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Video Game Awards 2019 Recap

Recap By Stephen Clarke

The annual Video Game Awards streamed across the internet Thursday, December 12th. The event was curiously devoid of any massive brand partnership like 2016’s Schick Hydrobot, may he rest in peace. Just the same, it was a good event overall, featuring some great reveals and much deserved awards. 

The Nextbox

The biggest reveal of the night was Microsoft’s Xbox Series X. In the week leading up to the VGAs, Microsoft had stated publicly that the name of the next Xbox would be specifically related to what it does and, with the name of the system revealed and the look of the box itself, it would appear that Microsoft is leaning into the iPhone structure of upgrades and generations inside of generations even more than it has already. Whether the boxy case is indicative of modular internal components or just a design choice is yet to be seen. However, we do have this recently published breakdown of the system’s capabilities:

•12 teraflop GPU (twice as much as in the current console leader, the One X)

•4 times the CPU speed of the One X

•Full backwards compatibility

•The ability to pause and resume multiple games simultaneously

Other Xbox news of the week also confirmed that Xbox was still pushing forward it’s internal initiative to have a more “cost effective” console under the codename “Lockhart”. While this was a pretty big announcement, the internet buzz then and now haven’t lingered on it much at all.

Good Riddance

While there were some stand out appearances and announcements, the biggest miss of the night would seem to be the new music performed by one of the night’s guests, Green Day. Their appearance was paired with a Green Day music pack for Beat Saber and the first 360 levels on PSVR and even that couldn’t save my personal excitement for their time on stage. 

Watch for yourself, if you dare:

Trailers and More

The night was packed with trailers that made for a much better pre-show than in years past and carried throughout the entire event. My personal favorites were those for the upcoming No More Heroes: Travis Strikes Back. The trailer began under the guise of a fake game called GODDAMN SUPERHERO that I think I would genuinely play if it were real.

Ninja Theory brought an announcement video for the next Hellblade game, Hellblade 2: Senua’s Saga. This was the biggest moment of the night for me. The first game always had my attention but I never dove in and actually purchased it. This new trailer takes Senua, formerly at the mercy of her personal demons, to being the leader/aggressor in some sort of ritual with an acting performance and music that gave me chills. The motion capture actress has certainly earned the award she got last year for her performance as Senua.

While Square did bring a new Final Fantasy VII Remake trailer to the show and the release is early next year, this one felt like more of the same. Cloud fights, characters talk a bit and things are generally gorgeous. We all want to play the game already.

Other notable trailers: Ghosts of Tsushima, Maneater, Godfall from Gearbox, Bravely Default II, the release of a new Warframe expansion, a new unnamed Playerunknown game, Sons of the Forest, Ruined King: A League of Legends Story, Dungeons & Dragons: Dark Alliance, Ori and the Will of the Wisps, Untitled Beaker Game, Weird West, Magic Legends, Path of the Warrior for Occulus Quest, Gears Tactics, Naraka Bladepoint, NIne to Five.

And The Award Goes To

The Game of the Year award went to Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. Nominated against Control, Death Stranding, Smash Brothers and The Out Worlds, it was really anyone’s chance to win. Seeing a Souls-like get the award is interesting and nice. It’s not a genre known for broad appeal because of its punishing gameplay.

Other awards of the night:

Best Game Direction

Control

Death Stranding-WINNER

Resident Evil 2

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice

Outer Wilds

Best Narrative

A Plague Tale: Innocence

Control

Death Stranding

Disco Elysium-WINNER

The Outer Worlds

Best Art Direction

Control-WINNER

Death Stranding

Gris

Sayonara Wild Hearts

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice

The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening

Best Audio Design

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare-WINNER

Control

Death Stranding

Gears 5

Resident Evil 2

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice

Best Score/Music

Cadence of Hyrule

Death Stranding-WINNER

Devil May Cry 5

Kingdom Hearts III

Sayonara Wild Hearts

Best Performance

Ashly Burch as Parvati Holcomb – The Outer Worlds

Courtney Hope as Jesse Faden – Control

Laura Bailey as Kait Diaz – Gears 5

Mads Mikkelsen as Cliff – Death Stranding-WINNER

Norman Reedus as Sam Porter Bridges – Death Stranding

Matthew Porretta as Dr. Casper Darling – Control

Best Ongoing Game

Apex Legends

Final Fantasy XIV

Destiny 2

Fortnite-WINNER

Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege

Best Community Support

Apex Legends

Destiny 2-WINNER

Final Fantasy XIV

Fortnite

Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege

Games for Impact

Concrete Genie

Gris-WINNER

Kind Words

Life is Strange 2

Sea of Solitude

Best Independent Game

Baba Is You

Disco Elysium-WINNER

Katana ZERO

Outer Wilds

Untitled Goose Game

Best Mobile Game

Call of Duty: Mobile-WINNER

GRINDSTONE

Sayonara Wild Hearts

Sky: Children of Light

What the Golf?

Best Mobile Game

Call of Duty: Mobile-WINNER

GRINDSTONE

Sayonara Wild Hearts

Sky: Children of Light

What the Golf?

Best VR/AR Game

Asgard’s Wrath

Blood & Truth

Beat Saber-WINNER

No Man’s Sky

Trover Saves the Universe

Best Action Game

Apex Legends

Astral Chain

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare

Devil May Cry 5-WINNER

Gears 5

Metro Exodus

Best Action/Adventure Game

Borderlands 3

Control

Death Stranding

Resident Evil 2

The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice-WINNER

Best RPG

Disco Elysium-WINNER

Final Fantasy XIV

Kingdom Hearts III

Monster Hunter World: Iceborne

The Outer Worlds

Best Fighting Game

Dead or Alive 6

Jump Force

Mortal Kombat 11

Samurai Showdown

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate-WINNER

Best Family Game

Luigi’s Mansion 3-WINNER

Ring Fit Adventure

Super Mario Maker 2

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

Yoshi’s Crafted World

Best Strategy Game

Age of Wonders: Planetfall

Anno 1800

Fire Emblem: Three Houses-WINNER

Total War: Three Kingdoms

Tropico 6

Wargroove

Best Sports/Racing Game

Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled-WINNER

DiRT Rally 2.0

eFootball Pro Evolution Soccer 2020

F1 2019

FIFA 20

Best Multiplayer Game

Apex Legends-WINNER

Borderlands 3

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare

Tetris 99

Tom Clancy’s The Division 2

Fresh Indie Game

ZA/UM for Disco Elysium-WINNER

Nomada Studio for Gris

DeadToast Entertainment for My Friend Pedro

Mobius Digital for Outer Wilds

Mega Crit for Slay the Spire

House House for Untitled Goose Game

Content Creator of the Year

Jack “Courage” Dunlop

Benjamin “Dr. Lupo” Lupo

Soleil “Ewok” Wheeler

David “Grefg” Martínez

Michael “Shroud” Grzesiek-WINNER

Best Esports Game

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (Valve)

DOTA2 (Valve)

Fortnite (Epic Games)

League of Legends (Riot Games)-WINNER

Overwatch (Blizzard)

Best Esports Player

Kyle “Bugha” Giersdorf (Immortals, Fortnite)-WINNER

Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok (SK Telecom, League of Legends)

Luka “Perkz” Perkovic (G2 Esports, League of Legends)

Oleksandr “S1mple” Kostyliev (Natus Vincere, CSGO)

Jay “Sinatraa” Won (SF Shock, Overwatch)

Best Esports Team

Astralis (CS:GO)

G2 Esports (LOL)-WINNER

OG (DOTA2)

San Francisco Shock (OWL)

Team Liquid (CS:GO)

Best Esports Event

2019 Overwatch League Grand Finals

EVO 2019

Fortnite World Cup

IEM Katowice 2019

League of Legends World Championship 2019-WINNER

The International 2019

Best Esports Host

Eefje “Sjokz” Depoortere-WINNER

Alex “Machine” Richardson

Paul “Redeye” Chaloner

Alex “Goldenboy” Mendez

Duan “Candice” Yu-Shuang

Best Esports Coach

Eric ‘adreN’ Hoag – (Team Liquid, CS:GO)

Nu-ri ‘Cain’ Jang – (Team Liquid, LOL)

Fabian ‘GrabbZ’ Lohmann  – (G2 Esports, LOL)

Kim ‘Kkoma’ Jeong-gyun  – (SK Telecom T1, LOL)

Titouan ‘Sockshka’ Merloz –  (OG, DOTA2)

Danny ‘Zonic’ Sørensen  – (Astralis, CSGO)-WINNER

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Watchmen Vs The Mandalorian

An Editorial From Stephen Clarke

Pop culture’s kids are trying to step out of their parent’s shadows with mixed results.

In the Streaming Wars™, using pre-existing intellectual property is the fastest shortcut to getting the viewer’s attention and that sweet, sweet subscription money. We’ve seen seemingly every big company launch or announce a streaming service and, with those services, come new shows featuring characters and worlds that we already know. While it’s great to get new things connected to what we already love, the response to two different tent-pole series has been mixed, to say the least.

One of the  most potent examples of the reception to new series that use old IP can be seen in comparing ‘The Mandalorian’ on Disney+ and ‘Watchmen’ on HBO.

Mild spoilers ahead for the first few episodes of The Mandalorian and Watchmen

Shiny Man and Baby Yoda: The Series

When Disney+ was announced, we learned that a Mandalorian series was coming and it had an all star team behind it. The series would be utilizing a Boba Fett-like character of the Mandalorians proper, fan favorites from the expanded Star Wars universe of novels that Disney retconned when they acquired the Star Wars francise. After the first two episodes were released, fan response to the series was almost entirely positive, no small feat after the overwhelmingly negative response to ‘The Force Awakens’, ‘The Last Jedi’ and ‘Solo’. Casual and dedicated fans were enjoying it and Disney was cashing in on the love of an old franchise and bringing new fans into the fold.

‘The Mandalorian’ is a space western and the fans took to it. Now that we have five of the eight episodes in our watch histories, fan reception seems to have soured. In conversation with friends, the most stalwart Star Wars fan I know went from saying after episode 1 that “It feels like Star Wars again” to that his enjoyment has plateaued after episode 5 and that he wished more happened in the episodes. This is a common complaint among those watching the series. What started with so much potential and excitement has mellowed into mostly “Baby Yoda” memes, conversations about bad acting, or the lost opportunities in the biggest name actors being there for only one episode as bit characters.

Disney nailed the opening of the series, even succeeding in creating a cute character than fans all enjoyed (see Porgs, Jar Jar, and Ewoks for the failed past attempts) and didn’t even seem poised to cash in on Baby Yoda love with toys and other merchandise. But the last few episodes have a seemingly uphill struggle ahead of them.

Who Watches the Watchmen On HBO?

The flipside to this is the reception of ‘Watchmen’. After the airing of the first episode, we saw review bombing based off of the inclusion of racially charged historical events that some of the IMDB ratings would cite as being cheap pandering or virtue singaling. After each week and new episode, the show’s rating on IMDB has only gone up and fans have flocked to the depth of the series’ writing, with a whole website of supplementary materials for the most granular-minded fans to sift through and glean clues from.

Delving into deep topics and enlisting historical events to back up its story, the series is praised for being smart and a true addition to the ‘Watchmen’ brand, even picking up several Critic’s Choice Award nominations, with ‘The Mandalorian’ missing from the announced nominations entirely. The show’ has had a meteoric rise after its initial marketing had the people of the internet voicing their concerns about the masked police imagery that it featured. 

Whether the two series will stick their landings is yet to be seen, but seeing them seemingly trade places in fan reception has been an interesting exercise is not judging a book by its cover and a possible lesson to the powers-that-be trying to cash in on IP with anything less than the best intentions.

Zorro: Rise of the Old Gods Issue #1 Review

A Review from Stephen Clark

When I was a kid, after 9PM or so, the Disney channel would switch from cartoons and live action preteen programming over to airing old black and white TV series, feel good family sitcoms and a few older movies. My favorite among these would be the old black and white Zorro episodes. Because of that, when my grandma and I went to go see ‘The Rugrats Movie’ and they were sold out,  9 year old Stephen suggested we watch ‘The Mask of Zorro’ instead. We did and my Mom was none too happy about it.

This comic, similar to the movie then, Mom wouldn’t have approved of a 9 year old reading. But not for any of the reasons I’d have seen coming.

Camp and avoiding the generic.

On the cover of the comic, it touts the 100 year anniversary of the character Zorro. He’s a product of his time in storytelling style and the world that those stories will be presented in. While reading the comic, the dialogue was one of the first things that stuck out. It came off…formal? Initially, this felt like possibly bad writing but I quickly began reading it like the black and white serial episodes from my childhood. I enjoyed it for the campy formulaic story that I remembered. 

That is, until it departed from that in a BIG way. A nine foot tall eldritch monster kind of way. 

This isn’t a bad thing. We’ve seen a bit of re-framing and fun happen around a lot of classic properties like the Archie comic crossovers with the Predator a couple years back. The monster in this Zorro comic was a jarring change, to be certain, but wasn’t for the worse. Again, stories are a product of their time, and monsters and the casual treatment of gore are certainly one of the defining characteristics of media in the last couple decades.

Storytelling through tropes

One of the first characters we meet in the comic is Mathias, a man with long white/blonde hair. He and his half brother are the leaders of a band of criminals who clearly have a lot more going on with their past and their different parentage is pointed in such a way that we know it’ll be a focus going forward. 

The trope of the possibly supernatural sibling who looks really different from the rest of their family is one that fits well into this new supernatural Zorro world for me and I’m curious to see where that goes.

Art and presentation

The interior art of the comic suffers a bit from same-face-different-outfit qualities but doesn’t detract from the storytelling. The colors stand out as one of the best portions of the art on the page often, though I do think they could better incorporate shading present in the line work in some specific instances. 

Final thoughts

What started as a read that I had to find the enjoyment in, surprised me and subverted my expectation of what a Zorro comic could be. For a first issue, they sow good seeds that are sure to pay off later.

The character of Zorro inserted into a story that the original creator would have never written and does so without being a bad thing. A hard feat to achieve!

Overall Score: C+

Positives: An interesting take on an old character that still maintains itself well in that universe.

Negatives: A turn that won’t be for everyone and art that, at times, took away from the portrayal of the story.

A review copy of this issue was provided by the publisher American Mythology Productions find out more about this series at www.americanmythology.net

30 years of Tim Drake, but still not old enough to drink

Here is a celebration of one of the Robins, Tim Drake, who first appeared back in August 1989 in Batman #436.  It was a quaint appearance and I imagine most fans didn’t even look twice at the panels because the story was Batman Year Three and the focus was on the Post Crisis origin of Dick Grayson.  From those humble beginnings Tim Drake has persevered as a character, gained quite a fan base, and even been considered the best Robin.  Let us take a dive into the story of Tim Drake. 

Batman #436

As I mentioned his first appearance was in a flashback of Year Three and it was in a photograph that would be the last picture of the Flying Graysons.   This story arc took place well after A Killing Joke and A Death in the Family so many of the Bat Family members were taken out of the field.  The editorial of the time was worried about introducing another Robin since things went so tragically bad with Jason Todd.  There was a need for Robin but just how do you get him to be likeable and accepted by the fan base?  There was no chance that Dick Grayson would go back as he was widely accepted as Nightwing.  Enter Marv Wolfman and George Perez.

Batman #442

These two gentlemen had done wonders for the New Teen Titans and had transformed Dick Grayson into Nightwing.  Marv came over and wrote all of Year Three, which had beautiful covers by George, which would lead perfectly into the next story arc, A Lonely Place of Dying.  This would be the story that gives us a reason to want Tim Drake as Robin; when Jason became Robin he was stealing tires off the Batmobile, not too heroic a moment.  Tim was introduced as a mysterious character and was quite the detective already; he had remembered the Flying Graysons moves and saw Robin using those and from that deduced that Bruce Wayne must be Batman. 

Robin #0

In the story, A Lonely Place of Dying, the issues zig-zagged back and forth from Batman and the New Teen Titans issues.  Tim had convinced Dick that Batman need Robin, but also some help.  Dick came around to it, but just couldn’t go back to being Robin yet he would still help Batman on the case.  The case would pick the original Dynamic Duo against Two-Face; who would eventually trap both Batman and Nightwing, so who would save them?  Robin would come to the rescue and prove that Robin was needed and Tim could rise to the challenge. 

Red Robin #12

Tim becoming Robin made some major changes to the way the character was perceived.  Tim would go on to change the costume bringing in some armor and a new design, computer and detective skills, along with martial arts ability since he had done some training.  Tim sadly wasn’t able to avoid the curse that most vigilantes have…losing loved ones.  Even before he became Robin he had lost his mother, Janet Drake, to the Obeah Man after she was poisoned in Detective Comics #621 and the story also led to his father, Jack Drake, being paralyzed. 

Red Robin #12

Jack Drake would continue to be a guiding light and sometimes a troubling element in Tim’s life, but the bond of father and son was strong with the two.  Years later there would be another story that would affect the DC Universe and Tim Drake himself, Identity Crisis.  In Identity Crisis, Tim would be forced to listen in on his father’s emergency call to Oracle and how he had to defend himself from Captain Boomerang; these pages were very intense and it was a sad moment that Tim would find himself too late to stop.  Jack did go on to remarry and this would give Tim a step mom in Dana Winters-Drake; sadly after Jack’s death she went in for treatment at a clinic in Bludhaven.  Now we have been led to believe that she died there, but writer Fabian Nicieza says otherwise.

Young Justice #10

Tim has gone onto many other great comics in his time; having had his own successful Robin solo series, leading Young Justice, joining the Teen Titans, and eventually becoming Red Robin.  As the Red Robin he did hold faith that Bruce Wayne was still alive and was proven correct with Bruce’s return; along with that he managed to stop Ra’s Al Ghul and earn his respect.  Tim currently serves with Young Justice by Brian Michael Bendis and has a new costume and is called the Drake.  Here are a couple of stories that I would recommend you check out.  Also if you have any other stories you wish to share feel free to leave a relpy here or on our social media outlets as well.  Always remember to GEEK OUT!

Recommended Reads:

     Batman Year Three:  Batman #436-439

     A Lonely Place of Dying:  Batman #440-442, New Teen Titans #60-61

     Robin #0

     Identity Crisis #5-6    

     Red Robin #1-12

Brian Altano – Revangelion

Album Review By Stephen Clark

The newest music release from Brian Altano, Revangelion carries on the hiphop influenced style from his previous releases. Sampling the well-known and beloved music of Evangelion, it manages to set itself apart from the jump and be much more than just a remix album.

The first track, “A Cruel Angel’s Thesis”, remained my favorite through each listen. This song had the most to live up to and farthest to fall in comparison to its original counterpart and did so fantastically.. Opening with the unchanged beginning of the theme, it switches into a choppy sample of the vocals over strong music that starts the album off with a drive and vibe that I immediately found myself bobbing my head to.

A consistent stand out on every track are the drums. Punctuating each change in the song and giving each track a full arc, like the vocal sample in the first song, giving a bit of voice that I feel would otherwise be lacking in the ambient feeling of the music. Fuzzy synths, horns and other instruments smartly intertwine to craft a musical experience that I enjoyed in full.

Coming in at 21 minutes in length, I was left wanting more but having had a complete experience with the album starting with the opening theme and ending with the closing credits version of “Fly Me to the Moon”. To his credit, Altano never leans into this only being a good listen for fans of Evangelion , choosing to move away from the well known ebbs and flows of the music at every chance it got.

For me, I found that it was the perfect accompaniment to drawing and wished it were longer so I didn’t have to hit repeat each time it ended. But the fact that I did keep hitting that button is a good thing in a world where any music you could want is available at the click of a mouse.

Overall score: B+ 

Positives: Great execution of a remix album, a perfect opening, and smart decisions on when to depart and be very much its own work. And a good shout out to @AttackPeter for the fantastic album artwork.

Negatives: A shorter release. Just when I was really getting going and enjoying the music, I’d realize that I was on the last track.

Listen to and purchase the album yourself at https://brianaltano.bandcamp.com/album/revangelion 

Review code for this album was provided by Brian Altano.

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