The Nintendo Switch: Does It Live Up To The Hype?

Hello everyone and welcome to another edition of “Games with Coffee!” Happy Video Games Day!

So, as you probably know, either through my recent posts or from my Instagram feed, I got a Nintendo Switch for my birthday! Today, I want to share with you the system itself, my impressions on Nintendo’s latest console after a couple months of owning it and if it lives up to the hype it generated from its announcement almost a year ago.


The Back Story

The Wii-U was a major failure for Nintendo.

Since it’s debut in November 2012, the Wii-U failed to capitalize on its predecessors massive success. Despite delivering innovative technology in the Game Pad, the additions low battery life, the lack of third party support from developers and lack of clear goals for the system had led critics to believe, at the end of its production, that the system was nothing more than a glorified Wii with a controller/touchpad hybrid.

Now, I’m not knocking down the console or anything. My brother has it and it’s not a bad system, all things considered. The Wii-U’s had some big hits, including Super Mario Maker, which allows the player to create their own Mario levels and the latest installment of the ever-popular Super Smash Bros. series, which included the return of fan favourites, such as Sonic, Dr. Mario and Zero Suit Samus, along with newcomers like Mega Man, Pac-Man and Little Mac from Punch-Out. On top of that was the underdog inky shooter game Splatoon, which was a rousing success. And let’s not forget about the ever-enduring Mario Kart series, of which it has reached its eighth installment. There’s were some not-so-great games, like Star Fox Zero, which was lackluster due to its odd control scheme and its focus on re-imagining the series. And the fact that third party development focused their efforts on developing games for the latest Sony and Microsoft console releases didn’t help its case. Overall though, there were some good games, but good first party games don’t make a successful console, considering that the Wii sold more in its first year than its successor could in its entire lifetime.

So, Nintendo did what most don’t: re-innovate, re-structure and re-imagine what a console should be. Using what they learned from the Wii-U’s Game Pad device, coupled with their dominance in the handheld gaming segment (the 2DS/3DS has effectively monopolized that market), their vast experience with motion controls and lessons learned from their previous missteps, they unveiled the Nintendo Switch.


The System

The Nintendo Switch, a hybrid between a console and a handheld system, was announced in October 2016 and released on March 3, 2017, along with its launch title: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

The main unit is a tablet-like device, with two housings on each side uses for its main control inputs, called the Joy-Con’s. The system comes with two Joy-Con controllers, a dock, an AC adapter with USB-C input, an HDMI cable and two straps for the Joy-Con’s.

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Pay no attention to the nose, glasses and forehead on the screen…

The console itself is a tablet with a capacitive touch screen. On the top of the unit is the power button, volume up and down, a 3.5 mm audio jack and a cartridge slot for games. The back of the unit has a kickstand, used to set it on a surface and a micro-SD card slot, housed underneath the kickstand. On the bottom is the USB-C charging input and the intake vents. The display is 6.2 inches wide, corner to corner and displays at a resolution of 1280 x 720. When docked, the console’s display resolution bumps up to 1080p. The system is powered by an Octa-core processor clocking in at 1.02 GHz, has 4 GB of RAM and uses the Nvidia Tegra X1 as its system-on chip (basically, a jack-of-all-trades chip made up of many components that perform an array of functions). There is 32 GB of internal storage in the unit, but with the micro-SD slot, that capacity can increase up to 2 TB. The battery life on the unit averages about 3-4 hours per charge.

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Behold! My (tiny) library of games!

About half the size of the Wii-mote, the Joy-Con’s can either be used together as a single player controller, or individually for single or multiplayer games. Each controller has an analog stick, four face buttons, a plus button and the home button on the right hand controller and a minus button and a capture button on the left hand controller, and two trigger buttons on the top (The L/R and ZL/ZR buttons).

Whether the Joy-Con’s are held in each hand, attached to the system for “Handheld Mode” (more on that below), or slid into the Joy-Con Grip, the control scheme is analogous to that of the PS4 and Xbox One and is how most AAA single or multiplayer games (like Breath of the Wild, Splatoon 2 and the upcoming Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim) are played.

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It looks like a puppy with odd eye placements… and now you cannot unsee that image. Enjoy!

When turned on its side, the Joy-Con’s button layout looks and feels similar to that of Nintendo’s best selling console, the Super Nintendo. There are two additional trigger buttons on the top (SL and SR), which are more easily accessible by sliding in the hand straps provided with the console. This control scheme is used mainly for multiplayer games like Mario Kart 8 Deluxe or the upcoming Pokken Tournament DX, but can be used for a few single player titles as well.

 

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Pro-tip: Hit the SL and SR Buttons together to use the controller on its side.

Each Joy-Con is equipped with HD Rumble, a feature that simulates realistic vibrations, like feeling several cubes of ice clinking in a glass, as shown in the technical demonstration. Along with the rumble feature, the motion controls of the Wii have also been integrated into the Joy-Con’s and are primarily used for motion controlled games, such as the Wii Boxing-inspired game, ARMS and the party game, 1-2 Switch. Motion controls are also featured in Breath of the Wildas well, in that you can aim your bow by tilting the controller (or the unit itself when it’s in Handheld Mode). The controls are also used to solve a few motion-based puzzles in game.

A Pro Controller is available to further mimic the traditional console gaming feel. For those who are looking for a more budget-friendly option, the wireless controller company, 8bitdo recently released a firmware update for their NES30 Pro controller, allowing it to work on the Switch.

The Nintendo Switch can operate in several modes, depending on your situation. Attaching the unit to the dock puts the unit in “TV Mode”, allowing it to operate like a traditional console. The dock itself is compact and minimalist in design, compared to the bulkier PS4 and Xbox One systems. The HDMI and power inputs, along with a USB 3.0 port, are located on the back of the dock and are kept hidden by a panel, with an opening to allow the power and HDMI cable wiring to come out. It results in a clean, wire-free look that adds to its minimalist design. There are also two additional USB ports on the side of the dock.

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Simplicity, thy name is Switch.

Slapping the controllers onto the side of the tablet and removing it from the dock “switches” (Ha!) the console to “Handheld Mode,” where the console behaves as a handheld device. Games played in Handheld Mode are the same as in TV Mode, with the exception of graphics resolution (no 1080p in this mode), meaning that games like Breath of the Wild can be played on the go.

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On-the-go gaming has never looked so good.

Finally, popping out the kickstand, placing the console on a surface and taking out the Joy-Con’s enables “Tabletop Mode,” which can be used either for single player game play, or more commonly for local multiplayer gaming away from a dedicated screen.

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Woo! Sonic Mania! I asked my wife to pick up the other Joy-Con and play along with me as Tails… She said no… 😦

That’s all the technical mumbo-jumbo out of the way. (Phew!). Now, you’re probably asking, “Thanks for that boring lecture, professor, but what do YOU think of the system so far?”

Good question. Here’s my answer.


The Verdict

After about two months of owning the system, I can safely say this with as little bias as possible: Nintendo did pretty well here. The system is incredibly unique in the sense that you can play it at home on the TV and on the go. It’s like having two systems in one! These days, I’ve been playing it solely in Handheld Mode and it’s been a great experience so far. Playing a full-fledged Zelda game on a device roughly twice the size of my smartphone has never felt so fulfilling.

I honestly don’t gripe about the battery life on the Switch when it’s in Handheld Mode. Three to four hours is plenty of time for a mature, distinguished gamer to play in bed while their significant other sleeps beside them, though I usually play for about an hour or two. What I love about the system is how quickly it boots up from sleep mode, the Switch’s “Off” setting, similar to that of the PS4’s “Rest Mode.” I press the power button on the top of the system or the home button on the Joy-Con’s/Pro Controller and the system boots up immediately and I’m back in the game while my wife’s asleep. It’s incredibly satisfying.

I also think it’s cool that Nintendo designed the system in a way that a second controller for two-player games comes included right out of the box. Highly useful for when the wife and I want to play Mario Kart (One of the few games she’ll actually play with me when I eventually get it!). For games like ARMS though, you’ll need a second set of Joy-Con’s to play locally.

Switching from TV Mode to Handheld Mode and back again is seamless. There is no discernible delay when the system switches between modes, which, again, is very rad.

There were a couple of things slightly affected my experience. One was the small game library available right from the start, even several months after release. When I first booted up the system, the Nintendo e-Shop had a whole bunch of downloadable titles, along with digital copies of their physical releases, but nothing really stood out to me in the store, besides Mighty Gunvolt Burst. That might change as the holiday season rolls around. (Correction, it has: Sonic Mania dropped a couple weeks ago. I picked it up and it’s AWESOME!)

Another thing was the internal storage space. 32 GB may seem quite sizable compared to that of the PS Vita, with its 1 GB internal storage, but when you look at the size of some of the downloadable titles, plus the fact that you can save screenshots directly to the device, that storage can get eaten up pretty quickly. It’s a good thing I had a spare 32 GB micro-SD card lying around to expand my storage capacity!

Finally, while it’s not a huge deal for me, I’m sure many people are a bit miffed that the Switch doesn’t play at native 4K resolution, unlike the PS4 Pro and and the Xbox One X. Truthfully, having the system run on 4K resolution at 60 frames per second isn’t a priority for me: I’m more concerned about playing good, quality games and I’m quite happy with the Switch’s native resolutions.

Overall, the Nintendo Switch was built for the mature, distinguished gamer in mind, giving the user free range on wherever they want to play it and presenting it in a compact, minimalist package. Whether it’s on the TV, in bed playing in Handheld Mode, at a friend’s place playing in Tabletop Mode or whatever the case may be, the Nintendo Switch has lived up to my expectations and thus, I declare that the hype surrounding the system was well justified, although that’s just my opinion. With the upcoming holiday season approaching and the games being released in that period, I believe that Switch and the Big N itself are well positioned to make a significant comeback after the stumbles with the Wii-U.


So that’s it! What do you guys think? How’d I do? Gimme some feedback in the comments below! (I need those like I need a strong cup o’ Joe, know what I’m sayin’?). And stay tuned for the next edition, where I continue my playthrough of Path of Exile with my Witch, Rhuki! (Who’s a total badass IMO). Plus, coming after that is my brand new segment – “Espresso Shots!” I cannot wait to share this with you!

And with that said, this has been Ryan from “Games with Coffee,” wishing you a Happy Video Games Day and reminding you to Keep Gaming and Keep Brewing! See ya!

Change, Like Winter, is Coming. Plus, Updates!

Hi guys and welcome to another edition of “Games with Coffee!” …Yeah it’s been a while since I posted anything, but to be honest, a lots been happening between the end of May and now. It’s not the perfect time to explain just yet why that’s the case, but I’ll reveal it soon enough. Just know that it’s HUGE, it’s going to affect the blog (among other things in my Quest) and it’s going to make a heck of an impact to my life.

With this, being busy with family and friends visiting for the summer and a basement renovation happening all at the same time, it’s been hard to find time to write, let alone play games. I was lucky in June to nail down time for the blog, writing and other goals on The Quest, but July was a different story. I’m not complaining, but I realized after I wrote my monthly post-mortem and reviewed my journal entries that I’ve really slacked off and made excuses to not do anything Quest related, but that’s gonna change this month. That’s a promise!

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I’m back with a vengeance!

With that, I got some post announcements. Kind of a primer of what to expect next on the blog:


As I was writing the next post for the blog (my continuing playthrough of “Path of Exile”), a website called Playerauctions.com reached out to me after reading my first PoE post and asked me to guest write on their blog! Naturally, I said yes, so the PoE post will be posted on their blog instead of here. I’ll have a link ready when it’s published. Going forward though, my playthrough of the game will still be documented here, so keep an eye out for the next one coming in September!

My 30th birthday was awesome! Not just because I hung out with friends and family, but because I got awesome games and systems for presents! One being a Nintendo Switch and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild! And my little bro gave me an awesome blast to the past: Crash Bandicoot N.Sane Trilogy for the PS4! Needless to say, I’m stoked as hell to write about these, so look out for them in the next few weeks! Also on the docket for games to play: Kingdom Hearts 1.5 + 2.5 ReMix, Kingdom Hearts 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue (wow that’s a mouthful…), a couple of Telltale games (Game of Thrones and Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel), Mighty Gunvolt Burst and my newest favourite game, Sonic Mania!

Have Mania, will draw speedy rodents. What’s he pointing at, I wonder?

I’ve developed a love-hate relationship with Clash Royale these days, but I did put together a couple of sweet decks to help advance myself and my clan, the “Tree Gang,” to further greatness! I’ll be sharing those and other Clash-related thoughts very soon

Music-wise, I’ll be writing a follow up from my first post about OC ReMix: this time, it’ll be my top 20 all-time favorite tracks. I’ll also be talking about one of my favorite artists, Mega Ran, and how his music has inspired me to just be me.

Finally, I’ll do some retrospective posts on a few game series that had a further impact on my life and I’m introducing a new feature to the blog: a little something I’d like to call “Espresso Shots.” Curious? Well, you’ll just have to stay tuned to find out!


So, that’s what’s new with me. I apologize again for the delay in posting, but with me on a new schedule and all this upcoming content, I’m sure I’ll be forgiven! (I hope?).

With that, this has been Ryan from“Games with Coffee,” hoping that everyone’s enjoying their summer and reminding you to Keep Gaming and Keep Brewing.

How Mega Man X Gave Me My Artistic Groove

Hey all! Welcome to another edition of Games with Coffee! I hope everyone’s weekend (whether it was a long one or not) was well!

Today, I’m going to share a personal story about the Blue Bomber himself: Mega Man! Mega Man (A.K.A Rockman in Japan) holds a special place in my heart, along with other characters such as Sonic the Hedgehog, Link and Cloud Strife from Final Fantasy VII. But what’s special about Mega Man, specifically Mega Man X, was that he pulled me out of a very dark place in my childhood and helped me discover something about myself that I thought I never had before – that I can be a creative and artistic individual.

(Warning: This may get a little heavy. Bear with me.)


Let me cut to the chase: Growing up, I’ve had lots of self-esteem issues. As I mentioned somewhere on this blog, I was a very awkward kid and by awkward, I mean I was never good at making friends. I was disruptive, unable to sit still, had a very short attention span and I couldn’t keep my mouth shut, which got me into tons of embarrassing and problematic situations. My teachers, frustrated by my irregular behaviour, urged my parents to get doctors involved. They first diagnosed me with Tourette’s Syndrome, before performing a battery of tests and settling for the catch-all adolescent boys issue made popular back in the 90’s: Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder, or ADHD.

On top of taking meds that would turn me into a vegetable, produce violent mood swings and made me chubby due to water retention, I also had to start wearing glasses from the third grade on, due to becoming near-sighted. All of this, along with my last name sounding eerily similar to a delicious dairy product and my penchant for being too trusting and gullible in an attempt to be likeable and friendly, made me a very easy target for bullies and set me down the path of isolation and loneliness. Academically, the medicines didn’t really help (since I was more or less a carrot at that point, so concentration was non-existent) and my teachers (bless their souls for putting up with me…) were even more frustrated at my obvious lack of effort, despite the fact that it was because I dreaded going back to school to face both meds and savage classmates that I didn’t want to try in the first place. The constant slog of side-effects, brutal teasing, loneliness and the inner disgust I directed to myself for being so abnormal compared to everybody else eventually snowballed into me feeling completely worthless and useless; that I had nothing to offer to this world and that I was just a burden to everybody.


It was some time in fourth grade that Mega Man first came into my life; both the animated TV series by Ruby-Spears and the video game “Mega Man X.” While the TV series was enjoyable (yet cheesy), it was X’s struggle, both against the forces of evil and within himself, that I really resonated with. For you see, X was unlike any robot ever built.

His creator, Dr. Thomas X. Light, designed him with a revolutionary neural structure that gave him the ability to think, feel and make his own decisions, essentially making him as close to human as possible and making him VERY different compared to his fellow robots. While a robot’s only concern was to obey the orders given to them by their human masters, X thought about things that were highly abstract from typical robot-think: Why was he created? What was his purpose? And if he was intended to bring peace between humans and robots as Dr. Light intended, why was he then given such a sophisticated battle interface, including the powerful X-Buster and Weapons Copy system?

On the introduction screens of the game, Dr. Light explains his intentions for X, that his unique neural structure and limitless capacity for thought would usher in a new generation of robots that could bring peace between man and machine. A part of his explanation eventually helped me to understand how ADHD affected me, four years after I was diagnosed with the disorder. A therapist I once saw explained it to me simply – that because of a chemical imbalance in my brain (which apparently is the cause of ADHD), it’s as if my head was rewired in such a way that I thought, saw and felt things differently from others. It’s that configuration that brings about the potential for immense creativity, just like X and his limitless potential for anything he puts his highly-advanced mind to. I initially took it as hogwash; I didn’t think I had it in me to be that creative at that time, but thinking about it years later and even now when I’m writing about this, I realize that the explanations, given by both the therapist AND Dr. Light, made sense.

X really helped me out in the seventh an eighth grades in school though. Those were the years when I was at my absolute lowest; I was always angry, got into fights at the drop of a hat and hated everyone and everything (typical pre-pubescent angst). One day, I rented out Mega Man X4 for the Playstation and, either it was X’s battle against Double, the traitor he thought he could trust or Zero’s story of love and loss on the battlefield, I don’t remember, I felt so inspired by the game that I pulled out a sketchbook I got from taking an art elective, took the cover art from the game manual and freehand drew the cover art. It wasn’t half bad, to tell you the truth. I’d show it to you all… but I seem to have lost my oldest sketchbook…

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So instead, here’s an old sketch I drew, loosely inspired by X’s base armour design. I made this… roughly ten years ago?

It was that one drawing I did of X and Zero, side by side that started to convince me that “Hey, you know what? I’m not half bad at drawing, let’s keep practicing!” I was really surprised at myself. And so, I drew. I drew as I weaned myself off medications, I drew as my classmates liked my work instead of teasing me about it. I drew when I was happy, I drew when I was angry and I drew when I was stressed. Drawing became a therapeutic release for me.

Since those days, I’ve moved on from drawing Mega Man, drawing other characters like Sonic and even creating some of my own content. For example, for my wife’s 18th birthday (when we were still dating), I drew her a full comic book, listing eighteen reasons why I love her. She still has it to this day, laminated and preserved in our shared memory box.

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I’d also show you that, but it’s way too embarrassing… So, here’s one of my favourite Sonic sketches instead!


I used to feel that I was useless, but because of X, I learned that I had hidden talents I never knew existed before and I gained the confidence to work on them. These days, I write more than I draw, but I can safely say to myself now that I’m not so useless after all. And that’s a good thing.

So, that’s my story for today. What do you think? Was there ever a character or a game that inspired you to be more creative or get out of your comfort zone? Let me know in the comments below.

Also, stay tuned for the next edition of Games with Coffee because I’ll be talking about another personal subject. Since the beginning of this year, 2017, I’ve been undergoing a Quest for personal development, doing several tasks to help me grow both creatively and in my career. Starting this blog was one of those tasks. With my 30th birthday coming up in the next two weeks, I want to share with you all what this Quest is all about; what inspired it, how it works and my progress six months into it. Maybe it’ll even inspire you to go on your own Quest as well?

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

Travelling Essentials for the Mature, Distinguished Gamer

Good morning and welcome to another edition of “Games with Coffee.” Summertime’s almost here and with it, comes the desire to travel. As mature, distinguished gamers such as ourselves, whether it’s within the country (Canada’s turning 150 this year, so now’s as good a time as any to explore this great land), across the border or overseas, we know that boredom while travelling is an inevitability. You can only watch the same scenery, read that same travel magazine, watch that same movie or socialize with your co-travelers so much. Even when you’re at your destination, after all the sightseeing, visiting friends and relatives, eating exotic and delicious food and shopping the local deals, sometimes, along with proper rest, you just need some downtime for yourself. After all, you’re on vacation! Downtime’s important!

Fortunately, I have a list of essential items I always bring with me during my travels, both to keep me occupied during the journey and to keep me relaxed while I’m at my destination. And no, it’s not just video games either!

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As you can see before you

Here’s the list:

Video Games (Obviously)

What better way to start this list than the types of games to bring? For me, portables are my go-to for travelling; they’re easy to store, easy to charge and there are lot of great titles available. I usually take my GCW-ZERO: an excellent little system that plays a huge variety of games, either emulated or homebrew. Other times, when I get the urge to play some classic Playstation games like Final Fantasy VII, Crash Bandicoot or Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, I turn to my PSP or PS Vita. For my Nintendo fix, I have a Nintendo DS Lite – another great choice due to the compact size of the unit.

A couple of honorable mentions:

The Nintendo 2DS/3DS – I never owned this upgrade to the DS, but it has an impressive library of games, including remakes of all-time classics like “Starfox 3D,” “Ocarina of Time,” and “Majora’s Mask.”

The Nintendo Switch – The latest console from Nintendo, it’s a hybrid between a traditional console and portable handheld system. By looks alone, it’s impressive. My cousin has one and he’s convinced me that it’s a worthy system for travelling. I’m hoping to get one of my own soon, so I’ll update this post once I get and test it out on a trip.

Chargers and Power Banks

No self-respecting gamer would bring a portable system with them without a way to recharge the batteries! It’s a bit of extra wires to bring with, but the convenience they bring outweigh the space it takes up in your bag. However, if you’re planning on taking multiple systems, expect to bring a charger for each one…

Thankfully, companies nowadays have made the realization that gamers don’t want to lug around a bunch of proprietary chargers: take for example the PS Vita, it charges using the ever-popular USB Micro-B plug, ubiquitous with practically every smartphone in existence. So instead of carrying two chargers (one for the phone and the other for the system), I’d only need one, which helps in the space and weight saving department.

For those times when you’re on the go and have no access to an outlet, power banks are a godsend. I have a slim, 10400 mAh capacity power bank that’s perfect for juicing up all my systems along with my phone. I also try to keep it at or near full capacity at all times, in case an emergency happens and my phone battery is dead.

Laptop

I own an ASUS Transformer: a hybrid between a tablet and a laptop. It’s the perfect laptop to bring on a trip – it’s small and it’s powerful enough for me to play emulated games and ROM hacks. I don’t just bring it to play games though, because my laptop serves two other purposes – to maintain the vacation budget and for me to write. Whether it’s in my hotel room, a cruise stateroom or at a relative’s house, I try to take every opportunity I can to do some writing. Speaking of writing…

 Notebooks and Pens

Along with video games, writing is a big passion of mine. I’m currently writing (re-writing actually) a fanfic (don’t judge!) that’s been rattling in my head for the better part of a decade. So, to help me actually finish this thing, I’ve taken to writing down rough notes about character dialogues, setting descriptions, action sequences and the like for each and every chapter of the fic, in a notebook which I carry around with me everywhere, even on vacation. The fact that I’m in a foreign location, away from the daily grind of home life, helps me to focus and churn out some high quality rough notes. That’s why I never travel without my notebook and several pens – you never know when inspiration will hit!

Headphones

Headphones are an absolute necessity for me when I’m travelling. I usually take a wired set of earbuds mainly for my gaming systems when I play during my downtime or at nights when I don’t want to disturb my wife’s slumber. When I want to listen to music, I go to my set of Skullcandy Uproar Bluetooth headphones. They don’t take up a lot of real estate in my bag, they have amazing battery life and the sound’s top notch. Playing video game music while you’re traveling to or staying at your destination makes me feel like I’m on an adventure of my own, and it also helps to get my creative juices flowing for my writing when I’m on vacation.

Books

Ah, the staple travel item for many people; a really good book. Books make excellent travelling companions, plus, they give your eyes a break from staring at a screen for long periods of time. On my last trip, I took with me a book called “Mistborn,” the first book in the “Mistborn” series written by Brandon Sanderson. It’s a great-high fantasy book, taking place in a post-apocalyptic, medieval world full of witty, memorable characters, a brilliant magic system and a well-thought out heist that hinges on overthrowing an immortal emperor-god. Bottom line, it’s really good​.

Change of Clothes, a Toothbrush and Spare Change

Why do I have these items as part of my essentials? Simple; because years of playing RPG’s have taught me to be prepared for the unexpected. For example, if I’m at the airport and I’m either booted off of an overbooked flight (Thanks, United) or if my flight’s cancelled and I end up having to stay at a hotel until the next flight or even when I arrive at my destination, but my luggage is halfway to the other side of the world, I know I have a set of spare clothes and a toothbrush with me so I can maintain some form of cleanliness. I also bring spare change, just in case my debit/credit cards don’t work or if my wallet gets misplaced or stolen. Remember, you can never be too prepared!


So, those are my essentials for when I’m travelling. What do you think? Got anything to add to that list? Put it in the comments below! And stay tuned for the next edition, where I talk about the need for taking care of your precious consoles and handhelds.

So, once again, this is Ryan from “Games with Coffee,” telling you to Keep Gaming and Keep Brewing. Happy travelling!

“The Legend of Zelda:” How Link’s Altruism Helped Me to Channel My Inner Hero

Good morning and welcome to another edition of “Games with Coffee.” How’s everyone today?

Here up north, we’re winding down the Victoria Day long weekend*, the unofficial start of the summer. We’ve finally left behind the ice, snow and frigid temperatures associated with winter and are left with gradually warming temperatures, the sweet smell of the air after a rain shower and seas of vividly verdant greenery rolling along the hills and valleys around the little town I call home.

The colour green always makes me think of Link, the Hero clothed in green, wielder of the Master Sword and holder of the Triforce of Courage from the Legend of Zelda. His back story varies between entries; he was once a wandering swordsman, an apprentice of his uncle’s, a child of the forest, a boy who came of age on a remote island of the Great Sea and a goat herder on a ranch, to name a few of his incarnations. Regardless of his origins, he is characterized as a strong, noble man who is eternally destined to assist the holder of the Triforce of Wisdom – the titular “Princess Zelda” – in taking arms against Ganondorf, the holder of the Triforce of Power. An accomplished sorcerer and power-hungry leader of the Gerudo desert thieves, he seeks the other two pieces of the Triforce to complete them and fulfill his desire of conquering Hyrule.

While Link is known throughout the gaming community as a character with great strength and bravery, he also possesses untold amounts of kindness and humility towards others. Whether it’s helping a girl round up her Cuccos, making deliveries across kingdoms, islands and oceans, paying for bridge repairs out of his own pocket to help a town’s emerging economy, or even rounding up golden bugs for bug-obsessed princess, there’s nothing Link wouldn’t do to help his fellow man. It’s his altruism**, not his strength or his fighting ability, that inspired many, both in game and out, to become better people.


The first “Legend of Zelda” entry I played was the black sheep of the family: ‘Zelda II – The Adventure of Link’. I was introduced to this game from one of the first friends I made in my new neighbourhood back when I was six. Despite being the odd one out of the whole series, its Action-RPG and side-scrolling elements, as opposed to the traditional top-down views and multiple items to solve puzzles, made me fall in love with the game. More importantly, this was the first entry to really display Link’s altruistic side, like retrieving a trophy from Goiyras for the town of Ruto, picking up the Medicine of Life for a sick child in Mido and even rescuing a kidnapped child in the Island Maze and bringing him back to Darnuia. Even though these ‘fetch quests’ were only used as a plot device to advance you further into this punishing game, it really helped to showcase Link’s character as a guy who’s willing to go the extra mile to help out, something that the first entry (which I played years later!) didn’t really show in my opinion. To this day, I still consider ‘Zelda II’ to be one of my all-time favourite Zelda games.

It wasn’t until after I played ‘Ocarina of Time’ and subsequent entries afterward that I really saw Link’s altruistic personality shine through. Whether it’s in town, on Hyrule Field or deep in enemy territory, I watched as Link took any opportunity he could to assist in any way he can. Granted, it’s the player’s choice in whether or not they accept the task, but the rewards are usually worth it.

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Yep, definitely worth it. (Image from Zeldapedia)

Doing these quests always put a smile on my face whenever I completed them. And I found that it felt really good when the person I helped was truly grateful. I imagined that’s how Link also felt when he helped someone out with their problems, whether it’s fetching something for them, playing songs on the Ocarina to soothe their troubles, or just being there, listening to and acknowledging other people’s problems. I found that the gratitude one receives after helping someone out is the best kind of reward, not money or valuable treasures. In that way, I started to find ways to help out the people around me, regardless of how big or how small that act may be.

However, being an altruist isn’t the same as being a doormat – there are times when you’ll have to say no, even if you really want to help. That’s especially the case if you’re already overburdened with other promises you’ve sworn to keep. Just like Link, you have the choice in whether to say “Yes” or “No” to someone requesting your help. It doesn’t do anyone any good if you burn yourself out trying to uphold all the promises you’ve made to others. It’s a hard lesson I’ve learned over the years; breaking a promise or an obligation to help harms that person’s trust in you and harms your credibility and reputation, a difficult thing to get back. The point I’m making is, make your promises sparingly and only if you have the capacity to keep them. In most cases, after you’ve taken care of your other obligations, you can usually go back to that person you declined earlier and assist them with their problems. It’s the smart thing to do, the right thing to do and the mature and distinguished way to be a successful altruist in this day and age.

So, has Link also inspired you to be altruistic? Mildly related tangent: What’s your favourite entry in the “Legend of Zelda” series? Share your thoughts on the comments below! And, if you haven’t already, subscribe to the e-mail list or click that Follow button to keep up with the latest on “Games with Coffee!”

Enjoying the rest of my long weekend, this is Ryan telling you to Keep Gaming and Keep Brewing.

 *Canadian holiday celebrating Queen Victoria’s birthday, usually on May 24th. It’s colloquially known as the” May Two-Four” weekend, signifying the opening of the cottage season. It’s also the number of beers traditionally required to celebrate this particular long weekend, which is known as a “two-four” in Canadian lingo. The more you know.

 **For the uninitiated, Google’s definition of altruism is as follows: Altruism (noun): the belief in, or practice of, the disinterested and selfless concern for the well-being of others. In other words, it means helping those without expecting any reward in return.

 

My How-To Guide on Living with Non-Gamers: Spoken From Experience

Hello everyone, and welcome to another edition of “Games with Coffee.”  Grab a brew of beany awesomeness, sit down and let’s chat about an interesting subject.

As mature, distinguished gamers, we all have to face this particular reality at one point of our lives: how to live with others who have minimal or no interest in video games (ie. non-gamers). They could either be a spouse, a parent, sibling or other relatives, or a roommate. Let’s be honest; it wouldn’t be fair to that person if all you did in your spare time would be playing video games, since it wouldn’t bode for a good relationship. Conversely,  it also wouldn’t be fair to you if your S.O. or your roomie or whoever you’re residing with monopolizes all of your free time and prevents you from playing said games. While it’s the worst feeling in the world when the non-gamer living with you belittles you when you partake in your gaming pastime, on the flip side, it is kind of rude to hog the TV to yourself, especially if their favourite show is on. And finally, while you may think that you’ll get around to doing your responsibilities after you get to that save point or finish off that boss, the other person living with you may think otherwise.

So, what do you do to balance playing games with spending time with your favourite non-gamer?

It’s actually a lot more easier to accomplish than you’d think. The solution boils down to a few, simple things: Communication, Trust, Compromise and Moderation.


If there’s something I’ve learned after almost five years of being married, it’s this: Sometimes you not only need to listen, you have to speak up as well.

When I tied the knot in 2012, gaming took a huge back seat to my new life. This sounds like a first-world-problem kind of deal, but I went from gaming about 4 to 6 hours a day to 4 to 6 hours a month if anything,  and it was something that took a bit of time to get used to. My wife disliked watching me play video games, simply because she wasn’t interested at all – she found them to be a waste of time and would rather watch a TV show that we’d both be interested in. I complied because it was fair for the both of us – I wasn’t going to be rude and hog the TV all for myself, but there were days where I just wanted to veg out for an hour or two, especially after a rough day at the office.

Ten months into our marriage, after we became the proud owners of a nice little house, I decided that I needed to talk to her about my gaming hobby and what it means to me. I explained to her that there should be a happy medium that we could agree on when it comes to us sharing the TV and me playing video games.

Funnily enough, she understood and agreed with me and we eventually came up with a compromise: I bought me some wireless headphones to connect to the TV to use solely for gaming. During a session, she’s either right beside me reading a good book, watching a YouTube video, listening to a podcast, or at the kitchen table working on one of her many amazing hobbies*. When a reasonable amount of time passes, whether it’s an hour or two, she kindly asks me to stop, I listen and turn off my game and we go about our day.

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A victory for compromise! (Image from Know Your Meme)

Obviously, your situation may be different, but here are some tips that can help when you want to speak to that special non-gamer in your life about working out a compromise:

  1. Calmly argue your side of things: This may be a bit obvious, but don’t yell or whine at your special person and accuse them of never letting you play video games; that’s not the way a mature, distinguished gamer should act. Rather, calmly get that person to understand why you love gaming and that there should be a reasonable way for you to enjoy what you love to do without sacrificing your relationship with them, like playing during the weekends or so for example.
  2. Be persistent but don’t be aggressive: Especially if they bite back, saying to you that gaming is a waste of time or that there should be better things to do than sitting down and staring at a screen. Words like that do hurt and can cause tempers to flare, but keep your cool, explain that it’s as viable a hobby as any and that there’s no reason to judge you on what you enjoy.
  3. Work first, game after: Play games after you complete your daily responsibilities first. It’s a pretty easy compromise you can work out with your special person.
  4. Assure that person that you’ll exercise self-control: Practicing self-control develops trust between yourself and the non-gamer in your life. By developing that skill, you’ll find that they will be much more accommodating to hobby of choice.
  5. If all else fails, invest in portable gaming: There are a lot of great portable options out there to get your fix, from mainstream systems like the Nintendo 3DS and the PS Vita, to emulation based devices such as the GCW-ZERO, to custom-built options using the Raspberry Pi and RetroPie. If you’re still itching to play console games however, the release of the Nintendo Switch is (I believe) a perfect choice.**

Well, there you have it. What do you think? Are these tips helpful? Got anything else to add? Let me know on the comments below. And stay tuned for the next edition: I’ll be delving back into memory lane to talk about a series that’s been a huge influence in my life – Legend of Zelda!

Once again, this has been Ryan from “Games With Coffee,” telling you to Keep Gaming and Keep Brewing. Happy Easter!

*I’ll shamelessly plug my wife’s work here. She does lettering and she’s pretty good at it too!

**I haven’t picked up the Switch as of yet, but I assume it’s a great console/portable hybrid that fits the profile of a mature, distinguished gamer? I’ll write about it when I pick one up.

Video Game Music: Why It’s My Personal Soundtrack To Life

Good morning everyone, and welcome to another edition of “Games with Coffee.” Grab your favourite mug and a pair of headphones, because I’m going to talk to you about a subject that’s dear to my heart: Video Game Music!

Video game music (which I’ll abbreviate to VGM) has evolved far beyond its origins back in the 70’s and 80’s, when gaming was extremely niche. What started with electronically synthesized sounds, bleeps, bloops, trills and clicks eventually gave way to epic, cinematic orchestrations, groovy EDM tracks, soft, emotive pieces and god and beast-slaying rock and heavy metal. These are but a few of the sprawling musical genres used in VGM.

I can’t remember when exactly I got into game music… I suspect it was from a very young age because I can remember back to my days in elementary school when I’d be humming tunes from games like Mega Man X, Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Star Fox, Dragon Quest, Zelda II, Crash Bandicoot, Super Mario 64, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and Final Fantasy VII, among others. My music options improved when I gained four things at the start of high school: A Sony Discman, a refurbished PC with a CD-R burner installed, the Internet and file sharing programs like Napster, KaZaa and LimeWire.

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Truer words were never spoken (Image by Ponyhead)

So the cycle went like this: People would rip audio directly from the game itself (a difficult, but doable task in those times) and upload it. I, along with millions of other closet VGM lovers, would download those songs, burn them to a CD and sit back and enjoy the tunes (In my case, I listened while studying since I was in high school at that time.). Over time, CD’s gave way to MP3 players, like the iPod, and to places like Youtube, Spotify and Internet Radio, where an enormous archive of video game music can be found at your fingertips for your listening pleasure.

Some articles and blogs have speculated that listening to video game music is a great aid to help concentrate and be productive. I tend to agree; I credit game music a lot for helping me focus on my studies. I wasn’t exactly a model A+ student, but with the music just being in the background, I found that doing school work (or any kind of work nowadays) was almost like playing a game. I’d go around solving math and physics equations or writing essays in the same way I would’ve fought bosses in Final Fantasy or solved complicated puzzles in Legend of Zelda. (Pro tip: If you’re looking for a GREAT online VGM playlist to listen to while you’re working, click here.)

Something else to consider: game music and exercise are a match made in heaven. Whether it’s battle or boss fight music from games like Final Fantasy or Legend of Zelda, or tunes from great action, adventure or fighting games, like God of War, Metroid, Mega Man and Tekken, I find that they give me the extra push I need to lift more weights, do more reps or hold that pose longer. Game music is also perfect if you’re into kickboxing, karate or any other form of martial arts that require training. Some examples of training music I like to listen to include this, this, oh and this too. And whether you’re on a treadmill or outdoors, NOTHING beats running to the music from Sonic the Hedgehog.

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Just… try not to run like this. You will be made fun of. I speak from experience. (Image from Smashpedia)

Like to get around by car, bike, train or on foot and need some travelling music? Once again, VGM to the rescue! I personally like to listen to the World Map/Overworld music from Final Fantasy or one of the many versions of the Hyrule Field theme from Legend of Zelda, although, the choice is yours if you care to look. Sometimes, if I’m in a rush to get somewhere or I’m just feeling the need for speed, I fall back to a reliable game music staple: Sonic the Hedgehog.

Now, let’s say you’re working on a major project for work or school and you need something to psyche yourself up because that deadline’s coming up and you haven’t even started yet, may I present Exhibit A, Exhibit B, Exhibit CExhibit D and Exhibit E. Trust me, these’ll get you pumped!

And finally, some examples of music to chill to: Hi-Tone Fandango and Mr. Frustration Man from Grim Fandango, Sea Breeze from Metal Gear Solid 3, Galdin Quay from Final Fantasy XV and Lazy Afternoons (Twilight Town) from Kingdom Hearts II are among some of my favourites.

So, that’s today’s post. Do you listen to video game music? Don’t be embarrassed; share your thoughts below on the comments! And stay tuned for the next edition, where I discuss an interesting topic: how to live with a non-gamer. This’ll be a good post, so look out for it!

This has been Ryan from “Games with Coffee,” telling you to keep gaming and keep brewing. Enjoy your Sunday!

Super Mario Bros. 3 and the NES – On That Day 25 Years Ago…

Good morning ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the inaugural edition of “Games with Coffee.” Ready to get this journey started? Then grab a chair, top up your mug and get ready to travel down Memory Lane, because I got a bunch of questions to ask you:

Do you remember the very first video game you’ve ever played or the first console you’ve ever owned? Do you remember how it made you feel when you turned it on to play it? Were you excited whenever you heard the familiar introduction tunes or jingles? Was your first game challenging or easy? Were you determined to finish it at all costs?

You’re probably wondering, “Where are you going with all this?” Well, I’ve asked those questions for a specific reason: Today I want to talk about the very first video game I’ve ever played on the very first console I’ve ever owned. This game had a pretty big impact on my life and set me on a path that would help shape me to be the person I am today. The vibrant colours, sounds and environments expanded and cultivated my imagination. It’s also helped me to understand how being inspired by something unlikely can achieve great things. Even the circumstances to me owning my first console also taught me a valuable lesson, a lesson I only figured out later in life when I looked back at this moment: How to persevere in the face of adversity.

The game and console in question: Super Mario Bros. 3 on the Nintendo Entertainment System.


1992 was an awesome year. Not just because the Toronto Blue Jays won the World Series (which was extremely important to five year old me at the time), but also because my dad gave me the best Christmas gift a little kid could ever get – a brand-new Nintendo Entertainment System pre-packaged with Super Mario Bros. 3. It almost didn’t happen though because of what happened at the end of 1991, when the recession affected our family.

My dad lost his job and our landlord had no choice but to evict us and sell the house we were renting to own at the time to make ends meet. My dad’s older sister took our family in, while he himself took a night shift job with his older brother in the family business – medical-grade plastic injection moulding.

For almost two years, we shared the same roof as my paternal aunt and uncle, their two grown children and a basement tenant. Initially, my mother was humiliated at the fact that we went from a good job and a house to nearly homeless and unemployed, while my dad was ashamed at putting our family in that position, even though it wasn’t his fault to begin with. It was a difficult period for the two of them.

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My brother (left) and I (right), not knowing or realizing what the hell was going on at the time.

I’ve always considered Christmas of 1992 as the catalyst for when things started to change for the better for our family. Even though Dad worked double shifts, he was determined to be an expert in the injection moulding business, doing whatever he could to understand how the machines worked and how to fix them when they broke down. Mom trained to be a receptionist at a private college while learning how to use word processing software a computer (which was up-and-coming technology at the time). All that work eventually paid off when we finally moved into a brand new house in January of 1994, paid for by my parent’s hard work. When I was told this story as an adult, I was floored. I never realized how much they did to get our first house.

Since that day, whenever I put on Super Mario Bros. 3, whether it was emulated or remade, I always think back to the struggle my parents faced almost 25 years ago, and how they fought back to make our lives better.


As for me, it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows when I first started playing video games. Like all new players, I was pretty bad. I didn’t even know what the ‘B’ button was used for; I just kept pressing ‘A’ all the time to jump. It took the combination of me actually reading the manual and an older kid physically showing me how to run in the game for me to get it, but even then I still struggled.

I’d get to World 8, only to get trounced either by the tough levels or by running out of items and lives before I could even hit the final castle. I developed a love-hate relationship with it and I actually gave up a couple times, thinking I would never finish it.

Until one day I did.

It was 1995. My brother and I stayed by our favourite aunt’s loft in the city and we rented the live-action ‘Super Mario Bros.’ movie from the local Blockbuster (remember those?). I remember back then thinking that it was the greatest movie ever, when in actuality, it was so cringe-worthy bad.

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Not the brightest moment for Nintendo, or John Leguizamo (Image by Internet Movie Poster Awards)

Anyways, I was so inspired that when I got home, I did two things – I wrote a crappy fan fiction based on the movie for my third grade creative writing class (only the second time I’ve done that, and it certainly wasn’t the last) and I was going to finish Super Mario Bros. 3, come hell or high water. I even planned it all out:

Step 1: Get some Whistles.

Step 2: Get all of the items between Worlds 1 and 3 (Especially the Juglem’s Cloud at the end of World 2).

Step 3: Play all the Whistles to get to World 8

Step 4: ???

Step 5: Profit!

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Tonight I dine on – Whoops, wrong series…

I wasn’t joking about Step 4 either; I knew firsthand how challenging World 8 was, but for some reason I breezed through the levels on that day. Levels 8-1 and 8-2 and the Mini-Fortress had stumped me for years, but this time I either cleared them easily or skipped them thanks to the level-skip cloud. Everything was going right for a change. I played smart; I was patient, used my item stash wisely and didn’t rush. And then I arrived at Bowser’s castle for the first time.

It took me almost all my lives and going down to the absolute last of my item stash before I could finish it and I remember setting my controller down in astonishment at what I accomplished. It wasn’t significant by any means – I didn’t cure cancer or developed the technology of the future, but that moment, to me, meant everything. And it was from that really terrible movie that I learned that even the most unlikely of inspirations can lead someone to achieve great things, whether it’s beating a game that’s stumped you for a time or starting a passion project that you’ve been putting off for years.

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A Winner Was Me!!!

 


So, that’s my story for today. Now it’s your turn: Hit up the comments below and let me know what your first memories of video gaming were, how they inspired you and what you learned looking back at those days. Also, stay tuned for next Saturday morning’s post where I talk about a smart phone game I’ve recently been obsessed with: Clash Royale.

Until next time, this is Ryan from “Games with Coffee,” telling you to keep gaming and keep brewing.