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Why Doesn’t Disney Parks Incorporate Kingdom Hearts into a Fireworks Show? May 31, 2021

Posted by Maniac in Editorials.
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Across the US, Disney’s Theme Parks are finally reopening. Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida and Disneyland in Anaheim, California are back open for business. With some of the best theme park rides on the planet ranging from Space Mountain to Expedition Everest, this is a much anticipated announcement.

Now that the parks are opening at close to full capacity within the next few weeks, and Walt Disney World has announced they will be celebrating their 50th anniversary.

Is it just me or is the music that Disney’s been using to produce their recent commercials just not doing it for you like it should? It might be because I’m a gamer. While I do not visit Disney’s parks regularly, I fondly remember visiting them on special occasions as I grew up during the 90s and I do plan to go back and visit again within the next year or two. I may not be the most well-versed on the history of the park (people like Tony Goldmark hold that distinction) but I was lucky enough to ride rides like Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye, Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout and even Disney World’s Twilight Zone: Tower of Terror all within a matter of weeks of their opening.

Since 2002, Disney has had a relationship with the guys over at Square Enix, who have incorporated their Final Fantasy characters alongside Disney’s incredible catalog of films and shorts to create the beloved Kingdom Hearts franchise, and as a gamer you can be sure I’ve played many of these games. Square Enix’s contribution to Disney’s ongoing legacy, and the fact it is about to celebrate its 20th anniversary, should not be dismissed. Let me set the stage for you, starting with the opening of the very first game.

When I think of Disney, I think of how they’re depicted in the Kingdom Hearts games. The games were able to weave all of Disney’s most popular films and characters into one coherent continuity with characters that acted exactly as someone already familiar with Disney would expect them to act. In a way, Disney’s parks function on a similar principle. All the rides, shows and attractions can be fit into each park’s themed land, and guests can visit each land during their stay at the park.

I will admit to subconsciously referring to Mickey Mouse as “Your Majesty”, to recognizing the final battle in the animated film Mulan…because I actually FOUGHT in it. Then I asked myself, why DOESN’T Disney promote the Kingdom Hearts games in any of their theme parks? They’ve had no problem bringing franchises from Lucasfilm, Marvel and Pixar in to tremendous success, Kingdom Hearts would be a logical next step! The game’s art style is timeless, and new games are still being produced. Heck, that game franchise is still alive with its most recent release being Kingdom Hearts III.

I honestly would be satisfied with a Kingdom Hearts nighttime firework tribute show. There’s honestly no need to overwhelm the parks with Kingdom Hearts versions of each characters, but why not make a stage or night show? It would make for a perfect update to the Fantasmic stunt show! Just use the Fantasmic arena as a stage, Mickey could come out dressed in his King Mickey outfit, wield his keyblade, and team up alongside Donald, Sora and Goofy against the Heartless or the Nobodies. Or, if you’re against losing Fantasmic, you could show a tribute video to the games on something like World of Color’s projection fountain. Square Enix’s cutscenes are so well produced and edited the Disney Park staff would barely have to do anything. Just put the video below up on the giant water fountain screen at California Adventure and not a single patron of the park would bat an eye. Well…except for the gamers who wouldn’t be able to stop crying.

But while there is no question that Disney owns their IP, and merely licensed their characters to Square Enix for Kingdom Hearts, it is a little unclear if Disney has the ability to use Kingdom Hearts characters in their theme parks. It has been attempted, but only for very very limited special events. Disney Parks expert Disney Dan actually did a video about the very few times these events happened, and I recommend checking it out.

I know I must not be alone. After twenty years and millions in sales, there have to be tons of other people who’s primary exposure to Disney was through Kingdom Hearts. What Kingdom Hearts themed content would you want to see Disney bring into their parks and where should it go? Post a comment below! Here’s hoping they could sell some sea salt ice cream.

Kingdom Hearts games are currently avaliable on multiple platforms including the PS4.

More Content that Should Go On Disney+ May 1, 2021

Posted by Maniac in Editorials.
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Contrary to the popular theory, not everything that Disney (and the studios it now owns) has ever produced is on Disney+. A few months ago, we listed a group of television shows, shorts, and specials that, for one reason or other, was not on Disney+. Well, we’re currently in a bit of a lull for gaming news, and some of the things we mentioned in that article (particularly the Marvel One Shots) were added to Disney+ since we published it, so we decided to make a new list.

Unlike the last list which would not include Disney-owned content we knew for sure was licensed for other streaming platforms, we will be including ALL Disney-owned content we feel deserves to go on Disney+, regardless of who currently owns the streaming rights. However, we will not include content Disney has flagged as “coming to Disney+” like Loki, since that content IS coming to Disney+, it just hasn’t been released yet.

So, with that all out of the way, let’s get started with the earliest Disney content we can think of.

Oswald the Lucky Rabbit Shorts – The modern myth is that Disney was a company that “all started with a mouse”. That story is a complete lie, the animal is that Walt Disney actually started with was a rabbit named Oswald. Disney regained the rights to Oswald some time around 2008, as well as the rights to his original animated shorts. The shorts were included on a DVD bundled with the Epic Mickey Collector’s Edition, but I haven’t seen them anywhere else since. These shorts are a piece of Disney history and should be offered on Disney+.

Runaway Brain – Produced in 1995, the short film follows Mickey Mouse as he tries to earn some money volunteering for a scientific experiment. He ends up unleashing a terrifying creature, and must find a way to save Minnie from its path of destruction. The short film was darker than anything Disney had attempted up to that point (Mickey’s animator for the short had previously had experience animating the Disney villains during Disney’s renaissance era). It would get attached to a film called A Kid in King Arthur’s Court (which ironically enough IS on Disney+), and from what I heard it would get RE-attached to other later Disney films when they were in theaters (depending on region), but I can’t confirm that. It’s a great short with incredible animation and should be featured on Disney+.

Cloak and Dagger – Prior to Wandavision, a now defunct arm of Marvel labeled Marvel Television produced several television shows featuring auxiliary characters from the Marvel Universe. However, unlike the current Disney+ shows, there was absolutely no reason to watch the old shows since they would never be referenced in the Avengers films. That, plus, well, many of them (like Inhumans or early episodes of Agents of SHIELD) were just terrible. In fact, most people have argued they would not get good until Marvel Television started producing series for Netflix. Well, Forget about Daredevil, Agents of SHIELD, or Defenders, my absolute favorite show from the Marvel Television era was Freeform’s Cloak and Dagger. Starring the titular characters and taking place in New Orleans, the show is about two young people from different walks of life who gain complementary superpowers. Once they rediscover each other years later, they must learn to use their abilities to stop the company responsible for their powers from causing a disaster.

Building WildBuilding Wild was a National Geographic television show which followed the Cabin Kings, a group of cabin builders who every week would build a brand-new unique log cabin for a happy customer. Hosted by Paul and Tuffy, two men with VERY different personalities, they must plan out and construct the perfect cabin based on the environment and the personality of the customer. It’s a great show, and I honestly believe the only reason it hasn’t ended up on Disney+ already was the show’s need to add bleeps to nearly every time Tuffy spoke.

Springfield of Dreams – Directed by Super Size Me’s Morgan Spurlock and Produced by FOX SPORTS, Springfield of Dreams was a monumentary made in tribute to one of the best episodes of The Simpsons ever made, “Homer at Bat”, which got Homer Simpson inducted in the real-world Baseball Hall of Fame. The documentary treats the episode as if it really did take place when it aired back in 1992, and featured a mix of live-action interviews with the real baseball players who appeared in the episode and animated interviews with the characters from the show. It’s a great nostalgia trip and since it was pulled from FOX SPORTS Video on Demand (VOD) I haven’t been able to rewatch it.

Miss Fritter’s Racing Skool – This Cars 3 short film was included on the Cars 3 Blu-Ray Disc…and no where else. As we stated above, Disney+ has had no problem including short films along their lineup, including animated shorts that were included for home video release (like Auntie Edna from the Incredibles 2 Blu-Ray), so why isn’t this Cars 3 short film included?

Muppets Go to Disney World – This Muppets special was produced in either the late-80s to early-90s and featured the Muppets getting into hi-jinx on a trip to Walt Disney World. I first saw it on the Disney Channel back when it was a premium station and I just assumed it was a Disney Channel made for TV movie. It is currently unavailable on any streaming platform. SOMEBODY Disney owns seems to own this, so other than the fact the version of Disney World featured in the show is out of date (and Mickey Mouse is played by a 2D animated character) I see no reason it can’t be brought to Disney+.

The Last of Us Part II – Ellie’s Revenge Live-Action FanFilm April 26, 2021

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A short film that looks nearly exactly like a live-action adaptation of The Last of Us Part II has just hit the web. Directed by Tommy Jackson, the film recreated several gripping moments from the game franchise. The attention to detail is just incredible. The actors casted look almost exactly like their in-game counterparts. The atmosphere is color corrected with the same palate that I recognized from playing the game on PS4 Pro.

Is this real? Check it out below:

As someone who just watched this at home on their 4KTV, I thought I was watching a short film at my local cinema. The cinematography and production value was just that good. I hope the director and crew can do a commentary track version so we can learn more about what went into making it. Until then, I must say I am impressed.

The Last of Us Part II is out now for the PS4.

What We Lost Because 2020 Sucked March 7, 2021

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I know it’s Sunday and we typically have a Gaming History You Should Know today but 2020 sucked, and I wanted to say that to the world. But the most ironic thing about 2020 was for nearly the entire year the human population had to endure what it was like to live as a gamer. Staying home, limiting all inter-person communication to phone and online, having meals be by take out and delivery was completely intolerable for some people, but for people like me that would be considered was any random Tuesday. Sadly, there are consequences for a society that needs to stay home for an extended period of time, and one of those consequences is a lack of income for businesses. Leisure activities and venues were closed for extended periods, either by government order or plain common sense, and without government assistance to keep them afloat while being shuttered many businesses we’ve known and loved forever did not survive the year 2020.

Let’s talk about some of the major businesses that didn’t survive 2020 that I’m really going to miss. We are going to include companies that we believe will never be coming back, and while it is possible these companies could be revived (either through restructuring or buyouts) as far as we know as of the time this is being written the companies we talk about in this article are no longer in active operation.

The VOID was a Virtual Reality (VR) experience which allowed free movement through a mixture of motion tracking and rudimentary sets to produce what has been reported to be a pretty seamless 3D VR experience. The company even did a deal with Disney and ILMxLabs to create exclusive VR experiences based on Avengers, Wreck it Ralph, and even Star Wars. However, when a global pandemic is happening, it is not a good idea to go somewhere and use the same equipment that had recently come in contact with the eyes, nose and mouth of people unknown to you. In September, the company was no longer able to pay its bills, and Disney broke their agreements with them shortly afterwards.

Leading up to 2020, VR centers were actually gaining popularity. When you’re looking at images displayed on decent HD headsets rendered high-end computers, VR is a thrilling experience. While other VR locations ran stock programs people with the money could play in their own homes, the VOID provided an environment people could actually move around in, touch, and feel. I never got to experience one of their games, and I really regret it. It will be interesting to see how the world adjusts to VR cafes post-pandemic, and I have my own theories about how I think they could move on in some way but that’s an article for a different time.

Laser Quest was laser tag, but it was really FUN Laser Tag. Imagine an experience where you’re playing in a real-life multiplayer DeathMatch arena. You fire at your opponents with a special laser weapon that has the ability to ricochet off mirrors. If you make a hit, depending on where in your opponent you struck, you get some points and temporarily disable your opponent for a few seconds. You could try to gain a high ground but that leaves you visible to the entire arena. You could try to stay hidden on a ground floor maze but you have less opportunity to score points that way. You have to decide how best to position yourself for the high score. Before I played my first game at Laser Quest, I would be forced to play Laser Tag at awful venues which never maintained their equipment. At Laser Quest, they told me that each player was marked by a GamerTag of their choice, proving to me these guys knew how to run a real-life DeathMatch. When I was handed my first ever fully working piece of game equipment, I was unstoppable, and I still have the score cards to prove it. Seriously these guys did Laser Tag better than ANYONE else. They even had an online service that kept track of your stats in a National leaderboard.

I last went to Laser Quest last February as a Valentine’s Day trip with my fiancée and we both had a blast. Sadly, an enclosed arena is expensive to maintain when nobody is paying to use it. I should’ve noticed something was wrong after the official Laser Quest app was pulled from Apple’s App Store, preventing me from installing it on my new phone. If the world hadn’t gone to hell, we were talking about doing more trips with more friends.

Fry’s Electronics was a brick and mortar PC part retailer I remember fondly. I visited it one time back in 2003 after I discovered my GPU was damaged and needed to be replaced quickly. In a time when Newegg and Tiger Direct were making waves for themselves for competitively pricing their parts, Fry’s seemed willing to compete, something CompUSA never was willing to do. I was able to find not only a new GPU there, but one that was faster than my previous one at a decent price. Heck, they would even sell plushes of Tux the Linux Penguin, and anyone willing to sell those are awesome in my book.

Unfortunately, after I moved away from California, I never saw Fry’s stores again. As far as I know they never expanded into the East Coast and because of that most Americans probably aren’t even aware of the store. Over the past few years I’ve been hearing horror stories about Fry’s operating with completely bare shelves, giving some credibility to the theory the company had been on the ropes for a while, and the pandemic merely was their knock out blow.

Who knows what else could go next? Was there a business or venue I missed? Post a comment below and we might feature it next time.

If You Upgrade Your Pokemon Pass Device, You Will Lose Your Completed Activities Forever February 22, 2021

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I’ve talked a bit about Pokémon Pass here in the past, but for those of you who may not be familiar with it I’ll talk about it briefly here. Pokémon Pass is a smart device app which awards digital goods for completing tasks assigned by The Pokémon Company. Pokémon games have a long standing tradition of offering free digital in-game goods during limited-time promotions (in fact I think they’re the first company I can think of to do that). However, over the first half of the past decade, this has been a hassle. Typically, major retailers hold these promotions, and while my local GameStop has always been reliable for sharing digital codes and goodies during promotion periods, larger retailers like Target and Walmart have been utter failures at it.

When Pokémon Pass launched, it let users skip the middleman so to speak and would automatically generate Mystery Box codes just for being in the GPS range of the participating retailer. That meant you could go to a store during the event period, shop a little, and get your goodies without bothering a single employee.

Unfortunately, I’ve learned about a flaw with the app that I wanted to tell people about here. And that is that despite the fact that you must have a digital account and online access to use Pokémon Pass, completed missions don’t actually save to your profile, they save to your device. That means if you ever upgrade your device (like I did recently) you will lose access to all the content you unlocked during the app’s lifespan. If you had participated in limited time events that are no longer available (such as the Pokémon Detective Pikachu movie event) you will not be able to reobtain them. I have even confirmed this with The Pokémon Company, as this is how they designed Pokémon Pass to work.

I know what you’re thinking, would keeping a backup of your app’s old data and loading it into your new device fix the problem? No, sadly. Because the information is device locked, it’s impossible to complete new challenges running your old device’s data on your new device.

Perhaps it’s time we move all events to Pokémon Home?

Pokémon Pass is out now for iOS and Android smart devices.

Is Best Buy The Next Circuit City? February 5, 2021

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For those of you who weren’t born in the 90s (or haven’t read my You Will NOT Be Missed article on the subject) Circuit City was an electronics megastore that sold Televisions, Stereos, Video Games, PCs, CDs, and DVDs. It died in the mid-2000s, and as far as I know, all its stores are shuttered. Most pundits and mainstream “journalists” blamed the company’s failure on the online marketplace, and I wouldn’t be surprised if people to this day believe Circuit City to be Amazon’s first corporate kill. Anyone who believes that is wrong.

Circuit City did not fail because people preferred to shop on Amazon, Circuit City failed because they were so comically mismanaged they made people WANT to shop on Amazon. In a non-fantasy scenario, a consumer will choose the path of least resistance to get what they want. Going to a store and picking up something can be easier than buying it online, especially for people who lack credit or debit cards. But when a retail store is run badly, it can become more convenient to order something online and wait several days for it to arrive at your house than it is to go in person. What am I talking about? Keep reading and find out.

While Circuit City had been highly successful during the mid-90s to early 2000s (mostly on the popularity of CDs and DVDs), after the year 2002, Circuit City entered a downward spiral for reasons I just can’t explain. I may have only taken one college-level business course in my life (which was more an IT class than about business) but I must assume a retail store is only successful if it actually SELLS THINGS. At some point in the 2000s, Circuit City just gave up selling things. They actually stopped staffing people at their registers, which meant all purchases would have to be made at Customer Service. This may be okay for a simple retail store that sells things like clothes, it’s rare people don’t know their own sizes, but this is the dumbest policy ever for a high end electronics store to adopt. How? Imagine being forced to wait for hours behind retirees trying to talk their ways into returning computer accessories (without having to pay restocking fees) they likely purchased knowing absolutely nothing about what would or wouldn’t be compatible with their equipment. I’m not kidding, it would be common to see people that shouldn’t even own computers trying to scam refunds for stuff they never should’ve bought in the first place. Instead of opening a register so I could actually pay the company cash money for a GameCube game, they chose to waste their actual paying customers time. For at least five years, that would be the bare minimum for what I would have to endure EVERY time I shopped at Circuit City.

I already told you a horror story, but that’s just stories that happen when management gets cheap, what evidence do I have about incompetent management costing a company sales? In 2008, I wanted to pick up a Blu-Ray Disc of one of the biggest movies of that year, Iron Man. I went to Circuit City to pick up a copy around 3PM on the day of its release. The store manager (apparently he was the only person working that day if he was working the Customer Service line), told me off the cuff as he was ringing me up I bought their last copy, as he had only ordered nine Blu-Rays of Iron Man for the entire store. They had literally sold out before happy hour even started.

I looked at him as if he was the dumbest human being who ever set face on the earth and asked him, “This is the most critically and commercially successful new movie release of the year on a format that cemented its install base and has been itching for a good looking film to show off what it can do, why would you only order NINE copies?”

I never shopped at Circuit City again. The store shuttered in less than a year after that story happened.

Best Buy came into being during Circuit City’s heyday, but did not share Circuit City’s downfall. When the market shifted away from CDs and DVDs, Best Buy shifted to stocking video games, big screen HD (later UHD) TVs, and household wares (washing machines, microwaves, etc). Unlike Circuit City, Best Buy was willing to price compete with their competitors, which is probably why they got the name Best Buy. They also had a store where employees actually WORKED! Registers would be manned, and you could buy something quickly whenever you concluded your shopping. I know, who would’ve thought that would make them successful?

Over the years, however, Best Buy has seemed to be moving further and further down Circuit City’s dark path. First, it was the little things, like occasionally leaving all their registers completely unmanned, which to me still remains one of the more curious incompetencies of a retail store. If you run a company and want to save on having to employ cashiers, change the sign out front and say you’re a museum. It’ll save me thinking I can actually buy things there. However, to Best Buy’s credit, this has not been a permanent problem. Their issues lie elsewhere.

Over the years I’ve had other issues with Best Buy, but most of it has boiled down to poorly trained staff and mismanaged managers. For example, I can’t remember a single video game release day where a game’s stock was ready to sell, either on store shelves or held in the back for people who preordered the games. How can I buy something if you won’t actually put it on a shelf? As for evidence of poorly trained staff, there was a time I once asked an employee if they had a new game in stock which had came out that day and gave them the exact title of the game. The only person actually working there that day asked me, “Is that for the DS3?” and I shook my head and said, “No, there’s no such thing as a DS3, the game I want is on the 3DS.” Apparently I know more about what Best Buy sells then their employees do. I felt bad for the people coming in there that actually knew less than I did.

In my recent trips to Best Buy, I see all the familiar signs of a company running on fumes. I once tried to pick up a Collector’s Edition of a new game I had preordered, and that was a complete hassle. Instead of being given what I was ordered I was incorrectly handed an different game that, had I accepted, was worth thirty dollars less than the game I had actually ordered and paid for. Good times.

I last visited Best Buy to make a major purchase of something their website assured me they had in stock. After arriving at the store, they told me to sit and wait for someone to assist me. It was just about 11am and the store hadn’t been open for an hour at this point. After waiting for at least twenty minutes, the store’s manager realized whoever was supposed to help me was MIA, and offered to help me herself. After spending five more minutes doing someone else’s job (the person who was supposed to assist me never did show up by the way), thirty minutes into me being there she finally asked me why I was there in the first place. I asked if the item I was seeking was in stock, and if I could pay for it in full immediately and be on my way. She (incorrectly) told me it was not store policy to outright sell me what I wanted, and if I wanted to buy what I wanted from them, I would have to pay it in installments over the span of thirty months. After wasting thirty-five minutes of my life I would never get back, I told her to cancel everything she was doing, got up and walked out. I was literally shocked by the utter arrogance of their incompetence. While I could understand my wait due to understaffing caused by the current world events, there was absolutely no legitimate reason they couldn’t sell me what I wanted, since I was able to buy exactly what I needed somewhere else with no hassle.

These stories are not the angry squabbles of an entitled consumer, never once have I ever asked for a freebie or any bonus for all the trouble I have endured. In several cases, had I not spoken out before being sold something, Best Buy’s employees would have sold me incorrect products at higher prices than their value, or put me on grueling payment plans I did not want to be a part of. In a sane world, successful companies are successful because they provide either a better service, lower price, or higher supply of an in-demand product. I mean, that’s probably written on the first page of every basic business textbook ever printed. You can’t blame Amazon for a failing company who chooses to hire incompetent people, poorly train them, and set incorrect priorities for their managers, you blame the failing company. When Best Buy fails, like Circuit City before them, it will be their own fault.

What I Would Like to See Announced for Pokemon 25 Event January 26, 2021

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Happy New Year! During the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, a bunch of adorable dancing Pikachu announced next year will kick off the Pokémon 25 event, marking the 25th anniversary of the original release of Pokémon in Japan. If the Pokémon 20 event was anything to go by, we could be looking forward to a long year of events and game releases. Here’s the announcement video:

But just what announcements could we expect? It is highly unlikely a new game in the form of a sequel to Sword or Shield will be announced this year, but there’s still the chance that we could see new spin off games or even ports of classic games throughout the year.

Let’s talk about some of our best ideas shall we? We will not include speculation about future game expansion packs, either in the form of patches or paid DLC. We also won’t talk about the TCG, Pokémon Go updates or events here. This will just be our speculation about entirely new games or movies.

What We Will See That Was Announced

New Pokémon Snap (Nintendo Switch)

This was revealed not too long ago and is likely the most anticpated upcoming Pokémon game. Let’s be honest, the original Pokémon Snap is an iconic title that, despite its short length, is probably the third most well-known Nintendo 64 game of all time (behind Super Mario 64 and Ocarina of Time of course). We can expect it coming on April 30th, and you can be sure I’ll be picking it up day one.

New Pokémon Animated Movie (Netflix)

Netflix has been doing a fantastic job at obtaining the rights to a bunch of Pokemon animated content, and that includes new series and our next animated film. It is expected this will tease our next Mythical Pokémon, but I would just be happy to be able to enjoy an evening at home where I could sit and watch it.

What (I Think) We Will See Announced

Pokémon Detective Pikachu 2 (Nintendo Switch)

I loved PC mystery adventure games back in my early PC gaming days, and playing the original Detective Pikachu on the 3DS made me feel more like when I was a kid more than playing other new Pokémon games did. Obviously, the game’s ongoing mystery (Detective Pikachu’s origins) was never solved and there’s plenty of opportunity to resolve that in its Nintendo Switch sequel. The Switch is perfect for a new game. Personally, I’m hoping for a tap to move interface on the Switch’s tablet screen similar to what was done with Sam & Max: Remastered. Here’s to hoping we get that sequel announced later this year.

Pokémon Sleep (SmartPhones/Tablets)

Probably the most surprising announcement from 2019’s Pokémon Press Event, Pokemon Sleep is expected to be a smartphone application that helps us get a restful good night when used in conjunction with your smart device and a new accessory. Boy, after this past year we could all use sleep and a lot of it.

It is possible the game’s been delayed due to manufacturing issues with the new Bluetooth accessory, the Pokemon Go Plus+. I know a lot of people have upgraded to the Pokéball Plus (which had Pokémon Go Plus features integrated into a Switch controller), and may not like downgrading to a Go Plus+ that lacks the ability to connect to their Switch games. Still, I could believe the PokéBall Plus, with its gyroscopes and vibration features, could do what Sleep needs to function.

What I Wish We Will See That Wasn’t Announced

Pokémon Yellow, Pokémon Crystal and Pokémon Emerald Port for Nintendo Switch

This is really a no-brainer. We know the Switch has the capability to play classic games on the NES and SNES, there’s no reason to believe it couldn’t play Game Boy, Game Boy Color, or Game Boy Advance games. They made an absolute fortune for Nintendo on the 3DS’s eShop, now that the 3DS has been discontinued there’s no reason to hold back re-releasing the games for the Nintendo Switch.

The first two Pokémon generations include some of the most beloved games of all time and deserve to be playable in the current generation. The third generation games have never seen an official digital rerelease (just a remake for the 3DS) and because of that I have never been able to play them. Heck, they could offer support for wireless 2-player communication or even Pokémon Home functionality I’m sure even original game owners will be more than happy to rebuy all the games again.

Porting the third generation games would also be essential for some of the other things I would like to see further down the list.

Pokémon XD: Gale of Darkness and Pokémon Colleseum Port for Nintendo Switch

These two GameCube games are currently on the top of my personal list for most requested ports, a list that was previously topped by games like Shenmue and Wind Waker. Gamers at the time incorrectly assumed that these titles were merely updated versions of the classic Pokémon Stadium games, and focused on battling and minigames. That is not true, these were the first two 3D single-player Pokémon games ever made!

While both games have since been outdone graphically by games like Let’s Go Pikachu/Let’s Go Eevee, I would love the opportunity to finally play these classics myself. Since they use the same engine and reuse a lot of the same graphical assets, it should be possible to see them bundled together in the same game cart.

Pokémon Platinum Remake For Nintendo Switch

Since the days of the third generation, the Pokémon release cycle has alternated between new title and remake. We just saw the release of a new title with Sword and Shield, and if the cycle isn’t being broken that could mean a remake is coming up next. If the internet is to be believed, GEN4, a generation that has never seen a rerelease, currently holds the shelf as the most demanded remakes for the Nintendo Switch.

Anything Else?

Personally, I’d be happy to see features like the downloadable title My Pokemon Ranch or Wii’s Coliseum-type game Battle Revolution return in some form. Obviously that would mean remaking or porting some of the games listed above, so I won’t be totally convinced this is possible just yet.

Xbox Live Price Doubling Just Because (Update) January 22, 2021

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Settle down boys and girls, Maniac is going to be getting controversial. Xbox Live first launched in 2002 as a console internet gaming service. For $50US a year, you could play supported games like Unreal Championship online and even use cross platform voice chat, something that the PC didn’t even support at the time. Support for the service exploded in 2004 when one of the best online multiplayer games of all time was released, Halo 2. Despite the fact original Xbox support was discontinued a decade ago and a ten dollar price increase was added some time during the Xbox 360 generation, the service has been moving steady ever since, through three console generations and has likely been a huge moneymaker for Microsoft over the past two decades.

However, Xbox Live is not without its controversy. Over the past year, the service has been plagued by constant downtime and frequent outages, even during the day of the launch of the Xbox Series X and S consoles back in November. Downtimes for paid services aren’t unusual, you may occasionally get a power or phone service outage at your home, but in those cases you would not be required to pay for any outages, or you would be eligible for a refund by your provider. That isn’t the case for Xbox Live. You will pay whether you can play it or not.

Xbox Live is the ONLY way to play Xbox games online, and as I mentioned before, there’s no guarantee of that. Online support for ALL original Xbox games discontinued some time ago, despite an enormous online protest lead by Halo 2 players that has (to this day) led to no noticeable technological improvements with the service whatsoever. Last month, Microsoft announced they will be discontinuing online multiplayer for all of the Xbox 360’s Halo games next year. Quite a shame since those games are still some of the finest multiplayer games ever made.

Not too long ago, retailers were informing gaming websites that Microsoft was phasing out year-long Xbox Live Gold prepaid cards. Since then, rumors have circulated the reason Microsoft is discontinuing those prepaid cards is to hike the price of Live, and now we know those rumors to be true. Microsoft is increasing the price of Xbox Live (without Game Pass) to $120US a year. That is essentially double its current price. Microsoft has said they will continue charging $60US a year for subscribers who have their accounts set to auto-renew before this announcement, but who knows for how long they will continue to honor that price.

Now, Microsoft has offered a Games for Gold service, where they offer Xbox Live subscribers the chance to download a few full games each month. Some would argue since new games are expensive this justifies the price hike. However, this “benefit” is dubious at best, since you haven’t actually been getting these games at no additional charge since Microsoft started offering Xbox One titles. Microsoft’s fine print states access to them is revoked when your subscription lapses, essentially putting them on the same level as Game Pass (which is an entirely separate service we aren’t discussing here).

Meanwhile, Microsoft’s competitors offer their own multiplayer subscriptions at superior value. Online play on the PC is entirely free, except in the case for certain MMOs. PlayStation Plus costs around $50US a year and offers just as consistent if not better online play for PS4 and PS5 games that aren’t free to play. Nintendo Network Online costs $20US a year on the Nintendo Switch and offers online play and access to a suite of classic NES and SNES titles every month you’re a subscriber. While I have heard complaints about latency on the Nintendo Switch, I have personally never experienced any.

I would be fine with any price increases if Microsoft had proven the price was necessary to either providing a stable consistent service or produce some great new benefit or feature to their customers that necessitated the increase. Over the past year Microsoft has shown themselves incapable of providing a stable, consistent service and they have not provided a single new premium feature for Xbox Live users since the Xbox 360 launched in 2005. In short, Microsoft has not proven they are worthy of the increased price they are asking for. I will not be renewing my subscription any time soon.

UPDATE: One day after writing this, online sources are reporting Microsoft is reversing course. Maybe they read this article and discovered how wrong they were.

Goodbye Flash (and Good Riddance!) December 8, 2020

Posted by Maniac in Editorials.
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People don’t remember that up until the mid-2000s the vast majority of websites were static. You went to a webpage, it loaded a pre-arranged series of text and images, and when you clicked on what you wanted to see more of it would take you to a new page. Other than a simple background MIDI tune or swirling effect added to your cursor, there wasn’t much actual interactivity a web page could do at that time. I got my first real computer around 1996, and one of the first websites I ever visited on the web was the official webpage for the feature film Beavis and Butthead: Do America. (ED NOTE: If you haven’t seen it, it’s a pretty funny movie that still holds up to this day.) However, when I tried to play one of the site’s minigames I noticed the simple custom web browser made by my (now defunct) ISP required something called the Flash plugin for me to play it. After several attempts to download and install the plugin failed, I discovered the poor browser I was using was downright incompatible with Flash and while I had no interest in using Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, installing the (then) new Netscape Navigator browser followed by the Flash plugin seemed to solve my problems. This was the first time I ever used Flash, and it would not be the last.

Flash emerged early in the internet browsing marketplace as the Go-To plugin for creating interactive in-browser content. In the early 2000s, having it installed on your PC was practically as required as having a web browser. Most people my age probably remember the interactive party games you could play on a Flash-powered website. My classmates used to sneak onto the school’s computers and play games of Billiards. Heck, even I would play some simple adventure or even puzzle games on days we would have a substitute teacher.

Most people who remember Flash likely do so because it was a common tool for early internet creators to produce crazy animations. Since the internet existed as more of a Wild West at the time, it was common for creators to use copyrighted sound clips or images for their creations. But personally, I remember the wholly original content most of all. Out of all the animations created with Flash I probably have two favorites. One of them has become an internet phenomenon and thankfully was archived, it’s called “End of Ze World”.

The second animation was done for a (now defunct) website called ubergeek.tv. It was a parody of those annoying Switch to Mac commercials Apple forced us to watch throughout most of the 2000s. At least this video provided us legitimate reasons and a legitimate platform to switch to, Supervillians use Linux.

You could do more than play games or watch animations with Flash, you could stream prerecorded video with it. While most people remember YouTube originally used Flash to show their video content, they were hardly the first to do so. I remember (now defunct) websites like Atomfilms offered the ability to watch independent short films in the very early 2000s. Since they would only publish films they approved, there was a very high bar to get on the site. In fact, the very first Star Wars fanfilms most people remember, such as “Troopers” and “The Jedi Hunter” were originally published on Atomfilms. My personal favorite was “Wan-Abi: Making of a Fanfilm”.

University-level classes were even requiring students to learn how to use Flash, as College Professors would commonly create custom programs with Flash and expect their students to be able to run them. I actually spent the first month of my freshman year installing Flash on nearly every PC in my dorm all because one professor everyone (except me) seemed to have required it installed for certain assignments. Since nobody but me apparently knew how to do this, I was very popular in my freshman dorm for at least the first month of classes.

At this point, most of you are likely asking, “If you had all this positive stuff to say about Flash so far, why post Good Riddance at the end of your headline about it?” Take a quick look at some of the dates I’ve mentioned up until this point. Almost everything I mentioned happened in either the late 90s or very early 2000s. All of the positive stories I just listed happened on or around two decades ago. I would have listed newer positive stories about Flash, but I have none.

Flash had a lot of benefits, but eventually its frustrations began to outweigh its benefits. Most obnoxious webpage advertisements used flash at the time, and uninstalling it became considered an early form of ad blocking. Most of the great sites I listed above would dissolve as the years passed, taking all their original content with them with next to no warning. The majority of Flash-powered game sites would end up dissolving on their own as time went on, taking with them the opportunity to replay the irreplaceable games created with the plugin. Here’s a look at just some of the Pokémon-games that were created with Flash courtesy of CandyEvie.

And here’s her look at some Pokémon-inspired gems that were also created with Flash.

Flash was also bloated and unbearably insecure, and Adobe released CONSTANT updates for it in the late 2000s. These updates didn’t add new features, they fixed major mistakes that left otherwise up to date PCs vulnerable to computer viruses! Unfortunately, most PC owners would ignore Flash’s update pleas to their own detriment. For half a decade between 2005-2010, not a single IT job on a Windows PC would greet me without a “You must update Flash RIGHT NOW” prompt. Eventually I saw it so much I created a stock response to whoever my client was and would just tell them, “You know that goes away if you actually do that right? Well, at least for a month or so.”

In 2007 the smartphone revolution began, and Steve Jobs, creator of the iPhone, said the iPhone did not and would never support Flash. Most of us knew that meant the end of Flash as we knew it would come, we just didn’t know when. While a lot of the web still required Flash to browse at the time, the steadily increasing install base of the iPhone made web designers think twice about further Flash implementation. Apple knew their users would still demand YouTube support on their phones, so they wrote a program specifically to play YouTube video in a format perfectly suited for the iPhone, so few users complained.

Most of the streaming video websites that used Flash, like Atomfilms or later Blip.tv, would shut down for to various reasons, wiping whatever wasn’t backed up of their content from the web entirely. Sites that planned to stick around, like YouTube, began to transition their sites away from Flash and onto HTML5. HTML5 didn’t put as heavy a load onto a computer’s CPU, and could even make use of a computer’s GPU to improve its performance. Now, with HTML5 able to deliver most of the same capabilities of Flash, Flash has been on its death march for quite some time. Microsoft stopped allowing Flash to be installed on their systems around the time Windows 8 was released, choosing to put the entire Flash suite in their Windows Updates (and stopping that annoying flash is out of date pop up once and for all). We all knew Microsoft did this so that it would be easier for them to kill Flash support on their OS when the time came.

At this point, Flash sites have become wastelands. Most of the great web pages that used flash to create games and animation have all gone defunct long ago. Thankfully some of the great content I loved from back in the day has been recovered and reuploaded to YouTube. There’s still some things that are lost (including the Star Wars animated fanfilm “Spoiler Wars”) but that could be chocked up more to the loss of the site that hosted it rather than the loss of Flash.

In the end, Flash will likely be remembered as a sweet footnote in the early World Wide Web, but as it kept on long past its shelf date that sweetness turned bitter. Since nearly everything that used it is either already lost or has been archived on superior distribution platforms, I feel it’s better Microsoft closes this severe OS vulnerability rather than keep it open. Goodbye Flash, and Good Riddance.

Marvel’s Avengers Shares a Lot of Similarity to Marvel Day at Sea on Disney Cruise Lines, and That’s Awesome November 23, 2020

Posted by Maniac in Editorials.
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On December 8th, the first expansion character for Marvel’s Avengers, Kate “Hawkeye” Bishop, will be added to the game for free. With her addition, a new expansion is coming to the game which promises to continue the game’s story past the events of the game’s conclusion. More new heroes, including Clint “Hawkeye” Barton and Peter “Spider-Man” Parker, are also coming to the game over the next few months. That’s going to be a lot of waiting, especially if you really liked the game’s story and haven’t had much of a reason to play the game since initially beating it. So why don’t we spend the next few days that would otherwise be spent waiting, to do a little bit more discussion of the game’s story and try to determine what could’ve inspired it?

Since Disney acquired Marvel, everyone’s first desire was to see the roster of Marvel’s superheroes brought into Disney’s parks, particularly Walt Disney World. Unfortunatly, that isn’t possible. Prior to Disney’s purchase of the entire Marvel company, Marvel sold the theme park rights to many of their most popular characters and teams (as well as the use of the “Marvel” name) to Disney’s main theme park competitor, Universal Studios. Universal’s theme park rights for the Eastern US includes all of the characters from the Spider-Man, X-Men, Fantastic 4, and Avengers roster and they are able to use the Marvel name in all promotional material for their parks throughout the entire US. Internationally, Universal licensed the Spider-Man theme park rights for their theme park in Japan. Oddly enough, the rights to Guardians of the Galaxy were not sold to any park, and Disney has the right to use them in any of their parks worldwide.

But don’t be sad, everyone. Universal’s theme park rights to Marvel’s characters do not extend to worldwide use (except for Spider-Man in Japan), and Disney is in the process of putting Marvel characters wherever they legally can. While the highly anticipated Avengers Campus initiative has not finished completion in California’s Disneyland, American tourists who want to see Marvel characters on Disney property would do well to get their sea legs on. That’s right, Disney has a fleet of cruise ships at their disposal and since they sail international waters, Disney can bring Marvel’s entire roster of superheroes and villains to their cruise ships. Let me introduce you to the Marvel Day at Sea.

Author’s Note: Disney’s Cruise Lines are currently grounded due to the recent pandemic. It is unknown when their fleet will resume sailing, or if Marvel Day at Sea will be a part of their activities when they resume.

Marvel’s Day at Sea was a special limited time themed event which brought exclusive Marvel events onto the cruise ships. Disney will occasionally host limited time events like this throughout the year, either at their parks or cruise ships, either to bring in new guests who might be interested in the event, or to bring back former guests interested in a new and different experience from their old one. I’ve never been fortunate enough to go on a Disney Cruise myself (due to cost) but I’ve been following many travel enthusiasts over the past few years who have been lucky enough to go. On a normal ship, a themed event might mean some decorations and maybe a limited-time stage show. On a Disney Cruise, they go all out.

What’s a Marvel Day at Sea like? Well, if what I’ve seen can be believed, it is the ultimate Marvel fan experience. It goes without saying you’ll get the opportunity to have meet and greets with plenty of Marvel’s superheroes in their costumes, but that’s not all you’ll be able to do. For the first few days of the event, there are exclusive in-universe Marvel-themed stage shows (with different shows geared towards different ages), free access to a digital lending library of Marvel’s comics, and the ability to watch movies from the Marvel Cinematic Universe in the ship’s top of the line movie theater. It all culminates in an incredible stunt show on the ship’s main deck on the final night where the Avengers must team up with the Guardians of the Galaxy to stop the legion of Hydra from stealing Tony Stark’s newest invention, the Core Reactor.

If you’re looking for a full video log of the entire multi-day experience, I recomend checking out the videos of YouTube travel vlogger Michael Kay. He and his sister did a fantastic multi-part video of the Marvel Day at Sea experience, and it really is something that has to be seen to be believed.

When I first saw how the story of Marvel’s Avengers kicked off, I immediately thought back to the storyline of the cruise ship’s main show. If you’d like to watch a high quality version of the complete show, known officially as “Heroes United”, here’s a look at it in glorious 4K. You might want to be sitting down while you watch it, as it will make your inner fanboy scream.

Great show, huh? I certainly thought so, and I wasn’t even there to watch it in person. On the other hand, I did play Marvel’s Avengers when it launched back in September, and as I played through its opening hour of gameplay…I started to feel like I was playing something…familiar. In the game’s first hour, you are put into the shoes of a young Kamala Khan, an Avengers fangirl who’s FanFiction won her the chance to witness the maiden voyage of SHIELD’s newest Helicarrier, the Chimera. What’s so special about this new Flying Fortress? It’s powered by Tony Stark’s new power source, the Terrigen reactor. Fans of Marvel’s Inhumans might recognize that item. Here’s a uncut version of my first hour playing the game. Be aware, there’s some quality loss in the last fifteen minutes of the video, but you’ll still be able to make out what is happening in the video.

After playing this opening from Marvel’s Avengers I can’t get over how striking the storyline matches up with Disney Cruise’s stage show. While it is likely their similarity is just a coincidence (Tony Stark releases new stuff that bad guys want to steal all the time, it’s a running trope throughout the Iron Man comics) I can’t think of a better opportunity to feel like I lived the experience from the game than to take a cruise on Marvel’s Day at Sea. Hopefully, after the world begins the post-pandemic healing process, Disney will resume sailing their fleet, and the Marvel Day at Sea will become an option once again. Hopefully by that time, I will be able to set sail with my heroes.

Marvel’s Avengers is out now for PC, Xbox One, Stadia and PS4. It is coming to the PS5 and Xbox Series X/S next year.