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I confess, I can be a seriously nostalgic individual, we all get that way to some extent through the various phases in our lives, and I think your twenties is a common/flexible time in which a nostalgic period can occur. You’ve just left your childhood behind, some of us are moving on to adulthood others will remain behind a bit longer. As life gets serious you long for the more carefree days of childhood and the stuff that made it cool.

I hit that nostalgia point starting a couple months back and was longing mostly for the old video games that defined my childhood, as an added bonus is those games were a lot better at least through hindsight then  most of the games I’ve played recently. So I decided to use some of that adult money I have now and get the games I used to love. My original plan was to get a Nintendo 64 and the collection of games I wanted.

As I was shopping around on Amazon I figured out that I could get the Legend of Zelda games (Orcarina of Time and Majora’s Mask of course) on GameCube and I could get a GameCube with all the stuff I would want for it would only cost me $12-18 as opposed to $40 or so I believe for an N64 with out some of the stuff I’d need to be able to play.  The games would still be expensive but the newer system would probably better/easier to use over all.  I found a copy of the Legend of Zelda promo disk that Nintendo put out, it was a short run and printed only for a promotion of a special game cube I believe so I expected to pay some cash for that, and was not let down. $40 for that particular disk. I was also a huge fan of the Rogue Squadron games as a kid and got both of those for about $5 apiece, rounding out the initial purchase with Legend of Zelda Twilight Princess for around $20. All told about $120 with shipping, the price of two new Xbox games, not bad at all.

Round two had me seeking out pretty much the last of the games from that area I really “had” to have, past these it would have been no big deal if I acquired no more game cube games. Little did I know that these two games which I spent insane amounts of time on now cost a fortune. The first “Skies of Arcadia: Legends” which introduced me to Air Piracy as a potential profession and was one of the first JRPGs I ever played, then Tales of Symphonia which was the LAST JRPG I ever played through outside of a handheld for a grand total of two. Skies cost me about $49 for a good copy with the case and everything and Tales cost me about $25, apparently both games were rather limited printings and are now rather rare. Total cost for nostalgia: $200 roughly. (three new Xbox 360/PS3 games)

Back to the games, I just can’t get in to JRPGs like some people can, one did come up recently that I would have given a shot but it was a PS3 exclusive and I’m spacing the title at the moment. (Edit: it was Valkyria Chronicles) Just to ward of the haters, yes I have played several Final Fantasy games, I didn’t like them terribly much. If I want to watch a movie I will, if I want to play a game I want to play a GAME. However Skies of Arcadia: Legends and Tales of Symphonia had rich entertaining characters and fun story lines that I wanted to keep playing, the combat didn’t feel as grinding as it did in other JRPGs because I truly was in to and enjoying the story.

I could honestly make this love letter to these two games go on for a looooong time so I will get some criticism out of the way so I can pretend this is actually a review. Both games are trope heavy as hell, the standard party make up, elemental temples, magical girl with the power to save the world, all of that and more is there in both games but goddamnit they execute it so well I can’t help but not care that it’s been done in literally every JRPG ever made for the most part.  See? I can’t even criticize these games, I’m going to quit before I become even more of a fanboy.

Trailers:

Edit: At the risk of continuing to sound like an incredible fan boy, which being honest with myself I am, someone just told me there’s a Tales of Symphonia OVA must acquire NOW!

 

Yeah I’m jumping on the band wagon with what appears to be every single other blogger, critic and vid blogger in the western world and half of the rest of it that has internet access and Harry Potter books in their local language. Before I go in to my over all retrospective which could be long or could be short depending on where I go with this let’s start from the obvious spot. A brief look at Harry Potter 7 part 2, the conclusion (goddamn finally) of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Spoiler warning should be obvious but really you’ve probably see in by now, and you should have read the book, so you should already know. Holy shit, FINALLY this is the shit I was craving from my read through of book seven, time to take the gloves off, shake off the training wheels and kick some ass or die trying. FUCK YES, you hear me? Finally we get to see the “adult” wizards of the world mysteriously absent through out the series because of the focus on the kids do some serious magic. It’s fucking worth the wait too. I’m actually feeling a lot better about 7.1 because it means they could make this movie essentially a two hour ass kicking sequence. There’s the usual bout of details you’re only really gonna get if you’ve read through the books but as usual they’re relatively small so just ignore them and enjoy the epicness and go read the books and see if that doesn’t fill in some details for you. The show casing spreads out too the primary support cast from Harry, Ron and Herminone handing out some “action hero moments” including Neville proving that deep down inside under the wuss with the toad he’s quite the bad ass and has potentially seen Braveheart one too many times. (as if that’s actually possible…)  Some poignant death sequences and one of the most loved lines in the series got great emotional responses from me and everyone around me and the special effects managed to keep pace with the sheer scope of what was happening. Fantastic right up to the very end in which we (well everyone who read the book and paid attention to rumors about the movie) learned that the rumors weren’t true and hollywood hadn’t modified the ending. Some people might have prefered a darker ending but you know, fuck them, a fairy tale ending isn’t going to hurt any one and is probably good the one’s mental health now and then.

This leads me to my reaction right after the film and right in to my retrospective, the second the credits hit “I’m freeeeee! At last the curse is ended, freeeeeeee”

Alright, alright it was comedic exaggeration even when I was in the theater but the sense of something big ending at that moment was palpable and for a lot of people in my generation who literally grew up with this series I’ve talked to the sensation was similar. These characters and this story first in book format and then the movies as they started coming out have been with me personally since I was in the fourth grade and passing green inked notes back and forth with my friend and fellow nerd Kristi. Yeah we were lame but we were kids so we were allowed to be lame.

The books followed us though, the characters growing up as we did and the books growing up as we did too, addressing more complex themes, taking on a darker more dramatic tone as time and the story went on. I don’t think a series has gone this long or followed such an arc with a generation before, literally growing with the reader, it’s a first for literature and it’s fascinating to look at the relationship we developed with these characters and this world over the years.

The books had a very strong effect on my reading habits as well, beyond getting me reading even more then I already did (the immortal curse of the nerd it seems) it started me off on the path of all sorts of fantasy literature such as Brian Jacques’s Red Wall series and eventually of course the granddaddy of all fantasy Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings, and eventually Sci-Fi because it tends to share self space with Fantasy. So I suppose I can directly blame Harry Potter for the massive, well read nerd I am today. In which case thanks J.K. I owe you one.

I’d much rather be a nerd and read way too much (which I am and do) then be some of the effective illiterates that so frustrated me in high school and if Harry Potter helped keep me from that particular fate and might be able to help others, I know what book I’m getting my kids a copy of when they get to the right reading level.

It’s interesting to think about where my own story arc has gone since the story started back when I got my hands on my first copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone so many years ago, from a student myself for book 1 and to when book 7 I had just sworn in to the DEP for the United States Marine Corps, waiting for orders to ship in the early spring/late winter of 2008, and now with the movies finally complete and Harry’s story completely told I’m 21, out of the Marines and getting ready to go back to college to start on my road towards a teaching career. It’s been a hell of a ride for me and I’m glad I had these books and characters on my book shelves for it.

 

Well it happened, I finally submitted to the will of my friends and got the 21 day “invite” trial to EVE Online, I’ve trial’d the game before on my own and I wasn’t that impressed, but I’d just gotten out of WoW so I was happy to be free and alive without the horrible wallet draining and soul stealing evil in my life any more.

I tried it again, however and…. Yeah hook, line and sinker, the first thing that helped is that I went in and I already had friends on hand to assist me and show me what I’m doing and how to do it better. Youtube was also of major assistance, there’s some great basic tutorials and the like out there, you definitely need to prepare. This game is merciless w hen it comes to its learning curve, utterly brutal in every possible way, you will learn or you will die, there is no other way to survive.

I just got a three month subscription and used the legal method of purchasing some in game currency called “ISK”, one of the nice things about EVE online is you can buy ISK legally, you purchase EVE time cards through various resources (about $40 for 60 days of play) and convert that in to an in game item called a PLEX or Pilot’s License Extension, those are worth about 400 million ISK apiece for per 30 day PLEX. So it can be a nice financial jumpstart if you don’t want to spend an insane amount of time working up to the big money. I like the money making process, but I also like having a big bank roll so I can buy nice toys without grinding my eyeballs out. It also allows me to get a jump up and start making bigger money faster.

I also really appreciate that EVE’s population is on average a lot more mature then say the average populace of Xbox Live or WoW. The game over all is more aimed towards adults with the average player age being about 27. It shows to be perfectly honest. The other part of it being set primarily for adults is it takes an adult schedule in to account, your skills train constantly even when you aren’t online (so make sure that skill list is full at all times!). I love this and am kinda weirded out by it at the same time, it’s definitely a different direction then the MMOs ad RPGs I’ve played before and can get kind of frustrating because there’s points where you can’t go any further in ship types of classes or certain other skills for weeks, days, or months. In one example the massive “end game” mobile battlestation in EVE, referred to as a Titan class ship, can take upwards of 165 DAYS to train. So this system have it’s pluses and minuses. However that wait time for certain skills and levels does encourage you to work, quest (doing missions), wander around and kill pirates, or whatever you want to do. I think this is actually a pretty positive feature as it forces skill development and encourages the very strong social/cooperation aspects of the game, instead of going out in to the woods on your own and smacking stuff till you ding.

The EVE version of a guild the Corporations which can range from small single man affairs providing a specific service, to massive groups with thousands of members with all sorts of “branches”. On top of that the corporations can get together and form alliances and corporate tensions in this universe tend towards using fleets of battleships to perform hostile takeovers circa the golden age of piracy.  Personally I’d just work to finding people you like and working with them, the “hiring” set ups fo r a lot of the corporations are kinda disturbing and remind me far too much of of trying to get myself a job….

You don’t need to take my word or advice for it, the best thing about EVE is that the experience Is entirely your own, you make all your own decisions and you can pick whatever plan or idea you want, you can become a starship builder, a trader, miner or one of a numerous other careers and combinations of the same. The universe and your course in it is entirely up to you.

Good flying and see you in the ‘verse

Turns out The Game Agent Non-blog and Aspyr really liked my last blog post for them, so they asked me to write a series of posts on battle tactics for the game Civilization V, I of course complied, and with plenty of historical examples and Sun Tzu quotes to get you motivated to destroy the enemy. There’s two more posts in the series and they’ll be posted for the next two thursdays this month.

Check it out!

Quote of the post:

What is best in life is to crush your enemies, see him driven before you and hear the lamentation of his women

-Conan the Barbarian

This week’s blog post is actually being hosted by the nice people over at The Game Agent Non-blog (which is totally a blog, don’t let them deceive you!)

http://blog.gameagent.com/2011/04/28/a-marines-take-on-historical-first-person-shooters/

Space Marines are one of the most common and coolest tropes in modern scifi, kicked off by Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers (even though his Mobile Infantry weren’t by space marines by title*). Space combat from the view of the grunt has been done a billion different ways, from the brutal and impartial combat of John Steakely’s “Armor” to other classic pieces of military SciFi like “Old Man’s War” by John Scalzi. Or it’s gone to the extremes of the Imperial Space Marines of 40k which are more walking tanks then the modern Marine.

Interestingly enough the real United States Marine Corps is leading the way in to space for ground combat forces with the so called “Hot Eagle” concept project, a force projection/QRF tool that would allow the Marine Corps to use sub-orbital dropships to land Marine infantry platoons or MARSOC special forces units any where in the world in a matter of hours, out stripping the current Marine Corps standard of  “24 hours or less”** arrival time of Marines from one of the various Marine Expeditionary Units (MEU) floating around the world at any given time.

However with the budget being what it currently is and R&D slowed to a halt it looks like “Hot Eagle” is either going to be shelved or put on the back burner for a little bit, not that that deters the Marine Corps any, the Corps tends to invest in high technology and play a long game in it’s development where other service branches would avoid it. This has resulted in massive pay offs for the Marine Corps like the success of the long running MV-22 Osprey project which has pretty much changed the game in the use of V/TOL or SV/TOL (Vertical/Take Off Landing, Short Vertical/Take Off Landing) aircraft in a combat zone and with it’s incredible range and speed is probably going to make the helicopter all but obsolete as a technology over the next couple years.

So no space Marines just yet, at least not for a little while. Until then though there’s plenty of good SF out there featuring Marines charging in to space to take the fight to the enemy, wherever they might be. My personal favorite of these series is the long running “Star Marines” series by Ian Douglas.  Split in to three different trilogies (starting with the “Heritage” trilogy and the book “Semper Mars”) Douglas takes the US Marines to the stars battling all manner of foe as time goes forward.

The Corps itself is very well depicted with the attitudes and behavior of the real deal reflected in their fictional counterpart this series is extremely well done. Lots of Marine history and culture makes the jump and the combat is spot on. The technology is above par too with much of it being “real” technology instead of mulligan devices that just plain work for whatever unbelievable reason.

So if you want good combat, rich, enjoyable characters and a very grounded and real military scifi adventure, you just can’t go wrong with the Star Marines. The added bonus is that Douglas himself is a former Navy Corpsman and “devil doc” so this experience and knowledge of the Corps is first hand information, no guess work here.

Douglas’s personal web page

*There’s been allegations since the book was published that Heinlein at least in part based his MI on the Marine Corps, looking at their traditions, code of conduct and espirit de corps this Marine certainly believes there’s a distinct possibility.

**In average, but when that F-15 got went down in Libya just a few weeks back, that pilot and WTO were located and recovered in under three hours, which is damn fast by any stop watch for a Combat Search and Rescue/TRAP mission

I want to take a minute, this is outside the standard upload schedule, and it’s not even a true review because I have yet to read the book in question. I don’t have to though, I know this story like it was tattooed on me next to my moto tat. I got this the same way I got a lot of Marine Corps lore and history, via oral tradition and in this case from the best possible source. A man who was on the ground with the unit. It was an important part of boot camp these tales of valor and courage under fire, they taught us the example we had to live up to and not just how high the standards were but why they were so high and demanding.

I grew up with the stories up heroic Marines, Chesty Puller, John Basillone, Dan Daly, Carlos Hathcock they were my comic book heroes, stories passed on or stories gleaned from books I devoured. As I grew and when I enlisted these men became even more heroic and their feats of valor and courage even more astounding. Unlike superman they were only men, frail in the way of thing, short lived and fighting in conflicts that chewed up brave men like a meat grinder and still they persevered, still they never quit. Their dedication though, to a man of these super human individuals was to their men, to the guys around them.

SgtMaj Brad Kasal, United States Marine Corps is one of these heroes from the modern generation of Marines.

You might recognize him from this photo, it was all over the place for awhile and while I could tell you the story I think I’ll just show you all his Navy Cross citation instead.

 

 

 

 

 

The President of the United States
Takes Pleasure in Presenting The Navy Cross To

Bradley A. Kasal
First Sergeant, United States Marine Corps

For Services as Set Forth in the Following Citation:

Navycross.jpg

For extraordinary heroism while serving as First Sergeant, Weapons Company, 3d Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 1, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, U.S. Marine Corps Forces Central Command in support of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM on 13 November 2004. First Sergeant Kasal was assisting 1st Section, Combined Anti-Armor Platoon as they provided a traveling over watch for 3d Platoon when he heard a large volume of fire erupt to his immediate front, shortly followed by Marines rapidly exiting a structure. When First Sergeant Kasal learned that Marines were pinned down inside the house by an unknown number of enemy personnel, he joined a squad making entry to clear the structure and rescue the Marines inside. He made entry into the first room, immediately encountering and eliminating an enemy insurgent, as he spotted a wounded Marine in the next room. While moving towards the wounded Marine, First Sergeant Kasal and another Marine came under heavy rifle fire from an elevated enemy firing position and were both severely wounded in the legs, immobilizing them. When insurgents threw grenades in an attempt to eliminate the wounded Marines, he rolled on top of his fellow Marine and absorbed the shrapnel with his own body. When First Sergeant Kasal was offered medical attention and extraction, he refused until the other Marines were given medical attention. Although severely wounded himself, he shouted encouragement to his fellow Marines as they continued to clear the structure. By his bold leadership, wise judgment, and complete dedication to duty, First Sergeant Kasal reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.

Damn, what can you say about something like that, the details reveal that SgtMaj Kasal (he’s been promoted since this event and remains on active duty as of this writing) took seven 7.62x39mm rounds and when he shielded the young Lance Corporal he went in to the building with from the grenade took 43 pieces of shrapnel. Still he kept fighting, still he never surrendered. When he finally got aid, it was estimated that he had lost 60% of his blood. What kind of courage? what kind of untold valor must this man have? What kind of hero must he be? Well when he was called a hero SgtMaj Kasal simply said this “I’m just a Marine doing his job” that last bit right there, unselfish and unwavering devotion, with humility laced in to it that is what truly makes a man a hero, whether SgtMaj Kasal agrees with the description or not he’s becoming a Legend of the Corps, one of the names taught to junior Marines as an example of a warrior spirit and a lion heart.

Semper Fidelis.

The shotgun, no denying this is one of the most powerful and versatile weapons an individual can own. Pump, lever action, semi-auto it doesn’t matter these tools are with out a doubt a must have for the individual for home defense, and for recreation or survival. With a simple barrel change a shotgun can go from home defense to birding, or with a simple change of ammunition a close quarters nightmare to a “poor man’s rifle” hitting accurately with heavy slugs designed to take down deer all the way out to 75 yards. Or you can switch to a completely rifled barrel and hit at even further range with special slugs or sabot rounds.

That said if your like me you don’t have the time, money or for a bug out bag/survival situation don’t have the weight for all that extra crap. I’m going lay out and review the three ammo types I use to get the most out of my Remington 870 with 20″ barrel in any role.

Round 1: Nobel Sport Italia Law Enforcement Buckshot


This is a 12 pellet 00 buck shot, Nobel Sport Italia is not a brand a lot of Americans will be familiar with but their reputation with their line of sporting ammunition is world class including being used by professional skeet shooters and sport shooters for many world championships and one olympic gold medal. Their line of LE shotgun ammo is supplied to many Italian LE and Military units and is made to the same exacting standards as their sporting ammunition. I tell you all that like I;m reading a brochure because for once the brochure is sport on, the ammo kicks ass. Especially because it’s a lot cheaper and has a higher pellet count compared to similar HD buckshot or big name US manufacturers. This is stuff is a fantastic deal. I picked up 100 rounds for about $60 shipped and I wish I’d gotten more. The only con to this fantastic ammo deal is that it kicks like a drunken, violent, angry mule but delivering 12 pellets of double aught buck at 1290 FPS? Yeah it’s gonna have some kick. I’ve only seen it in 2 3/4″ but it is about .5cm longer then the average shotgun shell, this shouldn’t be an issue (wasn’t for me), but some people have reported reduced round capacity by one, and I saw one review where a fellow with a Benelli M4 semi-auto shotgun had issues with it cycling, so if you’re a semi-auto shotgun shooter you might want to buy a small order to try first.

Round 2: Remington Slugger, Rifled Slugs

There really isn’t much to say about this ammo, for rifled slugs it’s damn cheap, it’s made by Remington, what more do you honestly want or need to know? This is an admirable hunting and fighting round should the need for such things arise and I love it. Very accurate, very lethal, just as good for defending your home and loved ones as it is out in the field taking deer. The usual warning with shotgun slugs in home defense applies though, these rounds do have the potential to over penetrate. I have yet to test these out of my personal shotgun though the reviews said it should stay true out to 50-60 yards, even from my short ass barrel.

Round 3: Winchester Supreme Elite 12 Gauge PDX

This is plainly speaking incredible personal defense/home defense ammo. Right off the bat it tells you what’s about, stopping the threat with  extreme prejudice. a 1 oz rifled slug, 3 00 plated buckshot pellets, it will solve any problem you happen to have in a quick and efficient manner. I mean honestly this stuff sums itself up. It is fairly pricey compared to say the other two rounds on this list but if you want some I recommend you get only a small quantity. Pure slug or buckshot is more versatile and cheaper then this fantastic personal/home defense ammunition. Personally I have a couple hundred rounds of the other stuff but only 10 rounds of this. If I honestly need more then 10 rounds of this ammo I need to be getting the AK-47 out of the safe and preparing to go wolverines on the invading troops/marauding zombies.

So it’s not secret I am a massive fanboy for the hopefully soon to be released video game Six Days in Fallujah. I’ve brought it up in a couple posts previously and it’s going to feature yet again in a post will be coming up shortly on this blog space focusing on story and history based/modern first person shooters. So while it was on my brain I clicked over to Atomic’s webpage (www.atomic.com) to see if they had an update and noticed they had a contact page. While there was no update on their main page I did send them the below email and received a very fast response from Peter Tamte the president of Atomic Games.

Email Chain: (portions redacted for privacy, etc)

To: press@atomic.com

Subj: Not a journalist, just a Marine

To the staff of Atomic Games,
You guys really didn’t have a “fan mail” or “general contact” email
listed on your web site so I guess I’ll just use the press contact email.
I want to take a minute to thank you for all of your work on 6 Days in
Fallujah, I hope that project finishes, I hope a publisher finds the
same kind of bravery you did in taking on this project.
It’s not pretty, it’s brutal and real, I have no doubt of that, the
Marines working with you on the project wouldn’t settle for anything
less. That reality is what would have made any number of
devs not take on this project, a story this powerful, this intense, this
real is an amazing challenge to tell. Thank you for taking that
challenge. I can only hope that this story gets to be told
and that this game does release sometime in the future, I’ll be first in
line with a lot of other Marines when it does.
Thank you again and Semper Fidelis,
The Response:
Frm: Tamte, Peter
Re: Not a journalist, just a Marine
Thank you for your very kind email.
It is the support of Marines like you that keeps us going. We greatly appreciate your kind words, and we also really appreciate your service to our nation. We truly hope that we will have the opportunity to let people all around the world experience for themselves the remarkable stories of this generation of Marines.
Semper Fi,
-Peter
Ok I was always a fanboy for this game, but I’m so far in their camp now it’s not even funny. Any company that cares enough about the subject of their game (Marines) that their president takes time out of a busy schedule and replies some random guy who just sent a “keep going guys!” email wins definite awesome points in my book. I mean I expected a response, but a boiler plate from a secretary. Jesus I’m so lame at thinking this is so awesome.

Some interviews with Mr. Tamte and his crew regarding Six Days in Fallujah just so this post isn’t all me being lame:

Son of a bitch, another release season and yet more disappointment, I was really excited for Homefront. Really, really seriously excited. I thought it had a potential to do a lot with the concept, and to weave a really good story in to an interesting play dynamic. Instead we get a cookie cutter shooter that isn’t even that good at that, with a story that is well…. lacking in lots of things. For example the second and third act. It’s a 3-5 hour single player campaign depending on how good you are at shooters.

That’s what these people are trying to charge me $60 for? A closed world event driven story line a’la the Call of Duty school of shooters that only lasts 3 hours if you’ve bothered to pick up a shooter since the original Doom game came out? The hell are these people thinking? Yes the multiplayer is an important part of the game but even Modern Warfare 2 which was aiming right at the beating heart and wallet of the Multiplayer shooter community had the decency to give us a fairly good campaign mode first. To sum it up:

Not just with Homefront though I am, but with gaming in general, don’t be afraid of an actual story or narrative in a main stream game! Even the xbox live addicts like playing a good single player campaign, or a co-op campaign with our buddies. The power of the video game as a communications medium is it can tell stories in creative and innovative ways that other mediums simple cannot. We need to exploit this power as a community, gamers and developers alike we need to put the message in to our medium and get it out to the world.

I touched on this with my post about the game 6 Days in Fallujah (https://northstarguide.wordpress.com/2010/11/12/6-days-in-fallujah/) we need to reach out and explore new frontiers and communicate new concepts, stories and experiences through game play. We as gamers must demand this change and evolution. Accepting half arsed, “just look at the multiplayer” games will not further our medium and our hobby, and for the industry, the profession and art.