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2019 Gaming Calendars

Thank you Abrams Books for sending us five calendars to fight over…I mean review!

2018 is coming to an end and with the new year fast approaching we must decide on a calendar to use for next year. Gamers may want to look into the following calendars from Abrams Books:

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Pokémon
Splatoon
Super Mario
Super Nintendo Entertainment System

Each calendar has four mini-calendars from September-December of 2018 in case you want to swap it out a little early. Holidays are noted for various countries around the world. I now know that Australia Day is on January 26h and observed on the 28th. Australia, Canada, and New Zealand will be celebrating Mother’s Day with us on May 12th. Australia and New Zealand don’t celebrate Father’s Day until September though. Religious days like Diwali, Kwanzaa, Purim, and Ramadan are also shown. All of the Christian religious days are accounted for.

Many of the holidays that my kids' schools shut down for are also listed along with various bank holidays that are observed in other countries. The beginning and end of daylight saving time is also noted so I can adjust my clocks accordingly. The only thing missing that my current calendar provides are the phases of the moon. I can live without that feature though.

The calendars are nice and big with smooth glossy pages. The artwork is exceptional and any gamer will be pleased with the images chosen for their gaming calendar choice. My family was debating on who should get which calendar and the samples that were sent to us made us do some serious decision making. As the writer of this review, I get first dibs.

The calendars sell for $14.99 on abramsbooks.com which is a reasonable price. They’re still selling similarly themed 2018 calendars so make sure you’re getting the 2019 version of the Pokémon, Splatoon, Super Mario, or Zelda ones. Whichever one you decide on, I’m sure you’ll be happy with it.

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Dark Souls 2: When Less is More

box art

Most modern games seem to put a huge emphasis on amazing, jaw-dropping graphics, intensely fun gameplay, and a riveting storyline that may very well rival the stories written by our friends in Hollywood. These components are often deemed to be the recipe for a great game.

And well, the formula hasn’t led any games astray. If you think of it, most of the greatest games of all time have two of these three things sorted out. So, it would seem to be the highest degree of tomfoolery if one were to create a game without at least trying to get all three right. In fact, most games strive to get these three things done.

Then there’s Dark Souls 2.

It’s a game that isn’t exactly impressive when it comes to today’s standards. The gameplay isn’t that refined as some of the more popular titles, and the storyline? It’s barely even there.

And yet, I’d proudly say that it’s an amazing game and it’s definitely unique. Why do I say so despite having just said that it has none of the things that makes a video great? Well, it’s really just one word -- experience.

That’s right. This second installment in the masterpiece series from From Software is a great game because of the experience it thrusts gamers into. On the title screen, you’re greeted (or not greeted, rather) by something strange -- there’s no difficulty setting. Not only that, but the beginning of the game already makes you feel that you’re playing on hard mode.

And while this may discourage most casual gamers, those who brave the cruel, unforgiving world of the Dark Souls universe are in for a treat.

In all honesty, even the early enemies you face will kill you if you aren’t skilled enough of a player. There are so many traps, some even posing as chests when they’re in fact mimics that cause instant death to beginners and even those who’ve been playing the game for at least 10 hours. The bosses are not only resistant to the damage you deal, but they also hit like trucks, often killing even high-level players with just two blows.

And the terrain, don’t get me started on the perilous terrain. There are so many areas in the game that make it feel like a horrible copy of a platform game, and well, of course, you die if you fall off.

But that’s not all. The controls are wonky and the honestly feel a little robotic at times. Also, the PVP matchmaking is unbalanced.

But all of these make for a unique experience. And because it’s such a unique experience, this video game is a great game.

Most games will make you feel powerful, they will hold your hand and they will praise you as you play the game.

This game, and the other titles in this series? They will mock you with each death by stating the obvious. Red text appears on the screen saying “You died”. It even tracks the number of times you die in the game as if to add insult to digital injury. It forces you to learn, to adapt, and to overcome.

This game is notorious in the sense that it’s greatly contributed to the spike in the search for services like “game console repair near Detroit, MI” where many controllers and consoles have been destroyed out of frustration from the game.

BUT.

This game is great because it teaches you something most games don’t -- true hard work. The strength to accept that things are going to be difficult, and at times the odds may even seem impossible. Sometimes you may fight as hard as you can and still fall short by one swing of your sword.

And the experience of being able to surmount difficult and nigh impossible odds is one that keeps players coming back to this game. You may even say that this game is a rite of passage of sorts between boys and men in the gaming community.

 

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Does Anyone Else Miss Bad Translations in Video Games?

Do you remember the days when the average video game translation was enough to make English teachers despair en masse? Bad video game translations have left a lasting legacy, with phrases such as “Winner Is You” and the classic “All your base are belong to us” worming their way into popular culture. The latter remains popular on memes all over the internet and can even be found on road signs around the world in countries where signage officials have a sense of humor and a fondness for retro video games.

However, as funny as bad video game translations are, they can ruin the immersion of the gaming experience. Nothing takes you out of an in-game world faster than trying to figure out what that garbled sentence is supposed to mean. Thankfully, video game translation services have become far more sophisticated and competent over the years.

For old time’s sake, let’s take a wander down memory lane and look as some of those truly amusing games that were produced before translation and localization skills became such an integral part of video game production.

Bad Video Game Translations: A History

Before we get into some of the funniest video game translations, let’s consider what led to such amazing mishaps in the first place.

Today, gaming is a such a juggernaut entertainment industry, it’s hard to imagine terrible translation and localization being so commonplace. However, in the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s, bad video game localization was so common that it was simply accepted as a charming part of the industry. The problems came from translating these games out of their original Japanese, in most cases. Japanese to English translation is an art. The Japanese characters often don’t translate into English perfectly, so some creativity in finding the right terminology and grammar is required. 

Plus, before the gaming industry become as mainstream as it is today, many of those early companies were seriously underfunded, producing their wares on shoe-string budgets. Localization services often got the short end of the stick. That meant translations done by developers with a phrase book and a looming deadline. Specialty video game translation services didn’t become mainstream until gaming did.   

This led to some truly charming errors, which have given gamers plenty of amusement over the years. So without further ado, let’s take a look at some of the best video game translation errors of all time.

Remembering the Best of the Worst Video Game Translations

Before the modern era of dedicated localization services, the gaming industry ended up with some really botched translations: 

“All your base are belong to us. You have no chance to survive make your time”

The list wouldn’t be complete without the iconic, worst video game translation of all time. It came from the arcade top-down shooter “Zero Wing” in 1989 and makes gamers smile to this day.

“A Winner Is You”  

This congratulatory scene was from Nintendo’s “Pro Wrestling” in 1987. The real reward was this hilarious proclamation of victory.

“You are the very prevailer that protect right and justice” 

This was the closing message at the end of Nintendo’s difficult “Ikari Warriors” from 1987.

“You Spoony Bard”

Not sure how an eating utensil became an adjective? Nor are we, but rumors abound. This iconic line is from “Final Fantasy IV.” It was released on the SNES in 1991 for North American audiences under the title of “Final Fantasy II.”  

“X-Men… Welcome to die!” 

This hilarious line really took the edge off the popular villain Magneto is the 1992 arcade version of “X-Men.” 

“I am Error”

This text, introducing a character in the NES game “Zelda II: The Adventure of Link” in 1988, had gamers scratching their heads. Was this character’s name Error? Really? Rumor has it that the character’s name was actually Error, which makes sense, given some wordplay around the terms “error” and “bug” in the original Japanese.

“Remember to flash the toilet”

This unfortunate reminder was given by a professor-type character in a 1997 Game Boy “Tamagotchi” video game. Consider yourself reminded!

“Fry to the rain forest and save the nature”

Huh? Those poor trees… should we save them or fry them? This line came from the “Aero Fighters 2” arcade game in 1994.

Bad Video Game Localization Today

Today, despite the rise of professional, specialist translation services, video game localization still isn’t immune to bad translations. The most infamous bad translation of the modern gaming era is “Sword Art Online: Hollow Fragment.” It was released on the PlayStation Vita in 2014.

Some of the game’s bizarre lines include:

“Klein became to one who did the fight without everyone noticing it.”

“Would not doing other thing else and focus on attacking be better?”

“(She’s very serious at training and absorbs very fast)” 

Speculation seems to state that the game was text-only in English, so the company didn’t focus on the translation and localization as much.

The modern industry also has a few other examples of poor gaming translation. For instance, Frank West in “Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite” became Flank West in 2017, as a result of the Japanese confusion over the letters R and L. 

Video game translations have come a long way over the years. Luckily “Hollow Fragment” and its ilk are now the exception to the rule, in an industry that has become well served by skilled video game translation and localization efforts.

Author Bio

Louise Taylor was gaming almost before she could walk. Nowadays, when she’s not playing video games, she can be found managing content for Tomedes, a translation agency that provides video game translation and localization services to clients around the world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Music Box Classics: Final Fantasy VII

Thank you Materia Collective for sending us this digital album to review!

Final Fantasy games are known for their extraordinary music and my husband and I have had the pleasure of seeing multiple live symphonic performances of Nobuo Uematsu’s masterpieces. As a result, we own several compilations of Final Fantasy music and managed to get one of our daughters sick of it. Our other two kids love the music so they turned out alright.

Music Box Classics: Final Fantasy VII focuses on a title with many great songs and the music box treatment works well with these melodies. J-E-N-O-V-A is a little too fast paced to be included, but there are plenty of other great songs in this collection. There are lots of theme songs including the Aerith’s, Tifa’s, and the Chocobo song. Of course, the game’s title song is on this album as well.

I love the battle music in Final Fantasy VII and the Fighting song and One Winged Angel are both included. Another welcome addition is Cosmo Canyon though I have to say that I still prefer the version from the game’s soundtrack.

There are fourteen songs in total and they range from a minute and forty-seven seconds to six minutes and forty-one seconds. All of the tracks are great and I highly recommend this $7 digital album to all Final Fantasy VII fans. The songs are available in MP3 and lossless FLAC formats.

As for my daughter who is sick of Final Fantasy music, I have a plan. After she gets married and has a child, I will give it a stuffed animal or a music box with Aerith’s theme. It’s easier to ask for forgiveness rather than permission, but I’m sure the kid(s) will love it.


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The SNES Omnibus: The Super Nintendo and Its Games, Volume 1 (A-M)

snes omnibus

Author: Brett Weiss
Publisher: Schiffer Publishing
Hardcover book
416 full-color pages
Over 350 games covered
MSRP: $42.99

Thank you Schiffer Publishing for sending us this book to review!

I was fortunate enough to grow up with video games and technology as it did. Being born in 1978 (and recently turning forty), I was fortunate enough to play the Atari 2600 long before I went to kindergarten, played tons of the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) through elementary school, and got my Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) in late jr. high or early high school (I don’t remember exactly when; it was early in the system’s launch, but I doubt it was year one).

I had gotten a PlayStation maybe a year after that released, and enjoyed it, but I always felt like the SNES was a perfect storm of available technology and maximum creativity that led to some of the best games of all time, and many remain timeless and revered to this day. (It also helped that I had more time to play games in high school rather than the busier early adulthood that occupied my time shortly after I got my PlayStation.) This book celebrates that generation of gaming by devoting one or two pages to each and every game in the SNES library. This volume covers every game in alphabetical order, starting with ‘3 Ninjas Kick Back’ and ending with ‘Musya: The Classic Japanese Tale of Horror’. Volume 2, when it is released in 2019, will cover game titles starting with N-Z.

The first few pages include a foreword, where the technical specifications of the SNES are discussed, as well as a brief summary of historical context about the system’s release. There is also a preface, where the author talks a bit about his history with gaming, and what led to him writing this book. All of the action starts on page ten.

Each page is in full color, with the title, publisher, developer, game type, and release year all notated at the top. Under that is the box art, a picture of the cartridge, and a general description and summary of the game. If it’s particularly good or bad, you might find some commentary there, too. Sometimes they will compare the game with its Sega Genesis counterpart, if there was one. There are also screenshots, and some titles may have promotional art or a picture of an ad as well.

Other than the general overview, each page also includes a ‘Notable Quotable’, which is typically an excerpt from a review, sometimes modern and sometimes classic, or a comment from a famous YouTuber, game developer, or industry veteran. Some games also feature one or more ‘Insider Insight’, which is a story of how that game impacted one of the many contributors. There are ninety people listed as contributors on pages 404-410. There are also brief articles about the console wars from the era, the historical and preservation value of emulation, and a bibliography.

Reading through this lovingly crafted archive, I was reminded both of the many great games that shaped my adolescence, but also the many that I remember looking at fondly but never having the chance to purchase for myself. I had a job in high school, so I worked for my games – but no kid can afford everything, so something always had to give. Thankfully, I often had great success scouring the used games at my old Blockbuster Video, which no doubt saved me a pretty penny in these early days before GameStop (and FuncoLand was the only used game store around).

A few notable games that I either owned or borrowed from friends which are covered here include:

ActRaiser
Breath of Fire
Chrono Trigger
Clay Fighter: Tournament Edition
Contra III: The Alien Wars (my cartridge is gone, but the SNES Classic delivers)
Desert Strike: Return to the Gulf (borrowed from a friend)
Donkey Kong Country
Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy Kong’s Quest (spelled wrong in the book: it's supposed to be Diddy's Kong Quest!)
Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong’s Double Trouble!
Earthworm Jim (I have this and Earthworm Jim 2 on PC also!)
Final Fantasy II
Final Fantasy III
Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest
F-Zero (SNES Classic only)
Gradius III
Inindo: The Way of the Ninja (my cartridge is gone, and makes me very sad!)
Jurassic Park (actually haven’t played it, but apparently it’s quite excellent! Garage sale find)
King of the Monsters 2 (another garage sale find, haven’t played it yet)
Kirby Super Star
Kirby’s Dream Course (SNES Classic only)
Lagoon
The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals (I thought I had a copy of Lufia 1, but my memory must be hazy)
Mario Paint
Mega Man 7 (I played it on the GameCube collection)
Mega Man X (I played it on the SNES version, but ended up beating it on the rare PC version!)
Mortal Kombat (I think I played a friend’s copy)
Mortal Kombat III (I played the arcade version much more)

This book is an excellent retrospective, and reminded me of several games that I wanted to pick up when I was younger, but never had the chance, as well as some new ones I hadn’t heard of. Who knew that one of the better RPGs on the SNES had a name as wacky as Brain Lord? I had no idea the Michael Jordan video game was actually decent. Apparently the Disney games were all fantastic. Did you know that Blizzard Entertainment met the team that eventually became Blizzard North who created Diablo though their early work on SNES games? All of this, and much more, is lovingly detailed in The SNES Omnibus: The Super Nintendo and Its Games, Volume 1. If you are a collector, or simply love the SNES, then I highly recommend that you pick up this book ASAP. It may be pricey, but it’s worth every penny.

 


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Music Box Classics: Castlevania

Thank you Materia Collective for sending us this digital album to review!

The iconic Castlevania series made its debut in 1986 and I enjoyed playing the first three on the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). While I didn’t own the first two games, I have played them at friends’ houses on several occasions. The game I’m the most familiar with is Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse of which there is one track, Beginning, on this album.

Six songs including the 11-second prologue are from the first game. Simon’s Quest has four songs devoted to it. Symphony of the Night has four songs and while they’re good, I didn’t recognize them since I haven’t played any Castlevania games since the NES era.

As the album title suggests, all fifteen tracks are in a lullaby music box style. Each of the songs are exceptionally done despite being a little slower paced than the originals. The longest song is nearly four minutes and most of the tracks are a couple of minutes in length. Many of them bring back good memories of playing this classic series. The soothing music is very relaxing, but I would recommend exercising some caution as they may be too relaxing to listen to when doing long driving stretches late at night! Having this album shuffled in with the rest of your music library is highly recommended though.

This album is ideal for any Castlevania fan who is familiar with the first few games. The asking price on Bandcamp is a reasonable $7. These songs would be great for conditioning a baby to appreciate awesome game music at a tender age. Additionally, these songs would go great in a crib mobile or perhaps a Build-A-Bear. I wish these albums were around when my kids were babies. I guess I can indoctrinate my future grandkids in the not-so-distant future.

 


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Playing with Elsa is fun

Frozen

Elsa

In 2013, Walt Disney Animation produced a computer-animated film named frozen, the main character of the film is a runaway princess famous for her icy powers who lives far away and no one knows but due to her powers frozen winters prevail in the kingdom forever, her younger sister Elsa sets off on an adventure to find her sister and bring back her sisters and summers in her kingdom. In 2013, Walt Disney Animation produced a computer-animated film named frozen, the main character of the film is a runaway princess famous for her icy powers who lives far away and no one knows but due to her powers frozen winters prevail in the kingdom forever, her younger sister Elsa sets off on an adventure to find her sister and bring back her sisters and summers in her kingdom. Most famous character, Elsa, mostly called frozen is popular among young kids especially girls all around the globe. They want Elsa on every possession of theirs. Elsa on book covers jewelery, toys, accessories, furniture, walls, bags and literally everywhere. Elsa on book covers jewelery, toys, accessories, furniture, walls, bags and literally everywhere.

Games of Elsa

Elsa games is the anchor where you will find the games of frozen featuring Elsa, Anna, the funny snowman and some characters from various other movies like the popular Jack Frost from The Guardians, Rapunzel, and Picacho from Pokémon and many others. These games are literally so many and offer a huge variety of options. Subjects include makeup, dress up, cooking, spa, fashion, romance, wedding, parties, competitions, puzzles, adventure and much more. You can plan marriages, be a beauty artist, decorate, cook, compete, prep, give a manicure and a Pedicure, plan weddings, parties and balls, make hairstyles, do makeup , decorate cakes, cook delicious foods , solve puzzles and mysteries , go on adventures, enjoy spas and all those fun things a girl can dream of.

All these games come along a short description of the plot of the game and directions on how to play it. It provides an easy and user-friendly interface which is very helpful for gamers especially young children.

Features of these games
most prominent features of these games are:

1. Colorful

All these games come along a short description of the plot of the game and directions on how to play it.

All the games found here are developed using bright and sharp colors which are eye-catching and pretty to look at especially bright pink is used to attract young children.

2. Musical
another prominent feature us the music used in games. It is fast and fun to listen with many appealing sound effects.

3. Joyful 
Colors and music make it a joyful experience, animation, and creative graphics take the experience to a new level.

4. Easy and Fun to play
these games are so designed that they are fairly easy to play which makes them so much fun.

5. For all ages
Though Elsa is a cartoon character for kids but its games related to romance and event planning can be played by young adults and the elderly as well, obviously for fun and be young again.

6. Varying characters
Variety of characters makes it even more interesting to spend time on.

7. Interesting stories
there is a spellbinding story in each game which makes it even more enthralling to play. For instance, in one story Elsa has to get ready for a ball but meets an accident; gamers have to help her get ready in time and overcome the mishap.

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Guitar Collections Final Fantasy IV

Thank you Scarlet Moon Records for sending us this digital album to review!

Of all the Final Fantasy games I’ve played, IV and VI have the most memorable music and stories though there are some other runner-ups in the series as well. Nobuo Uematsu is a talented composer and my husband and I have had the privilege of seeing him in person and conducting a live orchestra performing many of his masterpieces. We have also seen live performances of string quartets playing his works too. I’ll also confess to owning every CD from the Black Mages and Earthbound Papas. I also have the overclocked remixes from Final Fantasy IV and Final Fantasy VI (hands down better than IV).

Upon hearing about the Guitar Collections Final Fantasy IV album, I was hoping for a chance to check it out and I’m glad that we were able to do so. William Carlos Reyes from The OneUps does an exceptional job playing the classical guitar and does these songs proud with his performance. I’ve only been playing the guitar for a couple of years and it will be a while before I can consider myself worthy of attempting any of these songs.

In total, there are twelve tracks and my favorites from Final Fantasy IV made the cut. The Theme of Love and iconic Fight Song are both done beautifully. Of course, Rydia’s song and the main theme are present too. If you enjoy the town music, you’ll be happy to know that it’s on this album as well. The final track is an original piece titled The Crystals which is inspired by Final Fantasy IV.

This album sells for $8.99 on Amazon and $10 on Bandcamp and it’s worth picking up if you enjoy Final Fantasy IV and its music. They’re planning on making a Guitar Collections Final Fantasy series and I’m definitely looking forward to future releases.

 


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Utopia 360 VR Headset: Features, Specs, and Price

Utopia 360 VR
Image source: Amazon

Nowadays, VR has become a popular trend in the tech world. There are more and more advanced VR headsets on the market. However, it is hard to pick just one. Some of them come with amazing features and specs, while others have a very affordable price. Also, you need to take into consideration the requirements of every headset before you choose the right one for you.

In this article, we are going to present you the most important things you should know about this VR headset. However, if you need more information about Utopia 360 VR features, you can check out an in-depth review on Top Best VR. Now, let’s see which are the main specs of this device.

Utopia 360 VR Specs and Features

As you probably know, there are different types of VR headsets. Some of them work with Xbox, PlayStation or a PC. However, there are also some VR headsets that work with smartphones, like Utopia 360 VR. This is a smartphone-based VR headset that is depended on the platform.

One of the best things about this device is that it comes with a 360-degree field of view. It has an Android platform so it doesn’t work with iOS smartphones. Unfortunately, this is not a professional headset like Oculus Rift or PSVR. Despite this fact, it comes with great features and specs for its small price.

The best feature is that it supports AR apps, unlike most headsets in its class. On the other hand, it doesn’t support a lot of new games and apps. Despite this fact, you can play a lot of VR games and AR apps on this device. Many users mentioned that it offers the real VR experience and it only comes with some minor inconveniences.

Utopia 360 VR Requirements and Design

Unfortunately, like any other device, this VR headset comes with some problems. The main issue is the resolution of this headset. It is not quite clear which smartphones fit in the front dock of the device. Also, the resolution is given by the resolution of the smartphone so you can’t know for sure which is the resolution of this headset.

When it comes to its design, the VR headset comes with simple, basic design that makes it easier to use. If you tried another VR headset before, the Utopia 360 will seem easy to set up and use. However, there is a minor issue with its design. Some users complained the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 devices don’t fit the first few times they tried it. However, after a few uses, the phones seem to fit just right. This could mean that this headset loosens up which is a design flaw.

Utopia 360 User Experience and Price

One of the best things about this device is that it is easy to use. The setup process is simple. You just need to select the game or app you want to use and put the device on the front dock of the VR headset. After that, you can enjoy the full VR experience. However, you need to select the app before putting the device in the dock because it is uncomfortable to preview games and apps while having the headset on.

Despite this, most users mentioned that this device works just as it advertised. This is great considering that most devices don’t always work as they advertised. The main problem with this headset is the smartphone requirements. Due to the fact that the manufacturer is not quite clear about the size of the smartphone and the resolution, you might not be able to use the headset with your smartphone.

However, you need to take into consideration the great price of the device. Utopia 360 VR headset costs only $39.99. It is hard to come with more features and better specs and still manage to beat the price of this headset. This VR headset is best for those who want to experience the VR world without spending a lot of money. However, if money is not a problem and you want a device with better specs which can be used with your PC, you should opt for Oculus Rift. 

These are the most important things you should know about Utopia 360 VR headset. This device is a great one for beginners to the VR world because it is simple to use and it comes at an affordable price. The 360-degree field of view makes this headset stand out of the crowd.

 

 

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String Player Gamer: Rebirth

Thank you Materia Collective for sending us this digital album to review!

Ever since String Player Gamer’s rendition of Undertale’s music, I’ve been a fan of his work. The Rebirth album has a wide variety of songs, instruments, and source material. Not all of the songs are based off of video games either. Light of the Seven from Game of Thrones makes an appearance. There are some songs from the movies Wonder Woman and Star Wars: A New Hope too. Other than those few songs, the rest of the tracks are from classic video games from the past couple of decades.

In total, there are thirty-two tracks and they are all exceptionally done. Most of them are instrumental though there are some with vocals like Pokémon’s Magikarp Song and the Song of Mana from Legend of Mana. There’s even an acapella version of Star War’s throne room song. Along with the instrument playing, the vocals are fantastic.

There’s a lot of Nintendo representation with songs from Kirby's Dream Land, Super Mario Odyssey, Super Mario Land, Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks. There are quite a few Pokémon songs including battle and town music. Chrono Cross has a couple of songs in this album. Retro gamers will enjoy tracks from Mega Man 3, Street Fighter II, Sonic the Hedgehog, and the Tetris Reggae. Some other songs come from games like Animal Crossing, Assassin’s Creed II, and Professor Layton and the Curious Village. I was happy to see some Final Fantasy (XV) representation on this album too.

In the end, this album has something for every gamer and fans of superhero and Star Wars movies. The price is a reasonable $12.99 and you can listen to it before buying it on Bandcamp and other digital resellers. While it is available digitally on Amazon, it’s a little more expensive there.


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GameChangers: Dreams of BlizzCon

Thank you FilmRise for sending us this DVD to review!

Before watching this documentary by John Keating I was aware that eSports were big and getting more popular every year. I also knew that Koreans dominated it. I just didn’t realize how huge eSports are or what it takes to make a living as a professional gamer. I’m also now aware of the dedication and commitment required to pursue dreams of competing in BlizzCon someday.

This documentary follows two professional gamers, MC and MMA, as they rise up the ranks to compete in Blizzcon 2014. MMA is twenty-six years old and nearing retirement. He’s considered ancient in terms of professional gaming as many of the rising stars are teens and older gamers cannot match their reflexes. Seeing these guys play StarCraft 2 for hours on end and clicking away at their keyboards and not even looking at their fingers is super impressive. I have no doubt that they would kick my butt in a matter of seconds as I use my mouse to issue orders instead of keyboard macros.

I like how the documentary goes into the family backgrounds of MMA and MC. MMA’s father is a preacher and wishes for his son to follow in his footsteps. MMA takes care of his family by providing them with fresh fruit that his mother loves and by donating his paychecks to their church/ministry. MC’s father died when he was very young and he was raised by his mother. To make ends meet his mom had to work a lot and suffered from depression as a result. MC is one of the highest paid professional gamers and his paychecks go towards caring for his mom.

I won’t reveal any spoilers as to which of these pro gamers made it to BlizzCon, but I highly recommend watching this 89 minute documentary for yourself. You’ll be amazed at the dedication and sacrifices required to succeed in the pro gaming world. With eSports having more viewership than the NHL and the US Golf Open, it’ll probably be around for a while.  If you're interested in seeing what eSports is all about, GameChangers: Dreams of BlizzCon will be available for purchase and rental on iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, and Vudu on June 12th.

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Glory To Metal (A Symphonic Metal Tribute to NieR: Automata)

Thank you Materia Collective for sending us this digital album to review!

After hearing Ferdk’s symphonic metal rendition of several popular Undertale songs, I became a fan and bought the tracks. Ferdk and I both enjoyed the music and gameplay from the sleeper-hit, NieR: Automata.

Glory to Metal features four enhanced tracks from the game that are a little over three minutes each. The $4 bundle includes the following songs:

Bipolar Nightmare
Alien Manifestation
Forest Kingdom
Grandma (Destruction)

Two of the tracks are battle oriented while the other two focus on the game’s ambient music. Each of the songs harness Ferdk’s bombastic symphonic metal music style. In Bipolar Nightmare you’ll hear pounding drums, guitar, bells, and an orchestra backing it up. It’s been a while since I played this game but I’ll take an educated guess that this is one of the fighting tracks. Alien Manifestation has the guitars taking the lead with the orchestra and drums backing them up. The organ work is great as well. I am assuming this is one of the background music pieces.

Forest Kingdom features a xylophone and is probably the tamest track on the album. The tempo picks up halfway through the song and is a joy to hear in its entirety. I’m quite certain that this is one of the ambient songs in the game. The orchestra starts off Grandma (Destruction) and the guitar quickly steps in and dominates this battle music track.

All of tracks are wonderful and I can’t pick a favorite. As expected, the guitar work is exceptional and prominently featured in each of the tracks. My only complaint with this album is that it’s over too quickly! I look forward to more game inspired renditions from Ferdk.

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Everything You Need to Know About Nintendo Emulators and ROMs

What is a Nintendo emulator? It is the easiest way to play Nintendo retro games on your PC, laptop, tablet or smartphone. But how do emulators work? Is it a complete substitution for a console?

n64

Basically, the emulators are hardware or software that enables your computer's system to behave like another system, which you're trying to emulate. The most frequently used forms of emulators are game emulators for popular old-school console systems from 90's and 2000's. One of those systems is Nintendo. To get a NES (or Nintendo) emulation software on your tablet, PC, or smartphone, you have to download it from the Internet. Today, there are a lot of specialized websites which provide free access to all existed emulators and ROMs (games). For example, you can get a nintendo emulator on romsmania.com with a full pack of games for it. If the emulator and the ROM files are chosen based on your OS requirements, they will perform as closely as possible to the original system. So, how to choose a concrete Nintendo emulator and Nintendo roms download files to get the most out of them?

Nintendo Emulator and ROMs: Downloading and Installation Process

As we have already mentioned above, you have to find the proper Nintendo emulator download files depending on your computer's operating system and parameters. This information is always mentioned on the websites, which provide Nintendo files. Pay attention what other users say. Picking the emulator by the rating is a good choice too. As the older device you have, the higher chances that some programs will lag or work too slow on them. So, keep it in mind. If it is a low-level emulator and a very modern and powerful device, they may not perform well together. If you want your Nintendo games run smoothly on your PC or laptop, you always have to pick those files which are created to work together.

When it comes to ROMs, you also have to match them to the emulator you download. For example, for Nintendo you can choose something among:

  • Super Mario Bros 3;
  • Kirby's Adventure;
  • Contra;
  • Super Mario World;
  • Metal Gear;
  • Zelda 2 – The Adventure of Link;
  • Airwolf;
  • Aladdin 1,2,3;
  • Bases Loaded 1,2,3,4;
  • Bubble Bobble, etc.

rom

Since you have both the emulator and the ROMs downloaded to your device, you can go ahead and start the installation process. First of all, create a separate folder to place all the extracted Nintendo files together. The installation process may take a couple of minutes only. Just click on «Next» button. Then, double-click the emulator and run it. You'll see a small window, where the game will be displayed. You can customize this window to your own preferences. You can make it a full-screen game, change the controllers, the sound, etc. Press on «Options» to see the full list of configuration features. Now, you can go back to the game and start playing whatever you want.

Best Nintendo Emulators

If you don't know which Nintendo software to choose from, here is the list of the most popular ones on the Internet:

  • Jnes;
  • ImbNES;
  • HalfNES;
  • Nestopia;
  • FwNES;
  • Nemulator;
  • MarioNES;
  • And 80five.

These are the Nintendo emulators with the highest rating from the users. So, definitely check them to pick one or two if you consider playing those famous console games from 90's. And don't forget to leave your feedback too. Which emulator and which Nintendo game are your favorite ones?

 

 

Disclaimer - this post has been provided by romsmania.com

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Flash/Browser Games Trends to Watch Out for In 2018

 

flash browser games

Games that can be played in browser are our salvation when we’re bored, regardless of our location. As long as there’s WiFi and you have a device that supports a modern Internet browser, you could be at work, caught in a long commute, or bored out of your skull at a conference and still have entertainment options due to these wonderful creations.

The history of browser games started in 1995, with the birth of Macromedia Flash (now known as Adobe Flash) and Action Script and evolved to HTML5 games, that don’t require you to install Flash as a browser extension. The cool thing is that browser games cover a wide range of genres and they can be both single and multi-player. Even more, these games are highly portable and can be played on different devices and browsers, some even offering a persistence feature (where your game progress is saved).

Throughout the years, you can observe an ascending trend, with flash/browser games becoming more complex and diverse. Thus, both the level of action and the graphic quality evolved so nowadays, games like DOOM, Dragon Ball Z Online, and Infinite Mario Bros, can be played in browser (of course, there are more cool examples to check out).

But what will happen next? Is there more space for development when it comes to browser games? Let’s see what we should expect in 2018.

More Remakes of Classic Games

The classics made history for a reason: they are entertaining and difficult to let go. So there’s no surprise that you’ll find them available online in a free-to-play format. I already mentioned Mario but other classics are expected to show up this year so keep your eyes peeled.

The best thing about a browser game (except the fact that they’re readily available without complicated installs) is that you can enjoy a fantastic game for free (as most browser games are free versions). Even more, classic remakes come with better graphics and smoother action.

More IO Games

The trend of IO games may have been born on a whim and showed up as of nowhere, but it will stay strong in 2018 as well. If you don’t know the genre, you should know that these are online browser games that are easy to understand yet difficult to master. A good example of an IO game is Little Big Snake (which is also based on the classic Snake game).

Basically, this trend started with basic games that took around 5 to 10 minutes to play (just perfect for when you’re stuck somewhere with nothing better to do). However, as people’s interest grew, so did the complexity of the game (both in graphics and gameplay).

More HTML5 Games

flash browser games

There is a constant battle between Adobe Flash and HTML5 and there was a time when we thought that the multitude of security issues and other problems may bring an end to the first. However, Flash still has lots of power in the world of browser games and other applications so you’ll still find that you’ll need the browser extension if you want to play all the cool games.

Still, it is expected that 2018 will bring more browser games based on the HTML5, CSS3 and JavaScript technologies since they evolved and grown becoming more reliable. The HTML5 platform allows game creators to offer a more fluid and immersive experience for players due to great animations and cool interactive elements. Not to mention they are already embedded in modern browser clients so games will run on a native platform.

More Complexity in Graphics

Just like with PC and Console video games, it is expected to see more graphic complexity for browser games as well. Of course, you can’t compare one with the other since browser games are specially created for short-term entertainment and they run in a browser, but specialists expect a bit more this year. As it can be expected, game creators already deliver with games like League of Angels, Imperia Online, and more.

Overall, the 2018 trend for flash/browser games is of growth and we can’t wait to see new releases with more complex gameplay and stories. Our time-to-kill moments just got a lot more interesting this year!

 

 

 

 

--Disclaimer - this post has been provided by Katie Green.

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CORE Gaming Backpack by Mobile Edge

Thank you Mobile Edge for sending us a loaner backpack to review!

The CORE Gaming Backpack was successfully Kickstarted in September 2017, exceeding its $30,000 goal by $4! As of this review, the backers have received their products and most of them are satisfied with the results.

As an owner of a 15.6” gaming laptop it’s rather challenging to find a laptop bag big enough to fit my laptop let alone the accessories I like to tote around with it. Granted some of the items I carry around are not your typical fare, but I like to keep it all together if possible.

I’m happy to report that my laptop does indeed fit in the checkpoint friendly pouch. This is great for easy access and airport security checks. The fleece pouch for tablets is super soft and won’t scratch the screen unless you add something sharp in there along with it.

Core Gaming Backpack

There were some nice add-ons like a USB charging bank which I did not get to review, but this backpack does make it easy to charge accessories with its built in USB cable. Another add-on was a Samsung Gear VR. Again, this was not included with the backpack, but, my first generation Samsung Gear VR fit nicely in the middle pouch. While I was able to store my SteelSeries controller, Oculus Touch controllers and sensors, I could not get my Oculus Rift to fit inside the backpack with all of my other accessories. My current laptop bag can fit everything.

As long as you don’t need to carry a full blown VR setup, there is plenty to like in this backpack. The build quality is top notch. The rubberized grip on the metal reinforced carrying handle is both comfortable and sturdy. The gel lined backing and straps adds further comfort for long walks with a heavy laptop on your back. The shock absorbing straps seem pretty strong as well. Since we can’t keep this review sample, it’s hard to say how long it will last, but the overall build quality is quite good at first glance.

Core Gaming Backpack

In my attempts to squish my Rift in there I started to see some threads showing but that would probably happen with any item and I did not force the issue to avoid damaging my Rift or the backpack. If something were to happen to the CORE Gaming Backpack, it’s backed by a lifetime warranty. On the Kickstarter page they seem to be very responsive to customer complaints and thankfully, a majority of them are satisfied with their products. One of the backers was having trouble fitting their 17” Asus RoG laptop in it, but I don’t have a laptop that big to confirm that. My 15.6” MSI fits great with some room to spare.

There are plenty of pouches for various accessories. I like the small memory storage units for SD cards. The Velcro front is rather strange for my tastes but it makes customizing the backpack rather easy if you have Velcro decals for your favorite games, sports teams, or sponsors. There is a Velcro free version available as well.

The price is very reasonable for this gaming laptop backpack. Early bird backers were able to get it for $75 with free shipping. Not so early backers were able to snag it for $89 shipped. Everyone else can get it on Mobile Edge’s website for $129.

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2017 Christmas Buying Guide

Here’s a quick breakdown of the most family friendly games we have reviewed in 2017. More reviews can be found on ChristCenteredGamer.com! Each game is given a gameplay score for the overall gaming experience and a moral score for how suitable it is for younger gamers. The Amazon and Humble Store links will benefit Christ Centered Gamer by giving us a small % of the sale.

System Game Game Score Moral Score Buy it!
Nintendo 2DS/3DS
Nintendo 3DS
Metroid: Samus Returns 92% 90% $39.99
Nintendo 2DS/3DS
Nintendo 3DS
Story of Seasons: Trio of Towns 86% 94% $39.99
Nintendo 2DS/3DS
Nintendo 3DS
Kid Tripp 80% 96% $3.99
Switch
Switch
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
(Switch, Wii U)
98% 83% $59.99
Switch
Switch
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe 88% 98% $59.99
Switch
Switch
Puyo Puyo Tetris
(PS4, Switch)
88% 97% $39.99
Switch
Switch
Fast RMX 86% 96% $19.99
PC/Mac
PC/Mac/Linux
Hover: Revolt of Gamers 94% 96% $19.99
PC/Mac
PC/Mac/Linux
RIVE: Wreck, Hack, Die, Retry 94% 94% $14.99
PC/Mac
PC/Mac/Linux
20XX 90% 93% $14.99
PC/Mac
PC/Mac/Linux
Minecraft Story Mode: Season Two
(Android, iOS, PC, PS4, Xbox One)
90% 87% $24.99
PlayStation 4
PlayStation 4
Destiny 2 
(PC, PS4, Xbox One)
96% 86% $59.99
PlayStation 4
PlayStation 4

Cities: Skylines
(PC, PS4, Xbox One)

94% 100% $49.99
PlayStation 4
PlayStation 4
Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA Future Tone 92% 87% $53.99
PlayStation 4
PlayStation 4
Aven Colony
(PC, PS4, Xbox One)
90% 82% $29.99
PlayStation Vita
PlayStation Vita
Oceanhorn: Monster of the Uncharted Seas
86% 83% $12.99
  While we have reviewed other Vita games this year, they
are not on this guide because they are not family friendly
enough to be included. You can read our other Vita reviews
 here.
     
Xbox One
Xbox One
Seasons after Fall
(PC, PS4, Xbox One)
88% 86% $19.99
Xbox One
Xbox One
Aaero
(PC, PS4, Xbox One)
86% 94% $14.99
Xbox One
Xbox One
Ghost Blade HD
(PC, PS4, Xbox One, Wii U)
84% 87% $9.99
Xbox One
Xbox One
Typoman Revised
(PC, PS4, Xbox One, Wii U)
82% 93% $12.99
Virtual Reality
Virtual Reality
GNOG (PSVR) 90% 93% $14.99
Virtual Reality
Virtual Reality
Darknet (Vive) 88% 86% $14.99
Virtual Reality
Virtual Reality
Sairento VR (Rift) 88% 85% $29.99
Virtual Reality
Virtual Reality
EVERSPACE (Vive) 86% 96% $29.99
Hardware
Hardware
Custom PS4 Controller N/A N/A $70+
Hardware
Hardware
Gamdias Hebe M1 RGB Surround Sound Gaming Headset N/A N/A $69.99
Hardware
Hardware
Gamdias Hermes E2 7 Color Mechanical Gaming Keyboard N/A N/A $56.99
Hardware
Hardware
Kidz Gear Wireless Headphones N/A N/A $19.99

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What to look for in a gaming laptop

laptop

Buying a gaming desktop or laptop is a big commitment. However, if you get a machine powerful enough, it can provide years of entertainment. Desktops are cheaper and easier to upgrade so if you don’t need portability, you can get more machine for your money that way. No matter which route you go, the advice in this article is applicable for both systems.

Generally speaking, with gaming laptops, you have the classic 'pick two' rule: Power/Specs, Size/build quality, Affordability - pick two. The slimmer and lighter something is, the less powerful - unless you are willing to pay more for it. There are relatively affordable gaming laptops that are significantly less expensive than the thin and powerful variety, but they are usually an inch thicker or more. It's only on the very high end where no matter how much you spend it won't be thin (like SLI video cards and such).

All system types discussed herein are assumed to be Windows computers. Macs can play some games, as can Linux, but they are sadly limited. And while Linux can actually use much of the same hardware as Windows, so most of this guide still applies (with the caveat that OS and hardware support is all on your own), you are still limited on game selection (though you may learn other useful technology skills!). On Mac, you are limited to the maximum of a midrange gaming GPU - for their top of the line Macbook Pro prices. Typically, I would say that people who purchase Mac computers do not or should not choose them with primarily gaming in mind. This is something that Apple Corp. has simply chosen to ignore; they do have the power to fix it if they so choose. Instead, Apple has pre-chosen size and build quality as their sole focus, which is dandy, but they do not make gaming capable laptops, and what they do offer is extremely expensive.

The first step in purchasing a gaming machine is to determine your budget. Faster machines are more expensive and there is no way around that. Most laptops come with Intel graphics but if you want to do some serious gaming, you’ll have to pay a premium for AMD or Nvidia graphics. If you plan on doing VR with your system, you’re going to want a GeForce GTX 1060 at least. Anything faster is, you guessed it, more money.

Another thing to consider is current year vs. previous models. Generally the rule I follow is that it's okay with CPUs, but tread carefully when comparing last generation GPUs. While in principle older models are okay and a decent compromise if the price is right, realize that each new GPU model year, especially when there is a new process node or architecture, dramatically decreases power usage while simultaneously increasing performance. For example, the NVIDIA GTX 1060 6GB is in most cases more powerful than the GTX 980M - and uses far less power doing it, at a much better price to boot. The GTX 1070+ naturally blows the doors off of anything available in the mobile space before.

The best resource available, when comparing notebook graphics chips, is this tool from notebookcheck.net:

https://www.notebookcheck.net/Mobile-Graphics-Cards-Benchmark-List.844.0.html

As you can see, at the time of this publication, NVIDIA owns the high end space, and it's been that way for several years.

When it comes to the CPU, newer models are still better, but not nearly as dramatic as it is when comparing GPUs. For example, the Intel i7 6700HQ is only about 200-300MHz difference between that and the newer i7 7700HQ. There is a difference, but it's not worth spending a lot more for, though at similar prices, obviously get the newer one.

When it comes to gaming, the priorities are GPU first, then CPU, then RAM and storage. You would want no less than 8GB of RAM (and 16GB is better). More is not necessary. I highly recommend a SSD drive for the OS, but that can sometimes come later as an add-on if you are technical enough to clone it there, though it should be standard on any laptop >$1000. There are other considerations, like whether you hope to hook up the computer to external monitor(s) or not, or whether built-in speaker sound quality is important to you or not.

For the record, almost all gaming laptops lack a touchscreen.

Generally, the price to performance brackets go somewhat like this:

<$800: There are significant compromises. Typically you only find integrated video for less than $800, or last year's models of dedicated GPUs. AMD has the brand new Ryzen Mobile CPUs, and they are quite competitive. They seem like a good compromise platform for lower priced systems, though laptops with NVIDIA GTX 1050 GPUs would be slightly faster, if you can find one in this price range, though they often only have 2GB of video ram, which impacts higher resolution gaming. Intel integrated GPUs work okay these days, but are generally to be avoided for a primary gaming PC. (As a companion to a gaming desktop, they can be quite decent, however.) If they have a GPU at all, they will likely come equipped with an i5 CPU, which is a very reasonable compromise to reach that price point, and if this is your budget, go for that.

As a general rule, games will run:
Intel Integrated: low settings only.
AMD Integrated: low to medium settings
NVIDIA GTX 1050 2GB GPU: medium settings

These recommendations generally assume a 1080p resolution (1920x1080), though honestly, integrated video (both Intel and AMD) will have a much better experience with less than a 1080p resolution, as even some games at the lowest settings aren't playable at 1080p, or simply will not work at all on any resolution if the computational requirements are too high, especially on Intel. This is why, generally speaking,

$800-$1000: This is probably where the best price to performance gaming laptops are. Almost all have i7 CPUs (with the occasional i5), and most have NVIDIA GTX 1050s, 1050TIs, or the occasional 1060 on a good sale. For the record, I would choose an i5 CPU with a 1060 over an i7 with a 1050 (either version) any day of the week. AMD GPUs in this price range do exist, but are pretty rare. Most of the laptops with 1050s are a bit thinner, but not thin and light. If you want something with these GPUs that are thin(ner) and light, add several hundred dollars.

NVIDIA GTX 1050 4GB version: medium to high settings
NVIDIA GTX 1050 Ti 4GB: mostly high settings
NVIDIA GTX 1060 3GB version: mostly high settings (there is a case to be made for 1050Ti over 1060 3GB... and vice versa too)
NVIDIA GTX 1060 6GB version: high to ultra settings; performs well in VR.

$1000-$1300: This is pretty much the exclusive range of the i7 with NVIDIA GTX 1050 Ti or 1060 6GB. These should perform comfortably in most games at 1080p. They often come with a bit more 'bling' at this price range, with things like G-Sync screens and extra DisplayPort outs, for multiple monitors. These are the big and heavy gaming laptops, not the thin and svelte ones. Automatically add several hundred dollars if you want thin.

Up until this point, I have assumed that we are talking about playing games on the integrated 1080p screen. None of the above GPUs will work well at 4k, and only the GTX 1060 6GB is acceptable for entry level Virtual Reality (VR). Generally speaking, VR compatible gaming laptops demand much more from the system itself, the thermals, and naturally, the GPU. You may find switchable graphics on the 1050 model laptops; once you enter the VR ready space, this disappears, as VR requires a direct connection to the GPU, which switchable graphics, which tend to optimize for battery life, cannot provide.

Three USB 3 ports and an HDMI 1.4 (or DisplayPort 1.2+) connection are required for VR. Thunderbolt 3 is nice to have since that allows you to connect an external GPU to your laptop at some time in the future if you choose. Not all gaming laptops have these, even if they have USB 3.1 ports. Read the specs carefully!

From here, you have the higher end. If you plan on driving a 1440p external monitor, you can probably get away with a GTX 1060 6GB, but a GTX 1070 is much better here. If you are not going to enjoy VR with your laptop, and you only stick with a standard 1080p screen, then a GTX 1070 is almost certainly overkill. If you are going to play extensive VR or move up to a 4k screen, then a GTX 1070 is practically a bare minimum. 4k gaming is very taxing on the GPU.

$1300-$2000: This is typically NVIDIA GTX 1060 or 1070 territory. One of the only stores to buy a laptop with a GTX 1070 at less than $1500 is at a Micro Center. They currently are selling on one sale for $1299; suffice it to say I count my blessings being able to drive to one. (At our house we have two laptops with GTX 1070s inside thanks to our local Micro Center.)

NVIDIA GTX 1070 8GB: Can play anything at ultra settings at 1080p and 1440p. Medium to high settings at 4k. Performs excellently in VR.

$2000+: This is the high end, and prices can get pretty crazy. There is everything from thin and light notebooks with 1070s to huge fat SLI desktop replacements. These are no holds barred, but I have a hard time justifying the price personally (as at that point you can get a desktop and a 1060 gaming laptop and come out ahead).

NVIDIA GTX 1080 8GB: Can play anything at ultra settings at 1080p and 1440p. Mostly high settings at 4k, but not ultra. Performs excellently in VR.
NVIDIA GTX 1070/1080 SLI: Yup, it's fast.

Optical drives are not standard issue in laptops anymore. Since many games and applications are digital these days, chances are you won’t miss the DVD/Blu-ray drive that much. I do recommend picking up an external drive for the rare moments you’ll need it.

Depending on the size of the laptop you’ll be considering, there may be room for two hard drives. The ideal configuration is having an SSD for booting up your operating system and frequently used apps the fastest and a standard spinning drive for data storage. SSD drives are great but costly in comparison to mechanical ones. Thankfully, this is a pretty standard configuration for most gaming laptops over $1000.

If you want to use your laptop as a desktop replacement or only computer, consider how many video out ports there are. HDMI supports only a single monitor, so if you want two or three, that option will not work. If you would like more, look for laptops with either several video ports on the side, or ones that support DisplayPort MST, which allows you to daisy chain multiple monitors off of one DisplayPort connector. This can also be in the form of a USB 3.1 port, as long as DisplayPort (or Thunderbolt 3) is wired internally. This is how I run two monitors off of my laptop with only one cable.

There are some ways to save money on laptops. If you time it right, you can buy the previous model as they are being phased out by the latest and greatest. Another option is to buy an open box. Before spending any money, check the return policy. As gorgeous as some screens are, many may have some dead pixels. Thoroughly check your laptop for any defects before the return period is up. If possible, open up and power on your laptop at the store to spot any noticeable dead pixels or defects.

Once your machine is purchased, keep an eye on the price for any changes. Some stores will refund the price difference in your favor if it changes within fourteen days of purchase.

I find that the best way to get a great deal on a gaming laptop is to check out a local Micro Center if you have one, and/or check out slickdeals.net. At the time of this writing, there are some killer gaming laptops on sale, being the beginning of Christmas shopping season. If you are lucky or keep an eye out, you can often find fantastic deals.

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Undertale: Strings of Determination

Thank you Materia Collective for sending us this digital album to review!

I reviewed Undertale shortly after its 2015 release date and this game continues to stay popular, with many kids still talking about and playing it. I can see why since it’s a fun game. While I did beat the game once, I haven’t had the time (or determination) to revisit the other endings. What impressed me most about Undertale was the wonderful soundtrack composed by the very same game developer, Toby Fox. Although the game was gifted to me, I purchased the soundtrack and Ferdk’s symphonic metal rendition as well. As great as those are, I truly feel that String Player Gamer’s digital album, Undertale: Strings of Determination, is the definitive soundtrack to buy if you have to choose one. Of course, I recommend picking up all three!

The violin and guitar work is top notch and the production quality is as good as it gets. The songs don't stray too much from the original soundtrack, but the instrument work really does stand out. In total, there are forty-six songs and they are all well done. All of the tracks are arranged by Diwa de Leon and the song ‘Temmie Village’ has a guest acapella singer, Tera Catallo aka TeraCMusic on YouTube. It’s hard to believe that this album was made by a couple of people!

The asking price is a very reasonable $14 and this album can be listened to and purchased on BandCamp, Spotify, and on iTunes. Before this complete album was released, String Player Gamer released four Undertale volumes so if you only want a few of the songs, that’s a cheaper option. Each of the volumes cost $6 so getting the complete set is still a better deal. I now consider myself a fan of String Player Gamer’s work and will continue to follow and look forward to his future masterpieces.

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Our Experience At GDEX

The GDEX was our second conference and it was much bigger than Gamer Grace. We enjoyed our stay in Ohio and felt at home there. I arrived on Friday and got our booth set up as much as I could given the 30-minute unloading time limit and lack of power. Since I had some time to kill before I could check into the hotel, I decided to try some local cuisine and was introduced to fried corn nuggets - those were yummy! Once checked into the hotel, I was planning on utilizing the swimming pool, but some kid threw up into it and it was closed for a few hours. Despite some obnoxious neighbors and kids in the hotel (not mine), I did manage to get some much needed sleep until Jay arrived at 12:30am. Thankfully, on Saturday we had enough time before the doors opened to the public to finish setting up our laptops and Oculus Rift.

Even though they had a nice VR exhibit with several games, our VR setup got a fair amount of use on Saturday. On Sunday, the attendance in the exhibitor hall was much lower and it was only used once or twice that day. I don't know how many people attended the seminars but the exhibitor hall didn't seem to have 4,000 people as advertised. On the other hand, the classes were scheduled back to back and didn't give guests much free time without sacrificing a class to attend.

The GDEX

One highlight of the conference was meeting one of our reviewers, Gamer4Christ, there. Until this year, she never heard of GDEX! We also met a couple of developers (Hullbreach Studios and Schell Games) whose games we have reviewed (and they were still happy to see us!).

There were a lot of exhibitors present and many promising games being shown. Some charities like Extra Life and Able Gamers were there as well. We were not the only gamer reviewers present and we handed out plenty of business cards and made some new contacts. Our review queue has grown because of this conference! That’s a good thing though as many of these games are family friendly and deserve to be promoted.

Many Christians stopped by our booth and offered appreciation and encouragement for what we're doing. We were not the only Christian exhibitors as representatives for The Bible Project were two booths down from us. Some of the game developers we got to know are Christian too!

The GDEX

Our biggest goal at this convention was promotion and awareness. So many people stopping by our booth did not know that we existed! Many of our business cards were taken and people wanted to tell their pastors/priests about our ministry. Despite a few Bibles being returned with (broken) promises of picking them up later, we still gave away about a dozen to good homes. We didn’t want to force them on people and we hope and pray that the people who took them are blessed by them.

Although we didn’t sell any shirts or action Bibles, I still consider this conference a success. I’m smacking myself for forgetting to bring the bumper stickers that we have. In the end, it was great interacting with the gaming and game development community. I look forward to returning next year, Lord willing.

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Battle Princess Madelyn First Impressions

The way of the knight is a path of honor, duty, and cute graphics. At least that's what it is according to Battle Princess Madelyn. This knight in training and her kingdom fall under siege to the forces of a cruel wizard. With her ghost dog Fritzy, fight, jump and bite your way to saving your kingdom.

The first thing this game says is that it is heavily inspired by the Ghosts and Goblins franchise, and this is true in every step down to the way Madelyn runs. While she tosses spears, she can either have her dog shoot balls of energy to stop her foes or she can channel his power to charge at enemies to devour them whole. 

The first impressions are great so far. The story isn't trying to be some deep and complicated trek into Madelyn's world and yet I was invested into the introduction of the game. The combat was simple, but it felt satisfying and fun. My spear wasn't too weak and the trusty ghost dog didn't make the enemies in my way super easy. The artstyle is visually pleasing; people may say doing retro graphics is a lazy indie trope, yet the team behind Madelyn worked hard to make sure the world pulls you in. 

The most important aspect of these sorts of games is the challenge. Despite my own experiences with Ghosts and Goblins, I had a hard yet fair adventure with Madelyn. The enemies were paced well, I didn't get to a point where I felt I could just rush through the game. The enemies were varied and unique. This game doesn't suffer from “enemy recolor number 1000” syndrome. I started my journey with Madelyn in a unkempt graveyard. I had to climb through an Underground Mausoleum and it ended with a boss battle with a giant skeletal knight. When a game is challenging, the satisfaction of beating a level or a boss is all the sweeter. 

I can't completely critique a game that is far from finished so I’ll talk about what should be improved or what I hope stays strong. The music for the first few stages was not what I’d call memorable. While the artstyle pulled me in despite being based on retro graphics, the old school music just didn't do the same thing for me. I hope that the rest of the tracks are more immersive as the game progresses. While the enemies were varied in my playthrough of Madelyn, I hope this stays true throughout the game's development. Recolored enemies can make or break a game; that's why I hope enemy design remains unique throughout the levels. 

Morality wise, you'll see themes of necromancy, and evil magic being used against this girl. Some people may also be bothered by the idea of her loyal friend coming back from the dead with the same evil magic. Though it could also be seen as a pure dog willing to help the hero. From the preview build, Madelyn didn't use any magic herself, this may or may not change. Though as it is now, I have a feeling that this game will be for most people.

I have confidence in Madelyn's development team; I have a feeling it will join Ghost and Goblins in my yearly halloween knight charity run. Best of luck to Casual Bit Games.

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

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