Zombies and Frozen

I watched two things this weekend, one with my family, the other one without. The first was Frozen, the second was the Walking Dead finale.

I’ll let you figure out which was which.

I’m going to talk about the Walking Dead first, because there are spoilers for Frozen embedded deep in this post and I’d be more worried if someone read those than any spoilers for the Walking Dead.

The finale was…frustrating. It was great the way Darryl rejoined the group and Rick and Michonne slaughtered the Claimed folks. Rick has always been a character that was an extreme badass of the best kind…the type that doesn’t have to constantly prove it. The best moments in the series were when he shot that guy in the bar (Nebraska man…), killed Shane, and last night when he ripped that guy’s throat out with his teeth.

Because in the Walking Dead, people are made of playdo and that’s possible, but you get my point.

That was all great and then they arrived at Terminus. I don’t know why, but I honestly expected that place to be safe. I guess because I knew there was a colony that came up after the prison, I assumed this would be a fill in for that. They did a great job of building the tension. Things were too nice, too calm, and too civil. As it is, I’m still not entirely sure the Terminus folks are evil. They didn’t kill anyone, just locked them in a boxcar and took their stuff. Bad, sure, but not the worst and I wouldn’t be surprised if they had some BS reason. There was a lot of herding activity with them purposefully pushing them in a certain direction.

Of course, there was also the room filled with candles and no one with a cult vibe is ever good.

The internet has a year to stew on it so I look forward to the theories.

Now to Frozen. There will be SPOILERS!!

It was good, but I find myself debating about how much I enjoyed it. It’s certainly one of the most unique Disney movies, with a twist that just about knocked me on my ass. Up until that point I kept asking myself where the villain was. Sure, the Duke was obviously not a nice guy but he seemed like such a weak antagonist for a studio that has turned out some of the best of my childhood. The worst villain Disney has ever produced was the hunter from Bambi and look how that turned out.

So when Hans ends up being the villain, I was completely surprised. The genius of that moment wasn’t even the turning the Prince into a bastard. We’ve seen that before. The genius was in Disney using their own tropes, the themes and cliches they themselves have utilized over sixty-odd years of filmmaking, to make you assume Hans was the good guy and the Duke was the badguy. He even had an accent. Disney villains always have an accent.

Then there is the fact that it has two leading ladies, who are both fabulous and flawed, who friggin’ own that movie. Anna proves herself pretty capable and highly entertaining, with Kristoff just kinda tagging along for her shenanigans. Elsa is just as strong and possibly the only good Disney character who is, like literally, an unparralelled badass. I read that she was originally supposed to be the villain and I all I can think is that it was good she wasn’t because she would have wiped that dinky little country off the face of the planet.

I liked all the other characters as well. Kristoff is, frankly, obviously insane from his troll captors and I even liked the little snowman.

What I didn’t like was the music.

Apperently, I’m the minority on that. Sorry.

It just didn’t mesh well with me. Elsa’s song is good but the whole rest of it was forgettable to me, lacking a lot of the energy and charm that makes Disney musicals fun. It’s very well voiced, simply unnecessary. I had sorta hoped this was a trend, that we were leaving the music behind as it was growing dated, but I think that was just a bump in the road, especially since I believe Frozen had more music time than just about any other Disney movie.

All that said, it’s a great direction for Disney to be moving in. Like Tangled, it uses its own legacy, all the qualities we’ve all grown up on to breathe new life into these stories and make them something new. Tangled did it with some of its humor, Flynn Rider being the only character in Disney to notice and question the cast’s tendency to break out into song. Frozen did it in a much more important way, by making the sibling relationship more important than the romantic one, in fact, making the romantic one the antithesis of the character’s goals. That whole aspect was very well done and a huge success.

I look forward to the next story Disney turns out.

Updates On a Few Things

Yeah, I know, I know, been awhile since I posted anything. I’ve been involved with a work project that has tied up a lot of my time, just one of the joys of writing with a day job.

I wanted to update on a few things, and since people tend to go to Story Arcs as well, it’s up there too.

First, the writing is lagging hard and that’s my fault. FayTown Calling is a good month behind. I was hoping to send out a final call for beta readers the end of February and have it edited and out by May. That’s not looking on track though, I won’t send out to beta readers (which you can still be a part of, just comment or email me!) and don’t think I will until mid April. I have many things to change, tweak, and add, and a final polish to make it readable. That moves publication to June (God, I hope…)

On my other writing fronts, I have a short story and a novella that are coming along. I haven’t touched the novella in a month, but it doesn’t need much. I really just need to tie together all the elements and I’ll have a brand new 25k+ story to release. It’s quite a bit different than anything else I’ve written and I’m pretty proud of it.

The short story came as a bit of a surprise. I had written it under a completely different context, then reworked it to be in Virgil’s world. It started at just under 2000 words and now is coming up on 10k. It’s been fun as well and has raised an interesting opportunity. I can’t go too much into it without giving away details of the story, but it deals with an aspect of Virgil’s world that I love. I mean, I love it. I had everything laid out for Sorcerer Rising, probably 9/10 of the story completed when I came up with this idea and I nearly scrapped it all to pursue this idea.

Believe me, Virgil would be a bit different in that context.

I ended up not doing it because I still love Virgil and his perspective on his world. He has a more centralize role that gives him exposure to more of the world. This other perspective is polarized and not as able to freely go about the world. It’s also an aspect of the world that is currently…hidden…from Virgil.

Let’s just say this, people are finally going to be shown what the Coven is.

I’m gonna send this short out to my mailing list, so you’ll get it for free if you’ve signed up. I’ll detail this a bit more there, but I would really like feedback. This aspect of the world is ripe with possibilities and I’d like to see where it can go. I’m thinking of a sort of episodic serial with multiple characters. I really think it could be fun but don’t want to commit to the logistics until I’m sure.

Lastly, my update on the ABNA (Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award).

I didn’t make the cut on this one.

I was hoping to, at least, make it into the second round but can’t win em all. I guess. It stung, not gonna lie on that. Oh well.

Keep on writing. That’s the best way to deal with rejection.

The Wolf Among Us

I knocked out the first two episodes of TellTale Games’ (Creator of the Walking Dead video game) The Wolf Among Us over the weekend.

For the uninitiated, Wolf is based on the comic book series Fables. Published by Dark Horse comics, it tells the story of a community in New York City made up of all the storybook characters you love and know after they escaped from their Homeland dimensions following a devastating war with a being known only as the Adversary (unless you’ve read far enough, and I’m not about to spoil who the Adversary really is). Fables is the only comic book series I’ve ever followed long term. It will get its own post, mainly because playing the game made me dive back into the series, but know this, it’s fascinating.

The game follows one Bigby Wolf, sheriff of Fabletown, formerly known as The Big Bad Wolf. The game does a fantastic job of summing up a complicated world very quickly. You may not understand the significance of the Farm or the Adversary, or perhaps why Bluebeard is like he is, but you have everything you need to enjoy the story. If you already are into Fables, it’s filled with little easter eggs and surprises. Meeting Grendal, in particular, was a lot of fun.

The storytelling, like the Walking Dead games, is top notch. I cared and hated for all the characters involved, everyone comes off very interesting, and the plot is an intriguing whodunnit, all mixed with the rich lore of the Fable world.

I have only one problem. At first, I thought maybe I was just remembering things differently. This is what actually made me dive into Fables again, to see if I had been mistaken in my perception.

What was it?

Snow White.

In the comic, Snow White is the Deputy Mayor of Fabletown. She does all the nitty gritty work that Mayor King Cole can’t be bothered with. She’s confident, strong, and intimidating.

In the game, she’s the assistant to Ichabod Crane, who is himself the Deputy Mayor. That’s canon, and what they’ve done with that is great and accurate. No complaints there. The problem comes from the timid, nervous, fretting Snow White who doesn’t stand up to anyone, hugs her arms, and whose eyes dart around in whatever scene she’s in. She’s steadily getting stronger, and I think they’re going for a buildup to the character we see in the comics, but I don’t buy it as a fan. She’s hundreds, if not thousands, of years old. Portraying this as a young Snow White, when really this is a small fraction of her life, doesn’t correspond to what I know about her. Even before she fled the Homelands, Snow was a stone cold bitch who didn’t take shit from anyone. Charming, Rose, and the Dwarves taught her those lessons. This was the woman who held a sword against the Big Bad Wolf, not a girl who was cowed by Ichabod Crane.

I hope to see that change a bit as the story goes along, otherwise everything works perfectly.

If you like TellTale’s games, Fables, or adventure games, give this a try. If you’re not familiar to Fables, this will introduce you to a world like nothing you’ve ever seen.

The Walking Dead: Season 2 (All That Remains)

I bought a few games over the weekend, all because they were cheap or on sale. It’s been a while since I dove into a game, so this was a lot of fun.

The first of these was the first episode of the second season of The Walking Dead video game. The second season continues the tradition of rich storytelling and strong, powerful character driven moments. It differs in that, now instead of playing Lee, you play Clementine herself.

I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed the first episode. It begins, quite innocently, with Clem now that she’s met up with Omid and Christa, who is now big pregnant. Because the Walking Dead is the Walking Dead, it doesn’t take long for one of these characters to no longer be in the picture.

I won’t dive into the story too much, but I can’t let it go without commenting on one particular scene that I did not see coming at all. It was truly one of the most heartbreaking moments I’ve ever seen and it happened on so many levels. Play it, you’ll know exactly what I mean the moment you drop the beans.

God.

Anyway, I strongly encourage it. Clementine steadily evolved into one of my favorite characters in the first season, becoming a unique person caught in between her innocence and trying to survive. Now you get to see that bear fruit. Whereas she was pretty much entirely protected before, in the first episode alone she is put through a stressful amount of danger and pain. What they’ve done really well is building her dialogue choices so that you see her development into a young woman, now acclimated to a world where she must survive.

I also got the first two episodes of A Wolf Among Us and Max Payne 3, all of which will get their own posts. In the meantime, look forward to the next episode of the Walking Dead.

Metroid

metroid

Metroid is the reason I love gaming.

I am not exaggerating, I am not being sarcastic, the very first video game I ever owned, the first one that I ever played in my own home, with my own system, with my own time, was the original Metroid on Gameboy. I’d played games at the arcade, my grandad took me there when we went to the mall, and I’d played game at friend’s houses, but that was the first one that was mine.

Unreality Magazine led me to a post on UpRoxx about the frustrating nature of Nintendo, how while they refuse to make any new titles that might bring them out of this tailspin, they also ignore core franchises that made them what they are. Metroid is their prime example.

I’m not going to recap the article, go read it if you want to know why Metroid would be a smarter decision than the rest of the shit Nintendo keeps shoveling out. I’m going to focus on what’s great about the series, and why it needs another entry in the franchise.

What makes Metroid great? Core to the franchise is the feeling of exploration. Whether you are playing on a black and white Gameboy or the flashy Gamecube version, you feel like you’re in a big world. It is filled with canyons and mines, mountains and jungles, always leading to a new place. One of its legacies, something that will be felt for years to come in gaming, is the way it deals with sealing off areas, forcing you to have a new attachment, gun, accessory, to get into that new region. It has always handled backtracking with finesse, giving you more to do with new enemies and environmental challenges as you go.

When they introduced Prime, they really made that wide world feel alive. It was filled with enemies, some the villains you’ve been facing, others just the natural fauna of whatever world you’re on. It introduced ruins and lore, lost puzzles and mysteries, and set out to make you record the life, history, and lore of…well, damn near everything.

To me, Prime was the epitome of Metroid and that’s what I loved so much about it. Before I could be wowed by the action, the puzzle solving, the collecting of the weapons, arms, add-ons, I was entranced by the lore. I loved finding something new to scan, whether it was the history of the Chozo, a new critter, or some other piece of lore. I could have spent the game doing just that.

The great thing about Metroid Prime, you don’t have to. The action was top notch, giving you a variety of weapons and style to fight everything. Enemies varied their tactics and abilities, responded differently, and were challenging. Even the Gameboy versions were a challenge that required different tactics.

Prime’s presentation was fabulous. Every moment, whether it’s discovering something new, solving a puzzle, or an encroaching danger, is punctuated by fabulous music. It was beautifully made, with great effects, and better art. The enemies are well designed, the bosses unique, the environments memorable.

And let’s just be clear on this, there is no more beautiful woman in gaming than Samus. You want the strong female character…well, ignore Metroid M and you’ve got it. She’s not the best example of a character in general, that’s never really been the point of Metroid, but she’s a good example of minimalism of design. She always comes off capable, a badass, someone who is control of the situation. Enough is conveyed to make her endearing (and gorgeous) without having to do really anything at all.

I’ve been preaching against Nintendo for years, maybe not here, but I have. Ever since the Gamecube, they have shown a refusal to expand their portfolio. They have embraced far too willingly. They over utilize some properties (looking at you Mario) while ignoring others. Their hardware has lagged behind since the N64 and they fail to innovate. No, the Wii was not in innovation. It was a fad. One day, a day that is approaching sooner and sooner, they will go the way of Sega.

I just hope a serious player buys the rights to Metroid.

Because I want to explore again.