Blogging about Boise: aBoiseLife.com

Hey there, just wanted to let you know about my new blog that I’m starting as a sort of AVGL off shoot of sorts. I started up aBoiseLife.com as a place to write about things that might not be the best fit for AVGL. It’ll probably be more of a personal blog, and it’ll focus on things local to Boise. Hope you’ll check it out!

My first month with the Kindle Paperwhite

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I’ve owned the Kindle Paperwhite for just over a month now, the first Kindle I’ve owned since the original. So far I’ve enjoyed just about everything about it. When I was looking to purchase a new Kindle I was debating whether I should splurge for the Voyage ($199) or settle for the Paperwhite ($119). I decided on the Paperwhite and I’m glad I did.

Usually I read newspapers and magazines on my iPad, however I wanted something that was easier to carry around at work in my pocket for whenever there is downtime and the lightweight Kindle serves that purpose well. Reading The New York Times, The New Yorker and TIME on it is easy and they’re formatted in a way that makes them easy to navigate.

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It’s easy to browse a publication’s sections and choose which articles you want to dive into. The text on the Paperwhite is crisp and easy to read, and the adjustable brightness makes everything easy to read no matter what kind of light you have.

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The Kindle has another advantage over a tablet in that it makes it easier to read without distraction. You won’t be distracted by any notifications or be tempted to close out of a book to check Facebook or Twitter. I’ve found it easier to pay attention to what I’m reading while using the Kindle for this reason.

The Kindle Paperwhite makes for a great travel device for anyone who likes to read, whether you’re into books, newspapers, magazines or all three! It’s lightweight, easy to use and an all around great device!

 

Now listening: New albums by Panic! at the Disco and Megadeth

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Panic! at the Disco recently released their fifth album, “Death of a Bachelor” and I’ve enjoyed everything about it so far. I haven’t really listened to Panic! at the Disco since 2008’s “Pretty. Odd.” (one of my favorite albums of all time), and a lot has changed since then. Brandon Urie is currently the only member of the band, however his voice has always been the signature feature of the band.

The album starts off with a bang on the celebratory and upbeat track “Victorious” that is hard not to want to dance to. The album then wastes no time transitioning into the signature riff from “Rock Lobster” in “Don’t Threaten Me with a Good Time” which features the most addicting chorus of the album celebrating “Champagne, cocaine, gasoline, and most things in between.”

The entire album is one fun time after another, featuring one exuberant track after another until it reaches its conclusion with “Impossible Year”, a slow, brooding song that feels out of place. I think it would’ve made more sense to end the album with ” House of Memories”, which would’ve made for a stronger and more cohesive album. In the end I’ve enjoyed “Death of a Bachelor” quite a bit, and the upbeat tracks never fail to leave me in a good mood.

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I’ve never really listened to a lot of Megadeth, but when I saw their fifteenth album while browsing Apple Music I couldn’t help but download it. I was pleasantly surprised by how familiar the album sounds compared to my memory of Megadeth. The album sounds like something that could’ve been released in the early nineties, which is awesome, especially as a Metallica fan who has been consistently disappointed with every album released in the last 20 years.

Megadeth’s “Dystopia” features plenty of epic build ups, such as the 1:30 intro on “Poisonous Shadows.” The instrumental track “Conquer… or Die!” is sounds great at max volume, and the incredibly fast “Foreign Policy” ends the album on a high note that left me dying for more.

 

Catching up on Deadpool with Marvel Unlimited

Marvel Unlimited is essentially the Netflix for comic books, or for Marvel’s library of comic books at least. For $9.99 a month (or $69 a year) you get access to over 17,000 Marvel comic books via their iPad and Android apps and via the web (the mobile apps are preferable).

I used to buy comic books pretty regularly, but before long my subscriptions started to overwhelm me. I would stack up comics and never read them, and then storing them became a hassle. It was certainly cool to amass a collection and preserve them all neatly in bags, but it wasn’t very practical, especially in small living quarters. Eventually I just gave up on comics all together as I lost the time to keep up with them.

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Marvel Unlimited offers a convenient way to dive back into the world of comic books. It’s easy to go back to the beginning of just about any particular run and read through a series. Most series are current up to six months ago (there’s a six month waiting period between an issue’s release and its archival in the Unlimited library).

I’ve spent the last few nights catching up on the Deadpool (2012) series. I used to love reading Deadpool, but haven’t read an issue since mid 2011. So far the 2012 series has had some entertaining moments, but I feel like its a little less mature than the 2008-2012 run that I remember.

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The ‘rise of the dead presidents’ thing seemed pretty cool, but at some points I felt like the jokes and the concept seem a little too forced. Also, a lot of the Deadpool’s humor seems a little more immature than I remember it being. That said, the art is pretty cool and at times quite graphic. Oh and they set an elephant on fire!

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I’m excited to check out more series via Marvel Unlimited. The nice thing about the app is that it offers an avenue to explore series you might otherwise never purchase in a store. The library is incredibly large, which can seem overwhelming, however there is a ‘Discover’ section that offers plenty of starting points for anyone unsure of where to jump in.

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I’m looking forward to continuing the Deadpool series while also checking out many of the other great books Marvel has to offer. If you have any recommendations feel free to leave a comment!

 

 

 

Testing out the New 3DS XL with Xenoblade Chronicles 3D

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The transition from a 2DS to the New 3DS XL has been like transitioning to an entirely different platform. Technically the games are the same, but the larger screen makes a huge difference. I’m not sure how I managed playing on the 2DS for so long. To truly put the new hardware to the test, however, I decided I should check out Xenoblade Chronicles 3D, one of the games that only runs on the new hardware.

As you know, I’ve only recently been introduced to the Xenoblade series with Xenoblade Chronicles X on the Wii U (I’m only about three or four hours into that game) but I’ve liked what I’ve played so far. Therefore I was excited to check out the previous game on the New 3DS.

From the start I was incredibly impressed. The game features some truly wonderful music, and the story is exciting so far. The combat system was easy to get a grip on, as it’s very similar to Xenoblade Chronicle X’s combat.

Xenoblade Chronicles 3D

I really like the presentation of Xenoblade Chronicles 3D. The menus look very crisp, and the bottom screen is useful, featuring a minimap and crucial information about your party.

Xenoblade Chronicles 3d menus

I’m very early on in the game, but I can definitely see myself sinking many hours into it.

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The game looks pretty darn good on the New 3DS, and the use of the c stick further justifies the upgrade. It’s crazy to think that the 3DS never had a second analog stick until now! I’ve also been impressed with the faster load times on the New 3DS and I can’t wait to see what else Nintendo brings to the beefier hardware!

My urBeats by Dre stopped working

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It was just a few weeks ago that I picked up a pair of urBeats by Dre to use at the gym, and they’ve already failed on me. Last week while running the right earbud went silent. All of a sudden it was much quieter than the left earbud, and nothing I did was able to fix the problem. I did a search and found that many other users have experienced similar problems with Beats earbuds and I was pretty disappointed. The headphones worked great at drowning out the sounds of the gym while providing excellent bass and wonderful sound, but I never expected a $100 pair of headphones to last only a few weeks.

I didn’t have the receipt and didn’t think I’d be able to exchange them. Despite this doubt, I went over to the Bx this morning and sure enough they allowed me to exchange them for a new pair, but told me if anything else were to happen I’d have to contact the company (a trip to the Beats website refers you to Apple customer support) in the future.

Hopefully my experience was just a rare case and this pair will actually last a while, but my view of the Beats brand has already been slightly tarnished.

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Upgrading to the New 3DS XL..a frustrating experience

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Leave it to Nintendo to make what should be a rather simple process exceedingly difficult. I recently bought a New 3DS XL as an upgrade from the 2DS (was getting tired of the small screen and awkward design of the system) but what should’ve been a fun an exciting experience was painfully frustrating.

I remember hearing many people complain about the system transfer process when the New 3DS first came out, but I figured by now the process should’ve been refined and easier. That turned out to be far from the truth. Navigating the menus on the 3DS already feels outdated, but setting up the system transfer process felt like something out of the 90’s. In the modern world, when you buy a new device you simply log into your account (Apple ID, PSN account, Microsoft account, etc.) and you can download all of your content from the cloud, be it saves, games or anything at all you had on your previous device. In Nintendo’s world, nothing’s that simple. In fact none of the digital games you own on a Nintendo console are actually tied to your account. They’re associated with the hardware you purchased it on, not your Nintendo ID which is absurd. All of my 3DS games are digital (all 8 or so), and trying to do a wireless system transfer was slow and filled with frustration. It took something like two and a half hours just to get to 25% and I went to bed only to wake up to an error on my New 3DS. What’s worse, is that since the New 3DS doesn’t come with a charging cord, you can only keep one device charged during the process.

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After failing a wireless transfer three times in two days (starting it before going to bed or work), I decided the only practical way to do the system transfer was the PC method. So I had to head to the Bx and buy a micro SD card adapter, start the transfer process on both devices and then shut them down and transfer all the data via my MacBook. These days almost everything is simpler to do wirelessly, but in the case of Nintendo, the only feasible option is to do it the “old school” way, physically removing SD cards and copying the data over with a computer. This method only took about thirty minutes, however I would’ve much preferred to leave the SD cards in and transfer everything wirelessly.

Hopefully with the NX (expected to release later this year) Nintendo will finally catch up to modern technology and incorporate a system where purchases are tied to an account, and not a piece of hardware. It would be nice to see something like this come to the 3DS and Wii U, but I don’t foresee Nintendo bothering to reshape the way they do things on those systems.

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I haven’t had a chance to play around with the New 3DS yet, but I downloaded Xenoblade Chronicles 3D on it and look forward to seeing what the new hardware can do! It already seems like the device will be more comfortable to use when compared to the 2DS, and I’ve already seen how convenient it is to fold the device and throw it in a pocket or a bag, compared to the awkwardly bulky 2DS.

Feeling nostaligic? Check out Man Crates!

I can’t quite remember the first time I touched a video game controller, but I’m fairly confident that the very first buttons I pushed were on an NES controller. There was a NES at my grandparent’s house that all of us grandkids gravitated toward every time we visited. We’d play around with Duck Hunt before getting serious into Super Mario Bros., each of us trying to make it further into the game than the other. I never made it very far.

Some of my favorite memories of the NES come from sitting around the TV with four or five people, all either playing a game or rooting for the others in hopes of finally seeing the end of a game. There was no YouTube or Twitch to allow you to simply watch someone complete a game or defeat a difficult boss. You had to do it all yourself, or know a friend who could make it past the difficult parts. Of course, there was the Konami code in Contra which allowed terrible players such as myself to make it through the game in its entirety without too much trouble (I seem to remember still exhausting all 30 lives quite often). Then there was the magic little cartridge of Game Genie which allowed you even more opportunities to cheat your way through a game.

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I had many favorite NES games, including Vegas Dream, Platoon and Micro Machines.

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However, the game I sunk the most time into on the NES was Tecmo Super Bowl. There was nothing more exciting than sitting around the living room having tournaments. The game was incredibly fun to play, and the overall presentation was amazing! The cut scenes for touchdowns, field goals, interceptions, all of it was unlike anything else. What’s more, the music was epic, especially during the Super Bowl. The ability to play entire seasons was something very few games had, yet it was just as exciting to simulate to the playoffs and place “bets” on what teams you thought would make it there.

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There are so many more memories I could share, but I’d be writing all day. If a look back at the NES era of gaming has you feeling nostalgic, the guys over at Man Crates have something just for you! If you haven’t heard of Man Crates, you should definitely check them out. They offer an incredibly unique gift experience for just about any type of person you could think of. Whether they be into the outdoors, survival, grilling or gaming, Man Crates has something fun and unique that the recipient will love. Their signature crates are just that, wooden crates that require a crow bar (included to open) filled with plenty of goodies.

Man Crates wants gift giving to be fun and they want to create a unique experience that you won’t get with any sort of traditional gift package. Just reading the descriptions of some of their crates made me laugh, and it’s nice to see a company that doesn’t take themselves too seriously (yet they’re certainly serious about providing a quality gift experience).

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Man Crates offers a retro gamer crate that includes a console that can play NES games, in addition to two randomly selected NES cartridges and an assortment of candy to compliment a late night classic gaming session. Any gamer in your life would certainly be delighted to receive this package. I know I would!

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If Man Crates were to create more retro gaming crates I think it would be neat to see crates centered around certain franchises, such as Mario, maybe featuring figurines, posters and similar items in a addition to a game or two.

I was contacted by a member of the Man Crates staff who asked if I wouldn’t mind creating a post talking about gaming nostalgia. After checking out the Man Crates website I knew that I couldn’t resist sharing this company with anyone who might happen to read this. I wasn’t offered anything to write this, I simply thought Man Crates was too cool not to share with you! 

My first few months with a Wii U: Mario Maker, Mario Kart 8 and more!

I’m sitting here enjoying the cool breeze and the soft, afternoon sun listening to the upbeat tunes of Sirius XMU and sipping a bland dining facility coffee (made tolerable by irish creme creamer). I’m waiting for Mario Kart 8’s DLC to finish downloading on my Wii U inside the tent, and I’ve decided it’s finally time to reflect on my late October 2015 purchase of the Wii U.

Wii U downloading screen

Super Mario Maker

As I’ve said before, Super Mario Maker was the most significant factor in my purchase of the Wii U, however I’m happy to say I’ve had many other great experiences with the system. It would be hard to justify a $300 purchase just to play one game, but it’s worth noting that Mario Maker is not just any video game. It’s one of the most innovative, yet simple and incredibly enjoyable video games ever released. If the only thing you did with the game was play people’s creations, you’d still have innumerable hours of content at your fingertips. The variety you come across in the Course World (the mode in which you can browse and play people’s levels) is astonishing. I’ve come across a new concept every single time I’ve booted up the game, which goes to show that creative people can take a finite tool set and create just about anything with it. It’s through playing the most creative of levels that you’re able to expand your understanding of what is possible, and you’ll become a better creator every day.

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I haven’t made very many levels yet, as I’ve found myself addicted to trying to become the first to beat levels as they appear on the ‘new arrivals’ list. If you’re the first to clear a level you’re rewarded with a ‘first clear’ badge and you’ll also be the world record holder for fastest completion. Of course this record won’t last long, and it’s a wonderful challenge to try to master a level and maintain the fastest time.

Mario Kart 8

Some of my most memorable multiplayer gaming experiences have come from playing Mario Kart 64, and Super Mario Kart before that. Racing three other friends through a wide variety of courses was fun enough on its own, but the Mario Kart games made sure that everyone could have fun by providing random items ranging from boosts to weapons in order to give everyone an even chance (and hey, even if you didn’t win it was a blast to ruin a friend’s chances with a red shell).

Despite having so much fun with the early Mario Kart games, I never really spent much time with any of the others. Mario Kart 7 came with my 2DS, however I didn’t have much fun racing the AI, and every time I tried playing online the lack of interaction didn’t make for a very fun experience. Everything changed yesterday. I played Mario Kart 7 locally with five other players, and it was the most fun multiplayer experience I’ve had in years! We did endless 3 vs 3 battles, and the experience was as close to the couch multiplayer of the N64 as anything’s ever come. There was yelling, smack talking and hilarity every step of the way. Even the map voting process was enjoyable, as half of us constantly voted for the N64 classic, ‘Big Donut’. The battles were frenetic and they reminded me of how expertly crafted Nintendo games can be.

This experience drove me to finally pick up Mario Kart 8 for the Wii U. I had planned to wait until I return home this spring, however after having so much fun with Mario Kart 7 I decided I couldn’t wait.

Mario Kart 8 menu

Once Mario Kart 8 finished downloading, I jumped straight into the online multiplayer. The process was smooth and I was in my first race within minutes. I was immediately amazed at just how good the game looks. The vibrant colors are crisp and everything is stunningly beautiful. The racing is what you’d expect from a Mario Kart game, and I enjoyed it, even though I couldn’t finish better than 5th place.

Mario Kart 8

I like how it shows the flags of the people you’re racing against, even within the race you’ll see them next to their names, which gives a more human feel to the other racers. Unfortunately, there’s still not much interaction with the other players. The most you can do is select from a few text responses between races.

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After trying my hand at a few races I jumped into my favorite Mario Kart mode, Battle. It was enjoyable, especially because I won my very first match, but I can imagine the real fun will be had when there are three other players sitting on a couch next to me (which probably won’t be until after I get home).

I hadn’t even played an hour of Mario Kart 8, but I already knew I would want the DLC that’s available, and I was surprised to find just how cheap it was. It’s only $11.99 if you purchase the two packs together, which seemed too good to pass up.

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I’m excited to check out the new content once it finishes downloading (it should be done by now), even though I haven’t even experienced all that is available within the base game yet. I’ve heard nothing but good things about the new characters and courses and can’t wait to take them for a spin!

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Xenoblade Chronicles X

Last week I picked up Xenoblade Chronicles X after watching a few videos that intrigued me. I know absolutely nothing about Xenoblade, but it looked like it would be something fun to check out on the Wii U so I decided I should try it out.

Xenoblade Chronicles X

Yes, I have LEGO sheets…I’m deployed and sleeping on a twin bed in a tent. Why not have fun?

I’ve only played about 30 minutes of Xenoblade Chronicles X, but I can already say it’s unlike anything I’ve played before. I generally don’t get into Japanese RPG’s, yet I wanted to experience a variety of content on the Wii U and figured it’d be worth trying out. I can’t say for sure whether I’m going to like the game, but I hope to spend some more time with it this evening. I’ll try to post a more detailed impression after I get a few hours in, but all I can really say right now is the game looks pleasant graphically (though the characters seem a little dated) and the combat has been smooth.

Storage issues

When I decided I wanted to check out Xenoblade Chronicles X, I went to purchase it in the eShop only to find I didn’t have enough space on my 32gb Wii U to download it. I’m not a fan of buying disc based games (I prefer all my media to be digital), but I ended up having to buy the physical copy. Since then I picked up a 64gb thumb drive which turned out to be an easy enough method to expand the Wii U’s storage (it was formatted and ready to use by the Wii U within seconds). It’s unfortunate that the Wii U has such little internal hard drive space, but external storage is cheap enough these days to remedy the problem.

What’s to come?

It’s been strongly hinted lately that the Wii U’s successor (known as the NX) will release sometime this year. Hardware manufacturer’s have revealed that the console is already being manufactured, which has lead most people to expect a release date as early as 2016’s E3. This most certainly means that there will be very few games released for the Wii U before it is made obsolete. This is a shame, because I’d certainly like to see Mario Maker make its way into the hands of more players. It seems reasonable to expect a Wii U price drop this year, which should help, but will many more people buy the system once the NX hits? It’s doubtful.

If the NX is a hybrid handheld / home console, as many suggest, I can’t say I’d be too disappointed about my Wii U purchase. I’d already be looking to upgrade to the next Nintendo handheld, so if it’s a two in one system I’d get access to the future Nintendo console releases and their handheld games with one purchase. A hybrid system would be the only way I’d consider upgrading from the Wii U so soon. A stand alone console would not make me want to purchase it, especially after seeing so few releases for the Wii U since its release.

It’ll certainly be an interesting year for Nintendo, as hype for the NX builds alongside Nintendo’s foray into the mobile gaming market with Miitomo’s release this spring. Until then I’ll be enjoying countless hours of unique content with Super Mario Maker, Mario Kart 8 and Xenoblade Chronicles (I’m saving Super Mario 3D World until I get home).