Fables Vol. 2: Animal Farm.

I recently got my tax return back from the government (yay monies!) and like a responsible adult I put most of the money into savings. However, I did allow myself to splurge and bought the next four volumes of the Fables comic series.

I’m going to give an overview of what I think of each volume as I read them. I hesitate to call it “reviewing” the comics, because I have no prior knowledge on which to base a comic book review. Just think of it as me, sharing my newb comic-book-readin’ thoughts as I start getting into my first series.

From what I can tell, each volume seems to have a very distinct focus. I’m not sure if this is common in comic books, but it seems like it makes sense. IT’S ALMOST AS IF THEY PLANNED IT.

Anywho, Volume 1 followed the story of Red Rose’s mysterious disappearance (for those that missed it, catch up here).

Volume 2 is all about the animals, and not in a way PETA would be happy about.

The cover art for Fables Vol. 2: Animal Farm. Red Rose looks preeetty badass. Image courtesy of http://thesleeplessreader.com/2011/01/25/fables-volume-2345-by-bill-willingham/

The cover art for Fables Vol. 2: Animal Farm. Red Rose looks preeetty badass. Image courtesy of thesleeplessreader.com.

Snow White is again our leading lady, and we find her about to embark on her annual visit to “The Farm”. All the Fables who can’t live among the “mundies” (ie: mundanes, muggles, humans) agreed to reside on a large farm in upstate New York. Because White is Deputy Mayor of Fabletown, she makes these visits to make sure all is well up at the farm.

Since Rose Red has been causing so much trouble lately, White decides to force her sister to accompany her on this trip as part of her community service. Rose, being the hard-core rebel that she is, whines and complains the whole way there.

The car ends up breaking down just as the travelers get inside the boundaries of The Farm. As they figure out their car troubles, White finds something disturbing on the side of the road: shotgun shells. GASP. Why would anyone be using guns on Fable land, White ponders. SOMETHING IS NOT RIGHT.

They finally arrive at the Farm, which basically looks like a bunch of fairy-tale settings, patched together. It definitely has that “cult-commune” feeling to it.

White ends up stumbling in on a suspicious meeting the farm-dwelling Fables are holding in the barn. She demands to know what’s going on. Why is are they holding an unsanctioned meeting, and where is the Farm’s leader?

The animals are able to placate White, and cover up their odd-behavior. For being a few hundred years old, and having seen the things she’s seen, you’d think Snow White would be a little harder to fool.

Basically Snow White ends up banging around with her eyes closed, whilst Red Rose secretly joins forces with the animal Fables who are planning an uprising! How exciting! The animals are sick of being trapped on the Farm, and want to return to the Homelands (their original fairy-tale lands).

But, as we come to find out, it’s not all fun and games. Things get a little … bacon-y when one of the Three Little Pigs doesn’t accomplish his mission for the revolution. And who knew Goldilocks would turn out to be such a good shot?

I had complicated feelings about this volume, because the Fables are pitted against each other (well, as complicated as feelings get about a comic). I didn’t really know who’s side I was on; weren’t they all the good guys in my childhood bed-time stories?

Also: I think Bill Willignham (writer) could have toned down the overt-references to the “literary symbol”. I couldn’t tell if he was trying to poke fun at it, or if he just thought comic-book readers just wouldn’t know a literary reference when they saw it. Either way, I was a little insulted as a reader. I don’t like when things are dumbed-down.

However, that really was the only thing I disliked about this volume. Overall, it was a fun read. It was interesting to meet new characters; see new settings; and uncover more mysteries of Fabletown! There were parts that were predictable and cheesy, but there were other parts that made me gasp (for real).

So far, I seem to like when Fables is focused on more serious moments and I just move along when it’s trying to be funny. One thing that is consistent: the art is very engaging. I love looking at the detailed drawings. If I keep enjoying the art, I’ll probably keep reading.

On a slightly different note: It’s hard to write my thoughts without giving a TON away — I would hate to take away the experience of reading it for the first time from you. So hopefully, I’ve found a happy medium. Leave me some comments on your thoughts if you’ve read it! We could have… like… an online comic book club! Like Oprah’s book club, except better. Cool. I’m glad we had this talk.

-Astro

Astro WordPress Sig

Advertisements

I believe in Gurren Lagann.

Finally, I had a week that wasn’t jam-packed with plans, thus I was able to finish watching the anime I started before the holidays: Gurren Lagann.

I know, I know, I’m a little behind the times (as usual) — Gurren Lagann originally aired its 27 episodes in 2007. Each episode only runs about 25 minutes. Twenty-seven episodes at 25 minutes each is puny compared to other shows; it’s truly remarkable what the writers were able to cover in that short amount of time.

Gurren Lagann is a mecha anime, which means it involves a lot of robots/machines.

The story takes place on Earth, where all humans have been forced to live underground by creatures called “beastmen” and their ruler, the Spiral King. In the first episode we meet two of the main characters: Simon and Kamina. Simon is a digger in his subterranean village — drilling away at the earth for hours on end. Kamina is the village “bad boy” who always talks about escaping to the surface, to follow in the path of his father. If you imagine your average bro (which funnily enough is what Simon calls him in the show) that’s pretty much Kamina’s character.

Simon is just sad kid, with not much going for him at the beginning of the show. But his fate is changed when he finds a small, glowing drill pendant and Gunman buried deep in the Earth. Gunman are the machines that the beastmen have used to repress the humans.

Simon ends up using the Gunman and the drill pendant (which activates the Gunman) to defend his village against a giant Gunman that falls through the ceiling. Along with the giant Gunman, a girl named Yoko falls into their village as she too tries to take down the enemy. Simon and Kamina, along with Yoko, defeat the giant Gunman. At that point, Kamina names Simon’s Gunman “Lagann”.

Yoko tells Simon and Kamina about the war that’s been raging on the surface between humans that have escaped their underground villages and the Gunman controlled by the beastmen. Yoko is surprised a human could pilot a Gunman, as it was believed that only beastmen could control them. Kamina decides that the three of them should go to the surface with Lagann to help defend the humans.

Yoko, Kamina, and Simon with the flag for "Team Gurren". Photo courtesy of wallpapervortex.com.

Yoko, Kamina, and Simon with the flag for “Team Gurren”. Image courtesy of wallpapervortex.com.

All of that happens in the first one or two episodes. So you can imagine how fast-paced this show is. Rather than spoiling everything for you, I figured I just list the things I like/disliked about the show:

The Good

– It’s fast. I know I’ve already mentioned it, but it was nice to watch an entire show and not feel like I’ve wasted days of my life (Dawson’s Creek anyone?) I also liked that I didn’t have to wait very long to answer questions I had about the Gurren Lagann world.

– The story is interesting and I never knew where it was headed next.

– I found myself really caught up in the characters — you become very attached to them, and feel the pain when they suffer. They really encompass a large spectrum of human emotion including depression, love, hate, jealousy, and lust.

– The animation is very good. I enjoyed the well-done style of the show. The last few episodes were the best part in this aspect. I was wondering if they were going to show the “god-like” villain at the end — and if they did show him, how were they going to do it? Well, they did show him, and it was really cool!

The Bad

– The way they presented Yoko (the main female character). I know it’s a mecha anime, probably geared towards boys/men, but I was disappointed with the way they sexed- up Yoko ALL THE TIME. I mean, most animes do this, but I thought it was over-the-top in Gurren Lagann. There were SO many shots of Yoko’s bursting bust and butt. She was still a badass character — but she would have been better for me with less in-your-face boob-age.

– There was way too much yelling. I’m pretty sure the characters yelled at each other for about five minutes straight every episode. Every time they battled EVERYTHING WAS SAID AS IF IT WAS WRITTEN IN ALL CAPS (I think that’s how the voice actor’s scripts were written).

The Ugly

This guy:

Attenborough Cortitch

Attenborough Cortitch. That one button sure did make a lot happen! Image courtesy of DiviantArt.

This post is already huge, and I didn’t even really get into the story. So much happens, you really should just check it out for yourself. The show was great — and had some encouraging messages about believing in yourself.

“Don’t believe in the me that believes in you, believe in the you that believes in you.” – Kamina

Keep nerdin’ on.

– Astro

Astro WordPress Sig

Why my heart belongs to Harvest Moon.

What do you get when you combine agriculture, farm animals, friendly townsfolk, and video games?

If you guessed Harvest Moon, 10,000 Internet points for you!

The Harvest Moon series is one of my favorites; I love it and can’t seem to get enough! All in all there are about 25 Harvest Moon games and spin-offs, so chances are if you play video games you’ve maybe run into one or two at some point in your gaming career. If you are a weirdo like me, you own most of the games.

Astro's Harvest Moon collection.

My lovely Harvest Moon collection.

In all of the Harvest Moon games, you play a character that moves to a new town and has decided to start a farm. There are many different story lines, from your grandpa dying and wanting you to take over the farm, to you needing to save the town from extinction.

The original game, titled ‘Harvest Moon’, was released for SNES in 1997. Though I have played it, sadly this is one of the Harvest Moon games I don’t own (it’s pretty pricey and my dad won’t give me his SNES).

The next game, and the one many more people have actually played, was ‘Harvest Moon 64’ which came out for the Nintendo 64 in 1999. This version of the game is often a fan-favorite because it involved interesting townsfolk and dating! Your character (a male) could woo the girl of his dreams, marry her, and have a child.

Farming  and raising livestock has always been a major part of the game-play. Interacting with the townsfolk is another staple in the series. In some of the spin-offs, the ‘Rune Factory’ series, you can fight monsters, which you can also capture and raise on your farm!

My most recent acquisition was ‘Harvest Moon: A New Beginning for the 3DS’ (which I will probably do a review of once I’ve put in a few more hours of play-time, but so far I like it).

I’ve been thinking a lot about what it is exactly that makes these games so addicting and enjoyable for me (and, I’m assuming, other people like them too since they keep making them). I mean, basically you are doing chores the entire game and there’s a lot of repetition — what’s fun about that?

I had a friend once who told me he liked to play Harvest Moon because it was so relaxing. That idea really stuck with me and I’ve come to realize that I felt the same way. Harvest Moon games always take place in peaceful village where life is so simple. It definitely is a form of escapism.

There’s also a very strong feeling of gratification when you accomplish something in a Harvest Moon game. You spend two weeks (in-game time) to grow a crop, then you finally get to ship it and make a profit to buy a cow. Then you raise that cow, feeding and brushing it everyday, for at least a month (in-game time again) until one day you can milk it! These small accomplishments can make you feel happy for the rest of the day (IRL).

I also really enjoy the interactions with the townsfolk, bachelors, and bachelorettes! Again, it takes a lot of in-game time and dedication to get these people to like you, but it’s fun to unlock special cut-scenes, and conversations as you get to know different characters better.

Harvest Moon is a happy world, where happy thing happen (most of the time) and it makes you feel good when you play it.

But, perhaps I simply love Harvest Moon because I’ve been playing it for so long. When my brother and I were kids, he was helping me pick out a Gameboy Color game at Target one day. He pointed out ‘Harvest Moon 2 GB’ through the glass display case and said, “You’d probably love that game, there are cute animals in it.”

And boy, he was right on the mark.

-Astrobright

Astro WordPress Sig

Are hard-copies on the way out?

There’s been a lot of talk recently about the rumors surrounding the next-generation of consoles from Microsoft and Sony. Sony released the video below announcing a press conference on February 20th. Few solid details have arisen as to what the conference is going to be about, but most people believe they are announcing the “PS4” (not the official name, but what everyone is calling it at the moment).

As you can see, the teaser gives anxious gamers little-to-no information. However, the rumors are flying. Engadget summarized what has been making it’s way through the rumor mill. And VGLeaks has published this article about their specs predictions for the PS4.

The biggest rumor that has everyone talking is how both Sony and Microsoft have been considering going disc-less with these new systems.

Apparently the lords of the console industry are going to make it so you must have an internet connection to play games. When I first heard this, I thought, “Well, it will suck to not be able to play games if the internet goes down.” After reading more opinions, I’m more concerned with losing the ability to sell and trade games.

Gamers and retailers alike will feel the impact  of such a change. In a few years game shops will become practically irrelevant if everyone can only buy games online. As a gamer on a budget, I would have to be much more choosy about which games I purchase, knowing that I couldn’t re-sale them.

I currently have a Steam account, which is a site where you can purchase, download, and play a variety of games. This is essentially what Sony is attempting to do, except through the PS4 rather than a PC.

Many of the games on Steam are PC-only. But I own a few that are cross-console games, which I chose to buy on Steam rather than buy a hard-copy. Skyrim would be a prime example of this.

Skyrim: The land of dragons and stuff. Image courtesy of http://skyrimhub.blogspot.com/2011/12/top-5-skyrim-screenshots.html

Skyrim: The land of dragons and stuff. Image courtesy of skyrimhub.blogspot.com.

When Skyrim was released, I decided to get it on PC because my computer could play the game at a much higher level of quality than my Xbox 360. Not to mention, it would allow for me to mod the game if I wanted to (there’s probably a way to modify games on consoles, but I’ve never looked into it).

I was actually at a Skyrim party at my friend’s house during the midnight release of the game. While my pals  who were on their 360s were getting attacked by a dragon in the opening scene, I spent an hour dealing  with several server issues. This was probably due to everyone and their uncle trying to get Skyrim downloaded on Steam at the same time.

Despite these troubles, I would still buy Skyrim through Steam all over again. There are certain times when there are more advantages to buying a game online (better graphics, mods, ect). However, there is definitely something lost when you buy any media product via the Internet and only get to experience it digitally.

I still have several of the boxes and cases for games I bought years ago. It’s fun to go back and look at them, read the silly instructional booklets, and display them in my apartment to awe my guests with my nerd-cred. But, I’m starting to think hard-copies are soon going to be a thing of the past.

-Astro

Astro WordPress Sig

Sometimes the comic chooses the nerd.

Over the weekend Bale and I (and a few other friends) went on a road trip to Minnesota. Bale talks more about the trip in her post.

While we were in downtown Minneapolis, we stumbled across this little comic book shop and decided to check it out.

Having been in one or two comic shops before, I felt like this particular shop had a really good vibe.

The dude who was working was very helpful. I sort of felt  like I was in Ollivanders wand shop when he fluttered around his shop looking for the comic that would be the perfect fit. Does the comic choose the nerd? Anyways, he grabbed us 5 or 6 selections and out of those I picked out ‘FABLES Legends in Exile’ written by Bill Willingham. The art was really cool, but it was the concept of the comic that drew me in.

FABLES Vol 1

My copy of FABLES: Legends in Exile.

FABLES takes place in modern-day New York City. The story is about fairy tale characters that were driven out of their Homelands and forced to live in our world. Ever since I was young, I’ve had a deep love of fairy tales. When I was a teenager, I loved reading “spin off” fairy tale novels. It seemed very fitting that I should kick-off my comic collection with something I’ve liked for a long time.

I finished reading this first volume of the FABLES series last night. I believe it includes the first five comics that were released beginning in 2002. The story was intriguing from the first few pages — mainly because the reader already  knows the back story of the characters.

Snow White and the Bigby Wolf are the two of the main characters in this volume. White is the Director of Operations for the Fables (the term used for fairy tale characters) that now live in NYC. They have a magical apartment building, called the Woodland which serves as the headquarters for Fabletown (their new society on Earth). Many of the “humanoid” Fables live in the Woodland. The animal Fables (think: the three little pigs) live on a farm upstate and aren’t allowed to venture into the human world. There is one rule that all the Fables need to live by: don’t reveal the truth about who they are.

Bigby Wolf is a down-trodden security officer for Fabletown. The story starts off when Jack, from Jack and the Beanstalk, comes running into Wolf’s office and reports that he thinks his girlfriend, Red, has been kidnapped or murdered.

Wolf gets to use his best investigative skills to solve the mystery of Red’s disappearance — with a little help from Snow White.

Throughout the comic you are introduced to several well-known fictional characters: Beauty and the Beast, Old King Cole, Bluebeard the pirate, Prince Charming, and even Pinocchio. My favorite aspect of the comic so far is seeing how these characters deal with living in our world. Beauty and Beast have money troubles; Prince Charming is a con-artist who pries on woman; and Pinocchio just wants to grow up.

A lot of questions about how these characters ended up here, and how they are all “frozen in time” are answered in the dialogue. There is a lot of depth to the story, and I can see it going in many directions in future volumes.

I’m definitely going to keep reading this series, I loved it! It truly was the perfect starter for someone who knows very little about the vast world of comic books.

Till next time,

Astro

Astro WordPress Sig

Streaming: Part DEUX.

Astro's stream 2

Sometimes my cat meows at the most inopportune moments … like when I’m trying to stream Settlers of Catan.

You see, the other night I gave online video game streaming another shot. It was only my second attempt using the programs to live stream. Let’s just say it went … badly. So I suppose at this point cute animals can only help my streaming career.

20130202-144904.jpg

My cat’s christian name is Oliver (I’m the & Company), but he goes by Kit.

Kit enjoys sitting on my lap when I use my desktop. He’s a very vocal cat. When he wants your attention, he’ll meow at you until you pet him. He doesn’t care if you are trying to talk to your stream viewers (Kit’s very self-absorbed). But maybe he’s just trying to “make it” in the world of internet cats.

Regardless of his motives, I think Kit stole the show when it came to my second stream. I ran into several technical difficulties, which distracted me, thus causing me to do poorly in all three games.

When I started out, I couldn’t get the mic to work. After adjusting different settings for about 20 minutes, I had to call the boy (who’s been streaming for quite some time) to ask what I was doing wrong. Turns out every time I unplug the mic, I have to re-selected it in Windows.

Once I got the mic working, I finally got a game of Catan going. Streaming Catan is tricky, because I’m playing other real people online. Apparently they all have very important things to do IRL and don’t like to be kept waiting. The version I play online opens several different windows, so I have to wait until I’m actually in the game to set up the streaming window for the game through Open Broadcast. I end up having to do it as quickly as possible so my opponents don’t get impatient and try to spite me the rest of the game (which does happen).

Setting up the stream window for the game quickly is difficult with a large cat sitting in your lap.

Then when I finally was playing and stream and petting Kit, I had other issues with Chrome crashing during the middle of games. Awesome! I’m not really sure what I could do to fix this issue, other than restart Chrome (if anyone has any tips on this, let me know).

By my final game, I was tired and ended up not having much to say to my viewers. I think I’m definitely in the running for the worst stream of all time.

But, I’m determined to get better at it. My goal is to stream at least twice a week. I think I’m going to try a game that doesn’t involve live players. If anyone has a suggestion for a game, leave it in the comments below!

If you are interested in watching part of the debacle that I’m officially calling: “Streaming: Part DEUX – Going down on a sinking ship” you can check it out here.

As always, thanks for reading.

Oh yeah, and Kit says, “meow” (Google translation: “hi”).

Love,

Astro

Astro WordPress Sig

Catan: A history.

My freshman year of college, I was introduced to what was to become my favorite board game of all time: The Settlers of Catan.

http://www.catan.com/game/settlers-catan

Greatest board game ever? Greatest board game ever. Image courtesy of www.catan.com.

I lived on the top floor of the tallest dorm on campus. There was a study lounge on one end of the floor. It was in this study lounge where some guys on my floor played Catan. They would get together for game nights a couple times a week (so… not much studying was getting done in the “study” lounge, hah).

One day, I saw them playing and asked what game it was. I’d never seen a game with such an odd-looking setup. They told me it was called Settlers of Catan and invited me to play with them. After teaching me the basics, we started playing. It was a while ago, so I don’t remember the exact setup I had during that first game, but I do remember winning. Call it beginners luck, or call it fate, but I was hooked.

We spent many nights playing Catan in that little study lounge. We would bring snacks we’d taken from the cafeteria and wear our coziest sweatpants, and spend hours playing. Players can decide to have the board change every game if they want, which makes it new every time. This is probably one of the biggest reasons why I never get tired of playing it!

The main goal in Settlers of Catan is to get 10 victory points. You attain victory points by building various structures on the island of Catan. Every player is a certain color, and basically you are trying to settle Catan faster than everyone else. In order to build new roads, settlements and cities, you need to gather resources. The five resources consist of wood, sheep, ore, wheat and brick. Different combinations of resources are used to build things. For example, with two ore and three wheat, you can build yourself a bustling little city on the island of Catan.

DSC_0091

My much-loved (and used) Catan game!

The entire board is made up of hexagons, with each hexagon being a resource. There’s a number token placed on the resource, and when that number is rolled (the sum of two dice), anyone with a settlement or city built on that hexagon receives that resource. Each game can differ based on where the resources and number tokens are.

Settlers of Catan has a good balance of strategy and luck. You need to know where to build your settlements and cities, but you also need to get your numbers rolled.

After I played Catan for a few years (and probably talked about it way to much) my parents got me the board game and the expansion for Christmas. Once I owned the game, I would try to play with everyone I knew, especially if they had never heard of the game before. It is my mission to spread my love of Catan!

I found an online version of the game that I love playing called Xplorers. It is somewhat of a knock-off version of the game, but I think it’s far better than the certified online Catan game. The graphics are simple, but there are so many different scenarios to choose from. I play online almost every day (it’s very addicting, and much faster than playing the board game IRL). Unfortunately, they are no longer accepting new users on the site I play on. If you are reading and interested in seeing how the site works, follow us on twitter to find out when I’ll be streaming next! If you ever see me streaming Catan, which I hope to do more in the near future, it’s through this site, which can be found here.

Look for future posts about my strategy for the game – which could help you if you are new to the game. However, if you are unlucky there’s not much even this nerdmaid can do to help.

– Astrobright

Astro WordPress Sig

P.S. Does anyone know if mermaids are even considered lucky?