Now Playing: Tomb Raider (2013)

I have a complicated relationship with the term “gamer.” Specifically, referring to myself as one.

I am quite confident in my geek bona fides, but gaming is another thing. I grew up playing PC games like Oregon Trail and Carmen Sandiego, but I never owned a console until I got a used N64 in college. (This was mainly used to play drunk MarioKart with my roommate.) I would never have considered myself a “gamer.”

It was my husband who really got me into gaming. He showed me the Star Wars RPG Knights of the Old Republic (KOTOR), he bought me a Wii, he let me play his account for the beta of my first MMO, SW:TOR, and we watched the Overwatch World Cup together.

So, now I’m a gamer, I guess. Except…I don’t think I’ve ever played a game that he hasn’t played first, or with me. That still makes me feel lacking, like I’m just…borrowing his hobbies, or something.

In my inane desire to change this, I somehow became fixated on Tomb Raider. The original game is a classic, and the 2013 reboot has the dual benefit of being both more feminist than the original and getting good reviews. Also, we already owned the game, and my husband never got around to playing it. I would be on my own.

So, I set the difficulty to “easy” and gave it a shot.

Tomb Raider follows a young Lara Croft on an expedition to find the lost kingdom of Yamatai, but her ship is wrecked and her crew is stranded on a mysterious island with a creepy cult and a strange reluctance to let anyone leave. Lara must crawl through gross caves, explore dark tombs, and go down a lot of zip lines in order to find her crew and get them all off the island.

Lara is exactly the kind of female main character I’ve been waiting for. She’s tough and scrappy, yet fiercely loyal to her crew, especially her best friend Sam. (Sam is a girl; there’s no romance here.) Lara’s got brains, brawn, and heart. Plus her costume redesign is spot on.

The gameplay is fun, and has plenty of assists like auto aim and copious checkpoints to keep it from getting frustrating for n00bs like me. The puzzle-type challenges are my favorite, figuring out how to get from once place to another. Lara gets to use several different weapons and tools, so you can kind of figure out a combat style that best for you as well as best for the situation.

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Yeah, I’ve hit a couple spots I’ve had trouble with. I’m really bad at timing button presses. I also have a tendency to start combat by rushing in and just shooting at stuff without considering options. Usually I’ll hit a “tough combat” and die five times before I realize I was supposed to sneak around, or shoot an explosive to kill all enemies at once, or some other strategy that was obvious once I thought about it for two seconds. This gives me the strange feeling of both chagrin for having to die at least five times before I catch on, but also pride for catching on in the end.

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I’ve enjoyed the story so much that I’m really looking forward to the new Tomb Raider movie coming out this year, which seems like it inspired by this game. Action movies with females leads are still relatively rare, and it would be really great to see this iteration of Lara on the big screen.

So, has playing Tomb Raider made me feel like a real gamer? Actually, kinda. As stupid as it sounds, I do feel more confident in my gaming abilities. Once or twice my husband has actually watched me play a video game for a change, instead of the other way around. I’m never going to play ranked PvP in a first person shooter or anything, but that’s not required and it’s not something I want to do anyways.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Sweet

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From Dublin.

I’m not one to Instagram my every meal, but I took a lot of photos of food when we were in Ireland.  We had so many beautiful and tasty meals!  One of my favorites was the afternoon tea my mom and I had at Gallaher’s in Dublin.  There were scones, sandwiches, and pastries, plus of course tea.  It was delicious and a very fun experience.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Sweet

Review: Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card

34713646Most fans of anime will tell you that there was a “gateway drug,” so to speak: one show that hooked them and got them into the medium of anime in general.  Ask people of my generation, and they will name shows like Dragonball Z and Sailor Moon as shows still hold a special place in their hearts.

For me, it was Cardcaptor Sakura by CLAMP.

From my first viewing of the terrible English dub Cardcaptors, I was hooked.  The manga, with two story arcs of six volumes each, was even better, and remains to this day my favorite manga.  I own two versions of it, a boxed set of the volumes and an omnibus edition.  If you like magical girl anime, it doesn’t get any better than CCS.

When I heard a few months ago that CLAMP was putting out new volumes of Cardcaptor Sakura, I screamed so loud my husband came to ask me what was wrong.  Wrong?  Nothing’s wrong!  This is only the best day of my life!

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The first volume of Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card is now available in English, with more to follow in the next months, and the anime is currently running in simulcast on Crunchyroll and in “simuldub” on Funimation.  I have not seen the anime yet, but I devoured the first manga volume when I got it for my birthday recently.

The Clear Card story arc picks up exactly where the Sakura Card story arc left off.  The first chapter expands on the last scene of the last manga, where Syaoran surprises Sakura on her way to middle school, saying he’s returned to Tomoeda to stay for good.

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S+S shippers rejoice!

The story continues in a very familiar fashion, hiting all the typical Cardcaptor Sakura beats: a mysterious figure appearing in Sakura’s dreams, strange forces working in Tomoeda, new cards (this time they are transparent), a new, upgraded staff, and of course new costumes made by Tomoyo-chan!  All of Sakura’s friends and family are back as well.  I like that it has such a familiar feel, and I can’ wait to see what twists and turns are coming as the story develops more.  What secrets are Syaoran and Eriol keeping?

The artwork remains absolutely gorgeous.  There are so many beautiful large panels and two page spreads that really let you appreciate the art.

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Release!

I really enjoyed the experience of reading this volume, because for me it was the first time reading a CCS manga without having seen the anime first.  I’m sure I will watch the anime soon, maybe even before reading more volumes, but it was kinda fun to have an “all new” manga to read.

The only thing I found slightly jarring was the incorporation of modern technology in the story, like smart phones, email, and texting.  While it was worked seamlessly into the story, it was just surprising to me because the story takes place immediately after the original volumes which were produced in the 90s and therefore barely had the concept of primitive mobile phones. So it was a big jump forward in technology with no jump forward in time.  However, I don’t think they could have handled it any better and it didn’t affect my enjoyment of the story.

Basically, it’s just wonderful to be back in the CCS world after fifteen years away.  And this volume has only just whet my appetite for more.  This is just the beginning!

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Tour Guide

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From Connemara.

We had the most excellent tour guide on our Vagabond tour of Ireland.  Traveling small in the Vagatron (seen above) let us do all kinds of spontaneous things.  For example, our guide simply pulled over on the side of the road in Connemara, and we all got out to look at a peat bog firsthand.  I can’t remember which mountains those are in the background; there are a lot of mountains in Connemara.  It’s a beautiful place to see up close.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Tour Guide

It is cold and snowing like the wrath of God outside

Free ebooks this weekend from a great indie sci-fi author!

Infinitefreetime.com

…so you may be interested to learn that BENEVOLENCE ARCHIVES Vol. 1 and THE SANCTUM OF THE SPHERE are both free ebooks at Amazon through Sunday.  It’s a good weekend to spend inside reading, yes?

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More later, but I figured I’d make sure this was out there.

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