Azn Badger's Blog

What About the Lysine Contingency…?

I’m Gonna’ Beat A Castlevania Game Goddamnit

Castlevania has never really been one of my favorite game series.

I’ve been fascinated by the series’ music and characters for a long time now, but in all honesty; I never really sat down to play any of the games.

Truth be told, the exploits of the Belmont clan, that is; their eternal struggle against Count Dracula and the forces of darkness, managed to blow right by my radar when I was a kid.

I guess I was too busy playing Mega Man and Ninja Turtle games during the NES era to have really paid mind to Konami’s whip cracking platformer.

Nah' that's a lie... I was playing Snow Bros.

That’s not to say I wasn’t aware of Castlevania.

On the contrary, I remember reading a lot about Castlevania 2: Simon’s Quest in Nintendo Power, but perhaps more importantly I remember being genuinely frightened of the cover art depicting Simon Belmont holding Dracula’s severed head.

Pictured: The cover in question.

It wasn’t so much the graphic nature of the image, blood and guts were “cool” to me even as a kid; it was Drac’s motherfuckin’ glowing red eyes that bugged me.

HOLY FUCKING SHIT!

Seriously, how could you put that on the magazine stands and expect parents to buy it for their kids!?

*Ahem!* Anyway, I remember Nintendo Power going out of their way to talk up Castlevania 2 like it was the coolest game ever, even giving it a Nester award for Best Audio.

Strangely enough, nowadays the game seems to have a pretty well established reputation as being a crytptic and poorly translated heap of garbage.

I guess people were willing to swallow a lot more shit from their games back in the day than they are nowadays…

I owned, played, and liked this back in the day. Don't ask me why...

Anyway, while I read plenty about the Castlevania games in various gaming magazines back in the day, I honestly don’t recall ever sitting down to play any of them until I was much older.

I remember reading about Symphony of the Night in Playstation Magazine, which gave it a perfect score and even went on to give it the top spot on their Best Playstation 1 Game of All Time list.

To this day, I have yet to try Symphony of the Night, largely because it’s Metroid style, backtracking heavy gameplay would likely drive me insane.

Like Zelda before it, Metroid games have always had a way of making me feel dumb and lost throughout the experience, and based on what I’ve seen of the map from Symphony of the Night, I think it’s in my best interest to stay away.

"For the love of God, I don't speak Japanese!"

Don’t get me wrong, the game looks absolutely gorgeous, with some of the most detailed and well animated sprites I can recall, (always a huge selling point in my book) but I know what I like, and I know what pisses me off, and it’s more than likely that Symphony of the Night would piss me off something fierce.

Completely dodging tremendously successful game series is not exactly a new thing for me, as evidenced by me having never played a Jak and Daxter, Ratchet and Clank, Prince of Persia, or Duke Nukem game; but in the case of Castlevania, I was always bothered by the fact that I actually wanted to play some games in the series.

More specifically the straightforward platforming games in the series I.E. the first 4, and Rondo of Blood.

Any game that includes Shoryuken-ing Minotaurs as boss characters gets brownie points in my book.

While the gothic aesthetic didn’t really appeal to me all that much, the old-school horror references, platforming action, and downright legendary music of the more traditional games in the series have always seemed right up my alley.

Hell, I’ve been listening to Castlevania music since middle school, but I only just played my first game in the series a few years ago in the form of the NES original.

That being said, while I can’t say I enjoyed my experience playing a Castlevania game nearly as much as I hoped I would have; the challenge, combined with the delightful sights and sounds left me intrigued in an oddly masochistic sense.

While I won’t be throwing down my gauntlet and saying I’m gonna’ beat Battletoads or Ghosts ‘n Goblins anytime soon, Castlevania seemed to have a reasonably challenging difficulty level that appealed to me.

The Battletoads Turbo Tunnel: SERIOUS BUSINESS.

Hard enough to piss you off, but with gameplay that feels rewarding enough to encourage you to keep trying regardless.

What can I say, I’m one of those sickos that actually liked, and beat Demon’s Souls; and is likely to do so again before picking up the sequel once it comes out.

By comparison, sacrificing a few hours of my life to Castlevania seems like fuckin’ cake.

Anyway, the point of this post, I think; is that I think I’m gonna’ challenge myself to sit down and beat Castlevania sometime soon.

Castlevania isn’t my favorite series of games, nor do I have all that much history with it, if any; this is just me saying I’m gonna’ kill me some vampires ’cause I think I’ve got what it takes to do it.

I don’t think I’ll be doing a Let’s Play, so you’ll just have to take my word for whatever accomplishments/failures I encounter.

Anyway, wish me luck!

"Pizza delivery for Mr. Dracula... Hello?... Bueller?"

 

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Batman Games and the Azn Badger


Today, after more than a month since my last PS3 game purchase, (Demon’s Souls) I went out and bought Batman: Arkham Asylum.

This one has been a long time coming for me.

As you may have guessed, the Azn Badger is very much a fan of the Batman.

The comics, the animated series, the first 2 and last 2 live-action movies, (those other ones never happened…)  if it’s Batman related media; I’ve probably seen it or want to see it.

In my eyes, few characters in the realm of fiction better represent the embodiment of a persona crafted through sheer will than Batman.

He’s a man that chooses to be what he feels he must, and that simple element of his character has led to a seemingly neverending stream of great stories surrounding him.

It hasn’t however, led to all that many videogames that represented him all that well.

 

Batman Begins: The only game where seasoned criminals are paralyzed with fear at the sight of moving boxes.

The Tim Burton Batman movie-tie on the NES, and the Batman Returns game on the Super NES stand as my favorite Batman games of yesteryear, however aside from borrowing the sounds and aesthetic of their respective movies, neither really made use of the character of Batman in their gameplay.

The NES game was a handsome and vaguely Ninja Gaiden-esque shooter/platformer that still receives acclaim to this day.

It also has quite possibly the most awesome, and totally fucked up endings to a Batman story ever in the history of everything:

The Batman Returns game was essentially a sidescrolling beat ’em up with a few extra bells and whistles in the form of a mildly expanded repertoire of moves, (including being able to throw dudes into the background scenery!) but other than that; was little more than standard genre fare.

 

Pictured: The coolest element of Batman Returns - slamming 2 clowns faces together for twice the pwnage.

I love both of these games, and find them to be quite fun in their own right; (especially Batman Returns, which I own to this day) however I have to admit, neither game really feels like a Batman game should.

In the comics, Batman never jumped around giant factories with a laser gun strapped to this forearm.

 

Hmm, I don't remember this in the comics...

In the comics, Batman never walked from left to right and beat the piss out of a clone army of clowns for hours at a time.

 

Although I must admit, such a comic would definitely be on my "must read" list. Man, I hate clowns...

In the comics, the detective work to beating up of goons ratio is generally 2:1.

Let’s get one thing clear:  Batman is really fuckin’ strong.

Batman has told villains on numerous occasions that he could “crush their head like an egg,” and for all intents and purposes, I don’t doubt that fact.

Batman is supposed to be a man trained to the peak of human ability, so I would think crushing a human skull with his bare hands would be well within his capability.

When you think about it from that perspective, it’s hard to envision all that many people that could take a patented Batman Sucker Punch (TM) and not go right to sleep.

 

Pictured: The Batman Sucker Punch (TM) in all it's glory.

Though in many ways it might be a product of the unique and condensed structure of American comic book storytelling, I’ve always thought that Batman’s penchant for separating bad guys from their senses within a panel or 2 to be well in line with the facets of his character.

Batman is not a character that engages in dramatic and overblown, 5 minute kung fu brawls with his opponents, he is a silent predator that, more often than not, lays people out rather than battling them directly.

Although far be it from me to say that I don’t appreciate the few instances in which ‘ole Bats gets dragged into an all out slug fest:

 

Even though this was intensely one-sided, and I never got to read the rematch, this still ranks as one of most awesome moments in Batman history.

This is what initially drew me to Batman: Arkham Asylum.

Yeah, it’s been critically acclaimed up the ying yang.

Yeah, it’s gameplay is supposed to be a MetroidVania* mish-mash of backtracking heavy awesomeness.

Yeah, it even has always awesome Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill reprising their roles from Batman Animated series.

 

"Always awesome" or not, Father Time has officially backed his truck up over Mark Hamill's face and taken the mother of all corn-filled shits on it for good measure

While I obviously don’t discount any of the above, as I did in fact just buy the game today; what really got me hyped for this game ever since it came out, was that most of the reviews I was reading about placed a great deal of emphasis on the fact that in this game, you really feel like Batman.

Everything from the exploration of the detective mode, to the stealth and counter heavy combat system has been said to reflect the Batman sensibilities we all know and love to a T.

Try saying that about Batman: Vengeance, or Dark Tomorrow, or any of the dozens Bat-Failures in videogame history.

 

I like how me and my friend used to pretend that this was fun... Man I was a dumb kid.

Every kid that loves Batman has wanted to be him at some point in their life.

We do it because goddamn it, he’s just a man.

Aside from the billionaire fortune, gadgets, and unlimited resources, at his core; Batman is just a man that woke up one day and committed himself to being Batman.

Even if it’s total bullshit, and has a 99% chance of never coming true, at some point in our lives, even if just for a moment; we trick ourselves into thinking that with enough time and dedication, we could be Batman if we really tried.

 

And there's kids like this that are destined to be loser-ly for the rest of their days. Seriously, who in their right mind would want to be Robin?

While I’ve long since grown beyond thinking that, it doesn’t stop me from thinking that playing a game like Arkham Asylum could make me relive those feelings in some capacity.

As of writing this, I haven’t actually started the game, but I was feeling nostalgic, so I figured a little Bat-Ruminating was in order.

Anyway, here’s hoping the game lives up to my insanely high standards!

*It should be noted that I am not a fan of Metroid, nor am I a fan of the Symphony of the Night style Castlevania games.  This could lead to some issues in terms of my overall enjoyment of Arkham Asylum, however I am hopeful my experience will lean towards the contrary.

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Demon’s Souls: Conquered

*Ahem!* I win...

*WARNING! SPOILER ALERT PERTAINING TO END GAME EVENTS.  NO SPECIFICS, BUT IF YOU REALLY WANT THE END-GAME TO BE A SURPRISE, TURN BACK NOW!*

Last night was easily one of the worst of my life.

Don’t expect this to happen on this blog all too often, but I’m sorry to say that my experience of being stuck in a snowy traffic jam in the Seattle area for 6 hours straight was horrible to the point in which I don’t think I want to share the details.

Seriously, it was that bad.

Anyway, as a result of getting home from work at around 11:30 PM, as well has having my body be a complete wreck as a result of the harsh cold and tight confines of my car, I decided that I simply could not allow myself to go to work today.

Despite this, Amazon saw fit to penalize me for doing so; even going so far as to call me in the morning to chastise me for my actions.

Though I love buying products the company, working for Amazon gives me an insight into the inner workings of their ground-level management that really leave a bad taste in my mouth.

Oh well, it’s a job, and that’s more than a lot of people have at the moment, so I’m thankful.

Moving on, as any self-respecting survivor of a 6 hour traffic jam would do, I decided to use my self-enforced day off from work to play Demon’s Souls.

No way was I gonna’ go outside today, even to pick up a copy of The Expendables.

I’ll do that tomorrow…

*Ahem!* Anyway, in short; I managed to beat Demon’s Souls today.

Much like the rest of the game’s limited story sequences, the end of the game was quite flat, and very much anti-climactic.

Truth be told, it had been so long since I had started the game (just over 20 hours of game time) that I honestly didn’t even remember who the last boss was, or why I was fighting him for that matter.

In either case, the last boss was pathetic.

Like, “he couldn’t hit me if he tried,” pathetic.

On one level, this was quite disappointing, as many of the earlier boss fights in the game were quite epic, and fairly inspired in how the actual battles were carried out.

At the same time though, as I recall bits and pieces of the supposed “story” of Demon’s Souls, (seriously, there’s not much to be found) I’m starting to understand that the final boss of the game was supposed to be a pitiful creature, to the point where it’s ironic that it serves as the game’s final challenge.

Demon’s Souls was an excellent game.

While it indeed has flaws, as pretty much any game does; it benefits from an indefinable element in it’s gameplay and presentation, a “hook” that serves to draw in a certain demographic of gamers.

As it turns out, I fit pretty well into that particular category of gamer, as I enjoyed my time with Demon’s Souls.

In regards to it’s vaunted, and supposedly impenetrable difficulty level, I have this to say:

The game is indeed quite difficult, but only if you’re bull-headed and refuse to adhere to the “rules” of the game.

The gameplay of Demon’s Souls is methodical and rigid, meaning the game is difficult; but everything has a rhythm and a weakness, so it’s up to you the player to determine these factors before charging headlong into things.

Hell, I game in practically reverse order, resulting in most of the enemies being far too powerful for me to handle most of the time, and yet in the end, I managed to get past them all through careful planning and observation.

As you play Demon’s Souls, just remind yourself:

The game is challenging, not unfair.

If you get pissed and break your controller when you die in a game, then I’m sorry, Demon’s Souls is probably not for you.

Seriously, controllers are what, $50?

You’d be bankrupt in a week.

If however, you take every death in the game as a sign of your own failings, an indication that you could’ve played better or smarter, then chances are you’ll have a lot of fun with Demon’s Souls.

Now that I’m done with my little advertisement for the game, I feel I should take a moment to talk about some of the random things that stuck out to me in my first playthrough of Demon’s Souls:

I was a little upset at the very limited selection of armors I ran across in the game.

While it’s probably my fault moreso than the game’s, I found that as a Knight, I only ended up changing my armor maybe twice throughout the entirety of the game.

Maybe it’s just because I selected a Knight, who just happens to start out with some the better starting equipment, but I felt myself getting bored of constantly finding new weapons and equipment, but never finding an armor that was good enough to switch over to.

Seriously man, I ended up beating the game wearing Mirdan armor, something the Temple Knight starts the game out with if I recall.

To me, that’s the equivalent of watching a version of the Iron Man movie where Tony Stark remains in the original Iron Man suit throughout the entire movie.

That’s that just plain sad.

Another quick thing, from a gameplay standpoint, those fuckin’ dragons were truly fucking pathetic.

Seriously man, they’re not enemies, or bosses for that matter, they’re fuckin’ scenery.

Destructible scenery that can, and will; wreck your shit 20 times before you figure out how to get past them.

I found one of those dragons on a list of 2009’s worst boss fights, and I can honestly say, whoever wrote that list is certainly justified in doing so.

Don’t ask me how I found the patience to actually kill those motherfuckers, but I did; and that’s largely the reason why I’m writing this “I beat Demon’s Souls, quick everyone, suck my golden cock!” article today instead of a week ago.

Seriously man, that traffic jam last night might’ve taken 6 hours of my life, but I’ll be damned if those dragons didn’t take at least an hour between the 2 of them.

Other than that, I think that’s about all I’ve got to say about Demon’s Souls for now.

Now that I’m done with the game, I think I’m gonna’ move on to something radically different.

With Metal Gear Solid 4 as my first PS3 game, followed by Demon’s Souls, I think it’s time I played something besides a 3rd person action game.

My gut is telling me to try Valkyria Chronicles, but I’m also leaning towards something a little more mindless like UFC: Undisputed 2010 (*Gasp!* but Azn Badger, I thought you hated the UFC!?).

At the same time though, who knows; maybe I’ll surprise even myself and hop back on the Final Fantasy wagon, of which I’ve been off ever since VIII.

There’s a lot of great games out there for the PS3, old and new; so feel free to let me know what I should look into.

Anyway, happy snow day to me; hopefully everyone drove safe this evening!

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Azn Badger’s Friend Mencius Started A Blog!

"Monkey sips master's wine!" "Drunken maid flirting with the master!" "Down the hatch!" "Waterfall!" ~ Actual Chinese proverbs.

So, you remember my buddy Mencius?

The guy that made that awesome Minecraft parody comic that I…  Honestly didn’t “get?”

Well, as fate would have it; he recently went ahead and started a blog of his own called Another Sunny Morning.

For those that don’t trust in-paragraph hyperlinks, (I understand.  I’ve lost loved ones to hyperlink-ing too…) please note that there is also a link to the blog listed on the “Links” column on the right.

For the truly dense and/or retarded, this is my not so subtle way of saying CLICK THE FUCKING LINK, EX-LAX.

Moving on, despite the title I assure you it’s not some coffee house, namby pampy, hipster-doofus-y poetry corner blog.

Pictured: Hopefully not the kind of imagery that posts at Another Sunny Morning will evoke.

At least I hope it isn’t.

If it is imma’ have to break ‘ole Mencius’ thumbs or some shit…

*Ahem!* Anyway, as thanks for all the publicity and promotion he gave to me by allowing me to post his comic, which he shamelessly whored out to the masses across the internets via Reddit; I feel it’s only right that I do what I can to send a little bit of traffic his way via my some shameless promotion of my own!

That being said, his blog is very young at the moment, and given what I know of him; he probably couldn’t give 2 shits as to how many people actually visit it, but do us both a favor and check it out anyway.

He’s honestly a terrific, insightful, and fun-loving writer, such that many people I’ve known over the years have seen fit to have him edit their work.

That’s more than I can say for myself, as my grammar, use of tenses, and sense of sentence structure are just about on par with a wombat.

An illiterate wombat, that smells of basil and turpentine…

That's the one...

Anyway, that’s me vouching for/promoting my buddy’s blog.

Sorry for the shitty post, work kind of fucked my writer’s brain for the day.

Either that or I got home earlier than normal and am itching to play some Demon’s Souls

Let’s just pretend it’s the former rather than the latter.

This post has been brought to you by the formidable combination of laziness and writer’s block.

ANOTHER SUNNY MORNING

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Demon’s Souls Just Raped My Face. And Ate My Children…

*WARNING!  SPOILER ALERT!  IF YOU’RE LIKE ME AND DON’T WANT ANY HELP OR SPOILERS ON YOUR FIRST RUN THROUGH DEMON’S SOULS, PLEASE STOP READING NOW! *

A few weeks ago I typed up a post declaring the nigh impenetrably difficult Demon’s Souls to be far less difficult than I previously assumed.

While this fact still rings true, something happened today that has taken my feelings of accomplishment and satisfaction and shat all over them.

Not only that, the game proceeded to set them on fire, and eat their children in front of them, seemingly just for kicks.

Oh yeah, and then the game tore out my eyes and raped my face, once again; seemingly just for the hell of it.

I’m not gonna’ lie, the past 2 days have been a rollercoaster ride for me in Demon’s Souls.

I cleared 2 and a half worlds, dusted God knows how many bosses, and even managed to save a few NPCs.

That last part is where the aforementioned face rape-age comes in.

You see, somewhere in the Tower of Latria stage, (one of the better and more atmospheric levels if you ask me) I happened upon a caged NPC named Yurt, The Silent Chief.

Sure, he looks like a wholesome and friendly guy...

Now, as I approached Yurt, preparing to engage him in conversation; I happened to notice that some of the player created messages scrawled on the ground near him were saying some awfully nasty things about him.

“Liar.”

“Don’t bother about nothing.”

These were the cryptic and/or cautionary messages strewn about in the immediate area.

Despite this, in games with morality systems, my general aim is to be a “white knight” of sorts on my first time through, so in keeping with that trend, I decided to free Yurt.

I figured:

“He hasn’t done anything wrong as far as I can tell.  He’s cool in my book for now.”

Sadly, my naivete was not to be rewarded.

From his gravelly, foreboding voice; and his decidedly menacing armor, I figured he was at least somewhat evil, however I figured I’d get a chance to rectify whatever mistakes I made by freeing him if he were to suddenly turn outright heel on me.

After I freed Yurt, I happened upon him on the second floor of the Nexus.

He was tucked away in a corner, very much out of sight; such that I was lucky to have even spotted him.

When I spoke with him, excited to see if he’d offer me a sub-quest, or reward me with some sort of item, I was surprised to find that he had nothing helpful to offer me whatsoever.

He sold no items, he offered no services, all he said was something along the lines of:

“Life is not as precious as most may think.”

Following that episode, I would go on to visit with Yurt with every successive return to the Nexus, hopeful that he would eventually say something or do something useful.

It never happened.

At some point, my dungeon crawling in Demon’s Souls fell into a unbelievably progressive rhythm.

For several hours, my character; Ultimate Warrior, was an unstoppable juggernaut of untold epic-ry.

If only I could get him to look like this in-game...

Bosses fell by the wayside, and at least one entire realm collapsed at the might of the Ultimate Warrior, effectively making me like I had finally made the gaming beast that is Demon’s Souls, my servile bitch.

After venturing into the untread depths of the heart of the lion’s den, I reached a point where my inventory was utterly full, even with the use of strength augmenting rings; and I was forced to return to the Nexus to offload my loot.

Only a game as cruel as Demon’s Souls could come at me at my highest of highs, and tear me down to the lowest of lows in the blink of an eye.

One blink, and my eyes were out of their sockets, while Demon’s Soul’s virtual cock jackhammer-ed my frontal lobe with fervor unimaginable.

You see, Yurt The Silent Chief is an assassin.

Not only that, he is an assassin assigned to kill the survivors of Boletaria, I.E. the central cast of the game made up of static NPCs, and NPCs you’ve rescued (like Yurt himself) throughout the course of the game.

Being as I never saw him kill anyone, I have to assume that he goes about his business off-screen, that is; while you are away having the time of your life, as I was.

When I returned from my epic journey, I returned to a Nexus devoid of life.

Every single character I had saved, began learning skills from, and in a loose sense, gotten to “know,” was missing from their previously constant positions.

I searched the upper floors.

I searched all of the dead end nooks and crannies.

Nothing.

All that remained, were a few floating orbs containing what I presume were said character’s belongings.

As I charged up the stairs, already coming to realize that Yurt had to have been responsible, I took note of the background music.

It was different.

After 20 or so hours of play, one notices when the previously monotonous music changes to something totally different.

The tone was gloomy and somber, such that I could tell that I had fucked up just by the sound of it.

When I approached Yurt, I was not surprised to hear him take full responsibility for the deaths of everyone in the Nexus.

As one would expect, the last task on his agenda just happened to involve killing me, which of course led to a brief melee between myself and Yurt.

Despite the horrors of his previous actions, Yurt proved to be a less than capable opponent.

Unable to deal any sort of serious damage to my Ultimate Warrior, I crushed Yurt, took his armor, and immediately put it into storage, finding it to be utterly worthless despite it’s striking appearance.

In the blink of an eye, Yurt The Silent Chief took my “white knight” sensibilities and swathed them in darkness.

To my knowledge, everyone who died, that is; every character in the game, will never come back.

I’ll never learn any more spells.

I’ll never learn any more miracles.

I’ll never get to hear anymore retarded stories and anecdotes that I genuinely never cared to hear in the first place.

In the blink of an eye, the living symbols of my success in Demon’s Souls were taken away from me, leaving my home base a dull and lifeless husk of pitiable solemn, complete with sad-sack music to drive the point home.

I’ll continue to push forward and beat Demon’s Souls, as to my knowledge I’m very near to the end, however I find that in getting there I simply don’t care as much as I used to.

Maybe it’s just me, but beating the game, and winning the day is a helluva’ lot more rewarding when you feel like you did a good job.

As it stands, after losing every NPC in the game to a mistake I didn’t even have a chance to realize I made; beating Demon’s Souls is going to be the equivalent to finishing a race, dead last; and crawling on all fours.

Sure, you finished; but do you feel good about it?

No, you feel humiliated; and realize you need to try harder next time, if there is a next time.

I can’t wait to be done with Demon’s Souls so I can finally move on and play something else…

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Thoughts On Call Of Duty: Black Ops

Since it’s release, I’ve had no less than 5 people tell me to by Call of Duty: Black Ops, usually because quote:

“Trust me, you’ll like it.”

That’s 5 different people inside of what, a week?

Now it should be noted that most of these people are not exactly close friends of mine, and are thusly unaware of how cheap/Azn/stingy I am when it comes to purchasing games, particularly at full retail price.

I suppose it also helps that I have a distinct phobia of register clerks, which makes the purchasing process all the more difficult.

We’ll get into that some other time…

Anyway, while I have yet to buy into the hype and pick myself up a copy of Black Ops, today I was fortunate to have the game quite literally brought to my door by my Krn buddy from up the street.

While both of us are veterans of the Call of Duty series, spanning all the way to the original title; my friend has been playing them online on his PS3 quite consistently in the past few years, making him a far more experienced player than myself.

I sort of dropped out of the series after Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare.

I had it for the PC, and really enjoyed it for the most part, however I never played it online; and rarely caught myself missing it when I had to format my PC.

That being said, I would never consider any game in the Call of Duty series to be anything less than excellent.

Well, except maybe Call of Duty 3… And maybe Big Red One.

Anyway, what I’m trying to say here, is that I’ve played COD, and I like COD, so don’t get butt hurt if it sounds like I’m being mean to your precious COD.

That being said, here’s my first impression of Black Ops after about 2-3 hours of online split screen play with my friend:

Black Ops makes me feel like an old man.

An old man with poor eyesight and shitty reflexes.

In short, like any online COD experience, the game is an insanely fast-paced rollercoaster ride of half second moments of awesome, followed by equally miniscule (yet all too frequent) moments of fail and butt hurt.

You run around, you shoot at things that move/have evil red words hanging over their head, and you die.

A LOT.

And yet, this unbelievably troglodytic cycle of mayhem and Red Bull fueled chaos somehow equates to something fun.

This is coming from somehow who’s probably played 10 hours of COD over the past 5 years, and just played Black Ops for the first time today.

What I mean to say is:

From what I can tell, I sucked pretty epicly at Black Ops my first time out.

My kill-death ratio was in the neighborhood of .70-.80, while my buddy’s was 2.0 even.

As mentioned above, the online component of Black Ops has an interesting (well, at least to me it’s interesting…) flow to it.

For a FPS newb such as myself, the game felt alarmingly fast, as if everything in the game world, my character included, was moving just a half beat quicker than I was ready for.

Then again, I’ve been playing Demon’s Souls and Metal Gear Solid 4 for the past several weeks, so by comparison; just about anything would seem fast…

Being a newb really hurt me in Black Ops.

At times, I found myself getting killed quite rapidly, to the point where it felt downright embarrassing.

Despite this, to it’s credit, Black Ops, like any COD game I’d imagine, manages to counter this quite well with it’s quick pacing.

In short, you simply aren’t given enough time to feel shitty about anything in the game, ’cause in most cases you’ll be back in the fight in no time anyway.

That being said, it should be noted that I felt myself “going numb” at times.

That is to say, I would kill and die, (mostly die) and do something cool every now and again, but everything came so clustered together, that I would just stop caring after awhile.

When you don’t care whether you live or die in a game, that either means that the stakes of the game aren’t all that important, the actual gameplay experience isn’t as meaningful as one would hope, or the player is someone that truly doesn’t give a fuck.

I was somewhere between the first and the last portions of the above statement, however I’d imagine it would really ruin someone’s day to find that their feelings coincide with the second.

Make no mistake, playing COD online is a very different beast from playing something like Demon’s Souls that severely punishes failure.

It’s an instant gratification game that punishes and rewards by inches, with all the worthwhile rewards only coming as a result of logging a great deal of playtime hours.

Personally, I prefer my games to have tangible stakes tied to my performance, however this is simply a case of personal preference.

Regardless, I died all the time when I was playing Black Ops, and while that pissed me off from time to time, particularly when I was getting my ass handed to me mere seconds after respawning, I’d usually forget about it once I got my legs back under me and scored a kill or 2.

In a sense, playing COD online is a strangely bipolar experience, with pleasurable and frustrated emotions coming and going as rapidly as they can manifest.

And they say A.D.D. isn’t a problem among the current generation…

From a features standpoint, while I can’t really compare it to the previous COD games all that much, I have to say, it seems like Black Ops has a lot going for it.

The equipment and perk customization is back, largely unchanged from it’s previous iterations.

The map selection is well varied, and seems adequate in quantity, with a number of the maps being tailor made for the Ground War mode in the sense that close-quarters engagements are almost a guarantee.

The Nazi Zombie mode from World At War is back, and seems to be a little more forgiving than it’s previous iteration.

That is to say, the weapons are more effective for the most part, and the initial map is far more spacious, lending the player a great deal more survivability due to their ability to turn tail and run if need be.

Outside of that though, Nazi Zombies feels largely the same, albeit with a lighter tone, a few campy power ups, and a more frantic pace.

Anyway, I only played Black Ops for a few hours, but those are my thoughts.

It seems like a pretty good game, though my lack of skill, combined with my recently adopted positive stance towards “deeper” gameplay experiences, leads me to believe that I probably won’t be buying another COD game anytime soon.

Sorry peoples that told me to by Black Ops, while I did indeed “like it,” I think I’m gonna’ hang onto my $60 for now.

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Demon’s Souls Is… Not So Hard Anymore

Hah! Not so bad anymore, are yah'!?

About a week ago I posted a bitchy/whiny article about how Demon’s Souls knocked me down and took my lunch money.

I was about 2 hours into the game at the time of writing said article, and I just wasn’t “getting” how the game worked.

I was frustrated by the game’s punishingly restrictive rules, and humbled by it’s timing heavy combat system.

I’m now 8 hours into Demon’s Souls, and I feel like I’ve got it by the nuts.

'DESE NUTS!

At around hour 3 I had memorized the layout of the 1-1 section of the Boletarian Palace level, making harvesting souls (money) quite a bit easier than before.

Around this time I also began finding uses for my souls in the form of upgrading my Knight’s  long sword among other things.

Did I mention I named my character after the Ultimate Warrior?

Now if only I could make him look like this...

Now that's just a terrible photo... Sorry about that.

After toughing it out for some time, advancing by inches every time, I met and defeated my first boss demon, Phalanx.

It was a tedious battle to be sure, but unlike some of the stiffer challenges I’d faced up to that point, (I’m lookin’ at you Red Dragon of one-hit kill-ery…) I managed to best the blob monster on my first try.

I should probably note, that I really admire the artistic design of the Phalanx demon.

Consisting of a hoard of shield-faced blobs armed with spears, all protecting a central core, I found it to be an inspired take on the Sumerian/Grecian military formation.

Behold, the only culturally significant photo on the Azn Badger's blog!

In doing so, I was awarded with what I had spent the entire game to that point wishing for:

A waypoint.

4 hours into the game, and I encountered my very first checkpoint.

Eerily enough, as if crossing that first major threshold served to change the entire dynamic of the game from then on out; playing Demon’s Souls has become a markedly less devious affair.

While the early goings were teeth-grittingly difficult and frustrating, ever since I took out that first boss demon; my progression through the game has eased into a much more natural, and far less tedious pace.

Maybe I’ve just become accustomed to the cautious play style required to navigate the game, or maybe my character has just gotten strong enough that he’s able to power through what used to be one-hit kills; but either way, I’m enjoying the experience a whole helluva’ lot more than before.

I’ve killed no less than 4 more bosses in the past 4 hours of gameplay, 2 of which I didn’t even really have to fight.

What I mean to say is, there were 2 bosses that I took out through exploitative means.

No, that would be "blaxpoitative," but it shows you're thinking...

As mentioned earlier in this post, as well as probably every first time Demon’s Souls player’s writings, there is a Red Dragon in the first stage that pwns you like a bitch if you so much as look at him funny.

Good riddance you flying, red piece of fuck....

Truth be told, he’s not so much a boss as he is a predictable, but still dangerous environmental hazard, but seeing as he killed me a few times and has a meaty health bar, I count him as at least a mid-boss.

Anyway, as an environmental hazard, the Red Dragon is stuck on a very simple looping movement pattern, making him unable to reach you in certain areas, as well as unable to defend himself from attacks launched from certain areas.

That being said, I took note of this, bought 80 arrows, and sat down for 15 minutes slowly chipping away at his health with a wimpy bow and arrow while standing completely out of harms way.

It was silly, it was spiteful, but good God was it satisfying to get that fucking dragon off my back for the remainder of my gameplay experience.

Exploitative Boss Kill #2 came in form of slaughtering the Vanguard boss of the Shrine of Storms using a similar tactic.

My money's on the big guy. Jus' sayin' is all...

This one was not as satisfying as in the case of the Red Dragon.

The Vanguard was a demon that I had spent much of my time in Demon’s Souls expecting to have an epic showdown with at some point in the game.

You see, The Vanguard was the demon featured in the opening tutorial segment of the game.

While I don’t actually know if it’s possible to defeat The Vanguard during the opening sequence, in my case he killed me in 1 hit, thusly handing me my first humiliation of many to come while playing Demon’s Souls.

Sadly, my revenge would be bitter sweet; as instead of facing him head on, I found a way to get behind him and, much like the Red Dragon; peppered him in the back with arrows without him so much as trying to hit me.

Oh well, at least he coughed up a shit ton of souls.

"Vanguard! Your brother's soul, is MINE!"

As of writing this, I feel that I’ve grown to like Demon’s Souls very much.

It’s a tough game, for sure; but it’s one that can be very rewarding if you’re willing to play by it’s terms.

Not long ago I ran into a Mind Flayer-like creature in the Tower of Latria (a place I got lost in and quickly retreated from in favor of the Shrine of Storms).

Huh, wouldn't you know it they actually call it a "Mind Flayer." How very proper of them.

Said creature could be killed quite easily, however I found that it could do the same to me with even greater ease.

Though I was killed in my encounter, on my second; I changed up my tactics and stayed out of sight until it drew very close.

In a very Solid Snake-esque maneuver, I dashed out from the shadows and caught the monster off guard, thusly killing it before it could even lift a finger/face tendril to attack.

It was a very satisfying moment, that would not have been nearly so rewarding if not for the fact that the game forced me to rethink my strategy.

Now that I think about it, I like that; that the game is always difficult, no matter how buff your character gets.

Not only does it keep you humble, it serves to make the gameplay more involving in the sense that you’ve always got to be on top of your shit, regardless of how puny your opponents may be.

Much like another game I happen to like a lot, Devil May Cry 3.

While I may be a much better player than I was at the start, make no mistake; I still die in Demon’s Souls quite frequently.

Except for a few instances of ridiculous fall related deaths in the mine stage, I can concede that most of my deaths in Demon’s Souls are my fault.

I still get frustrated, yes; but I haven’t really felt the causes to be unfair or cheap.

Every now and again I get a little bit too adventurous, or a little bit too overconfident; and that’s generally when I find myself dead.

Thankfully, the penalty is just losing your money… All of it.

I’ll probably never get used to that, but I’ve never been too upset by it.

After all, it’s just money.

Thankfully, I’m not having to say that in regards to my purchase of Demon’s Souls.

Yet.

 

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I Hate Sting.

I hate Sting.

I hate his goofy singing, I hate his perpetually frosted hair, but most of all, I simply hate the man that is Sting.

Wrong Sting. Although he kind of sucked too. Especially after he took on that whole "Crow" schtick...

You know how every now and again you run across someone you just plain don’t like, seemingly for no good reason?

Okay, maybe you haven’t, but you know what I mean, right?

Well, that about sums up my relationship with Sting in a nutshell.

He never stole from me, he didn’t kill my father; and he most certainly never touched me as a child, but for whatever reason, I’ve had a severe hatred for Sting for as long as I can remember.

Near as  I can recall, the first time I encountered Sting in my youth, came in the form of a TV broadcast of one of his performances.

I want to say that it was a stage performance from one of his appearances on Saturday Night Live sometime in the 90’s, but either way; my first impression of the man was to think:

“What the hell is he wearing?…”

While I can’t find any photos of it, the man was dressed in a massive leather jacket, easily 2 sizes too big for him, while straddling a guitar and clomping around in 3-5 inch platform boots.

Pictured: The first time I ever saw Sting...

I don’t recall what songs he performed that night, nor did his singing voice leave an impression on me at the time.

Honestly, I think I was simply too blown away by the sheer volume of fail put on display that night to have remembered anything else.

All I remember of Sting from that night, is that big-ass jacket, those Frankenstein boots of his, and his odd quirk of violating his fellow performer’s personal bubble just a little too much.

... And if that wasn't bad enough, he also has a tendency to bust out flying knees to the faces of his fellow performers.

Seriously, the man has a tendency to rub up on people.

As my father would say: “He wouldn’t make it in the Projects…”

Anyway, after only dealing with Sting once in my life up to that point, the man was already 0-1, and officially on my “Naughty” list.

That was just the beginning though.

Sometime after this initial encounter, I remember hearing some of Sting’s songs on the radio.

I had to ask my mother who it was we were listening to, and when she told me it was Sting, I can honestly say I was not surprised.

Sting has a peculiar method of singing.

I like to refer to it as a “pecking” style of lyricism.

 

Like this man's speech cadence, only applied to song.

The lyrics in his songs, especially the more pop-ish tunes from earlier in his career; tend to have a halting rhythm to them that I find annoying.

It’s like trying to listen to streamed audio that’s still buffering.

Sure, you’re definitely listening to something, but it’s so fuckin’ fragmented and disjointed that it may as well be a song recorded by someone with Tourette’s Syndrome.

Honestly, while it pains me to taint this blog with a Family Guy reference, I have to say that they did a damn good job of summing up Sting’s singing style in my eyes:

Just remember, I hated the man long before Family Guy was ever thought of.

By the way, if you ever run into me on the street someday, ask me to do my Sting impression; I’m told it’s pretty spot on.

Moving on, reason #347 as to why I hate Sting, comes from his appearance in the film Dune.

*Yawn*...

Admittedly, this was a fairly recent addition to the “why I hate Sting” list, easily within the past 6-7 years.

When I first noticed that Sting was in Dune, my initial reaction was along the lines of:

“WHAT!?  The “Zip-Zop-Zoop! MESSAGE… IN A… BAAAAAHHHH-TOLL!” Man is in Dune!?  I hope he dies in it…”

Though I got my wish of getting to see Sting die on-screen at the end of Dune, (Oops! Spoiler Alert!) the 3 hour journey in getting to that point was not easy to sit through.

Pictured: The best part of Dune. To me, anyway...

Yes that’s right, I didn’t really exactly care all that much for Dune, but that’s besides the point.

The point is, while sitting through a 3 hour movie I didn’t “get,” and also didn’t exactly like; I found myself not only having to contend with a clunky script and an absurdly over-the-top soundtrack, but with a flame-haired and frequently Speedo clad Sting.

3 hours of shitty movie I can handle standing on my head, but 3 minutes of Sting in his undies being ogled by a levitating overweight, oily pock-faced dude, was another story altogether.

I think Sting’s worst moment in the whole movie, other than the poorly choreographed and horrendously anti-climactic “knife fight” at the end, (Sorry again! Spoiler Alert!) was this one scene where Sting is handling what I call, a “kitty in a box.”

Best I could find. Sorry...

As fate would have it, the internet Gods seem to have eliminated all the good photos of the elusive “kitty in box” scene, as well as that giant-fucking leather jacket I mentioned earlier.

Sting must have a network of internet goons cleansing the web of all traces of his uncoolness…

Anyway, if you saw Dune; you probably know what I’m talking about, ’cause y’know; that was of course the most pivotal scene in the entire movie…

In addition to all of the reasons listed above, probably the single biggest reason I hate Sting, is that he’s one smug son of a bitch.

Sting on any given Tuesday.

Seriously man, he’s just got this swagger, this preening and self-important element to his face and mannerisms.

Maybe it’s just ’cause he’s a singer/performer, and that’s kind of what they do; but in his case, he does it in just the wrong way that it, well; it just pisses me off!

Sting: Knee-Fucking Since... Whenever The Fuck He Started Singing.

Don’t question my hate, it needs not logic or reason to exist!

Anyway, enough Sting related hate-speak for tonight.

Tomorrow I’ll be finally playing more Demon’s Souls, so I figured I’d vent my frustration somehow before assaulting myself with more videogame related anger and stress.

 

 

Man I hate Sting…

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Best Boss Music #11: Mario and Luigi: Superstar Saga


Mario and Luigi: Superstar Saga is one of the cutest and most endearing games I’ve ever played, on the Gameboy Advance or any other console.

Not only that, it’s also a damn fine RPG as well.

Essentially picking up where Super Mario RPG and Paper Mario left off, (and then picked up again…) Superstar Saga is a far cry from the traditional console RPG.

Name another RPG that has EXTREME JUMP ROPING!

As it’s title indicates, Mario and Luigi: Superstar Saga is a game that follows the exploits of the 2 plumber brothers as they work together to recover Princess Peach’s voice (it was replaced with word bubbles that turn into bombs) from an evil witch of the neighboring Bean Bean Kingdom named Cackletta.

Pictured: The Hemaphroditic Bowser/Cackletta hybrid known as "Bowletta." You can't make this shit up...

Along the way, the player assumes control of the 2 brothers throughout the entirety of the adventure, acquiring and putting to use a number of interesting and unique powers that can be used in tandem to accomplish any number of crazy (but often necessary) feats.

 

Not sure if playing leap-frog during a life or death battle is all that "necessary," but oh well, to each his own.

It should be noted that the story and gameplay of Superstar Saga are top of their class in every regard.

In particular, like most sprite based RPGs, I found the interplay between the vocalizations, scripting, and pantomime of the various characters to be among the best I’ve encountered in any game, period.

Seriously, every character has at least some sort of trademark nuance or quirk to their movements, speech, or sound effects that makes them, and indeed the entire game world, come alive.

DISCO DANCE!!!!!!!!!!!

That being said, let’s get to the gameplay.

Being as the source material is grounded in the Mario canon, it’s only appropriate that the game include a great deal of platforming and coin gathering to go with it’s turn-based combat and level grinding.

 

While I love Diablo as much as the next dork, I thank the heavens that Mario hasn't tried to bite off it's mechanics. Yet...

The key innovation that Superstar Saga brings to the table, and indeed all Mario RPGs prior and since; is the hands-on approach to gameplay elements that are typically automated in most RPGs.

Said elements are no more apparent, than in Superstar Saga’s highly detailed and interactive combat system.

Monsters are encountered on the overworld map, not as random battles, but in the form of fast-moving and aggressive character sprites that maneuver the landscape.

Once a battle begins, the player assumes control of both Mario and Luigi in a turn-based fashion.

From there, timed button inputs are required on the part of the player to effectively attack and defend.

For the love of God, push the "B" button to not die!

Every enemy attack in the game has a means to be avoided or defended in some way, provided the player has the timing and reflexes necessary to do so.

This effectively makes the difficulty of the combat in Superstar Saga a product of the players skill, rather than the stats of his characters.

Being as I’m really an RPG guy these days, I for one really appreciated this.

 

By the way, thank you Demon's Souls for shitting all over my previous statement.

While the game was far from difficult, the battle system kept the boredom and tedium at bay for the most part, leaving me with a terrific and off-the-wall story to enjoy.

Trust me, if you’re looking for a way to indulge your inner child and feel like a 9 year old all over again, try playing Superstar Saga; you won’t be disappointed.

Anyway, this post was supposed to be about music, so what’s say we get to it shall we?

Superstar Saga, like virtually any Nintendo product, has a wonderful soundtrack.

Composed by the prolific and talented Yoko Shimomura, the whole soundtrack is very well-rounded, and more importantly; thematic and appropriate to the setting and mood.

Superstar Saga is a colorful, light, and “bouncy” game, and the soundtrack was tailor-made to suit those feelings.

Defne Adj. "Bouncy": Any game that includes a sequence wherein 2 Italian plumbers do battle with a barrel of sentient cola.

Despite this, the game is still an RPG nonetheless, and thusly features a wide array of battle themes, not to mention a few boss themes.

While every track of the game is deserving of special notice, the Best Boss Music in Superstar Saga is…

Rookie and Popple:

This track plays whenever Mario and Luigi do battle with the wily thief named Popple, and his new protege, “Rookie.”

The fun part of these battles, comes from the fact that the “Rookie” is in fact Bowser; albeit a Bowser with amnesia.

Scratch that. Amnesia and a pimp-ass hat.

Despite the memory loss, whenever the player attacks Bowser in these fights, a little light bulb will flicker on in his head, and he’ll suddenly bust out some decidedly Bowser-like moves.

I guess you could call it a case of muscle memory winning out over mental memory.

Anyway, this track was only played a handful of times in the game, but I found myself happy to hear it every time it did.

It’s far more energetic than the standard boss theme, and better composed for that matter; but in some ways I feel that Popple and Rookie’s reduced frequency of occurrence in-game is part of what makes it stand out so much.

Despite many of the other Best Boss Music entries listed on this blog being of the more epic or dramatic variety, Popple and Rookie earns it’s spot purely off of it’s fun-factor.

Let it be known, that which makes us happy is often that which is most important to us.

Tune in tomorrow for another real post!

Maybe…

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Demon’s Souls Is Hard…

 

ARRRRRRRRGH!!!!!!!

So, I bought Demon’s Souls from a friend the other day.

He told me he played it for 5 hours and then called it quits.

This is coming from a Korean fellow that specializes in, as he phrases it; “beasting” games faster than they can come out.

As fate would have it, there would be no “beasting” of Demon’s Souls for my Korean buddy.

In fact one could go so far as to say that the game “beasted” him.

Despite this, like a fool I thought I could do what my friend could not.

Before I bought the game, I read scores of reviews singing the praise of Demon’s Souls, and heralding it’s difficulty level as the Battletoads equivalent to the modern era of gaming.

While it does indeed seem like it could be a great game, make no mistake; Demon’s Souls is a punishingly difficult game, to the extent that it feels borderline unfair.

As of writing this, I’m barely 2 hours into the game, and I’ve done exactly nothing.

My first created character was a Barbarian.

I set out into the game with the mindset of creating a Conan-esque tank, however to my surprise; the Barbarian was just about the worst choice to do so, at least in the beginning stages of the game.

Turns out, despite their inherent physicality, Barbarians start out the game with no armor, and some of the worst equipment imaginable.

Not good when the game derives most of your survivability from your equipment and armor rather than your stats.

Despite spending about an hour getting a good feel for the timing and nuance of the game’s control scheme, (while dieing about 9,000 times…) I found that; for a beginner level player, a Barbarian was simply too fragile for my skill level.

Enter my second character within an hour of starting the game, a much sturdier and well-equipped Knight.

Well, after dieing every 5 minutes as my Knight, I think I can honestly say that he’s probably going to be my primary character from now on.

Every time I play Demon’s Souls, I feel like I’m moving a half-step forward, only to get thrown 20 feet back every 5 minutes.

When I said the game felt borderline unfair, I was referring largely to the checkpoint and currency systems.

The checkpoint system is a pain in the ass because, well; near as I can tell there are none.

This wouldn’t be a problem except, unlike friendlier games like Diablo; Demon’s Souls has no “scroll of Town Portals.”

Not only that, Demon’s Souls thoroughly rapes you by forcing you to reclaim your “souls” (money) while wading through every enemy in the level up to that point.

Enemy placement is always the same, and any entry or exit of a level causes them all to respawn.

My main issue with the currency system, is not that you lose all your money when you die, but that there’s no banking or storage system in the game.

Do I really have to carry all of my wealth on me at all times?

Seriously man, if you had 5,000 souls of demon’s in your possession would you go walkin’ around with ’em in your wallet?

No, you’d put ’em in a fuckin’ bank.

That being said, the currency system is largely why I’m “nowhere” in the game as of yet.

Simply put, I can never survive long enough to save up my money to purchase items with.

Not that there’s any items I want/need anyway.

I suppose it doesn’t help either that I haven’t the slightest clue how to level up my character…

Anyway, I’m whining; so I’ll stop now.

As it stands, Demon’s Souls is a brutally difficult game, but for drastically different reasons than I am accustomed to in my “hard games.”

When it comes to twitch reflexes and memorization I.E. Contra, Raiden, Devil May Cry; I have no problem.

In the case of Demon’s Souls though, the game’s difficulty comes largely from the stringent rules of it’s gameplay, as well as the fact that timing and precision are the order of the day, rather than quick reaction time or fancy button combinations.

It’s a frustrating and loathesome game that truly hates it’s players, but truth be told; I actually feel compelled to keep trying at Demon’s Souls.

After a few years of getting raped by Battletoads, I put my controller down and said “No Mas.”

Though I’ve only spent a few hours with Demon’s Souls, those few hours have shown me that; despite all the teeth-gritting frustration, there still may in fact be a game worth experiencing hidden beneath it all.

Here’s hoping I’m right…

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