RIP Paul Walker

Actor Paul Walker was killed earlier this afternoon in a car accident, his agent confirmed.

The wreck occurred in Santa Clarita, California. Walker, 40, was riding with a friend in a Porsche when the car lost and collided with a tree. The vehicle exploded and burst into flames. Both Walker and his friend were killed in the accident. Walker had been giving people test drives in the Porsche to raise money for the victims of the typhoon in the Philippines. It is unclear at this time who was driving the car.

This is devastating. My heart goes out to Walker’s family and friends. I know they must be heartbroken. I especially feel bad for his daughter. I really can’t imagine the grief she’s going through.

Walker was a favorite of mine. Years ago, one of my best friends decided that he and I should pick an actor and watch as many of their films as we could. He picked Matthew McConaughey (thinking Matt stared in more action movies), and I picked Walker.

I’m still shocked that this happened. Again, my thoughts and prayers go to his family and friends. I’m very sorry for their loss.

Peace

Photo comes from rte.ie

The Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time Turns 15

Time sure does fly by quickly.

Fifteen years ago to the day, Nintendo released The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time for its Nintendo 64 console in North America (the Japanese release date was November 21). The game is the title in the series to use 3D graphics, and the fifth title of the franchise overall. It proved to be a huge commercial and critical success, selling over 7 million copies worldwide and is one of the most positively reviewed games ever; it has been thought of by many to be the best game ever created.

Ocarina of Time stars franchise hero Link as sets out to thwart the evil Gannondarf, who has kidnapped Princess Zelda and is on the hunt for the power Triforce, a magical relic that can grant him incredible power. Set in the fictional kingdom of Hyrule, the game is adventure through time, starting with Link as young boy and (after a time jump) showing Link as a young adult in the game’s final acts.

I remember the first time I played Ocarina of Time. It was in a Toys R’ Us on an N64 kiosk. It was in the early stages of the game, while Link is still a child. I was struck by the game’s 3D visuals and the power of the N64 in general. Seeing a large 3D Hyrule to explore and do battle in was incredible.

Ocarina of Time was very warmly received upon its release, earning perfect reviews from many gaming publications and numerous Game of the Year awards.

Ocarina of Time has seen a few re-releases over the years. It was ported to the GameCube with the Master Quest, iQue (a Nintendo system released only in China) the Wii’s Virtual Console, and most recently the 3DS.

Here’s to fifteen years of a legendary title!

Peace & Pixels

 

 

 

Fifteen Years of Half-Life

Happy Birthday, Dr. Freeman!

Fifteen years ago to the day, Half-Life, Valve’s seminal first-person shooter, debuted on the personal computer. Published by Sierra On-Line with a story penned by science-fiction author Marc Laidlaw, Half-Life stars Dr. Gordon Freeman, a theoretical physicist who must fight his way out of the Black Mesa Research Facility that has been overrun by aliens. It is the first title from Valve, which began as a small company founded by former Microsoft employees Gabe Newell and Mike Harrington.

Half-Life is renowned for its immersive gameplay, which players experience entirely from Gordon Freeman’s perspective. As Freeman, gamers must traverse the ruins of the Black Mesa Research Facility while solving environmental puzzles and surviving combat encounters with several enemies, ranging from the acid-spitting alien creatures called “bullsquids” to a U.S. Marine unit. The game was heralded for its sophisticated enemy artificial intelligence (particularly the human enemies), which caused enemies to attack players in various ways (such as the Marines’ ability to throw grenades as well as shoot and take cover) and even work in squads.

A hit upon its release, Half-Life earned high acclaim from both consumer and critic. The title won dozens of game of the year awards from a number of publications, including PC Gamer, The Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences, and the Houston Chronicle. PC Gamer even named Half-Life as the best game of all time three times; in 1999, 2001, and 2005. Reception to Gordon Freeman has been equally positive. He was named as the best character of all time by Gamespot (via public poll) and Empire in 2009 and 2010 respectively, and was named the 5th best video game character ever in 2011’s Guinness World Records Gamer’s Edition.

Over the years, Half-Life has warmly embraced by the mod community, leading to several different modified versions of the original game. Valve itself encouraged people in modding the title, releasing it with Worldcraft, the level-development used for the game. Perhaps most famous among these mods is Counter-Strike, which started out as an independent mod but was later released by Valve as an official title.

Half-Life has two expansion packs from Valve, Opposing Force and Blue Shift. The game was ported to the PlayStation 2 in 2001 (which contained the exclusive expansion pack Decay). A port of the original game for Sega’s Dreamcast console was finished but never officially released. In 2004, Valve released a sequel, the critically acclaimed Half-Life 2. Although there was a rumor going around this year that Valve had filed for a trademark for the long-awaited Half-Life 3, this rumor was later proven false.

Although its unclear what the future holds for the Half-Life franchise, it’s clear the original title has etched itself in video gaming history as one of the industry’s best games. For more on Half-Life, do check out Gamespot’s Danny O’ Dwyer’s excellent video on the history of the game.

Peace & Pixels

Sweet November

My, how the year has flown by. It’s mid-November and I’m still sad that summer is over. To make matters worse, it snowed earlier yesterday, further reminder that the mild temperatures are gone and the need for boots and scarves is more immediate than I’d like it to be. Ugh.

Whining aside, this November (and the month in general) is cause for some celebration. First, the next generation of video game consoles from industry heavyweights Microsoft and Sony will be launching this month. Sony’s PlayStation 4 launched last Friday on the 15th while Microsoft’s Xbox One will launch later this week on the 22nd. I actually went to an Xbox One event last month that was pretty cool. The One’s a neat console, but at $500, it’s too rich for my wallet. Here’s hoping both consoles have a smooth launch free from any violence or theft. Some folks act a fool over these machines.

Furthermore, two very important video games are turning fifteen this month: Half-Life and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. These two titles are some of the industry’s best ever works, and have undoubtedly transformed video gaming as we know it. I’ve been busy lately, but if time allows, I’ll be sure to get some posts up on those games.

Peace & Pixels

Edit: Five days late, but I forgot to add in that bit about the Xbox One event.

Final Fight Returning?

One of my favorite games of all is Final Fight, Capcom’s classic side-scrolling beat-em-up. Released in 1989, Final Fight pits three heroes– Mike Haggar, Guy and Cody– as they take on the Mad Gear Gang in the fictional Metro City One. Word is that Motohide Eshiro, producer of the latest Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney game, is looking to revive the classic title, along with some of Capcom’s other titles like Devil May Cry, Onimusha, and Dungeons and Dragons.

I’m actually stoked about this news, even though nothing has been confirmed. Final Fight is perhaps my favorite beat-em-up, and it will be good to see the series return and done well. I personally never played the most recent game in the series, Final Fight: Streetwise, but I know that it wasn’t well received by critic and fan alike, at least according to Metacritic.

Hopefully (should Eshiro or someone actually make it), the new iteration of Final Fight will take the series back to its roots, offering the classic martial-arts action similar to the original. Time will tell us; hopefully it’s good news.

Peace & Pixels

Today Was a Good Day

This post has nothing to do with video games.

It has to do with some good news I just heard. My home state of Illinois has just become the 15th state in the United States to legalize same-sex marriage.

This is thrilling. It’s beautiful. It’s about time.

I’m overjoyed to hear that anyone who is deep in love with someone of their gender can wed that person without moving away or just having to wait longer for the right to be completely happy.

Though this is certainly a step forward in the right direction, I realize that there are still many people out there who have a real problem with same-sex marriage, and will continue to fight against it in favor of the traditional “1 man, 1 woman” spiel. To them, I say we’ll keep fighting back.

In light of such news, I am reminded of one of Jimi Hendrix’s greatest hits. Considering its usage of color and the rainbow nature of the LGBTQ flag, I thought it was appropriate. In the end, it’s all about love isn’t it?

Until next time.

Peace & Pixels