Tekko 2016 Review: Friday Part 1

Another year has come and another Tekko has come to pass. The following two days will be our standard post-convention review; this time for Tekko 2016! We generally have too much setting up and preparation to do to attend the first day of Tekko, Thursday, which is generally just a video day. So we’ll be discussing Friday, Saturday, and Sunday’s affairs both fun and not-so-fun.

We had some panels to run this year and our first one was 3:30pm on Friday, so we planned to get there by 2:00pm to make sure we had time to register, meet with Con Ops to get set up and get to the panel room in time to set up and get the first set of jittery nerves out of the way.

We actually wound up being exhausted from Thursday’s work and I managed to pull a muscle in my back after the vacuum cleaner broke while trying to vacuum the steps. So…we went to bed early Thursday evening and wound up waking up super early Friday, so we actually got in around noon. We got our badges; we preregistered so it took about five minutes to get through.

We did the Premium Badge again this year and one thing I have to say is that the Premium goody bag…kind of sucked. It had a nifty little portable speaker in it, but other than that it was just some marketing materials from Funimation in a DBZ bag…and the bag was about an inch too short because the posters in the bag cut the hell out of my fingers while trying to carry the bag. No treats or anything like that.

'Bluetooth' is not a state of mind.

‘Bluetooth’ is not a state of mind.

The speaker was a nifty little toy, much like the battery backup devices they doled out last year, but the whole thing just seemed so half-assed compared to last year. Especially since it was downright fraudulent in its labeling. The box says “Bluetooth Speaker”, but it’s not Bluetooth; it’s not even remotely wireless. The directions clearly say you have to plug the silly thing into the device you want to play from. The only thing ‘wireless’ about it was that you can plug it in and charge it and then play from it on battery power; but it’s certainly not Bluetooth.

At least it looks cool...shame it's almost useless to me.

At least it looks cool…shame it’s almost useless to me.

I don’t know if this year’s stuff was sucky or last year’s was just that awesome. Either way, we were disappointed in the goody bag.

So on to actually getting into the convention. We roamed around a bit and tried to gain our bearing and figure out how the building was set up this year. We checked in with Con Ops and took a sweep through the Premium Lounge.

Allow me to digress for a moment. A few years ago when we looked at getting the Premium badges, we saw that one of the features was access to the ‘Premium Lounge’. A little place where Premium badge holders could go to sit around and waste away the time.

We thought that was just the stupidest little idea. Who would go to a con just to sit around and maybe watch a live-feed of whatever was going on in the main event stage? Is that worth the extra money? No way.

Fast-forward to the first time we got the Premium badges after the lounge was founded…

Dog-lounging-around

…god damn do we spend a lot of time in that lounge, now. It’s a great little place to unwind in between things. Got a panel at 7 and another at 9? Hit the lounge from 8-8:30 to unwind and stock up on complimentary bottles of water; you’ll need ’em for all that talking in the panel.

Anyway, back to the review at hand! We figured that we had some time to kill so we watched the first Nancy Kepner show in the lounge. Nancy can be a little awkward at times, but she’s a nerd musician in a room full of nerds; she was probably the least awkward person in that room. Nancy’s sweet and adorable, though, and she’s got some hilarious songs. The wife really enjoys her Yaoi Song and her Crossplay Song. I always enjoy the Weeabo Song and this year every time the wife and I passed the J-Pop Music vendors in the Dealer’s Room we would turn to each other and sing the chorus of her Sexy Asian’s Dancing Song.

Once the show was over we headed to the Tekkou Gakkou room where our first panel would be…in about an hour or two. We sat in on the Sides of the Spectrum: LGBT in Anime panel. They discussed a few anime we weren’t familiar with, but didn’t flood it with spoilers, so that was nice.

The opening of the panel was informative and I’m sure we could have gotten more out of it if we were more familiar with the anime they referenced. We got the Madohka and Sailor Moon references, but many of the other references were lost on us. Our fault, not theirs, really.

EastWest-Opening1

Click me to watch the East vs. West Panel Main video!

The next thing we did was set up for our own panel, East vs. West: Arms, Armor, and Lifestyles of the Knights of Europe and Samurai of Japan.

With this first review post we will begin debuting the videos of our panels. There are 5 videos in total, we decided to split them into 2 parts: Panel Main and Q&A, rather than split them into 10-minute mini-vids and then a full-on panel video as well. The exception is the final video which is about an hour long, but only has 8 minutes of Q&A, we just put the whole thing together in one video.

As this review is up here on Sunday, we will be releasing a video every day this week, culminating with the May Samurai Gaiden video ending the week on Friday. This month we’ll be talking about one of the guys I mentioned in the Samurai Mythconception panel and going a little more in-depth with his life. Come back again every day this coming week for more Tekko 2016 videos and reviews.

~RCS

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Tekko 2016 Update

Hey folks, just wanted to let you know what we’re up to what with all this quiet!

Ice cream of course; it's warm out again around here.

Ice cream of course; it’s warm out again around here.

I am in the process of editing the panel videos and they should be up somewhere within the week…ish.  I figure in the next few days I will start uploading them, then within a week or two they should all be up. The full written review should be up around that time, as well.

That’s…really all I had to say. Just wanted to give everyone a head’s up on that. Sorry everything’s taking so long.

~RCS

Tekko 2014 Review: Day 1 (Part 1)

As you all know I was very critical of Tekkoshocon a few years back. I decided to give the convention another chance this year. And that was a good decision. A lot of the problems they had before, they had fixed. Not to say there weren’t a few hiccups, something that big always will have something go wrong, but it was much better organized this year.

So here’s my complete review of Tekkoshocon 2014, starting with Day 1. Well, actually Day 2…we didn’t go to the Thursday events, opting to utilize the day for a set up period. So we’ll call Friday Day 1, for all intents and purposes.

 

First off we hit registration somewhere after noon. We had gotten the Premium Badges again this year, but our friend who went with us just got the regular badge. This opened her to a slew of jokes about abandoning her and going to the special Premium Lounge without her all weekend.

The Registration was something I had talked about before as being pretty poor, and it usually was every year. Getting the chance to go through Otakon’s registration was a delight…

This is the Premium Line?

This is the Premium Line?

So the last time I talked about Tekko registration I had mentioned I didn’t have any idea how to improve registration. Well the good news is somebody else must have, because Registration was a breeze. We Preemies…err, that’s a poor choice of name for that. Uhh…we…Snobby Cocksuckers?

I almost like Preemie better.

I almost like Preemie better.

Anyway, the Premium line was a simple process and we were done in about two minutes. Our friend didn’t even pre-register and she was still done with her regular badge in about fifteen minutes.

The last time we were at Tekko it took over half an hour for us to get through registration, and we pre-registered last time, too. So they’ve definitely hit a sweet spot with their registration set up this year. They need to keep doing whatever they did…it was over so quickly I couldn’t even be sure about what they were doing to make it go so smoothly. Ten points for Griff–Tekkoshocon 2014.

Anyway we had about an hour and a half to kill so we went to the Disney in Japan panel. The panel was basically an excuse to talk about the movie Frozen for half an hour. The first half was a lesson about Disneyland Japan from someone who had never been there; but she did have first-hand accounts from workers and visitors, so at least she knew something of what she was talking about. And she was very up front about her total lack of first-hand knowledge.

It was interesting and the last half of the panel was a comparison between American trailers and Japanese trailers for the movie Frozen, followed by a short discussion about the movie. Which I am plenty okay with; if you haven’t seen Frozen, yet, you really should. Children or not it’s a pretty awesome movie.

 

And that brings us to, what my wife calls, one of the best panels of the convention. The History Behind Sengoku Basara panel, hosted by yours truly and presented by Dickjutsu.com. Which I pointed out numerous times during the panel, because that was the whole point of the panel: To get paid to advertise this very site.

…okay, well actually that was only half of it. I really love talking about this stuff and it was a chance to get paid for talking about something that I care about deeply. Oh, and advertise the site, if I didn’t mention that already.

If I got a nickel for every time I used this picture...I'd use this picture a lot more.

If I got a nickel for every time I used this picture…I’d use this picture a lot more.

For those of you who came out to see it, I thank you. I hope you enjoyed listening to me talk at you as much as I enjoyed talking about Sengoku Japan. And my wife enjoyed it because I wasn’t directing all of my nerd air at her, alone…trapped with no recourse but to listen to me nerd-out, like usual.

...and then, when Oda Nobunaga was fifteen he...

…and then, when Oda Nobunaga was fifteen he…

 

Intermission

Now this is the point where I’d like to talk about dinner. It was at the Sharp Edge on Penn Avenue. That means it was delicious. We brought our friend to it, and indoctrinated her. Now everyone should go eat at the Sharp Edge– Wait a minute, I should charge advertising for how much I shill for that restaurant.

Can I at least a free pudding?

Can I at least get a free pudding?

Anyway, after dinner we headed back to the convention. This is already a step up from the last time we were there when we had dinner and decided we’d rather walk around Pittsburgh, even though it smelled like hobo semen, than go back to the convention.

So Tekko’s definitely making progress.

 

Back to the Story at Hand!

When we returned to the convention we went straight on to our second panel, the History Behind Dynasty Warriors. Like I mentioned before it was getting paid to talk about something I’m very passionate about and get some free advertising for the site.

Once again…thanks to those who came and I hope you enjoyed the panel.

Immediately after my panel was the Attitudes Toward Plus Size Cosplay panel, which was actually one of the bigger issues with scheduling. Normally all the panels had a 30 minute set up/tear down period, but there was no such period between my panel and theirs. I tried to get out of their way as quickly as possible, but oh well, a minor hiccup compared to the kind of stuff that used to happen at Tekko.

We decided to stay for the next panel and that was probably a mistake. The ladies handling the panel had a good idea, their premise was to stir debate about the attitudes toward plus size cosplay; hence the title of their panel, I imagine. A good idea. But they handled it poorly, especially when the debate broke out.

A small-framed young man stood up and shattered their whole plan by actually coming up with a counter-point and calling up a moment of hypocrisy in their suggestions.

All in all I can see both sides of the coin. What they were saying was right, but what he said was also right. He lacked tact, as far as he just stood up and called hem on their bullshit instead of going at it from a more diplomatic avenue. But when they accused him of not having a viable opinion in the debate on cosplay attitudes because he wasn’t a fat woman, she showed that she had even less tact than him.

We’ll be going into more detail on this later, but we’ll leave it at that for now. This post is about Tekko as a whole, not a rant on a single panel. I will say, however, that we got disgusted by the ladies running the panel when they singled the poor guy out and made fun of him…right as they started discussion on engaging with detractors and to always ignore them and take the high road. By the way, though, ignoring those who speak out against you…not a good policy for ‘starting a debate.’

Moving on we went to the Anime Horrors panel. But I’m sure you have something productive to do right now. So we’ll take a little break here and pick this up tomorrow. Your homework for next class is to like, share, and comment on this post. Haha, and you thought I could only shill for Sharp Edge–goddamnit I do need to charge for ad time.

~RCS

Tekko Review Update!

Thanks to everyone who came out to see us Tekkoshocon this year!  I hope you enjoyed our panels and, if you were one of the lucky few, our door prizes!

As it stands right now we intend to have a few more panels next year, overall we enjoyed Tekko this time, a lot of stuff I was critical about the last time we were there were fixed.

I intend to have a full review up in the coming week or so.

In the meantime, I’m also catching up on DotMs, so expect the September Dick of the Month tomorrow morning!

~RCS

Review of Epic

My fiancé and I took a trip down the theater yesterday and took in a new film, one called…Epic.  It is the story of a 17-year-old girl who is shrunk by mystical means and discovers a world of tiny humanoid creatures who inhabit the forest.  These humanoid creatures are split into two groups: Leafmen and Boggans.

Epic_(2013_film)_poster

The Leafman are tasked with protecting the forest and guarding the Forest Queen who maintains a balance between life and death, creating new life wherever death comes.  But the Boggans, led by their king named Mandrake, wish to see death encase everything in the forest.

Epic does not really live up to its title; it is pretty good, but certainly not ‘epic’.  Definitely worth a watch, but I would suggest waiting for the DVD, especially if you’re looking at taking smaller kids to it.  There are a lot of not-so-subtle undertones because of the hectic story which seems like the writers put all of their ideas on the table and decided, “Sonuvabitch, these are all so good…welp, we certainly can’t cut any of these things, let’s put them all in!”

7wqtd

All of them?!

As such, I really can’t say much about the storyline itself.  It’s pretty standard for a movie like this, although I will admit that since the Leafmen and Boggans are basically kind of insects they do let a few of the nameless fellows die; mostly by falling to their deaths from the back of winged beasts of burdens (usually hummingbirds, ravens, or bats).  Unusual for a kid’s movie, but still not exactly ground-breaking to kill off the nameless fodder.

Since the storyline’s nothing to talk about, I will concentrate on the characters in this review since ultimately…they are the reason you’re staying in that seat and watching the rest of this been there done that movie.’

So that being the case…there are some spoilers in the ensuing writing because this is quickly turning from a review and into a study of the characters of the movie.  So…fair warning, thar be spoilers in these ‘ere parts!

M.K.

Mary-Katherine, "M.K."

Mary-Katherine, “M.K.”

Mary-Katherine, who goes by MK, is a 17 year-old-girl who is sent to live with her father after her mother’s death.  It’s never stated what the death is caused by, but it is implied that it wasn’t a car accident or anything since MK speaks of what sounds like final words from her mother.MK starts the story off as a witty, but introverted girl in mourning who really doesn’t want to live with her workaholic, and somewhat crazy, father.  Although, slight spoiler…he’s not as crazy it seems (duh), and decides to just give living on her own a try.

This results, due to a three-legged, one-eyed, pug, in her getting lost in the woods and shrunk down to the size of the leafmen (two of whom she meets shortly after).

Once she comes to terms with her situation she spends some time being a touch damselly, but quickly becomes a verifiable support member of the team.  Considering one of the major morals of the movie is teamwork, it is refreshing to see the Leafmen welcome her into their fold so quickly and treat her kind of like an equal.  I often tire of children’s stories that talk of teamwork, but just a few moments later will exclude the main character because they’re an outsider.  Especially since the person excluding them is usually the person who talks the most about teamwork.  But that’s a discussion for another time.

All in all, even though she is the main character, she is always somewhat out of her element and therefore is always relegated to the supporting role of the team, or going solo and being a messenger of sorts.  She does brandish a sword at one point and it is made brutally clear she is not fit to wield it (she drags it across the room with all her energy and hands it off to a Leafman who picks it up with one hand, no strain).

But given her situation I feel that she is a pretty well-rounded character and she isn’t made extraordinarily damsel-like for the most part.  She is a good example of the person who uses their brains instead of brawn.

[Giant Spoiler!!  I warned you…!] Her decision to return to the human world at the end is kind of stupid, since she really has nothing going for her there.  She could live a glorious life by staying with the Leaf People, but she returns to the human world to be her dad’s assistant and will never get to be with Nod, whom she has fallen in love with.

That would be like me moving to mars, knowing that I could never return and my fiancé could never come to Mars.  Sure, she and Nod can talk and see each other by video-conferencing and stuff…but they can never be together; unless she convinces the new Forest Queen to shrink her back down to Leaf People size.  Or grow Nod to human standards; either-or.

NOD

Nod

Nod

Nod is the main love interest for MK.  He is your average, everyday over-talented slacker.  His father was a heroic Leafman warrior, seemingly second-in-command of the Leafman corps.  His father died, although it’s not really evident how long before the story begins.

Nod resents Ronin’s attempts to keep him in line, because he doesn’t really want to be a soldier.  Even so Nod respects Ronin, and takes his slacker nature in a fairly mature fashion.  He doesn’t really abscond from duty, he just doesn’t follow orders and usually winds up getting himself too thick into the fray to be useful, even though he’s apparently one of the best Leafmen to have ever lived; or would be if he’d just apply himself.  Cliche, but a well-rounded one.

Aside from the arrogant lady’s man, Nod really doesn’t have much personality.  He’s definitely the comic relief, but not much more than a handsome love interest who learns the moral of the story (teamwork, as I mentioned earlier) in just the right moment to become a greater person at the end of the movie.

RONIN

Ronin

Ronin

Ronin is the leader of the Leafmen; their strongest warrior and second-best rider (supposedly Nod is the greatest, so I assume Ronin is their next best).  He is definitely portrayed as the stone-faced samurai warrior archetype and it’s done fairly well.  He is stern and stoic, ruthlessly efficient, but also has a personality underneath that veil of professionality.

He’s a likable guy who would be a great friend to have, although he does seem to be too forgiving to Nod.  In his situation I’d have booted the little prick out of the corps, regardless of what promises I’d made to his father to protect and care for the little bag of numbnuts.

Anywho, Ronin is, in my opinion, the most well-written character of the story.  I’m torn on his survival at the end of the movie, it worked all right though I suppose.  And I like his name, because if no one has ever noticed with my work (or my old Yahoo! username) I signify strongly with the wave men that the name Ronin draws reference to.  But that’s a personal thing for me.

QUEEN TARA

Queen Tara

Queen Tara

Queen Tara, played surprisingly well by Beyoncé Knowles (honestly the best voice actor in the whole movie), is the Forest Queen with the magical ability to control the ambient plant life and create new life on a whim with the wave of her hand.

She is a very playful character who teases Ronin for his stoicism.  It is made quite evident that they were once childhood loves and that Ronin is probably in his current position because of his love for her; however due to her status he seems in an odd position between lover and servant.

Needless to say Tara is a bubbly, effervescent, and somewhat carefree, albeit intelligent, character in the story.  Honestly a story about Ronin and Tara would have been much better than one about MK and Nod; but I digress.

One thing I liked was Tara’s depiction of women, at least among the Leaf People.  She proves herself to be the most powerful of all the Leaf People and also the most open-hearted.

When the Boggans attack the pod-choosing ceremony she takes down far more enemies than any of the Leafmen, you know…the guys who are tasked with being her guardians.  Now, like MK she is not physically strong.  She does not wield a sword or spear and she does not ride wild hummingbirds like the Leafmen (which is a misleading title, because there appear to a handful of women in the corps, although they are really only visible near the end of the movie).

But even so, she uses a combination of her magic powers and intellect to be far more efficient than even Ronin who is a combat and tactical genius (at least in comparison to anyone else).

She is mentally, emotionally, and through magic, physically strong.  Definitely the best female character I’ve seen in a long time.

And finally we’ll address the villains, or at least the main villain himself…

MANDRAKE

Mandrake

Mandrake

Mandrake, the leader of the Boggans, is infatuated with death or more particularly…decay.  He likens himself somewhat as the counterpoint to Queen Tara’s ruler of life, making the ruler of ‘decay’.  Mandrake, ultimately, is actually probably about the most well-rounded individual in the movie.  He is starkly efficient and very intelligent, the best military tactician of the film and also a warrior-general capable taking down even Ronin; not to mention scores of nameless Leafmen.

His tender scenes with his son, General Dagda, who just wants to prove himself to be a good heir to Mandrake is actually kind of touching, especially since it comes shortly after Ronin’s scenes of tough-love with Nod and MK’s scenes of no-love with her own father.

It almost makes you root for Mandrake later in the movie.  Especially since as the movie goes on he starts to seem a little unhinged.  Which makes sense, after witnessing your son killed by the Leafmen.

Mandrake is a pretty good example of a sympathetic villain.  His motivations are pure and human: He desires power to at least be equal to Tara, hates the fact that Tara always bests him and that he and his people are trapped in their small bit of territory by Tara’s powers, and wants to avenge his son’s death later in the movie.

And for this he’s thrown into a tree and presumably crushed to death.

If Ronin wasn’t so damn likable I’d definitely have been rooting for the villain in this one.

FINALLY…

Also a little bit of opinion on the voices, because I think some professional voice actors could have done good for the film (and been cheaper, no less!).  First of all keep Pitbull, Beyoncé, and Steven Tyler in their roles; they actually did pretty well, and Amanda Seyfried did all right as MK, too.  But a few better options for the other roles would have been…

Nod: Johnny Yong Bosch would be good, but maybe a bit too much; Kirby Morrow would have been my choice for this role.

Ronin: Troy Baker would have been great one for this one!

Mandrake: I’d have loved to hear Brian Dobson to this role; definitely would have made Mandrake more menacing.

Those are my thoughts and opinions on the matter.  Thanks for coming, and thanks for reading.

~RCS

Dead Pixels Review

I spoke about a zombie game just a few days ago, so we’re going to keep going from there and rocket off into insanity, ZOMBIE INSANITY!

From the cool, but lackluster, Organ Trail we strap on our jetpacks and hurtle ourselves into the frying pan, the fire, the rock, the hard place, and Jericho (that’s as close to an Easter reference as you’re getting this week)!  And boy the walls come falling down!*

*Regardless of religious affiliation, I liked that song as a child

Today we have CSR-Studios‘ Dead Pixels.

Dead Pixels 2013-04-02 01-09-35-82

It’s kind of set up like an 8-bit version of Left 4 Dead in that it is all set up like an old zombie movie, complete with (removable if by preference) film static.  It is a side-scrolling shooter/beat ’em up.  You start out with a shotgun and a handful of shells and you have to go a few dozen streets down the way to get to a group of survivors in a zombie-infested city.

Considering ammunition is very limited you’ll be using your melee attack for most of the game.  Be prepared to hit the melee button so often that your thumb goes numb, especially since you have about ZERO range on your melee attacks.

Although on a funny side note about the melee attacks, each type of weapon has a slightly different one: Long-barreled guns like Shotguns and Carbines have a poking animation, while Handguns like Berettas and Desert Eagles have you reach out and judo-chop the zombies in the throat with your free hand.

There are shops scattered throughout the game where you can buy or sell gear, upgrade your stats, and trade ‘valuable’ items (like bars of soap, sleeping bags, and bottles of water).  You can also save in said shops, and get a breath if you’re being overwhelmed and one is nearby; let you get some feeling back in that melee thumb.

The game is rife with Running, Gunning, and Guts!

The Running!

Running gags, that is.  There is a ridiculous amount of references to zombie movies, zombie games, and zombies in general.  All of the guns seem to be named after characters from the Resident Evil Series.  You’ve got a Chambers Shotgun (Rebecca Chambers), Burton Carbine (Barry Burton), Redfield Assault Rifle (Chris and Claire Redfield), and even a Valentine Beretta (Jill Valentine).  I’ve yet to see anything that says Alomar or Kennedy on it, though; although the survival-mode does have a low-power handgun with unlimited ammo called the Wesker.

Houses have “We [Heart] You Zoey” painted on them, in reference to Zoey from Left 4 Dead.  It’s just ridiculous the level of detail put into the gags, jokes, and references alone.

I'm sure Zoey would Heart you back, if she wasn't being raped by a Tank right now.

I’m sure Zoey would Heart you back, if she wasn’t being raped by a Tank right now.

The Gunning!

When you begin the game you will get a slight lull in action, this is called the Tutorial.  Once it is over…YOU WILL BECOME DEATH!  You will lay waste upon the undead city before you until your thumbs bleed with damnation and apathy!

Zombies of all shapes, sizes, and inflictions will march slothily in your direction, intent on eating you…or in the case of a handful of enemies…SPITTING ACID ON YOU!!

God damn do I hate those spitty bastards, I’ve dubbed them Pukers.  They’ve got long range and do about 20 HP of damage.  Best way to get them is to come at them from the top or bottom and hit ’em with a stunning melee attack.  Otherwise you’ll trade bullets for acidic puke balls, and you won’t exactly come out of that fight heralding a victory.

Behold the might of Lord McFire and Baron von Ice!

Behold the might of Lord McFire and Baron von Ice!

Pistols are quick and cheap, but don’t generally back much punch and have limited penetration (i.e. the ability to shoot through one zombie and hit another one or two behind them).

Shotguns have limited range, but they fire a scatter-spread pattern that hits large groups huddled together.  Some of them have pretty decent penetration, too.  They’ve got a pretty low rate of fire, though.

Bolt-Action rifles have unnecessarily long range (which means their bullets don’t lose strength as easily from across the screen) and good penetration, but abysmal firing rates.

Carbines and Assault Rifles have very low damage, and negligible penetrations, but they fire in fully automatic.  You put a pretty good swath of bullets in either direction with some decent range.  They are definitely the game’s way of saying Quantity over Quality.

Of course that’s not even a hard and fast rule of thumb, because each class (Valentine, Chambers, Redfield, etc.) have slightly different stats for the same type of weapon.  I have not sat down and made a full list as of yet (and don’t honestly intend to, sorry).

There are three modes of game play, total.  There’s the regular story wherein you are a lone survivor, or two survivors if you’re playing local co-op mode with someone sitting beside you, and trying to get to a survivor’s shelter to escape the zombie-infested city.  For some reason there are insane shopkeepers trading cash-for-goods among the zombie-infested areas.

This is a stick-up!  Put the guns, medkits, and cuddly toys in a bag and don't call the Army!

This is a stick-up! Put the guns, medkits, and cuddly toys in a bag and don’t call the Army!

The second game type is where you play a government operative, well actually a prisoner, unleashed into the city who has to put the power plant into meltdown in exchange for a presidential pardon.  In this game mode you pick a pre-designed character and have no upgrades or shops to worry about.  If you need gear you can have the army air-drop them to you.  This one is definitely more action-packed and less “Ohmigod I’m gonna die!!” than the regular game.

The last game type is a ‘horde-style’ game type wherein you either try to survive 6 waves as fast as you can or see how long you can last, survival-mode style.  You can gather cash during the waves and upgrade your stats or buy ammo in between waves.  You start out with a pistol with unlimited ammo which will get you through the first few waves until the big shit and special enemies start coming after you.

And yes there are special enemies…I’ll talk about that below.

The Guts!

And trust me, there’s a lot of them.  Just look at this mess!

I love the smell of severed zombie in the morning.

I love the smell of severed zombie in the morning.

Unfortunately there isn’t much else.  Once you’ve beaten all three modes of the game once or twice, there isn’t much else to do.  There’s no puzzles or minigames or interactivity to the storyline to keep you coming back once you grow tired of the violence and gore.

The good news is that there’s plenty of enjoyment in said violence and gore to make the game worth some of your time.  There are a few different enemy types including ‘Boss’ enemies like the ‘Spitter Queen’, ‘Burning Husk’, and ‘Clawed Fiend’.  They each have high health and stamina and can put a hurting on you if you aren’t careful.

But there’s also tons of awesome special weapons, like a chainsaw, flamethrower, lightning-bolt rifle, and ice ray.

So all in all if you want balls to the wall zombie-killing excitement, pick up Dead Pixels.  It might still be on sale, and even if it isn’t you can pick it up for full-price on Steam at about Three Dollars.

Go now, play the game!

~RCS

Did I mention zombie movie references?

Did I mention zombie movie references?

Mark of the Ninja Review

So I’ve recently picked up the game Mark of the Ninja.  It’s a 2D side-scroller stealth action game.  I know, I know…that sounds like an odd combination, but surprisingly enough it works pretty well.

The story is interesting: You play as a nameless ninja who has been imbued with a series of tattoos that grant you special powers, supposedly at the eventual cost of your sanity and ultimately your life.  You are a warrior of the Hisomu Ninja clan, fighting against the wealthy and powerful Count Karajan who has attacked your clan’s headquarters in the opening segments of the game.

1

The atmosphere is beautifully rendered with a wonderful art style.  It is a mix of child-like neutrality with the wonderfully drawn sprites, backgrounds, and cut scenes; right up until you jam a sword through someone’s throat, that is.

Like this!

Like this!

The stealth kills are cool to watch and have a nifty feature.  You have to sneak up on a guard, click the attack button, and then you have to slide the mouse in whatever direction it says to in order to get a perfect stealth kill.  Pull it in the wrong direction and you won’t kill him before he can call out, bringing more guards your way.

All of the guards are wearing body armor, which won’t stop your sword of course, but they can definitely hold out against more punishment than you can in an open fight.  Not to say that you’re entirely useless in a fight, unlike in the Tenchu series of ninja games; they’ll just gang up on you and brutally rape you with bullets.

Speaking of Tenchu, that particular series has really fallen from grace in the past decade.  The first game was wonderful, the second one was a nice improvement, and we find ourselves at Wrath of Heaven which, aside from the hilarious title if you know a touch of Japanese, was probably the best in the series*.  Unfortunately they’ve made several more since then…and each one seems to be worse than the last.

The folks who make Tenchu need to do something if they ever want to get back in on the ninja scene.  My suggestion would be to sell the rights to the folks at Klei Entertainment who made Mark of the Ninja.

Looking at their website I recognize a game I was actually looking at a few weeks ago called Don’t Starve which looked nifty.  You might know them more from their game N+, which I seem to recall playing a demo of over a year ago on X-Box Live Arcade.

You can upgrade your character to unlock new tools and skills.

You can upgrade your character to unlock new tools and skills.

Oh right, Mark of the Ninja…sorry, a bit of tangential nostalgia for me.  Anywho…the game’s pretty awesome.  The music is atmospheric, when present at all, the dialogue is realistic, and the graphics are superb.

But most importantly, the gameplay is excellent.  I’ve seen some reviews of the game talking about glitchy guards and poor controls…these people don’t know what they’re talking about.  Unless they really ramped up the shit for the PC version and fixed anything that was wrong with the XBLA version?  Either way, go to steam and buy a copy of Mark of Ninja.

We are Ninja, not Motel 6...we will not leave the light on!

We are Ninja, not Motel 6…we will not leave the light on!

My one real complaint about the game is your ‘partner’, Ora.  She is just a useless shadow to follow you around.  The first thing she tells you, aside from squawking at you to wake up, is, “I’m here to help you.  Rule number one: Don’t get me killed!”

If you’re so great that you are leading the friggin’ Champion of Hisomu around, why are you so concerned about me getting you killed?  As great as she talks herself up to be…she doesn’t kill a single person or perform a real service.

I will give her credit that she at least claims she will hold off any soldiers you’ve chased away from the enemy base with a decoy, y’know…should they try to return.  Of course it’s one of those, “If you don’t finish the mission in time, I’ll kill the guys coming back from the decoy, unghgg!”

She looks cool and the actress doing her voice is pretty good (and vaguely familiar).  But she’s just along for the ride, even though she is clearly supposed to be one of the more talented ninja of the clan.  They put her in the ‘Sexy Sidekick’ trope and she actually is more annoying than helpful, since she just orders you around, but doesn’t even knife a single guard in the neck, herself.

Ooo...rainy and atmospheric.

Ooo…rainy and atmospheric.

Sidenote: On the subject of voice actors…if you liked the guy who did the narration for the Penny Arcade games (Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness) you’ll be delighted to know he does a few voices in this game, as well.

There’s really no one set way to play through a level.  You can tackle passage and killing in numerous ways, you can even go through an entire level without killing anyone.  I, of course, am a rather violent person (apparently) and kill as many as I possibly can.

Vengeance will be mine!

Vengeance will be mine!

There’s even an interesting ending that gives you multiple options.  So far I’ve only beaten the game once, so I don’t know what the second ending gives as I’ve only gotten one of them.  The ending is pretty nifty and a bit of a mindfuck, so it’s right up my alley.  The ending also makes my prior comments about Ora change a bit, as she kind of redeems herself in an unexpected way and isn’t just the boastful damsel the game makes you think she is.

There are hidden puzzles and even whole hidden puzzle rooms that unlock these special scrolls that give you nifty, often violent-y, haikus.  Oh, they also give you about a thousand points to your score…but the haikus are where it’s at.

Haiku:

I spent my life’s worth,

On the tortures of women,

So I became Gay.

Okay, their haikus are way better than mine.  Basically…aside from Ora (which, like I said, winds up being not nearly as bad as it seemed at first), the game is pretty awesome and I highly recommend it.  Go play it and find some of the haikus for yourself!

Look for these if you want to find the hidden puzzle rooms!

Look for these if you want to find the hidden puzzle rooms!

~RCS

*Tenchu: Wrath of Heaven is a hilarious title for the game because Tenchu is Japanese for “Heaven’s Wrath/Punishment”.  Therefore the title, in Japanese, would be Tenchu: Tenchu.  And in full English it would be Heaven’s Wrath: Wrath of Heaven!  Just a nifty little observation for you there.

Bullet to the Head Review

Next up on our movie list is the Sylvester Stallone movie based on Alexis Nolent’s graphic novel Du Plomb Dans La Tete, which apparently is French for Bullet to the Head.  Stallone plays a veteran hitman who goes on a quest for vengeance.

bullet_to_the_head_movie_poster-sylvester_stallone-jason_momoa-christian_slater-sarah_shahi-adewale_akinnuoye_agbaje

With Stallone playing the straight man, we have Sung Kang as a Washington D.C. Police special investigator, investigating the death of a corrupt former police officer…the guy who Stallone and his partner assassinate in the open sequence.

Considering Kang’s role was supposed to be done by Thomas Jane, I actually have to say that I like the switch-up.  Kang plays a very heavy-handed and overly dramatic ‘good guy’ cop out for nothing short of moral justice for some of the film; but his dialogue with Stallone is great.  I love the scenes where he’s defending his smart phone against Stallone’s old-school tactics of “beat up the guy who knows something until he tells you said thing that you want to know”.

The movie has some pretty decent fight scenes, too, considering I was pretty much expecting it to all be gunplay.  A couple of good fist fights and some knifing in there, too; then we cap it all off with a huge axe fighting scene.

By the way, Jason Momoa is really awesome with a fireaxe; you should know that.  Speaking of Jason Momoa, he plays the mercenary enforcer/assassin Keegan pretty well; makes him seem like a pretty interesting guy.  As he’s ruthlessly murdering the shit out of you, of course.

If you like men...this is reason enough to watch this movie.  Oh, Stallone goes shirtless a few times, too.

If you like men…this is reason enough to watch this movie. Oh, Stallone goes shirtless a few times, too.

All in all I wasn’t expecting much from this movie and I was pleasantly surprised by what it offered.  The storyline wasn’t exactly a gem, but some of the dialogue was pretty decent.  The fight scenes, particularly the last one, are gritty and good.  All in all in it’s a pretty decent action movie, as long as you’re not looking for a thought-provoking story.

~RCS

I Have Halted the End of the World!

Okay folks, I did it; I succeeding in saving the world (if you’re reading this from a fiery pit of hell, then I lied; sorry).  Today (the 21st of December, 2012) was supposed to be the end of the world, but thanks to my time in the Animus I was able find the key, open the door, and save the world!

In case you’re totally lost, I’ve beaten Assassin’s Creed III, just in time to thwart the end of the world, as is the purpose of that particular entry in the series.

As you might know from earlier posts I am a huge fan of the Assassin’s Creed series and I have recently received a Playstation 3 and Assassin’s Creed III to go along with it.  I was ecstatic as I hurriedly played through Revelations, my other gift, for which you can read about my thoughts and exploits as soon as I find where I saved that post (yes, I lost it…ungh!).

Well now I have played through Assassin’s Creed III, beaten it, and finally managed to let myself get some sleep (8 hours at work, plus an hour and a half in commuting, plus eating and restroom breaks, plus 9 hours a night on the game…doesn’t leave much time for this fabled invention of ‘sleep’).

And all in all I have to say…

I was dreadfully disappointed.  In almost everything.  The sailing portions were frickin’ awesome, the hunting was an interesting addition, and there were a lot of nifty improvements to the game.  Nevertheless it was extremely buggy in weird ways: There were a lot of cut scenes where character’s lips wouldn’t move, all of the cut scenes had Connor (the main character) in his original assassin’s outfit even though for much of the game I was wearing one of the other available outfits (whereas in Revelations, which was a veritable bugfest, whatever Ezio was wearing in the game he wore in the cut scenes), and the storyline was…again, very disappointing.

As far as characters go, Assassin’s Creed has been fairly good.  Altair was a bit formulaic, but as the first game progressed he developed a kind of fascinating personality and this shown through in later games (particularly Revelations where you see his final days).

Ezio was an asshat when we first meet him, but you can quickly warm up to him.  He is on a murderous quest for vengeance, but he becomes more than that; going so far as to spare the life of the man who orchestrated the execution of his father and brothers.  He winds up becoming a man brimming with personality and emotion, he was truly a surprise for me when I realized I started actually liking him.

So with the writers at Ubisoft able to do all this, so-far, I went into Assassin’s Creed III with high hopes; of course, given the storyline my hopes weren’t as high as I had gone into Assassin’s Creed II, because I figured it was just going to be, ‘The founding fathers of America are great beyond measure, yay!’.

I was pleased at how they displayed some of the founding fathers:

-Benjamin Franklin as a philandering and conniving man-whore.

-George Washington as a poor military tactician and lost many of his battles with the British.

-The ‘founding fathers’ were wealthy, slave-owning, aristocrats who refused to pay taxes, for the war which kept them from being conquered by the French.

One depiction I wasn’t happy with, though: Benedict Arnold was depicted as a sniveling and cowardly fool when really he was a great warrior, general, and intelligence officer who was continually passed over for promotion and set upon by lesser man who wanted to steal credit for what he had done.

A few funny moments, I must admit, were the times you were with Paul Revere.  He was portrayed as kind of a fruit; he liked to grab Connor by the shoulder and he was awfully cheery when he mentioned how there was only one horse for his famous ride, so he and Connor would have to ride it together.

Nonetheless, Connor was a piss-poor character.  Now you start the game off as Connor’s father, Haytham, who seems a little dry and stiff at first.  But you can quickly warm up to Haytham, especially when he comes back into the picture while playing as Connor and you get to hear the banter between Haytham and Connor.

Haytham is definitely the greater of the two characters, the game would have been so much better if you’d just played as Haytham, instead of Connor, I think.  Not to mention, Haytham believes in his cause with determination and conviction.  He fuels his ideals with logic, cause-and-effect reasoning, and critical thinking.

Connor, meanwhile, fuels his beliefs with, “Ung…that man say you enemy, I kill you now, ung!”

And on the subject of poor speech…who the hell thought that leaving the Iroqouis language in the game was a good idea?  Especially when they then put white subtitles on the bottom of the screen…over top of white backgrounds?  I still have no idea exactly what happened between Connor’s mother and Haytham to explain why she left him, or at how far along with Connor she was when she left Haytham (or why Haytham never tried to see Connor, since he had to know where her damn village was the whole time), because her moment of soliloquy is spoken in the Iroquois language that they use for Connor’s tribe and has the white subtitles overtop of the Animus’ white background.  It can translate Arabic, Italian, Turkish…but not Iroquois?  Except that it can translate it, because it puts up subtitles!  Whoever had that plan was a schmuck who needs fired, immediately.  They must have spent a small fortune on translating the English script into this Iroquois language, finding voice actors who could speak it, and then typing up the subtitles.  Why not just make the Iroquois tribes all speak English with an accent or something?  That’s what they’ve done for four games, why not the fifth?  Or at least have black letters over the white background, or vice versa.

This becomes especially transparent when Connor becomes an assassin and is able to recognize his father, whom as far as the game suggests he has never actually met.  Even more interesting is when Haytham recognizes Connor as his son…even though Connor is now in his early twenties and the two of them have never actually met.

But anyway, back to Connor’s weakness as a character.  He has no logic or critical thinking skills, he wants to avenge his mother’s death, but even when he finds out that the man he has been tracking for almost a decade is not the man who killed his mother, but that it was actually the guy he is working with/for he just cuts ties with everyone around and decides to keep trying to kill the guy who has now been exonerated of Connor’s quest for vengeance.

Connor is a complete tool and when the game ends you just wind up feeling…used and disappointed.  Connor is also a fucking psycho.  I’ll go more into detail on that in a later post when I compare the separate protagonists a little more thoroughly.

But for now just know that Connor is a complete psychopath.  With a rifle, equipped with a bayonet, in hand…he bashes a soldier in the face repeatedly with the butt of the rifle.  With a knife in one hand and a hatchet in the other, he punches a man in the face…to death.  With a knife in one hand and a hatchet in the other, he grabs a man by the shoulders and slowly, and deliberately, slashes his throat…with the hatchet instead of the knife.  Psycho!

The battle system took a bit to get used to, since they completely changed the mechanics of it.  But once you get used to the new mechanics it is better than the old ways in almost every way.  Just a shame if you want full synchronization in the game…because 90% of the ways to do it are to avoid open combat.

The whole full synchronization thing was stupid, too.  Adding unnecessary difficulty and then punishing me with a ‘bad’ sound and little red ‘x’s all over the place.  And sometimes the synchronization options were just plain stupid.  Like when you’ve got to follow a couple of guys and listen in on their conversation, it tries to make you do it without climbing into the hay wagon their riding in undetected.  Which is, of course, the smartest idea.

Assassin’s Creed III was so disappointing, it has broken the spell that the series had over me.  I don’t think I can take another disappointment this bad.  If they make a fourth game or start a new ‘Connor’ trilogy like they did with Ezio…I don’t think I’ll bother buying any of them.  Between the shoddy AC3, the buggy Revelations, and Ubisoft’s piss-poor customer service, I don’t think I’m going to be buying a whole lot of their stuff in the future.

~RCS

Tekkoshocon X Review: Final Day!

-Sunday-

The final day of Tekkoshocon X was finally upon us.  After early days and late nights we had finally come upon the last day of the con.  There were fun times, as with any year at Tekko, but this year we were surprised by a number of a rather detrimental issues.

As discussed, the night before we’d talked about not going.  We decided that we’d give the benefit of the doubt and talk about it again on Sunday.  Sunday arrived and we had a full agenda.

10:00 – Working in the Industry with Todd Haberkorn and Travis Willingham

12:30 – either the Equestria Girls (okay, so maybe I’m a Brony) or Voice Acting 101 with Todd Haberkorn

4:00 – Tekkoshocon Feedback Panel *The most important thing of the day!*

Well, okay so that really wasn’t much of a schedule after all.  Two panels and the feedback panel.  9:00 came around and Operation: Get Out Of Bed was a complete failure.  We decided that we were still angry at Tekko, in general, and figured by the time we got there we’d just end up standing in line anyway.  Why stand in line with sore feet and be sleepy, when you can stay in bed an extra hour?

Needless to say, the alarms were re-set and before we knew it, 11:00 was upon us…and 11:15…and 11:30.  Finally we decided the most important thing of the day was no longer the Feedback Panel, but seeing our friend Kim Samson one last time since Tekko is the only time we get to see her in person (she lives in Florida).  In case you aren’t aware, Kim is the wonderful artist who handled my…err…drew the anthropomorphic penis to the right.

Anywho we got just motivated enough to make it there by 12:45 and meandered our way to the Dealer’s Room to see Kim.  We talked for a while, bought some more stuff from Kim and her accomplice at Moon Bunny Imports, scared the poor guy who ran the booth with the naked hentai girl body pillow covers.  We were looking through them and chattering about them and he comes flying around the corner with a worried look, “Are you guys over 18?”

We confirmed we were and he breathed a sigh of relief, “Sorry about that, Staff keeps sending incognito staffers to test me and make sure I’m carding my adult sales and checking the ages of anyone who looks at these.  It’s constant.”

I’m not sure if that’s good business practice or harassment, I suppose it’s a good thing to enforce, but he seemed pretty stressed out as if it was every 10 minutes they were going after him.  Either that or he was crazy and paranoid.  He was nice and funny regardless of his paranoia, though.

My fiancé offered to let me buy one of the nudie body pillows.  I told her I wanted the prettiest one.

“Which one’s that?” she asked.

“The one I’m holding.”  Her gaze went to my shoulder, down the length of my arm, and to my hand…which was on her hip.  She giggled and hugged me, then we continued through the dealer’s room and back out into the convention proper.

Gentlemen…feel free to take notes, if this gets too complicated for you.

We decided we didn’t want to roam about for the next three hours rehashing the Wyndham, so we went to The Sharp Edge, again, for a bit of BBQ wing breakfastage and some Pudding.  Our hearts were shattered when they told us we’d eaten all the pudding, there was no more.

So…after a small round of weeping into the menus…we had some Strawberry Cheesecake.  It was also delicious…highly recommend the downtown Sharp Edge, if you hadn’t noticed.  I have to say…the food from Sharp Edge was the best part of Tekko.  But even if Tekko had been as awesome as it was the past few years, that probably still would have been true.  So…good…want…pudding!!

Ahem, anyway.

We roamed about Pittsburgh and took in the sights, sounds, and smells (Penn Avenue still smells like hobo semen).  Now is where I give you the barrage of pictures we took…

Yes, that is an awesome Minivan replica of the Ecto 1!

The one Cosplay that I actually took a picture of. I'm horrible with cosplay picture-taking!!

 

This is one of the creepy, but surprisingly comfortable, Eyeball benches at the park at Penn and 7th in Pittsburgh. I remember when they built that park!

This is the cutest cosplayer ever!

Travis Willingham looks so much taller than us. I was also trying too hard not to fanboy-out that my smile was an epic failure. That's a new one..."I was so excited, I forgot to smile."

We roamed our way to the Fort Pitt museum, but decided we were too lazy to go in, so we watched a Boy Scout Troop take down the giant American Flag and fold it up.  It was interesting to see how a flag that is folded in a moderate wind (with twenty people assisting, that’s how!).

We meandered back to the convention around 3:30 and decided…who cares about the Feedback panel?  We’d probably just have to wait in line for it, too.  We decided we won’t be back next year, unless some drastic changes are announced.

Had we made it to the Feedback panel, this would have been our barrage of proposals:

1. Staff should know, before-hand, what equipment they are tech savvy enough to run.  This should be the only equipment permitted for use.  If no one knows how to connect a DVD player to a projector, than Panelists should not be allowed to base their entire panel off the usage of a DVD player.  Staff can’t trust the panelist to know what they’re doing.

2. The schedule should be cemented on Day 1.  Aside from last-minute cancellations or such, there shouldn’t be any need to change the Sunday schedule on Friday afternoon.  Likewise, regardless of changes…Panelists should immediately be told of the correct time of their panels.  All staff should always have updated schedules.  Telling a panelist that their panel is 30 minutes after it was supposed to start is not acceptable.

3. Panelists should be required to show up for their panels a minimum of 15 minutes before it starts to weed out tech and logistics problems.  The 30-minute window between panels is a good idea, but it was executed poorly.  This gives them 15 minutes to plan out their stuff, test it, and get a Tech Staffer to help them out if something goes terribly awry.

4. Lines…lines…LINES!  So many problems and complaints I heard about, and suffered through myself, had to do with lines.  Both from con-goers and from staffers.  Staffers complained that it was hard to keep lines formed properly, con-goers complained that lines were unruly and blocked doors and hallways and got convoluted.  This ties into #3’s solution: The 30 minute window between panels.  There is no need, with a 30-minute buffer, to wait until the top of the hour to let people into the room.  Ten minutes ’till for the major things (like the ones in the Sterling rooms this year), five minutes ’till for the minor panels (like the ones in Brigade, Rivers, etc.).  This gives plenty of time to get into the room, get situated, and see what kind of room is left or how many people aren’t getting in.  That way nobody waits until other panels have already started rolling to find out they aren’t getting in the room, and they can leave and go to a minor panel before it starts up if they didn’t make it into the major one.  This also lessens the amount of time you have people standing around in line; which means people will sit on the floor less, which makes the lines easier to manage and access control easier to coordinate.  It also means people will be loud in the hallways for shorter periods of time.

5. Premium Badges.  For the Main Events and Dealer’s Room it worked to have two separate lines for the regular badges and the premium badges, because they had so much room.  But for the other panels last year’s basic call for Premium badgers right before entrance worked out well in my experience.  Have the Premiumers (I almost called us Premies, but thought better of it) stand in line the everyone else, then have them create a second line just before entering.  Two lines make it too hard to manage, but one line that bursts suddenly is easy to handle.  Also…all panels should have this feature, not just autographs and main events.  People don’t pay an extra $30 to not make it into a guest panel (like a voice actor panel) or a popular event panel (like anything yaoi or porn related, as we con-goers are dirty-minded people in general).

Ultimately, while I know others had more problems with Staffers than my fiancé and I did, I found most of the staffers to be generally positive.  They had no idea what the hell they were doing!  But for the most part they were friendly in the process of their jobs.  There were a handful of staffers that needed a good foot in the ass, but most of them were just poorly equipped and prepared for their jobs.

From a military view-point it made me think of when Deppers and ROTC cadets were tasked with handling things.  A regular Lance Corporal in active duty service could walk in and slap a hammock between two trees and be asleep in it before the cadets got it out of the box.

The cadets would always have those wide-eyed, “What am I going to do?” kind of looks when they realize just how difficult the actual job is.  Yes handling a mass of a hundred people waiting in line to get into a room big enough for 80 is difficult, but there are better ways to do it than just slap the rookie on the back and say, “Good luck, pal.”  And that seemed to be what was happening, a lot, as far as staff problems went.

Something needs to be improved with the sign-in and badge retrieval process, too, but I only experience it once every year so I have no real wisdom to help improve it.  I know that badge retrieval has always been a weak point for Tekko and it hasn’t gotten any better, but sadly I didn’t spend any time standing around by the entrance trying to figure out a better way to do it better.

 

All in all, as I said before, we won’t be back next year as plans go now.  We got cheated out of our money for the Premium Badges, which we only used twice the whole weekend.  And that was a pretty big kick in the nuts to us; to spend the extra money and go the extra mile, only to feel sullied and betrayed by the Tekko crew.  It was like going to your favorite uncle’s house for some ice-cream and instead of Vanilla Moose Tracks, he sodomizes you and takes your dog then makes you go to the store to pick him up some treats for his new dog.

In the end we just felt sore and used.  And puppyless.

~RCS

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