Culture

The Week In Geek: Zelda franchise turns 25

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If you saw 2009’s We Live In Public – a prophetic documentary chronicling the rise and fall of streaming media pioneer Josh Harris and his eerily accurate predictions for the future of the internet – you’ll be familiar with the evolution of video on the web (or you crapped your pants in paranoid fear). If you haven’t, you’re in luck, because it’s streaming right now online. Where, you ask? Find out, right after this commercial.

So-called “format wars” have become a more frequent occurrence (or annoyance) in the last decade as technology progresses. Yesterday’s “VHS vs. Beta” was today’s “Blu-ray vs. HD-DVD”. Blu-ray, the one that came out on top? It’s already old news. Your grandma doesn’t even use hers anymore. DVD and BR are going the way of the tape deck, becoming unnecessary in lieu of digital media. While Netflix has been a household name for some time, offering affordable streaming media service to customers, major competition was bound to arise. With Blockbuster unable to survive the transition, Amazon Prime and Hulu Plus are rising to the challenge. Hulu Plus just added the Criterion Collection, bringing some seriously respectable content to the fight. Amazon has a loyal customer base, but offers only 5,000 movies on Amazon Prime. While Amazon and Hulu offer online services, Netflix is available on as many as 200 devices, including all nex-gen gaming consoles. Will one come out on top or are we finally seeing the ultimate format war: “The Internet vs. TV?” (*Cue ominous music*) – SG

In The Not-So-Distant Future, Only Hipsters Will Steal Tape Decks
I’ve got good news and bad news: (which one is which depends on your feelings about the cassette tape – if you even have any.)

While the tape deck hasn’t been a standard feature in most vehicles for years, one company was keeping the dream alive. It’s ironic to think that a luxury car was the reluctant torch bearer of an obsolete format, but with the end of its SC series, Lexus pulls the plug on the cassette deck as a standard feature once and for all. Sorry, rich folks. That’s not to say you can’t find one for sale, it’s just not too likely to see one included in the pimpin’ of anyone’s ride any time soon.

If you’re still holding onto those old Ace of Base tapes or the mix you made of Cypress Hill’s greatest hits, you might want to hold off on tossing them out with your spring cleaning. In a time when the music industry does most of its business over the magical internet – where you can download an album in seconds – tape decks seem like an ancient artifact to most, a distant memory. However, a burgeoning collective of tape fans who put on live shows, broadcast and even release new music via tape. Maybe the days of “checking the other side” for your favorite song isn’t entirely behind us. Ahh, memories. – SG

The Legend of Zelda Celebrates The Big 2-5
This week saw the 25th anniversary of one of the world’s most beloved video game series: The Legend of Zelda. A favorite of mine (see: the tattoo on my arm) and a constant source of nostalgia, I’ve been geeking out all week and playing the original, which I could beat with my eyes closed at this point. While I’ve played most of the games in the series, save a few Gameboy titles, the Nintendo 64’s “Ocarina of Time” remains my favorite. Maybe it was that so many of my friends were playing at the same time as me back in ’98, but what really only took a week and a half or so to beat seemed to last for months. That really took me back to being a little kid and spending hours on the original Zelda, trying to find every secret and then do it over again. Thanks to my fan boy ways, the triforce tattoo on my arm provides the same nostalgia every now and then. Fortunately, there’s about a million ways to play your favorite Zelda games, including downloading them to your Wii, pirating them to an emulator (not that anyone would ever do such a heinous thing) or getting serious and tracking down those old cartridges. I would recommend wiping the dust off your old Nintendo and firing up a classic. – SG

My fondest memories of Zelda include the sheer envy of watching my friends play “A Link to the Past” (1992) on SNES or Game Boy. How much I burned to save Hyrule and her citizens from Gannon and his sadistically complicated puzzles. I knew, as a kid, that this game would be the most involved and challenging thing available to me and I slavered at copies of it. However, I was (and still am) a Pokékid and spent any money I had for Game-Boy cartridges on the ensuing rainbow of versions for that franchise.

However, as I got to be an older gamer I remember hearing that a new title was on it’s way for the DS platform and nearly wetting my pants. “The Phantom Hourglass” (2007) wasn’t as amazing as the earlier titles but it was nice to feel like I got to play a Zelda title as soon as it came out when the game was new to millions of people. I finally wasn’t rediscovering it. It was an experience unique to me. A good game with a sense of humor I buried 60+ hours into that game just playing it on the bus. The adventures of Link and his elfin counterpart Zelda will have a special place in the hearts of all gamers; young and old for a long time, and it looks like it will stay that way. – BK

Minecraft: A Completionist’s Worst Nightmare
This week the plucky young creator of the Internet sensation “Minecraft,” Markus Persson, discussed the addition of achievements to his already well-loved game. For those of you so far out of the loop you’re walking a straight line to squares-ville: “Minecraft” is the wildly successful 3-d building simulator that is taking casual and serious gamers by storm. Boasting 1.5 million purchases and a community of 4.5 million; “Minecraft” is, by far, the most popular game that’s still in beta testing. The “Dragon Age 2” demo can’t even get that many downloads and it’s a finished product (we’re hoping). In all fairness, this game’s been available since mid-2009 and it’s popularity has grown exponentially since then. With the announcement of possible “achievements” within the game this begs the question, “What did gamers do before high score?” “Minecraft” has been doing great without any competitive structure or aggressive multi-play. With huge communities and virtual worlds that have been calculated to be (to scale) larger than earth, people have been building wonders cooperatively for two years now. All you need to do is search YouTube the title and feast your bespectacled eyes on all the wonders of the world, built to scale by a couple teenagers or a bored engineer. Somebody has even gone as far as building a small sixteen bit processor within their private game world! With this seemingly limitless creativity and a beautiful piano-centric soundtrack by C418; does competition, even the most good-natured, fit in? The worst behavior I could manage was spamming the chat channel of a public server with racial slurs and a vaguely misogynistic version of a rapping Bill Cosby.

So, like other loyal miners, I continue to plug away building my underground fortress so that I may build a tower of diamond that supports a 40 story tree. I’m sure this will draw more and more people, in hopes of building “Most convoluted way to climb up a mine shaft” or perhaps “biggest penis made of glass and iron.” Either way, people are going to still build diamond dicks and boobs of stone, but who else is on their way? Will servers that farm achievements bloom and replace the joys of joint world building? Let’s hope not because I don’t really think “A Sea of Cocks” is going to be an achievement and I’m not really interested in building much else. – BK

Marvel Vs Capcom: Universal Pants-Dampener
We recently saw the release of the next chapter in the legendary fighter franchise, “Marvel Vs. Capcom.” Now on the third installment, you know it’s going to be full price for a good year or two. This title has always been a favorite among hardcore nerds, and I have a crazy amount of stories attached to its little brothers. What can we expect, though? Next to the Guilty Gear/Arc system works line of crazy-ass fighting games MvC was the craziest shit available for the mass American markets; it boasts ridiculous combos plenty of humiliatingly adorable/deadly team combos and something like 50 characters. Never enough to satisfy the true gamer (at least the Xbox gamer) you can make your fighters dress up in all sorts of pretty colors. If dress-up isn’t your thing remember, you just payed 60 bucks for the most ass-kicking available on the market right now. With 10 times the achievements that it’s predecessor offers, you’ll have plenty to do; increasing your e-penis is hard work. The most honest look I can give you is that this game is a Super Street Fighter 4 upgrade with a larger roster and less technical skill required. It should please fan-boys and newbies alike and if you have $60 to blow this should be a welcome addition to any gamer’s library. Except the PC gamers, no-one loves them. – BK