The Second Annual Games with Coffee Last-Minute Christmas Shopping Guide! Part 2: Stuff!

Welcome to Part 2 of the Second Annual Games with Coffee Last-Minute Christmas Shopping Guide! It’s only a few more days until the big day, so if you’re stuck on what to get or need some inspiration for gift giving, you’ve come to the right place!

If you haven’t read Part 1, click here to check it out!

Continuing on from my previous list, Part 2 will cover apparel, accessories, trinkets and other recommendations that would be great to give this holiday season, if you haven’t already went and made your purchases! As I mentioned earlier, I won’t be providing links, just ideas on what to get for your favourite person this holiday season.

Warning: Shameless Plug Incoming!

Once you find that perfect gift or gifts, chances are you’ll need to wrap it up and put a neat little gift tag on it, right? Well, instead of some generic, boring tags you can find at the store, why not print out a set of really spiffy, hand-lettered tags made by my awesome wife, Usha from the blog Lettering by Usha!? For a paltry sum, you can get a PDF copy of a set of beautifully designed printable tags that you can print out, cut up and attach to your gift! Tags like these make a gift that much more personable, so when you’re done with this list, click here to get to her Etsy shop and pick up a set today!
End Shameless Plug!

And now, onto the list!


Apparel and Accessories

Alright, let’s face it: sometimes you just wanna wear and show off your favourite gaming series. From casual to professional and everything in between, I’ve got a few gift suggestions for the Mature, Distinguished Gamer.

*Note that several of these items are available for purchase on ThinkGeek, however they’re note sponsoring this post.*

Socks

Dress codes in professional settings can be a tad restrictive, but it doesn’t mean you can’t show off your gamer pride in some ways! And one of the best ways to do that is by wearing an awesome pair of socks, like these ones:

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Eye-catching and comfortable!

Socks are one of those items that you need (unless you live and work on the beach, then no socks for you!), so why not make it fun! These Mega Man socks aren’t the only ones available though; you can find a whole slew based on your favourite series or characters online! For example:

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Metroid: Samus Aran Socks

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(Clockwise from top left) Super Mario, Mario Kart, Metroid, Legend of Zelda, Super Nintendo-motif.

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Halo Casual Crew Socks

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There are even God of War Socks!

The choices available are only as limited as your search terms on Google or Amazon!

T-Shirts

For Casual Fridays, weekends or anytime in between, nothing beats a T-Shirt. Again, there are tons available, but here’s some ideas to choose from:

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Princess Peach T-Shirt

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“Scarface” Legend of Zelda Shirt (I have this one, it’s awesome!)

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Divine Beasts Women’s T-shirt

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Shovel Knight Shirt

 

Sweaters and Hoodies

Still on the hunt for an ugly Christmas sweater? Here’s a few suggestions:

Pokémon Winter Sweater

Pokemon Ugly Sweater

Pokémon Pikachu Holiday Sweater

Pikachu Ugly Sweater

Ugly Christmas Sweater: Nintendo (S)

Legend of Zelda Ugly Sweater

Hoodies are also a great choice to get. Who doesn’t want to feel warm when it’s -30 degrees Celsius outside!

Kingdom Hearts Evil Heart Hoodie (MD)

Kingdom Hearts Heartless Hoodie

Mass Effect N7 Long Vinyl Ladies' Cowl Hoodie

Mass Effect N7 Hoodie

Space Invaders Sleeve Print Hoodie

Space Invaders Hoodie

Wallets & Watches

If you’re eyeing some wallets, here’s some ideas for you!

Yoshi Flap Wallet

Yoshi Flap Wallet

Kingdom Hearts Sora Wallet

Kingdom Hearts Sora Flap Wallet

Kingdom Hearts Fandom Wallet - Exclusive

Kingdom Hearts Fandom Wallet

Atari Black Katakana Wallet

Atari Black Katakana Wallet

Nintendo Mario World Wallet

Super Mario World Wallet

Shadow of the Tomb Raider: Wallet

Shadow of the Tomb Raider Wallet (Also available in a large format)

NES Controller Zip Wallet

Nintendo NES Zip Up Wallet

Watches are also a great gift to give for this holiday season! Here’s a few ideas:

Legend of Zelda Leather Watch - Exclusive

Legend of Zelda Men’s Watch

Pokémon Pokeball Watch

Pokemon Pokeball Watch

8-Bit Hearts Watch

8-Bit Hearts Watch

8-Bit Watch

8-Bit Watch

Fallout RadGlow Watch - Exclusive

Fallout RadGlow Watch (Looks pretty neat!)

Nintendo Mario Watch - Black

Nintendo Classic Mario Watch

Sonic Hedgehog Watch

Sonic the Hedgehog Watch

Toys and Collectibles

Have some young’uns in your life? Or just a collector yourself? Then behold some ideas for you!

Amiibo - Ridley

Look at him, standing there all menacing-like…

Amibo

The collectible that does more than collect dust on the shelf, it can unlock a wealth of content in compatible Nintendo games. For instance, in Smash (referenced in my previous post), using an amiibo unlocks a figure player to use and level up. Young and old, amiibo make the perfect stocking stuffer for your favourite person!*

*Just make sure they own a Switch or any other compatible Nintendo system first…

Nendoroid - Kratos

Kratos as you’ve never seen him before!

Nendoroids

Nendoroids are representations of your favourite gaming, anime and pop culture characters chibi-fied. These cute collectibles are highly poseable and come with a wealth of accessories so that you can recreate your favourite scenes! An excellent, albeit pricey, present to give!

Hasbro, makers of board games aplenty, seems to have a pretty good relationship with gaming IP’s of all kinds. Hence why you see icons like Mario slapped on Monopoly all the time. I haven’t had a real opportunity to play any new board games, so I can’t put forth any recommendations on that front.

Books

However, I can recommend a couple of books! For instance:

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Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology is a great companion to anyone playing God of War. It provides backstory to the many characters you see in the game and provides some context to some of the tales you hear from Mimir. I highly recommend paring this book with the game.

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The Little Red Writing Book is a great gift for the writer (or blogger!) to give this season. It’s got a Well Red Recommendation from the Well Red Mage himself. (I’m totally coining that one Red!). This book helped me a lot in terms of my writing, both here and on my fictional works, so it’s on my recommended list.

And now for a couple books that may seem out of place on a list like these, but here me out:

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If anyone you know is looking to make some changes for the new year, I recommend these two books. The Code of the Samurai and How to Live Like a Gentleman are books that have helped me become a Mature, Distinguished Gamer over the years and I find myself re-reading these on occasion.

And last but certainly not least:

Coffee Mugs

Of course on this list we can’t forget about coffee mugs! Here’s a few to look for:

Zelda Heat Changing Mug

Legend of Zelda Heat Changing Mug

Super Mario Turtle Mug

Super Mario Red Shell Mug

Spyro the Dragon 3D Sculpted Mug

Spyro 3-D Mug

PAC-MAN 20 oz. Sculpted Ceramic Mug

PAC-MAN Mug

Super Mario Group Photo Mug

Super Mario Group Picture Mug

Crash Bandicoot: Crash Mug

Crash Bandicoot Mug

Come To The Dorkside Mug

Come To The Dorkside Mug

Game Boy 16oz Heat Change Molded Mug

Game Boy Heat Changing Mug


And there you have it! All the ideas you’ll need over the next day and a half to get you shopping done! But don’t think these are only good for Christmas; you can pick up these items any time during they year as a gift for any occasion!

So, good luck on your shopping everyone! This is Ryan from Games with Coffee reminding you to stay safe during that mad rush, enjoy the holidays and the food and gifts they offer and reminding you to Keep Gaming and Keep Brewing!

See you at the end of the year!

The Second Annual Games with Coffee Last-Minute Christmas Shopping Guide! Part 1: Games!

Hey everyone! Welcome to another edition of Games with Coffee!

With Christmas just around the corner, I’m once again creating a list of last minute gift ideas that will be sure to please the cherished gamer in your life!*

*Results may vary.

Unlike last year’s list, I’ll be splitting this entry into two lists. The first will be solely about games and the other will be for gaming and pop culture merch (apparel, toys, collectibles, etc. ). Also, I won’t be supplying any links: I’m just here to supply the ideas to either jump start or help complete your Christmas shopping! The items I list here and in the next entry should be relatively easy to find/procure (Google and Amazon will be your best friends during this harrowing time…)

Warning: Shameless Plug Incoming!

Once you find that perfect gift or gifts, chances are you’ll need to wrap it up and put a neat little gift tag on it, right? Well, instead of some generic, boring tags you can find at the store, why not print out a set of really spiffy, hand-lettered tags made by my awesome wife, Usha from the blog Lettering by Usha!? For a paltry sum, you can get a PDF copy of a set of beautifully designed printable tags that you can print out, cut up and attach to your gift! Tags like these make a gift that much more personable, so when you’re done with this list, click here to get to her Etsy shop and pick up a set today!

End Shameless Plug!

Now, onto the list!


Nintendo [Switch]

Games-wise, the Big N’s second year post-Switch hasn’t been as exciting as the first year’s, but nevertheless, the Switch has a solid lineup of games. Surely, you’ll find the perfect one for that special someone in your life, but how’s about I provide a few suggestions?

Two of 2017’s best games are still perfect gifts to give to someone looking for a deep and riveting adventure to immerse themselves into! Super Mario Odyssey presents a fun, light story about Mario and his top-hat looking buddy, Cappy, as they journey through each kingdom to stop Bowser from marrying Princess Peach and rescue both her and Cappy’s sister, Tiara. Odyssey shows off the best that Mario platforming has to offer, borrowing heavily from games such as Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Galaxy. 

Breath of the Wild on the other hand, is one of the best Legend of Zelda games released in a long time. You can hear myself and my good friend, The Mail Order Ninja Mage (Daniel Flatt) talk highly of the game on The Well Red Mage’s podcast, Mage Cast. I’ll let you listen to that to tell you just how good of a game it is.

Splatoon 2 is also a great choice for the consummate FPS gamer owning a Switch. It operates differently than traditional shooter in that the focus is on inking turf for your team as opposed to blasting everything that moves. There are all kinds of modes to play and practically all of them focus on teamwork.

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Super Mario Party is also a great game to get this holiday season for family get-togethers. Like Smash, it’s the best version of its series released in recent years as it goes back to its roots and shows just how great Mario Party is. A definite holiday classic!

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If you’re aching for a JRPG with a classic, Final Fantasy feel, look no further to Octopath Traveler! I adored this game so much; eight separate stories focusing on a character’s particular struggle, fantastic battle and job systems and a beautiful graphical style that I hope is used more often in RPG’s of this caliber. Honestly, this should have won awards for Best RPG, but I digress.

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Seriously though, let’s get to the biggest game being released this holiday season: Super Smash Bros. UltimateUltimate is THE game to get this holiday season for anyone who owns a Switch. Don’t take my word for it, just talk to everyone about the hype this game has generated. Also talk to me about it because this game is off the CHAIN! The venerable multiplayer fighting series where fighters knock their opponents off-screen to win is the biggest iteration ever released, with over 70 characters, 100 stages, tons of game modes and endless hours of entertainment. Definitely, definitely recommended to get for Christmas!

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If online Smashing or Turf Inking is high on your special person’s priorities, consider picking up the Nintendo Switch Online subscription. Not only is it required to play online, but a subscription comes with access to a ton of old school NES games! Win-win.

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Sony [PlayStation 4/ Vita]

PlayStation 4 has had a banner year this 2018 with its list of exclusives. My biggest pick to get for the holiday season would be God of War, recent winner of Game of the Year at The Game Awards. God of War continues the story of the Kratos, former Greek God of War, who lives in the harsh, cold wilderness of Midgard, one of the Nine Realms in Norse Mythology. He had cast aside his old life and settled down with a wife and son up until his wife’s death. Her final wish was for Kratos and his son, Atreus, to climb to the highest peak in all the Nine Realms and scatter her ashes. And while that is the main objective of the story, the majority of the game tells the story of the bonds between father and son and the trials and tribulations they both endure throughout their journey.

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Another must-get exclusive on the list is Marvel’s Spider Man. Easily one of the best Spider Man games in a long time, Spider-Man continues Peter Parker’s story as the web-slinging superhero. It’s a game that’s on my radar to get for Christmas (*wink wink!*). From what I heard, the web-slinging mechanics are as good or better than the ones in Spider-Man 2 [PS2] (which I played a ton of!). Grab it and check it off your Christmas List!

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Want some more suggestions? Pick up Guacamelee! and Guacamelee! 2; Both are excellent games to play!

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Ni No Kuni 2 is a great choice as well for the RPG fan!

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Yakuza 6 is great for those who are fans of Action-RPG’s and badass ex-Yakuza bosses.

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Detroit: Become Human is an excellent choice for those who love narrative-based gameplay.

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The remastered Shadow of the Colossus is a masterpiece that can’t be missed.

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And last year’s fantastic exclusives, like Horizon: Zero Dawn, are also excellent gift ideas to give as well.

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There’s a fairly good chance that the majority of these aforementioned titles will be available for free on PS Plus, so why not get them a yearly subscription for them?! PlayStation Plus grants members access to multiplayer games, allows for free pick up of select games monthly and let’s players in on exclusive sale prices for games. A great gift idea IMO!

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Microsoft [Xbox One]

Xbox fans! Don’t think I left out you out of the loop! I don’t own one, but I know of many people who own the Microsoft system who have suggested some solid games to gift, like Sea of Thieves

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Forza Horizon 4

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Sunset Overdrive

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Gears of War 4

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Halo 5: Guardians

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and Rare Replay (My biggest recommendation due to all the great Rare games available on the compilation!).

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Another recommendation put forth to me is a game called RecoreIf your gamer is a big fan of old school gaming, this would be a good choice to get as well.

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And finally, the best gift that should be in every Xbox One gamer’s stocking is the XBox GamePass. AKA the “Netflix of Video Games,” GamePass grants Xbox One gamers access to a huge catalog of games all for a monthly subscription fee.

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With exclusives done with, onward now to third party/cross-platform games!


Third Party/Cross-Platform

Beyond the above exclusives, there are a ton of of other games to pick up, from third party games developed by well-known studios to indies that have made quite the impact.

Moonlighter is one of those indies that I want to pick up and was recommended to me by The Well Red Mage.

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CelesteI’ve recently played and I absolutely adored it! The game easily deserves the nods it gained for The Game Awards, especially the big win it earned for Best Independent Game.

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I recently started playing Undertale and it operates more as a thought experiment with RPG mechanics; it’s quite interesting, despite it being the older one in this list.

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Dead Cells is also high on the recommended list, as are other Metroidvania’s like Axiom Verge and a game I’m recently playing (for free this month on PS Plus): Iconoclasts.

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Once again, I’m recommending Stardew Valley to pick up;  a relaxing farming simulator that’s incredibly engaging. A multiplayer patch is about to drop on the Switch any minute, so it makes it worthwhile to pick up!

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Along with that is Shovel Knight; an excellent platformer whose title character is an Assist Trophy in Smash.

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SNK released a 40th Anniversary Collection of games, which includes titles like King of FightersMetal Slug and Crystalis.

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Capcom also joined in on the action, releasing the Mega Man X Legacy Collection 1 and 2, consisting of the first eight Mega Man X games.

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Activision published the Spyro: Reignited trilogy; the first three Spyro games remade from the ground up in glorious HD.

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Even Sega got in on the retro re-release train, bringing out (yet another) collection series called Sega Ages – older titles given new life thanks to new modes and online leaderboards. The Hopeful Sega Mage and I had a lengthy discussion about this new collection that you can check out here.

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Dragon Ball FighterZ is one of the best Dragon Ball Z fighters since Budokai! I definitely need that one in my life, and it’s one I recommend as a gift!

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If assassinations and exploring Ancient Greece are your thing, go check out Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey! Highly recommended to me to play, so I’ll recommend it to you as well!

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SoulCaliber VI seems to be a return to form for the series (I haven’t played it yet – gave up after IV which I loved…), so that might be a good gift to get?

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Starlink: Battle for Atlas is one of the best spacefaring shooters I’ve played in recent memory. A combination of Star Fox, Skylanders and No Man’s SkyStarlink allows players to explore a bunch of different, visually stunning planets and liberate them from the Legion, all while giving the ability to hot-swap virtually every component on their ship with different pilots, ships, wings and weapons depending on the situation. Unlike most other Toys-to-Life games, Starlink allows players to purchase and download new weapons, ships and pilots without the use of the toys themselves. Arguably, the best part of this game is the additional Star Fox content for the Switch! With the Switch version, you get the Arwing, Fox McCloud as a pilot and a set of weapons, with an additional pilot and ship available digitally. On top of that, Team Star Fox has its own story mission that runs parallel with The Starlink Initiative; find Wolf O’Donnell, who’s fled Lylat after Andross’ defeat. It’s a great addition to the Starlink story!

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And finally, I cannot forget about Rockstar’s Red Dead Redemption 2. If there was a game that was as highly anticipated as God of Warthis would be it. Set in the backdrop of the eve of the American West era, it weaves together an incredible story revolving around one last heist. Or so I’m told (I haven’t played it).

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And that’s Part 1 of the list! For more gift ideas, Part 2 is right behind this one, so go and check it out here!

With that, this is Ryan from Games with Coffee, hoping that your quest to get the perfect Christmas gift is successful and always reminding you Keep Gaming and Keep Brewing!

Espresso Shot Review – Tomb Raider: Anniversary Edition

Hello and welcome to another edition of Games with Coffee!

As part of the Writer’s Raid collaborative effort started by the one and only NekoJonez to celebrate the Tomb Raider franchise, here is the second of my major contributions! Check out the hub here and be sure to check out the works from my other fellow bloggers on this amazing franchise!

Now, I’ve written about the first game and the impact that Lara Croft had on the gaming industry and on society as a whole and you can read up on it in the hub or check it out here. Today, I’ll fast forward ten years after the release of Lara Croft: Tomb Raider to talk about Tomb Raider: Anniversary Edition. I was quite intrigued about the game on its release, but as I was a broke university student at the time of its release, I was not able to get it. Luckily the game is now available on Steam at a reasonable price, so I made the decision to pick it up for myself.

I played the original Tomb Raider to death and while the game itself is incredibly dated and had plenty of frustrating moments, I enjoyed it still. So I was curious if the remake was either just the original game with a fresh coat of paint, or a completely new experience that uses the original game as a base and builds up from it? I’ll tell you in today’s Espresso Shot Review!

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Background

After the success of Tomb Raider: Legend, developed by Crystal Dynamics and published by Eidos, Core Design (the developers of the first six Tomb Raider games) proposed to develop a remake that would commemorate the tenth anniversary of the series. With Eidos’ permission, Core started work on the remake in 2005 and planned for it to be released in late 2006. The idea was to rearrange puzzles and the layout of levels to make it simpler for new players but retain the story and the overall flow of the game for fans. Lara too would have been updated to look closely to her appearance in Legend.

Midway into development, Core Designs was bought out by a developer named Rebellion Developments, known for the Sniper Elite and Alien vs. Predator series. The remake was subsequently cancelled after the sale, with the general assumption that Core didn’t want the game to be developed by third-party studios like Rebellion. Prior to and after the cancellation, some footage of the game was leaked, garnering attention from fans and creating the demand necessary for the remake to happen.

Eidos then requested Crystal Dynamics and Buzz Monkey Studios (who created the Legend port) to create the remake planned for release on June 1, 2007. Tomb Raider: Anniversary was first released for the PlayStation 2, PSP and PC. A Wii version was released afterwards which uses motion controls to solve puzzles or interact with the environment. Later, the game was ported to PS3 and Xbox 360, with the PS3 version released as part of the “Tomb Raider Trilogy” series, which included Legend and its sequel, Underworld. A Mac OSX port was also released a year after the game’s launch on console and PC. While the game was received well by critics, it only sold 1.3 million copies worldwide, making it the worst-selling game of the series. In the United Kingdom however, both the PS2 and the PC versions topped the charts on its release. Despite the low sales numbers, the game helped pave the way for more Tomb Raider games to be developed, culminating to the second reboot of the series titled Tomb Raider.

Story

The team brought on Core Design’s Toby Gard to work as the story designer. Crystal Dynamics stated that the story in the original game was sparse and one-dimensional but also desired for the story to fit in the new rebooted universe, so one of the main goals of the remake was to flesh out the story and tie it to Legend – that is Lara’s search for knowledge that her father sought, which eventually leads her to search for her mother. Gard also expanded upon the lore of the game and on Lara’s character, describing her as a woman with an unstoppable madness contained within a proper British lady. They also revamped several characters, with Larson undergoing the most change. His death late in the game in the Atlantis levels (written in as Lara’s first human kill) was written in a way to show players how far and what moral boundaries Lara would cross in order to achieve her goals – tying into the unstoppable madness I mentioned earlier.

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The story stays the same for the most part: Lara is approached by a man named Larson, who is under the employ of a rich industrialist named Jacqueline Natla. After introducing herself, Natla proposes a challenge for Croft – retrieving the three pieces of the Scion of Atlantis.

Initially, Lara is dismissive, but becomes intrigued when Natla dangles the fact that her father also sought after the artefact for the knowledge it possessed. This is where the story differs from the original, since in the first game, Lara was convinced to take the job based on the challenge and thrill it possessed. The rest of the story progresses in the same fashion, but with the original characters being more developed. Pierre, for example, is shown as a rival raider to Croft. He was more sarcastic and conniving than he let on in the original game, which made for an interesting character. His untimely death with the Centaurs at the end of the Greece levels was also different from the original, since Lara kills him off after a gunfight in the first game.

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Overall, I liked these small story enhancements. They added plenty of depth and purpose that was sorely missed from the first game and it allowed Lara’s gritty and sardonic nature to shine forth.

Gameplay

Tomb Raider: Anniversary uses a mouse and keyboard set up and has controller support. I played the game using an 8Bitdo NES30 Pro controller, which is what I’ll be referring to throughout the writeup. Compared to the clunky tank controls in the original game, I found that Lara controlled more smoothly and naturally with this control scheme and I enjoyed how fluid and natural her movements were. One major difference between the original and Anniversary was how Lara traversed across outcroppings and cliffs. In the original, you could grab ledges and such and shimmy left or right, but you couldn’t leap to or back towards other ledges, unlike in the Anniversary edition. What I also liked was how most of the puzzles were revamped to make them more intuitive and easy to navigate. The first game’s puzzles had a lot of trial and error associated to them with a focus on item collection and switch pulling, but they are not as prevalent in the Anniversary edition and I welcomed that change.

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Along with updated climbing mechanics, Lara also retains the grapple rope introduced in Legend. Grappling and swinging to platforms was a very satisfying feeling for me and I wished this was introduced in the original game, since it would make things much more exciting. The wall running mechanics with the grapple could use a bit of work, like a visual cue to let players know they can jump backwards from the wall once they reached the apex of their run, but it’s not enough to write it off.

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Combat also received a massive overhaul. When faced off against enemies, Lara can either quick draw (best for small creatures, like rats and bats) or lock on (for all other enemies). When locked on, Lara will always face the direction of her target. After shooting an enemy for a period of time, it will get angry and start to charge at Lara; dodging at the perfect moment slows down time and causes two reticles to overlap. Shooting once they overlap and turn red instantly kills the enemy. This mechanic is called the adrenaline dodge and it makes combat very exciting. I only wish there was a better visual cue to initiate the dodge, but I suppose with enough practice I wouldn’t need it.

Another thing that was added to the game was the use of Quick Time Events (QTE), famously used in the God of War series. QTE’s are the game mechanic that you either loved or hated; in my case, I was indifferent to it. Had I played this when it first came out though, I would have said that I liked its inclusion.

What I really liked about the new combat system compared to the old one is that switching weapons is a breeze; no need to go into the inventory and select a weapon like in the old version. Anniversary allows Lara to quick-switch her weapons mid-combat by tapping left or right on the D-pad. This mechanism extends to healing as well; tapping up uses Large medi-packs, while tapping down uses the Small medi-packs. It’s a major improvement from the inventory navigation from the old game.

Tomb Raider: Anniversary pushes the player to prioritize item and ammunition management In the original Tomb Raider, Lara could collect as much ammunition as she could want without worry. In comparison, Anniversary limits how much ammo that Lara can carry, with the exception of her default pistols. This brings an element of strategy into combat; do you spend your ammo to get through an area quicker or save your ammo for when you’re surrounded? It also helps that there are plenty of ammo pickups tucked around in nooks and crannies in each level.

While I enjoyed the remade levels, my personal favourite was Lara’s House. In the original, her house was touted as a tutorial level designed to introduce gamers to Lara and her actions. The Anniversary edition overhauls the home to be a test of how well a player can manipulate puzzles. There are no enemies but there are eight artifacts for players to find. Finding them requires a sharp eye, a bit of reading and some thinking about how the puzzle mechanics operate. Plus, the music is relaxing to listen to (more on that below).

Artifacts and relics are hidden throughout levels and can be used to unlock extras in the main menu, like additional outfits, commentary and such. There is even a time trial mode. Beating time trials for all levels unlocks cheats that can be used in the main game, such as having all weapons, or having infinite ammo.

The only gripe I had was the camera controls, which were finicky at certain points, but I found that they didn’t affect my experience too much.

Visuals

One of the stated goals of the remake was to recreate iconic locations from the original game on a grander and more detailed scale while designing levels under modern gaming conventions. Large parts of the games original levels were cut out, including hallways, complicated and nonsensical puzzles and traps, to give players a clear sense of where to go. It was a smart move on their part as I found the levels in Anniversary easier to navigate than those of the original game. Some of the cuts were jarring; in particular I speak of the combination of the Cistern and the Tomb of Tihocan in the Greece levels, but I welcomed the change as in the original, the Greece levels dragged on for a while. Condensing two levels into one helped with the overall flow of the game. Overall, the levels look like they popped out of a movie set – in that they look alive and lived in compared to the dull aesthetic presented in the original game.

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When Tomb Raider: Legend was released, one of the criticisms was that the levels were too linear, so Crystal Dynamics addressed that by emphasizing multiple pathways and exploration in Anniversary, all while remaking the levels. Doing so allowed them to recapture the feeling and exhilaration of exploration from the original game.

Graphics-wise, Lara looks well detailed and her animations are fluid, in comparison to her first outing. A neat extra feature in the game allows for Lara to change into iconic costumes, from her Legend look, to her training look from tutorial level in the original.

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The enemies Lara faces are a lot more imposing and dangerous looking than in the original. I remember the bears, lions and gorillas being much smaller and less intimidating than the remade versions. The audio cues that go along with some of the encounters only heighten the danger associated with these creatures. I have to say that two of my favourite encounters has to be the T-Rex in Peru’s Lost Valley and the Centaurs at the Tomb of Tihocan – both being boss fights. They were both visually impressive to look at.

 

Audio

Audio-wise, the music was orchestrally scored, similar to the first game. Much of the original game’s soundtrack was remade, with a few additional tracks created to suit each area, all while sticking to to the symphonic style of the original game. Also similarly to the original, the audio relied mainly on environmental ambiance, with musical cues indicating dangerous or interesting/awe-inspiring locations.

My favourite track has to be the one played in Lara’s House. It’s a play off of the original Tomb Raider theme and it gives me the feeling that I’m solving a mystery within the house.

Replayability

There is a multitude of things to do in Tomb Raider: Anniversary after the main game is completed. You can return to levels to pick up missing artifacts and relics, undergo the time trials for each level and access the commentary, in which the developers talk about designing the game the levels and the ways they differentiated the remake from the original source.

The Last Drop

I really enjoyed this remake – it captured the spirit of the original game while removing its more frustrating and tedious parts. The game, in my opinion, was more than a fresh coat of paint, it was a transformation that helped to reinvigorate the series. However, the game is definitely not perfect; there are a few spots like the grapple sections that could’ve used some work, along with the camera. But overall, as a fan of the series, I have to say that Crystal Dynamics did a wonderful job remaking the original game. It added more depth to the story and fleshed out Lara’s character, which I appreciated.

4/5

4 out of 5

Tomb Raider – The Legacy of Lara Croft

Good day and welcome to another edition of Games with Coffee! As a part of my friend NekoJonez’s “Writer’s Raid” collaboration, today I’ll be talking about the first game of the Tomb Raider series titled Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. We’ll cover the history of the game, my experiences with it and I’ll be delving deeper into the enduring legacy of Lara Croft herself, one of gaming’s most iconic characters.

Background

Lara Croft: Tomb Raider’s development started back in 1993 by the now defunct Core Design, a British-based developer consisting of six people. The director, Toby Gard, was the individual credited for Lara’s creation; he initially started with a male character but then added in a female character to give players a choice on who to play as. Realizing that the second character would double the work required for cutscenes, Gard cut the male character and instead developed the female further, intending to counter the stereotypes surrounding female video game characters. He notes that Lara was inspired by Swedish songwriter/rapper Neneh Cherry and the comic book heroine, Tank Girl. He also cited Virtua Fighter as an influence, saying:

“It became clear to me watching people play Virtua Fighter, which was kind of the first big 3D-character console game, that even though there were only two female characters in the lineup, in almost every game I saw being played, someone was picking one of the two females.” – Toby Gard

Originally, Lara was to have a cold and militaristic personality and hail from South America under the name “Laura Cruz.” Gard and his team decided instead that she should be British and for her personality to be a combination of Indiana Jones and a proper, English lady. This expanded Lara’s character and showed players that she was more than some grave robbing adventurer with a knack for murdering vicious creatures using dual-wielded pistols. We’ll go into this a bit later.

As for her first adventure, bringing Tomb Raider to life was not an easy task. Programmer Gavin Rummery explained that the game was only possible by building it on a grid-like system. It’s the reason why squares, rectangles, slopes and planes are so integral to the gameplay, in terms of lining up for jumps, finding pathways through levels and even discovering secrets, among others.

Musically, the game was scored like a film, playing at certain times for dramatic emphasis, like finding secrets or during action sequences. For the most part, the only audio that was played throughout the game were atmospheric in nature, such as footsteps, Lara’s grunts the growls of animals, rushing waterfalls and the like. It made Lara’s journey far more isolating and increased tension within the player, forcing them to listen closely to see what may or may not be ahead.

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Tomb Raider was released for both the Sega Saturn and the Sony Playstation. Despite the game being developed for both systems, it was first released for the Saturn as a timed exclusive as part of a deal between Sega and Core. Timed exclusivity meant that the game would only be released exclusively on one console and would be released on other consoles after the exclusivity period expires. After its release, Core Design discovered that the Saturn version was riddled with bugs that would also affect the Playstation version. Since the game was a timed exclusive, the team was able to fix the bugs for the Playstation version. While three sequels were released for the Playstation, no subsequent titles were released for the Saturn.

Tomb Raider was critically acclaimed on its release in 1996. The cinematic approach with its gameplay and music combined with state-of-the-art graphics was a sight not seen in gaming until its release. Major publications, like GameSpot and EGM praised the title, with GameSpot calling it a potential Super Mario 64 killer, referencing the iconic Nintendo game released in the same year. Finally, Lara Croft, the Tomb Raider herself, cemented herself as one of gaming’s greatest icons, her appeal as a character and as a strong, independent woman captivating gamers and non-gamers alike.

The Legacy of the Tomb Raider

Lara Croft was considered a revolutionary when her first adventure was released. Her introduction changed the conversation about women in video games, in that their games can tell a story similar to or even surpassing that of their male counterparts at a time when female protagonists were scarce. Just like what Chun-Li in the Street Fighter series did for female representation in fighting games, Lara too was instrumental in ushering in a new age of games starring charismatic and strong female protagonists.

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Lara is a statuesque and athletic individual with brown eyes and auburn hair traditionally tied in a plait or a ponytail. Her standard outfit consists of a turquoise tank top, brown shorts, calf-high hiking boots, fingerless gloves, a backpack to hold various items and holsters for her arsenal of weapons, such as her iconic dual pistols. She is highly intelligent, having excelled in various scholarly pursuits and is fluent in several languages; useful for navigating the locales of where her next raid is going to take place. Unlike the stereotypical female characters gamers we were used to seeing before, Lara was not a woman to be trifled with, thanks to her no-nonsense attitude and her dry wit and it really showed itself in her first game.

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Throughout the campaign, Lara had to face insurmountable hurdles in recovering the fabled Scion of Atlantis. Examples include deadly traps that activate if Lara makes a wrong move, tricky puzzles that required logic, speed and a little luck to solve and a plethora of nasty beasts out to kill her, either for food or for sport. However, she faced them all, head-on and, most importantly, on her own. Lara required no help from anyone – male of female – to overcome the challenges in front of her. I believe that her strength, her determination and her perseverance in overcoming anything and anyone that stands in her way garnered her claim to fame more than her looks.

Culturally, Lara forged a path for more female leads in video games. Without her, we would never have had the opportunity to experience the stories of other strong and inspiring women, like Aloy in Horizon: Zero Dawn, Lightning in Final Fantasy XIII, Yuna in Final Fantasy X, Faith Connors in Mirror’s Edge and 2B in NiER Automata. Even video game heroines from established series, like Samus Aran from the Metroid series for instance, had their characters further fleshed out. Lara’s influence extended beyond gaming and into mainstream media: she currently has three live-action movies under her belt, has been featured on several hundred magazine covers, been involved in various print and television advertisements and has been a spokesperson for various causes. Furthermore, she has several Guinness World Records to her name, including most recognized female video game character and most official real world stand ins.  

Furthermore, even though the game was developed with a male audience in mind, Lara ended up garnering a serious female audience. Authors from several publications stated that the character appealed to women and drew them more into gaming simply because they see in Lara an emancipated heroine that they could emulate.

However, with accolades also comes controversy and Lara’s introduction to the gaming industry sparked quite a bit of it over the years.

Controversy

Much of the controversy surrounding Lara centers around her looks. Lara is an attractive, tall and buxom woman and has been described as a sex symbol because of those traits, despite Toby Gard originally intending for her to be “sexy only because of her power.” Critics have argued that Lara reinforced unrealistic ideas about the female body and that she was developed as the embodiment of male fantasies. That latter point fueled rumors in print magazines and the internet about a potential code to remove her clothing; it was revealed that there never was one in the first place. There was, however, an unofficial patch that could be used on the PC version known as “Nude Raider” that was used to remove Lara’s clothes. Eidos eventually shut down the website hosting the patch, but the damage was done nevertheless and it remains as an infamous footnote in her history. Further criticisms include that the character was developed in a way to make male gamers feel like “chivalrous protectors” who were trying to protect Lara from harm and that her character’s appearance does nothing to detract men from the notion that women are sex objects.

The Last Drop

I’ve first started playing Tomb Raider in 1998, right around the time that puberty hit. I’ll admit, I had a huge crush on her when I first played the game; she was extremely attractive, not just in looks but in attitude as well. However, I’m sad to say that at that young of an age I felt that I gravitated more to her looks than to her character, which was in line with the criticisms noted above. As I grew older and more mature, I revisited the character and found that I resonated more with her spirit, her determination and the fact that she could do such impressive feats of physical and mental strength. She was really like the female version of Indiana Jones (a character that I rather enjoyed) and I found myself wanting to learn more about her, beyond the original versions (which I found to be a bit one-dimensional). To that end, I’ve picked up Tomb Raider Anniversary – a remake of the original taking place in the rebooted world of Tomb Raider: Legend and the recently rebooted (again) Tomb Raider (2013), an origin story featuring a more realistic depiction of Lara. I’ve played through the majority of the Anniversary edition and I’ve yet to play the Square-Enix reboot, but I’m looking forward to it.

I do want to argue that, despite the various criticisms surrounding her, Lara represents a step in the right direction towards more female representation in video games. As a guy myself, I personally want to see more stories of women in gaming, as their stories are just as important (and in some cases, more important) than the stories of overly-masculine, broody and square-jawed males (think Joel, Nathan Drake, Cole MacGrath, etc.) that have been the focus for the last decade or so. I, for one, feel like the future of women in gaming is a bright one, all thanks to Tomb Raider and one Lara Croft.

Hope you enjoyed this introspective into Lara Croft: Tomb Raider! If you want to delve further into the Writer’s Raid, I suggest you check out the hub at NekoJonez’s blog for the full list of other posts written by other amazingly talented bloggers!

With that, this is Ryan from Games with Coffee, reminding you to Keep Gaming and Keep Brewing!

Adventure Map | The Games That Define Us

Ladies and Gentlemen, this is Ryan from Games with Coffee, welcoming you to The Games That Define Us!

Brought to you by Matt from Normal Happenings and starting from today, November 1st until December 4th, this ambitious collaboration brings together over thirty amazingly talented bloggers from all different walks of life to talk about the games that have made a massive impact on their lives and that were instrumental in making them who they are today. Yours truly is a part of this awesome effort and my contribution will be up on the 12th of November. I’m personally proud and stoked to be a part of this project and to be among such phenomenal, talented writers. So, thanks goes to Matt for letting me jump on this collab!

Go bookmark the Adventure Map in the link below – your personal roadmap to all the awesome content – and check back every morning, where a new writer will share their experiences with their chosen game. Day 1 features the amazing Iiago from Mr. Backlog and the game, The Bard’s Tale. Each post will also have a carefully curated playlist that I highly recommend listening to while reading.

What are you waiting for!? Grab a mug, brew your favourite blend, sit back and enjoy The Games That Define Us!

via Adventure Map | The Games That Define Us

A Quest to Catch ‘Em All – Pokemon

Good morning and welcome to another edition of Games with Coffee! May your brew be strong and super effective against lethargy!

October is nearly over and I have to shake my head in disbelief at how fast time is flying this year. Between being involved in many collaborations with my fellow bloggers, joining the team at The Well Red Mage as The Hyperactive Coffee Mage and helping to raise a little baby boy, I’ve failed to notice the temps getting cooler, the nights getting longer and the winds of change blowing, all of which has left me feeling both nostalgic and a little melancholic. These feelings only evoke themselves in the fall, as it reminds me that school has begun. And that Winter is Coming.

School… well it wasn’t fun for me, but one crazy phenomena that made it much, much better was the very subject that I’ll be sharing about today – Pokemon. Yes, the very same thing that started out as a fad, blew up into a phenomenon and has now become something of a cultural staple around the world. People can come from different countries and speak different dialects, but I can guarantee at least seven times out of ten that when you mention Pikachu or any other popular Pokemon in passing (Alliteration!), they’ll understand exactly what you’re talking about.

So, let’s rewind back 20 years ago, back in ‘98 when the series was starting to pick up and become more popular.


In 1998, I was about to enter middle school. I was leaving behind the old, dilapidated elementary school where I spent grades one through five in and entering a brand spanking new school, complete with new faces and hopefully new friends. At that time, I was hopped up on meds like Ritalin and going to therapies and such, so… long story short, I didn’t really make any friends and middle school ended up being the least enjoyable years of my life. But just before the school year started, I saw a commercial on an American channel (Kids WB if anyone remembers Saturday morning cartoons!) showcasing this new series called “Pokemon.” Now, the only other anime series I’ve watched before that was Dragon Ball Z, and that came on sporadically (until mid-1999 when anime became much more mainstream), so when I saw this show and the cute little yellow mousey thing that was Pikachu, I knew that I had to watch it. Unfortunately, I had to sleep over by my aunt’s house that weekend (which was the weekend before school started) and she didn’t have the channel that it was airing on. So I missed the first episode and the subsequent Ho-Oh reveal, and it was all everyone talked about during that first week of school. Well, everyone except me of course.

It was during that first month of school that I found out that there was a game associated with the anime! Pokemon Red and Blue were released at the end of September in North America and that, combined with the anime, was when the Poke-craze truly began. I was again continually out of the loop as I was the only person who didn’t have a Game Boy at the time… but it didn’t stop people from talking about it. I recall there were two kids on my bus ride to school who (I think) were pretty nice to me. They had a binder filled to the brim with everything Pokemon related, including a chart listing the strengths and weaknesses of each Pokemon type and each morning, I’d sit with them, go over the binder and they would quiz me on Pokemon types. So they would ask me, for example, “What type of move is super effective against Bug type Pokemon?” or “List the weaknesses of Dragon type Pokemon,” things like that. At that time, I wasn’t sure if they were genuinely being nice to me or trying to make me look bad so they could be smug about it (I wouldn’t know, I was extremely paranoid about others thanks to my meds…) but that was only the first of many times I would have been quizzed about the series’ nuances.

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Eventually, I got a Game Boy of my own that Christmas with The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening packaged with it (another game for another time…), but it would be my little brother, Shane, who got Pokemon Blue and started playing it. He was the bigger Poke-nerd between the two of us, but I still got my fair share of Pokemon action after he let me start a new game. I remember starting out with Charmander (because Charizard, duh!) and having a hard time because of the first two gyms (Fire isn’t great against Rock types and are weak against Water types), so I learned off the bat that this game didn’t play around. Once I figured out how to take on those two, the remaining gyms were not so bad.

I eventually fell into a comfortable routine: watch the anime on the weekends and play the game when I got a chance to. Thanks to the Internet and word of mouth, I learned of the Missingno Glitch, which Shane and I exploited for infinite Master Balls, Nuggets and Rare Candies. We also did some hardcore cheating through the use of a GameShark – a device that modifies the code within the game . Using it, we filled up the game’s Pokedex just to see what would happen, which turned out to be nothing substantial.

After ’98 and onwards, the Poke-craze only grew stronger and stronger. My brother, my best friend/cribmate/brother from another mother Anthony (Anto) and I got swallowed up by new versions of the game, toys, board games, comic books, movies and trading cards and it was a pretty good time.

Speaking of trading cards, any of you guys remember Pokemon Cards? Like everything Pokemon related, they were all the rage back then. I remember my deck being a hodge-podge of cards made up of people’s leftovers and some of the movie-specific special edition cards. I remember having multiples of the Entei movie card, though it wasn’t really that great compared to other Legendaries. Now I’m thinking whether my collection of cards has any value… Hey, a guy’s gotta get coin to get games, right? What better way to do that then to sell off some (potentially valuable) Pokemon cards?

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The aforementioned Entei card in question.

I think it Christmas time when I was in the seventh grade (which I absolutely loathed) that my brother and I got these Pokemon beanie-plushies. My brother got a huge boxload of Pokemon beanies, including the ones that were offered as a promotion by KFC, while I got a Pikachu beanie-plushie. That plushie has been with me from that time all the way up to when I got married and I still have it to this day, stored in a memory box with a plushie Sonic and a plushie Veemon. Those three are my cherished treasures.

On that same Christmas, we got the old-school Pokedex. You know, the one that looks exactly like Ash’s from the Indigo League seasons in the anime? It was an awesome device in that you could look up a Pokemon either by its name or its number in the registry and it would pop up the same information you would see in the game, like height, weight, type and even a set of moves common to the Pokemon. What Anto, Shane and I decided to do with this gadget was to quiz each other about Pokemon and use the Pokedex to fact check. It was a silly, albeit fun game and one that I was absolutely dreadful at.

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Ahh… Good times.

I’m not going to go into specifics, but I was terrible at memorization. I still am forgetful from time to time in the present day, but as a kid, my ability to memorize things was horrible. And the thing with the Pokedex game was that it was heavily memorization based. So basically, I sucked at it. It was so bad that it came to the point where I was literally fed answers and I still bombed. One day as we were playing, Anto and Shane gave me an ultimatum: If I answer the next Pokedex questions correctly, they both would eat a whole lime. If I failed, then I had to eat the lime.

Guess what happened? I failed and had to eat the lime. It really wasn’t that bad actually, probably explains why I like lime-flavoured drinks though. Pro tip: Don’t mix limes with coffee, I’ve tried it, it’s kinda gross.

Besides the Pokedex game that we made up, one game that was also memorable was Pokemon Stadium for the Nintendo 64, where Shane, Anto and myself treated it almost like an Olympic sport. When it came to battles, we developed rules of our own that we all made sure to follow. Some examples were that everyone had to leave when it was someone’s turn to pick Pokemon, or no Legendary Pokemon allowed and for the most part, battles were fun, frantic and furious. Really though, the mini-games were where we spent the majority of our time playing. Shane was good at button-mashing and memory games, like the Dig! Dig! Dig! and Clefairy Says games, while Anto was king of the Ekans Hoop Hurl and the Rock Harden games. I myself was pretty good at most of the other mini-games, well, except for the memory game and when Anto’s baby brother, Dyl, was big enough, he joined in on the action. I found that the great equalizer in all our matches was the Sushi-Go-Round game. It was a game that all three (four) of us were good at and it was sometimes the deciding factor in our matches. We haven’t broken Pokemon Stadium out in the longest time… but I hope to see it be a part of the rumored N64 Classic? It might be enough of an excuse for me to get it.

Out of all of the Pokemon games however, I personally loved Pokemon Gold. Easily the best out of the series because you could return to the Kanto region and go through the Indigo League, culminating with a final battle with the original trainer from Red/Blue! I mean, how awesome was that?! It was an epic moment to be battling against that trainer and his high-level Pokemon. I also adored Pokemon Ruby. I remember having a team which included a Blaziken and a Gardevoir, my two favourite Pokemon of the whole series. I don’t remember who else was on that team, but I can tell you that those two Pokemon were the most memorable out of the bunch. Meanwhile, I kept playing the main series games but stopped after Diamond & Pearl. The repetitive nature of the games was becoming more of a chore than the joy it used to be, so I hung up my belt full of Poke Balls and called it a day. Though, with the upcoming Pokemon Let’s Go games, followed by a new, untitled Pokemon game being released in 2019, I may brush the dust off that belt, suit up, find a Ralts and jump back into the fray?

So, that’s my story with Pokemon. It feels kind of lame to end on this note, but I couldn’t think of a decent way to conclude this. But I’ll ask you this: What was your experience with the series? Your favourite moments, your favourite team, or even your favourite Pokemon? Let me know in the comments below.

With that, this is Ryan from Games with Coffee,reminding you to Keep Gaming and Keep Brewing. See ya next time!

Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (1992) [Game Gear]

Hi all! Ryan from Games with Coffee here, fulfilling a promise I made in my recent update post to be more active. This will be a first in a series of re-posts from my work on The Well-Red Mage as the Hyperactive Coffee Mage.

Today, I’ll be sharing with you my very first #magecrit featuring Sonic the Hedgehog 2 for the Game Gear! It was a fun, albeit lengthy, write up. I delve into the development history of the Game Gear version, which ran parallel to the Genesis version and go in-depth with the mechanics (Arguably, the most thrilling parts of writing this review!)

Please enjoy, leave a comment and if you want more long-form gaming analysis featuring a bevy of talented writers, TWRM is the place to be!

With that, I hope you enjoy today’s featured piece! And remember to Keep Gaming and Keep Brewing!

Why Are There Crickets Chirping Here? (Or Why I’ve Been Quiet Lately)

Hey all, welcome to another edition of Games with Coffee! How’s everything going? It’s been a while, hasn’t it?

For me, well it’s crazy. Work’s been busy, with new clients, new projects and tons of visits, reports and reviews to do. On top of that, I’m working on some really big projects on the writing front that I’m really excited about. One involves a certain Raider of Tombs by the Jonez of Neko’s and the other’s a huge, collaborative effort with Matt from Normal Happenings regarding Games That Define Us, so keep it locked on Games with Coffee and I’ll point you in the right direction on when these righteous collabs drop and where to find them!

In other news… I’ve been publishing several articles for The Well Red Mage, of which I am The Hyperactive Coffee Mage! I’ll be re-blogging them on here in the coming days, so as to make it look like I’m actually producing something :P.

I have been writing and trying to get content completed, but my job and its frantic and chaotic nature, plus my commitments to the collaborations I’m working on, being a parent to an 8-month old and a dutiful husband with lots of responsibilities have prevented me largely from making that happen, but I’m hoping that’ll change by October. Things should be dying down during that month (As I speak, I’m much more closer to clearing up my massive work backlog than I was earlier this week. It’s still massive though…) so expect the blog to pick up again soon. I got a lot of content that I’m itching to share, including the following:

  • I’ve been dying to get back into Path of Exile, so I’ve found enough spare time here and there to play and prepare Part 7 of my on-going playthrough series! I really missed writing these out and providing tips for players, so expect that to drop soon-ish.
  • Fall signifies lots of things; the changing of seasons, the start of school and colder weather. It also reminds me of Pokemon, which is the next Game Discussion I’ll be covering. I’ll be talking about the Poke-Craze that took over my family and friends and my stories revolving around the franchise. One story involves a Pokedex, a test and a bunch of limes. It’s a fun one for sure!
  • Fanfiction! Man oh man, ever since I listened to the Noire mix on TWRM Radio a couple months back, I’ve been so inspired to write stories. One in particular is this Fantasy/Noire-inspired Legend of Zelda fic called Black and White (Yeah, real original, I know). I’m gonna try real hard to finish this one. I surmise it’ll be divided into ten parts and I have a good idea of how the story progresses and ends. I’m hoping it’ll fit the tune of the Noir genre. Again, stay tuned! And check out the previous two chapters to get a feel of what it’s about!
  • I’ve got a bunch of awards to catch up with and questions within them to answer – 2018 was a huge year for accolades on Games with Coffee! I’ve been itching to get back in and answer some of these well-thought out questions, so that’s something on my to-do list…
  • I’m trying to lock in some more interviews for my ongoing Beans and Screens segment! That’s all I’m gonna write about that for now. If you wanna be a guest on the show, however, drop a line in the comments!
  • I’m also overdue for some music posts… I’ll get back to y’all about that too… (Methinks I’m over-promising a bit too much.)
  • Got a load of Espresso Shot Reviews to catch up on, including one recommended to me by The Well Red Mage himself. It’s literally out of this world.
  • And finally, I’ve got my FFVII x Sonic passion project to keep working on. Reading it over, I’ve noticed I have a lot of edits to do, but I’ll save that for when I actually finish this thing. Current stats: 11 chapters done, #12 is on-going and I’ve estimated that I got another 14 more to write before I can consider the rough draft completed.

So, that’s the update! Hope I got all my bases covered. Keep your eyes out on my Twitter and Instagram feeds for when the big collaboration posts go up, as well as whatever I mentioned above!

With that, this is Ryan from Games with Coffee, clearing the dust off this site and reminding you, dear readers, to Keep Gaming and Keep Brewing! See ya next time!

Disclamer: That header isn’t of my own creation: I found it here on the Steam workshop and I don’t have a clue as to where it truly originated from. Though, you gotta admit, it looks really good? Perhaps I should customize it to make it look a bit like me? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

The Legend of Zelda: Black and White – Part II

Good evening and welcome back to another installment of The Legend of Zelda: Black and White. We last left our hero, Link, meeting a strange, hooded man in Telma’s bar after a long and fruitless mission in the ongoing war between the Hylian Royal Family and the combined forces of Ganondorf and Zant. This man seems to have some information that could turn the tides and ensure victory in the kingdom’s favour.

Naturally, Link is wary of this man’s intentions, but the promise of a victorious end to a losing war is far too tempting to pass up… And so, Link makes the decision to hear him out. Is this a choice that could save Hyrule? Or, is it one that he may come to regret later on? Grab a mug and settle in dear readers for Part II. And remember:

Not everything is as Black and White as it seems…


Part II: The Walk Under Moonlight

What started with me going to the bar for a drink or two and some light conversation with Midna after a long, rough day of battle, turned into a lengthy talk with a hooded man who introduced himself as Sheik. He had just left the bar when Telma started to round up her regulars and send them on their way home. I hadn’t realized it was closing time.

As Midna was wiping down the bar counter, she sidled up to me. “Link, who was that guy? You know him from somewhere?” she whispered.

I downed my last drink of the night and relished the bitter aftertaste. ” I don’t know. I never met him until today,” I said, cocking an eyebrow at her. “You didn’t serve him?”

“No, Telma did,” she said, shaking her head. She then narrowed her eyes and gave me a flat stare. “So, you gonna tell me what’s going on, or not?”

She can be really demanding at times. I dropped my voice down, not wanting to be overheard. “That hooded guy? He’s Sheikah.”

Her eyes widened to the size of saucers. I guess she was more than a little shocked at that development. “Sheikah?!” she hissed, trying her best to keep her voice low. “I thought that the design on his trim looked familiar – standard Sheikan fair for sure. But weren’t they…” Here she noticed Telma drawing closer to the bar, so she leaned closer to me and dropped her voice back down to a whisper. “Weren’t they all wiped out by Ganon’s forces when the war began three years ago?”

Like I said before; Midna’s a shrewd one. “Yeah, that’s what I said to him too,” I told her. “He says he didn’t get them all, though.” I noticed Telma giving Midna a look that said ‘Back. To. Work.’

“Telma’s onto you, Mid. You better get back to closing up,” I said, gesturing to the owner. “We can talk more on the way back to the castle.”

Midna let another impish smirk cross her lips as she moved away to close shop. I honestly can say that she’s the only woman in Hyrule that can pull off that devilish look of mischief and still look gorgeous. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

I stood up, buckled up my gear and bundled my cloak in hand. From the window nearby, I saw that the rain had died down and the skies were starting to clear. There was a half moon poking out from holes in the clouds, its pale light shining down on the streets below. The sparse light would make do for us to get back to the castle, I suppose.

I chatted with Telma for a bit and tried to wheedle some more info out of her on the mysterious Sheikah, but she knew exactly what I knew; nothing. He was here in one of the corner booths about an hour before I showed up when she served him. I already knew it was no coincidence; he was clearly waiting for me and wanted to tell me of his wild and crazy propositions to end this war…

A tug on my arm broke my train of thought. “Alright Link, let’s go,” Midna said to me, wearing a thick, black cloak to ward off the damp and chilly night air.

We bade Telma farewell and headed out into the alleyway. After reaching the main street, we turned right and set off northward, side by side. With the moonlight illuminating our path, I started talking at that point. Told her how he was waiting to talk with me, how he and a bunch of other survivors of the Sheikah race recently discovered an ancient temple that may possess a powerful weapon within. It’s sealed with a complicated lock that requires both an old Sheikah artifact and the Master Sword to open. He knows where the artifact may be located, but he needs my help for the second part, seeing that I’m the guy who pulled the sword out of its pedestal a few days after the war started. I didn’t know his angle, but he was fully convinced that I would be the perfect guy for this job.

“If you’re interested in learning more… Meet with me again tonight, in the alleyway in front of this establishment.” he told me before he left. “I’ll lead you to somewhere more private where we can continue our conversation…”

“This sounds like a huge gamble,” Midna said, breaking my train of thought. “There’s no guarantee that there’s something in that temple that will help our side, Link. Are you sure you want to do this?”

I stopped in my tracks and gave Mid a wistful look. She turned to face me, startled at my sudden halt. “Midna, let’s be honest: we’re on the brink of defeat,” I told her. “Ganondorf has our number, no thanks to Zant and I don’t want to lose. I can’t lose.” I spread my arms wide. “Hyrule is my home. I do not want to see it in the hands of a mad tyrant, so I’m gonna do it. I’ll go along with this crazy plan, open that temple and find out what’s inside it, gamble or no. I’ll do whatever it takes to protect my home.”

Midna smiled, but was different; it was more somber than her usual cheeky flair. “He’s right,” she said to me, softly. “You are a true patriot to your home.” Her eyes shimmered in the low moonlight. “This place has become my home as well, over these last few years… I don’t want it lost either, you know?”

I didn’t say anything. I didn’t need to, really; she said everything that needed to be said right there. I just nodded in agreement and we continued on our way.

We arrived at the castle shortly after and entered through the main hall. After climbing up the grand stairwell, we said goodnight and went our separate ways; she going up to the guest chambers while I headed for my own on the other side of the castle.

When I entered my room, a thought struck me: I had to tell Zelda about these events and convince her not to have the council send me on another pointless mission. I resisted the urge to groan loudly; the last thing the war effort needs now is another raiding party for Twili technology. I barely escaped by the skin of my teeth when we were discovered on the last mission…

Although… If what Sheik says is true, then we can kiss these fruitless raiding parties good bye once and for all. Hence, why Zel needs to know what’s going on.

Resolving to talk to her in the morning, I stripped off my clothes and gear and flopped on the hard surface that I call a bed. And as darkness crept up on me, I felt hopeful that things would turn around for the better.

I’d learn soon enough that things were going to be far worse than I could’ve ever imagined…


That sounds ominous… What do you think that means? If you’re curious to know, stay tuned to find out!

Disclaimer: Hey! Listen! I don’t own the characters and setting in this story, they are owned by Nintendo!

The Legend of Zelda: Black and White – Part I

Welcome to the first installment of The Legend of Zelda: Black and White! Inspired by the latest TWRM Mix, this was a sudden, crazy brainchild of mine that I started to flesh out as I was listening to it.

This story takes place in a time when Hyrule was embroiled in a bloody war between the Hylian Royal Family and Ganondorf, who yearns to conquer the land for himself. Ganondorf had joined forces with Zant, a resident of Twilight who overthrew and murdered the Twili Royal Family, save for the last living heir who escaped to Hyrule.

Combining his vast armies with Twili technology, Ganondorf and Zant have pushed the Royal Family’s armies to the brink in the span of three years. Queen Zelda and her war council have tried to stymie the damage as much as they could with the help of the Hero Chosen by the Master Sword, Link, but he is only one man against an seemingly unstoppable force. Despite his valiant efforts, Hyrule’s losses only continue to grow and Link has become disillusioned, convinced that they are only delaying the inevitable.

A chance encounter with an enigmatic individual may change all of that with the promise of a swift end to this war. However, Link will soon learn that not everything is as Black and White as it seems…

I hope you enjoy this with coffee in hand, dear readers!


Part I: The Meeting

The cloud-filled night sky started to open up just as I entered Castle Town. It must have been past midnight when I finally got back as the town was pitch black, save for the few lanterns that barely lit up the cobbled streets. That’ll change once it comes down harder; the lights being snuffed out in the same way my blade snuffs the life out of an unsuspecting Moblin. Heck, I could even smell the acrid scent of ozone in the air. It meant lightning was coming and frankly, nobody would be crazy enough to be out here anyway, unless they were comfortable with flirting with electrocution. Then again, with my shield and the Master Sword thumping on the back as I trudged through the streets, I’m basically a walking lightning rod.

Strangely, death from above wasn’t weighing too hard on my mind. Rather, I was doggone tired and in need of a stiff drink. I was covered in blood and sweat and Goddess knows what else thanks to the latest mission that Zelda put me through. Or rather, that the council put me through. If it was Zelda’s choice, she would have told me to stay by her side, but when you’re the best weapon Hyrule has in a dirty war against Ganondorf with the fate of the land at stake, personal choices have to be put aside. She knew that. I knew that too. But I was still angry about that fact.

Pulling my cloak tighter to ward off the cold rain that was starting to intensify, I popped into a dive named Telma’s, just a ways down a sketchy alleyway that sometimes smelled of raw sewage on Castle Town’s south side. At first glance, it might seem like only the dedicated or desperate would trudge through the foul-smelling streets to come here. In reality, it’s a homey and warm place with a robust clientele and a welcome relief from the dreary weather, the depressingly empty streets and my own dark thoughts. The owner and I go way back and I kept telling her to move to somewhere more upscale and ritzy to drum up a bigger customer base, but she wouldn’t bite. She never told me why she preferred this location, but then again it’s none of my business, so I let it be.

As I enter, I don’t see her manning the bar – probably in the back doing inventory – so I dragged my tired body to the bar counter, removed my cloak and weapons, sat on the barstool with my head resting on my hands and began to brood while waiting for someone to serve me.

A sweet, impish voice snapped me from my reviere. “What can I get for you, Hero?” I felt an small smile break out as I lifted my head to see the speaker on the opposite side of the counter.

Ah, Midna. She’s a real doll alright. Vibrant long hair the same colour as a warm, summer twilit sky, eyes like sparkling red rubies and a killer smile with a frame to match. You wouldn’t know it by looking at her at the first glance, but she’s really a former princess from the realm of Twilight that was usurped by some maniac named Zant and banished here to live out the rest of her days in exile here in Hyrule. That very same maniac had recently allied himself with Ganon and provided him tools to aid him in the war that we’re slowly, but surely losing. Day by day, the losses keep growing and the victories we gained have become more and more hollow. The citizens were starting to be disillusioned with the war effort, but you wouldn’t see any of that with Mid; she always had that devil-may-care smile on her face as she bantered playfully with patrons, all while serving up hard liquor on the cheap. She was a real light in these dark times, irony aside. It’s one of the reasons why I liked her so much.

I knew she was no floozy who liked to serve drinks and flirt shamelessly though. During the daytime, she would be up in the castle, providing information to Zelda about her people’s technology and strategizing with the rest of the council on our next course of action. At night, she was here. It was her way to wind down after another depressing day – she could lose herself in the mundane problems of everyday citizens, rather than worry about her own.

Mid was smart, real smart. Some of the one-off patrons who stop by at Telma’s on a whim underestimated her, thinking that she was just some dumb broad to take advantage of based off her fun and outgoing personality. All it took was a vicious remark to shut down anybody idiotic enough to try and make a move on her and send them packing with their tails between their legs, never to come back. The regulars – myself included – have an ongoing bet to see how many guys she can scare off in a month. So far, I’m way off the mark.

I think I was staring too hard because Mid gave me one of her looks that could cut through steel. “Hey Link, you gonna order something or what?” she said, a little bite in her voice.

I shook my head. Classic Midna. “The usual, please,” I told her. She smirked, turned around and started preparing my drink. As I waited, I noticed someone sliding into the seat beside me from the corner of my eye with a drink of their own in hand.

The figure was small in stature and wore a hooded, navy blue cloak with white trim. On the trim were some red designs shaped like an eye of sorts. Its face was so obscured that I couldn’t tell if this individual was a man or a woman. Normally I would have ignored strangers like these, but something about this one made my skin crawl and not in a good way either.

The hooded figure raised its glass and inclined its head towards me. “Hello Link,” said in a smooth, controlled voice. Definitely male. “Lovely night we’re having.”

I wasn’t in the mood for idle banter. I was tired, I wanted a drink and I wanted to go to my chambers in the castle and sleep. “What do you want,” I asked harshly.

The hooded man wasn’t fazed in the slightest by my rude tone. He took a sip of his drink, placed it on the counter and turned to face me. “I’ll cut to the chase Hero; I have a proposition for you,” he said. “An offer that you’d be a fool to pass up on.”

I glared darkly at him. I wasn’t interested in what he was selling. “Get lost, I’ve no need for this right now,” I muttered.

“Not even if what I offer may ensure Hyrule’s salvation?”

My ears perked up at that. “What are you talking about?” I said, turning to face him.

At that moment, Midna came back with my drink and set it by me. She eyed the hooded man critically and then met my eyes for a moment before leaving to serve other patrons. It was a look that said “We need to talk when you’re done.”

I took a hearty draw from my glass, suppressing a cough from the stinging liquid before motioning him to continue. “Go on,” I said. “What information do you have that can save Hyrule?”

The hooded man chuckled softly. “A patriotic man, through and through. Let me tell you this, then: What if I told you that a weapon exists that can overpower Ganondorf’s armies? Would you seek it out?”

I didn’t hesitate. Hyrule couldn’t bear any more losses in this war. Heck, I couldn’t bear any more losses either, nor could I bear to see Zelda look more and more despondent as the days passed. We needed a victory, a decisive one. And even though something about this guy send my nerves on end, at that point, I thought I had nothing to lose by hearing him out.

“Absolutely. You have my attention now,” I told him.

I didn’t know it at that time, but that decision would come back to haunt me later on. And I wouldn’t realize it until the very last moment.


What do you think will happen next? Find out next time on Games with Coffee!

Disclaimer: Hey! Listen! I don’t own the characters and setting in this story, they are owned by Nintendo!