rock and a bit of grunge. The soundtrack feels like a mixture of multiple genres of music, with the David Bowie songs being my personal favorites. Bowie even went out of his way to record an alternate version of “New Angels of Promise” just for the game, which I appreciate.

Omikron’s story is another thing I appreciate, as it tackles its narrative in a rather refreshing way. Rather than being just a typical cyberpunk story, Omikron manages to weave meta elements into its plot. The game revolves around you (the player) having their soul enter this fictional world. You become the titular “Nomad Soul” and gain the ability to transfer your soul to other bodies.

In each part of the game you are attacked by demons, who wish to destroy the player’s Nomad Soul. You have to fight your way through demons, thugs, and even robots in order to conquer the evil plaguing Omikron. While Omikron does have a story to follow, the game’s open nature often serves to distract from this.

I can’t tell you how many times I was sidetracked from the main quest by the game’s various activities. These included trying to find special items, or hunting down the secret in-game “Dreamers” concerts. Oh yes, there’s a virtual band in the game that’s headed by Bowie himself. It’s stuff like this that makes this game a true joy to play.

Omikron presents it world and its gameplay elements in a way that feels both alien and comforting. The game has a bizarre feel to it overall, one that few games can manage to pull off properly. The games meta narrative and its focus on a cyberpunk world with demons and magic is an interesting one.

That being said, Omikron has not aged well at all. The dated graphics, awkward controls, and the limited game-saving feature prevented this from being anything other than a “decent game”. Still, it’s arguably Quantic Dream’s best game. It’s hard to believe that the same development team who released a good game that was unique in so many ways, would go on to release nothing but bland and forgettable interactive movies. Hopefully, Quantic Dream will go back to making actual games again, but I highly doubt it.

Tower of Druaga: A Mixed Bag Classic

NoDCover
The PS2 game based off the arcade game that no one ever played!

Remember the Playstation 1? This was a console that was truly ahead of its time, featuring fully 3D graphics, the ability to play both game-discs and music CDs, and a ton of really great and underappreciated games. One game that I have fond memories of is Namco Museum Vol. 3. This was basically just a compilation of some old Namco games, but with a twist.

Namco Museum was true to its name and featured an in-game museum, one that was rendered entirely in 3D! You explored the museum in first-person as Pac-Man, wandering around and truly soaking in the wacky environments the game has to offer. Each volume had its own unique museum, but 3 was when the museum mode really started to evolve into something great.

Each game had its own special areas to explore, with tons of really cool things happening in the background. It felt like each room contained its own unique world-space, and it was something truly wondrous to behold. It reminded me a lot of LSD Dream Emulator, and the various trippy levels that spawned from it.

One of the most interesting locations in the game had to be in the area for “Tower of Druaga”, an old action RPG from the 80s. You enter a room filled with arcade memorabilia and everything looks pretty cool. It’s overall pretty nifty, but what lies beyond the doors of said room is where the true magic lies.

You enter an expansive room, where epic music plays in the background. There is a dark atmosphere around, as your eyes are immediately drawn to a fifty foot giant monster with multiple arms: Druaga. I remember seeing this as child and being enthralled, frightened, and curious all at the same time! I was hoping that the game inside this room would be just as awesome as the room itself!

Unfortunately, it wasn’t. I was hoping for some big Role-Playing Game epic, what I got instead was a rather bland and generic fantasy game. Tower of Druaga was a disappointment, even years after I had originally played it. Druaga told the story of a knight called “Gilgamesh”, who needed to climb a tower in order to rescue a shrine-maiden from the titular monster.

While that seems fun on paper, it doesn’t translate to an enthralling experience. Your character moves very slow at the start of the game, especially when you’re forced to navigate winding mazes. While some enemies are easy to beat, some are rather annoying to get past. Those are really nitpicks though, the problems with Druaga are far more egregious.

For one thing, the game tends to loop the same audio track ad nauseam. Sure, the Druaga theme is great, but having to listen to it over 50 times in a single playthrough is terrible! Druaga’s biggest flaw is how the game is structured, requiring you to find specific items in order to beat the game. Simply acquiring keys and unlocking the doors ahead of you won’t garner you success, you need to actually find invisible chests with special items inside to properly progress.

Forcing a player out of their comfort zone in order to make them grab a bunch of random items is a quick way to lose someone’s interest. Several items are necessary to even beat the game, and missing a single one could damn your whole play-through. It’s worse if you get to the final level, are missing an important item, and end up “zapped” back to a previous floor.

While it’s not as bad if you aren’t equipped with the highest-tier equipment, it’ll end up destroyed if you are. Without that gear, defeating Druaga and beating the game becomes impossible. That’s not even mentioning the fact that the game has a whopping 60 floors, most of which are stuffed to the brim with grueling challenges.

To me, Druaga feels like a game that hasn’t aged well at all. While it helped create the action RPG genre, it was still lacking in features that would make the genre was great. To be fair, Druaga is a very old game and was created at a time when video-games weren’t too advanced. Still, the repetitive soundtrack, insane difficulty, and overall slow pace stop it from being a game that can still be loved and adored today.

It’s immense difficulty is both a turn-off, and one of its strongest features. Touted as a “medieval Pac-Man”, Druaga tried to mix high-fantasy with classic arcade goodness. While I don’t think they succeeded, they did help bolster an entirely new genre of game.  Druaga itself did insanely well in Japan, due to the communal structure of arcades over there.

In Japan, arcade goers tend to be pretty vocal, sharing valuable hints and tips with each other. An average arcade in Japan can feel more like a brotherhood, rather than a typical hangout! It’s different in America, where our arcades are just places to waste a bit of time while waiting for a movie.

Nowadays, Druaga isn’t even relevant in Japan anymore. There hasn’t been a new entry in the series since 2011, and the anime series that spun off from the games ended in 2009. Druaga is seen nowadays as one of Namco’s classics, but only in Japan. It never took off elsewhere, and as a result is mostly forgotten.

While I can say that I never really liked the game, it did end up creating my favorite game genre of all time. Druaga helped foster the action-RPG genre, which is something I can appreciate. While I think Druaga is a fossil and isn’t that fun, I can’t deny its influence on the gaming market. While Druaga is a mess, at least it isn’t as bad as a similar game called “Hydlide”. No should be forced to play Hydlide…

My Personal Favorite Comic Book: Moon Knight

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Wolverine, eat your heart out!

I had recently talked about Captain Canuck, an obscure comic series turned animated series. While I do enjoy Canuck comics, they are far from my favorite series. In all honesty, my favorite comic book series would be a little known gem called “Moon Knight”. This series was one of Marvel’s more obscure properties, and was originally created way back in the 70s.

Originally appearing in issue 72 of “Werewolf By Night”, Moon Knight was introduced as a villain and adversary to The Werewolf. This cloaked figure was sent to capture Werewolf By Night, but instead captured the interest of various readers. Eventually, Moon Knight would get his own spinoff comic. Surprisingly, Moon Knight managed to outlast Werewolf by decades and received multiple iterations, while the comic it spun off from faded into obscurity.

The Moon Knight himself was a man called “Marc Spector”, an individual who is constantly brought into the path of combat. Having been both a boxer and mercenary, Marc was a master at defeating his opponents. While out on a mercenary mission, he ended up in a tomb belonging to the moon god “Konshu”.

Konshu ended up selecting Marc as his avatar on earth, bestowing him with enhanced abilities depending upon how full the moon is. This leads to Marc becoming the vigilante “Moon Knight”, a cloaked warrior clad in white and armed to the teeth in deadly weaponry. Marc ended up creating several other personas to go along with Moon Knight, so that he can both hide his original mercenary identity and keep an eye on the criminal underground.

This is the gist of what Moon Knight is about, a super-powered emissary of a god, who maintains multiple identities in order to fight crime. While that may sound simple and bare-bones, Moon Knight was a character that evolved over time. Marc’s many identities eventually became multiple personalities, most of which he had to struggle with. He dealt with various mental issues over the years, and developed a fighting style that borders on suicidal. Moon Knight is the kind of guy who would rather takes punches than dodge them, meaning that he rarely gets out of major fights without several injuries.

I always found the comic itself to be engaging, especially with how it was presented. While the series itself originally revolved around a superhero who would fight both supernatural and regular crimes, it eventually evolved into a guy struggling with his various mental issues and beating bad guys in spite of them.

Moon Knight continued on for many years, eventually culminating in one of his most popular incarnations: Moon Knight Vol. 5. In this volume, Moon Knight develops an entirely new persona called “Mr. Knight”. Marc still fights crime as Moon Knight, now wielding both magical and technological weaponry together. As Mr. Knight, he co-ordinates with the police and aids them on occasion. Using these two personas, Marc strives to keep the travelers of the night safe from various menaces.

Vol. 5 took on an episodic approach, with many issues being standalone stories. Some issues had some rather intense endings, or would feature some surprisingly shocking twists. Vol. 5 felt like the superhero equivalent of the “Twilight Zone”, featuring bizarre and odd standalone stories on a consistent basis.

Despite Moon Knight’s mild popularity in the comics, he rarely ventured outside of them. Moon Knight did make it into some of the video-games, but only a select few. Moon Knight showed up in the Ultimate Spider-Man cartoon, but they butchered his character in my opinion. They made him into a raving lunatic, an insane mad-man. Why? Because it’s hard for writers to explore mental problems in a kids show, mostly out of the fear that kids may not understand it.

Being a person that lives with Asperger’s, I always like it when a character with mental health issues is portrayed properly in media. What made me like Marc Spector and his Moon Knight persona wasn’t his enhanced abilities, special powers, or his ability to defeat his foes. It was that he could accomplish many things in spite of the issues he struggled with.

When you take a character with a series of mental health problems and turn him into a “crazy guy with a staff”, then you remove almost all of the things that would make Moon Knight interesting. Worse still, Moon Knight is clad in his Vol. 5 outfit, despite having none of the traits that made him cool in that version. The episode also tells you very little about the character, barely touching upon the intricacies that the various comic book writers have given him over the decades.

Avengers Assemble also had Moon Knight appear in one episode, but it was still lacking. While Moon Knight was far more competent and closer to his comic-book counterpart, he was brainwashed for most of the episode and barely said anything. While they did at least try this time around, it was still far from the depiction were hoping for.

Back to the comics, Moon Knight is still getting new iterations as the years go on. Volume 6 puts Marc in a mental institution, while trying to escape and resume his life. In the “Marvel Legacy” imprint, Marc returns to his Moon Knight persona and once again does battle against super-powered menaces.

In essence, Moon Knight felt like an evolution of what a good superhero should be, at least in my opinion. He was a character who changed and evolved over time, gaining many interesting depictions and incarnations. He was one of the few Marvel heroes that the comic book writers toy with, and became one of the best characters as a result of this.

Sure, his cartoons depictions were all over the place in terms of quality, but at least they got his name out there. It’s nice to see that the Moon Knight comics are still getting traction, even when the quality and popularity of most Marvel Comics have died. Despite Moon Knight being a hero that straddles the line between good and evil, he is still a character that gets the job done and protects people. In essence, that’s what makes a truly great fictional hero.

Captain Canuck: Canada’s Most Obscure Comic Book Hero

 

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A Canadian who isn’t nice?! That’s a new one!

When it comes to superheroes, American comic books and films tend to be the king of the genre. However, it’s not uncommon for other countries to try their hand at creating their own heroes. From Japan’s Kamen Rider to France’s Lastman, superheroes are a global phenomenon. As a result, it was only a matter of time before Canada would create their own superhero: Captain Canuck.

 

Of course, not a whole lot of people know about said superhero. Captain Canuck was a comic that was originally launched back in the 70s, and was the first successful Canadian comic after World War II had killed the medium years before. Captain Canuck came out at the right time, a time where the world was in midst of changing. Technology was getting better, lives were improving, and mediums like film and comics were seeing a resurgence. Of course, what’s big in the 70s doesn’t remain big forever.

Captain Canuck is barely talked about nowadays, his brand having essentially died off. Canadian superheroes tend to be especially obscure, and in short supply. Because of this, Captain Canuck disappeared for years at time, only resurfacing with new issues here or there. This changed in 2013, with the release of a “Captain Canuck” animated series. The Captain Canuck series was a bunch of short episodes, all that added up to a continuous plot. The series revolved around a mad-scientist named “Dr. Gold”, who wishes to steal Canuck’s powers for his own.

The episodes were uploaded to Youtube, where they found somewhat of an audience. The animated Canuck series revels in its Canadian upbringing, taking time to reference its home country in any way it sees fit. This includes making one of Canuck’s female sidekicks French, and including a song by a different Canadian band at the end of each episode’s credits.

Captain Canuck featured decent animation, for what was a rather low-budget project. Still, it managed to reignite interest in this obscure character. People seemed to be enjoying this series, like how they did in the 70s. There was even a second season planned for the show! The first episode came out, just before promptly disappearing. I remember seeing the first episode online, complete with the voice cast from the first season returning.

However, I checked back about a year later, only to find that it had disappeared! Every mention of it had been scrubbed from the internet, leaving only the first season remaining. I’m not really sure why the second season pilot was pulled, or where it had gone. Much like the original character, the second season had disappeared and faded into obscurity.

To this day, I’m not sure really what happened to it. Despite the second season’s disappearance, the franchise continues on without it. It was definitely a fun series for the time, both in animated and comic book form. It’s nice to see a hero based off of Canadian ideals, though I’m surprised they didn’t go all the way and give him one of those silly over-exaggerated “Canadian accents”.

Captain Canuck is one of those series that has surprised me with its longevity. Years ago, when I discovered a Canuck comic at my local library, I had no idea that it would still be relevant in the future. To me, it looked like a silly cheesy comic from the Silver Age, that had no chance of evolving into anything else.

I must say that I’m pleasantly surprised that Canuck has lasted throughout the years, and continues to get entries in its venerable franchise. Despite the cancellation of the show’s second season, they’re still tossing around ideas for a live-action adaptation. Even though the series is a curiosity of Canadian culture, Captain Canuck is something that has continues to entertain multiple generations of people. As a Canadian myself, I am proud to say that Captain Canuck is an awesome and unforgettable part of our culture, albeit an obscure one.

What Happened To Video Game Secrets?

Believe it or not, secrets in video-games were once a magical thing. You’d hear all these rumors and myths for seemingly amazing things hidden in your favorite games. Some were true, most were false, but they always left you with a sense of wonder and speculation. The 90s and 2000s were dominated with such secrets and legends, making gaming a truly great time for that era.

Even if a secret proved to be untrue, searching for it could still be rather fun. Trying to search through a game to find some mysterious and alluring secret could be a fun experience in itself. Heck, people basically turned it into a hobby with Grand Theft Auto! Almost each game in that series had dozens of myths about hidden items, strange mythical beasts, or weird unexplained phenomenon.

Sadly, you don’t see that much anymore. Secrets revolving around video-games are now scarce, or easily disproven. A person could just look through the code of the game to find any secrets, or see if certain ones ever existed to begin with. Nobody believes doctored screenshots anymore, and its easy for a lot of people to comb a game’s code for any hidden goodies.

It’s gotten to the point where the developers of GTA actively have to find obscure ways to hide secrets, to the point where they make them near impossible to find! Both GTA and the Batman Arkham games had this problem, to the point where the developers had to come out and actively say where these secrets were hidden. To me, revealing where a secret is defeats the purpose of it being a secret to begin with.

Nowadays, most game developers don’t bother putting secrets in their games. A game secret either ends up being impossible to find, or ridiculously easy to discover. There’s no real middle-ground, not like there was in the early years. The mystery and wonder of a good video-game myth is lost in this modern age.

Does that mean there there aren’t great game secrets anymore? Not at all! Despite GTA’s obtuse and hard to find secrets, the search for said secrets always leads to interesting findings. The thing about video-game secrets is that as long as there are games, there will be things inside said games that cannot be easily found. With millions of games available on the market, it’s impossible to say for certain that they are all lacking in secrets. As long as a person wishes it, gaming secrets will never die!