Zephyrus of the Anemoi

.the ramblings of a radman.

Tag: Star Wars

Star Wars Pinball for iOS is free until the 9th: May the Force be with you!

I snatched up Star Wars Pinball for iPhone and iPad a couple days ago, but didn’t realize until today that it was still free. Not only is it still free, it’s free for 5 more days. So, seriously, if you like Star Wars or pinball or are part of a Venn diagram in which those things overlap and your sexy bits begin to tingle, then go download this. Right. Now.

The first table is included in the download and two additional tables can be purchased for $1 each. Unlocking the extra tables is actually key to one of the other cool features of the game: the ability to team up with your friends on either the Light Side or Dark Side and compete against the world.

Basically, every player has a “Force Score” which is based on your score, the number of tables you have played on, and how many friends you have playing via Game Center. Then, all of your points are used in support of either the Light Side or the Dark Side. The entire app’s interface is used to show which side is currently winning, by splitting it into blue on the left and red on the right. The percentage of the screen covered by each color indicates the current winning side.

Currently, I’m on the Light Side, but I’ve always loved an underdog, so it seems likely that I’ll eventually let my hatred consume me and fall. Join me, and together we can rule the galaxy as blogger and reader!

If we’re not Game Center friends already, send me an invite. My name is Zepfhyr. Be sure to include that you read the blog so I know to approve you.

Now get out there and download the game before it’s too late. Help me, readers! You’re my only hope!

On Star Wars, the prequels, and fatherhood

It’s been a long time since I’ve actually sat down to watch The Holy Trilogy. I don’t mean that it’s been a year or two. I mean that it’s been years. I’ve watched an episode here or there when I was trying to get my son interested, but he always had more interest in Star Wars as a video game (LEGO Star Wars, for example, or The Force Unleashed). He watched them because I was watching them, and he enjoyed them because I enjoy them (remember, the power of being a father is no different than the power to use the Force: it has a light and a dark side and you must maintain balance). But he never got excited about them the way I did as a child. Part of that stems from the fact that cinema has changed a great deal since I was a child. Every movie that kids see these days is chock full of action and humor throughout. There are no slowly-paced scenes with Muppets in a swamp or old dudes in a desert filling in important exposition to a story that has so much more history than is ever revealed in its first trilogy outing. But, since he’s turning 10 soon, I felt it was time to give the movies another go. And, as an experiment, I thought I’d give this Machete Viewing Order a try (more on that later).

Star Wars has a rather labored history for fans, stemming primarily from the fact that George Lucas just can’t leave well-enough alone. As a child, Star Wars was a single entity: a set of three films that each built on the previous but left so much unexplained and filled the entire galaxy with mystery. I remember devouring facts and details en masse as Lucas leaked it in various source and trivia books, as well as entire novels written in the universe (perhaps less with Lucas’s blessing than his bank account’s, as he was pretty determined to damage established continuity when he released the prequels). When I was a young lad entering my senior year of high school, however, Star Wars changed. Lucas released the “Special Edition” (because “Give Me All Your Money Edition” was too on-the-nose). My friends and I went to go see it in theaters, because how could we not? We had grown up with this movie. It was absolutely necessary that we experience it in its shiny new glory. We had not anticipated, however, that so much of the story would be changed due to Lucas’s meddling. Sure, we got some good laughs and a few new scenes to fill in a blank here and there, but the tone of the film was dramatically different as a result. The tragedy continued through Empire and Jedi and my friends and I became less excited about each revision. Han will always shoot first in my house. Luke will never scream while falling into the abyss. “Lapti Nek” will always play in Jabba’s palace.

The true horrors began, however, when I first saw The Phantom Menace in theaters. I remember such conflicting emotions during the movie. So much of it felt wrong somehow, but that didn’t stop me from getting excited about podracing (a scene I still enjoy, despite the majority of my peers hating it with every fiber of their being) and one of the most amazing lightsaber sequences I had ever seen. I tried to convince myself that this is what Star Wars was like to adults that watched it when it first came out, but I couldn’t overcome the sinking sensation that it simply wasn’t on par with the original trilogy. I searched my feelings and knew it to be true. I continued to visit theaters with each release, and while they got better, and Lucas recognized a few of his mistakes, it never seemed to be in time to correct them.

I remember taking my (then-two-year-old) son to see Revenge of the Sith in theaters with me. He loved movies at the time. We watched Spider-Man like it was going out of style, so I knew he’d sit through most of the movie with me, despite it being almost two-and-a-half hours long. I left the theater feeling somewhat satisfied, though still a little frustrated by the entire ordeal. I didn’t watch a single prequel from start to finish from that day on until this past week.

Several months ago, a friend of mine decided to throw a “Losing My Star Wars Virginity Party”. While I didn’t get to stay for the whole thing, it got me excited to watch Episodes IV, V, and VI again. Around the same time, I was introduced to something called The Machete Order. The proper viewing order for the entire Star Wars saga is a bit of a hot-button issue. Lucas himself declares the films should be watched in episode order (which is a great way to make people hate Star Wars). The big flaw here is the loss of some pretty awesome surprises in the original trilogy. Traditionalists believe that they should be viewed in release order, which unfortunately, leads to the prequels leaving a bit of a bad taste in your mouth as you finish the meal. Purists say “damn the prequels” and ignore them entirely. Unfortunately, for a younger generation of Star Wars fans, they are going to be bombarded by friends to see them. Plus, some of the information in the movies is key to appreciating the expanded universe content that exists out there, such as cartoons and video games. An alternative viewing order was suggested in which viewers watch A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back first. Then, after the big reveal in Empire, watching the prequels, and finally finishing the saga with Return of the Jedi. The Machete Order takes this a step further and removes Episode I entirely. Being the weakest of the saga, and the film that most fans of the series take umbrage with the most, it makes sense that removing it makes the series stronger as a whole. I recommend reading the linked site for the best details on why to do this, but that sums it up.

I archived this information for some indeterminate future date when I might have time to introduce someone to Star Wars in this fashion. A couple weeks ago, a new single from Hot Problems (of which, one half of the duo is the lead singer of Ludo) hit the web and got me not only interested in watching Star Wars again, but in watching the prequels to see if they’ve “improved” as I’ve aged.

So, at the beginning of this past week, I made the decision that Avery and I would watch the films in this fashion to determine if a) it improves the story for long-time fans, and b) it is a satisfying introduction to a child that has a knowledge of the saga, but no real recollection of seeing the films. Last night, we finished with Jedi which is an excellent way to spend Father’s Day. I’m sure there are many other, “better” films that represent a father-son relationship to warm the heart-cockles, but Jedi does it for me. The climax is proof that a father’s love is stronger than any Dark Side that exists in all of us.

Unfortunately, while The Machete Order is a fairly decent way to watch the saga, it is not (in my opinion) solid enough for long-time fans. New viewers that want to consume as much Star Wars as possible in as short a time period as they can should definitely consider it. But, the two trilogies exist in such different worlds, that it’s jarring to jump between them. For starters, in the original trilogy, the galaxy is a wreck. Everything except the Empire is a broken-down mess just trying to survive. Every location the characters visit is gritty and dangerous (except for Endor, which I’ll cover in a moment). In the prequels, however, the galaxy seems so much cleaner. Not only that, the atmosphere of the films has changed. The universe of the originals is one of harsh extremes. The prequels feel rather calm and cozy by comparison. Even the Tatooine of Episode I seems like a jolly place, despite the fact that our “hero” and his mother are slaves on a planet where water must be harvested in order to survive. Episode II and III are much darker, but still never quite give that haunting sensation that Empire did when Luke faces Vader on Cloud City.

I feel that the stories should remain separate. I like to think of the prequels as a supplemental story to the all-important original trilogy. If you feel like ignoring Episode I to avoid Jar Jar and the accidental hero effect, then go for it. I’m going to even give Episode I another shot and treat it as what it is: a children’s movie. Because that’s the key issue with Star Wars for me. A New Hope was a movie for everyone. Empire was for adults. Jedi was for everyone, but with a clear tilt toward children (for the merchandising). The Phantom Menace, however, was for kids. Lucas realized his mistake and tried to fix it with Attack of the Clones, but still suffered from some terrible writing and poor action sequences (every scene where a Jedi fights a CGI battle droid is just plain awful). By Revenge of the Sith Lucas realized that the prequels needed more than just flashy lights and recycled dialogue from the original trilogy. Although his writing and directing could have still used some outside help, there were a number of pieces of information revealed that tied up the majority of flaws made present by Episode I (such as Anakin being conceived immaculately and the inability of Jedi to become one with the Force).

I also learned something important about what I thought was absolutely atrocious acting by the actors playing Anakin throughout the series. In Episode II, it’s not that Hayden Christensen is a terrible actor that made Anakin a whiny, self-important jerk. Anakin is a whiny, self-important jerk. He has been told he’s The Chosen One and will fulfill a prophecy and that he’s more powerful than anyone expected any Jedi to be since he was a child. Obviously he’s going to have issues. The parallels to Luke are a lot more obvious when you realize they’re there. Anakin must become the badass that he’s hinted at being in the original trilogy. Could the performance have been better? More subtle? Of course it could. But Lucas is not a character director. Hayden was left to his own devices and this was the best he could do. He was young and fairly inexperienced. Episode I’s Anakin is even worse, though mostly because it’s a children’s movie (we’ll get to that later).

After all this, I’m probably going to watch Episode I again with Avery. He told me that his favorite of the series was Episode II, which doesn’t surprise me considering it has lots of action and more Jedi than you can shake a stick at. Plus, the kid just absolutely loves Yoda. He even thinks Jar Jar is funny, though I’m not sure how long it has been since he’s seen Episode I (I’m assuming he’s seen it outside of our home, though it’s also possible he simply thinks he’s funny because of LEGO Star Wars). His love of Episode II has taught me something as a parent and as a Star Wars fan: when something is a part of your childhood, you cut it a lot of slack, you defend it when it’s attacked, and you enjoy it without quite being able to explain it. Who am I to judge or control what my son loves? Why would I ever want to take away something from him that he enjoys when I can instead learn to enjoy it with him? We’ll watch Episode I together, and we’ll laugh, and I’ll cringe, and we’ll both get excited about an absolutely stunning lightsaber duel. And when it’s over, I’ll look longingly at the original trilogy and wait patiently for the day when I can dust them off and we can watch them again.

Somewhere out there, a parallel universe exists. This alternate reality is exactly like ours in nearly every way. There are thousands of parallel realities, but this one is the most important. It bears a 99.9999999% likeness rating to our own and has the following key features:

Jonathan Brandis and River Phoenix are still alive and have been cast in 3 movies together. In one of them, they starred opposite Leonardo DiCaprio. It tanked.

Firefly was never canceled. It ran for seven years and has become the gold standard for science-fiction character dramas on television. Joss Whedon created a spin-off about a young Shepherd Book. It was cancelled during the first season but has had a very successful comic book series since.

George Lucas died in 1996. On his deathbed, he turned over creative control of the series to Steven Spielberg. He sat on the rights for several years and eventually formed a partnership with J.J. Abrams and Timothy Zahn, requiring unanimous decisions for the future of the franchise. To this day, no one has ever heard of Jar Jar Binks or “Ani” Skywalker.

Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip is still on the air and has served as biting commentary on the political state of our nation. He has announced his plans to run for President in 2012 should President Obama decide not run again.

Facebook and Google were both brought up on charges for mishandling of personal information of their clients. Facebook has not recovered from the bad publicity and has been overtaken by several social networks. Eric Schmidt is currently spending 5 years in prison for willfully violating the privacy of millions of Americans. Mark Zuckerberg has appealed his case and is currently still on trial.

Television networks have invested heavily in web and mobile distribution for currently airing series. Netflix and Hulu are the two most visited websites in all of the world thanks to easy viewing on iPhones, iPads and many set-top boxes/gaming devices.

So I’ve got some links to share with you, and one of them ties directly into a post I’ve put on here before about the movie Twilight. So let’s start with that one, shall we?

∞ ∞ ∞

The shirt design itself isn’t that impressive, but the phrase on it is hilarious. Especially if you get both references. If you don’t, then no big loss. It’s the sad individuals that think vampires can be good out of the kindness of their undead, non-beating hearts that need to get the references, and they undoubtedly will.

Sprite Stitch – This website is pretty cool. It’s craft site that gives you all sorts of great ideas on how to make gamer-themed home craft projects, such as cross stitch patterns of your favorite characters and coat hangers made out of arcade cabinet joysticks.

Star Wars: Retold (by someone who hasn’t seen it) – This video is pretty hilarious if you have seen all of the original trilogy. It’s still funny if you just know the story better than she does. It’s absolutely awesome if you think this girl knows more than you do and then all your friends make fun of you for it.

Speaking of Star Wars, someone created a map of the Star Wars galaxy that’s pretty freakin’ detailed. Check it out here.

This is kind of old news now, but I just haven’t taken the time to link it up. When the news that the Cheifs’ GM was out and Scott Pioli was in, my brother-in-law and I both got interviewed by KCTV5 about it. I’m the only one that got quoted online, and neither of us made the news, but it irritated my brother-in-law quite a bit, so be sure to bug him about it if you know him. Unfortunately, KCTV5 doesn’t know how to properly maintain a website and the link that used to point to my quote now points to a revised story with no fan quotes. So screw them.

And last, but not least, two separate families I know just had babies recently. I’d like to take this moment to welcome Norah Ann & Noah Matthew into the world. May your lives be at least 50% as charmed as mine.

Here are the movie ringtones I have made so far. Those that are on there more than once are different cuts from the same song or movie. If there is a movie you would like to have a ringtone from, let me know. If I can make one that I’m happy with, I’ll post it right up.

Bedtime Stories – Scream-tone – iPhone

Back to the Future Theme 1 – iPhone

Back to the Future Theme 2 – iPhone

Brunnen-G Theme – iPhone

Good, Bad, & Ugly 1 – iPhone

Good, Bad, & Ugly 2 – iPhone

Good, Bad, & Ugly 3 – iPhone

Good, Bad, & Ugly 4 – iPhone

Gremlins – iPhone

Fox Fanfare – iPhone

Imperial March – iPhone

Indiana Jones – iPhone

Superman 1 – iPhone

Superman 2 – iPhone

Star Wars Throne Room – iPhone

*singing* “Star Wa-a-rs, nothing but Sta-a-a-r Wars, gimme those Sta-a-a-r Wars, don’t let them end.”

So yesterday Bioware and LucasArts announced what may be the most anticipated Star Wars game of all time. Several years back, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic won numerous awards and garnered an enormous following. While the sequel (developed by Obsidian instead of Bioware) was not as well-received, it was still a very accomplished RPG, especially considering they both came out on the Xbox, which is not known for games that don’t involve exploding everything on the screen. And now, after years of waiting, Bioware is returning to the Old Republic to bring us Star Wars: The Old Republic.

What is unique about this game that will garner a great deal of excitement is that it is an MMO, or massively multiplayer online game. Thousands of people will be able to play online all at once together, populating the Star Wars world like never before. While LucasArts has entered the MMO arena before with Star Wars: Galaxies, the game fell flat on its face due to poor marketing, buggy gameplay, and a number of unbalanced play mechanics. While Galaxies is still around, it never quite picked up enough players to be considered a true success.

Further, SWTOR is attempting to do something that no MMO has been able to do just yet: create a rich, involved, exciting story-line that will engross players for hours and days and months on end. Using a unique companion system that will allow players to have a “party” of sorts (similar to classic RPGs like Final Fantasy and D&D). These companions will be able to offer support in combat and be integral parts of the character’s story.

Another unique aspect to this game is that Bioware is promising a 100% unique story for both factions. Players can choose to be Jedi or Sith and fight the good fight against evil or attempt to bring destruction down upon the galaxy. Whichever side is chosen, the player will never perform the same quests or see even a single line of dialogue that carries over to the other faction. Which means, even if you do absolutely everything you can as a Jedi, you can jump ship, reroll as a Sith and help conquer the galaxy without ever having to slog through quests and story markers that you didn’t even enjoy the first time you saw them.

It appears to use a cel-shading of sorts for the characters, though it is unclear if that will also be passed on to NPCs in the game, as well. If you would like to check out more information about the game, please visit the official website.

Steampunk Lightsaber

Hot on the heels of another steampunk entry, I’ve discovered a rather old forum post that contains instructions on how to build your very own steampunk lightsaber:

 

These are the types of projects that I wish I could get involved in, but I just don’t have the free time what with all the other activities I choose to do. Maybe when I’m retired.