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Christ Centered Gamer Blog

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Animated Stories From The New Testament: A King Is Born

Thank you Nest Entertainment for sending us this DVD to review!

This twenty-six minute DVD opens up with a pretty song that describes God's love for us by sending our savior. As the opening credits scrolled on, I noticed that Orson Scott Card wrote the screenplay. The story begins with Simeon telling an elderly lady (presumably Anna) that he has been promised to see the Messiah before he dies. King Herod gets wind of the Messiah's coming and vows to eliminate him. After that scene, Gabriel tells Mary that she will bear God's son and although she doesn't understand how it is possible, she complies. I was surprised to see how easy going Joseph was about this situation when Mary told him the news. In this DVD he had a dream explaining the divine pregnancy before Mary announced it. According to the Bible he was troubled by the news and later comforted by the dream and felt at peace knowing that Mary was not unfaithful to him.

Later in Mary's pregnancy, Caesar Augustus proclaims that everyone must return to their city of birth to be counted and taxed. As they near Bethlehem Mary starts to go into labor, but they have no place to stay since the inns are full. A kind man gives them shelter in a stable. Baby Jesus arrives (no gory details shown) and is visited by nearby shepherds while the wise men start their journey to meet the king.

Anna and Simeon get to meet their promised savior when Mary and Joseph present an offering at the temple. King Herod hears about Jesus' birth and tells the wise men to let him know where to find the baby. When they disobey, every baby boy pays the price (again no details are shown). Thanks to Joseph's dream warning them to leave Bethlehem, they fled safely to Egypt and raised Jesus there until king Herod died.

That is where this DVD ends and if you like Biblical stories with good voice acting, I recommend continuing the story of Jesus' life by watching Jesus, The Son of God. The animation is a bit dated since it's from the eighties, but the artwork has a Disney like style to it. While the normal price is $9.95 I have seen it for $5 on Nest Entertainment's website and for less than $12 shipped on Amazon.

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Bite-sized Reviews: Four Movies

I recently flew from Thailand back to New York after Christmas break. Being on a transatlantic flight means you have the opportunity to watch a lot of films, so I thought I would try something different for a column. Note that my opinions on them aren’t that valid because I fell asleep during three of them (plus the fact that I’m just a dumb college kid with no experience in film but let’s not go there) but here are some brief impressions with or without complete sentences.

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2: This film exists for two reasons – to show off the wacky world of computer animation and to write puns about food. Has a remarkably weak villain and a sidekick I found uncomfortable to look at. Just trust me. A combination of Jurassic Park and the first movie, the sequel just doesn’t have the legs to stand on its own. The animation is fairly stunning, I’ll give it that. C

Rush: Interesting rivalry biopic, the Amadeus of Formula One (note: I’ve never seen Amadeus). Daniel Bruhl outshines Chris Hemsworth in every way, but Thor does a serviceable job despite a choppy English accent. Surprisingly little actual racing, but still manages to keep it fast and compelling. Nice pacing, integral for a racing flick. Entirely unnecessary sex scene (although I hear there are more with mine being edited for plane viewing). B

Now You See Me: Ensemble cast doesn’t make me care about them, despite their theatrics. Cool illusions and action sequences, everything is quite slick and enjoyable, and I expect nothing less from Louis Letterier. Unfortunately the movie isn’t strong enough to support its own resolution, so the result makes it as forgettable as the implications of its title, despite all the fun. Yeah, I’ve seen you, so what? B-

Man of Steel: I’m going to catch flak for this, so let me begin by revealing my bias by saying I’ve never really liked Superman but I wanted to see what was done with the reboot. The most positive thing I can say is the strength of the visuals and their design. Much of the emotional fell flat, Cavill never looks like he belongs (maybe that’s the point, but…), a lot of the plot didn’t make sense to me, and there were some scenes I found flat out silly. Utterly humorless except for one or two awkward jokes, and like many reviewers, I disliked the mindless destruction of Metropolis. I’m not saying that every movie has to be funny, but this one was grim business, and I didn’t think it was good enough for me to take seriously. Zod was a good choice as villain and Michael Shannon does well with the role but I just couldn’t put up with the rest of the movie. It might just be that it’s not for me. D+

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Kick-A** 2

Warning: This review contains references to graphic material and is not suitable for children.

Review:

If you were interested at all in the first Kick-A** film (referred to by initials from here on out), you are likely aware by now of the sequel's many issues: Gratuitous language and sexual references, highly stylized graphic violence, and the inevitable curse of sequel-itis. Despite all of its explicit content, the original KA was an enjoyable romp through superheroville with heroes that bled and swore throughout its 117 min. running time. There was a facade of realism, but it wasn't meant to be taken too seriously. Director Matthew Vaughn carefully realized his own version of New York City, creating a careful balance between the gritty vigilantes and the mafia with the fantasy of comic books, especially in the character of Hit-Girl. I bring all this information up about the first one to highlight some of the main problems that plague KA 2. 

The first problem that is almost immediately noticeable is the restricted budget. The action isn't quite as slick as it used to be, and it shows. This problem is almost painful in a later sequence partially shown in the trailers with Hit-Girl sliding around on the roof of a van. However, you can't completely fault the production crew for this issue, and newcomer Jeff Wadlow does a serviceable job with the action he's given. Of particular note is the first real glimpse the audience gets of Mother Russia and her brutality against the police. 

The second major problem that KA 2 suffers from is an inconsistency that stretches across multiple aspects. There's a forgivable amount of continuity errors from the first film, but some of it just doesn't make sense. For example (Spoilers for this and the original), the girl that Dave (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) successfully dates after spending the entirely of the first movie trying to get her to like him, is dismissed with an uncomfortable throwaway gag about people thinking that Dave and Mindy (Chloe Grace Moretz) are together. (End spoiler) There is also a persistent inconsistency in tone. When Vaughn created his vision for KA, he knew exactly what he wanted out of his characters, with all the violence in the film leading up to an intense finale with consequences. Maybe it's just poor screen-writing (the opening minutes of the film were a little painful for exactly this reason), but there were several moments of surprising sincerity and melodrama surrounding Hit-Girl that felt out of place, like it was taking its role in the superhero canon too seriously. This is contrasted with two particularly over-the-top scenes for her character that seem to come out of left field and left a bad taste in my mouth: Mindy's "sexual awakening" in noticing a boy band's music video and her revenge against the popular girl's clique. It also lends to the feeling that KA 2 has more to do with Hit-Girl's story than it does with Dave's, which wouldn't be so much of a problem if the movie didn't share its name with Kick-A**. 

All of this is not to say that KA 2 does not have any bright spots. Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Chloe Grace Moretz are as comfortable as ever in their roles and Jim Carrey's screen time as Colonel Stars and Stripes is criminally short. I was also surprised and impressed by some of the other casting: Donald Faison is irresistibly plucky as Dr. Gravity, and the rest of Justice Forever handle their roles formidably. I was initially put off my Christopher Mintz-Plasse's return as Chris D'Amico, but he eventually won me over in his quest for vengeance and desire to be feared. I found most of the action sequences to be well-implemented and entertaining and appreciated the diversity and creativity among both the hero and the villain’s squad.

Content:

Obviously, a film with the titular character being named Kick-A** has some clear content issues. The fact that Col. Stars and Stripes is described as a born-again Christian and his continual requests for his teammates to refrain from swearing or taking the Lord’s name in vain does nothing to mitigate the level of profanity. Mindy’s new guardian has a swear jar that is played for laughs, continually overflowing. The script is riddled with f- and s-words, and even a few c-words. No less than four characters have obscenities in their monikers, and that’s barely the beginning. Not content with only verbal crudity, there is a scene of over-the-top projectile vomiting and defecation, while entirely unrealistic, did nothing to improve my opinion of the film. 

The violence is what you’d expect from this type of film, with some of the shock value of Hit-Girl’s age being taken away with the sequel. Characters are shot, stabbed, beaten, ground, blown up, and even eaten, to varying degrees. The blood flows freely, and nobody escapes unscathed. However, the majority of the blood is designed to be unrealistic and appears as such. Most disturbingly, (Major spoilers) in trying to bait Kick-A** for capture, Dave is shown a picture of his father, who has been killed. The film then goes into a brief and violent flashback that shows his father being viscerally beaten and then hanged. (End spoilers) A character is accidentally killed in a tanning bed, and we see her bare arm hang limply over the edge of it.

In terms of sexual content, there is a moment of brief topless nudity, and a short scene played for laughs where Chris D’Amico discovers his mother’s sexual paraphernalia. Lewd sexual references are abundant, and we see two characters going into a bathroom stall together to have sex, twice. By far the most troubling point in the film, a villain threatens to rape another character, but the assault is halted when dialogue reveals that he is unable to achieve an erection. It’s meant to portray the character’s blind lust for power and revenge with all of his insecurity, but I found this particular attempt at humor deplorable. Additionally, a few of the costumed characters wear skimpy outfits while they fight.

Summary: 

In the end, those who really wanted a sequel to KA should be satisfied. The film has a plethora of issues that prevent it from being the sequel that the original movie deserved, but I would say it's better than nothing. The characters haven't outlasted their welcome and watching them in action still preserves a certain modicum of entertainment. However, the sheer amount of immoral content makes it hard to recommend, so enjoy at your own risk. If you were okay with the first movie but didn’t love it, it’s probably best if you skip it. You won’t be missing out on greatness if you end up passing up this one. As an added bonus, you are exempt from experiencing all the sordidness contained therein.

Author’s note: I had completed this review entirely and then went to preview my post and through the magic of the internet, lost quite a bit of it. I’m deeply sorry that you guys missed out on the awesomeness of the original draft.

Kick-A** 2 is rated R for strong violence, pervasive language, crude and sexual content, and brief nudity.

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My Little Pony: Classic Movie Collection

Thank you Shout!Factory for sending us this video to review!

What happens when you combine Ponies, Unicorns, Pegasus', Breezeies (bug like ponies with wings and antennae) and dragons? You get some wild adventures that teach lessons like being true to yourself, compromising, and taking responsibility for your actions.

The My Little Pony Classic Movie Collection consists of two DVD's with two episodes each. With all of the episodes combined the total running time is 114 minutes. I'm not sure why they didn't put all four “movies” on one disc.

 

Here's a breakdown of the shows included:

 

  • The Princess Promenade (2006) - Ponyville is preparing for its fanciest parade when Spike the dragon is awoken and according to tradition, a princess must now be crowned. Who will it be?
  • Dancing In The Clouds (2004) – The Friendship Ball is fast approaching and the choreography for the special dance is not ready yet! Perhaps the answer is only a wish away. 
  • The Runaway Rainbow (2006) – Rarity the young unicorn is more interested in having fun than tending to her princess duties and making rainbows.
  • Friends Are Never Far Away (2005) - The Ponies want to invite the Pegasus Ponies over for a party. The Pegasus Ponies are rather shy though. Can the Ponies and Pegasus Ponies work together to make this happen?

 

Many of these episodes are hard to find, so this collection is a good deal and essential for any My Little Pony lover. The price is a reasonable $15 or less shipped on Amazon. My daughters enjoyed these DVD's. In the words of Rarity they said “That was fun, let's do it again!”.

 

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The Animated Stories From The New Testament: The Kingdom of Heaven

Thank you Nest Entertainment for sending us this DVD to review!

Even non-believers will acknowledge that Jesus was a good teacher. Through this twenty-five minute DVD, your kids can experience and learn the meaning of the following parables:

  • The tares and the wheat (Matt 13:24-30)
  • The pearl of great price (Matt 13:45-46)
  • The ten virgins (Matt 25:1-13)
  • The sower and the seeds (Matt 13:18-23)

As if the parables were not convicting enough, seeing Jesus' audience leaving after being shamed or convicted from the teachings really drove the messages home. Each of the people leaving Jesus' teachings represent the seeds from the sower that went to the wayside (refuses to understand God's word), had shallow roots (left when persecuted), got choked by thorns (put possessions before God) and those that landed in good soil (receives and follows God's word).

 

Though the animation is a bit dated, it still looks good and you can see some artistic similarities between these and Disney films. The voice acting and singing is well done. The parable of the pearl has its own song about the man gladly selling his possessions. While the song sounds fine, if my kids were to sing it in public, they would get some silly stares.

 

The best way to get this DVD is in the Animated Passion Trilogy set which is $9.99 + shipping at Nest Entertainment's website or for $19.65 shipped at Amazon.

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If you read this, I'll give you a dollar.

Hi, all! I'm Trip.

I just thought I would give a quick introduction as the newest member of the CCG blogging team. I've been involved with the site for almost seven years and have been a moderator in the forums here for several years now. I joined the site seeking a safe online community that shared some of my interests, and that's exactly what I found. The funny thing is, I'm not even a huge gamer, but I liked the people here so much that I never left. If you're reading this, you've found a good place.

Things you should know about me: I've spent over half of my life in Asia. Unfortunately, that doesn't mean I can speak any cool languages or anything. I know, I suck. I'm an avid book reader and film viewer, so the majority of my blog posts will probably be things that I've most recently experienced in that realm. That being said, I might throw in a music review in there every once in a while. I play guitar like 263 other people that you know. I can eat an entire box of CTT (Cinnamon Toast Crunch for you casuals) without breaking a sweat. Like my log-line says, I'm currently a senior English and Writing major at Houghton College, without a single clue what to do after this semester. I joined the blogging team to test a little more of the journalistic waters and to publicly hone my craft; ccgr graciously let me on-board.

Things you shouldn't know about me: I never wear un...hey, wait a minute. Moving on.

Feel free to drop a comment saying hi if you'd like, or don't, whatever. I sincerely hope that you enjoy my blogging contributions!

- Trip

P.S. Stay tuned for my upcoming reviews of Raising Hope and Kick-A** 2!

P.P.S. Just kidding. I have no money. None. 

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Raising Hope

James Chance is adrift. He's a 24 year old high school drop out who still lives with his parents, and the longest job he's ever held is working for his father in his landscaping company. So, when a frantic woman bangs on the window of his van, what does he do? He takes her home. And so, little baby Hope is brought into the world, courtesy of Jimmy and a convicted serial killer's one-night-stand.  With a new baby to care for, Jimmy (Lucas Neff) and the Chances' lower-lower-lower-middle class family discover that they all have a little something to learn about child-rearing and the bonds that hold them together.

Show creator Greg Garcia is no stranger to blue collar comedy, and fans will be able to see many similarities between this and My Name Is Earl in style and execution. The characters are a little dimwitted but they've got street-smarts and heart in spades, and that's what matters. The cast is bolstered with standout performances, especially Cloris Leachman as the senile Maw Maw, and the young-at-heart Burt Chance (Garret Dillahunt). Really, it's nothing particularly we haven't seen before, but the combination of one-liners and the characters' chemistry is positively charming. In an early episode, Virginia Chance (Martha Plimpton) tries to tell her son that her smoking had no adverse health effects on him as a child. His response? "...I had asthma the first 17 years of my life. I've got seven permanent teeth that still haven't come in. And I'm allergic to fruit....fruit!" It's all about the delivery, and the core cast carries it well. 

One of the most remarkable things about Raising Hope is its consistency and the tendency to always balance between the extremes - none of the episodes ever fall into abysmal territory, but none quite reach the echelons of comedy genius, and that's okay. The show doesn't try to be that, instead opting for a mixture of relatability and enabling the viewers to laugh at the thickheaded antics that often propels the Chance's misfortune. Lightheartedness drives the premise forward, but it is balanced with some occasionally dark moments, such as Jimmy having to cover Hope's eyes while they watch her mother get electrocuted in the pilot. The same standard of consistency can be held in terms of offensive content. It's not particularly innocuous but certainly doesn't plumb the depraved depths for material. An episode that involves Jimmy trying to get their house off the sex offender registry so that he can get Hope into a good daycare (Burt was caught canoodling with Virginia at a young age) ends up that everyone except Burt, ends up unintentionally getting charged for sexual offenses. Crazy Maw Maw frequently takes off her shirt, much to the disgust of the rest of the Chances. 

The show is already in the middle of its fourth season, but the first three seasons remain on Netflix. In fact, I've seen the first several episodes three times now and have successfully converted all of my friends into fans. If you’re able to bypass a few of the infrequent sexual references, the show remains a consistent source of entertainment. Don't start watching it expecting to be blown away by sharp dialogue and originality, instead, watch it for the comic performances and chemistry that succeed in recreating some classic sitcom magic.

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Animated Bible Story of Jesus, The Son of God

This twenty-seven minute DVD illustrates Mary, Joseph and the twelve year old Jesus going to the temple for Passover. (Luke 2:42-2:52) The young Jesus is carrying a young lamb and Mary and Joseph shopping around and haggling for a clay pot and some bundles of wood. The family present their offering (no blood is shown) and Jesus impresses rabbi's with his knowledge of the law and wisdom. As Mary and Joseph are packing up to leave they discover that Jesus is not with them and assume that he's with his cousins. When they discover otherwise, they search all of Jerusalem only to find him at the temple doing his Father's work. As a parent I'm impressed with their attitudes and grace as I would have been an angry and emotional wreck.

 

As the movie progresses it has some beautiful singing and shows Jesus growing older and preparing for his Father's work. They depict Jesus comforting Mary after Joseph’s passing (but never show any children between Mary and Joseph as mentioned in Matt 13:55). The orchestral music is very emotional and tugs at your heart strings a bit. The voice acting is pretty solid and has aged well. While you can tell the animation is older, it still looks decent. Some of the artists that made this movie used to work for Disney and I can recognize some artistic similarities. My children enjoyed this video and I highly recommend it for children of all ages.

 

This video was sent to us from Nest Entertainment and is available for purchase at their website for $15.95 (retail price is $29.95). You can download a free activity book to accompany the DVD from their site as well.   

 

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The Sonic Sitcom Episode 1

My siblings and I have been working on a new cartoon over the past few months. It's a comedy show that's based on the Sonic the Hedgehog games. Enjoy!

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Littlest Pet Shop: Lights, Camera, Fashion!

Episode List:

  • Mean Isn't Your Color
  • Russel Up Some Fun
  • Eve of Destruction
  • Frenemies
  • Summertime Blues

This DVD collection features five episodes, a sing-along, a Zoe toy and collector card, all for the reasonable price of less than $15. Each episode is around twenty minutes long and they are entertaining, informative and teach some good lessons. One of the episodes has Blythe coming to grips

with the concept of her father starting to date. Other episodes encourage teamwork, getting along, expressing, believing in and being yourself. Not every message is a positive one though. There's a bonus sing-along to the song Fun Being Fun. While it is silly, it's promoting rebellion.


For the most part this show is family friendly and isn't obnoxiously girly. All of my kids (including my son) enjoyed this DVD and went back and watched Petacular Escapades after finishing this one. There's plenty of humor and the pets each have their own personalities and quirks. If your children like the toys or TV series, this is a worthy addition to your DVD collection.

 

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Mary Poppins 50th Anniversary Edition

Mary Poppins is a timeless classic that reminds parents not to get too caught up in their jobs and ambitions and to spend some quality time with their children.  The movie begins as the Banks family is losing yet another nanny and they inadvertently place two advertisements for a replacement.  The children's advertisement draws the attention of the ideal nanny Mary Poppins and her competition is literally blown away.  Mary Poppins is polite yet stern and practically perfect in every way.  She treats the kids to whimsical adventures and brings the family closer together.  

This is the first time the movie has been released on Blu-ray and it comes bundled with a DVD and a digital copy so you can play it on many devices.  There are tons of extras including behind the scenes footage of the movie Saving Mr. Banks which tells the true story of the twenty year journey to make the Mary Poppins movie a reality.  

We had the 40th anniversary DVD and were glad to see all of the special features including the making of documentary were still included in this edition.  In addition to those features, there's a Mary-Oke Sing Along that features many song favorites including Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious and Chim Chim Cher-ee.  While the text effects are nice, they are hard to follow so knowledge of the lyrics is still pretty much a given. 

The special effects in the movie still hold up well to today's standards.  I honestly can't see much improvement in the video quality, but this movie still has its charm.  My whole family loves Mary Poppins and I highly recommend adding it to your collection if you haven't already. 

 

 

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Teen Titans Go!

Note: This is a review to the first half or so of the first season. Approximately 30 episodes have aired at this point.

I remember watching the original Teen Titans when I was a kid. I was captivated by the characters and entertained by the humor and action. That being said, I was really glad to hear that all of the original voices were returning for a continuation show.

Well, actually, it's not really a continuation. The episodes in the show don't even have continuation with themselves. Instead, it's an all-comedy show about what the Titans would do on their spare time. Though it's very different from the original show, Teen Titans Go! is a really fun show that is filled with laughs.

The first thing you would probably notice that's different is the animation. Instead of the anime-like animation, Teen Titans Go! uses flash animation. When I first saw it, I thought that it was a disrespect to the original. Though it took me a while to get used to, I eventually realized that it creates many hilarious situations.

The characters are mostly the same, except they're a lot goofier. Robin in particular is much more high strung than he was in the original, making him much funnier to watch. Though Raven was my favorite in the original show, Cyborg has now become my favorite of the group, because he's the funniest. That's not to say that Raven is worse, it's just that Cyborg improved significantly to the point where he's super awesome. Also, multiple references of other DC characters (specifically Batman) show up in the show, adding to the humor. Despite some appearances from the original series characters, I think there aren't enough who return. Slade is definitely a character who I'd like to see in this show.

The good thing about this show is that, unlike many of the cartoons today, Teen Titans Go! is a comedy show that's actually funny. However, I don't like how this show has to be rated PG, especially since most of the humor isn't that adult. That being said, it seems off that there are instances where there are really crude jokes. Being as the original show was Y7 and was aimed for kids, I would have appreciated it if this show did the same. Even still, the show is very entertaining and one of the only good ones currently out there.

Final Score: 8.3/10

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Transformers Prime: Beast Hunters Season Three

This is the final action packed season of Transformers Prime: Beast Hunters. This season starts off with the Autobots scattered and badly damaged after losing their base to the Megatrons. Can they unite and defeat the Megatrons, Predacons and Insecticons? Not only do they have to save earth, but Cybertron is in danger as well. There are thirteen episodes in total which offers nearly five hours of robotic smashing fun. There is plenty of violence and robotic experimentation going on, and this show is best suited for grade school boys. My kindergartner son was sort of interested in this show, but his older cousin loved it. After you finish watching this season, make sure you check out the finale Beast Hunters: Predacons Rising. You won't be sorry!

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Mickey Mouse Clubhouse: Super Adventure

The main show on this nearly two-hour DVD is about Mickey and his Friends being granted super powers to transform their town back to normal after Power-Pants Pete shrinks everything.  With the help of each other, the mouseketools, and input from your child, they can conquer any obstacle!  I expected my five year old son to be comfortable with talking back to the television, but I was surprised to see my seven and nine year old daughters chiming in as well.  In fact, they asked to watch it multiple times.  My kids love all four episodes on this disc.  The included trading cards are a nice bonus too! 

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My Thoughts on the Wii U

Nintendo's next generation system, called the Wii U, is the first of the eight generation systems to release in stores. But is it worth your money? Or should you pass it up for another system?

Simply put: No! Do not neglect the Wii U, just because the other systems have more power. The Wii U has so many features and upgrades to it, that you'll definitely want to try it! Let's take an examination of each of the important aspects as to what makes a console a good console:

1. Hardware

The Wii U's hardware is pretty much a mixture between a PS3 and a Wii. On one hand, you have the online functionality and graphics of the PS3 and the Nintendo innovation of the Wii. The two mix very well, taking my favorite parts of the last generation's systems. Top that off with an innovative way to play games, the off-TV play, and you've got possibly the best hardware in gaming thus far!

The off-TV play is much more useful than you might think. Having the Wii U for about a year now, my family and I have used the off-TV play function about as much as the normal function. It's very useful if someone wants to watch the game or their soap operas or even play another system. When someone wants to play our PS3, I can easily play Wii U while they're playing on the pad, which leads to less frustration. Sony tries to mimic this with the PS Vita, but the PS4 and Vita together cost about $400 more than a Wii U.

It also comes with bonus features such as Nintendo TV and Miiverse. I want to talk specifically about Miiverse, because I think it's one of the best additions to the Wii U. Miiverse is an online community where users can talk about any games that are on Wii U. It has a strict policy that doesn't allow vulgar language or anything sexually explicit. This is especially nice for people like me who can't play online due to foul-mouths. However, I should mention that certain communities find it easier to get away with things than others.

The battery life has been criticized, but I don't think it's a big deal. Though it is short, it can be plugged in and charged at any time, without it needing the system on (I'm looking at you PS3!).

2. Graphics

Simply put, the graphics to the Wii U are beautiful! Their slightly better than the PS3 and Xbox 360's, but with Nintendo's talent, they outshine them significantly. NintendoLand, which comes with the Deluxe bundle, has better graphics than anything I've seen on either PS3 or Xbox 360! What took Sony and Microsoft about six years was accomplished by Nintendo in one try! Now it's true that games such as New Super Mario Bros. U don't really push the hardware's limits, but even still, games like The Wind Waker HD and Sonic Lost World show that this system contains some of the best graphics out there.

3. Power

Okay, it's true: the Wii U has the power of the last two systems, while the PS4 and Xbox One have significantly more power. To me though, that doesn't matter. One of my favorite games, LittleBigPlanet 2, had almost infinite possibilities, and that was on a PS3's power. True, there were a few things that could have been improved, but for the most part, it was nearly limitless. Adding as much power as the PS4 and Xbox One does seems to be pointless. Games can't get much better. That is, unless they become more expensive. At the same time, Nintendo has won several game-of-the-year awards on Wii (which has significantly less power than the PS3 and Xbox 360). With the power of the Wii U, Nintendo seems to be even more open to making even higher quality games than before!

4. Games

Possibly the most important, the Wii U's game line-up is the best of the three next-gen systems. Though it's launch line-up started a bit slow, the Wii U's line-up has been increasing with some of the most varied games out there. PS4 and Xbox One both focus more on the shooter type genre than anything, while the Wii U features shooters, platformers, racers, kid-friendly, and mature games of the like. Unlike the Wii, the Wii U features great family games like Mario and Wii Party, while also featuring mature games like Assassin's Creed and Batman. Speaking of which, the third-party support is also a lot better than it was on Wii. Not to even mention that the next Smash Bros. and Zelda are coming out soon on Wii U.

I should also note that the Wii U is the only next-generation system that has backwards compatibility. I really wish that the PS4 or the Xbox One could play PS3 or Xbox 360 games. Sadly, this isn't the case. I know that the Xbox One can play 360 games if you have the 360 hooked up to it, but I'm referring to without the aid of another system. Thanks to this ability, you could download all your Wii game files into the Wii U and sell your Wii, saving you even more money.

The Verdict

If you're trying to decide which of the eighth-generation systems you should get, your first choice should be Wii U. Though it might not have as much power as the other two, the Wii U just has the best amount of content and variety for the cheapest price! I'm not saying that you shouldn't get a PS4 or an Xbox One, but rather that this is probably the best option of the three.

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Capcom 30th Anniversary Character Encyclopedia

So many video game developers and manufacturers have come and gone since I have starting playing games on my Commodore 64 and Atari 2600. Capcom is celebrating its 30th anniversary and have released an encyclopedia containing over 200 characters from their lesser known and popular video games alike. Many are familiar with their Street Fighter and Megaman games. Other popular series include Resident EvilDevil May Cry, Monster Hunter, and Viewtiful Joe. Looking though this encyclopedia I saw several games that were only available in Japan or in the arcade.

Since I have not spent too much time at arcades, I wasn't familiar with arcade exclusive games like Battle Circuit, Red Earth, Cyber Bots: Fullmetal Madness, Three Wonders, or Varth Operation Thunderstorm. Power Stone simultaneously came out on arcade and on the DreamCast (never owned one) in 2000. PSP owners can play the Power Stone collection that was released in 2006. Pirate Ship Higemaru was a Japanese arcade game that is now playable in the Capcom Arcade Cabinet collection on PSN and XBLA. 

Many games have memorable characters and this encyclopedia has bios on the main characters, supporting characters, bosses and ship specifications for games lacking characters. Each character has a dedicated page that shows their unique (and sometimes revealing for both males and females!) artwork and stats like their weapon of choice, height and weight. The character biography mentions how the character fights and how they change (if ever) throughout the series. I like how it mentions the game they first appeared in along with subsequent re-appearances. Many of the classic NES games like 1942 and Ghosts and Goblins are currently still playable on PSN, XBLA, or Wii Virtual Console. 

The book quality with the hard cover and pages is good. While the asking price is $16.99, I have seen this for less than $11 on Amazon. Chances are you may be spending more than that after being reminded of Capcom classics that need to be added to your collection. As I was writing this, my husband was pricing out the remainder of Breath of Fire series that we do not own...

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Risk Plants Vs. Zombies Collector's Edition

box

While the game of Risk has been around for decades, I have not played the game until it got the Plants Vs. Zombies makeover.  Instead of global domination, the Plants Vs. Zombies  version focuses on suburban domination.  Who cannot snicker at a suburb named Breakwind Butte?   One side of the game board is shaped like a brain and many of the suburb names play on that with names like Sierra Bella Park, Mount Brainer and Pituitary Glen.  There are color coded regions that give your army a bonus if you have control of all of the suburbs in that region.    The other side of the game board has the lawn backdrop from Plants Vs Zombies.    This side of the board accommodates the exclusive tower defense version of the game.   In this version of the game, victory is granted to the zombies if they make it across the yard or the plants if they are completely annihilated.  In the classic game mode you can win by eliminating your opponent's army or by completing three of the mission objectives.  

I like how this game gives you two basic training scenarios for beginners and an advanced one for increased difficulty.   One departure from the classic game of Risk is that this edition of the game is limited to two players.  One player plays as pea shooters while the other player controls brown coat zombies.  The board's regions are guarded by garden gnomes that are an enemy to both sides.  The zombies use three grey dice while the plants utilize three green ones.  Each team has a stack of faction cards that can aide in invasions or be traded in for units.  The cards seem to be of decent quality and the garden gnome and station wagon markers are made of cardboard.   My only complaint with the construction of the game is that holders for the pieces (instead of relying on the plastic bags they came in), would have been nice.  

The instruction manual is colorful and easy to read and understand.  It offers some good suggestions to increase or decrease the game's difficulty.  The suggested age range is 10+ and given the complexity of the game and rules, I think that's an accurate recommendation.  If you know anyone that enjoys either Risk or Plants Vs. Zombies, this game is worth checking out.  I have seen it online for less than $30 and you'll get hours of enjoyment out of it.


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The Little Mermaid Diamond Edition (Blu-ray, DVD, Digital Copy)

I remember seeing this movie when it first came out in 1989.  My cousin owned the VHS copy with the controversial cover art and we watched and enjoyed it many times.  The story remains unchanged and is about a teen-aged mermaid that's in love with the outside world and a prince whom she rescued.  Despite her father's orders, she makes a deal with a witch to exchange her voice for some legs and must woo him in three days or be turned into a hideous sea creature.  There's plenty of humor to be seen as Ariel tries to understand the outside world.  Her crab friend Sebastian is close to her side and sings some pretty catchy tunes including the popular "Under the Sea" and "Kiss the Girl".    I like how the Diamond Edition includes a "Crab-E-Oke" sing along when ever the movie is paused for the inevitable potty breaks.  The voice for Sebastian is different but sounds close enough.  Another new extra is Carly Rae Jepson's music video and rendition of "Part of Your World".  All of the previous DVD extras are bundled in as well.  The video quality has been further restored compared to the 2006 platinum DVD copy we own and the 7.1 speaker support is another welcome feature. For those who have not owned the Little Mermaid in disc format, this is a worthy purchase.   

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Etrian Odyssey Untold: The Millennium Girl (3DS) Preview & Unboxing

Etrian Odyssey Untold: The Millennium Girl is a new game from Atlas in the hardcore Etrian Odyssey series.  This title is actually a remake of the first game, with a whole lot of enhancements.

For those new to the series (like I was before playing this game), it is a first person dungeon crawler RPG, similar to the rather old school Wizardry games from the 80s.  With a fair amount of modernization, and a Japanese flair.

One of the things those older games required was meticulously careful hand drawn maps.  To celebrate this, the Etrian Odyssey series uses the DS's bottom screen and requires you to draw your own.  It's rather ingenious, honestly.  For a hardcore RPG lover, it's a dream come true.

I am about half-way through this game, and I have done almost nothing else but play it non stop (besides work and family, of course) for about a month now.  It is just incredibly long, with a ton of content.  I would estimate at least 60 hours before I am done, at this rate.  It is also incredibly challenging at the higher difficulty levels.  (Picnic isn't for 'real' gamers.  ;))

This game is rated 'T', and I think it deserves that rating.  I have seen the use of the words 'D*mn' and 'H*ll' used in both text and voice-overs.  There is also alcohol and tobacco use, and the player can choose drink alcohol in certain story events.  There are also a few characters who wear revealing clothing, though thankfully not player characters.  The game even makes fun of the fact that female warriors would wear armor... by poking fun at a lady who joins you for a quest who wears skimpy outfits.  You have the option to ask her if she is cold.  :)  It's also somewhat of a repeating gag, as well.  I have enjoyed the banter of the characters quite a bit so far.

When you get the digital copy of the game, naturally, you only get the game, and cannot share.  This isn't as bad as it sounds, since the game has only one save slot, but that's still the case.  One thing to point out, though, is that digital 3DS games can backup their saves to SD card via the official firmware feature.  So that can actually be a pretty handy perk that makes the digital version worth considering.

On the other hand, the physical copy, especially for pre-orders and first-run purchasers, do get a pretty nice perk as well.  While I always enjoy having something I can hold in my hand when it comes to games (old fashioned, I know), they also give you a neat, if a bit short, picture book, and also an audio CD!  I have always been a huge fan of game music since I was a kid, and I still am.  My poor kids... anyway, I really enjoy the music in this game, and the samples included on the CD are really well done.  It's not a full OST, sadly, but what is included is all music I have enjoyed quite a bit from the game so far.

So, without further adieu, here are the pics:

Etrian Odyssey Untold box

 

Etrian Odyssey Untold opened

 

Etrian Odyssey Untold cd

There is a demo of this game on the 3DS eShop available, and any progress you make can be trransferred to the full game, so there is little risk checking it out.  If you are curious, I would say it is worth it!  I expect a full review to come sometime next month.

 

IBJamon

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Littlest Pet Shop Petacular Escapades

All of my kids, including my son enjoyed this five episode DVD collection.  While my kids are too young to understand crushes and how embarrassing parents can be to teenagers, they still enjoyed the silly slapstick humor.   The first episode focuses on Sunil's psychic abilities to help Blythe reunite with her crush to give him his keys back. The rest of the episodes were harmless and taught lessons like being yourself and not envying another's person's life/blessings over your own.  

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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