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Gaming Retro Reviews

Review: Adventures of Dino Riki (NES)

Dino_Riki_CoverDeveloper: Hudson Soft
Publisher: Hudson Soft
Platform(s): Nintendo Entertainment System
Price: $4.00-$50.00
Release Date: September 1989

Adventures of Dino Riki was my first foray into the world of vertical/overhead shooting games. The backdrop for this game is far from typical. You have neither a vehicle such as a tank or a spaceship, nor do you have a firearm. Your weapons here are stones, axes, boomerangs, and fireballs, and your “vehicle” is a young caveman warrior named Dino-Riki.

Story

There really isn’t much of a story in Adventures of Dino Riki. Essentially, a strong and courageous Neanderthal named Dino-Riki sets off to defeat a number of large and nasty creatures to ensure the future and safety of his people. Fun Fact: The inspiration for the Dino-Riki character came from Riki Chōshū, a Japanese professional wrestler. In fact, the Macho-Riki sprite was designed to resemble him.

Content Warning

There is some old-school, pixelated, fantasy violence, but the game is appropriate for all ages.

Gameplay

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Those overgrown pebbles won’t cut it for very long. Hunt for power-ups!

In standard shooter fashion, the screen will move by itself and you must keep pace to avoid being pushed into pits or smushed behind obstacles. You start out with stones as your only means of defense, which have poor attack damage and short range. Soon, however, you’ll find upgrades in the form of fist tiles that will give you better weapons. Axes have much greater range, but can only be fired in a straight line. Boomerangs are even stronger than axes, and have terrific range, but their trajectory is unpredictable and can be difficult to aim at a single target. Supreme among the standard weapons are the fireballs, which have a cone-shaped spread that covers most of the screen, fantastic damage, and a high rate of fire. Finally, you may have the opportunity to transform into Macho-Riki, a super-buff fighter capable of blasting enemies with fast-moving clone-projections of himself. His strength allows him to take a hit without losing any health, but if this happens he’s downgraded back to Dino-Riki and armed with only stones again. So, tread carefully.

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Jumps like these must be timed carefully, or the rug will literally be pulled out from under you.

Scattered about the landscape are other items, such as a speed boost that allows Dino-Riki to zoom across the screen. Hearts will increase Dino-Riki’s maximum health, in very similar fashion to The Legend of Zelda. Wings let Dino-Riki fly for a short period of time, allowing him to avoid pits and certain other environmental hazards. If you unearth a star tile, picking it up will annihilate all the enemies on the screen. Diamonds will increase your score. Meat–of course–will restore some of your health.

Over the course of seven levels, you will run, jump, dodge, and fight your way to victory. Enemies will come from nearly every direction. Frequently, you will encounter areas where you will have to jump over pits or water, including wide rivers that feature disappearing/reappearing lily pads. There are other things to watch for as well, including fire-spitting dinosaurs, quicksand, and impassable ground. Fortunately, for all the fast-paced and grueling action of the stages, the bosses are comparatively easy. They attack in predictable patterns, and the fights take place on a single, non-moving screen.

Presentation

Dino_Riki_Torches
Do you give up your fireballs to become Macho-Riki? Decisions, decisions!

If you can get your eyes away from the action long enough, you will be able to take note of the environments. The palettes are not the most imaginative or diverse, but they are fairly bright and do cause the screen to pop. There are jungle, desert, and swamp levels, which are all fairly reflective of a prehistoric environment, but some players may be disappointed at the lack of differentiation in the Stage 4 levels.

The music has that classic retro feel and represents the 8-bit musical genre very well. As you progress through the stages, the mood of the music gradually shifts from upbeat, to frantic, to dread-inducing. The boss music likewise invokes a slight feeling of panic.

Perhaps the most disappointing aspect of this game is the lack of a proper ending. While it stands to reason that a game without a real story probably wouldn’t have a real ending, the player is simply whisked back to Stage 1 after defeating the final boss. Some players could accept this if there were at least something as simple as one congratulatory screen describing in short detail the aftermath of your victory. Alas, this is not so. It is more reminiscent of Arkista’s Ring; however, you do actually get an ending after playing through the game four times, with the difficulty increasing each playthrough.

Conclusion

Hailing from an age where many NES enthusiasts discuss Mega Man and Ninja Gaiden in terms of classic 8-bit difficulty, The Adventures of Dino Riki, while lesser-known, is no more forgiving. It’s a challenging game and definitely not for everyone. However, I strongly urge you find a copy of this diamond in the rough and play it. I beat this game as a child of 9. You can do it!

Dino_Riki_Boss
To avoid getting eaten: Hold the fire button and keep moving!

Photo Credits: gamefaqs.com, strategywiki.org, questicle.net, honestgamers.com, and videogameden.com

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Articles Gaming

BossOver: Chaos VS. Link – Part I

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Video game villains can be just as memorable as video game heroes. In some cases, the main antagonist’s popularity can seem to be even greater than that of the main protagonist’s. However, in almost every game, the villain is fated to lose in the climactic battle. Worse yet, they always seem to lose on their home turf.

In this series, we tell a new story. In each episode, our featured villain will instead succeed in eliminating the hero(es) who would otherwise win. Then, in true villain fashion, they will be unsatisfied simply dominating their own realm, and will move to conquer others. In a new and unfamiliar environment, our villains will test their mettle against the champions of other worlds.


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Episode 1 – Light Warrior Link – Part I

Cutting the last of the Light Warriors down, Chaos collects their orbs, taking their power for his own. With the ability to travel unhindered through time and space, he opens a portal to an unknown realm and steps through. Surveying the terrain, he spies Kakariko Village, nestled snugly at the foot of Death Mountain. Knowing full well the best way for heroes to appear is to cause problems, he takes flight toward the unsuspecting town. Without an iota of restraint in his mind, Chaos quickly reduces Kakariko Village to a pile of charred wood, scorched earth, and smoldering feathers. Satisfied with the destruction, Chaos descends and stands stoically in the middle of the burning ruins.

Not far away, an eager Link has just finished gathering the power of the six sages and is preparing for a showdown with Ganondorf in his hovering citadel. However, the sound of a dozen houses splintering simultaneously amid the force of a gigantic exploding fireball easily draws his attention. Predictably, and like the true hero that he is, Link quickly mounts Epona and rides off to face this new threat.

Upon arriving at the destroyed remains of Kakariko Village, Link is aghast at the tragic and horrifying sight of the smoking crater where the peaceful hamlet once stood. He has no time to lament, however, as Chaos has now noticed his presence.  The fiend adopts an intimidating stance, spreading his wings and bearing his claws. Uttering an ancient Hylian oath, Link–now full of sadness and rage–unsheathes the Master Sword and readies his trusty Mirror Shield.

With zeal, Link charges at the monster, leaping forward with an overhead strike. The Sword of Evil’s Bane finds its mark, opening a large wound on the creature’s knee. Roaring in pain and anger, Chaos makes a retaliatory swipe at Link, which he dodges by rolling underneath the massive arm. Using his momentum, Link springs from the ground and slashes the demon’s other knee. The combination of the second knee being damaged and the loss of balance created by missing his claw attack causes Chaos to fall to his badly-wounded knees. Infuriated and somewhat confounded, Chaos casts a spell at Link, as brown-orange mystical energy streams from his outstretched claw. Closing in for the ostensible coup-de-grace, Link sees the danger and stops in his tracks, raising the Mirror Shield just in time to bounce the energy right back to Chaos.

To Link’s chagrin, the reflected blast dissipates on the monster’s massive frame, causing no apparent damage. Annoyed but unfazed, Chaos then attempts to smash Link using an overhead double axe hammer. Immediately deciding that he could never block such a powerful strike, Link darts forward, rolling between Chaos’ legs. Emerging behind him, Link turns around just as Chaos’ clenched fists hit the ground, causing rock and dirt to be flung in every direction. Predicting an attack from behind, Chaos attempts to sweep Link using his massive barbed tail. With remarkable agility, Link no-hand cartwheels over the hazardous appendage, even slicing into it at the apex of his jump. Bellowing wrathfully, Chaos spins around, flinging his tail at Link yet again, in haymaker fashion. Surprised, but not off-guard, Link quickly leans backward, letting the tail pass just a few inches in front of his face, a telltale *whoosh* sound permeating the air.

Finally bringing himself back to his feet, Chaos casts another spell at Link, spraying blue and blue-white energy in a colossal cone at the hero. Believing it impossible to evade such a wide spell, Link raises his shield, hoping to turn back at least part of the magic. This time however, Link’s Mirror Shield does not fully protect him, and the wintery blast covers the area in shin-deep magical ice, freezing Link to the ground.

Desperately trying to free himself, Link aggressively twists and jerks his body, but is nowhere near strong enough to break through the magical ice. Seeing him struggle in vain, Chaos sneers and takes to the air, the mighty thrum of his wingbeats echoing tauntingly from the ice. Coming to a halt some one hundred feet in the air, he hovers, pleased to have taken his incredible bodyweight off of his badly-injured knees and tail. He puts his fearsome claws together and then begins to slowly separate them, a mixture of pale green and blue-green energy crackling between his palms. Peering downward, he looks upon Link with disdain as he prepares to end the fight.

Shivering so badly his teeth chatter, Link looks skyward and sees the impending attack. Throwing down his shield, he dives into his bag of holding for something to break the ice. Frantically pulling out his Megaton Hammer, he slams the weapon into the ice with all the force his cold bones can muster. Much to his dread, the hammer recoils from the ice without so much as making a dent, causing vibrations so strong that Link nearly loses his grip on the shaft. As Link continues his fruitless effort to free his legs, Chaos completes his spell, and unleashes it. He howls triumphantly as the arctic blast flurries through the air into the ground, his spell spiraling in frozen fractals all around.

Breathing heavily, Link grits his teeth as he watches the immense magical blast close in on him. Clenching his fists, he wracks his brain for a fallback plan and otherwise braces for impact. Suddenly, Link hears a familiar voice in his ear. “Hey! Listen! Use your magic!” With widened eyes, Link spins his head around to see none other than Navi, who has finally caught up with him. Sensing his hesitation, she implores him again. “Link! You have to do it now!” With sudden understanding Link grabs the tiny fairy and stuffs her under his cap. Turning his attention quickly back to the fast-approaching spell power, he channels his magic and prepares to counter. With mere moments before the energy makes contact, Link focuses his gathered energy into Din’s Fire, creating a wide dome of magical flame that melts the ice beneath him. As the two spells converge, their opposed-element energies experience magical attenuation, negating one another, leaving only a vast vapor cloud behind.

Outraged in disbelief, Chaos continues to press the attack, following up with yet another spell. Pulling in more energy, he wastes no time in letting the incantation fly. A great spray of hot pink and pale-red energy projects from his claws, forming into gigantic fireballs as they race toward the earth. Alarmed at first, Link gives Chaos a knowing glance. Storing his Megaton Hammer,  he bends down nonchalantly to pick up his shield. Slipping it back onto his forearm, he crouches in the puddle and holds it aloft, simply waiting for the spell to touch down. As he predicted, much of the fire is snuffed when it hits the water. He is able to block the remainder of the flames with his shield, and his Goron Tunic protects him from any residual heat or cinders.

Now furious beyond reckoning, Chaos clenches a fist. Then, concentrating his will, he hurtles himself toward the ground at a frightening speed, causing Link to stare bewilderingly. Baying with the rage of a wolverine, he punches deep into the ground as he lands, causing tremors so immense that Link loses his balance and falls onto his rump. From the epicenter of his strike, a deep fissure begins and races toward Link, the earth splitting more violently every second. Flailing in a less-than-heroic manner, Link stumbles to his feet and tries to move away from the fast-forming trench, but the trembling of the earth is so profound that he cannot maintain his balance long to outrun it. With the ground giving way beneath him, Link begins to fall to his death. Popping out from under his cap, Navi cries out hysterically. “Link!! No!!”

Tumbling into endless darkness, Link eventually regains his equilibrium and pulls out his Longshot. Making as best a guess as he can in the stark  blackness, he pulls the trigger, hearing the familiar sound of the harpoon impaling itself inside the rock a mere moment later. Holding fast to the handle, he braces himself for a sudden stop, which occurs as he swings into the rock face–hard. Now disoriented from head trauma and essentially blind, Link does his best to clear the cobwebs before starting the climb back to the surface.

Navi, whose cries have gone long unanswered, becomes both inconsolable and infuriated. Feeling her tiny heart beat at levels she’d never before experienced, she lashes out Chaos, flitting toward the demon just as fast as her fairy wings can propel her. Still recovering from what he believes to be his victory strike, Chaos is bombarded by a loud and glowing-blue blur. At first he tries to simply shoo the pest by indifferently swatting at her. However, Navi is riding an emotionally-fueled adrenaline high, and easily darts around his feckless movements. As she continues to pummel the evil fiend’s face, she succeeds in badly wounding Chaos’ left eye. Suddenly realizing the threat this diminutive creature actually poses, Chaos growls with ferocity and begins to aggressively beat his wings, creating a strong wind. Finding it too difficult to fly against the tempest Chaos is creating, Navi is pushed back through the air, though she is able to remain airborne. As she attempts to approach Chaos for a renewed attack, Navi finds herself checked against the strength of his wingbeats, unable to get close.

In the distance, the sound of metal against rock can be heard, followed by a recognizable chain-winding sound. A moment later, a gauntleted hand swings above the precipice, burying itself in the blackened earth. Finally pulling himself out of the chasm, a fatigued Link rolls over and catches his breath, thankful to be alive. Realizing he has no time to spare, Link sits up and scans his surroundings. Immediately spotting Navi and her current predicament, Link pushes himself to his feet and draws the Master Sword, readies his shield, and moves to the attack. Still struggling against the gusts of Chaos’ wings, Navi suddenly catches the sight of Link approaching out of the corner of her eye. Going through a myriad of emotions all at once, she turns her attention from Chaos and begins to wing her way toward Link. Seizing his opportunity to strike, Chaos rushes forward, fiercely slashing at the unsuspecting fairy with his giant claw. Catching Navi completely off-guard, he scores a telling blow, knocking her utterly senseless and opening grievous wounds in her delicate fey flesh.

Shocked and sickened by the demon’s cowardly attack, Link double-times it over to Navi’s motionless body and scoops her up. Sticking her safely under his cap, he turns his attention back to Chaos, who laughs at the hero’s misfortune. Chest heaving with unbridled fury, Link grits his teeth and charges the creature once more. Knowing better than to face Link on the ground in his current state, Chaos returns to the air once more, but simply hovers about 30 feet off the ground, as if mocking him.  Sick of playing defense on the ground and determined to end this fight, Link stops and pulls out his Biggoron Sword and Longshot, storing the Master Sword and Mirror Shield. Pointing the Longshot at Chaos, he waits a few moments and studies his movements intently, sword-hand holding fast to his greatsword. Timing his shot perfectly, he lets the Longshot fly, the harpoon impaling itself inside Chaos’ ribcage. Groaning in profound pain, Chaos flails, barely able to keep himself airborne. Retracting the chain, Link flies toward the creature, letting go at just the right time to continue propelling himself upward. At the height of his assisted jump, he grips the Biggoron Sword tightly and slashes fiercely downward. With force added from his fall, Link cuts deeply through Chaos’ giant wing, nearly severing it from his body. With a baleful moan, Chaos lashes out at Link as they both begin to fall from the air. As the hero attempts to wrest his blade from the dangling wing, Chaos catches him across the back, shredding his tunic and leaving large claw marks in his skin. Tensing greatly from the impact of the strike, Link reflexively arcs his back, just as he frees his sword.

Having no more energy for further aerial combat, they both plummet to the earth. Chaos collides with the ground with the force of a meteor, a massive crater forming around him. With no way to break his fall either, Link pulls off his cap with Navi inside and clutches it to his chest. A fraction of a second later, he hits hard, feeling just how little bounce the ground provides. His greatsword skewers itself into the scorched dirt just a few inches away, barely missing his arm. Only able to take shallow breaths, Link’s muscles twitch unnaturally. He can feel Navi’s body moving through the fabric of his tunic, though he knows she barely clings to life. Tilting his head weakly, he looks over at the spot where Chaos landed. Seeing only swirling dust and no other movement, he lets his head fall back and breathes a sigh of relief. Poking her head out from beneath Link’s cap, Navi speaks faintly. “Did we… do it… Link?” Lacking the ability to respond, Link drags his arm atop his chest and embraces the eternally optimistic sprite once again, in order to keep her warm.

As he searches for the strength to pick himself up, Link hears a loud noise. Alarmed, he moves his head to look at the crater once again to behold an angry Chaos staring him down. Gripped with disbelief, Link looks on helplessly as the creature lugs his torn and broken body out of the giant sinkhole it created. Resting on one knee, Chaos pulls Link’s Longshot free from his chest, and heaves it into the fissure. Breathing heavily, Chaos simply observes Link for several moments, unsure of what to make of him. Seeing that Link is unable to move, Chaos snarls and begins to evoke a spell. With eyes widened, Link desperately tries to think of a way to counter whatever is coming. To his amazement, Chaos does not blast him with the gathered energy, but instead turns it upon himself. Link’s relief quickly turns to dread however, as he watches the pale green vortex mend Chaos’ wounds, even reattaching his wing. With the spell having done its work, Chaos stands to his full height once again and begins to advance on Link.

With no options left, Link reaches with unknown strength into his bag and procures the Ocarina of Time. Dragging it to his lips, he is just barely able to breathe out the notes to the Prelude of Time. As the magic begins to take effect, Chaos suddenly realizes what is happening, and moves more quickly in order to stop it. Swinging for the fences, Chaos throws a wild punch at Link, hoping to disrupt the effect, but it is too late. Link disappears just before his fist splits the earth.

When Link opens his eyes again, he sees the ceiling of the Temple of Time. As he starts coming down from his adrenaline high, he feels the full brunt of his wounds as pain wracks his body. He lays there in anguish for many minutes until he feels strong enough to move. Arm-dragging himself to the wall, he props himself up into a sitting position. He sits Navi, still housed in his cap, down in his lap as maneuvers his hand feebly around in his bag. Eventually finding what he needs, he pulls a bottle of red liquid free and waits a few more minutes before summoning the strength to pop the top off. Looking down, he holds the bottle upright in one hand and lifts Navi with the other, bringing her face above the rim of the glass. Dipping her weakened arms into the potion, Navi gathers some of it into her cupped hands, lifting it to her mouth. Drinking it down, Navi’s, injuries magically disappear and her wings begin to flutter. Happy to be able to fly once again, she beams at Link. Now lifting the bottle to his own lips, Link tries to drink, but finds his arm too weak to hold the bottle high enough. With gusto, Navi flies beneath the glass and pushes it upward, adding her strength to Link’s. Finally able to imbibe the alchemical concoction, he feels the pain leave his body. Standing with renewed vigor, he pulls out his armaments again and walks over to the entrance. In the distance, he sees Chaos in the sky once more.

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To be concluded…

 

Artwork courtesy of Ashley Davis

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Articles Gaming

The Ten Most Outstanding Swords of Gamedom

The sword is probably the most classic of the video game protagonist weapons. From the quintessential knight in shining armor to the plucky village boy turned savior of the cosmos, the sword dominates the fantasy landscape and has a respectable presence in other settings. There are many games in which the player acquires progressively better swords for their hero over the course of the story. There are other games in which you constantly upgrade your only weapon, which could be either a family heirloom or an ancient artifact. In either case, whatever amounts to being the “ultimate weapon” in such games is aggressively and relentlessly sought by completionists and power-hungry players alike.

Here I’ve outlined what I believe to be the ten greatest, most outstanding, most powerful swords in the gaming universe. I say “gaming” because it includes swords from sources outside of video games. As always, I’m using non-poser tactics and only including items from games I’ve actually played (and in almost every case beaten). I’m also only including swords that are obtainable by players by standard means (i.e., no swords only useable via GameSharks, hacking, etc.). Finally, I’m only including swords that originate in gaming in some way. Sorry, there are no lightsabers, Excaliburs, Masamunes, etc.  If you don’t see a particular sword on this list, chances are I either haven’t played the game/series in question, or the the sword simply doesn’t measure up to those I included.

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10. The Sword of the Golden Lion – Wizards, Warriors, & You

Sword_of_the_Golden_LionThis sword comes from a lesser-known series of role-playing books in the tradition of Choose Your Own Adventure. The series is set in the fantasy kingdom of Silvergate, ruled by King Henry. The kingdom’s champions are a powerful wizard and a mighty warrior who are often called upon to rid the world of evil. Readers can choose either the path of the wizard or the warrior. Those who choose to play the part of the knight can pick three pieces of equipment from a list of powerful and wondrous weapons. However, the one weapon the knight always has is The Sword of the Golden Lion.

This finely-crafted golden sword was created by the same Avalonian Elf who forged the legendary Excalibur. The blade itself is indestructible, and the word “FOREVER” is inscribed upon it. Over the course of many adventures, it has been used to slay both villains and mythical beasts alike.

crissaegrim9. Crissaegrim – Castlevania: Symphony of the Night

Sharing its name with a mountain range in Tolkien lore, this blade drops randomly from Schmoos in the Forbidden Library. Widely considered a game-breaker, it delivers four cuts for every single attack. A single swing is joined by three blades of wind. Additionally, its recovery time is so fast that players can chain together strikes with blinding speed, seemingly limited only by their ability to jam on the attack button. With the power to deliver a frightening number of cuts, no creature–goon and boss alike–is able to overcome its devastating speed.

Chillrend8. Chillrend – The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Hidden in the tunnels under the house of Thieves Guild leader Mercer Frey, this glass, one-handed sword is imbued with enchantments that cause frost damage and paralyzes its victim for 2 seconds. It is leveled loot, which means the higher the level you are when you find it, the stronger it is. In the case of Chillrend, level 46 or higher will garner the highest base stats. It is one of the strongest weapons a player can obtain in Skyrim. Enterprising players can also enhance its frost power by taking the Augmented Frost perk, and Chillrend’s base power can be strengthened by those with the Arcane Blacksmith and Glass Smithing perks.

Vigilance7. Vigilance – Dragon Age: Origins — Awakening

Crafted by master armorer Wade for the Warden-Commander of Vigil’s Keep, this remarkable and powerful sword is made from Eldest Dragon Bone. The sword’s mystic augments enhance its wielder’s abilities, and its diamond-edged blade is sharp enough to split a human hair. Magically enhanced, it is warm to the touch, and, when brandished, has the power to unleash enchanted flames upon its wielder’s enemies. Ultimately lost to the ages after being stolen by Antivan Crows, legend has it that Vigilance now has a life of its own, drifting along in time from hero to hero, and is still growing in power.

 ALttP_Master_Sword6. The Master Sword – The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past

Probably the most famous sword on the List, the Master Sword has appeared–in various incarnations–in numerous The Legend of Zelda titles. Also known as the Sword of Evil’s Bane, it positively seethes with holy power and was designed for battling the forces of darkness. Its power is granted to Link only after proving his worth by gathering three symbols of virtue: the Pendant of Courage, the Pendant of Power, and the Pendant of Wisdom.

The Master Sword has the ability to dispel enchantments and break through mystical barriers. It can also deflect certain types of magical energy. If used in conjunction with the proper medallion, Link can perform devastating elemental spells. When Link is uninjured, he can project concentrated bursts of holy energy from the sword to strike his enemies from afar. Two upgrades are available for the weapon–one from a pair of dwarven smiths, and the other from a fairy. Once fully powered, its melee strikes are superior, able to slay most monsters in a single blow, though its beam attack never increases in power.

 5. Holy Avenger: Carsomyr with Eye of Tyr – Baldur’s Gate II

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This sacred greatsword is considered one of the most powerful weapons ever created in Faerun, and can only be used by paladins. It is found in the hoard of Firkraag, a powerful dragon. Its magical enhancement is so strong that it can either break through or outright ignore even the most sophisticated protective magicks. When it connects, it dispels magic against its victim. It also does extra holy damage to creatures of the chaotic evil alignment.

The wielder of Carsomyr is granted strong resistance to magic and the ability to use dispel magic as the spell three times per day. When the artifact gem Eye of Tyr is set into the hilt of the sword, its power increases dramatically, doing even more damage to chaotic evil beings.

4. Illumina/Lightbringer – Final Fantasy VI

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The most powerful weapon obtainable in Final Fantasy VI, this blade is won in the Dragon’s Neck Coliseum by betting the sword, Ragnarok, and winning the fight. Considered to be a perfectly crafted, balanced, and honed weapon, the carrier of this outstanding blade will notice a boost in their physical strength, speed, stamina, and magical power. It also enhances its user’s ability to dodge attacks from both physical and magical sources.

Additionally, when attacking, Illumina saps a bit of its wielder’s will in order to inflict a critical hit. Additionally, it randomly casts Pearl (Holy) on its target, causing even further holy damage. Finally, this sword enhances its holder’s tenacity to such an extent that its swings lose absolutely no force, even when making defensive strikes.

3. The Sword of Kas – Dungeons & Dragons v.3.5

Sword_of_KasThis epic blade was crafted by the Archlich Vecna for his most trusted lieutenant: the vampire, Kas the Bloody-handed. After years of loyal servitude, Kas eventually turned on his master. Some say it was the sword itself that whispered for him to do this. In the ensuing battle, Kas was able to cut off Vecna’s left hand and remove his left eye before ultimately being defeated. Only the hand & eye of Vecna and the sword remained after the battle, and the sword is said to harbor intense feelings of vengeance towards Vecna.

The onyx-black longsword’s magical enhancement is strong enough to wound deities. Its chief enchantment produces unholy energy when it strikes, inflicting terrible damage to good-aligned beings. It also possesses the keen quality, which makes the blade preternaturally sharp. Additionally, the Sword of Kas is a vorpal weapon, making it deadlier still, able to sever heads (or hands) with ease. Just holding the sword tremendously improves its wielder’s physical strength. Furthermore, it can be used to cast several spells once per day: blasphemy, call lightning, and unhallow. It can also be used to cast slay living once per week. Finally, the sword itself is intelligent and is of the chaotic evil alignment. Anyone seeking to control it must engage in a battle of wills, particularly if the weapon deems its holder’s actions incongruent with its own desires.

2. Elsydeon – Phantasy Star IV: The End of the Millennium

Elsydeon_CollageAn ancient and mysterious blade, Elsydeon houses the spirits of those who have fought to protect the Algo Star System. It was created by the great wizard, Lutz, and the Espers in order to combat the evil forces in Algo. It is said to be the only weapon capable of defeating the Profound Darkness. Possessing incredible attack strength, its holy power is such that an evil-aligned creature struck by it has a chance of being instantly slain. Additionally, possession of Elsydeon is necessary for learning the supreme destructive technique Megid.

Finally, its most impressive feat occurred when Chaz and his companions defeated the Profound Darkness while it was attempting to pass into Algo. After winning the battle, the dimensional tear kept open by the Profound Darkness’ power began to collapse into a time warp, endangering the party greatly. At that moment, the Elsydeon–as if responding to the party’s distress–shattered and created a pure-white mist that shielded the entire party from the force of the black hole and transported them safely back to the surface of Motavia.

1. The Monado – Xenoblade Chronicles

Shulk_Holding_MonadoA supremely powerful energy blade that is said to have been used by the great titan Bionis in its legendary battle with the Mechonis. With the ability to affect the mysterious ether and the power to reshape reality, it responds to the will of the one who uses it. It also grants its wielder the power of foresight, allowing them to see and react to events before they happen. Particularly skilled users can also employ an array of combat arts to make fighting easier. Those foolish or ignorant enough to take on the wielder of the Monado are faced with an opponent who is able to move with confounding grace and who possesses the power of a blade seemingly limited only by its user’s strength of will. At its pinnacle, the Monado is capable of killing god-like beings.

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So that’s it: a veritable storm of steel (and other otherworldly metals) if ever there was one. I’m sure you’ve already thought of some of your most favorite, end-boss-destroying swords while reading this list. So, what sword do you find to be the most dominant in your gaming career? Tell us about it in the comment section below!

 

Photo Credits:

http://www.gamebooks.org; http://www.castlevaniadungeon.net; http://www.uesp.net; http://www.dragonage.wikia.com; http://www.blueamnesiac.deviantart.com; http://www.baldursgate.wikia.com; http://www.finalfantasy.wikia.com; http://www.goingdungeoncrawling.blogspot.com; http://www.forums.nexusmods.com; http://www.xenoblade.wikia.com; http://www.swordforum.com; http://www.wallpapervortex.com/

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Happy gaming!

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Gaming PC PS4 Retro Reviews Xbox One

Review: Dragon Age Inquisition (Xbox 360)

Box_Art

Content Warning: Violence; Blood; Gore; Strong Language; Nudity; Sexual Content; Homosexuality; Spiritual Content.

By Christian review, I have determined that Dragon Age Inquisition is absolutely not a game that young, impressionable Christians should play!

 

Story

Inquisition_Camp
Every region has areas that can be claimed for The Inquisition in order to grow your influence.

Dragon Age Inquisition takes place one year after the events of Dragon Age II, in the year 9:41 Dragon. The mages are now in full rebellion and the circles fallen. The Templars have split off from the Chantry, and now oppose the mages in open bloody conflict. The Grey Wardens have all mysteriously disappeared.

Orlais is engaged in a civil war. Ferelden has not fully recovered from the blight and civil war that took place there. The Free Marches are ablaze with activity after the events surrounding the Champion of Kirkwall and whispers of a possible Exalted March to quell the conflict.

The only chance for peace was a conclave within the Temple of Sacred Ashes between most of the Grand Clerics of Thedas and Divine Justinia herself. However, this last ditch effort to stem the tide of chaos was shattered when an explosion destroyed the temple and ripped open a massive rift in the sky. The Breach, as it came to be known, started loosing hideous demons all over the land.

Suddenly, a lone survivor of the temple’s destruction is found. This individual possesses a strange mark on their hand that seems attuned to The Breach in some way. The bearer of the mark has no recollection of how they arrived there, the temple’s explosion or his/her role in it. That person is you. While your guilt or innocence in the death of The Divine remains to be seen, sentencing will have to wait as there is work to be done.

Gameplay

Cross-class combos are still here. Shattering a frozen creature is still my favorite.
Cross-class combos are still here. Shattering a frozen creature is still my favorite.

With more ground to cover than ever before, exploration is at the forefront of activity in Dragon Age Inquisition. You will make excursions into the many wild areas of Ferelden and Orlais, including areas mentioned but never previously seen.

Within these areas are tons of side quests, which will actually consume more of your time than the main story itself. However, many of the side quests you complete can improve the power or influence of The Inquisition. For example, you might be able to recruit someone you help as an agent of The Inquisition, which will in turn help your advisers do their jobs better.

In combat, you still have a four-character party, composed of members fitting the three major archetypes of warrior, rogue, and mage. However, in true Dragon Age fashion, you can choose different talent trees for yourself and your party members, in your pursuit of a perfect combat team to suit your play style.

Sadly, anyone who had the dream to play a healer is in for a bit of a shock. BioWare has done away with healing magic altogether. Instead, mages are given a barrier spell that shields party members from damage. I find this decision flawed, because it essentially forces you to spend talent points on healing for all of your mages. Instead of just being able to learn Heal and then go specialize in a different talent tree, you have to devote at least part of all mages’ development to the Spirit tree, lest your party become super squishy. The only “healing” magic to speak of are a revival spell and a contingent revival spell.

Tactics have likewise been removed, so micromanagement junkies like me–who pride themselves on creating game-winning custom tactics for their party members to follow–have much to lament. Instead, we are given a tactical camera, which when activated, gives you an overhead view of the battlefield. This lets you position party members and choose certain actions for them to take. You can also move the action forward frame-by-frame an make adjustments as necessary.

While it’s a nice little feature in theory, I honestly only ever used it twice: once during the tutorial, and once much later to tell Varric that he doesn’t have to stand underneath a dragon in order to properly shoot it. The only tactics present here are a few little decisions, such as determining the pain threshold at which a party member drinks a health potion.

Speaking of health potions, you can only carry eight into combat. That’s right, you can drink only eight potions before you have to return to camp to resupply. While I wasn’t negatively affected, for novice players, this means a tedious loop of fight, return to camp, fight, return to camp, fight, return to camp. That can become mentally exhausting. On the plus side, health potions are unlimited and you don’t pay anything for them.

When back at your base of operations, you can customize your gear, talk to your companions, and start events that propel the story forward. In your War Council chamber, you survey the map of southern Thedas and assign missions to your advisers. Your advisers then send out their dignitaries, spies, or soldiers to deal with the various problems and concerns around the region. These missions can garner useful pieces of gear, bonus influence, or monetary rewards. Additionally, you can dispatch crews out into the countryside to collect crafting materials.

Finally, what would a Dragon Age game be without a little romance? Not everything has to be monster-slaying and politics after all. You have eight romance options to choose from: Six party members and two advisers. BioWare had stated that the sex scenes would be “mature and tasteful.” Unfortunately (from a review standpoint), I cannot attest to this. I managed to pick a romance option that contains no sex. In fact, all it amounted to was a few make-out sessions. So, while I can warn you that Dragon Age Inquisition does contain sexual content, I cannot do so from firsthand knowledge.

Graphics

The_Fade
Once again, you have the opportunity to travel into The Fade. What secrets await you there this time around?

BioWare truly outdid themselves in producing expansive environments for the Inquisitor and company to explore and exploit. The places you can go include hot deserts, frozen mountains, lush forests, peaceable fields, and murky wetlands. You can also travel to the Orlesian capital of Val Royeaux.

However, the amount of city you are able to access is significantly less than in the cases of Denerim or Kirkwall.

While impressive in scope, the visuals of Dragon Age Inquisition are not done justice by the Xbox 360. In addition to a woeful level of detail, the loading times were insane. This does not just apply to area transitions either.

Elements of the environment were sometimes drawn right in front of me, while the draw distance for some other objects was questionable at best. Additionally, I experienced a significant amount of lag in combat, particularly if I used the Whirlwind ability. As if that were not enough, menus took forever to load. It was a very common occurrence to scroll to a party member and wait for them to appear in the menu screen. After they appeared, I would then have to wait for the various levels of detail to slowly add. Take my advice and wait to play this game on either Xbox One or PlayStation 4.

Music/Audio

New for Dragon Age: mounts! There are a goodly number of mounts to find, too. Try to find them all!
New for Dragon Age: mounts! There are a goodly number of mounts to find, too. Try to find them all!

The music of Dragon Age Inquisition is nice, if a bit subdued in certain circumstances. While I make it a point to brag about video game music as much as possible, the background music seemed to live up to the literal meaning of its name, and stayed as part of the background. In other words, during much of the game, I did not notice the music hardly at all.

I am unsure if this is because of some sound setting I failed to tweak, another weakness of this title on the Xbox 360,  or the result of intentional design that prioritized ambiance over accompaniment.

Whatever the reason, the music I did hear was quite standout, especially during boss battles and dragon fights. The FMV cut-scenes also include some very good music.

Writing

This bad boy probably doesn't want to talk. To arms!
This bad boy probably doesn’t want to talk. To arms!

Dragon Age Inquisition has quite a long script. Even minor and secondary characters are given a chance to display their personality through the hours of fully-voiced dialogue.

Given the decision-based nature of the world state, it stands to reason that you will not be able to experience all possible dialogues in a single playthrough. So, once you finish the game for the first time, go back to the Dragon Age Keep and rearrange the tapestry, and see what new surprises await.

As with any good game, there are elements of comedy and lightheartedness. However, there is also coarse language throughout, and this installment is the first to include f-bombs (at least that I was able to notice), so keep the kiddies out of the room while you’re playing.

Christian Concerns

Spiritual Content: Anyone who has played the first two Dragon Age games already knows that the world of Thedas has the Andrastrian Chantry, a religion that mirrors Christianity in many ways. There are also the pantheistic elves, the Old Gods of Tevinter, the dwarves who venerate The Stone and their ancestors, and the Qunari who live only by the word of The Qun.

All of these systems of belief have varying levels of spirituality that I will not delve into here. There are numerous sources on the internet where one can learn more about the in-game lore. All I will say is that this world and its lore are the product of writers, and any opinions expressed by NPCs (non-player characters) on aspects of Andrastrianism should not be taken as a commentary on Christianity, despite the numerous parallels.

Homosexuality: All of the Dragon Age games have included romance options that are bisexual. This has not changed in Inquisition, but instead goes a step further. There is now a gay character (Dorian) and a lesbian character (Sera), and they can only be romanced by same-sex party members.

Conclusion

The replay value that is inherent to the tapestry is rivaled by the fact that it took me 107 hours to complete my first playthrough, and I didn’t even do everything. Additionally, the epilogue left me feeling rather unfulfilled, as it is very short and answers few questions. There was no “where are they now” narrative for the main characters except for a couple party members who are shown to be more important than the game seemed to suggest.

I can tell you succinctly that it will be some time before I pick this game up again. If you truly want to appreciate Inquisition, play it on the Xbox One or the PlayStation 4. It plays terribly on Xbox 360. Despite some questionable design decisions, Dragon Age Inquisition is a good game.

Photo Credits: DragonAge.com

Reviewed On: Xbox 360

Also available for: Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, PC.

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Ten Powerful Hymns That Will Stir Your Spirit

Music is a huge part of life for virtually everyone. This is especially true for practicing Christians who regularly attend church. Music accompanies much of what is done during a church service, which includes–but is not limited to–the collection, the opening processional, the children’s message, and the benediction.

Of course, I highly doubt anyone goes through church without singing a few hymns as well. As a child of the 80s, I will be the first to admit that many of the songs contained in those old, dusty hymnals are a little bit slow and boring. However, if you attend church for a while, you may be so lucky as to hear something that really speaks to you.

Now, please, don’t misunderstand. If the more traditional, reverent and down-tempo hymns are your thing, God bless and more power to you. All I’m saying is they’re not my cup of tea. Additionally, I’m sure I’m not the only person who feels this way. Below, I have listed ten hymns that truly stoke the flames of my spirit and fill me with a sense of closeness to my faith that I don’t experience in average, everyday life.


Baba Yetu

Baba_YetuMany PC gamers may recognize this as the theme song to Civilization IV. The first time I heard it I was taken aback. While I was able to discern the language of the song as being Swahili, it was not until much later that I discovered the song’s translation.

For those that are unaware, this song is actually the Lord’s Prayer set to music, sung in Swahili. Once I’d learned that, it found a place in my heart as my favorite Christian song from a video game (of which there are precious few). No matter how many times I hear it, it still moves me.

 

 

 

Hallelujah Chorus

HandelI’m quite certain I don’t have to justify this one, as it comes from the triumphal work of Handel’s Messiah. Sung most commonly in Easter cantatas, I never see a bad time (of year) to sing this, personally. I’ve only had the privilege of singing it once in an official capacity–in choir at my old church.

The song is pure power, from start to finish. Popular lore states that Handel said he “saw all of heaven before him” as he wrote this. Whether true or not, no one can argue that this song was divinely inspired. I thoroughly enjoy singing it any chance I get. If you’ve never seen a performance of this exquisite work, I would encourage you to suggest it to your worship and music committee. It’s just that good.

 

 

 

 

 

Lift High the Cross

AscensionIn my old church, our choir sang this every year on Ascension Sunday. It’s certainly one of the more high-energy pieces we’ve done there. I particularly love singing the part closest to the beginning: “Come, Christians, follow where our Savior trod. Our King victorious, Christ the Son of God.” Call me crazy, but I’ve always drawn a measure of cheer from it.

Historically, I’m sure the disciples were quite sad when they had to say goodbye to Jesus for the second and final time However, when I hear it, both the words and music strike me as being happy. If you’ve never heard it before, I highly recommend it.

 

 

 

 

 

Let All Things Now Living

St_DavidAt my old church we sang this song every year to celebrate St. David’s Day. St. David is the Patron Saint of Wales. I went to a Presbyterian church. We even had Welsh cakes and leek soup during the social hour.

So now, anytime I experience something associated with Wales, I think of this song. This is absolutely not a bad thing, as it has a bold rhythm and a great message: “Till shadows have vanished, and darkness is banished; As forward we travel from light into light.” And like every other song here, I sing it anytime, not just in the spring. As an aside, of the songs listed here, I sing this more often in the shower than any other. I know not the reason why.

 

 

 

 

 

Battle Hymn of the Republic

Flag_And_BibleAs a highly patriotic hymn, we always sang this classic around the 4th of July. I’ve always appreciated this song’s battle march melody, and take-no-prisoners lyrics. “He hath loosed the fateful lightning of his terrible swift sword.” Wow. Jesus has a +6 holy shocking burst keen longsword that also gives Him the benefit of Haste while held. Now that’s a weapon.

Bad Dungeons & Dragons references aside, this hymn was written by Julia Ward Howe, and was something of an anthem for the Union army during the Civil War. So, while many popular hymns have their roots in Europe, this song stands proudly as testament to our American Christian heritage.

 

 

Love Divine, All Loves Excelling

The_WorldThis is one of the earliest hymns I sang when I started going to church. While familiar to many, I believe the arrangement we sang in my old church is quite different than what most people sing. I say this mainly because of my inability to find an audio file of said arrangement anywhere on the internet, while the more recognizable accompaniments are widely available.

I’ve always sung this one a bit dramatically, as it was played quite a bit louder on the organ than most other hymns. I particularly like the line in the second verse: “Take away our bent for sinning; Alpha and Omega be; End of faith, as its beginning, set our hearts at liberty.”

 

 

How Firm a Foundation

Church_FoundationThis hymn is popularly sung in observance of All Saints Day (November 1). The lyrics have their basis in scripture, as hymns often do. In this case it is Isaiah 41:10 – “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

Now there’s a promise from God worth singing about. This is among the first hymns I fully memorized, and I would usually sing it while outside. For some reason, being outside–particularly in autumn–makes this hymn come to my mind.

 

 

 

 

All Creatures of Our God and King

St_FrancisThis is really one of my favorites. Based on a poem called Canticle of the Sun, written by St. Francis of Assisi, this is another great song that is traditionally sung around Easter time. Just the sound of the music is enough to center me for Godly musical worship. Then, when I start singing the words, I truly feel like I’m singing it exclusively for God to hear.

One version of the song actually sets The Doxology to the melody of the piece. For those unfamiliar with it, it’s typically sung at the end of the offering. “Let God from whom all blessings flow; Praise Him all creatures here below; Praise Him above ye heavenly host; Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.” If you’ve never heard of this song, I urge you to pull up some lyrics and a midi file and give your soul a spin.

 

 

 

 

All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name

King_JesusOften referred to as “The National Anthem of Christendom”, this is a powerful and spiritually exuberant hymn is widely considered one of the greatest hymns ever written. I certainly do not argue with that claim.

While there are numerous versions with different lyrics, every one is an evil-piercing hymn that ends every verse the same way: “And crown Him Lord of all.” I’ve only discovered it in recent years, but it has quickly risen through the ranks to become a favorite of mine. It’s one I look forward to singing whenever I get the chance.

 

 

 

Be Thou My Vision

VisionAs a mostly Irish boy, how could I not include this one? This stands out greatly from the other nine selections chiefly distinctively for its more subtle and observant melody. Despite this, it is no less qualified as “joyful noise” in my humble opinion. This song is also noteworthy because to me, it sounds as much like a prayer as it does a hymn. The fourth verse is particularly telling: “Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise; Thou mine inheritance, now and always; Thou and Thou only, first in my heart; High King of Heaven, my treasure Thou art.”

I never cease to be moved by this traditional Celtic hymn. Could there be predisposition in my DNA? I know not, but what I do know is if I ever have a chance to sing a solo somewhere, this is the song I will want to sing.

 

 


I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about some of my favorite hymns. Additionally, I hope I have opened up some new songs for many of you, even though most if not all of them are well-known and popular.

Do you have a favorite hymn or worship song that livens and emboldens your spirit? If so, tell us in the comments below!

Happy singing, and God bless.