#250: The Saga

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Today, I’ll be discussing one of my favorite games of all time, Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga. This is a classic for the Gameboy Advance, and I remember playing it so much back in the day. I never beat it as a kid, but I went back and beat it later as an adult so I guess that amounts to something. If you can’t beat it as a kid, that means it’s probably too hard.

The reason I bring this game up is because, at the con over this past weekend, Alex picked up the most recent, remastered edition of Superstar Saga for the 3DS. It’s a special game with a special place in my heart, honestly. I remember playing it on my Gameboy Advance like it was this newfangled piece of hardware. It felt so unique. Just hearing the music again brought joy and glee to my face. It’s something special when you hear a familiar song and it brings back memories all on its own. She was in the middle of the Popple battle, for example, and that has an amazing, recognizable theme that I can hear in my head as I’m even typing these words out. I’m going to the gym soon, and I might have to play it just to fill that space in my head! Usually, Alex doesn’t play with sound on, but I explained that this is an important game in which sound cues are essential to timing your attacks and defenses right. It’s not just an option to turn off or on; it’s relevant to all facets of the game’s design.

I also told her recently that there were four more additions to the series, so she got excited when that news was unveiled. There’s so much to do in this series, and it’s all so fantastic!

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#249: The First Con

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My first comic con, technically, was in 2012, when I was a part of Anime Club at Quinnipiac and I helped out with QuinniCon, the semi-annual Quinnipiac-centered convention. We had all kinds of artists, shops, panels, activities, tournaments, and more going on throughout the day, and I remember getting some classic Super Smash Bros. Melee time in against complete strangers. Melee isn’t my preferred Smash title, but at the time it’s the one I knew best. I also remember picking up House Stark-themed shot glasses. They were tinted blueish, and I remember using them as a freshman in college because I was introduced to Game of Thrones that year by one of my good friends. That’s when that whole journey began, but that’s a story for another blog post. Perhaps the next one.

My second con was Connecticon, though, and I have fond memories of going there with my friend Bryan for the first time and being amazed at the sheer size of everything. It would pale in comparison to Anime NYC, but that took three years for me to get there and I wouldn’t want to compare the two experiences in the first place.

The reason I’m mentioning all of these cons is because recently I visited Connecticon with two people who haven’t been to it before: Alex and Bella. Alex has been to cons in the past, but this was Bella’s first true convention. As a fellow nerd, it was about time she got the chance to visit one of these. I wish we had the chance to spend more time there, but we got done what needed to be done and picked up some sweet loot in the process. Alex and I grabbed a Persona 5 poster, a Cowboy Bebop poster, and a Joker Funko Pop.

#248: The Persona

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It’s about time I talked about persona. I don’t know why it’s taken me this long to dedicate a full blog post to it, but here goes anyway.

Persona 5 is a brilliant, interactive, narrative-driven video game on the PS3 and PS4. Thankfully, after purchasing the PS4 over the summer, I’ve been playing a lot of this game, over 95 hours so far. I’m currently on the sixth palace, or dungeon, in the game, and it’s completely enthralled me. I’ve talked with many, many friends about this game too, and it’s something else just to be able to have these long, detailed, complex conversations with people about a game’s unique story. I love unique, well-crafted narratives, and this is definitely one of them. The story, the characters, the themes, the framing, the setting. It all comes together into one beautifully-crafted package. I give props to Atlus for creating such a complicated title with interwoven character arcs and everything.

I could talk at a mile a minute about this game, but I’d like to focus on a specific aspect of the game that I like: the persona system. It’s sort of like Pokemon, in which there are elements (fire, wind, ice, nuclear?, etc.) and certain party members specialize in certain elements. You pick up party members in the traditional JRPG way of having them slowly join up and come to terms with how cool your party is. In this case, the Phantom Thieves are an internationally-known, secret organization of crime fighters, and each character awakens to their persona at a critical moment in the story, thus granting them that kind of power in the Metaverse. It’s a lot to take in all at once, but it’s seriously fantastic. I don’t know what my summer would have been like without this game with me.

#247: The Mansion

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Spooky, right? Something about looking at a mansion always gets my mind racing, thinking about the haunts and horrors that lie within.

But today, I’ll be discussing one of my favorite video game titles of all time, Luigi’s Mansion. It debuted on the Nintendo Gamecube way back when, probably around the time that the Gamecube first released in 2004. I have some special memories associated with this game that I’d like to discuss on here for a bit.

Back when I was in middle school, my friend Jimmy and I would compete to see who could beat a certain game the fastest. We had this competition with Kingdom Hearts 2, Paper Mario 2, and Super Mario Sunshine, along with other Gamecube and PS2 era titles that are still nostalgic for me, and that I haven’t touched in years. Another of those games was Luigi’s Mansion, which was probably the best title we could speedrun. I’ve since seen people beat the game within an hour’s time, without using any cheat codes or crazy tricks, because they’ve dedicated that much time to it. It’s one of the quickest games available, but it’s also endlessly replayable and full of challenge if you’re unfamiliar with the game’s systems. If you are familiar, the game rewards you immensely by letting you collect differently-framed haunt paintings. You want to reach gold with each haunt, and you want to ultimately have the biggest mansion possible by the end of the game, too. It reminds me a lot of Pokemon Snap, another game with a short play time that’s designed to be replayed over and over for maximum fun.

So, Jimmy and I replayed a lot of Luigi’s Mansion over the years. The game is kind of ingrained in my head because of that. One day, maybe if I can find another Gamecube to use, Alex will get the chance to play it, too.

#239: Social Media

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Social media is funny. For starters, it allows us to connect across the world with friends we might never hear from otherwise. Without Facebook, I probably wouldn’t know a damn thing what my friend Rachel, who lives in Australia currently, is up to. It’s nice to see updates from friends who mean a lot to me, even though we don’t talk super frequently. I also have friends on there much older than me, people I met and became acquainted with during my various internships, and whom I owe so much of my professional success to. It’s nice to see them comment on my professional updates, especially when I’m really trying to take care of myself more. Social media is what allows all this flourish, and I’m thankful for it in that sense.

Though, social media also gives me anxiety from time to time. Sometimes I think life would be simpler if I didn’t constantly see updates from people I went to college with, telling me what they’ve been up to since then. Some of them are completing their second year as teachers, and while that’s very exciting for them, it leaves me with a feeling of emptiness. Not everything I do needs to be compared to other people’s lives, but social media almost encourages us to compare the two. It’s a part of social media’s DNA. Every post you make, every story you upload, every status you write, every like you share, every click you make, everything eventually is tied to someone else, and it’s connected to your online profile, either through Google, Facebook, or what have you. The people who “like” it, the people who ignore it, the people who are online but have better things to do. It’s tough not to take personally.

Was social media a mistake?

#236: The Insult

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This won’t be a negative blog post, and I plan on establishing that early so that anyone worried about me because of the title can have their concerns eased. This is about an insult I received indirectly via a game I was playing, and what my feelings are regarding this common feeling.

In Persona 5, at one point while all the characters are studying together in the cafe to prepare for final exams, Ryuji, the slacker character, says, roughly: “What’s the point in English anyways? It’s not like we’re gonna use it in the future…” The irony here is that, of course, this game was developed in Japan and they’re referring to English as a second language, because the game was translated and localized into English by a different company. After this event, another character in the story named Ann said: “Yeah, what’s the point in figuring out what an author is thinking? It’s no use.”

Obviously, there’s more to it than that, so let me explain quickly. When an English teacher asks you to deconstruct an author’s thought process, what they’re really asking you to do is prove that, when you read a given piece, you can grasp the author’s intentions in writing it. Are they biased? Reliable? Motivated by other reasons? Can you tell this by gleaming information from the written text? Can you prove it using said evidence?

Of course, these characters are teenagers and not literature teachers. They’re mostly immature and humorous. I don’t take what they say always seriously, and I don’t think the game intends you to either. It’s all in good fun, which is what makes the game so enjoyable in the first place. I just wanted to use a moment in the game as a jumping off point for a conversation about the purpose of English classes.

#235: The Playstation

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Today, it’s time to talk video games again. I’ll be talking more in depth about the specific games I’ve bought for my playstation in a future blog post, but for right now, I’m gonna discuss the playstation itself, my history with Sony products, and everything in between.

I used to own both a PS2 and a PS3, though I didn’t play either console very much. I remember playing Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater on the PS2 when I was young, and I definitely put tons and tons of hours into Kingdom Hearts (both the first and second ones) when they first came out in the early 2000’s. Jimmy and I had a race to see who would beat the second one first, and I won even though I was on a higher difficult level than he was. That’s one thing I pretty much always lord over him to this day, and will continue to for a long, long time. That’s just how our friendship works.

On the PS3, I remember playing a few hours of God of War 3, Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, Little Big Planet, and a couple other games that I can’t totally remember. That about sums up my whole experience with the PS3, in a nutshell; I can’t totally remember much of it, and I regret asking my parents to buy one for me. In reality, it was because Kingdom Hearts 3 was on the horizon, or so I thought, and I knew Sony would ever release it on a Playstation console. Unfortunately, they skipped a cycle and released years and years later on the PS4. I also haven’t played any of KH3 since buying it, although I do plan on getting into that at some point in the future. Just not while I’m still rushing through Persona! That’s my top priority!

#225: The Expo

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Have you ever heard of E3? It stands for Electronic Entertainment Expo, and it’s an event that takes place once a year at the beginning of June and promises to hype up any video game fan from around the world. It’s known for delivering the biggest announcements, the most shocking reveals, and gameplay footage never before seen. When new games are said to be announced, they’re brought out on the floor of E3 first and foremost. That’s why people tend to gravitate towards this event so heavily; it attracts attention by nature of its grand scale and all the video game industry developers who treat it like the biggest deal in games. By being treated this way, it also becomes like that.

I always look forward to Nintendo’s presentation the most, partially because I’m a huge Nintendo fan, but also because I love how Nintendo presents their information in such a concise, clean, and clear way via the Nintendo Direct. After the Direct stream is over, they switch over to the Treehouse stream, where people from around Nintendo play the games that were unveiled or previewed during the Direct. This gives people the chance to experience the games firsthand, if they’re present at the event, or watch them for the first time, if they’re watching the streams from home. There are always some surprises in store for the Treehouse stream afterwards, so it’s usually worth watching and catching up on regardless of if you are busy.

I was most hyped about Banjo-Kazooie being added to Smash Bros Ultimate. What’s better than seeing an old character from one of your favorite games added against all odds? A Microsoft property brought into a Nintendo title for the very first time in over 20 years. It’s a miracle and a dream come true for me.

#223: The Repair Job

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Repairs are costly. Isn’t that the truth? Nothing in life is cheap, but when it comes to car troubles, you can feel the pain coming as soon as the car starts to struggle through its chugs. You know a big bill is on the horizon, and there’s nothing you can do about it except take it and get it done as soon as possible. There’s the stress from getting it repaired, but also the added financial stress, the mystery of it all, because who knows what it’s going to cost? The labor costs could end up amounting to anything, and the parts are insufferably expensive on their own, too. Buying a new alternator is about $400 on its own.

So when it comes time to get repairs done, there’s a lot going on in your head. The last blog post talked about the mental stress of getting work done on your car, and this post will talk more about the financial stress, while discussing the specific instance that happened in my case.

When we brought the car to the repair place, there was some stress caused by the questions asked by the guy at the desk, who needed to know everything and anything about the part that we brought in advance. Apparently we weren’t supposed to buy a part in advance, because of warranty purposes, but when Alex called the place the day before, they said it was fine and not to worry about it. The guy said he would call me after they diagnosed the problems with the car, but then the call never came, and Alex had to call them herself to get an update a few hours later while I was in the shower. It was a back-and-forth struggle to figure this whole issue out.

I ended up taking an Uber, for the first time, from the apartment back to the the mechanic, only to find out that they needed me to wait another 40 minutes for them to replace the battery. So I took up some space in the Popeye’s across the street and that was that.

#222: The Nightmare

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So, on Wednesday, I went to the mechanic to get the car fixed. If you’ve been
following this saga over the past few days, you know how much anxiety and frustration this has given me, and it’s only compounded over time. The more I jumpstart the car, the more nervous I get that this will be the last time it works before the battery inevitably explodes or shuts off, never to be used again. Then I’d have to get someone to tow the car out of the apartment’s parking garage, but no tow trucks are allowed there! And what if I parked the wrong way? How am I supposed to get to the mechanic then?

Needless to say, these are all the thoughts that went through my head while contemplating what to do yesterday. We are lucky to not have more car trouble than we already have, but of course our first bout with car trouble became a nightmare, hence this blog’s title.

A couple of times while leaving school, I remember the car alarm slowly starting to go off, and then the lights flickered back and forth, and then the engine started to sound slower, producing a muffled noise that shocked me into even more fear. Would the car stop working in the middle of the highway? Would it not work the next time I tried to jumpstart it? Every time I jumpstarted the car, I had the fear in the back of my head that it wouldn’t work, that all this effort would lead to me having to take another day off from work because I couldn’t get there in time. I contemplated taking an Uber back and forth, but the idea of getting in a random car in the middle of Norwalk at my workplace didn’t sound great. We ended up settling on me taking the day off on Wednesday to settle our car trouble. I’ll talk more about that in the next blog.