Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Ghost in the Case: Lost Horizon

For when that day comes, the world must begin to look for a new life. And it is our hope that they may find it here. For here, we shall be with their books and their music, and a way of life based on one simple rule: Be Kind!

Spoiler Warning:  I will talk about the plot in full detail and spoil many things so if you don't wish to hear spoilers then find the movie and watch it.  I don't often say this for a movie but I will here.

Ghost here, Thanks for joining me today and I welcome you to another
Let's get back to basics shall we? I originally started this series to show people some excellent or interesting television and movie choices that I don't ever really hear people talking about that much or has dropped off the radar for many.  Today's entry certainly fits that category as I have literally never heard anyone speak of this film in my life with the exception of my father who introduced me to it. 

This may be simply due to the fact that this film originally debuted in 1937.  There are a large number of people today who are turned off by older black and white film when they really shouldn't be.  Several of my favorite films are in black and white and you should really give the older movies a chance especially some of the great ones that I hope to eventually cover on here.

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Lost Horizon is a 1937 film directed and produced by Frank Capra by Columbia Pictures.  It's noteworthy before we hop into the story that this film put Columbia Pictures into a serious financial crisis.  Lost Horizon went over budget by $776,000.  That may not seem like a whole lot considering how much films costs these days but that was a different story for the 30's.  Adjusting for inflation... Lost Horizon went 12 MILLION DOLLARS over budget by today's standards!  It took five full years for Columbia to recover the money and it permanently damaged partnerships between Columbia and Frank Capra.  Did it pay off?  Let's take a look

The Story
Robert Conroy, a writer, soldier, and diplomat, has been sent to Baskul, China to rescue 90 British citizens from an invasion before returning to England.  Having successfully gathered each person into a plane, Robert along with his brother George, a paleontologist Alexander Lovett, a swindler Henry Barnard, and a terminally ill woman Gloria Stone board the last plane headed towards Shanghai to  eventually arrive back in England unknown that someone has hijacked the plane and is taking them towards Tibet instead.

After some time, the plane runs out of fuel and crashes into the Himalayan mountainside which kills the pilot on impact.  The next day a man named Chang and his men appear with ample clothing and and supplies; they take Conroy and the others towards their home, Shangri-la, a fertile valley protected from the cold and harshness of the surrounding area.  Conroy and his companions are treated with the utmost kindness although information about their whereabouts seems to be quite difficult to muster from people.  The only information they receive is that there is no contacting the outside world except for a caravan group that appears every few years when the weather is agreeable for travel through the mountains.

As they slowly learn more of Shangri-la they find that there is no crime here and that everything is in excess though the people maintain a believe of being moderate in all things to remain happy in abundance.  What is more peculiar than the extreme happiness of the people is that the terminally ill Gloria, who was told she only had 6 months to live, was starting to get better simply by being in Shangri-la.  Robert meets a beautiful woman named Sondra and beings to form a relationship with her.   Slowly the other people gain happiness and understanding as the paleontologist begins to teach the children, and the swindler who was a plumber before the 1929 Stock Market crash begins designing plumbing for the entire valley.  Everyone is finding happiness except for George who can't wait to get back to the world he knew and refuses to believe all is as well as it seems, which is in part fueled by a woman named Maria who wishes to leave Shangri-La.  Chang says Maria arrived in the 1800's but she claims to only be 20 and arrived 2 years ago.  This will become important later.

Eventually, Robert meets the leader of Shangri-la, the Head Lama, who explains that Robert was chosen specifically for the ideas written in his books and papaers to become the new leader of Shangri-la, hence the hijacking.  The current leader tells Robert that he was a priest who found the valley in the 1700's and due to the wonderful properties of the valley has been living and leading the people for at least two hundred years!  The Head Lama's time to die had finally come he passes quietly as he hands over Shangri-la to Robert.   George and Maria insisted that this was absolute madness as there was no way a man could live that long; Maria adding that she wanted to get away from that crazy old man.

I'm giving you a moment to not read the following paragraph.  This film has the wonderful quality to be perceived slightly differently if you view it not knowing what's going to happen VS viewing it when you do know.  I'll give you a moment to decide if you want to know or not  If you do not wish to know what happens in the end of the movie skip on to the "What's Good About It" section.

That same day, the caravan appears and George and Maria have secured passage away from Shangri-la though the others wish to stay.  George pleads with Robert to leave this insanity behind.  Maria helps George by telling her side of the story of how she truly was only 20 years old.  Weighing the facts before him Robert chooses to leave Shangri-la with George and Maria.  As they are traveling, Maria collapses from exhaustion.  Getting her to a cave, George and Robert turn Maria over to find that she had grown extremely old and died instantly.  Leaving Shangri-la had removed the special blessings keeping her young which meant everything being told to Robert was true.  Losing his sanity at the sight of this, George throws himself from the mountain to his death.  Robert spends the next 10 months trying to find his way back to Shangri-la to take his place among the people he grew to love and the very last scene of the movie is Robert finding the gates once more.

What's Good About It?
Where to even begin...

You can easily tell where all the money went to because even for this old of a film, the sets, models, designs, and costumes are all rich and wonderful.  You really get the feeling that you are watching something grand, something important.  It's the attention to detail both on a large and small scale that make this something worth watching in and of itself but that's nowhere near the beginning of the praises for this film.

One of the biggest strengths of this film is the ideology and themes provided within.  It is a universal theme that sat well with the audience of the time but has aged well and become even more profound with that of today's society.  The thought that the outside world is getting worse and trying to kill itself was definitely true in the times leading to World War II, but think of how "bad" the world has gotten since then.  Compare that with the lifestyle and vision of that of Shangri-la.  Everyone being kind and courteous to each other without crime, without anything horrible, and with plenty of excess.  There are a few lines that really make you think.  Robert asks Chang how come there is no crime to which he simply responds that crime originates from need and a lack of having enough.  "There can be no crime where there is a sufficiency of everything."  It makes you think about your life and the lives of those around you.  It makes you want to strive for a world like that of Shangri-la.  True we won't magically be able to live for a couple centuries or anything but perhaps if there was a little more moderation and a little more courtesy, the world would be a much better place.

Lost Horizon is one of the few films that I've seen where your perception of what's going on changes completely once you've seen the film and know what's going to happen, and it changes for the better.  I won't spoil that here if you decided not to read that one paragraph before, but you spend a lot of time wondering about two different groups of people.  One of them turns out to be right and the other wrong.  The revelation of which group is wrong makes you re-evaluate a lot of this movie and sheds a different light on the events.  It makes you question when to apply logic and reasoning to a situation that seems too good to be true; it also makes you question what you should put your faith in.  The film makes you think without cramming information down your throat and persuading you to a set agenda and that's always welcome from a movie.

What's Bad Weak About It?

When I start writing about the negatives of a film or TV series I ask myself "Is there something that took away from my enjoyment of the film?"  In this case no.  There is absolutely nothing that really takes me out of the experience or detracts from my enjoyment of the film that I would label as bad.  Since that answer is a no, I then ask myself "is there a part of this film that is weaker than the product as a whole?" 

Well, yes.  No film is perfect and this one does have one component that is weaker though it was a deliberate choice.  I was going to mention the fact that most of the female characters aren't portrayed as strongly as the male characters but that a common thing for the 1930's.  But when I really sat down and thought about it, I then realized that many of the male characters weren't portrayed particularly strongly either.  Frank Capra chose to focus more on the theme and message of the film rather than the characters because he felt that the themes were far more important than any one character which honestly FITS the theme of the movie in all reality.  With there normally being so many very strong and wonderful characters that we can identify with in film it's kind of weird to see most of the characterization taking a back seat in this one.  Many times characters are just there to fill some sort of role.  Gloria is there to be sick, get better and not wear makeup to dinner one night and that's it!  Chang is there to drop exposition carefully and not give away too much and that's it!  Maria is there to take an interest in George and want to leave Shangri-la and that it!  The list could go on and on.  It's nothing bad because I still enjoy these characters I would have just liked for there to be a little more personality with these characters.  Heck there was even a scene cut from the film where Gloria and Sandra talk and it adds character to each of them but NOPE gotta focus on that theme!

Secondly we find a weak spot that's not the fault of the film whatsoever but rather the people handing the film.  There were so many re-edits and cuts made after the film was originally released that it took people several years to track down every single scene to put back together for the re-mastering so that a modern audience could see the film as it was meant to be seen in 1937.  However many of the rolls weren't stored properly or taken care of so there are some scenes even with digital mastering that just look fuzzy and poor.  There are seven whole minutes of the film where there is no footage left only audio so they have had to re-construct it using photo stills from the time.  It's not a fault with the movie it's just something unfortunate that's worth noting.

Lasty, a modern audience could see this as boring.  I don't see it as boring because it's something different and the theme shines through brilliantly but there's not many jokes, there's no action scenes really, there's no villain, and several scenes with no background music.  There's not a lot of dramatic tension other than "What's up with this place anyway?"  I find it fresh to see something that's not the normal we are used to today but I could see where some people would think it was boring.

Final Thoughts

This is definitely one to check out.  They don't make movies like this anymore in more than one aspect.  It's a different kind of film that is more of an experience than it is following a character.  Sure there's no action or a large exciting scene but it doesn't need that.  It's a simple yet grand thing just like the philosophy taught in the film.  It's something that you need to experience for yourself.

Lost Horizon is Not Rated (it came out before the rating system was even established) and is available on DVD from Columbia Classics.

This is Ghost, fading into the darkness
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If you want to see my other Movie and Television reviews/recommendations then simply click here!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Ghost's Arcade: Tomb Raider

This is your standard spoiler warning.  If you don't want Tomb Raider to be spoiled then move along.

"A famous explorer once said that the extraordinary is in what we do, not who we are. I'd finally set out to make my mark; to find adventure. But instead adventure found me. In our darkest moments, when life flashes before us, we find something; Something that keeps us going. Something that pushes us."

Ghost here, thanks for joining

If you bring up the subject of female video game characters, sure you'll hear Princess Peach, Zelda, Samus, or even the likes of Chun-Li or Bayonetta.  However, it won't be long before someone mentions the tomb raider herself, Lara Croft, and with good reason.  Lara Croft has been tearing up ancient tombs and puzzles since 1996 and with over 10 games under her belt she's no laughing matter... except of course all the random times that various aspects of the gaming industry have made her a laughing matter.

Case and Friggin Point

You pretty much couldn't escape from Lara and her series of Tomb Raider games in the late 90's.  I was no exception to this.  Back in the day, I had a PC Demo Disc version of either the first or second game in the series; not really sure which it was and I was only 11 or 12 at the time so cut me some slack.  I remember even at that young of an age thinking that this had potential to be awesome if it wasn't for the camera controls, controls in general, inability to aim at anything easily and my general lack of skill in doing anything other than getting my face ripped off by the single tiger I encountered as I redecorating the cave with bullet holes in the walls.  Needless to say, young Ghost didn't keep the disc nor did he play much of it and thanks to the Tomb Raider Demo Disc and the original Super Mario Bros, young Ghost started down the pathway to generalized hatred for platforming games.  A hatred that my friend and collaborator KoD has been trying to slowly neutralize with a fair amount of resistance.

Lara's had her fair share of some poorly received games according to many sources (I certainly didn't play them), but when it was announced that they were going to reboot the series and start from the very beginning as to how Lara became the gun-toting awesome woman so many had grown to love with all of the advances that the gaming industry had developed and embraced in the previous 7 years, I couldn't help but want to give it a shot, especially now that I was older and could probably handle a game like this better than my younger self.  Granted I waited two years till it was on sale for $17, but I got there in the end.

So is the new Tomb Raider any good or is it just another piece of tinder to toss on the bonfire of things that should have never been rebooted in the first place?  Let's grab our pistols and jump right in!

The Story

Lara Croft has set out on her very first expedition with a small group of scientists, adventurers and several other people so ethnically diverse that you'd expect them to be on the cover of Equal Opportunity Monthly.  They are trying to find the lost civilization of Yamatai.  On a hunch, Lara tells them to head towards the Dragon's Tongue east of Japan and upon arriving they run into a dangerous storm where the ship is ripped apart scattering the crew.  Lara is kidnapped by someone on the island but quickly escapes her captor and goes in search of the rest of her friends.

Along the way she notices that there are statues to the Sun Queen Himiko that the island's inhabitants have been worshiping making her realize that she is, in fact at Yamatai.   Not long after this discovery she and several other crew members are captured by the island's inhabitants, a group of men known as the Solarii Brotherhood.  The Brotherhood turn on the crew and Lara is forced to kill for the first time in order to save her own life.

Lara with her crew's help, try to find ways to get off of the island and activate a radio signal that sends an airplane to find them; unfortunately as the plane approaches a storm appears suddenly and causes the plane to crash land.  Lara faintly hears the words "No One Leaves" in Japanese as this happens.  Lara attempts to find the pilot and comes across a temple guarded by a fierce windstorm and strange samurai warriors, one that is twice the size of a normal man.

More events unfold as Lara's friend Sam, a distant descendant of the first settlers of Yamatai, is kidnapped by Mathias, the leader of the Solarii Brotherhood.  Mathias' plan is to attempt an ascension ritual to see if Sam could be the new Sun Queen.  The Sun Queen accepts the offer and Mathias takes Sam to the top of the temple to sacrifice her to the Sun Queen.  Lara attempts to follow and along the way learns that the ritual isn't to find a new Sun Queen, but it is, in fact, putting the original Sun Queen Himiko's soul into a new body.  It was said that Himiko could control storms, and it just so happened that storms have been raging around that island causing plane crashes and shipwrecks for years since the last sacrifice to Himiko took her own life before the ceremony could commence.  This left Himiko's spirit to inhabit a corpse for decades.

Lara must navigate her way through hoards of undead samurai, the rest of the Solarii Brotherhood, a collapsing temple, and that big bruiser from before in order to get to her friend Sam.  Lara takes out Mathias finally utilizing her signature double pistols and destroys Himiko's old body interrupting the ritual and causing the storms on the island to cease.  The remaining survivors and Lara leave the island and set off on new adventures.  

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As far as origin stories go, this one is a pretty good one.  A lot of fanboys out there were calling foul because of how Lara isn't this tough explorer that they were all used to.  OF COURSE she's not.  This game is very similar to the first Captain America movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  It's not the story about the epic hero, it's the story about the person who becomes the epic hero.  It's a story of survival and a woman growing in to the person she is supposed to be.   You really get the feeling that you're stuck in the middle of this intense Indiana Jones styled situation where there's exploration, trying to stay alive, and quite a bit of danger; exactly what a Tomb Raider game should be doing.

That being said there are a couple of points that I must bring up about the story.  The first point that took me out of the narrative a little bit was the first time she had to kill another person.  Up until that point she'd only been killing wolves and hiding from people but when one man finds her and attempts to kill her she defends herself killing him in the process.  There's a brief moment where she's horrified at what she had to do.  She screams out in the horror of what lies before her.  This was a good inclusion as most normal people wouldn't react nonchalant to the murder of another human whether it be in self defense or not.  This scene is immediately downplayed however by the fact that merely an minutes to hours later she's sniping people with her bow and arrow who haven't noticed her yet, or running full force into a group of men with a shotgun yelling "die you bastards!"  Yes sure they would shoot and kill her if she didn't do these things but I got whiplash from the extreme swing in her mood about killing another person.  That said, I do understand why they made this decision because had they kept that going for longer with her being horrified and coming to terms with what she must do over a set length of time it would have slowed gameplay or made listening to her inner turmoil very annoying so I can forgive this in the long run.

The other instance is something that may have made more sense had I played previous games but as presented with this game alone was either confusing or too incredibly on the nose... and I can't decide which.  People keep telling her over and over that she can do things because "you're a Croft."  I understand that her father was supposed to be some sort of awesome dude but they just keep bring it up.  "You're a Croft, Lara."  "You're a Croft"  "I'm a Croft"   There's even one point where it gets said to her and she responds "I know I'm a Croft, but I don't think I'm that kind of Croft."  I'm not entirely sure if it's meant to constantly remind the players that this IS Lara or if it's a not so subtle joke at the originals that just fell flat like they were trying too hard to be Monty Python.
Original game series eh? Original game series? Say no more eh? Original...Game...Series?

I don't know it's just weird that it keeps being brought up.  Other than those two things the story is very solid and well worth the legacy behind the character.

The Design

The designs in this game are absolutely gorgeous.  I don't mention design that often because, quite frankly, I'm either playing a very cartoony game, an old game, or a game where they've just taken various shades of brown and gray and copy/pasted to oblivion.  However this game is absolutely beautiful.

First off is Lara herself.   Clearly they had to update her designs from the original game and I'm so very glad they gave her a realistic look instead of trying to keep the same sort of face from the originals as they did with later games from the original run that made her look like a deformed Barbie Doll.  Now she looks like a real woman while keeping the integral spirit of the old character.  They put a lot of thought into her design as they added changes to her clothing and skin depending on what all she's recently been through.  Along the way her clothes get slightly ripped in various parts, she ends up with bandages on her, and she ends up with tons of dirt from digging around in caves and tombs.  There's one segment where you have to wade through a pool of blood and you come out with the blood stains all over your clothes.  Of course, the dirt and blood wash off somewhat or all together if you have her wade through a stream or the ocean.  It has a very realistic feel to it.

Speaking of realistic.  There are certain sequences that you will more than likely see although you don't really want to.  During certain quick time events or battle scenarios, if you happen to lose or die it will show you in full graphic detail what would happen to Lara in real life.  This is including but not limited to getting arrows in the throat, having a spike shoved through her skull, getting crushed by boulders, being impaled by tree branches, etc.  The designers took time to really show the brutality of surviving on this island and it makes you really care about NOT seeing her die because you don't want to have to sit through those graphic scenes again
Holy crap!

The character designs are excellent but what about the background and level designs? Honestly they are absolutely breathtaking at times.
Just look at that.  There is so much attention to detail throughout this whole game that there were times I would just stop to look around at the scenery to take in everything that was around me.  Sure it's hard to make a tomb in a cave look aesthetically pleasing but they even managed to do that.  There was not a single moment in this game where I was thinking this was just the same old same old scenery even if there were parts that repeated itself somewhat.  Everything looks beautiful even the gore and disgusting parts were given their fair share of attention.  I haven't seen many games that weren't on PC look this wonderful in awhile.  The design team needs a raise and all the respect in the world.

The Gameplay

With Tomb Raider's background being in 3D platforming, I figured that I would be in for either some really nasty learning curves or portions of the game that I just couldn't stand because of my general distaste for things of that nature.  Although there were a few sections that made me want to scrape out my brain with a teaspoon due to pure frustration, I was pleasantly surprised with the gameplay overall.  Everything felt natural in this game.  The platforming sections were intuitive and made perfect sense; if more platforming games were as seamless in execution as Tomb Raider, I'd never complain about a platforming game again *coughcoughMariocoughcough*.  Controlling Lara's movements was easy, tight, and intentional.  She moved exactly the way you would expect and didn't end up flailing around and falling off cliffs for no reason.  The camera was NEVER a problem for me which is something I can't say about a lot of games with platforming sections.  I never found myself in a spot where the camera was causing me frustration.

When it comes to combat a lot of people disliked the fact that Lara's standard double pistols only made a brief appearance in this game.  I am personally fine with that as they have utilized that particular gaming mechanic so much in the past I was glad to see them giving other options like the machine gun, shotgun, single pistol, and bow and arrow.  With so many different weapons all having different powerups like grenades, the combat can be varied depending on your play style... I use the word "can be" because basically once you get the fire arrows, the ability to loot arrows off of things you've killed, and the ability to make the arrows pierce through armor you basically don't need anything other than the bow so practice with it.  Why is the bow so good?  First off it's completely silent so you can make stealth kills without a group of guys bearing down on you.  Secondly if you have 5 guys attacking you from various locations and you're hiding behind a barrier which one will you choose? The 30 round machine gun that takes twenty seconds to do,  the pistol or shotgun that take even longer, or will you use the bow and arrow that takes less than 5 seconds to pull back and instantly kill with an arrow to the face?  You're probably going to choose the bow.

Speaking enemies bearing down on you, Tomb Raider has what I like to call, The Last Of Us Syndrome.  We're on this deserted island where only people from random shipwrecks and plane crashes have landed.  There are no indigenous people left yet we run into HUNDREDS of organized Caucasian men in their late 20's to early 40's absolutely everywhere we go with absolutely NO women anywhere??  I know they are trying to make a balance between realism and an exciting game; only having 20 or so enemies in the entire game would be dull and pointless but it's simply not cohesive with the narrative.  There's little to no way that a bunch of men would survive in this harsh landscape with better organizational skills than the real life United States Military has combined...just not going to happen.  However we DO need enemies throughout the game so it's just something you'll have to toss logic out the door for.

Sometimes enemies will attack in organized groups of 30 or more which is a royal pain.   These hoard battles can be incredibly difficult and you will end up dying a couple of times before you can figure out their pattern or the best way to take them out.  The hardest is the last one (as it should be) where hundreds of undead samurai with shields show up to absolutely wreck your day.  I'm fairly certain I died a good 10-15 times during that section so when you get there make sure you have all the gear you possibly can hold as well as a fair bit of patience.

The only thing that I can really say negatively about the gameplay are the quick time events.  QTEs tend to be a sore spot with a lot of people because no one ever seems to be able to code them at the right balance for everyone.  The QTEs in this game are very very picky.  Yes I died several times to hoards or samurai but I died almost every single time there was a quick time event at least once because of the extremely small amount of time it gives you to actually press the button.  The scene before Lara ends up killing someone for the first time to save herself I sat through probably 20 some times because it was such a picky process full of various quick time buttons that required pinpoint accuracy...something I don't have.  So if you don't like QTEs then you'll probably be frustrated.

Tomb Raider is absolutely packed with content.  There are tons of little collectable items all over the island that you can grab and examine with Lara giving you a little bit of information about the item.  Some things you can rotate to find additional information about like the name tag on a stuffed bunny, or the date written on the back of a photo.  It makes the game even more immersive when you're able to pick up random things like that.

This game is one of those where you get to a point and think "Well that was good; it seems like it's going to wrap up now" ...but then it doesn't.  The game just keeps presenting more and more content to do and it's never met with annoyance or me rolling my eyes like "oh great I have to do more".  It's always met with "Sweet!  There's more content than I thought!"  There was a multitude of things to do and although I missed a couple of collectables I thought I had done most of everything in the game.  As I was watching the ending credits I thought... "Ya know, for a game called Tomb Raider there aren't really many tombs to explore.  Just a couple for narrative reasons only...that's kind of a waste but whatever maybe the sequel will fix that."  Then I got the results screen which told me I had only completed 60% of the game.  WHAT?  Looking up online there are apparently multiple tombs hidden throughout the island that you can explore and solve puzzles to find lots of treasure and bonus XP which would have really helped me in the final level of the game.  It's something that I'm going to have to go back in to see if I can find everything that's on this island since there seems to be so much more.

There's also a multiplayer online aspect to the game.  I... didn't touch it whatsoever.  The more I play multiplayer online, the more I see why I shouldn't because I just end up in a bad mood.  People say it's fairly decent but I don't care whatsoever about it.  Check it out if you think that might be something for you.

Tomb Raider is quite an excellent game.  You don't need to know anything about the series to pick this up and enjoy it.  If you like intense games with lots of exploration, survival, strategy, and immersion then you should give this one a shot.  Sure the QTEs are annoying and some of the hoard battles are very difficult but after you've beat them and finished the game you feel that sense that you've really done something.  This is everything that Tomb Raider should have always been and I'm so glad I got to experience it in all it's glory!

This is Ghost, fading into the darkness.
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If you want to see my other Video Game discussions and reviews, click here!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Ghost's Kitchen: One-Tray Baked Chicken

What's Cooking Today?
One-Tray Italian Baked Chicken, Green Beans, and Red Potatoes

Hello, and welcome to another segment of

When does good food become great food?  When you know what you're doing and put a little bit of care into the preparation.  When does great food become even greater?  When it's EASY to make.

Sometimes you just want to sit back and relax while you're cooking.  Rather than trying to figure out how long it's going to take you to get everything done so it comes out on time, wouldn't it be great to just have everything go in one single pot or dish so all you have to do is turn it on and let it take care of itself?  Well that's what we've got in store for you today.   This one-tray Italian baked chicken dish is extremely easy that anyone can do provided you can wait for an hour to eat.  Fun fact, this was actually the very first meal that my wife made me while we were dating but now I make it for her semi-often.

Gather your ingredients and tools
  • 2-3 Thawed Chicken Breasts (Boneless Skinless)  - If you need more see my note at the end.
  • 5-7 Small Red Potatoes
  • 1 Can of Cut Green Beans (Don't get that nasty French Style junk)
  • 1 Packet of Italian Salad Dressing Mix.  (The Dry stuff not actual salad dressing)
  • 1 Stick of Butter
  • 11X15 or 9X13 Casserole Dish 
  • Oven Mitt(s)
  • Cutting Board
  • Knife
  • Can Opener
  • Microwave Save Bowl
  • Aluminum Foil

1. Preheat Oven to 350°F

2. Clean Chicken and Place in Center of Casserole Dish
Make sure your chicken doesn't have any big chunks of fat or anything undesirable still on them.  Simply use your cutting board if you need to do so.

3. Open Can of Green Beans, Drain, and Line One Side of the Casserole Dish
Simply open your can, and drain the brine water inside into the sink.  If your green bean can of choice has a particularly strong brine then you may want to consider rinsing the green beans first.  Sometimes more wallet-friendly green beans will have a strong brine that will still come through even after seasoning.  Once drained of excess water just line one side of the casserole dish and discard the can.

4. Wash and Cut your Potatoes
Wash your potatoes gently first so that there is no dirt debris left on them.  Place them on your cutting board and cut them into small bite-sized pieces.  Depending on the size of your potato this could mean cutting it into 4-10 pieces.  Only cut up one at a time... read step 5 for an explanation why

5. Line Other Side of Casserole Dish with Potato
Simply place your cut potatoes in the empty space filling up the rest of the dish.  Don't over crowd them by placing two layers just sort of put them all there.   Place one cut up potato in at a time.  The reason is because potato sizes vary and you don't want to cut up all of your potatoes then find out there is no room for all of them.  In Step 4's picture I had seven potatoes but could only use six of them.

6. Open Italian Salad Dressing Packet and Sprinkle Over All the Dish
Open your packet and make sure that the seasonings are spread out evenly over the entire dish.  You don't want a lot of seasoning on one item and not the others.

7. Melt Butter in Microwave.
Place your stick of butter in a microwave safe bowl and heat till completely melted.  Should only take about 20-40 seconds. 

8. Pour Butter Over Dish
Pour your melted butter over the entirety of the dish.  Make that almost everything gets hit with some bit of butter.  If you miss a tiny spot or two don't worry that's why it pools at the bottom of the dish.  It should look similar to the following picture when you are done.

9. Cover With Aluminum Foil and Bake
Cover the dish with aluminum foil and place in the heated oven for 1 Hour

10. Serve and Enjoy!

NOTE:  If you plan on making this for four people who have a good appetite you may find that this isn't quite enough vegetables.  What I do in this instance is still place all four chicken breasts in one dish and prepare as I have done before but I will also prepare a second small casserole dish and fill it with half green beans, half red potatoes, 3/4ths of a packet of Italian salad dressing mix, and 3/4ths of a stick of melted butter.  I would then cover it and place it in the oven with the other dish to cook for the same amount of time.

I hope you all enjoy this as much as my family has!

This is Ghost, fading into the darkness!
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If you want to see my other food topics and recipes then simply click here!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Ghost in the Case: Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure

"Be excellent to each other.
Party on dudes!"

 Ghost here, Thanks for joining me today and I welcome you to another
There are just certain movies that you watch throughout your life that you consider staples that everyone should watch.  Some of these are generally universally considered "must-watch" films like Star Wars and Lord of the Rings; then we have our own individual list of movies that we feel all of our friends should see and are shocked when they say they haven't.   Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure is one of them.  Now I'll be honest I hadn't thought about this film in years.  It sort of sits in that weird part of people's brain where people remember it but don't talk about it much (like hopefully many of the selections for this type of blog post.)  However on May 25th something happened to bring it front and center in my mind.

When the Epic Rap Battles of History released their Lewis and Clark VS Bill and Ted video, I did something I never do; I took a look at the comments section.  There were tons of negative comments... although that was nothing new.  Finding negative comments on a YouTube video is like finding an oxygen molecule on planet earth.  However what did surprise me was the sheer number of people bashing the video because of the lack of knowledge about the characters portrayed.  It doesn't really surprise me that people may not know much about Lewis and Clark with their exploration happening in 1804 and American's general lack of interest in history.  But to not know Bill and Ted which only came out 26 years ago was baffling to me.  I know there are a lot of kids out there watching YouTube but the sheer volume of people not knowing Bill and Ted was sad to me.   Even my own wife said she'd never watched the film before; something I rectified within a couple days of learning.

So  let's talk about a movie that I never thought I'd have the need to talk about on here... Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure.

The Story

In the year 2688, humanity is living in an almost perfect society inspired by the music of "The Great Ones," Bill S. Preston, Esq, and Ted Theodore Logan from their band the Wyld Stallyns.  A man named Rufus has been given the task of going back in time to San Dimas, California in 1988 by using a time machine disguised as a telephone booth to help Bill and Ted get an A+ on their final history oral report.  The pair are absolutely dim-witted metal heads who have failed everything in history up to that point and anything short of an A+ would result them failing the class and failing the grade.  If they fail, Ted's father is planning on sending him to military school in Alaska, breaking up the band and changing the future.

Bill and Ted meet Rufus for the first time outside of a Circle K convenience store where he attempts to tell them about the future.  Before too long another telephone box appears with Bill and Ted's future selves inside.  They convince their younger selves to trust Rufus who takes them on a short trip to 1805 where Napoleon was invading Austria.  As they leave, an explosion causes Napoleon to fall into the wormhole the time machine creates and follows the trio to the present.   Rufus leaves them with an empty booth and tells them to use it for their report.

After Napoleon falls unconscious from a tree, they drag him inside and leave him with Ted's younger brother.  Bill and Ted decide to use the phone booth to go across all of history and pick up different people to take to their history final.  The pair befriend Billy the Kid and Socrates (who they call So-cray-ts) before landing in medieval England.  While here they see a couple of princesses and decide to find them in the castle.  After several shenanigans later, they anger the king who sentences them to death.  Billy and Socrates save them from the chopping block and they escape through time although with some damage to the phone booth.

While this is happening in history, Ted's brother and his friends decide to ditch Napoleon leaving him to roam modern day San Dimas alone.  Believing they have plenty of time before their presentation, Bill and Ted decide to pick up several other historical figures for extra credit including Sigmund Freud, Ludwig von Beethoven, Joan of Arc, Genghis Khan, and Abraham Lincoln.  While traveling to get these individuals, Bill and Ted notice the damage done to the booth and make a pit-stop in prehistoric times to repair the time machine with some tin cans and bubble gum.  It seems to work as the group lands outside the Circle K where they see their younger selves.

Finally taking off and landing in the proper time they leave all the historical figured at the San Dimas Mall and go to find Napoleon who ended up at the water park, Waterloo.  During Bill and Ted's absence, the historical figures end up causing havoc at the mall resulting in their arrest by Ted's father.  Bill and Ted concoct a plan to rescue the historical figured from jail by use of the time machine.  With their plan coming together they bust everyone out of jail and arrive in school with enough time to deliver their report at the last second which became a roaring success for all who witnessed it including Bill's Dad, Bill's Step-mom, and Ted's Father.

In the end they send the historical figures back to their own time and talk about making Wyld Stallyns a reality by learning to actually play the guitar.  Rufus appears having rescued the princesses and asks all four of them for their autograph as they are the four band members whose music changed the future into the utopia it has become.

What's Good About It?
It's difficult to pinpoint exactly what makes this film work because there are several things that would normally make me annoyed or disinterested in a film that this one does...but yet it somehow works here.  Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure isn't just a movie it's more of an experience that you just have to try out for yourself because of how bizarre it can be at times.  That said, I can still certainly pinpoint a few of the better qualities.

Alex Winters and Keanu Reeves are excellent as Bill and Ted and they honestly make up for any of the shortcomings in this film.  This is a good thing since we are following these characters throughout the movie.  Any time I would find myself thinking "well that doesn't make sense"  or "that's incredibly silly"  I instantly forget any of those criticism because of an expression or some dialog that draw me back in to what's going on.  Even if you don't enjoy this film, you would probably still agree that their performance is a major selling factor.  Bill and Ted are just so incredibly dim witted yet they mean well and are honestly trying.  It's so entertaining to watch them that I could probably just watch an hour of them goofing off in the garage attempting to play music and be entertained.

There's also an attention to small detail.  When they arrive in a new time period, even if it's only for a brief few moments, it feels like they have really appeared in that era.  Everything from the costumes to the sets and props are authentic looking and give off an excellent atmosphere.   Not only that but all the actors are going out of their way to do things in the background even if they aren't the focus.  For example when Bill and Ted spot the princesses, Billy and Socrates could have just been standing there or could have just not been in the shot whatsoever, but instead they are throwing a football back and forth while staying in character just because they could.  It's nice to have something interesting to look at no matter where you look on the screen.

The story isn't overly complicated.  It's not something that you have to really think about or concentrate on which can be a breath of fresh air in comparison to many of today's movies with overly complicated plots.  It's nice to sometimes just sit down and watch a funny silly movie.  And yes this film is very silly but in a sort of lighthearted Tex Avery Cartoon kind of way that makes you laugh so long as you don't over-think it.

What's Bad About It?
That being said... it IS an incredibly silly movie.  If you can't handle silliness then this may be a tough watch.  A Utopian society brought by two idiots playing heavy metal and the whole society hinges on them passing history?  They escape from the prison by a tape recorder and a trash can falling on Ted's dad?  Beethoven gets arrested for simply playing a keyboard in the mall while Sigmund Freud gets arrested just for running around with Abe Lincoln?  Bubble Gum and cans of chocolate can fix a futuristic time machine?  A lot of this is incredibly silly so if you're looking for a movie with logic you might want to look elsewhere.

One slight criticism could be the short amount of time they spend in parts of the past.  This is kind of nitpicky I'll admit, but this is actually a criticism of the critics back when this film came out.  Now, as a child I never saw this as a problem because I was focused on Bill and Ted but as an adult, I could see where people would want more.  They spend less than ten minutes in the Old West and Ancient Greece.  Freud, Beethoven, Joan of Arc, Genghis Khan, and Lincoln are all picked up within a two minute montage, and Napoleon only took about two minutes of screen time to acquire.  They spend the longest amount of time in the medieval castle which most of that was Bill and Ted screwing around, having a Star Wars fighting scene and Bill thinking Ted had been killed.  If you go in to this thinking you'll see a lot of history then you may want to think again.

Lastly.. and this one kind of bothered me...the Timey Wimey was majorly off.  As a massive Doctor Who fan and a fan of science fiction in general there are many aspects of time travel that have been observed and theorized over the years and this is one of the weaker entries from a time travel standpoint.  They establish early on that time for them continues to flow so they can spend time in the past but in order to return to their own time and make it for the history report they only have a set number of hours.  That's fine and all if you want to have a ticking clock and make a sort of barrier between periods of history... but later that gets chucked into the trash can by having them plan to do stuff for the police station sequence later that same day.  Meaning they would do the history presentation, go back in time to set up the stuff that same day for them to be able to rescue the people and head to the presentation.  Clearly there is the ability to move about through time in a single day in this world so why the ticking clock that they only had a few hours to nab people and get to the presentation?  They're in a freaking time machine they could spend months tracking down people and just set the coordinates for the day and hour of the presentation and be fine.  Makes no sense at all!

 Final Thoughts
This is not a movie that you necessarily need to bring your brain to.  In fact it's probably better if you don't question things and just accept everything at face value like the film's leads.  Over-thinking with this film could ruin your enjoyment.  If you haven't watched this before then you should certainly do so as soon as possible.  It's not one of the greatest movies I've ever seen in my life but it's good enough to fit on my "everyone needs to see this once" list.   If you have seen this movie but it's been a few years I would suggest that you re-watch it because there were many things I caught with this latest viewing that I had never seen or fully understood as a child but now get/caught as an adult.  It probably won't be your favorite movie but it's destined to be a most excellent adventure!

Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure is rated PG and is available on DVD and Netflix as of the writing of this post.  You may even be able to find the whole thing on YouTube... I did!

This is Ghost fading into the darkness.
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If you want to see my other Movie and Television reviews/recommendations then simply click here!

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Ghost's Arcade: Amiibo Stupidity

First off, some preliminary stuff.

I have changed the name of my video game segment from Ghost's Angry Reviews to Ghost's Arcade.  I was in a different place in life when I first started writing reviews and tended to gain influence from and focus on the more negative comments from reviewers such as Nostalgia Critic, Angry Joe, Blockbuster Buster, and Todd in the Shadows.  I wanted to make fun of stuff and generally have my Ghost character go overboard about tiny little things because I thought it could be funny... completely missing the point of why those reviewers would go into negativity.

Now that I'm a couple years older I've mellowed out some and so has my Ghost character.  Sure there will probably be some things that make "him" angry but there's far less anger and far more thought put into these and the old title just didn't fit anymore.  Instead it shall now be called "Ghost's Arcade" and it will be not only game reviews but game discussions etc.  Same concept of what I've been doing for this past year with video games just a new title that leaves the negative connotations in the past.

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It's ironic that I decided to change the name of this segment of my blog then my first post be written while I'm INCREDIBLY PISSED OFF... c'est la vie!

Oh how I've grown to hate you... and it doesn't need to be this way

Ghost here, thanks for joining...though by the time I'm done with this one you may or may not be glad that you did

First thing's first.  When I started this blog I made a conscious effort to avoid using curse words as much as humanly possible and I feel as though I have achieved this.  There are many reasons for this decision.  I feel as though it's my duty to maintain a sense of professionalism even though I'm talking about something that many people could see as silly.  I take gaming movies and food seriously and my language should match that.  Also, several people who I regularly associate with do not approve of such language and I do not wish to alienate them from reading anything I have written due to the content.  Lastly, I feel as though cursing with consistency takes away from the meaning of the word.  In my opinion, every word has a valid meaning and use which includes cursing however cursing loses its power by being overused there's no reason to use a curse word unless you need that added push to show how utterly ridiculous something is.... and this right here is the perfect time to use it cause this is some bullshit.  If you are someone who doesn't appreciate cursing... I'm sorry.  I'll go back to my regular plan of not doing so in the future but for this one I want the impact but I'm not gonna go overboard or anything.

Second of all I would like to point out that I do love Nintendo.  Nintendo has always been what I gravitate to.  I don't know if it's the bright colors, the lineage of gameplay, the innovations they attempt with occasionally laughable results, or that they're just that plain good.  They've been getting a lot better as of late.  Even though the WiiU has only a few titles that I honestly care about they are titles that I REALLY care about and are invested in playing or purchasing.  I've always been a Nintendo fanboy and I always shall be.

 That being said... Nintendo....

The way you release and handle your amiibo sales is an absolute atrocity.  Saying that you "screwed it up" isn't even a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean that is how badly you have performed in this regard.  This isn't just dropping the ball because anyone can drop the ball; dropping the ball isn't that big of a deal.  This is a screw up to such an extreme that I thought this level of dumbassery was exclusive to government officials.  Apparently I am wrong in this regard.

What Are Amiibo and What Do They Do?

In case you are lucky enough to not be in the middle of this debacle, you don't own a Nintendo system, or don't have/know a child who does then you may be asking yourself exactly what is an amiibo?  Well to understand that you have to start with the granddaddy of the amiibo, Skylanders. 

Skylanders:Spyro's Adventure was the first in a line of Skylanders game and was released in October of 2011 for multiple platforms.  It was a very unique entity in the gaming world as it paired virtual gaming with actual toys by means of a "portal."  Basically your characters in the game were actual figurines that you could scan into the game and use.  If you didn't have the figurine then you didn't have that character.  Yes it could be seen as a cash cow there to have you spend more money than necessary but it was honestly done the right way.  Yeah you had to buy the game and then buy additional characters for the game but that's what a lot of DLC is doing now days anyway.  Rather than have these characters just be in the game, though, they were this toy figurine that you could display or play with while you weren't playing the game.  It gave you a real sense that this figurine was important and personal. This wasn't just a Stealth Elf figurine...this was YOUR Stealth Elf; your friend to help you in your adventures.

Of course Disney followed up a couple years later with their Disney Infinity games which had the exact same concept.  Since both Skylanders and Disney Infinity had sold very well, it was only a matter of time for Nintendo to come out with their own versions and before long they announced Amiibo.  I won't lie, I initially thought this was going to be a cheap ridiculous cash grab to go along with a fad that was not going to be well thought out and worthless.  I was fairly surprised though at how much thought was put in to them.... their distribution however I was right on the money but we'll get to that later. 

Nintendo's amiibo set were going to do tons of things like giving you additional power-ups, costumes, and character assistance in multiple games across both the WiiU and 3DS platform.  They would eventually give you demos of some of the best games that Nintendo has produced and best of all they can be a fighter in Super Smash Bros for 3DS and WiiU.  I bought myself a Bowser amiibo to try him out and honestly it was a blast.  You get to nickname your amiibo and in Smash Bros you can train him up to be a tough fighting machine who learns from your play-style and the play-style of others.  I'm glad I was able to get one and I honestly feel that they hit home with what Skylanders was doing...especially from a Smash Bros standpoint.  I really feel like my Kaiju (what I nicknamed my Bowser) is "part of the team" as I trained him and sent him to battle countless CPUs to bring me some coins trophies and custom pieces in Smash Bros.  It's really fantastic and since I got Bowser, I really wanted to get King Dedede, Lucina, and Mewtwo at minimum..... and that's when my love turned into hatred.

A Personal Account from KoD/Dimentio

Before I get into the problem however, I would like to hand the blog over to my friend and regular contributor, KoD.  This way it's not just me being angry I have at least one other opinion on the table; the opinion of someone who is collecting all of the amiibo.

Hey thanks for inviting me, Ghost.  So I see it’s rant time about the amiibos huh? Let me tell you about my experience with the amiibos.  At first it wasn’t so bad trying to get all the Smash Bros series amiibos I wanted. The amiibos are generally released in waves and I simply had to put a preorder in for the whole wave and in due time I picked them up at my local Gamestop.  I was able to do this up to Wave 2 I believe, but after that wave something happened that forever changed the simplicity of getting Amiibos. As the amiibos got more popular consumers were divided into three groups.  First there were people who were collecting them and wanted to get them all like myself.  Secondly there were the people who just want to buy their favorites for themselves, their friends, or family such as you, Ghost.  And thirdly are the people who buy them in mass trying to make a big profit off them when nobody can find certain amiibos anywhere else. 

Due to these third people in particular, people end up buying amiibos at unreasonable prices thinking if they don’t buy them at this price they’ll never get another chance.  This whole amiibo system has gotten completely out of hand to say the very least.  Now, there’s almost little to no chance you’ll find the amiibo you want especially if they are part of a wave.  The best thing you can do is preorder but sometimes that’s not even guaranteed.  People are having to resort to stalking stores or sites like InStockNow.com to see which of their local stores may carry what they’re looking for.  Unless you have a preorder or some other alternative method to get new amiibos like importing from a foreign country, you can pretty much rest assure you won’t get one.  I can’t tell you how many times I’m spent gas scouting out all my local store for amiibos or trying to preorder them just in the end to be told they don’t have any or I can’t preorder.  Now I have my own methods to getting all the amiibos but this is beyond ridiculous.  What’s the point of having figures that unlock bonus content in your game if it’s next to impossible to get any for yourself?  Now granted it’s not really that Nintendo is the problem by not supplying enough for everyone, it’s purely that the demand for it is so high, most likely because of the hoarders who sell them that Nintendo struggles to make enough.

The Problem

I disagree with KoD's last sentence.  Yes the resellers are a massive problem but they wouldn't need to be a problem if Nintendo had made more of these.  Heck, even a simple statement of  "Yes we only made a certain amount but we will be making more" would be sufficient enough to stop this lunacy, but I don't see that happening or being made public if it is.  The problem is that Nintendo flat isn't making enough of these to fill the demand for them.  People want these but yet we are constantly being stopped by the fact that no one has them.  It absolutely shouldn't be this way and for a large company like Nintendo to allow this to happen is unacceptable.  

Think of it this way.  When was the last time you had to pre-order a video game not because of pre-order bonuses but out of legitimate fear/concern that you wouldn't actually get your hands on a copy the day of its release?
I honestly can't think of a single time in the last fifteen years that I've pre-ordered a game because I wasn't sure I'd get one on the day of release.  I live in a smaller city... it's not B.F.E small but it's not a very large one either... with two Walmarts, a Target, a Best Buy, a local game store, and 3 Gamestops I'm never in the position to HAVE to pre-order any game because there will obviously be enough to go around.  Clearly the video game industry has a firm grasp on how many copies of a game they need to produce.  You would think this would extend to other aspects such as the amiibo but apparently not.  Now I could FULLY understand if this was a First Wave issue of not having enough.  This was a gamble that could have been a complete bust so they threw their big names in the first wave like Pikachu, Mario, Link etc.  If they had only produced a small number and these were harder to find that wouldn't be a bad thing.  They could have just made more for the next waves since they knew they had sold.   But as KoD above attested to. it's only gotten worse.  It's as if they made this small number thinking they wouldn't sell then went  "Oh well these sold... let's make the SAME amount for all the rest to keep things even."   I have no idea what they're thinking producing so few when so many want them.

So with there being so few of them you should just pre-order right?  The purpose of pre-ordering is to make sure you get a copy of it so that should be a good avenue right?
Yeah that's not a plan.  Pre-ordering amiibo is the same as just telling the store clerk you'd be interested in buy one then walking out the door because simply pre-ordering it does not mean in any respect that you're actually going to get it.  Normally one would think pre-order = reserving a copy but since wave 3 retailers have been pushing back release dates to fit Nintendo's schedule, cancelling pre-orders all together, or accidentally dropping pre-orders when they are trying to accommodate with changes.  OOPS!  To make matters worse retailers never announce when you can start pre-ordering you just sort of have to keep calling them and hoping someone has some information they can share with you because if you don't have an in with the retailer or a really friendly employee there the pre-order date can come without you knowing it...which is bad because pre-orders can be sold out within two hours of being available.

Want to hear something even better?  These DUMBASSES decided to make several of the amiibos store exclusives.  YUP that's right.  Not only can you not find them, and pre-ordering is iffy at best but you have to make trips to different stores to try to find or attempt to pre-order the amiibo you want.  With pre-orders selling out and only a small handful of stock on the shelves if there are exclusives somewhere other than the store you have chosen... you basically are guaranteed to not get that one. We're not talking one or two exclusives here; there are at least 4 exclusives if not more at completely different retailers. Hell, one example that's particularly horrible for me is the Greninja amiibo.  Greninja was a ToysRUs exclusive....THERE ISN'T A TOYSRUS WHERE I LIVE.  If I wanted to purchase him (which I don't but that's beside the point) I'd have to travel at least 30 minutes to another town to get him.

In short you only have a few options to getting amiibo
  1. Camp out at your local retailer and hope for the best only to be disappointed
  2. Pray that you can pre-order and continue praying that they don't cancel your preorder  
  3. Pay a hoarder 2-15 times the purchase price.
  4. Import from Japan which will take a long time to reach your doorstep and may involve you putting credit card information into questionable websites
  5. Know someone who knows someone who can get you the goods like going through a drug deal
  6. Deal with the fact that you're just not going to be able to get it and spend your money on something else
And that's NOT the way this should be handled.  This bullshit is absolutely unacceptable.  It's so bad that retailers are having to take measures to help people get some because Nintendo has screwed it up so badly.  ToysRUs has enforced a 1 per style per customer rule.  Amazon is only releasing their amiibo for sale at a random interval of a 30 minute segment of time per amiibo trying to give people a fair chance to actually get their hands on one.  THIS SHOULD NOT BE.  All it would take is for Nintendo to just make more... or even come out and say that they plan on making more of all of them in the future and to just hold tight.  That's all it would take.

Why am I so passionately angry about this?

My Personal Story
After I got my Bowser amiibo I really enjoyed him and wanted my two mains King Dedede and Lucina as well as my old friend Mewtwo.  I... have a bad tendency to pick mains in smash that don't make it to the next game...or when they do they come back as a horrible piece of trash.  Mewtwo and Roy were my Melee Mains, Wolf was my Brawl Main, and Lucina is one of my WiiU Mains.  King Dedede was in Wave 3 and one of the harder to acquire when I decided I wanted him.  Since he's about guaranteed to be in the next Smash game I decided he wasn't a big deal.   Even Mewtwo won't be that big of a deal because although I waited for his return when he came back he wasn't the same so I don't really care for him anymore.   Lucina though... Lucina is different.  Lucina was one of the main characters of my favorite (and in my opinion the only really good) Fire Emblem games.  She also is a clone. With her being a clone of Marth and the next Fire Emblem game not involving her it's very unlikely for her to return to smash like the rest of my usual picks...so I wanted her amiibo the most as a memento of an awesome character who probably won't be around long.   Ultimately if I only ended up with Bowser and Lucina I would be happy.

Unfortunately the imbeciles at Nintendo are actively trying to ruin people's chances of happiness.  In their April 1st Nintendo Direct it was announced that the next wave of amiibo were going to "soon" be available for pre-order and it included Lucina.  They gave no dates at all for the pre-order.  The next day, I called Gamestop to see if they knew when pre-orders were going to be open.  I was told that pre-orders started that day but both Lucina and Robin were completely sold out within two hours of all three stores being open.  There went my big shot at getting her because I knew she would be difficult.   I came home and complained to KoD about this nonsense and he said he had a way to get her and if I sent him the money and did a review of Banjo-Kazooie he would get his amiibo person to nab me one for my trouble.  I was overjoyed and began playing Banjo-Kazooie that evening and sent him the money later in the month.  With my parts done I eagerly awaited release date of Lucina so he could send me the one and only one I REALLY wanted. 

Two days before the release date KoD's amiibo person said that all was in check for his amiibo desires except for Robin who was cancelled for some reason.  However she didn't mention anything about Lucina at all.  Somehow she had gotten left off.  KoD went to the store and the person in front of him bought the only Lucina they had...and his amiibo person was only able to secure one Lucina which KoD kept for himself as he's collecting all of them.  Which.. I can't really blame him...though I could argue that since I did the review, gave him money, and he's the one with the connections to getting amiibo that I don't have, he should have given me that one and found a second for himself but I'm not going to be a dick about it to a good buddy.  It sucks big time to have hope, have that hope be destroyed, have it given back to you only to have it destroyed a second time.   It's like wanting one small thing for Christmas and being told that your family can't afford Christmas this year.  So you wake up to find a present for you under the tree only for it to contain a piece of paper that says "I Hate You" on it. 

So here I sit having done my part and paid my money but with absolutely nothing to show for it but an ever present angry attitude.  My last hope was Amazon who was allowing the sale of Lucina amiibo at a random point during the 6:30 - 7:00 PM window of release day.   Below you can see the EXACT wording

Since I'd been hurt twice I kept my expectations incredibly low but couldn't help shake that hopeful feeling...


"We'd like to ensure that as many customers as possible have the opportunity to get the new figures" MY FAT ACHING ASS.   As if to top of my horrible day with the perfect cake topper of horribleness, KoD and I spent the entirety of the 30 minutes for the Lucina window refreshing the page every 5 to 10 seconds and NOT ONCE was she available to purchase.  Amazon bold faced lied to us that she would be available to purchase at some point during that 30 minutes in one of the most egregious moves I've ever seen that I honestly feel is false advertisement though I'm sure there's some legal loophole mumbo jumbo that makes it not truly "false" advertisement but you get the point.   So once again I sit here having paid my dues and paid money with NO Lucina Amiibo...and I'll probably never end up getting one thanks to this bullshit.

So Nintendo and Amazon... I give both of you the proper salute you deserve based on the actions I've witnessed first hand over the last day and few months.
Screw the both of you and your damn amiibo!

There's not much of a conclusion here... the picture above pretty much says it all.  How Nintendo has handled these amiibo is absolute horse shit.  It has left me with a very sour taste in my mouth for the company as a whole to the point that I'm questioning my enjoyment of Nintendo products.  If they can mess up something this good so easily who's to say they won't start doing that with other products as well?  They need to get their act together or get out of the amiibo business immediately because this is completely unacceptable.  And let's not forget Amazon who I'm also second guessing doing business with any further thanks to their deplorable actions with the sale of Lucina amiibos.  I've never had much of a problem with Amazon before this and couldn't have collected all of Doctor Who without them but this was handled bad enough to hurt my viewpoint of them.  How can large companies like this get away with such shenanigans?  I don't know but it NEEDS to stop.

This is Ghost, fading into the darkness.
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If you want to check out what KoD is doing you can check out his Tumblr or Youtube Page.

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 So... only one day after I wrote this blog post I happened to find my Lucina.  I just happened to be running by a G2K Store in Abingdon, Virginia.  For those of you who don't know, G2K is a semi-local only game store which specializes in mostly used games both current gen and ancient.  I have never before found anything I wish to buy at that store but went in because the general populous of Abingdon is very different than that of my town so I thought there might be some of the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies there used.  They did not so I decided to just take some extra time looking around at everything and once I got to their amiibo selection... there she was front and center.  The ONLY one they had left.  Needless to say I internally flipped out (only internally due to children being present in the store) and ran over to the clerk to purchase her instantly.   This was a stroke of pure luck or divine intervention one.

Now I realize that being able to find an amiibo one day after ranting and saying I would never get her may lessen the impact of the post above but I would like to point out 2 things.  1. This was a once in a lifetime sort of event.  Lucina was in such demand and in so few quantity that people are on average asking $49.99 for her.  For this to have still been on the shelf  through a weekend and on into the middle of the next week after released is unheard of.  2. It shouldn't be this way.  It shouldn't be this ultimately lucky find for me to be able to get her.  I should have just been able to go the day of sale or sometime that weekend and find plenty of Lucina on the shelf to purchase but that's simply not the case.  

I'm still upset by how Nintendo is handling these amiibo and I'm still upset with the Amazon debacle of selling them but since my one and only "must have" has now been obtained you won't hear anything else from me on this topic unless something makes matters frustratingly worse.