LEVEL UP! Episode One

Without further ado, here is the first episode of our new webseries, (tentatively) titled "LEVEL UP!" Each episode we'll talk about games we've been playing, happenings in the video game news world, and whatever else comes to mind. If you like what you see, subscribe to the channel. If you don't like what you see, subscribe anyway - maybe we'll get better.

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This Week's New Music

Hey readers and friends, I've been struck by several new tracks that have hit the world wide web in the last few days, so I thought I'd share them. The three tracks in question are quite different, but they tell me that variety is the spice of life, so I'd say the potpourrie of music coming your way in this music is a good thing.  So here are three new tracks that I'm digging this week.

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Five for Friday: Attack on Titan Characters

If you follow anime at all, you've probably heard of Attack on Titan. If you don't, it's the biggest hit this season, in Japan and in the states among fans of the genre. The show follows the military cadets of a dystopian/steam-punkish civilization existing entirely within a series of walls which protect it from the man-eating titans outside. For the last hundred-or-so years, the remnants of humanity have been forced behind these walls in the wake of the Titan Apocalypse. If you're looking for something gritty and depressing to get into, I'd highly recommend AoT. If those adjectives don't appeal to you, maybe stick to Spongebob and Hey Arnold. The show has a varied cast of characters with numerous beliefs, fears, and hopes developed in this Hell on earth. Here are five of my favorites. There will be spoilers ahead. You've been warned.

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New Round of Trailers

If the end of the recent heatwave is any indication, it's clear that summer is beginning to wane. Now that the temperature has settled to a cool 85 degrees on average, it seems that the wash of big summer movies will soon be over. But fear not, cinemaphiles! For there is hope for more awesomeness in the form of some great new trailers that have recently hit the web. Let us know which upcoming films you're excited about.

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See, Microsoft CAN make good hardware

I was right!  Ahahahaha! Yea... so I'm finally coming clean on the Microsoft Surface thing. I was dead wrong. Flop. Big loss for Microsoft. Selling them on the cheap now, the whole deal. No matter how many tingles the original ads send down the old spinal cord, nothing's really going to change for the Surface in its current form. I was right about one thing though... Microsoft can make good hardware.

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Five for Friday: Disney Songs IV

If you've been paying attention, you'll realize that this is the fourth installment of classic Disney songs that I've dropped on this site. You might be saying "Sam, you've already pointed out 15 great Disney tunes! There certainly can't be 5 more classics in the lot?!" Well, friends, my answer is that there CERTAINLY CAN. So without further ado, here are five more immortal tracks that'll bring you back to those wonderful days of your youth spent cooped up in the house watching Disney movies.

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Five for Friday: Strategy Games

You've probably noticed that Griff and I have been spending a lot of time recently writing about Fire Emblem: Awakening . That's because we've both kinda fallen in love with the game. I think any strategy gamer would agree that it's one of the best games in the FE franchise, and arguably one of the finest strategy games of the last decade. So if you've just finished leading Chrom and friends to victory and now have an insatiable taste for tactics in your mouth, here are some other great strategy games that you can dive into.

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Five for Friday: My Chemical Romance

I've recently been tearing through the discography of My Chemical Romance, an old favorite from High School. If your only opinion of the band is formed by their classic goth-emo hit "Helena" almost a decade ago, you should do yourself a favor and take a closer look into their catalog. You'll find an incredibly versatile and theatrical band that successfully shifted it's style and image on a near album-to-album basis. From Death-emo Punks to Queen-esque Arena kings to Futuristic Pop-rockers, MCR have tons of great material to dive into. Here are five of my favorite tracks.

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Coping with Death in Fire Emblem

Death has always held a prominent position in videogames. Certain games become an endless waltz of death and rebirth as the player shuffles through lives and 1-ups. In many games the player is a dealer of death, laying down countless foes before him. In experiences such as these, death seems to lose a great deal of its gravity. No matter how many times Mario gets hit by a koopa shell, he’ll pop back up at the beginning of the level. No matter how many noobs you no-scope in Call of Duty, countless more will fall in to take their place. For games like these you can truly say that death doesn’t matter.

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Few things in gaming make me legitimately sad...

Now, I would say something like "Sakamoto must be turning in his grave," but there are two reasons that doesn't quite work, the first being that he is still alive and well. The second, and one that myself and Metroid fans 'round the globe are likely still dumbfounded by, is that he was heavily involved in Other M, particularly in the re-imaging of Samus's character. The portrayal of Samus in Other M was and still is the most controversial and (by some) most highly criticized part of the game. You can point fingers at collaborator Team Ninja all you want if you didn't enjoy the gameplay, but the fact remains that Sakamoto and Nintendo were fully responsible for the story and blench-inducing dialogue that came with it. Sometimes things just don't work out as planned.

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Yeezus Reborn

Kanye, Yeezy, and now Yeezus. Self-styled musical genius and cultural trendsetter Kanye West has gone through a transformation of sorts (resurrection?) with his latest album release, Yeezus  . Don't get me wrong - I love Kanye. I believe that he's a musical genius and cultural trendsetter just as much as he himself believes it (well, maybe not quite  that much). And he's certainly making a statement in his new album. It took God six days to create the earth, and it took Kanye six albums to create Yeezus , his darkest, most raw and visceral album to date. OK, enough biblical allusions. For now. I could have written a review of this album, but it's already been reviewed by everybody and their mother. Instead, I'm just going to give some brief thoughts on Yeezus , and I invite you to give your own in the comment section.

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Five for Friday: Five Reasons to Still Love WoW

The other day, Griff mentioned to me that he was considering checking out the upcoming PS3 MMO "Final Fantast XIV." I considered this, and my honest response was "That's cool. It'll probably just make you want to play WoW." While I have no doubt that FF14 is going to be a great game, in my experience, any other MMO I've played has just made me miss World of Warcraft. I've tried or checked out a whole slew of them - DnD Online, LOTRO, Guild Wars, etc. - and they all just make me yearn for Azeroth. So if, like Griffin, you are thinking of drowning your summer free time in an MMO, here are some points that may make you realize that the World of Warcraft is still the world for you.

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Five for Friday: New Smash Bros. Characters

If you paid attention to anything about this year's Nintendo E3 showing, you were likely most excited by the revelations of the upcoming Super Smash Bros. game. After all, Nintendo could tease a quarter image of the Smash logo and the fanboys would go rabid in anticipation. But they did one better - showed off a few of the new characters joining the fray. Megaman, the Animal Crossing Villager, and (apparently) the WiiFit trainer will be making their debut in the next iteration of the landmark fighting series. So now that the game is on the horizon, it's time to start developing my fantasy list of other characters I'd love to see in the game.

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Five for Friday: The music of Virtue's Last Reward

Over the past six months, I've been lucky enough to play more great games than I could ever really ask for. The end of 2012 brought me the near-religious marvel that is Journey.  Come Christmas and early 2013, I indulged in brand new Layton and the near-Galaxy-quality merriment of Super Mario 3D Land. Currently, I'm working my way through Fire Emblem: Awakening, and I can say without hesitation that it's the most elegant strategy game I've played, well, certainly in many, many years (I dare not say "ever" without at least a couple hundred words to back it up). For me, though, one experience in particular stands tall amidst this utopian throng of top-notch gaming encounters, and that game is entitled Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward. 

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It's (finally) Adventure Time

I was late to the Adventure Time party. Not ​because I thought I would dislike the show - it's quite the opposite. From what I had heard, it had just the offbeat humor and fantasy RPG roots to hook me like no other. My reason for taking so long to dive in was a (I guess you could call it) moral hesitation. You see, from the one or two episodes I had seen in the past, I made the decision that Adventure Time was not fit for young children, despite it being advertised at the very demographic. There are some weird, heavy things that a college student who grew up on Dungeons and Dragons and Lord of the Rings would love, but a 7 year old might just get creeped out over.

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Five for Friday: Problems with the XBone

Is there even such a thing as a successful console reveal or launch anymore? Between the early price cuts for the 3DS, the paltry sales of the Wii U since it moved its initial 3 million units, Sony's awkward stage presence at the PS4 event - it's nothing but bad news for fledgling gaming systems these days. To be fair, the 3DS has been able to bounce back tremendously with an onslaught of high quality games, and though the Wii U is still stagnant, it seems at least potentially poised to have a stellar E3. The PS4's fate remains to be seen, and could go either way. That leaves one machine - the Xbox One.

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Five for Friday: The return of Google+

Have you heard? Google+ is cool again! Well, I shouldn't get ahead of myself; whether it ever was cool is up for debate, and whether the recent changes to the social network will bolster its popularity in the long haul remains to be seen. Public reaction aside, probably the most exciting aspect of the overhaul is the company's new unified messaging service, previously codenamed Babel and now simply being roped under the Hangouts umbrella. I know my friends may never truly use G+, but that doesn't make me any less stoked about Google finally taking messaging seriously, as well as sprucing up it's little Facebook competitor in general. Here are my five favorite aspects of the new G+  and Google's impressive new messaging initiative.

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New Anime Roundup

It's been some time since I reviewed an anime - I still watch series pretty frequently, but there haven't been any interesting enough to write about. Cue Funimation's spring simulcast lineup. The company's brought two of the best series I've ever seen to the states this season, and I once more have something to write about. The two series are completely different in tone and genre, but they both stand out as possible new classics. We're about five episodes into each, so if you're looking for a weekly show to get into, I'd recommend diving into either one. ​

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