Collecting Amiibo

Amiibo was an odd direction for Nintendo to choose. Sure, we had Skylander figures for that franchise, but Nintendo was going to adopt that idea for the then-upcoming Super Smash Bros. games. For a while, it seemed the idea would be limited to Smash Bros., but after yesterday’s Nintendo Direct, it’s clear that Nintendo is leveraging this idea for far more than just Smash Bros.. We have Amiibo already for Mario Party 10, and upcoming Amiibo for Splatoon and Yoshi’s Wooly World, as well as Amiibo cards for Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer. Suffice it to say that, while I still don’t think this Amiibo idea has any lasting potential beyond the Wii U and New 3DS, Nintendo will probably try to keep with this for as long as possible.

Anyway, that doesn’t mean I’ve not been collecting Amiibo. This post is mainly just to list all the Amiibo that I have.

As of this writing, I have 14 Amiibo (13 Smash Bros. and 1 Super Mario). I have: Sonic, Mario, Zelda, Mega Man, Link, Toon Link, Sheik, Pit, Kirby, Yoshi, Pikachu, Samus, Fox, and Toad. I could easily get Luigi, Bowser, and Peach.

As far as actually using the Amiibo, I’ve used most of them at least once in Smash Bros (those that are compatible). I’ve leveled the Link Amiibo up to 50.

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Kirby and the Rainbow Curse: First Impressions

Yesterday I obtained a copy of Kirby’s latest adventure, Kirby and the Rainbow Curse (as it’s called for the North American release) for Wii U. Gameplay-wise, it’s a follow-up to Kirby Canvas Curse, released in 2005 for the Nintendo DS. This game is played entirely with the stylus (the only button input is the start button, to pause/unpause the game), and as such, there’s really no need to have a television on for this, as it displays exactly what the Game Pad is displaying.

Anyway, the visual aesthetic for Rainbow Curse works rather well; it’s clay animation, with the frame rate slowed down a bit to emphasize the visuals. It’s a neat effect, and definitely sets this game apart even from other Kirby titles, but the visuals don’t really impact or inform the gameplay in any major way. A previous Kirby title, Kirby’s Epic Yarn, incorporated the yarn visuals into the gameplay mechanics, making for a unique game. As it is, Rainbow Curse is not unique and actually lacks some key features from Canvas Curse.

In Canvas Curse, you could tap enemies on the touch screen in order to halt their movements for a few moments. This proved incredibly helpful in navigating stages with the limitations on Kirby’s movements (Kirby is always in ball mode, and only moves with the ropes you draw on the screen, and when you tap Kirby). Another major gameplay mechanic in Canvas Curse was that Kirby could copy enemy abilities by bumping into them. This staple of the Kirby franchise was incredibly useful in Canvas Curse. However, both of these mechanics are absent from Rainbow Curse, and their absence is baffling. I could understand dropping the ability to halt enemy movement by tapping them, but excluding Kirby’s power-ups is even more confusing. It just doesn’t feel like a Kirby game without that. (On that note, there are some instances of Kirby gaining special powers, but those are bestowed by the paintbrush character, and reference the animal companions from the Dream Land series. You have a tank, a submarine, and a rocket, allowing for land, water, and air power. These sections are rare, though)

I’m about halfway through the game right now, and am enjoying it. I just feel that Canvas Curse is the better game.

RIP [Moffat’s] Doctor Who

This Saturday will mark an interesting turning point in my increasing frustration with the television show Doctor Who: it will be the first episode I’m choosing to not watch.

Doctor Who returned to the airwaves in 2005 with Russell T. Davies in charge. RTD left after The End of Time Part Two, which aired at the start of 2010, at which point Steven Moffat took over. Since then, the show has been going downhill, as far as I’m concerned. The most recent episode, of this typing, “Dark Water”, was the tipping point. The episode brought back the Master in the form of Missy, played by Michelle Gomez. I don’t have a problem with that change to the character in general, my problem is who is writing. Steven Moffat has proven time and time again that he cannot write women characters (see Amy Pond, Clara Oswald, River Song, Irene Adler).

That was just the latest point on an ever-growing list of frustrations brought on by Steven Moffat.

If you want to hear me bitch about Moffat for nearly 25 minutes, download this episode of Radio Free Caemlyn.

Marble Hornets Ends

Two years ago, I wrote about the YouTube series Marble Hornets nearing an ending. Season three had been confirmed as the final season, and speculation was rampant about what that final season would reveal, and how the series would end.

Here we are, June of 2014, the fifth anniversary of the series at the end of the week, and the end of the series is in sight. The trio just had a very successful Kickstarter campaign to fund production of season three DVDs. That campaign stated that season three DVDs would ship in August. While the Marble Hornets guys don’t have to hold to that, they probably will, which implies things about the series itself. They will probably need most of July to compile the DVD features, prepare the DVDs for publication, and then to actually print and ready the DVDs and box sets for shipment. To keep to this schedule, the final Entry will have to be filmed and posted before this process begins, which means they’ve got until the first full week of July to end the series if they don’t want to rush the publication process.

This past Sunday night, Entry #86 was uploaded. Without providing spoilers, the video does provide an end to the series. Whether or not it is a satisfactory ending is a subject of debate among fans, as to whether this is the final Entry. There could still be one more entry to round out the series.

As of now, I’m waiting for next week, when the next THAC posdcast episode should be posted, and we’ll have word from the creators as to whether that was the end.

I discovered Marble Hornets back in September of 2009, shortly before Entry #14 was posted. I was a fan from that moment, and have been with the series since. I’ve met Tim, Joseph, Troy, and Brian at a Geek Media Expo event in late 2012. I’ve continued to do the Marble Operator podcast, discussing not just Marble Hornets, but TribeTwelve, Dark Harvest, and Andersen Journals. I’ve met friends through that podcast, through the fandom. Marble Hornets has been a huge part of my life. I don’t want the series to end.

Have questions been answered? Have the conflicts been addressed and resolved? Will a possible Entry #87 provide a satisfactory ending, or is it all ending here? Far as I know, none of the three have gone on record as to if the series has concluded. For now, we wait and see.

UPDATE (24 June, 2014): Entry #87 was posted on Friday, the five-year anniversary of the first video, “Introduction”, being posted. The trio behind the series were at a convention that following weekend, and at a Q&A panel, confirmed that the series has officially ended.

Marble Hornets has officially ended. On the next episode of Marble Operator, I’ll have a roundtable discussion on the final Entry, how the series ended, and an overview of the series.

The Marble Operator episode can be downloaded here.

Box Bot Quest

Someone has made a bot based on an xkcd comic wherein the character wrote a bot to purchase random items, once per day, on Amazon or eBay, with two parameters: the item must cost a dollar and have free shipping. The bot does the purchasing and has it delivered. The entire process is not seen by the person running the bot, so the items arrive in the post as a surprise; you don’t know what you’ve got until you’ve opened the package.

This past Wednesday, I heard about this from my friend Daily on Twitter; they had just read about it somewhere and posted about it on Twitter. I found the concept fascinating, so I filled out the information and started the process. The bot is funded on a weekly basis, and you provide it with seven bucks, for one purchase a day for seven days. Right now I’m just repeating information that is on the official site, so I’ll move on.

My first purchase was on Thursday, and one purchase has been made each day since. The first item arrived today, marked as being sold by Amazon. It was a thin package, so I deduced it had a book or something.

A note at this point: I’m not expecting any of these items to be anything major. I’m expecting small trinkets of some sort, nothing of major value. I don’t know what I’ll do with these items; I may end up giving them away either on Twitter or as prizes on Friday Night Trivia.

I’m typing up this blog entry mainly to have a list of everything I’ve received via the Box Bot.

The first item arrived today, and as I stepped inside my flat I opened the package. Item #1 turned out to be an activity book (although it only has drawings to color, no puzzles) for children, called “Goldilocks and The Three Bears”, with illustrations by John Green and text by Victoria Fremont, published by Dover Publications, Inc..

Update (29 May, 2014): Received the second item in the post today. It shipped from China, and is a flint fire starter lighter kit.

What follows is a list of everything I’ve received from Box Bot, in the order I received them:

Item #1: “Goldilocks and the Three Bears”, a Dover Beginners Activity Book
Item #2: A flint stone fire starter lighter kit
Item #3: A small compass with zipper-pull strap
Item #4: A 2001, Presorted Standard USA stamp, design: Atlas statue at Rockefeller Center, New York City
Item #5: “Fluorescent Toys” (actually just astronomy-themed glow-in-the-dark wall decals)
Item #6: A bottle opener ring
Item #7: A T.Y. Hilton sports trading card (American football, Indianapolis Colts team) 2013 Panini card
Item #8: A pack of five ponytail holders
Item #9: A four-leaf clover charm (orange, green, violet, blue petals)
Item #10: Pack of four small, button-size silver objects with four-leaf clover and “Lucky Penny”
Item #11: A metal-wireframe owl necklace with colored fake-plastic jewels
Item #12: A set of three postage stamps
Item #13: A 2014 Tops sports trading card of Jorge De La Rosa, pitcher for the Colorado Rockies
Item #14: 8 Stickers based on the Disney movie “Frozen”
Item #15: A George Washington 5 cent United States postage stamp circa 1967(?)
Item #16: A pack of two wooden cut-outs in the shape of “I”; orange with stars and a face
Item #17: A plastic, “gold” ring with a plastic jewel
Item #18: An earring (?) (one) with a purple H
Item #19: An iPhone case, plastic
Item #20: A Weiss Schawrz card “Kaito and Meiko”
Item #21: A plastic, silver ring with a “V”.
Item #22: A 2011 Topps baseball trading card: Carlos Santana, Cleveland Indians

Radio Free Caemlyn: Super Awesome Fun Time With Rand

(Cross-posted from my podcast blog)

There was a show on WFMU’s Give the Drummer station called “Ken’s Last Ever Radio Extravaganza“. The show was a live experiment in audio, as each episode was a sound collage. Episodes of that show were typically two hours, and, when live, people could call in and add their own audio to the mix. It was a neat idea for a show, but it is currently on indefinite hiatus.

So I got to thinking, could I do something like this? Could I make my own sound collages? Shouldn’t be too difficult, right?

I opened Adobe Audition, and started making music loops, by taking sections of songs that would work when repeated. I looped them, and set them as the main backing tracks. I then added audio samples, sound clips, repeated some in short loops. I listened to the results, and balanced the audio, to keep the music in the foreground and the clips subdued. It was an experiment. How would this sound? Would this be listenable?

I kept adding to that first project, and the initial ten-minute grew to 20-minutes then ultimately to an hour. I fine-tuned the clips, adjusting their timing and balance levels. I tried to structure the piece as a narrative, by repeating clips throughout and putting together parts of an entire clip. I exported the file and gave it a listen. There it was, my first sound collage project. I decided to upload to to Radio Free Caemlyn.

So there you have it. There are now two sound collage projects on RFC. I’ll maintain a list of them and future projects on this post.

RFC Sound Collage Projects:

SAFTWR 1: “A Step Out
SAFTWR 2: “What It Means to Be
SAFTWR 3: “Letting Go, Moving On
SAFTWR 4: “The Pressure of Noise
SAFTWR 5: “The Beginning Ends
SAFTWR 6: “Unending Madness
SAFTWR 7: “Down the Rabbit Hole
SAFTWR 8: “It’s Never Over
SAFTWR 9: “Chaos Emerging
SAFTWR 10: “Turbo Signal Boost
SAFTWR 11: “A Town in My Mind
SAFTWR 12: “Good night and Farewell
SAFTWR 13: “Outside
SAFTWR 14: “Bearing Witness to the Light
SAFTWR Mini-Episode: “Unfinished Thoughts
SAFTWR 15: “Escaping Into Dreams
SAFTWR 16: “Farewell to Hornets
SAFTWR 17: “In a Hurry to Remember
SAFTWR 18: “The Popcorn Edition
SAFTWR 19: “Moments in Time
SAFTWR 20: “Meditation Among Noise
SAFTWR 21: “Returning to Goodbyes
SAFTWR Mini-Episode 2: “Farewell to Trivia
SAFTWR 22: “Bored of Canada
SAFTWR 23: “Hearing Voices

Update: The sound collage project now has a name. The series will be called “Super Awesome Fun Time With Rand”, a title suggested by @Dead_Pixels_ on Twitter.

A Cat Named Ivan

Years ago here at Uni, a friend of mine, Steve, lived next door to a couple of stoners. They would frequently hang out with Steve and his then-roommate, Tim. Early in the autumn semester, these two guys, the neighbors, bought a cat doll from a local shop. It was one of those Halloween decoration dolls, the kind you’d find at a discount shop. The kind with a tall, arched back, long, thin legs, black, bristly fur, sharp fangs, and a red painted mouth.

So they had this cat doll. They thought it looked cool, and Halloween was fast approaching; they wanted to decorate their room appropriately. So they got the cat and some other decorations, and that’s just what they did.

November rolled around, the end of that semester fast approaching. The two guys (I never knew their names. I never even met the guys) started complaining to Steve that the cat was talking to them. They were increasingly afraid of the cat doll. Yes, it’s an inanimate object, but they were genuinely afraid that the doll was talking to them and probably attacking them in their sleep. They no longer wanted the “accursed” object, and so they asked Steve to take it away from them, and keep the doll. So Steve acquiesced and accepted the doll.

Steve wondered what he would do with the cat doll, but he thoght it was cool looking, so he started carrying it to the one place on campus where he and a bunch of our friends hung out. You see, in the University Center on Campus, there’s a room on the second floor designated as the Commuter’s Lounge.

The Commuter’s Lounge is a room with some couches and chairs and a television, set aside so commuters can take breaks in there between classes. However, that room became the perfect hang out for the geeks and the otakus and the like. People would frequently bring in game consoles and play multiplayer games. Others would often play rounds of Magic: The Gathering or other card games. People would just hang out and talk. The Commuter’s Lounge developed its own community, a tightly-knit one. It even has its own Facebook group, with the tag line “Come nerds one and all… Just keep it off the floor, the janitors are tired of cleaning it up.” (Or had, at least, the latest post, from a year ago, is saying that the page will be shut down due to too much drama in the CL)

So Steve brought the cat doll with him to the CL, and the doll gained a reputation. People started giving the cat a backstory, and eventually gave the cat a name: Thadeus Tiberious Maximillian Buttons. The cat was given a personality, and was a mascot for the CL. Eventually Steve would bring Thadeus, or Mr. Buttons, with him to anime club meetings, and he would become the unofficial mascot of that student organization.

Mr. Buttons became quite popular. He would tag along with Steve to various social functions. Eventually, Mr. Buttons would start to lose legs from general wear and tear. These legs would be replaced, one with a sturdy wooden stick, another with a plastic robot leg. There was talk of replacing the next leg that fell off with the leg bone of an actual dead cat, but thankfully that never happened, as far as I know. A second set of plastic ears were eventually attached, giving Mr. Buttons “bionic ears”.

Then came one day, about a week before the autumn semester of 2008 started, when I was in a thrift shop. I found a very similar cat, undamaged, and they were only asking a dime for it. I thought of Thadeus, and bought the cat. I brought the cat along with me when I moved into my own room in Central Drive Hall that semester.

Most of my friends who knew Steve and Thadeus were among the same social circle, the geeks and the otakus, mainly those who were members of WCU’s Japanese Animation Society, or JAS, or the anime club. One friend of mine, Alex, was the vice president of JAS at the time, and he was in charge of planning extra activities for the club, such as movie nights, gundam model building clinics, things like that. There was one event, though, that he did completely on his own, with no connection to the anime club, no funding by the anime club, completely disconnected and unofficial. He called it “Hentai and Chicken Nights”, where he would bring chicken nuggets or whatever and we’d get together, usually in Central Drive Hall’s Multipurpose Room, eat chicken and watch and joke about and laugh at the absurdity of various hentai movies. (Hentai is essentially anime/manga porn) The whole point of these events was to just laugh at how absurd hentai tended to be. (Alex would usually schedule these on the Friday nights before the WCU Gaming Club would host a LAN Event)

Anyway, it was at one of these events that I decided to bring my cat doll along, to let him “meet” Thadeus, and for the rest of the anime club people see that there was now a second such cat doll, this one in original condition. I already knew that my cat doll’s name would end with Buttons, and that he’d be Thadeus’ cousin. I hadn’t figured anything else, however. That night, though, various friends there saw the cat doll, noted its appearance, how the “fur” along its tail seemed to split into a second tail, just various physical details, and a name was given, along with the framework of a biography.

My cat doll became known as Ivan Denisovich Arturo Buttons. He was Thadeus’ cousin, born in Soviet Russia, who was born near Chernobyl, the radioactivity of the area having given Ivan a split tail. Ivan was born of vampiric ancestry, explaining his sharp fangs. He worked for a bit with the KGB and eventually deserted them, leaving the country and going into hiding. Now, the cousins were reunited.

In that following semester, Ivan and Thadeus spent a lot of time together, the two of them collectively becoming famous among those social circles. They even attended a LAN Event, and participated in a Super Smash Bros. Melee tournament. In a complete surprise, the two were both knocked out in their first rounds. They didn’t even get a single attack in before they were summarily defeated.

In August of 2009, Thadeus and Ivan tagged along with Alex, Steve, Zach and I as we went up north to Indianapolis to attend GenCon 2009. The two cats got to pose in quite a lot of pictures with cosplayers and random people at the convention. There are quite a few pictures of Ivan where he may have gotten a bit drunk and started leering at certain cosplayers. I don’t know, I don’t control that crazy cat.

So there you have it, the crazy stories behind Thadeus Tiberious Maximillian Buttons and Ivan Denisovich Arturo Buttons, two crazy cats.