Once more into the Geek with Bryan, Mike, and James! In this episode James begins Geek Out by relating how a recent episode of The Min/Max Podcast led to jumping right back into the game Skyrim, and his recent journey to an SCA event to see a good friend become a knight. Next Mike tells us about the weird and wonderful world of New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe and how he shared a great day at the Boston Fan Expo with his youngest daughter! Bryan continues the game talk with his enjoyment of Limbo, his recent work with The Christian Gamers Guild, and how happy he is that we live in a world where a geophysicist can gain a following on Twitter. Finally, the guys discuss the 1982 Don Bluth creation The Secret of NIMH in the first film of the Animated Film Club!
The boys of Geek at Arms return for another brand new episode! In Geek Out Mike describes much fun he and Bryan had as guests on the fantastic podcast Saving the Game, and how much he’s enjoyed the recent Amazon series (or was it Netflix) Good Omens. Next, James cannot say enough good things about Godzilla: King of the Monsters. He also talks about taking his family to a local fan convention ArlingCon and how much he’s enjoyed watching My Hero Academia. Bryan relates how much he’s enjoyed the return of JL8, a webcomic by Yale Stewart, fighting Darth Vader and evil cubes with a lightsaber on the Oculus Rift, and the start of a new RPG session of the game Primetime Adventures! Finally, the Fantasy Film Club comes to a close with a review of the 1985 medieval fantasy Ladyhawke, starring Rutger Hauer, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Matthew Broderick.
Geek at Arms is back again! Mike kicks things off with his report on PAX East, and then describes the new love of his life, Betrayal: Legacy. James explains how his new game Kingdom Come: Deliverance feels like stepping into 15th century Bohemia and how much he and his wife enjoyed Captain Marvel. Next, Bryan deep dives us into his latest math interest with the Mandelbrot Set and math comedian Matt Parker. He and James also share how their latest rpg session with City on A Hill Gaming podcast went with fellow players Kyle from the Min/Max podcast and Mike from Innroads Ministries. The guys then have a discussion about all the upcoming film and TV adaptations that will hit the screens in the days to come: from the Lord of The Rings to Discworld to The Wheel of Time and many more!
Errata: Bryan said Good Omens was either already out or coming within the next week (of the recording). He was wrong. It becomes available beginning May 31. Bryan also attributed the Wheel of Time television movie to a company called Red Sky, but it was actually Red Eagle. And the Lord of the Rings TV Series may, in fact, not follow Aragorn, but be set instead in the Second Age. Bryan obviously needs a fact-checker. But to be fair, that LotR stuff is still largely conjecture!
We discussed these things:
Bryan, Mike and James return for yet another super-sized episode! Mike shares his enjoyment at reading The Fellowship of the Ring to his children for the first time and how he barely contained his Geekiness at meeting author and fencing master Ken Mondschein. Next, Bryan talks about how much he’s been enjoying the new Voltron: Legendary Defender and My Hero Academia. Both he and James express how much they’re looking forward to actually gaming in an upcoming RPG session with the City on a Hill Gaming Podcast. James keeps the gaming talk going by detailing a hopeful upcoming Monster of The Week campaign, and how happy he was at finally finishing The Last Duel and playing Biblios. Finally, we see the return of the Geek at Arms Film Club! Shifting from sci-fi to fantasy, the guys delve into the George Lucas written, Ron Howard directed 1988 epic Willow.
Special caution: During the show I recommended the series Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch. Although the first book, Midnight Riot, was fairly tame, book 2, Body Work, has some rather explicit naughty parts.
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We welcome a new year with a brand new episode of Geek at Arms! Having just come out of the holidays, the guys share what geeky gifts they received for Christmas. From bow ties to board games it was a very merry geekmas for them all. Next, in “To The Future”, they each describe what they’re looking forward to in the months to come. Mike proudly declares his PAX East ticket is already bought, Shazam! can’t get here fast enough for Bryan, and James lists the movies they all can’t wait to see. Add in some anticipated books, TV shows, and video games and 2019 is shaping up to be awesome!
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Bryan, Mike and James are back with a new episode! In Geek Out, James praises the new Lost in Space series on Netflix and then takes us through the contents of his EDC Kit. Bryan describes his enjoyment playing a session of the RPG Tales from the Loop. Mike talks about his latest Star Wars RPG session and how a trip to an air museum turned into a personal tour of a B-17 Flying Fortress! The guys then discuss the world of audio fiction. From audiobooks to podcasts, they share their first experiences with it and how they enjoy it now.
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Does it hold up?
Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
Back in 1992 when the SNES was still pretty new, Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past hit the shelves, and the cartridges quickly hit our consoles. Still basking in the new found radiance of 16-bit graphics, SNES gamers like myself reveled in the layered graphics and dazzling sound. Though at Geek at Arms we have to ask, “Does it hold up?” Nostalgia clouds judgment, and far too often we find that the wonders of our childhood are baffling under more mature scrutiny. And today I’m taking a fresh look at a game I used to love to find out how it holds up with a fresh look.
The basic premise of the game – in case you have been in a coma since 1986 and are unfamiliar with the premise of almost every Zelda title – is a young boy, Link, is awoken in the middle of the night. A voice guides him to the castle where he helps Princess Zelda escape. No one is quite sure why you do this, since being a Zelda title, you’re pretty sure she’s going to get captured again. And the person responsible for all this evil you’re fighting is – spoiler alert – actually Ganon. You spend the majority of the game traveling back and forth between the Light World and Dark World versions of the overworld map gathering items, solving puzzles, and completing dungeons.
But how was the play through? In short, I felt a little frustrated at the beginning. You start your journey heading up a clear path. Once you rescue Zelda and take her to the sanctuary, you get your next destination marked on a map. Once you finish that dungeon, you talk to an old man who gives you the only thing that can get you a book you need. Once you get the book, you can gain access the second dungeon. In the second dungeon you get the one piece of gear that allows you to access Death Mountain.
What’s my problem so far? It’s the “follow the breadcrumbs” method of adventure design.
The great thing about the original NES Legend of Zelda was a pretty open game. Want to skip Level 1 and jump right on to Level 2? Go ahead. Want to go from Level 2 and march your way up to Death Mountain just to have a look around? No one is stopping you! Do you want to skip getting the wooden sword on the start screen and instead wander around swordless, until you get some hearts and grab the White Sword? You can do that. With only a few exceptions, the exploration is open enough that the map has soft barriers. It’s only the difficulty of the monsters that prevent a newbie player from marching right from the start screen to exploring more challenging areas.
By contrast, A Link to the Past forces you to complete the first three pendants before going to areas of higher difficulty. The first thing I wanted to do when I got to the Dark World was take a look around and re-explore areas I was familiar with in the Light World. No dice. You have to get the Hammer from Level 1 in the Dark World to even access any other area of the map.
That being said, on my second play through, I went right from the Level 1 – The Dark Palace to Level 4 – Blind’s Hideout. In Level 4, you pick up the Titan Mitt, which allows you access to almost the entire map. None of the rooms in Level 4 required either the Hammer or Hookshot to finish the dungeon. So, the game allows some limited non-linear play.
That frustration circumvented, the game was actually a lot of fun. Having the Light and Dark Worlds essentially doubled the map size. The levels were well designed, and legitimately a joy to explore. They were challenging without being ridiculously frustrating. The ability to have catwalks overlaying rooms on the same level adds a new dimension of play. But two things really stood out in my playthroughs: the monster design and Link’s arsenal of gear.
The brilliant thing about the monsters in this game is that there are so many diverse kinds of creatures. It’s got variety not only in stylistic design, but also in regards to individual creature effects and vulnerabilities. Striking a Hardhat Beetle knocks both you and the enemy back several squares; Terropins are only susceptible to sword strikes after flipping them with the hammer; Helmsaurs are most easily killed with a skull or jar. The point being, the dungeons are packed with their particular denizens, and all require a slightly different approach. It keeps every level fresh with different kinds of challenges.
The second piece of design excellence is the inventory. In some adventure games (and even later titles in the Zelda series), designers will place a treasure that is fundamental to that level, or level’s boss, and then it has limited usefulness in the rest of the game. And while there will always be items you lean on more heavily than others (I’m looking at you, hookshot), the treasures are pretty well placed through the game, and useful across dungeons and on overworld maps.
So, does it hold up? I’d say it’s a pretty solid yes. While modern graphics and sound have left 1992 in the dust, A Link to the Past shows its age without looking or sounding clunky. They feel like something representative of an age without feeling like you’re missing out on contemporary developments. Both in the 90’s and now, I still think that the sound effect when Link transitions between Light and Dark Worlds is cool and a little freaky.
Apart from the previously mentioned merits, the game has clever level design, good play control, and satisfying boss battles. All of these make the game a classic and not a relic.
Geek at Arms returns with a super-sized episode! Bryan kicks off Geek Out by sharing the ups and downs, and possible opportunities, of the growing user-base of the visual effects software he uses. Mike gives us his PAX East report, and James jumps from Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds to Parks & Rec to Ready Player One, and more! Then, in a follow-up from last episode’s “Geek Budgeting” topic, the guys reveal which single item they would buy if they had the money to blow. Finally, Bryan asks the question “Have you encountered any difficulty when other believers discover your geeky hobbies?” They share stories and discuss the hurdles they’ve faced from sharing their interests openly.
Source for the Stan Lee stolen blood story: http://www.tmz.com/2018/04/05/stan-lee-stolen-blood-for-sale-black-panther-comic-books/
Michael Stackpole’s Pulling Report
Errata: Bryan referred to the “David Rumsfeld collection.” That should have been “David Rumsey collection.” He never opened a museum of his own, but he did donate the collection to Stanford University.
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With a brand new year comes a new season of Geek at Arms! In Geek Out James shares his thoughts on the books A Theft of Swords and Goblinopolis, and how he has finally started watching Stranger Things. Mike describes his virtual zombie hunting adventure, and Bryan takes us through his journey of watching Veronica Mars and geting back into the legendary pc game, Myst. The guys then do a do a special To The Future where they share what geeky events they’re looking forward to in the upcoming year. From running new rpgs to SCA events and more, they all agree that Avengers: Infinity War cannot get here fast enough! Finally, Mike shares some tips on keeping your board and card games in good shape, even when children and new players abound.
In Episode 6, the guys Geek Out about Tudor-era warship Mary Rose, Star Trek and The Orville, and Ken Mondschein. We also express our opinions of the movies we saw over the summer and look forward to the ones coming up in the holiday season. After that, it’s a look at introducing roleplaying to new players and a not-so-fresh suggestion for public school lunches.
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