Thursday, December 11, 2014

This Amiibo stand will make your shoebox feel inadequate

In case you've somehow missed it, Nintendo's Amiibo line of accessory toys have been nothing short of a smash hit for the Big N.

Originally derided as "Skylanders, but for Nintendo", the nostalgia-laden NFC figurines have been flying off the shelves as Nintendo struggles to keep up with demand.  At 13-15 bucks a pop, these accessories certainly aren't for everyone, but those who fall under the spell of Amiibo generally fall pretty hard.

If you're like me, you already have a modest collection of a few Amiibo sitting on your entertainment center - but with an impending wave of new Amiibo scheduled to hit in the days and weeks ahead, you soon might find yourself scrambling for a case to help keep them organized.

Official options exist but they're geared more toward travel than display.  If you really want to show your Amiibo off at home, you're going to have to get creative like this guy here.

And by "this guy" I really mean twitter user @JasonTheGamer's unnamed friend who modeled this amazing stand off of Smash Bros boss fight stage, Final Destination.

What really makes this stand stand out (other than its amazing and oh-so-perfect thematic design) are the hovering specters of Master Hand and Crazy Hand - which also serve as accent lights for your prized super-rare Amiibo.

Unfortunately, this stand appears to be a one-off made for personal use and isn't for sale - but it's a great example of what you can do with a ton of talent, the right materials, and a flash of inspiration.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go back to gluing some popsicle sticks together to finish up my Amiibo frontier fort.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

So, there's a Harry Potter LARP now and it looks awesome

Four years ago (!!!), I wondered why no one had come up with a workable template for a Harry Potter-themed live-action roleplaying game.  Harry Potter was huge at the time, and people were all too happy to play Hogwarts dress-up... so a LARP seemed like a natural progression at the time.

Admittedly, a few small-time Harry Potter LARPs popped up in the heyday of the fandom - but none managed to garner a strong enough playerbase to keep the momentum going.  That's set to change this April, when the Czocha College of Wizardry opens its doors to 180 lucky players during two separate game sessions.

The only downside is that, to attend, you kinda have to be in Poland.

On the upside to those who aren't adverse to travel, you'll get to play out your fantasies in what is - for all intents and purposes - a real life version of Hogwarts castle, which is housed in a beautiful castle / museum in Czocha, Poland.

It's not really Hogwarts of course but - if you're reading this - chances are good that you never received your owl when you turned 11, so it's the closest that any of us will get to living out our Harry Potter dreams with wands and spellbooks in hand.

Also, just look at these castle grounds!

And the costumes!

Attendees can choose between playing a Staff Member or a student (junior/first year, sophomore, or senior) with students being broken up into different houses just like Hogwarts. These houses are Molin, Faust, Sendivogius, Durentius, and Libussa - so you won't have to worry about being stuck in Hufflepuff robes once the event kicks off.

The LARP begins with a formal, in-character welcome dinner during which NPC house ghosts flit amongst the table and greet return students while delivering a bit of good-natured menace to first-years. In other words, it's pretty much exactly like the opening Hogwarts scene of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone - and you can bet your bottom galleon that they'll have some sort of sorting headwear for players to try on.

If you're keen on taking part in this LARP and don't mind the airfare to Poland, registration for the April games kicks off on December 11th at 8pm CET (which works out to 2pm EST or 11am PST).

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to sell a kidney to pay for a plane ticket to Warsaw...

[hat tip to for the pics and YouTube link]

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Legend of Legacy's another 3DS JRPG to put on your wish list

We're coming up on the one year anniversary of Bravely Default's western release and, while there's been some major progress made on the sequel, fans are still chomping at the bit for a comparable JRPG experience.

That is, of course, unless they're already playing Super Smash Bros. or are currently queued up at the Nintendo World Store to pick up a copy of Pokemon ORAS this Friday.

Anyway - the point here is that there's a new RPG worth putting on your radar and, to be honest, I've kinda been avoiding writing anything about it because of the name: Legend of Legacy... which actually isn't too far off from Bravely Default Flying Fairy if you think about it.

It's also worth noting that Legend of Legacy isn't too far off of Bravely Default in terms of aesthetics or raw style either either.  Check out the trailer below and be sure to watch out for: hand drawn backgrounds, cute pop-up cityscapes, chibi 3D characters, and some sexy, sexy turn-based combat.

But unlike Bravely Default, it's got an anthropomorphic frog knight as a playable character.

If that frog seems like a throwback to Chrono Trigger that's not entirely a coincidence. Legend of Legacy has some huge starpower behind its development team at FuRyu including staff that have worked on Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy X, the SaGa series, and The Secret of Mana.

What makes it particularly innovative as a game, however, is the approach it takes toward storytelling. Rather than guide you through the plot like many other JRPGs, Legend of Legacy will attempt to tell its story without the use of linear quest progression.

In other words, you'll pick a three-member party from a cast of seven - ranging from the comely Eloise to Filmia the frog - and set out to adventure around the world however you like. Once you complete the one main goal that Legend of Legacy throws at you, it's up to the individual player to decide how to proceed and who they'll be proceeding with.

If this doesn't sound like enough to get you excited, the English subtitles in the just-released combat trailer below probably should.

Impressively, Legend of Legacy has almost completely flown under the radar during its development and is scheduled for a Japanese release on January 22, 2015 (eg, less than 2 months from now).  There's no word on a western release just yet - but hey, English subtitles!

Incidentally, Bravely Default's sequel Bravely Second is also expected to hit Japan sometime in early-to-mid 2015, so next year's already shaping up to be a banner one for 3DS owning fans of JRPGs.

...who are lucky enough to live in Japan.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Say 'I choose you!' in style with this Pokemon engagement ring

A little over a year ago, the internet was teased with an image of a pretty sweet Pokemon-themed engagement ring.

I say "teased" because the shop in question was suspended shortly after the ring went viral, and so legions of disappointed, diehard Pokemon fans had to turn to other, geeky ideas for their engagement rings.

Thankfully, these fans won't be disappointed any longer - provided they have about $2,000 to spare and aren't opposed to the idea of a cubic zirconium ring.

What you're looking at is the, ahem, "Having a ball and holding a ball" ring which does a pretty great job of replicating the signature look of the iconic white and red Pokeball design without actually mentioning the word Pokemon anywhere in its description (which is smart).

Created by the insanely talented Paul Michael Designs - whom you might remember for their R2-D2 and TARDIS themed engagement rings - this ring is pretty much everything an out-and-proud Pokemon fan would dream of being proposed to with.

The only catch is that the eyecatching piece of jewelry doesn't come cheap.  $1,850 (which is pretty darn reasonable by engagement ring standards) nets you the ring above cast in 14k white gold and set with cubic zirconia.  Adding diamonds to the mix jumps the price to $3,975, whereas opting for platinum over gold puts you in the $4,200 (CZ) to $5,120 (diamond) range.  On the upside, shipping will only set you back about $10 or so regardless of what configuration you choose.

Some might see this ring as tacky, but these sad people will never know the joy of catching a shiny, breeding a perfect IV Gothitelle, or finding someone to share in - or at least accommodate - your geeky passion for turn-based RPGs.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Why you shouldn't feel guilty about playing it: Senran Kagura edition

I kicked off this year (or, rather, closed out the last one) by encouraging everyone to play good games. Y'know, the games you'd actually like to play as opposed to the ones that you access out of convenience.

Tied to this call-to-arms was another bit of implied encouragement: don't be ashamed of the games you like, even if they involve you spending 80+ hours paying off a debt to the raccoon mafia or beating a teenage ninja girl until her clothes fall off.

If that last sentence caught you by surprise, then chances are that you're not familiar with the Senran Kagura franchise.

Launched just three short years ago in Japan, Senran Kagura is an old school, arcade-style beat 'em up in the spirit of Golden Axe or Streets of Rage.  You fight your way through a stage full of average baddies (mooks) before a standard-issue boss fight pops in at the end of the level.

This sort of gameplay has been seen hundreds of times before, but what makes Senran Kagura stand out from other entries in the genre is its all-female cast of ninjas and unexpectedly deep storyline which features a spot-on deconstruction of moral absolutism.

Also, there's its sheer, almost defiant, love of fan service.

Much like Master of Martial Hearts or Ikki Tousen before it, Senran Kagura games let you literally beat the clothes off of another girl as you make your way through a fight.  In the criminally underrated Senran Kagura Burst (3DS), this stripping stopped at lingerie swimsuits - but on the PS Vita SK games, you can bash those away to leave the loser in a heavily censored state of undress.

This outfit is conservative by Senran Kagura standards

But here's the rub - Senran Kagura isn't necessarily erotic.

Sure, there's a lot of eroticism on display and - yes - the girls all blush and cover themselves out of embarrassment when they're divested of their outerwear, but series producer Kenichiro Takaki masterfully imbues each game with an insanely subtle, blink-and-you'll-miss-it critique of fan service and the trend of modern games and anime that embrace it.

If, for example, you spend $2 on the PlayStation Network and download a "naughty apron" (naked apron) DLC outfit for your ninja girl of choice, you can freely swap her special shinobi outfit out for the far more impractical, yet far more revealing, apron.  But when you actually get around to putting it on a character in the in-game dressing room, you'll be subjected to a torrent of scorn and abuse that ranges from "You really are the worst person on earth" to "What an unbelievable pervert".

Sure, there are some people enjoy that sort of talk - but one has to imagine that Takaki is laughing to himself as he counts the dollars from the DLC purchases.

Each individual player is ultimately free to dive into a Senran Kagura game for its story, gameplay, eroticism, or mixture of the three, but those who flock to it for the eroticism alone might miss how heavily the game pokes fun at them for their choices.

This level of self-aware satire is actually kinda poignant, since Takaki has said that he would like to return to making other, traditional games like his excellent Half-Minute Hero - but for now, he's more than content to be the breast-obsessed standard bearer for the boobacious brawler that is Senran Kagura.

Yet what most people don't realize is that this version of Takaki is (almost assuredly) only a persona he adopts to help sell the games.  Takaki is, first and foremost, a gamemaker, and almost every game in the Senran Kagura franchise is built upon a satisfying, combo-focused style of gameplay sure to appeal to arcade action enthusiasts.  Those who enjoy narrative over juggling mooks with launchers will find a story that swings from silly to tragic in the blink of an eye.

But above all of this bounces the pert, perky perfect pair of fan service and a tongue-in-cheek critique of fan service which combine to become - sometimes literally - the icing on the cake.

In short, while many might view the Senran Kagura games as everything that's wrong with the male-dominated games industry, the simple fact of the matter is that they're surprisingly capable, fun, and self-aware satire machines that will keep you happily button mashing until the final curtain falls.

Or the final bra comes off.

The point of the matter is that they're good games and they're built from the ground up to not be taken too seriously by fan or critic alike.

Either way, be sure to check 'em out if you have access to a gaming handheld and approach them with an open mind.  But above all else, never - for a minute - feel guilty for enjoying them.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Final Fantasy XIV's Garuda looks even better in Lego

Now this is a feat of inspired bricksmanship!

While Garuda has been in the Final Fantasy franchise for quite some time now, "it" didn't become a curiously hot "she" until the summoner job sneaked its way into Final Fantasy XI back in 2006.  Gone was Garuda's mythologically accurate angry, bird form and in its place was a long-legged, red-eyed feathery green avian with a suspiciously curvaceous body. 

Also, it had boobs. No idea why a bird would need those but - well - there they were.

Anyway!  Fast forward to two years ago, and the fan-favorite fowl flapped her way over to Square Enix's other MMO - Final Fantasy XIV - in a suitably dramatic fashion, sporting a new set of hooves and an extra pair of wings.

But serving as an instanced raid boss for yet another MMORPG just wasn't enough for fans of the green, gale-gliding gull gal - they wanted more.  Specifically, they wanted to put Garuda on their desks. And now, thanks to a rather talented lego artist, they can do just that.

What you're looking at is the drool-inducing handiwork of Mike Nieves, who built this semi-articulated statute entirely out of Lego system bricks as a custom commission project.  It's actually the second FFXIV-inspired piece he's done, as it turns out, with his earlier work being a rather impressive female Miqo'te.

Unfortunately, Nieves didn't disclose the price that either client paid for their commissions - but he did include an email address if you'd like to get in touch with him for a custom piece of your own: Retinence [at] gmail [dot] com.

If you'd like to see what else he has to offer (a bitchin' Protoman, Leafeon, Ultralisk, and Charizard among many, many others), head on over to his Flickr and take a gander.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Make the most of your Halloween with games, vocaloid, and anime

So uh *shuffles feet* sorry about that whole two week absence between posts!

Obviously my plan to stick to a strict two-post-a-week schedule hasn't really worked out - but hey, I'm still here and have every intention to roll out some quality posts as 2014 draws to a close. Look for regular updates to resume next week.  Now then!

There's been a lot and more to talk about lately - the whole Gamergate scandal, my deep-seated love affair with Hyrule Warriors (and Bayonetta 2), the obscenely priced $69.99 DLC costume pack for Hatsune Miku Project Diva F 2nd... but that can all wait, because - hey - today's Halloween!

Once upon a time, when I was at the fringes of the games industry and had more time to update this site every day, I came up with a few Halloween-themed lists to help you make the most out of the holiday season.  There wasn't much need to update these lists this year (although Costume Quest 2 is certainly worth checking out), so I'll provide the links to last year's recommendations in case you missed them... or are looking for last minute ways to soak up all the glitz, glamor, and candy corn that this weekend has to offer.
  • Need some new music to rock out to this weekend?  There's a surprising number of great, Halloween-themed Vocaloid songs if you don't mind replacing "Monster Mash" with some of the chirpy, vocal stylings of Hatsune Miku & Co.
  • If you prefer vidya games over Vocaloid, you're also in luck since there are a bunch of great horror games to play on pretty much every platform.  Also, if you have a 3DS, you can pick up the critcally-panned Spirit Camera: The Cursed Memoir - new - at GameStop for less than $5.00.  I managed to find it new for 99 cents. Sure, the game's kinda terrible... but it's worth it for the Club Nintendo points alone at that price!
  • Finally, if Vocaloid and video games aren't your thing (shame on you!) there are a few great animes out there that are absolutely perfect for some Halloween horror.
...and that's about it for this Halloween catch-up!  If you need some more sweet treats to hold you over until the end of the work day, be sure to check out the adorably twee trailer for Costume Quest 2.