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Relytia "T.M.H" RSS Feed (Portland, OR)

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nostalgic, hopeful reflections. Another Timecop1983 masterpiece., July 25, 2015
This review is from: Reflections (MP3 Music)
If there was any justice in this world, artists like Timecop1983 would be household names. When it comes to the Dreamwave subgenre of the Retro Wave scene, nobody tops Timecope1983. This fact is simply cemented by the delightful release of Reflections, one of the greatest Dreamwave experiences in years (or at least since TC83's very own amazing Waves EP).

If you grew up in the 80's/early 90's, then you'll immediately find this record appealing. This whole record, while comprised of new music, feels like a time capsule from the 80's that manages to capture the spirit of a whole decade in just over an hour's worth of music. Every song is filled with 80's nostalgia.

The songs that feature guest vocalists are stupendous. Any one of these could be the montage song/ending credits to any classic 80's movie and it would feel perfect. As always Dana Jean Pheonix and Timecop1983 make for a match in heaven, and "Don't Let Go" is exhibit A that proves it. Trevor Something's sublime singing on the lovely "My First Crush" gives the song a nice dreamlike quality (gonna have to check his stuff out soon, every TS song I've heard is great). Then there's the heartfelt, belted out lyrics on "Lost Without You" that really reminds me of Weezer's masterful Pinkerton album. Great stuff. "Wild Love" and "Let's Talk" feel straight up ripped from the 80's. They're so authentic sounding. Possibly my favorite song on the album with signing is "Tonight" which is the same exact instrumental song from the Waves EP but with guest vocals added from Backinthefuture that are smooth as satin, as well as a few new guitar parts that take what was already a perfect song and made it even better. Great stuff.

The rest of the album is purely instrumental but no less beautiful and refreshing. Something that seems to happen in Retro Wave albums a lot is that many songs tend to bleed together and it's hard to distinguish song by song. That doesn't happen with this record. There's a ton of of variety on display here in terms of beat, instrumentation, production flourishes, and melodies. Something that I've noticed with this record is that the instrumental songs tend to be more laid back and relaxing. They're wonderful songs to play while you work or go for a drive/walk. I love the flourishes that fill "Distant Hearts." I love the driving bass rhythm and pulsing, atmospheric synths, with a light dashing of cowbell, of "New Horizons" (reminds me a bit of "Ocean Drive" by Miami Nights 1984, another of my favorite Retro Wave artists). Honestly, I could go over each song in the record and say why I love it, but to avoid sounding redundant, I'll just say I love this record and leave it at that.

I also have to say that Jordy, the artist behind Timecop1983 is a real class act. I wrote a message of support when buying one of TC83's records off of Bandcamp awhile back and he wrote a really nice message back to us. I actually pre-ordered this album off of Bandcamp so that I could get my hands on the CD and he included a really kind, personal note with it. He even remembered our names. It feels really good to support artists whose music you enjoy AND who are nice people who deserve the success. So Jordy, if you ever read this, know we appreciated the kind gesture and are happy to support artists/class acts like yourself.

If you grew up in the time period that I did, then undoubtedly you feel a warm nostalgia for this kind of music. There's something about Retro Wave music, and Dreamwave in particular, that combines nostalgia, melancholy, and hope in a sublime way that is undeniably catchy and appealing. Nobody does that better than Timecop1983 and this is him at the top of his game. The compositions are sublime and the production value in every song is incredible. If you're in the mood for a wonderful soundtrack for life that will take you back to the nostalgic days of your youth, while stirring within your heart the hope for the future you felt back then, get this sweet, sweet album immediately. It is fantastic.

LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes - Playstation 3
LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes - Playstation 3
Offered by johnnyfirehawk
Price: $16.49
102 used & new from $5.50

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars More like Lego Batman & Superman, and a true improvement on the Lego formula, July 25, 2015
= Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars 
Say what you want about the Lego video games, but it's hard to deny their charm and appeal. Who wouldn't want to play as their favorite characters from pop culture depicted entirely in the form of Legos? Yes, they may not change a whole lot between entries, and yes they have flaws. However, think about this fact: Lego games are often the highest quality licensed games on the market. Heck, if it weren't for the Arkham series, the Lego Batman games would be the very best Batman games ever made. Seriously. With Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes, Traveler's Tales took the formula to a whole new level, filling the game with new innovations that literally changed the series from then on. This is great fan celebration, and FUN at its finest.

The story in LB2 is fairly simple. The game opens with Gotham plunged into chaos as Batman's rogue gallery breaks out from Arkham and sows dissent. As it turns out, this break out was orchestrated by Lex Luthor, who decides to team up with Joker in order to clinch his presidential bid. After dealing with the other inmates, Batman and Robin turn to take out this insidious villain team up, with Superman joining them later on. I don't want to spoil the story in the game because it's actually pretty engaging with several amusing surprises. Of course, this is a LEGO Batman game, so the focus of the whole game delves into the absurd constantly. Charming, effective humor is rampant throughout, with hilarious gags and joke lines delivering laughs throughout. I love the super happy boy scout persona of Superman and how it annoys the solemn, stern Batman. Lots of laughs. Overall, the story in LB2 is a joy.

The plot's absurdities is complimented very well by the surrealistic gothic art style of everything. Almost everything in the game takes place in Gotham, which has an almost dreamlike quality to it. Imagine the Tim Burton Batman films, combine it with Batman: The Animated Series, and then expand the imagination cranked up to 11. Overall, LB2 is a very fun game to look at. It sounds fantastic too, with a soundtrack that combines Danny Elfman's fantastic Batman soundtrack from 1989 as well as John William's masterful Superman score. I mentioned earlier how good the story in the game is, and for as great the script itself is, it's elevated by superb voice acting. Great sound design in this one. Overall, the game's presentation is really enjoyable, visually and in its audio.

The gameplay itself is classic Lego. It's an immediately enjoyable mix of simple beat-em-up action, rudimentary puzzle solving, hidden collectible hunting, and with LB2 onward, open world exploration. The Lego games have a really simple formula that everyone has experienced, and not a whole lot has changed here. I know people whine about Lego games, but this consistency works in their favor if you ask me. LB2 doesn't feel stale either. The open-world addition really refreshed the then-aging Lego game formula really well. Gotham is a beautiful city to drive/fly around in and explore. Getting all the collectibles hidden in the overworld is addicting and satisfying, as the overworld is designed to take advantage of each character and their unique suits and abilities. It's a super fun game to play. It's even better when playing in co-op. My wife and I had a blast playing through the story together. Then I proceeded to 100% the whole game afterward. In fact, I ended up getting the Platinum Trophy for LB2, something I only do with games I find especially engaging/entertaining.

As much as I love LB2, it's definitely not perfect. For one thing, the game is not always up to snuff on a technical level. LB2 froze my PS3 a couple times while playing, and there are various little glitches and bugs throughout the game. It's to be expected from a Lego game, but that becomes less excusable with each release. TT needs to work on making their games more stable in the future. Also, I have to say, LB2 has one of the most counterintuitive, needlessly convoluted control scheme for a flying character I've ever seen. This is really problematic considering how often you'll use Superman to fly around Gotham. Granted, I DID get used to it after awhile, but still, it's terrible in comparison to what they did in LEGO Marvel Super Heroes (which wasn't perfect either). Finally, as fun as this is, it IS still a Lego game, and has all the inherent flaws of a Lego game (simple combat system, repetitive nature, etc.). If you can look past these issues, then you'll have a mostly great time with LB2.

Really, the best thing about the Lego games and what makes them so awesome is the fan celebration experience. LB2 is much more of a Batman and Superman team-up game than the first Lego Batman game. That been said, it's super fun unlocking the dozens of classic DC heroes and villains in the game. The story is a great DC celebration itself. It's just so much fun for DC fans to see these classic locations and characters in LEGO form. Mix that with the simple, addictive fun in the gameplay and the gorgeous presentation, and you get a game that is just plain FUN to play. If you're a fan of Lego games in general, and especially if you're a fan of DC comics, then you'll love Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes. If that applies to you, then buy it, and prepare yourself for a charming Lego celebration of comic book legends.

Price: $6.99

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful soundtrack for life that is sentimental, nostalgic, and beautiful. Journeys is dreamwave perfection, June 22, 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Journeys (MP3 Music)
Retrowave has really grown to be a massive underground musical scene, with seemingly hundreds if not thousands of various artists clamouring to fall under its umbrella since its inception a few short years ago. This is wonderful to see, but Timecop1983 is not your typical Retrowave artist, no siree. Timecop1983 has risen above the umbrella and chiseled out a special place in this musical movement. To put it simply, Timecop1983 is the king of Dreamwave.

What is Dreamwave, or Retrowave for that matter? Imagine your favorite movies and TV shows from the 80's and early 90's, where lush synths, driving basslines, and simple but powerful drums ruled the soundscape. Now imagine those sounds that made that era so iconic, shove it into a nuclear Delorean, and shoot it straight into our time, the FUTURE. Awesome 80's sounds made by talented modern artists, that's Retrowave. Dreamwave is a sub-genre of this beautiful movement that is like Retrowave, but dreamy (doy). Imagine all the lovely songs that played during scenes from 1980's pop culture of people driving in sunsets, on the coast, with happy sentiments filling your heart as the credits roll on a perfect ending. Now imagine that it's you in those scenes, in real life. This is the power of Timecop1983.

Honestly, this album is perfect. Every song is memorable, with gorgeous melodies, exquisite production, and fantastic musicianship. It doesn't matter which track you pick, every one will take you on a journey, whether it's the classic 80's pop sound of Dreams (featuring lush vocals from the lovely Dana Jean Phoenix) to the forlorn spurned love song in "Lost In Your Eyes" to the heartbreakingly beautiful synth and guitar solo dual melodies of "Journeys," to the amazing synth grooves of "City Lights," this album is spectacular. I would break every song down, but honestly, every song is spectacular. They may all have a similar beat and sound at times, but the whole record is stupendous as a "soundtrack for life."

Recently I took a drive in the heart of downtown Portland, OR, a beautiful, living major city in its own right. For two hours, I criss-crossed the city streets with this soundtrack playing. The neon colors that poured into my car mixed with the equally colorful music pouring out my speakers and it was truly a memorable experience. As the sun came up and bathed this already beautiful, clean city in heavenly light, I couldn't help but appreciate this music. Journeys is a must have if you want dreamy, nostalgic music to have as a soundtrack to your life. In that regard, I cannot recommend Journeys or any of Timecop1983's other albums enough. If you get them, you're in for a treat.

Waves - EP
Waves - EP
Price: $4.95

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A perfect dreamwave EP, seriously., June 22, 2015
This review is from: Waves - EP (MP3 Music)
There is a certain magic to the Retrowave musical genre. If you grew up in the 80's and early 90's, this relatively new musical genre will speak to you like few others do. There are certain sub-genres and their own stars as well, and when it comes to the Dreamwave sub-genre, Timecop1983 is king. That's the conclusion I came to after listening to the stellar Journeys. It was nostalgic, cheerful, uplifting, and dreamy. Waves EP is in some ways a continuation of those qualities that makes Timecop's music so lovely to hear, but it also takes it to darker, moodier places as well, and I love it for that.

The first two tracks, Tonight and Closer, are very similar in chord structure, bassline, and beat, but they're nuanced enough to make both a unique audio ride and strike a different mood. I love these two tracks immensely. They are a lot more somber than what you'd expect from TC83, but that's partly what makes them so striking. They're so beautiful. The guitar work on Tonight is heartbreakingly beautiful, and the super heavy synth focus of Closer is just lovely. These two tracks are virtually perfect. I mean it. I could listen to them all day long. The last three tracks are much more traditional TC83, but that is by no means a bad thing. Upbeat, sunny, and cheerful, they're delightful songs to take in on a summer sunset drive. In Your Arms has intro synths that are light and uplifting, driving the song forward until the laid-back main synths, bass, and drums take it away. So relaxing. Waves is similar, but features synths that are much crunchier. Very nice. Lastly, there's Running Away, which mixes things up by tossing in gorgeous, melting guitar melodies into the mix. Running Away easily belongs up there with some of TC83's very best guitar infused tracks, and that's saying something.

There's something so pure and moving about Timecop1983's music. It has all the traits that made the 80's such a delightful era for sunset/coastal driving music. but an ear for beautiful, lovely melodies is really what sets TC83 apart from the others who have risen up to join the thriving Retrowave scene. There may be many imitators of 80's music today, but only rare talents like TC83 rise above the 80's legacy and make music that are emblematic of those classic tunes but also rises up to establish itself as something unique and special. This little EP is all the evidence you need to see that. All I know is I can't wait to see what Timecop1983 comes up with next.

Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor Game of the Year - PlayStation 4
Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor Game of the Year - PlayStation 4
Price: $29.99
53 used & new from $25.70

49 of 53 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A rare, special kind of game (of the year), May 15, 2015
= Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars 
Once in a blue moon, or approximately half a dozen times each console generation by my estimation, we get a licensed game that rises up beyond the mediocrity expected of it and ends up being something special. Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor is undoubtedly one of those gems. Not only is it a great licensed game, it's a great game PERIOD, and one of the first this gen to actually attempt new ideas I have not really seen anywhere before. This is easily the best game set in Tolkien's Middle Earth setting since the Lord of the Rings movie tie-in games from way back in the day, and honestly, I think it's the best Middle Earth game ever. Now, in this game-of-the-year addition, you get more of it, which is fine by me. I actually bought the standard version when it was new as well as the season pass, so I have indeed experienced everything this package has to offer. Ordinarily, I'd be annoyed seeing a 6 month old game I bought at launch get a game-of-the-year addition, but I realize this isn't for me. This is for future buyers/players and let me tell you, if you're new to Shadow of Mordor, you're in for a treat with this edition, as it is undoubtedly the most complete version.

The main game's story takes place between the events of The Hobbit and the The Lord of the Rings, after Sauron's defeat by the white council and before the Fellowship of the Ring is formed. You play as Talion, a ranger of Gondor stationed on the Black Gate. He lives a life of relative peace with his family until one day they are besieged by sinister servants of Sauron along with an army of Orcs and Uruk-hai (the smarter, fiercer, stronger orc variety seen in FotR). These villains proceed to ritually sacrifice his family in front of his eyes before turning the knife on him. Rather than perishing, however, Talion's tragedy calls an unknown, amnesiac Wraith who joins with him in some strange union that keeps him alive and in seemingly good health. Talion and the Wraith join forces to put a stop to Sauron's machinations. Each has their own motives for doing this, Talion's quest being one of revenge and the Wraith's a quest to rediscover their own identity. The game also dives heavily into the history of Celebrimbor, the legendary Elven smith who crafted the original rings of power.

On paper, this all sounds like it should be exceptional, especially for hardcore fans of Middle Earth since there's so much central lore explored here. Some of the concepts might seem screwy enough that it'd be non-canon to the books, but I believe it is considered canon to the movie universe version. Sadly, though, the game fails to really deliver on the great story potential. SoM is just not very good at exposition. Talion isn't a particularly interesting or likable character. He's about as generic a gritty protagonist as you could imagine, and often his behavior is inconsistent, one moment acting in a noble, selfless way, the next being rude and alienating his allies and friends for no reason. The Wraith is rather emotionless and bleak, like a more depressing Spock. Quite often, supporting characters are introduced and dropped from the plot before you ever have a chance to really know them or see them develop even to care. Many cutscenes are obviously designed to have emotional punch, but they fall flat far more often than not because of that. You're more likely to scratch your head than laugh at the out of place humorous scenes or tear up at tragic ones. Honestly, a lot of details regarding many of these characters, including key ones, are relegated to the in-game codex/appendices. It's almost Final Fantasy XIII levels of bad in that regard. Yikes. The plot also has major pacing issues too, some events flying by way too quick and others being unnecessarily drawn out. Many of the big plot boss fights are disappointingly anticlimactic. Same can be said for the ending as well. I also found that the voice acting is hit or miss. Thankfully the main two characters, Talion and the Wraith, as well as some supporting like Gollum, have excellent voice overs, but others are lacking. One dwarf character whose Scottish accent is laughably inconsistent, really stands out. So in summary, SoM's story is undoubtedly its weakest component and the only aspect I'd describe as a "con." It just seems like a major shame that a game set in a universe so ripe with potential for an amazing story flops in that regard. Thank goodness the rest of the game is so good. I suppose it's OK that the main plot isn't all that great, because the game's unique mechanics create excellent organic stories on their own. More on that later though.

At its core, SoM is what you'd get if you took Assassin's Creed and the Batman Arkham games, refined and improved their mechanics to be even better than they already were, and threw them in a blender along with some Wraith superpowers. There are two fairly big regions of Mordor you get to run around and stab Uruks in, and each area is littered with bonus mission objectives to do, collectibles to find, and challenges to undertake. There are plenty of places to sneak, parkor, and play around in. There's a big emphasis on stealthy, sleek assassin-like gameplay. This is all trademark AC stuff, but I find SoM pulls it off more seamlessly. Everything just feels smooth. The combat system is straight up pulled from the Arkham games, but I actually find SoM's take on it to be more responsive, visceral, and satisfying. The bonus/challenge missions themselves are exceptionally well designed, putting the excellent environmental level design to great use through varied application of the mechanics. These missions are important to undertake too, as there's an extensive upgrade system that requires you to do so in order to progress, which I loved doing. The upgrade system is awesome as well. I found myself excitedly unlocking new abilities frequently, and each one adds tons of new gameplay possibilities as well as an ever-growing sense of power. The upgrade progression always insures you'll feel powerful without feeling TOO powerful, as the game switches things up frequently to keep you on your toes. Each of your three weapons - the stealthy dagger, the brawler's sword, and the ranged time-slowing bow - mix together to compliment any play style and can be combined in a seemingly limitless number of ways in each scenario. You can also upgrade each weapon with runes you acquire from defeating Uruk captains or war chiefs. The level of rune and its affects is largely dependent on how you tackle the captain. I haven't even mentioned how you can put environmental hazards/traps/tricks or the many ways you can put Mordor's native wildlife to use (including riding what is essentially a freaking rancor, awesome). Seriously, the core gameplay design in this game is incredible, both in its variety and in its quality.

There is ONE mechanic, though, that makes SoM stand out from other games, and that's in its Nemesis system. Essentially, this is a mechanic that keeps track of an area's local Uruk heirarchy. Each area's Uruk leadership is divided into roughly 20 or so captains and 5 war chiefs. Each of these Uruks have randomly generated looks, personalities, names, titles of renown, as well as personal strengths, fears/hates, and weakness you can exploit to defeat them in gameplay. If some random orc soldier defeats you, they are promoted to captain. If you're defeated by a captain or war chief, they grow in power and will be stronger the next time you face them. Not only that, but the Uruk society evolves and shifts on its own organically, as captains undertake certain tasks like executions, duels against other captains, recruitment sessions, feasts, etc. to gain power and influence. You can interrupt any of these side mission events, and if you're successful in doing so, you are rewarded with experience points AND power points, the latter of which are needed to access new tiers of upgrade abilities. It gets even more interesting when you gain the ability to "brand" captains and chiefs to be your sleeper agents, which opens up even MORE side missions as you try to guarantee their success and help them climb the ladder. You'd be amazed how invested you can get into a getting random Uruk captain into high places. This Nemesis system creates so many opportunities for organic stories to develop for each player. I must have defeated the same Uruk, Ûkrom the Blade Master, several times in my playthrough. He'd always come back, sometimes ambushing me while I was in the middle of a fight with someone else to get revenge. Each time I defeated him, he'd come back uglier, either with some sort of scar, brace, or, after I exploited his weakness of burning by lighting him on fire, a sackcloth sack wrapped around his face. Eventually I branded him and made him a war chief. I really got attached to the guy, in a weird way. This kind of stuff happens all the time in SoM, and helps to make it a truly memorable experience. Excellent job Monolith!

All of this occurs seamlessly in a world that nails the kind of presentation the Hobbit/LoTR movies made so iconic. The character designs are all awesome. As ho-hum as Talion's personality may be, he certainly looks awesome, the way a bad!$$ ranger should, and many of his allies feel right at home in the Middle Earth setting. The enemy designs, the Uruk-hai in particular, look fantastic as well. The Nemesis system ensures that each Orc you run into looks and acts genuinely unique (all are grotesque though, lol). For those worried that the visual design would be limited because the game is entirely in the evil land of Mordor, thankfully there's a nice variety to the environments as well. The initial area, Udûn, is the kind of bleak, desolate location you'd expect. However, the second region that opens up to you, the Sea of Núrnen, is beautifully verdant and lush and feels much more like traditional Tolkien. I really enjoyed the weather effects too. In addition to the artistic design, the visuals are stunning on a technical level, with tons of small graphical touches that really bring the game world to life. It's all stunning, making great use of the current gen consoles' hardware. The sound design is also fairly well done. The soundtrack is appropriately tribal for most of the game as you deal with the Uruks, but there's plenty of emotional symphonic Howard Shore-esque music in the soundtrack as well. I really enjoyed the small touches, like the name of a war chief being chanted over the visceral, pounding drums when you face off with him. It's the little things like that that really shine in this game. Like I said earlier, the voice acting is mostly hit with some miss. The sound effects also add a lot to the action, as they make each combat encounter, arrow fired, and stealth takedown really feel visceral. Overall, the presentation in this game is very well done.

That's the core game in a nutshell. So what do you get in this game-of-the-year addition? Basically, everything that came post-release. This edition features all DLC for the game. This means all expansions, runes, costumes, you name it. It's all here. The expansions are particularly well-done. They both expand on the story in fairly interesting ways. Even better, they both hit the ground running mechanically by assuming you've beaten the core game. They start challenging and only grow from there, incorporate new, genuinely well-made gameplay elements. You don't often see DLC this thoughtful, and thankfully, it doesn't feel like an afterthought. Getting it all from the start in this edition is a great deal, assuming you haven't gotten this game yet.

So all-in-all, I think it's safe to say we have a winner with Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor. It's a near-perfect game in every way but the story, which feels like such a shame given the franchise it's working with. I usually find a poor story to be a crippling problem for a game, but SoM's gameplay and presentation is so well conceived and so well executed that it overcomes that handicap triumphantly. I enjoyed it so much, in fact, that I got the platinum trophy for the game, something I only do with the funnest, most engaging of games. So there's that. I think overall, SoM deserves an 9/10, which is phenomenal by licensed game standards. If Monolith can create a sequel that delivers the same strengths while also improving its weaknesses, I have no doubt it'd be one of the best games of the generation. Let's hope they do so. So if you're a gamer looking for a game that deftly refines already great ideas with some exciting new ones, SoM is definitely worthy of consideration. Buy it, prepare yourself for a unique gaming adventure through Middle Earth, and enjoy one of the best games of 2014.
Comment Comments (7) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 30, 2015 4:51 PM PDT

The Wolf Among Us - PlayStation 4
The Wolf Among Us - PlayStation 4
Price: $17.26
68 used & new from $9.14

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A seriously incredible neo noir fairy tale murder mystery story experience, May 15, 2015
= Fun:4.0 out of 5 stars 
Telltale games have risen to legendary fame in recent years, most notably because of their take on The Walking Dead that was particularly well received with tons of game of the year nominations and awards. For good reason too, for that series was a poignant, thrilling, and refreshing take on the (let's face it) tired and drawn out zombie genre. With a game as universally beloved as TWD, I imagine it must be a real dilemma to try to follow it with something new, not knowing if people would like it as much or if you peaked with that one game everyone loved. How do you follow the game of the year? Answer: you make something even better. Personally, I consider The Wolf Among Us to be TT's magnum opus, and one of those very rare games that change your gaming landscape and perspective forever after. It truly is a treat.

The Wolf Among Us is another series from Telltale based on a comic series, in this case it's centered on Bill Willingham's series Fables (itself one of the greatest comic series ever written as far as I'm concerned). For those of you not in the know, Fables is centered around the concept of the characters from famous folklore, fairy tales, and other fables we all grew up on being forced to relocate to our world after their myriads of worlds and kingdoms are conquered by a vicious, evil empire. For hundreds of years, these seemingly ageless characters, such as Snow White, Nat King Cole, Boy Blue, etc. have eked out an existence in a secret, hidden community in the heart of New York city called Fabletown. Any non-human fables who cannot afford Glamour, the magic that makes anyone appear human, are forced to live on a giant compound in upper NY called The Farm. The very premise is delicious from a narrative perspective, as it is just inherently interesting to see these characters we all know and love pulled from their comfortable fantasy settings and injected into our modern world. The series, both in comic and now video game form, is saturated with an overall Noir sensibility, which is awesome. Not only that, but the Fables series takes delight in twisting these characters and their stories to fit in the much more adult tone of the series. Characters don't always behave the way you'd expect, or maybe you just didn't know them very well before. Needless to say, TWAU has as stellar a premise as you could hope for from a story-heavy adventure game ala Telltale.

TWAU actually takes place in the 80's, almost two decades before the very first issue of Fables takes place. The story centers around Bigby Wolf, a reformed Big Bad Wolf (Big B. Wolf, get it?! :D) who has left his dark, villainous days behind him to be an agent for justice and the protection of Fabletown as its sheriff. Very early in the game, you realize that this is going to be a dark adventure, as a grizzly murder propels Bigby into a murder mystery investigation. He is joined by friend, government worker, and love interest, Snow White. This investigation will take them through a flood of seedy characters, locales, and tons of intrigue and danger. I really don't want to give away any of the plot in this game, as it is full of twists and turns that keep it engaging the entire way through. It should be taken in with fresh eyes and ears. It really is fantastic.

What's truly special about the story in this game is the feeling of control over the story, the plot itself, and the fan-tas-tic writing. The game is filled with mentally engaging themes, both on a large scale as well as smaller scale by focusing on characters themselves. For instance, Bigby may be the sheriff with a seemingly stellar record, but memories die hard and he finds it hard to earn the trust of people who remember his Big Bad Wolf days. In true Telltale fashion, you get full control over what Bigby says in conversation and how he reacts in any given situation. Will you make him behave as a bad@$$ who is more Big and Bad? Who gets his way through intimidation and force? Or will you play him as a truly reformed Bigby who tries to play it straight and narrow? The choice is yours'. What amazes me about this is how, no matter what you choose, Bigby always feels like he's in character and faithful to the comics. Bigby is one of the most intriguing characters in recent fiction, and the way TWAU handles him makes him one of the most awesome video game characters of the decade. He is truly a special protagonist. Even better, the game remembers your choices, and they truly do have an impact, in ways both small and massive, on the way the story unfolds by the end and what a ride it is!

The other supporting characters are fascinating as well. Like I said earlier, the Fables concept pretty much guarantees that these characters will be fascinating inherently, but the incredibly high quality writing will ensure your interest on its own. You will hate to love some, and love to hate others, and even others you will love to love. The writing in this game is so fantastic. Each and every character is nuanced, deep, interesting, and they pretty much all receive great development over the five episodes in this story. The character interactions are always entertaining in this game. They are used to great effect to elicit deep examinations on themes that will seriously make you stop and think. For instance, one big theme is how people will resort of short-term fixes out of desperation for survival, yet end up in far worse situations in the long run. How does a public servant deal with holes left when they inevitably can't help everyone, gaps that will be filled in by hideously undesirable elements? Yet, are those undesirable elements SO bad if they're actually taking care of the disenfranchised folks let down by the ones who were supposed to take care of them, the one they tried to rely on through the proper channels? I know I'm rambling here, but the point is, this game has an incredible story with deep, well-developed themes full of relatable, interesting characters. There's an excellent balance between dark, serious elements and more lighthearted moments of humor to break things up. There's also a perfect balance between impact and subtlety in the wring. I honestly haven't seen a story in a game as good as this one in a long time. It's excellent.

The presentation perfectly compliments and enhances the Noir feel of the story. The visuals are, put simply, drop-dead gorgeous. It's all in that Telltale cel shaded style we all know and love from TWD. However, I find the cel shaded look is far more fitting to a gritty neo-noir adventure like this. TWAU is FULL of bright, vibrant neon colors that all make for a striking contrast that jumps out the screen. Streets at night are filled with bright purples and magenta tones, punctuated by striking yellows from streetlights in contrast. It's all breathtakingly cool to take in. The cel shading makes everything look like a living comic book. Seriously, if you stopped and took a screen shot at ANY MOMENT in the game, it actually looks like a high-quality drawing. Seriously, this is Okami levels of gorgeous. I love it. I'm not kidding when I say that TWAU fits right in with other high-quality cel shaded games like Okami, the Viewtiful Joe games, Catherine, and The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. Awesome. The sound is equally perfect. The sound effects have a robust range, giving suitable impact to action heavy sequences, and subtlety to quiet, tense scenes. The voice acting is exceptional across the board. Each character already has superb writing, but the top-notch voice talent brings a whole new dimension to each one, with Bigby and Snow being the true stand-outs. Lastly, there's the music, OH the music. I don't even know how to describe the soundtrack in this game. It feels like it was pulled straight from a 1980's sci-fi neo noir movie and combined it with Legend of Zelda fantasy-styled music. It has heavy, pulsating 80's synths, beats, and somber melodies, but also has the classical instrumentation and melodies that reminded me of Twilight Princess. It's an eclectic mix of neo noir and fantasy and fits PERFECTLY with the Fables universe. I LOVED the music in this game.

Look at me, yammering on about the game, and yet I haven't even talked about the gameplay yet. In all honesty, this is the easiest part to write about. Anybody who has played ANY of Taletell's recent outings, ranging from Sam & Max to Back to the Future to The Walking Dead, knows what to expect. This is often labeled as an Adventure game, but don't expect an experience resembling the adventure games of yore. This is a TELLTALE adventure game, which is way more about story progression than puzzle solving or challenging gameplay. In fact, there's very little in the way of traditional "gameplay" here. For the most part, you walk around examining scenes, engaging in conversations where you choose Bigby's responses, and once in a while there will be action sequences that are mostly just long quick time events. That may sound like shallow gameplay, and from a "traditional" sense, I suppose it is, but this isn't about having a traditional game experience. It's about the story, writing, characters, etc. I certainly found it to be an engaging experience the whole 8-10 hours.

Really, the ONLY possible warning I can really think of is that this is a truly adult game. I've played games labeled "adult" before, but not any so much as this. This game is filled with adult language and scenarios. There are shocking acts of violence. However, given the fact that Fables have a Wolverine-esque healing factor that is directly dependent on their popularity with "mundies," or the mundane people of our world, it's not SUPER shocking as even the most severe wound is not often permanent. A guy gets an axe buried in the back of his head and ends up just fine for crying out loud! Still, seeing the initial cranial axe insertion is pretty gruesome. So, if you're squeamish, sensitive to swearing, adverse to light nudity, OR you have a child you don't want exposed to such things, be wary. Seriously.

Also, I have to note that I have played the PS4 AND PS3 version of this game. I actually bought and played the PS4 version first and it is BY FAR the best version of the two. It runs smoother and has visual enhancements that make it the superior version. I ended up getting the very easy, simple platinum trophy on my first playthrough. I actually bought the PS3 version to get it on there too, since the game is cheap and I loved it so much I wanted to play it a second time anyway. Unfortunately, the PS3 version has notable lag and frame skipping, especially in large action-heavy sequences. If you have a PS4, definitely get that version of the game. If you ONLY have a PS3, the problems aren't bad enough that they should keep you from experiencing this incredible game. Just thought I'd throw this in there.

All-in-all, I think Telltale have really outdone themselves with TWAU. They took an inherently fascinating comic world that is full of depth, and made their mark on it in a meaningful way. As a matter of fact, Bill Willingham himself loves this game enough to consider it canon to the comics. It's hard to think of higher praise, really. While people fall over themselves to praise TWD (and I admit, TWD IS great), I cannot help but find TWAU to be more meaningful, interesting, deep, immersive, and engaging on both a mental and emotional level. In my opinion, TWAU is Telltale's magnum opus, and I hope beyond hope that they'll revisit the series again with a second season someday, preferably sooner rather than later. So if you're hungering for an incredible story-driven gaming experience, I honestly can't think of many in recent years as superb as this one. If you're OK with severely adult themes and content, then you'll love it. Buy it, turn off the lights, and immerse yourself in an incredible neo noir universe with some of gaming's most interesting characters ever.

FINAL FANTASY X/X-2 HD Remaster Limited Edition - PlayStation 4
FINAL FANTASY X/X-2 HD Remaster Limited Edition - PlayStation 4
Offered by Delaware
Price: $44.65
20 used & new from $32.99

123 of 138 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!" Now in HD and with even more improvements on the PS4, May 12, 2015
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On the box, this collection is described as an "HD remaster." I cannot think of a better term for this package. This definitely had more work put into it than your run-of-the-mill HD port collection, and I don't just mean visually too. Overall, I'm pretty impressed by the amount of upgrades these games received. For those who are already familiar with the original Final Fantasy X and X-2 and want to hear about the enhancements/changes the games have in this package, skip my mini-reviews of them. If you're new to the FFX/X-2 saga and want to know a little bit more about those games, then I'll try to sum them up in a concise manner.

*Should you even bother getting the PS4 version of these games?*

Note: I bought and played the PS3 version of this remaster back in the day and loved it. If you haven't played these games, whether in their original OR PS3 remastered forms, then I highly recommend getting this version of them. The PS4 version is the definitive one by a large amount as far as I'm concerned. There's certainly more comprehensive, higher-quality updates and new features in this latest release. That been said, for those who already have the PS3 version, I'd say most of you are better off either just sticking with the one you've got OR waiting for a price drop. When it released on PS4, I couldn't help buying that version too. Why? Because I'm always looking to expand my PS4 library and I really do have a love for Final Fantasy X. Really though, It's all is up to preference. Hopefully this review will help you come to the right decision for you and your wallet.

*Quick reviews for Final Fantasy X and X-2*

Depending on who you ask, FFX is either the last great *traditional* single-player FF game, or the beginning of the end of the series. For my money, FFX is a classic. At the time of its release, the whole gaming community was caught up in its beautiful world and interesting characters. Thematically, FFX is a magical game, filled with beautiful locales and heaps of mystery. There's also a great deal of deep philosophical musings on all sorts of things ranging from religion to dreams to the very nature of existence. MOST of the characters are also likable. Auron is a real contender for coolest FF character ever. The visuals were seriously incredible back in the day, and its art design is still wonderful (this world really benefits from being in HD now), and the music is among Nobuo Uematsu's very best works, and that's saying A LOT. Mechanically, FFX was a pretty great JRPG. There were plenty of things to do, and almost all of them engaging. The battle system is incredibly deep, strategic, and rewarding to master. There's even an interesting, huge meta-game that incorporates the in-universe sport, Blitzball, with JRPG mechanics that are pretty interesting. Even though I don't think it matches up to its immediate predecessor, the virtually perfect Final Fantasy IX, FFX is still a fantastic classic very much worth playing.

FFX-2 is not quite so beloved as X, generally speaking. At the time of its release, the consensus among the FF community was a lot of confused and pissed off fans. It was the first sequel to any entry in the FF series, and it was such a dramatic departure in pretty much every way from FFX that nobody knew what to make of it. Gone was the sweeping orchestral music, replaced by lots of J-pop. Gone was the feeling of a FF adventure, replaced with an almost Charlie's Angels "BOW, PICHOW, KACHOW, let's strike a cheesy pose for no apparent reason" campy romp sort of way, starring Yuna, Rikku, and newcomer Paine (designed to be a female Squall) on their quest to find Tidus. It has been stated by the developers that it was made to appeal more to the large female demographic of X's fanbase, and I'm not sure if that succeeded. I have to admit, some of the game is so cheesy and embarrassing to be caught playing (The scene where Yuna gives another character a message complete with orgasmic sounds is borderline pornographic, and makes me cringe every time). X-2 IS a strange game, no doubt about it. What most haters of FFX-2 DON'T tell you is that, mechanically, X-2 is pretty awesome. The dressphere battle system is pretty great, utilizing a class-style focus in a very unique way. There's always something engaging to do in X-2, and getting to the mountain of side quests is easy and intuitive. The story also features some genuinely well-written parts as well, despite the overwhelming cheese majority. It's not as great as FFX is, but if you can get used to the strange thematic elements, then you may be surprised just how fun and engaging X-2 is as a JRPG.

*Review of this package as an HD remaster*

Obviously, the biggest change is in the title of the package: HD visuals. How does this collection do in that way? Surprisingly well. Despite the fact that the bones of the package here are from an early PS2 title, the visuals in these games look fantastic. Textures have been cleared up immensely, and the lighting and shadow effects have also received attention and look great. The game is in 16:9 widescreen and it all looks fantastic. Because of the transition to widescreen, the cutscenes and their assets have been remade completely and look gorgeous in HD (although you still can't skip them, which is sure to bother some). Perhaps best of all, almost all of the in-game character models (including all NPCs AND monsters/enemies in this PS4 edition) have been remade from the ground-up and look right at home on the PS4 system. Auron has never looked more awesome than here. It may not be as huge of an upgrade as some modern, full-on remakes, and there are some PS2 era graphical quirks remaining (i.e. hands going through sleeves, hair clipping into clothes if a character moves their head back, some hilarious lip syncing blunders, etc). Still, considering the fact that most HD collections amount to slapdash up-rezed ports and nothing more, this collection looks great. So bravo to Square-Enix for clearly going the extra mile to refresh this game visually. They did a great job.

From an audio perspective, there have been a few improvements as well, more than ever in the PS4 version in fact. Voices are clearer and sound better (whether the voice acting was great or not in the first place is highly debated by fans). Now all aspects of Tidus and Yuna's imfamous forced laughter scene look and sound clearer than ever. Whether that's a blessing or a curse is up to you, lol. Roughly 60 tracks in the soundtrack were remastered for this game in the PS3 version and they sounded great. In the PS4 version, however, gave most of the other tracks the remastered treatment as well. It all sounds fantastic. This is arguably one of Nobuo Uematsu's best works, and to hear the music of these games in a glorious remastering is wonderful. If you're feeling nostalgic, you can switch to the original PS2 version's soundtrack at any point in the options menu, which is a nice inclusion. All-in-all, Final Fantasy X and X-2 have never looked or sounded better than this.

Another huge change from the originals comes in the form of additional content. Back in the day, FFX was rereleased with additional content in Japan. We never got that version in the US. Now we do. In addition to some new optional bosses, FFX also gives you the option to try out a revamp Sphere Grid that allows for more customization and challenge. X-2 has some new dresspheres as well as a "Creature Creator" that allows you to capture and train most enemies, including bosses from BOTH games, to use as party members in future battles. I wouldn't describe any of these additions as paradigm shifting, but they are pretty cool additions and it's nice to know we're getting the most updated, complete version of the games. Add in trophy sets for each game, and you get what is pretty much the definitive release of these games.

The package includes several new additions to the X universe's story. There's Final Fantasy X: Eternal Calm, which is a long epilogue cutscene following the events of FFX. It's not a particularly interesting plot,but it does bridge the gap between X and X-2 stories, and that's nice. There's also Final Fantasy X-2: The Last Mission, which is a short expansion of sorts that takes place three months after X-2's ending. Weirdly enough, this little game heavily incorporates roguelike elements into the X/X-2 formula, which sounds bizarre but is actually quite awesome in practice. It changes depending on the events that took place during a players' game of X-2 too, which is neat. Finally, there's a new audio drama set a year after X-2 entitled -Will-. I'm always a little hesitant to buy into these sorts of official/unofficial side stories, as they can be really bad at times (and this one is particularly atrocious, if I'm being honest), but still, I'll take what I can get. Clearly, the main draw of this package is the core X and X-2 games, but all this content at this price is pretty cool if you ask me.

So there you have it. Overall, I'm very impressed by the work that went into this collection. It's definitely higher-quality than your average HD port. The visuals and audio have never sounded better in these games, and there's just so much content here on just one blu-ray disc, it's pretty awesome. All of this for $40 seems like a steal to me. If you've never played these JRPG classics before, then now is definitely the time to get into them, as they have never looked/sounded/played better than here. If you're like me and you sunk countless hours into the original all those years ago, I'd definitely recommend picking up this package again. I've been loving diving back into the world of FFX again. The enhancements to this version definitely makes it feel new again. These games, and particularly FFX, hearken back to a time when Final Fantasy games were universally hailed for their immersive worlds, great stories, interesting characters, brilliant music, and engaging JRPG mechanics. Now, they're better than ever. So buy it, prepare for a classic FF experience, and get lost in the magical, lovely world of Spira.

*Regarding the hate surrounding this release*

I'm noticing a fair amount of hate being directed at this release and those who like/support it. I find this baffling. Why the anger? It's a simple fact that a large number of people who own the PS4 are first time Sony console owners (mostly Xbox converts). Until now, those folks could never have access to Final Fantasy X, X-2, OR these remastered versions of them. So, why NOT release this on a new platform? I get that Squeenix can be just as bad as any greedy, bloated corporation, but I don't think so in this case. Game companies do this all the time, and I never see whiny hate directed at them for it, so what's the problem here? If it's the price, consider the fact that this new PS4 version has far more improvements, both in terms of presentation AND performance, than the PS3 version. Try to show some reason here. I just don't get the rampant paranoia people have about the gaming industry being some evil overlord attacking gamers everywhere. Try to expand your worldview a bit people. Honestly, there are PLENTY of people who'd benefit by buying this remaster on the PS4. These reviews are here to inform people about the remaster and help them decide if it's for them or not, not to spew biased personal opinions/ideology/vendettas on the gaming industry or some companies within it. If you think Square-Enix releasing this on the PS4 is dumb, then it's obviously NOT FOR YOU. Just wait until Final Fantasy XV comes out or something. Seriously.
Comment Comments (6) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 25, 2015 11:26 PM PST

Prince of Persia Trilogy HD - Playstation 3
Prince of Persia Trilogy HD - Playstation 3
Offered by Shopville USA
Price: $17.95
102 used & new from $7.95

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A trip down memory lane in a bare-minimum HD port collection, April 20, 2015
= Fun:4.0 out of 5 stars 
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In the early-mid 2000's, few game series carried the weight and respect of Prince of Persia. Starting with the 2003 release of the stellar Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, this series was king of the world for a while. That may be hard to believe now, as PoP seems to be dead in the water as of late, but why not relive glorious memories of a nameless Prince on his quest for redemption, personal salvation, and honor in a HD port trilogy collection? Seems like a no-lose situation, right? Well, yeah, mostly it is. I'm going to start things off with a mini-review/overview of each game in the series and then talk about how this whole package fares as a collection of HD ports. Let's get to it.

Sands of Time

As I said earlier, it was the venerable Sands of Time that launched PoP back into the limelight. Before this game, PoP really hadn't had a whole lot of exposure beyond a dedicated group of hobbyists who greatly enjoyed Jordan Mechner's 1989 classic Prince of Persia. Once SoT released, however, it was a different story; PoP was incredibly popular, and for good reason. It's an incredible game, even today. What you get with SoT is a perfect transition of PoP's classic physics based platforming into a 3-D space, all framed in a magical, charming Arabian fairy-tale world with a fantastic story. The world of SoT is so lovely to explore, with its exquisite middle-eastern architecture and great Arabian soundtrack. All of the characters are charming, well developed, and brought to life by exceptional voice acting. The story of SoT is earnest, genuine, and enthralling, and that's true even today. I am amazed at how well SoT tells a believable love story in its short (5-7 hour) playtime than most games three times its length. Overall, SoT delivers a charming, enthralling experience.

This is all well and good, and it surely helps to make SoT the memorable masterpiece it is, but the most important factor for any 3-D platformer is how the game controls and feels to play and SoT absolutely NAILS it. There isn't a single game out there that has executed 3-D parkour platforming as well as the PoP series has in my opinion, and it all started here. Even better, the level design makes splendid use of your versatile move sets, which is great. This is just a great game to experience, period. The ONLY flaws in SoT are its rather short playlength, which I don't mind so much, and its tepid, boring combat, which I do mind a bit more. That's it though. All things considered, SoT is probably the best PoP game ever made. It amazes me how much Ubi hit it out of the park with SoT. Surely, all they'd have to do with a sequel is fix the combat, and maybe make it a little longer and it'd be a damn near PERFECT game. That's what they did, right...?

Warrior Within

WRONG! I know I'm going to get a lot of flak for this, but I hate Warrior Within. It does absolutely everything in its power to alienate fans of SoT within the first hour of playtime. In a cynical attempt to appeal to a broader demographic and get more customers, Ubi tried to appeal to the great emo movement of the mid 2000's and made the developers pull a Shadow The Hedgehog. The game has "edginess" forced down every orifice and it's truly cringe-worthy. Gone is the charming Yuri-Lowenthall voiced Prince, replaced by a gravel-voice Turd McFergason Prince. Gone is the light-hearted, sarcastic Prince we loved watching grow up from SoT, replaced by a scowling, brooding d-bag who is nearly impossible to like. Gone is the Arabian infused rock, in is nu-metal trash. All enemies are bondage-wearing, masochistic travesties that still make me squirm in discomfort. The opening sequence in which Prince is attacked by a thong-wearing dominatrix woman and he yells "YOU B****!" after she scratches him pretty much says all you need to know about the tone of the game. It's tone-deaf in every sense of the word, and the cynicism of Ubi trying to cash in on the emo craze of the mid-2000's by turning PoP into a Hot Topic wet dream is shameful. Even Jordan Mechner, the creator of PoP in the first place, left the development team in disgust at what they were doing to his baby (he was a prominent developer on SoT). There is no heart or whimsy to be found in WW, at all. I hate WW.

That been said, I actually kind of like WW, a lot (lol). How is that possible? I'll admit, the game does grow on you after a while. The PREMISE of the story is awesome, with the Prince trying to outrun and outsmart the manifestation of fate that has been hunting him since the end of WW is a fantastic idea. He ventures to the Island of Time to stop the Sands of Time from being created, thereby freeing himself of his current situation. The game liberally plays with the idea of dual timeline time travel, in a way reminiscent of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, and I love that. It's a cool idea for a story, even if the way it's told in this game is annoying. Most importantly, the game still feels super good to play. SoT's platforming is better than ever, and they ratcheted up the difficulty by quite a bit, which can be a positive or negative I suppose. I liked it. Best of all, they fixed the combat, making it the best combat system for the series to date. The combat is incredibly deep and nuanced, fluid and responsive, and incredibly satisfying. All-in-all, I have a HUGE love-hate relationship with WW, and despite my gripes about their butchering of the tone, story, and mood of it, I still recommend others give it a chance. It definitely grows on you.

The Two Thrones

TTT is a simpler game to analyze. You can tell that Ubi took to heart the myriad of complaints people had about WW's tone, characters, and story, but they couldn't renege on everything WW introduced, as TTT is a direct sequel to that game. What we got in the end product was a compromise. The Prince returns to Babylon with Kaileena after the end of WW to find it under siege by a familiar foe. TTT's story is fairly compelling, with the stakes being higher than ever for the Prince. They brought back Yuri Lowenthall to voice the Prince, who immediately made him likable as a protagonist again, thank goodness. I appreciated how they toned back the edginess this time around. It strikes a nice balance between SoT's whimsy fairy-tale vibe and WW's more serious tone. The main theme of TTT is duality, and that shows up thematically AND mechanically in this game, and it's all pretty interesting.

After his adventures in WW, the Prince has a darker, alternate personality lurking within him, trying to take over. The story implications are obvious, but this shows up most notably in combat mechanically. As the normal Prince, you'll be focusing more on stealth kills, a new idea for this series that works super well. Being all stealthy is very satisfying in this game (and you can start to see seeds that would eventually germinate in the Assassin's Creed series). When the Dark Prince form shows up, it's back to WW basics as you go on a big ol' combat rampage, which is always fun. Overall, I enjoyed the variety these two styles bring to the table. The game still has the superb platforming mechanics of SoT. That, at least, never changed in this series. Since that's what I've always loved about the series from a gameplay perspective, I'm grateful. Level designs are well-thought out and the feeling of parkouring across Babylon feels great. Overall, TTT is a pretty great game and probably the second best of the original trilogy, all things considered.

Review of this as a HD collection

All things considered, the Sands of Time trilogy (Trilogy if you don't count the awesome interquel The Forgotten Sands anyway), is the definition of classic. It may have slipped up a bit thematically and tonally with WW, but really, it's pretty stellar overall. So what kind of treatment did it receive for this HD collection? In truth, not much of one. What you get with this collection is three games, all presented in 16:9 widescreen (or at least the in-engine stuff, not the cutscenes, understandably) and uprezzed to a HD resolution of 720p. You can definitely tell that many textures received a LITTLE touch up, but it's not a massive difference. The anti-aliasing looks pretty good too. The games look better than ever, there's no doubt about that, but it's not nearly a big enough difference to make you raise your eyebrows. It's an upres job, nothing more. When it comes to "remasters," this falls well into the bare minimum "HD Port" side of the spectrum. As much as I'd LOVE Halo Anniversary style remakes, this is more than adequate to satiate my hunger for classic PoP. They SAY the games run at 60 fps, but I call BS on that. It runs smoothly enough for the majority of the game, but I noticed major clipping and framerate drops several times while playing each game. That been said, it's never what I'd call awful and I found myself enjoying the games immensely. I think a major draw for a lot of fans, myself included, is that they added in full trophy sets for each game in the collection. Yes, that means three platinum trophies. For the most part, the trophies are well designed as well. I've already platinumed Sands of Time and am well on my way with WW and TTT. The ONLY complaint I have regarding the trophies is that the difficulty related ones for WW and TTT don't stack, meaning you literally have to play them three times, once on easy, once on medium, and again once more on hard to get all three trophies. That is absolute garbage! Boo! Otherwise, this collection will probably please all you trophy-hunters out there. Happy hunting!

All-in-all, this is a great collection of classics that have aged *reasonably* well. If you've ever enjoyed a PoP game, I don't see why anyone would want to pass on this collection. It delivers nostalgia in spades. It's hard to complain about that, really. So if you're a fan of PoP, Ubisoft, parkour-centric gameplay, or Arabian fairy-tales, then this gets an easy recommendation from me. The HD treatment may not be earth-shattering, but it certainly presents these games faithfully while making marginal visual and performance enhancements. Good stuff.

Price: $13.29
94 used & new from $4.82

12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best Death Cab album in years, April 16, 2015
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This review is from: Kintsugi (Audio CD)
I love me some Death Cab for Cutie. I got into them way back in the day with their masterful Transatlanticism, and have devoured everything they've ever made. I still remember every single lyric, melody, beat, flourish, etc, from Transatlanticism, Plans, and Narrow Stairs. Transatlanticism and Plans in particular neatly fall into my definition of "perfect albums." Now I have added a new album to that list: Kintsugi.

There are a lot of reasons why I love this record. Every single second of each song is absolutely enthralling in every way. First off, the lyrics. Ben Gibbard has to be one of, if not my favorite lyricists making music today. He always finds a way to express deep thoughts simply yet so elegantly, and he's at the top of his game here. If you know anything about his personal history over the last several years, many of the phrases and words he uses have particularly powerful emotional impact. Every lyric is brilliantly poignant and deeply personal, while also being universal enough for anyone to relate to. I love that. Not only are the words impactful and meaningful, they just flow beautifully. I literally find myself going "Wow, that was goooood!" out loud in response to some of the genius turns of phrase and metaphors on the record. Awesome.

Kintsugi is wonderful musically as well. Every song has a melody that is immediately infectious and catchy, but also complex enough to keep you engaged no matter how many times you listen to them. I discover brilliant melodic flourishes each time I listen to this record, and I can't help but marvel at the subtlety and intelligence of the songwriting on display here. There's a HUGE variety of musical soungs to this album too. You want some classic emotional acoustic Death Cab? Then check out "You've Haunted Me All My Life" and "Hold No Guns." You want something with an incredible beat and trippy melody that sounds experimental and reminiscent of Postal Service? Check out "El Dorado." Have you ever wondered what Death Cab would sound like if they co-toured with Tears for Fears from the 1980's? Then "Everything's A Ceiling" is the song for you. Ever wonder what Death Cab would sound like if they were more poppy in a cool "Maroon 5" sort of way? Then you'll love "Good Help (Is So Hard To Find)." Other songs like "No Room In Frame," "Black Sun," "Ghosts of Beverly Drive," (which has one of my favorite chorus melodies of any song in years. SOOO GOOD, but really, the WHOLE ALBUM is that way) and "Little Wanderer" are CLASSIC Transatlanticism/Plans Death Cab. Then there's "Ingenue" and "Binary Sea," which are reminiscent of the more sunny and quirky Narrow Stairs album. Overall, Kintsugi is just a fantastic record, and while there's a ton of variety to the songs, each feel distinctly and uniquely Death Cab. I love it.

Seriously, this is easily one of thee best albums Death Cab for Cutie has ever made, if not thee best. I played this album to my parents, my little sister/cousin, as well as other friends and family, all of whom have VASTLY different tastes in music, and they ALL loved it immensely. I think it really speaks to Kintsugi's universal brilliance that no matter what a person's age, background, or normal musical tastes are, chances are they will love this record.

Bravo Death Cab, you really nailed this one out of the park. If you've been a fan of Death Cab for years as I have, then I guarantee you will love this record immensely. If you thought Codes and Keys was lacking in comparison to previous albums, then I implore you to give this album a chance, because it will most assuredly win you back. Overall, this is a masterpiece of an album I'd recommend to pretty much everybody. Buy it, prepare your mind and heart for one hell of a ride, and enjoy one of the best records this decade.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 25, 2015 5:01 AM PDT

Kazu (R) 100% Organic Green Tea Matcha, 8.82 Ounces, with Free Gift
Kazu (R) 100% Organic Green Tea Matcha, 8.82 Ounces, with Free Gift
Offered by Lau Family's Herbs
Price: $16.95
2 used & new from $16.95

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Makes a delicious healthy ice cream, and has other great uses too, March 12, 2015
I've really enjoyed this Matcha. I'm not sure what others were expecting when they bought this, but Matcha is known for having a tiny bit of bitterness to it and should only be used as a supplement to something else and not as the main attraction. When used in that light, this stuff is great.

In the last several months, my wife and I have added this powder to smoothies, teas, lattes, you name it, and it has always added a nice flavor to it. My wife also adds it to her special homemade ice cream, made from frozen bananas, cashews, agave, vanilla, and dates, and it is absolutely delicious. Just add a teaspoon of the matcha and top it off with cocao nibs and you've got a desert ice cream from heaven. It's absolutely delicious, but that's not all that makes this nice.

A nice aspect of the Matcha is that it's actually quite healthy for you. Matcha is well known for being an excellent source of many antioxidants that are great for your health in varied ways, and I can definitely say feel a difference after using it. I feel more energetic and alert mentally and just better overall. It gives me a nice feeling of mental clarity. Knowing that Kazu's as a company only uses organic material and stone grounds it is the cherry on top. The batch I received is top-quality. I've tried other matchas, but I can tell you right now this stuff is pretty high quality.

The obly issue I can think of is that the matcha IS a little bitter, as all matcha mixes tend to be, so if you don't like ANY biterness at all, then you may want to avoid this. This is the only reason I give this four-stars.

All-in-all, I'm very happy with the matcha. Kazu sent me a free sample in exchange for an honest review, but I can say definitively that I will buy another bag when mine runs out. Kazu is a contientious company that cares about customer service, as evidenced by the free sample gifts of tea that they include with the matcha you buy. Nice touch.

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