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Beowulf: A Translation and Commentary
Beowulf: A Translation and Commentary
by Christopher Tolkien
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $17.71
62 used & new from $15.30

12 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Long overdue!, May 22, 2014
"Beowulf: A Translation and Commentary" contains Tolkien's 1926 prose translation of the epic poem. Also included are lenghty essays from lecture notes Tolkien did in the 1930s, a previously unpublished story called "Sellic Spell" from 1945, ad two poems. Highly recommended!


The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds
The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds
Offered by RAREWAVES-USA
Price: $38.53
41 used & new from $25.48

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Shigeru Miyamoto: "Sounds Like an Idea That's 20 Years Old!", December 10, 2013
GENERAL OVERVIEW: “The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds” is the first top down Zelda game since the 2005's Gameboy Advance title, “The Minish Cap”. This game is also first new handheld title in the Zelda franchise that Nintendo has released for one of their flagship products, the 3DS. The game is a direct sequel to the 1991 SNES title, “A Link to the Past”, which is one of the most highly acclaimed games in Nintendo’s bountiful back catalogue, featuring all new dungeons.

Make no mistake. “A Link Between Worlds” is the best Zelda game since “Ocarina of Time” or, barring that, “A Link to the Past” itself. For longtime Zelda players, “Link Between Worlds” may first initially lull you with its emotionally powerful, highly nostalgic rendering of Hyrule circa 1992, only to discover how deeply Nintendo is rearranging the Zelda template. “A Link Between Worlds” casts off series conventions (while still retaining its identity as a Zelda title).

To compare notes with another franchise, Hideo Kojima is radically restructuring the inherent design of the Metal Gear universe by making “Metal Gear Solid 5" an open world game rather than a tightly controlled stealth game. In order to ease players into the radical shift and new reinvention of Metal Gear’s signature stealth play, as adapted for an open world environment, Konami is releasing “Ground Zero”, which is a prologue to the main game, as a separate, introductory primer for “Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain”.

“A Link Between Worlds” is a reshuffling of the deck, a “Ground Zero” if you will for Zelda. Unlike the Metal Gear comparison, this game isn’t about charting new territory though - it’s about returning to the very roots that made the series so special in the first place. Before we get into the ramifications and what this game may mean for Zelda in general, here are some pros and cons.

PROS:
Link navigating via merging into walls as a painting is both highly imagitive and drastically opens up new ways of solving puzzles and transvering Hyrule, breathing much needed life into Zelda's [intellectual side] cerebral side.
Excellent level design almost goes without saying. Nintendo has always excelled at level design.
-No farming for items. All usable items are manna-based, with a meter that regenerates over time. You never have to worry about running out of bombs or arrows again! (We so needed that in the original 1987 Zelda!
-Mini-games, including baseball (!!!) and chicken dodging
-Has a dual world setup (Hyrule and Lorule), like the original SNES game.

NEUTRAL:

-Borrows the overworld map of its SNES predecessor almost to the pixel. For veterans of the series, this borrowing will be highly nostalgic, though others may complain they are just rehashing “Link to the Past”. One benefit of using the same map is that it helps provide continuity for a series renowned for how disconnected each game appears in relation to others. (In 2011, Nintendo finally published an official timeline in “Hyrule Historia”. Guess what! There are THREE SEPARATE OFFICIAL TIME LINES, and all three branch off from “Ocarina of Time”.)
-The story is pretty simple. While some may think that detracts from the overall experience, I am fine with a simplified story. Nintendo has never been about story, and when they do get tangled into in-depth story-telling, you end up with three timelines and soap opera disasters like “Metroid: Other M” which by the end you lose almost all respect for Samus. There’s a reason why they keep narrative out of Mario games (though to be fair, the Mario RPGs have some good stories).

CONS:
-Visually feels little more than an upgrade to “Link to the Past”, rather than a distinct artistic style.
-The Overworld, while expansive in 1991, feels a little small by today’s standards.
-Lorule (as opposed to Hyrule) just sounds like an idiotic linguist pun. This is just a minor personal complaint though.

THE MORE PROBLEMATIC ELEMENTS OF MODERN ZELDA: It’s not a secret to everybody (to lightly misquote a certain Mobin) that Zelda has grown increasingly stagnant in recent years.

“Skyward Sword” is by far the most devise of the mainstream “Zelda” installments, even more so than initial responses to the art style of “Wind Waker” circa 2003. The more flawed elements of that game are all game design decisions that became codified in the sacrosanct “Ocarina of Time” and over the years finally met their logical conclusion in “Skyward Sword”.Eiji Anouma, the main overseer of the series, has even stated in post ‘Skyward Sword’ interviews that Nintendo is rethinking Zelda conventions in order to keep the series fresh and relevant due to lackluster response by players to recent titles.

Tevis Thompson has written a great, lengthy essay regarding the issues he believes is plaguing modern Zelda games. (The title is “Zelda Just Keeps Getting Worse. But It Isn't Beyond Saving”. It is well worth reading). Thompson is discussing “Skyward Sword”, the 2011 Wii game. “Skyward Sword” is by far the most devise of the mainstream “Zelda” installments, even more so than “Wind Waker”. While far too long to address Thompson point by point for an Amazon review, the essential summary of his complaints are three fold:

1. Zelda has gone from a vast, overworld experience to an increasingly narrowed, mechanical by rote design, rather than organic gameplay which invites multiple methods of play. Key quote: “Modern Zeldas do not offer worlds. They offer elaborate contraptions reskinned with a nature theme, a giant nest of interconnected locks.” Thompson describes “Skyward Sword” as a culmination of “reducing the world into a series of bottlenecks”. In other worlds, Zelda games have become so mechanical in nature that they have lot their sense of wonder and adventure and even (or perhaps especially) danger. The worlds also feel empty, a complaint I first voiced against “Ocarina of Time”. For all the grandeur of “Hyrule Field”, save for some Stalfos knights that appear after sunset and an occasional Peahat or too, it’s a pretty empty field. The sky in Skyward Sword is also notoriously void of any real exploratory content worth mentioning.

2. Lack of Difficulty. The two NES Zelda games (especially “The Adventure of Link”) can be brutal at times. Beginning with “A Link to the Past”, the difficulty of the Zelda franchise has been on a steep downward slope. Saturo Iwata, Nintendo’s President, has directly addressed this decrease in difficulty in Nintendo products.

3. No respect for the player. By design of bottle-neck environmental roadblocks (first heavily featured in “Zelda II”* and culminating in “Skyward Sword”), greatly reduced difficulty, and extemly intrusive “journey companions” that hold your hand every step of the way, Zelda feels more like a guided tour of Hyrule than a daring adventure with real danger at every turn. The puzzle elements have been greatly minimized due to constant direction.

RESTORING ADVENTURE TO ZELDA: “A Link Between Worlds” largely addresses Thompson’s concerns. These are the practical, concrete game play mechanics in which A Link Between Worlds” is reinvigorating Zelda.

-Death has consequences. When renting your items, you are able to keep said items for as long as you stay alive. However, if you die you lose your items.
-Challenge: Directly ties to the first point. The overworld isn’t the grandiose, but almost entirely devoid of enemies, Hyrule Field. Instead, there are well armored foes intent on killing Link and LOTS OF THEM. Likewise, the dungeon bosses are more difficult than we’ve seen in a long time. They take skill and cunning to beat as well as figuring out how to best exploit their weak spot. The dungeon enemies themselves are no pushover either.
-Enemies are used as boundary markers. From Thompson’s essay: “Link must be allowed to enter areas he's not ready for. He must be allowed to be defeated, not blocked, by the world and its inhabitants.” You can get into some areas that will push you to your max to escape alive, let alone in stunning victory.
-“A Link Between Worlds” returns to the open world feel of the original NES title, albeit in the confines of Hyrule as shown in “A Link to the Past”. Due to renting items, dungeons are largely (but not entirely) completeable in any order, rather than a pre-defined set path that must be followed at all costs.
-Item renting restores some of the wonder and adventure to the series, because this time around you are truly interested in the contents of treasure chests, knowing that they will hold something other than series trope items such as boomerangs, bows, etc.
-Fast Travelling: If you find yourself without necessary items for a dungeon, you can quickly get to the shop to get said item via warp points without excessive backtracking.
-No more “Hey, Listen!” For the first time in years, Link is on his own, left to figure out what he must do without constant rejoinders from the game helper of the week. To compensate, if you need assistance there is the very unintrusive Hint Glasses which are mentioned briefly and then never forced upon the player, or visiting fortune tellers, which is entirely at the player’s discretion. Just like the statue in the 1st palace of the Dark World where you must shoot an arrow in its eye to proceed or the backtracking in the Ice Palace, there will be moments you are left puzzling what to do.

WHAT “A LINK BETWEEN WORLDS” MEANS FOR THE ZELDA FRANCHISE: There are two main camps in Zelda Fandom: those who think “Ocarina of Time” is the best and those who think “Link to the Past” is best. While predictions are a dangerous venture at the best of times, “A Link Between Worlds” clearly indicates that Nintendo is not above radically rewriting conventions for one of its most successful IPs, returning them to earlier times. To return to the Metal Gear comparison with “Ground Zero”, “A Link Between Worlds” is laying the groundwork for the still unnamed (at the time of writing) Wii U Zelda game which we know is in development.

Appropriately enough for a series with three time lines, developmentally and in game design “A Link Between Worlds” has effectively ignored the last twenty years of its own franchise. Nintendo has returned to the original ethos and game philosophy of the first Zelda titles and have created an alternate point of development in which Aonuma has indicated he is fully intent upon pursuing. Anouma has confessed to never completing the original Zelda title and wanting to never make a game like that. Before this game, this attitude would explain why there is such a disconnect between the recent games and the trail-blazing originals.

When the game was first pitched to Miyamoto (before it was a “Link to the Past” sequel or even featured the painting), he declined, saying that it "sounds like an idea that's 20 years old!”. While the context is not exactly the same, Anouma and his team are finally returning to the hallmarks of Zelda that so captivated us in the first place (at least, gamers of my generation), returning to the older ideas of the series.

“A Link Between Worlds” is a course correction LONG OVER DUE, and if this game is any clear indication, not only have Anouma and his team learned from their mistakes with “Skyward Sword”, but are going all the way back to the very foundational elements of the series before “Ocarina”.

Aonuma has stated based on user feed back (now so readifuly plentiful via the Internet and Miiverse) that the new Wii U Zelda game will focus much more on the open-world feel so pioneered by the original NES classic that has been largely untouched by the series since then. Games such as the The Elder Scrolls and the Grand Theft Autos are more closely kin to the original “Zelda” than “Skyward Sword” If Anouma is to be believed, then the Wii U Zelda will be a reinvention of modern 3D Zelda titles. If Nintendo follows the direction established in “Link Between Worlds”, then the Wii U Zelda will be a grand reinvention indeed!

While Miyamoto is ultimately responsible for Zelda, the last fifteen years have largely been spearheaded by Anouma, and for the first time I feel that we are seeing how Nintendo would develop the series based on the original four games. We are returning to Miyamoto’s original vision for the series at long last!
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*Whereas almost the entirety of Hyrule in “The Legend of Zelda” is open to the player, in each successive game the ability to explore became increasingly more and more confined either by necessity of the plot or that to progess to Dungeon 2, you must have an item from Dungeon 1, etc. Thompson points to “A Link to the Past” as the starting point of this mechanical trend in Zelda games (“Oh, there’s a wall with weird rocks. Use a bomb.”), which is not wholly accurate. While minimally present in the original NES game, “Zelda II” is the first game that really locked you into a defined order of dungeons and locked off worlds. While ‘Link to the Past’‘s Dark World dungeons are tremendously flexible in the order in which you complete them in “A Link to the Past”, there is absolutely no possible way for extensive sequence-breaking in “Zelda II”. Want to go to the Island Palace? You have to have the Faerie Spell, which can only be obtained by use of the hammer. Want to go to Maze Palace? Have to have the Raft from the Island Palace in order to cross over into eastern Hyrule. Want to go to the Sea Palace? Have to have the boots from the Maze Palace. To get into Three Rock Palace (or even access the southern portion of Hyrule in which that palace is located), you have to have the Flute from the Sea Palace to get by the River Devil guarding the bridge.


Xbox One + Kinect
Xbox One + Kinect
Offered by Dream Kitty
Price: $466.65
144 used & new from $392.00

7 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Blood in the Water? I'd hold off if I were you., November 22, 2013
This review is from: Xbox One + Kinect (Console)
PLEASE NOTE: I am not a Sony or Nintendo "fanboy". I have first hand experience with the console. Also, I think the Xbox One has serious potential and the problems it will most likely stabilize with in the first year, but do not recommend picking one up on launch.

We finally have all three major console players in the game, with Valve’s Steam Box hoping to edge its way into the fight for your hard-earned entertainment dollar. Of the three main offerings, the Xbox One has been the last to launch and is the most expensive with $499, whereas the PS4 is $399 and the Wii U is $299.

To say the Xbox One has had a rough PR road to hoe is putting it lightly. Like Microsoft’s flagship product, Windows 8 with its tabet approach, abolition of the start menu, and closed Windows store, the Xbox One was meant to be a radical reinvention of the Xbox brand, with most of the changes being controversial, to say the least. Initially, Microsoft designed the Xbox One to always be online. If disconnected from the Internet, the system would need to connect at least once very 24 hours, or the system would be unable to play any games. All games were tied to an Xbox Live account and console, effectively destroying the used video game market in regards to Xbox titles. Lastly, the system originally mandated that you use a Kinect motion camera in order to operate the system.

These ‘features’ were met with such severe consumer backlash to the point that Microsoft reversed these requirements/policies. Still, these proposed policies greatly damaged the public’s perception of the system.

Kotaku (among others) have also reported that they have heard from industry sources that Microsoft has been hard pressed getting the operating system and core applications ready for the November 22 launch. Kotaku’s sources have also suggested that Xbox One’s developer kits are “buggy”. According to Pete Dodd, a blogger who is apparently well-connected and treated as an authoritative source, post this: ““So if you are playing by yourself and just playing the game online it should be fine. But if you’re in a party, people get dropped. Voice chat cuts in and out. Certain app combinations make the machine crash completely.” Apparently there are SIGNIFICANT issues with the Network infrastructure and Xbox Live, and, in the words of Kotaku, these systems will be coming in “hot”.

So what do you get for your $500 dollars besides the console? An external power brick, a chat headset and controller, a 6 foot HDMI cable, and a Kinect sensor. When you power up the system, there will be a mandatory, day one update (so you better have Internet connection available). The UI is based off Windows 8's approach, so depending on how you feel about Windows 8's UI will determine your opinion of the Xbox One.

The Xbox One is marketed as being the central entertainment device in your living room, which is why the gaming industry and pundits mocked Microsoft during their press conference - the focus was largely on everything else the system did and not the games. The system is able to input and output HDMI audio and video, with the intention of being able to operate your entire entertainment setup using only your voice.

In comparison to the Wii U and PS4, the Xbox One is massive. The system weights eight lbs, is 13.5 inches wide by 10.4 inches deep by 3.2 inches tall, with numerous vents on top arnd around the sides (which it was designed for nearly always being on). Like the PS4, the Xbox One is not backwards compatible. As with most new systems, the launch titles, while marginally better looking than their PS3 and Xbox 360 counterparts, haven’t hit their stride in showing what the respective systems can do.

IMPORTANT: Xbox One only connects via HDMI cable; you cannot connect the console to a standard definition TV

While there are several excellent features, most are tied to the subscription based Xbox Live Gold account which is sixty dollars a year. . The following features require the subscription in addition to the monthly fees you already have to pay for several of these services: Netflix, Skype, Hulu Plus, Game DVR, the Web Browser (of all things), and the NFL Application.

The primary selling point is Kinect, where you can engage in all your Star Trek fantasies by talking to your TV and game console and them actually responding to your voice commands. But if we learn from history, it’s that technology doesn’t only work flawlessly, and often times Kinect will not respond correctly. Like Bill Gates getting a BSOD during the reveal of Windows ‘98, Kinect, while fancy, still has some significant reliability issues.

Although the system’s capabilities are impressive on paper (TV, web browsing, video streaming, and a UI that supports voice and motion control), the higher retail cost and continuing subscription fees are significant drawbacks in these economically challenging times. Hardware launches are never easy, and it may be better to just let the dust settle and wait six months to a year for Microsoft to work all the kinks out.

While on paper the Xbox One may be a powerhouse of a system, Microsoft botched the initial reveal so badly that I recommend waiting, especially given all the rumours floating around. Obviously you cannot take every rumour at face value, but when respectable, authoritative sources are reporting sharks in the water, you may want to start looking for fins.


Call of Duty: Ghosts - Xbox One
Call of Duty: Ghosts - Xbox One
Offered by cargolargo
Price: Click here to see our price
308 used & new from $10.25

6 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars More of the same, November 22, 2013
This one offers more of the same Call of Duty action we love. While some other titles are better, don't miss this one of you are a CoD fan! This one is great!


The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds
The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds
Price: $32.28
97 used & new from $23.00

92 of 118 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Shigeru Miyamoto: "Sounds Like an Idea That's 20 Years Old!", November 22, 2013
GENERAL OVERVIEW: “The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds” is the first top down Zelda game since the 2005's Gameboy Advance title, “The Minish Cap”. This game is also first new handheld title in the Zelda franchise that Nintendo has released for one of their flagship products, the 3DS. The game is a direct sequel to the 1991 SNES title, “A Link to the Past”, which is one of the most highly acclaimed games in Nintendo’s bountiful back catalogue, featuring all new dungeons.

Make no mistake. “A Link Between Worlds” is the best Zelda game since “Ocarina of Time” or, barring that, “A Link to the Past” itself. For longtime Zelda players, “Link Between Worlds” may first initially lull you with its emotionally powerful, highly nostalgic rendering of Hyrule circa 1992, only to discover how deeply Nintendo is rearranging the Zelda template. “A Link Between Worlds” casts off series conventions (while still retaining its identity as a Zelda title).

To compare notes with another franchise, Hideo Kojima is radically restructuring the inherent design of the Metal Gear universe by making “Metal Gear Solid 5" an open world game rather than a tightly controlled stealth game. In order to ease players into the radical shift and new reinvention of Metal Gear’s signature stealth play, as adapted for an open world environment, Konami is releasing “Ground Zero”, which is a prologue to the main game, as a separate, introductory primer for “Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain”.

“A Link Between Worlds” is a reshuffling of the deck, a “Ground Zero” if you will for Zelda. Unlike the Metal Gear comparison, this game isn’t about charting new territory though - it’s about returning to the very roots that made the series so special in the first place. Before we get into the ramifications and what this game may mean for Zelda in general, here are some pros and cons.

PROS:
Link navigating via merging into walls as a painting is both highly imagitive and drastically opens up new ways of solving puzzles and transvering Hyrule, breathing much needed life into Zelda's [intellectual side] cerebral side.
Excellent level design almost goes without saying. Nintendo has always excelled at level design.
-No farming for items. All usable items are manna-based, with a meter that regenerates over time. You never have to worry about running out of bombs or arrows again! (We so needed that in the original 1987 Zelda!
-Mini-games, including baseball (!!!) and chicken dodging
-Has a dual world setup (Hyrule and Lorule), like the original SNES game.

NEUTRAL:

-Borrows the overworld map of its SNES predecessor almost to the pixel. For veterans of the series, this borrowing will be highly nostalgic, though others may complain they are just rehashing “Link to the Past”. One benefit of using the same map is that it helps provide continuity for a series renowned for how disconnected each game appears in relation to others. (In 2011, Nintendo finally published an official timeline in “Hyrule Historia”. Guess what! There are THREE SEPARATE OFFICIAL TIME LINES, and all three branch off from “Ocarina of Time”.)
-The story is pretty simple. While some may think that detracts from the overall experience, I am fine with a simplified story. Nintendo has never been about story, and when they do get tangled into in-depth story-telling, you end up with three timelines and soap opera disasters like “Metroid: Other M” which by the end you lose almost all respect for Samus. There’s a reason why they keep narrative out of Mario games (though to be fair, the Mario RPGs have some good stories).

CONS:
-Visually feels little more than an upgrade to “Link to the Past”, rather than a distinct artistic style.
-The Overworld, while expansive in 1991, feels a little small by today’s standards.
-Lorule (as opposed to Hyrule) just sounds like an idiotic linguist pun. This is just a minor personal complaint though.

THE MORE PROBLEMATIC ELEMENTS OF MODERN ZELDA: It’s not a secret to everybody (to lightly misquote a certain Mobin) that Zelda has grown increasingly stagnant in recent years.

“Skyward Sword” is by far the most devise of the mainstream “Zelda” installments, even more so than initial responses to the art style of “Wind Waker” circa 2003. The more flawed elements of that game are all game design decisions that became codified in the sacrosanct “Ocarina of Time” and over the years finally met their logical conclusion in “Skyward Sword”.Eiji Anouma, the main overseer of the series, has even stated in post ‘Skyward Sword’ interviews that Nintendo is rethinking Zelda conventions in order to keep the series fresh and relevant due to lackluster response by players to recent titles.

Tevis Thompson has written a great, lengthy essay regarding the issues he believes is plaguing modern Zelda games. (The title is “Zelda Just Keeps Getting Worse. But It Isn't Beyond Saving”. It is well worth reading). Thompson is discussing “Skyward Sword”, the 2011 Wii game. “Skyward Sword” is by far the most devise of the mainstream “Zelda” installments, even more so than “Wind Waker”. While far too long to address Thompson point by point for an Amazon review, the essential summary of his complaints are three fold:

1. Zelda has gone from a vast, overworld experience to an increasingly narrowed, mechanical by rote design, rather than organic gameplay which invites multiple methods of play. Key quote: “Modern Zeldas do not offer worlds. They offer elaborate contraptions reskinned with a nature theme, a giant nest of interconnected locks.” Thompson describes “Skyward Sword” as a culmination of “reducing the world into a series of bottlenecks”. In other worlds, Zelda games have become so mechanical in nature that they have lot their sense of wonder and adventure and even (or perhaps especially) danger. The worlds also feel empty, a complaint I first voiced against “Ocarina of Time”. For all the grandeur of “Hyrule Field”, save for some Stalfos knights that appear after sunset and an occasional Peahat or too, it’s a pretty empty field. The sky in Skyward Sword is also notoriously void of any real exploratory content worth mentioning.

2. Lack of Difficulty. The two NES Zelda games (especially “The Adventure of Link”) can be brutal at times. Beginning with “A Link to the Past”, the difficulty of the Zelda franchise has been on a steep downward slope. Saturo Iwata, Nintendo’s President, has directly addressed this decrease in difficulty in Nintendo products.

3. No respect for the player. By design of bottle-neck environmental roadblocks (first heavily featured in “Zelda II”* and culminating in “Skyward Sword”), greatly reduced difficulty, and extemly intrusive “journey companions” that hold your hand every step of the way, Zelda feels more like a guided tour of Hyrule than a daring adventure with real danger at every turn. The puzzle elements have been greatly minimized due to constant direction.

RESTORING ADVENTURE TO ZELDA: “A Link Between Worlds” largely addresses Thompson’s concerns. These are the practical, concrete game play mechanics in which A Link Between Worlds” is reinvigorating Zelda.

-Death has consequences. When renting your items, you are able to keep said items for as long as you stay alive. However, if you die you lose your items.
-Challenge: Directly ties to the first point. The overworld isn’t the grandiose, but almost entirely devoid of enemies, Hyrule Field. Instead, there are well armored foes intent on killing Link and LOTS OF THEM. Likewise, the dungeon bosses are more difficult than we’ve seen in a long time. They take skill and cunning to beat as well as figuring out how to best exploit their weak spot. The dungeon enemies themselves are no pushover either.
-Enemies are used as boundary markers. From Thompson’s essay: “Link must be allowed to enter areas he's not ready for. He must be allowed to be defeated, not blocked, by the world and its inhabitants.” You can get into some areas that will push you to your max to escape alive, let alone in stunning victory.
-“A Link Between Worlds” returns to the open world feel of the original NES title, albeit in the confines of Hyrule as shown in “A Link to the Past”. Due to renting items, dungeons are largely (but not entirely) completeable in any order, rather than a pre-defined set path that must be followed at all costs.
-Item renting restores some of the wonder and adventure to the series, because this time around you are truly interested in the contents of treasure chests, knowing that they will hold something other than series trope items such as boomerangs, bows, etc.
-Fast Travelling: If you find yourself without necessary items for a dungeon, you can quickly get to the shop to get said item via warp points without excessive backtracking.
-No more “Hey, Listen!” For the first time in years, Link is on his own, left to figure out what he must do without constant rejoinders from the game helper of the week. To compensate, if you need assistance there is the very unintrusive Hint Glasses which are mentioned briefly and then never forced upon the player, or visiting fortune tellers, which is entirely at the player’s discretion. Just like the statue in the 1st palace of the Dark World where you must shoot an arrow in its eye to proceed or the backtracking in the Ice Palace, there will be moments you are left puzzling what to do.

WHAT “A LINK BETWEEN WORLDS” MEANS FOR THE ZELDA FRANCHISE: There are two main camps in Zelda Fandom: those who think “Ocarina of Time” is the best and those who think “Link to the Past” is best. While predictions are a dangerous venture at the best of times, “A Link Between Worlds” clearly indicates that Nintendo is not above radically rewriting conventions for one of its most successful IPs, returning them to earlier times. To return to the Metal Gear comparison with “Ground Zero”, “A Link Between Worlds” is laying the groundwork for the still unnamed (at the time of writing) Wii U Zelda game which we know is in development.

Appropriately enough for a series with three time lines, developmentally and in game design “A Link Between Worlds” has effectively ignored the last twenty years of its own franchise. Nintendo has returned to the original ethos and game philosophy of the first Zelda titles and have created an alternate point of development in which Aonuma has indicated he is fully intent upon pursuing. Anouma has confessed to never completing the original Zelda title and wanting to never make a game like that. Before this game, this attitude would explain why there is such a disconnect between the recent games and the trail-blazing originals.

When the game was first pitched to Miyamoto (before it was a “Link to the Past” sequel or even featured the painting), he declined, saying that it "sounds like an idea that's 20 years old!”. While the context is not exactly the same, Anouma and his team are finally returning to the hallmarks of Zelda that so captivated us in the first place (at least, gamers of my generation), returning to the older ideas of the series.

“A Link Between Worlds” is a course correction LONG OVER DUE, and if this game is any clear indication, not only have Anouma and his team learned from their mistakes with “Skyward Sword”, but are going all the way back to the very foundational elements of the series before “Ocarina”.

Aonuma has stated based on user feed back (now so readifuly plentiful via the Internet and Miiverse) that the new Wii U Zelda game will focus much more on the open-world feel so pioneered by the original NES classic that has been largely untouched by the series since then. Games such as the The Elder Scrolls and the Grand Theft Autos are more closely kin to the original “Zelda” than “Skyward Sword” If Anouma is to be believed, then the Wii U Zelda will be a reinvention of modern 3D Zelda titles. If Nintendo follows the direction established in “Link Between Worlds”, then the Wii U Zelda will be a grand reinvention indeed!

While Miyamoto is ultimately responsible for Zelda, the last fifteen years have largely been spearheaded by Anouma, and for the first time I feel that we are seeing how Nintendo would develop the series based on the original four games. We are returning to Miyamoto’s original vision for the series at long last!
.
.
.
.

.
.
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*Whereas almost the entirety of Hyrule in “The Legend of Zelda” is open to the player, in each successive game the ability to explore became increasingly more and more confined either by necessity of the plot or that to progess to Dungeon 2, you must have an item from Dungeon 1, etc. Thompson points to “A Link to the Past” as the starting point of this mechanical trend in Zelda games (“Oh, there’s a wall with weird rocks. Use a bomb.”), which is not wholly accurate. While minimally present in the original NES game, “Zelda II” is the first game that really locked you into a defined order of dungeons and locked off worlds. While ‘Link to the Past’‘s Dark World dungeons are tremendously flexible in the order in which you complete them in “A Link to the Past”, there is absolutely no possible way for extensive sequence-breaking in “Zelda II”. Want to go to the Island Palace? You have to have the Faerie Spell, which can only be obtained by use of the hammer. Want to go to Maze Palace? Have to have the Raft from the Island Palace in order to cross over into eastern Hyrule. Want to go to the Sea Palace? Have to have the boots from the Maze Palace. To get into Three Rock Palace (or even access the southern portion of Hyrule in which that palace is located), you have to have the Flute from the Sea Palace to get by the River Devil guarding the bridge.
Comment Comments (11) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 10, 2014 6:27 PM PST


Super Mario 3D World - Nintendo Wii U
Super Mario 3D World - Nintendo Wii U
Price: $47.95
93 used & new from $37.49

14 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Make the games and they will come!, November 22, 2013
Mario is on a mission. It’s not to protect Princess Peach or go karting with a dozen of his closest friends (and, strangely, several of his enemies) or have an epic, smashing throw-down with a bunch of other characters in the gaming universe. No, his mission is simple. Make sure his Japanese creators in Kyoto have a smashing holiday and foreseeably good future by selling lots of shinny new Wii Us.

Upon initial reveal, consumers weren’t too thrilled with what they saw: a sequel to an (admittedly superb) handheld title, “Super Mario 3D Land”. While “3D Land” is without a doubt a key highlight in the 3DS library, gamers were concerned “3D World” wouldn’t have the same expansive gameplay as the Galaxy games. However, the more gamers saw in the ensuing months, the more delighted they became, and for good reason. Like its predecessor, “Super Mario 3D World” aims at capturing both the ever ravenous 2D Mario fanbase with the lesser (but equally devoted) 3D fanbase. 2D Marios simply outsell 3D Mario games by vast margins, and by combining the play elements of both styles, Nintendo wants to expand Mario’s already dominant marketshare. For the first time we get to see Mario multiplayer in a 3D title.

The Wii U has, admittedly, had a very difficult first year. The console has not moved unites like its elder brother, the Wii, and there have been complaints and confusion by consumers who were unsure if it was an updated Wii or an entirely new console. Despite such a long headstart on the Playstation 4 and XBOX One, the Wii U has failed to connect to a larger audience. There have also been an dearth of games, especially in the first couple of quarters. Former exclusives have been delayed and ported to other consoles (notably “Raymand Legends”) and Nintendo has had a hard time drumming up third party support due to low install base.

Saturo Iwata (Nintendo’s President) and Reggie Fils Aime (President of the North American division) have repeatedly said the key to the Wii U’s future is Nintendo’s first party games, with “Super Mario 3D World” being a central title in that strategy. As always, Nintendo will unlock a lot of the Wii U’s potential with this particular Mario key!

For starters, “Super Mario 3D World” is brilliant, first class, on the same playing field as the critically adored “Super Mario Galaxy” games. Games like “Super Mario 3D World” are why Nintendo is still relevant in the marketplace after all these years. Like all Mario games, “Super Mario 3D World” represent the best of simple “pick up and play” gaming. With very few exceptions (such as the dinosaur navigating down the river), there is no need for in-depth tutorials or in-game text, just simple, platforming fun.

PLOT: Nothing to see here, move along, move along! Oh, well, if you must. Bowser kidnaps someone other than Princess Peach who are NOT Subcons (drat!). Mario and company must rescue them. Same abduction story for the last three decades, with the only reason Peach evading capture this time around is so she can be a playable character in the game. Rosalina is an unlockable fifth player. For the first time in, oh say thirty years, we also see the Mario bros. do some actual PLUMBING WORK in the intro. I’d be surprised if Mario still has his plumbing license, given his proclivity for all this extracurricular activities that consume his time!

VISUALS: While developers will be figuring out how to best develop for the PS4 and XBox One, "Super Mario 3D World" proves the Wii U is no slouch. Without a doubt, this is the PRETTIEST, most stunning Mario game to date, all running at 60 FPS.

LEVELS: There is a wide variety of levels that go far outside the standard Mario level tropes. Like its predecessors before it, “Super Mario 3D World” effortlessly tosses off brilliant platforming challenges and unique game design ingenuities before rapidly moving on to other glories. Often times developers would build entire games around stand-alone ideas that Nintendo only uses for a level or two before swiftly moving onto yet another platforming miracle. While there are the standard levels (grassy, fire and water, etc), Nintendo has fit in so much creativity and so many ideas that, paired with the HD visuals, the results are breathtaking. There’s even a brief homage to “Super Mario Kart”. There is a shooter stage (which Miyamoto wanted in the orignal “Super Mario Bros” and which the cloud sections are left-over remnants of that idea). For the first time in Mario history the World Map is free roaming rather than stringent paths and holds the promises of many secrets! We have a top down Zelda-type stage. The levels have a lot of replayability, as sometimes only certain characters are unable to unlock all the secrets of a certain level.

POWER UPS: The Cat Suit is getting the most digital type and most marketing, but for my money, the Double Cherry is one of the most inventive new game ideas I've seen yet in a series that seemingly holds the patent on inventiveness and ingenuity. By touching the double cherry, you make a clone of yourself. By touching another one, you make yet another clone, with up to four clones for each player. Five Marios at once is atonishing; when you incorporate multiplayer and have five Marios and five Princess Toadstools running around at the same time the effect is amazing. The Boomerang Suit and Racoon Suit are also avaialble. Finally, twenty eight years after we first rescured Princess Peach, we get to see her use a Fire Flower!

MULTI PLAYER: First introduced in "New Super Mario Bros Wii" in 2009 and continued in "New Super Mario Bros. U", multiplayer has been hectic at best and chaotic at worst for Super Mario. The 2D courses of the those two games are largely built for one player, and adding three more moving sprite models is frantic to say the least and often very difficult. While there are still some very minor camera issues in four player, for the first time multi-player feels like a natural extension of a Super Mario game, rather than a much touted “new” feature.

The most marked difference this time around is rather than feature co-op play, instead each player is directly competing against the others, and whoever scores the most gets to wear a crown on the next level. This competitive game play adds a whole other dimension otherwise lacking to the Mario series, and would have served the two “New” titles well. Multiplayer in Mario really needed the three dimensional space and competitive play to realise its full potential. Likewise, when lives are running low (which they can, amazingly), sometimes it is better to collaborate with your fellow players, with each person finding the player that best suits their skill and helping the others as well to get through the level.

MULTIPLE CHARACTERS: For the first time since “Super Mario Bros. 2" in 1988 (Doki Doki Panci decriers be damned!), you are able to choose between four playable characters: Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach, and Toad. Rather than be gameplay clones like in the “New” games, each have their own unique flavor, modelled after “SMB2", which creates interesting situations in multiplayer.

CHALLENGE: The first four or five worlds do not present anything terribly difficult, but like “3D Land” the extensive post-game content provides plenty of in-depth challenge to make platforming buffons out of even the so called “Mario” master players.

EXTRA CONTENT: There is lots of post game content just like 3D Land. There are three green stars hidden per level, and also stamps which you can share in Mii-verse (and the closet thing we’ve seen to achievements yet in a Nintendo title).

SOUNDTRACK AND CAPTAIN TOAD: The soundtrack perfectly blends new music with revisited classics from the series. The music is fully orchestrated, a la the Galaxy titles. Throughout the world map there are Captain Toad levels, which are puzzle worlds where you control a Toad that cannot jump. Nice bonus content and reminds me of Pushmo.

CONS:
-‘Super Mario Bros. 2' is my all-time favorite Mario game from a sentimental standpoint, and I love the homage to “SMB2" in “3D World”. I was disappointed not to see Wart, Mouser, Tryclyde, Clawgrip, or Fryguy after all these years. Also, the Subcon looking creatures all Sprixies.
-In 2013, there is still no online multiplayer.

Mario is no stranger to the task set before him by his Japanese masters. Mario has always sold systems. With such brilliant design as afforded to Mario, how could he not? Without a doubt, this is easily one of the key games to pick up for a Wii U. For the “Super Mario 3D Land” detractors. “Super Mario 3D World” proves to be a defining moment in Mario’s storied career, perfectly bridging the 2D games and “Super Mario 64" and the “Galaxy” titles. When the eight generation is drawing to a close, “Super Mario 3D Land” will be held up as one of the defining, must-play games of its era.

Don’t miss it!
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 22, 2013 5:56 AM PST


Xbox One Console - Day One Edition
Xbox One Console - Day One Edition
110 used & new from $415.99

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Blood in the Water? I'd hold off if I were you, November 22, 2013
PLEASE NOTE: I am not a Sony or Nintendo "fanboy". I have first hand experience with the console. Also, I think the Xbox One has serious potential and the problems it will most likely stabilize with in the first year, but do not recommend picking one up on launch.

We finally have all three major console players in the game, with Valve’s Steam Box hoping to edge its way into the fight for your hard-earned entertainment dollar. Of the three main offerings, the Xbox One has been the last to launch and is the most expensive with $499, whereas the PS4 is $399 and the Wii U is $299.

To say the Xbox One has had a rough PR road to hoe is putting it lightly. Like Microsoft’s flagship product, Windows 8 with its tabet approach, abolition of the start menu, and closed Windows store, the Xbox One was meant to be a radical reinvention of the Xbox brand, with most of the changes being controversial, to say the least. Initially, Microsoft designed the Xbox One to always be online. If disconnected from the Internet, the system would need to connect at least once very 24 hours, or the system would be unable to play any games. All games were tied to an Xbox Live account and console, effectively destroying the used video game market in regards to Xbox titles. Lastly, the system originally mandated that you use a Kinect motion camera in order to operate the system.

These ‘features’ were met with such severe consumer backlash to the point that Microsoft reversed these requirements/policies. Still, these proposed policies greatly damaged the public’s perception of the system.

Kotaku (among others) have also reported that they have heard from industry sources that Microsoft has been hard pressed getting the operating system and core applications ready for the November 22 launch. Kotaku’s sources have also suggested that Xbox One’s developer kits are “buggy”. According to Pete Dodd, a blogger who is apparently well-connected and treated as an authoritative source, post this: ““So if you are playing by yourself and just playing the game online it should be fine. But if you’re in a party, people get dropped. Voice chat cuts in and out. Certain app combinations make the machine crash completely.” Apparently there are SIGNIFICANT issues with the Network infrastructure and Xbox Live, and, in the words of Kotaku, these systems will be coming in “hot”.

So what do you get for your $500 dollars besides the console? An external power brick, a chat headset and controller, a 6 foot HDMI cable, and a Kinect sensor. When you power up the system, there will be a mandatory, day one update (so you better have Internet connection available). The UI is based off Windows 8's approach, so depending on how you feel about Windows 8's UI will determine your opinion of the Xbox One.

The Xbox One is marketed as being the central entertainment device in your living room, which is why the gaming industry and pundits mocked Microsoft during their press conference - the focus was largely on everything else the system did and not the games. The system is able to input and output HDMI audio and video, with the intention of being able to operate your entire entertainment setup using only your voice.

In comparison to the Wii U and PS4, the Xbox One is massive. The system weights eight lbs, is 13.5 inches wide by 10.4 inches deep by 3.2 inches tall, with numerous vents on top arnd around the sides (which it was designed for nearly always being on). Like the PS4, the Xbox One is not backwards compatible. As with most new systems, the launch titles, while marginally better looking than their PS3 and Xbox 360 counterparts, haven’t hit their stride in showing what the respective systems can do.

IMPORTANT: Xbox One only connects via HDMI cable; you cannot connect the console to a standard definition TV

While there are several excellent features, most are tied to the subscription based Xbox Live Gold account which is sixty dollars a year. . The following features require the subscription in addition to the monthly fees you already have to pay for several of these services: Netflix, Skype, Hulu Plus, Game DVR, the Web Browser (of all things), and the NFL Application.

The primary selling point is Kinect, where you can engage in all your Star Trek fantasies by talking to your TV and game console and them actually responding to your voice commands. But if we learn from history, it’s that technology doesn’t only work flawlessly, and often times Kinect will not respond correctly. Like Bill Gates getting a BSOD during the reveal of Windows ‘98, Kinect, while fancy, still has some significant reliability issues.

Although the system’s capabilities are impressive on paper (TV, web browsing, video streaming, and a UI that supports voice and motion control), the higher retail cost and continuing subscription fees are significant drawbacks in these economically challenging times. Hardware launches are never easy, and it may be better to just let the dust settle and wait six months to a year for Microsoft to work all the kinks out.

While on paper the Xbox One may be a powerhouse of a system, Microsoft botched the initial reveal so badly that I recommend waiting, especially given all the rumours floating around. Obviously you cannot take every rumour at face value, but when respectable, authoritative sources are reporting sharks in the water, you may want to start looking for fins.


The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD
The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD
Price: $44.93
60 used & new from $38.00

2 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gorgeous!, October 4, 2013
= Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars 
An HD revision of the Gamecube Classic The Wind Waker, Nintendo really shows they have mastered HD graphics with this release. The game looks simply gorgeous!
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 29, 2014 12:24 PM PDT


Grand Theft Auto V Limited Edition Strategy Guide (Bradygames Strategy Guides)
Grand Theft Auto V Limited Edition Strategy Guide (Bradygames Strategy Guides)
by Rick Barba
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $14.27
112 used & new from $7.50

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Stick with the Internet, September 17, 2013
This is one of those hardbound, "collectors" type game guides for GTA V. A poster is included, and in-depth strategies cover the entirety of the game. These type of books have had a hard time since the Internet, as most game-related questions can easily be found on the Internet. The printing is well-down and so is the binding quality.

Personally, however, if Prima publishes a guide, I would recommend you go with that, as I prefer their styles. Or, better yet, save your money and find the info you are looking for online for free.


From Here To Now To You
From Here To Now To You
Price: $11.88
91 used & new from $4.70

9 of 19 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Standard Fare from Jack Johnson, September 17, 2013
This review is from: From Here To Now To You (Audio CD)
After the departure into electric rock ruminations of his late father on "To the Sea" (which is still a rather low-key, ambling affair), Jack Johnson returns to that simple, clean-sounding acoustic music that has for so long been his bread and butter. Some of the sentiments expressed on the album are simplistic at best, but somehow Jack carries the tunes through by the strength of his charm and sincerity, even on these grade-school life observations. He also shows he has some melodic chops, coming up with some of the best melodies of his career, which also help carry some of the weaker moments on the album. He enlisted Beasties Boys producer Mario Caldato Jr, who previously worked with Jack on the 2005 "In Between Dreams".

Expanding his song-template just enough (but still staying close to the his tried and true formula), he gets funky on "Radiate", pays homage to his punk days (!!!) as a teenager in "Tape Deck", and plays some more up-tempo, but still light (and light hearted) rockers such as "Washing Dishses" and "Shot Reverse Shot". Elsewhere, he minds familiar territory with ballads and gentle music such as "Change" and a tribute to his wife, "I Got You". He gets memorably strange on ""You Remind Me of You", a song about parenthood and children as clones of the parent, which doesn't really fit in with the rest of the album.

Johnson has always been something of a sentimental optimist. Like Paul McCartney with Wings before him, Jack never really gets edgy or even sounds like there has evern been anything seriously wrong in life. When he does reach out lyrically beyond the realm of a "Happy Days" life, there is such a disconnect that he doesn't really have credibility.

Even Jimmy Buffett (who is one of my favorites) escapes the stereotypical projection of him as an Island/Gulf swing musician and comes up with some great music that goes far beyond his party-hearty image that has so defined him throughout his career. Jimmy knows that even for a surfer (especially for a surfer, actually), there are hurricanes a-brewin' out there.

Perhaps he is just to idyllic for my tastes. In the end, "From Here To Now To You" is standard Jack Johnson. If you prefer the Paul Mcartney "silly love song" ethos over John Lennon's "Plastic Ono" era which represents deeply cathartic, highly persona confessional songwriting, then you will get a lot more enjoyment out of this record than I did.

Personally, I prefer Lennon's school of songwriting.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 17, 2013 5:57 PM PDT


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