One box to rule them all or one bad idea

Recently, I went ahead and bit the bullet and got an Xbox One. Even amidst the clouds of doubt and pitfalls ranging from the dreaded 24/7 online dependency and supposed inability to trade or resell games, I was compelled to give it a shot. Here is what I found so far: Positives:
  • They fixed all that crap I just said. Not fully reliant on online connection, although it would be much less of an experience without it, and they did away with making the games untradeable and unsellable in the future.
  • The ability to control all aspects of living room entertainment from one device is phenomenal. Everything from music to my satellite TV all on one system makes for a powerful entertainment experience.
  • The graphics are everything one could hope for from an almost $500 system.
  • The store function is almost too easy, prompting me to receive severe tongue-lashings from my other half for drunken late-night purchases right from the comfort of my easy chair.
  • Everything is very streamlined and sleek, making for a very navigable and user-friendly system overall.
  • I was incredibly ticked to find out that I could not play several online games with a few of my friends who were still rocking the 360 even though they made the same games across both systems. That just did not make sense to me, especially since the PlayStation has Final Fantasy XIV that can be played across systems and computers alike. This tells me that it is for sure possible, but Xbox just didn’t step up to the plate on it.
  • The motion detection system is incredibly clunky. It always picks up on all of the wrong movements exactly when I don’t want it to, making me look like a stroke victim as I thrash around trying to get the damn thing to stop.
  • The voice detection is equally as annoying. I didn’t really anticipate getting into epic late-night arguments with a game system going in. On top of that, it picks up on anything said anywhere - whether it’s the TV or the kids or a random conversation with someone - the Xbox is listening (nervously looks over the shoulder).
Overall, for the price, the Xbox One just doesn’t seem to be worth the money, for now anyway. They are still putting all of the games out on both the One and the 360 so there really isn’t much of an incentive to pony up the cash if I can get the same thing, minus a bit of the graphic power, on a system that costs a fraction and a system that I probably won’t get into a fist fight with at the end of the day. That being said, once they work out some of the kinks and start making games that are exclusive to the One, this conversation would change a bit and I think the investment would be worth forking over.

Nostalgia Aside: The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time

It’s been 16 years since “The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time” was released on the Nintendo 64 to universal critical acclaim. It remains one of the highest rated games of all time, and is known as one of the greatest video games ever made. So let us take a critical look at this game. Putting nostalgia aside, is “Ocarina of Time” still the classic that it was all of those years ago, or has time truly caught up to this classic title? Obviously, since this is a title on the Nintendo 64, things like graphics are hard to critically analyze. Of course, this game looks awful today with games on the PS4, Xbox One and PC looking photorealistic nowadays. Still, though “Ocarina of Time” didn’t represent the pinnacle of video game graphics, it has some great animation for a game made in 1998. Regarding overall design, “Ocarina of Time” still has some of the best-designed dungeons in the franchise. It’s combat system still works well, allowing you to target enemies and effectively strafe around them during combat. The world is still magnificent and grandiose. Traversing Hyrule is fun, especially while on horseback, but its emptiness in comparison to some of the other games in the franchise is certainly more apparent now than it was back then. The reason for this, I believe, has to do with how the game was perceived back in 1998. Few games on the N64 were this massive in scope, and being able to explore such a vast world while the sun slowly gave way to a dark and dangerous night was mind blowing. But now, we have games like “Fallout 3” and “Skyrim;” games containing huge maps that are hundreds, if not thousands, of times larger than that of “Ocarina of Time.” Still, there’s something special with how Hyrule field was laid out, but that may just be the nostalgia talking. Where “Ocarina of Time” truly shines is in its music. To this day, it’s still amazing to hear such beautiful and adventurous tunes coming from an N64 game. Being able to play certain tunes on your ocarina in order to call your horse or change the weather is still ridiculously cool. The hardest part of actually reviewing a game that’s 16 years old is realizing that its sequels inevitably introduced new concepts while effectively streamlining many elements of the franchise that now feel outdated. For example, this game’s direct sequel “The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask” put a huge emphasis on side quests that could be completed to further enhance the player’s knowledge of the world that they were in, which was a welcome change for many. Then there was “The Legend of Zelda: Windwaker” which introduced parrying, sailing and a whole slew of new items that changed how the game was played a little bit at a time. Of course, I could go on, but this is why I find it interesting to take a look at how games have progressed over the years. “Ocarina of Time” is my favorite game of all time, and I feel that it has aged incredibly well. Sure, games today have learned from the precedent set by games like “Ocarina of Time,” and have improved on its design, but as a video game judged solely based on its fun factor, “Ocarina of Time” is excellent. It wraps you up in its world and makes you feel like you’re part of one of the greatest adventures of all time.

I miss my IPhone

HTC cutout                   I have never been an Apple fan. I was born and raised in an era deeply steeped in PC, so I was probably the last person on earth to get an iPhone. Recently, with my Verizon account, due to upgrade, I decided to ditch my iPhone and pick up the new HTC One (m8) that I had heard so much about. Here is the verdict: The interface:
  • Initially it’s a little confusing to find things. The setup on the main screen is pretty bare with no clear menu icon.
  • Messages no longer pop up on my locked screen. There is really no immediately clear delineation between texts and emails.
  • When texts are being written, letters tend to double or even triple up at a single touch.
  • When trying to scroll, it often times selects before allowing any vertical movement resulting in a plethora of accidental selections and endless frustration.
  • The signal is much shakier at home than on the IPhone as well as on back roads despite both phones using Verizon as a carrier.
  • In terms of portability HTC seems to be reverse engineering the cellphone world in all the wrong ways. The new m8 is the size of a small dog and resembles something I would be more likely to catch an assault charge with than make a phone call on. I feel like I have one of those iconic boom boxes on my shoulder from the 80’s when I get a call and I should immediately put on wind-suit pants and bust a move on some cardboard when I talk on it.
  • The only case available when I received my digital talking brick of the future was so bulky it just added to the new pocket resistant version of cellphone.
Battery life:
  • Not a ton to say here. I’ll just leave it at this; I think my new phone needs digital Viagra, because it just keeps going off too soon. My phone seems to have the stamina of a pubescent teen.
The pros of the phone:
  • On the plus side, the new $600 phone was "buy one get one free," so my wife gets to participate in my newfound cellular hate.
  • Overall I was really underwhelmed by the m8. I found myself missing many of the features and intuitiveness that was built into my old iPhone. On the plus side, if you really don’t like your significant other and are too socially awkward to just walk away, I am pretty sure "HTC frustration" will become a legit homicide defense in the near future. In a nutshell, I miss my iPhone.

Review: Captain America 2 leaves you begging for more

Marvel fans have waited almost three years to witness the second installment of the Captain America franchise. Trust me, it was worth the wait. Captain America: The Winter Soldier delivers across the board. The acting was above average, but the plot was even better. From the beginning to the end, the director did a good job with keeping its audience interested. If you are not familiar with any of the Marvel movies, or even Captain America alone, you might find yourself a little confused. Unfinished business from the first Captain America that was released in 2011 did make its way back to the second installment. Not too many of the actors from the first reprised their roles as you can imagine, but the new characters did fill the void. Before I saw the movie, I was wondering what Robert Redford role would be for the present time version of Captain America. He did not disappoint and his character is someone you will want to pay attention to carefully. Samuel L Jackson returned as director of S.H.I.E.L.D Nick fury. Throughout the movie Jackson’s character seemed to have his own agenda. There are some secrets around S.H.I.E.LD that could possibly cost Fury his life. These secrets that S.H.I.E.L.D has kept for years is what makes the movie go in my eyes. Unlike the first installment, this time around the premise is much more dark. I could not help but to compare the movies plot to Christopher Nolan’s second installment of the Batman series, The Dark Knight. What made the Dark Knight stand out were a plot that modern day citizens can relate to and a villain that was actually believable. Captain America: Winter Soldier did exactly that but the action scenes where much more intense. The fighting scenes where in-depth and kept me in the edge of my seat. The future movies in this Marvel franchise will only get better because most of them will have to feed of this movie. If they are anything like the second installment of Captain America, moviegoers and Marvel fans will not be disappointed.  

“The Producers” Review

Missouri Western’s “Season of Laughter” ends with an appropriately hilarious, risqué and charming musical that will have you in stitches within mere minutes. “The Producers,” a musical by Mel Brooks, follows the failing career of Max Bialystock (Erik Burns-Sprung) whose latest play, “Funny Boy,” was a complete and utter flop. As Bialystock bemoans his life, a timid accountant by the name of Leo Bloom (Sebastian Smith) enters the apartment to audit his books, only to discover that Bialystock actually made money off of the play, despite it being a flop. Bloom pitches the idea that, under the right set of circumstances, one could make more money off of a failed production than a successful one. Realizing that this “get rich quick” scheme isn’t totally out of the question, Bialystock hatches a plan to put on the worst Broadway production of all time, with Bloom’s help. What follows is a musical trip through New York to find the strangest and most outrageous characters you’ll ever see onstage. From Franz Liebkind (Riley Bayer), an ex-Nazi with musical pigeons, to Roger De Bris and Carmen Ghia (Caleb Hazelwood and Thomas Delgado), a homosexual couple whose passion for style and flamboyance is off the charts, you’ll simply fall in love with the cast and their incredible ability to switch into several different outfits on the fly depending on the scene. More importantly, the chemistry between these characters is undeniable.  Everyone plays off of each other incredibly well, and while Bialystock is fairly lax when it comes to weird personalities, seeing Bloom’s reaction to each character, especially the sexy receptionist, Ulla (Lauren Bergman), is an absolute treat given his antisocial tendencies. “The Producers” doesn’t skimp on music, either.  The orchestra is absolutely phenomenal when recreating those big, Broadway sounds. While most of the songs are accompanied by a fantastic ensemble (who also change in and out of costumes with unprecedented speed offstage), there are quite a few solos thrown into the mix as well, and it’s certainly impressive when actors sing while moving about the stage in bombastic, sometimes unexpected ways. Regardless, most of the songs here are memorable and just a lot of fun to watch and listen to. Then, there’s the comedy. Much like “The Drowsy Chaperone,” the comedy here is simply timeless.  It covers all of its bases, poking fun at a number of different cultures and lifestyles while not being afraid to make fun of itself from time to time.  Nearly every joke that was thrown at the audience was reciprocated by an uproarious laughter, and there were a few lines and situations that required the actors and actresses on stage to pause for a few moments in order for the crowd to regain their composure. This is a musical comedy done right.  It is an absolute treat from beginning to end. Though there were a few instances where it was a bit hard to hear some of the lines or make out what the ensemble was singing, it hardly mattered in the long run. The stage design, the singing, the comedy, as well as quite a few unexpected moments, made “The Producers” a hilarious and memorable production.  Do not miss out on this one!