Monday, December 17, 2012

A Letter to Senator Lieberman Regarding Sandy Hook

Dear Senator Lieberman,

I was on the treadmill this morning and saw that you were doing an interview with Fox News regarding the tragedy at Sandy Hook. Knowing your track record, I fully expected you to blame the unfortunate events on violent entertainment, and you did not disappoint. Every time an unfortunate occurrence like this involves children, it's automatically video games, heavy metal music, etc. who become the scapegoats.

With Columbine, the game Doom and bands like Rammstein and Marilyn Manson were to blame when Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold decided to murder 13 people. With the D.C. sniper, it was said that John Allen Muhammad was using Halo to teach Lee Boyd Malvo how to shoot. Professional wrestling, Beavis and Butt-Head, Mortal Kombat, Grand Theft Auto, these are all violent forms of entertainment that received incredible amounts of scrutiny over the years. There exist entire books based on the effects of video game violence, and all the ones I've read disprove your theory.

The real problem is supervision, or rather, a lack thereof. Allow me to give you a brief back story of myself. I'm 27-years old, and I grew up loving all of the things that you condemn for corrupting the youth of the United States. My older brother and I received Mortal Kombat as a Christmas gift from our parents when we were 7 and 10 years old, respectively. The following year, we received the sequel as a Christmas gift. While I admit that watching the "Fatality" moves you can perform on your opponents made an impression on me, and I remember verbally exclaiming "Awesome!" when I saw the character Kano rip out a man's heart, I never once thought "I wish I could do that." I watched Beavis and Butt-Head, and I still enjoy watching it today, but I never thought they were the type of characters to be emulated.

Professional wrestling is in a completely different world for me. In addition to watching our beloved Cincinnati Reds together, my father, brother, and I would also crowd around the television to watch the former WWF's "Saturday Night's Main Event." Granted, the product was much tamer compared to what it would become in the mid-to-late 1990s, but I had supervision, my parents were always mindful of the type of media I consumed. I loved professional wrestling so much that I actually became one in 2004, and I've had a fairly successful career without doing any sort of overly violent matches.

If I happened to be watching a scary or violent film with my parents, they were always sure to remind me that nobody was really getting hurt, and that what was going on in those films wasn't real.

I started listening to heavy metal when I was 8-years-old because I wanted to be just like my older, cooler brother and his friends, and that's what they listened to. I grew up listening to bands like Pantera, Nine Inch Nails, White Zombie, Korn, and yes, at one point in time I was a rather big fan of Marilyn Manson. The photo of a child holding a syringe on the back of Marilyn Manson's "Portrait of an American Family" album never enticed me to try drugs, because I knew that drugs were harmful, the same with alcohol or cigarettes, and to this day I've never struggled with any of those vices. Why? Because I had positive influences in my life.

I grew up playing video games, I've already mentioned my history with the Mortal Kombat series, but I've also played games like Doom, Grand Theft Auto, Call of Duty, Gears of War, Manhunt, and pretty much every other video game that has ever received any negative connotation with it's name. While video games are an interactive medium, and I'm the one using the controller to make Tommy Vercetti run down a bunch of pedestrians and shoot cops, I've never had an urge to react violently towards anyone in my life. I've never shot a gun, or for that matter, even held a gun, and I'm sure if I ever did I would dispose of it at the first opportunity.

I give lots of credit to the original Borderlands as a main contributing factor that my wife and I are so close and even got married to begin with, because we bonded over the game, and we bond even more as we sit on our couch playing the sequel together, and they're both incredibly violent games. Laughably so, in fact. My wife and I are also assistant youth pastors at our church. We play violent video games, we both love professional wrestling, we listen to a lot of heavy metal (however, all of our favorite bands are openly Christian metal bands), and I know with certainty that my wife and I are amazing role models for the teens in our youth group. I'm not going to say that all of these tragic events could have been prevented if the children had God in their lives, and I'm not here to debate religion with anyone, but I am saying that having good, attentive role models in my life have made me a productive member of society, and being a good role model for those kids allows me to produce future productive members of society.

Supervision, Senator Lieberman, that's what I'm talking about. That's what I push for, and what I think you're overlooking. Blaming violent media is very shortsighted and narrow-minded. Let us not forget that the Home Alone films are two of the most violent films I've ever seen in my life, and they're considered family friendly entertainment despite the fact that almost everything that happens in the finales of those films has the potential to cause serious bodily injury, brain damage, or death.

I work in a video game store, and I couldn't count how many times I've had a parent walk into a store with their child, the child requests a copy of the latest Mature-rated game, and the parent just doesn't care. I've never had a parent ask me "Why is it rated Mature?" or "Do you think this would be a bad game for him or her to play?" The only thing that ever happens is that I ask the parent if it's okay to sell a Mature-rated game to their child and they respond with "I don't care." That's the problem, Senator. The problem is not that the games exist, or that the music exists, or that the wrestling exists. What we need is a reform in the supervision of today's youth.

I have four nieces and one nephew, all of which are under 7 years of age. When I heard what happened in Connecticut, I wished more than anything that I could have been with them so I could hug them. I don't write this as a way to attack anyone, or to undermine the tragedy of these recent happenings, I just hate when fingers get pointed in the wrong directions.

Thank you for your time, Senator.

Dustin Thomas

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

This Is Why I Hate Independent Wrestling

Let me begin this by showing you a video. The title of the video is "Worst Wrestling Botch Ever." I believe that is a very fitting title, it's certainly the worst and most disgusting botch I've ever seen. Sometimes when a guy or gal botches a wrestling move, it's funny, simply because it makes them look silly. Sometimes the botch is tragic, because it can ruin an otherwise awesome match and it will be the main thing people remember from said match. Be warned before watching this video that it is of a man trying to perform a double moonsault from the top rope (meaning, he attempts a double backflip) and lands directly on top of his head, and if he didn't break his neck, he certainly had a severe concussion. If you choose not to watch the video, I understand.

Now, if you're a normal human being and don't want to watch a guy almost commit accidental suicide, then you skipped that video. Good for you, you're not a sadomasochist. Let me say that it's this type of stuff that makes me hate this business that I love. That's definitely an oxymoron, but it's safe to say that almost everyone in the wrestling business has a love/hate relationship with it. We love being in the ring, we love entertaining the fans, we love the rush of walking through the curtain and getting that pop. But when we see things like this, where a kid, who has probably never been properly trained, probably made less than $20 to wrestle on this show, and will probably have some sort of permanent head injury, it makes us hate the business.

I first watched this video when a friend posted it on Facebook, and I was on break at work. I was just sitting there, and when the moment of impact occurred, my jaw completely dropped, and I was unable to pick it up off of the floor until after the video was over.

Now that I know the kid isn't dead, the video makes me angry. Why would you possibly take this kind of risk? I'm not against giving fans a spectacle, but I'm definitely not going to perform something this dangerous, for little to no money, in a garage in front of 40 people. Jim Morrison was famous for making boring music and also because he performed like a crazy man in front of a very small crowd. When asked why, he said "Because this may be the last time I ever get to be on stage." That's all well and good, but Jim Morrison wasn't a professional wrestler, and he wasn't literally putting his life on the line every time he stepped in front of a microphone.

Others might argue that it shouldn't matter how little or how much you get paid, you should always go out there and give it your all. Sure, I understand that, but within reason. Every time I get in a wrestling ring, I want to have the best match on the card, but I'm not going to go out of my way to put my life in danger for a single moment of glory. I won't perform a move I've never done in a match unless I've practiced it before, and if I'm ever uncomfortable taking a certain move, I refuse to take it, unless I completely trust the man giving it to me. For example, a few weeks ago, I wrestled "Relentless" Ron Mathis at Rockstar Pro Wrestling. We had an awesome match, easily one of the best matches I've had in a very long time. In the match, Ron gave me a tombstone piledriver, it was the first time I had ever taken the move, and while I turned out okay (meaning I'm not paralyzed), I definitely felt it for a few days. The only reason I took it is because I've known Ron for a long time and I completely trust him.

Anyone who wants to have a long wrestling career needs to learn about moderation. Unless I'm making big money, you won't see me doing anything excessively dangerous in the ring. No one ever says "Yeah, the best wrestling match I've ever seen was this one deathmatch from....." That just doesn't happen. The best matches of all time tell great stories, or show tremendous athleticism. Brock Lesnar attempted a shooting-star press at WrestleMania 19 (which is when someone performs a backflip while jumping forward), and he wound up with a concussion because of it.

Basically, what I'm saying is that if you're going to attempt a double moonsault, save it for WrestleMania, kid.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Finding Life Through Death: A Very Metal Testimony

For a long time now, I've felt the need to tell my story as a Christian. We at Faith Chapel have been trying to arrange a time for me to give my testimony, but due to my weird work schedule, it's been very difficult. I wanted to wait until we could actually do it, but I feel like if my story can help anyone in the slightest way, then it can't wait. Now, I know that I have some atheist friends who enjoy my writing, so all that I ask (from Christian and atheist alike) is that everyone is respectful, I don't want this to turn into a religious debate.

I guess the best place to start is the beginning. I don't remember the day I started believing in God, I kind of always have. I didn't grow up in a religious household, my parents both worked an insane amount of hours to support my brother and I. I remember times that my mother would go a month or longer without a day off, and my dad would constantly be working double-shifts and going in on his days off for overtime. Interesting note, when I was a child, our house blew up. Literally. It didn't burn down, it blew up. There was a gas leak in our home and something triggered it. That was one of my dad's days off, and he wound up getting called in that day, if he hadn't, he probably wouldn't have made it out alive. I believe that was the first time God showed Himself to me.

After that, we lived with my grandmother for a while until we could find a new home, and she took me to church a few times. This was the first time I had ever really been told about the concept of God. I was only five or so, and I had that "faith like a child" thing down. I didn't question it, I just accepted it as fact. There is a Man who lives in a place called Heaven who made the universe. Being so young, I couldn't really comprehend any more than that. So, skip ahead about ten years, and we'll come to the first time in my life that I attended church with proper reasoning skills. I went to the Franklin Baptist Church with my buddy Jimmy Turner and his family, with whom I was very close. I remember at the end of the service the Pastor said a prayer and said "If there's anyone here who hasn't accepted Jesus Christ into their life, now's your chance." He invited us to come up to the alter and do so, but I didn't move. Being so young and ignorant about religion, I was very intimidated. I talked to Jimmy about it, and we agreed that the following week we would go up there together, and we did.

That's the day I was saved. The following week, I was baptized. That's just how I thought you were supposed to do it. I got saved, so naturally the next step is to get baptized, duh. I had no idea what getting baptized meant, or what it represented, it was just a thing I thought I was supposed to do. I proceeded to use these two events as my "Get out of jail free" card for more-or-less the next twelve years.

Let's continue now to the year 2006. This year marked the beginning of a five year cycle of depression, and was also the first time I had ever experienced genuine loss in my life. I had lost people that I loved before, but it was all at a very young age and I didn't understand death at the time. Three of my four grandparents passed away before I was seven, and I remember losing my uncle Roger when I was nine, and while I definitely have vivid memories of Roger, I was still young enough to where it wasn't necessarily traumatic. But on October 7th, 2006, at the age of twenty-one, I lost my best friend in his lifelong battle with cystic fibrosis. Cole and I had become friends during our sophomore year of high school, and ever since then, he was like a brother to me. For anyone who didn't know Cole, it's hard to properly explain just how awesome he was. Because of his disease, he was a very small guy, average height, but I think the most he ever weighed in his life was 105 lbs. This kid fought battles every day of his life, but unless you were one of his closest friends or family, you never would have known it. He always wore a smile, and was always capable of making you do the same. As someone who knew that his time was expectantly shorter, he had an overabundant love for life. He was always there for his loved ones. I remember one particular time when I was going through a rough time with the girl I was dating, he invited me to come over and talk at 2 a.m. So I did, and we sat there and talked in his living room until we both fell asleep, that was just the kind of guy he was. From the summer of 2006 until the end of the year, it's all a blur. Cole's sickness got exceedingly worse. On October 5th, I went to go visit him in the hospital, and I was in a state of denial. I think everyone saw the writing on the walls, but I refused to believe it. "I just spoke to him, he's doing fine, he'll be alright. I don't know what everyone is so worried about." That's the kind of stuff I would say to myself. Two days later, I got a call at about 4 a.m. telling me that Cole was on life support, but they wanted to wait until me and our other friends could get there so we could be with him before they took him off. It's still one of those things that seems like it happened yesterday, I remember walking into the room, seeing him hooked up to all kinds of machines, and instantly feeling weak, like someone had punched me in the stomach. Cole left to be with the Lord a short while later, and I can only hope that I had as much of an impact on his life as he did on mine.

Eighteen months go by, and I've finally started to cope with the loss of my best friend. I started to realize that this isn't something I'm ever going to get over, it's just something I have to live with. Just as I start to realize this, my grandmother's health started getting worse. My grandmother, Ella, was basically the only grandparent I ever had. Before I started going to school, she was my daytime mom. I would spend all day with her and my grandfather (who passed when I was four) while my mother was at work, and then my mom would pick me up when she came home. Everybody says that their grandmother is the best ever, and I'm no different. She was genuinely the most amazing woman I've ever had in my life. Every baseball and basketball game I had, she was there. Every wrestling match I had, she was there. She was my number one fan, and I know that it broke her heart when she had gotten so bad that she could no longer attend my shows. The last month of her life, she was hardly ever conscious, and when she was, she was incoherent. It was very hard for me to see my grandmother like this. I remember I had a BPW show on a Sunday afternoon, and when the show was over, my dad came up to me and said "You should go visit your grandmother." I said "I was planning to go see her tomorrow." His response took me aback. "She may not be here tomorrow." So I made the trip to the nursing home to see her, and the entire time she was sleeping. Occasionally she would say something that I couldn't make out, and after about a half hour, I leaned down by her ear, told her I loved her, kissed her on the cheek, and left with the realization that this may be the last time I would see her. The next day, she was gone, and I'm very thankful that she passed peaceably in her sleep. My mother was with her when she passed, and I remember her telling me that before she passed, she said in her sleep "I'm going to be with mom." Which meant my great-grandmother.

My grandmother's death definitely hit me just as hard as Cole's, but it felt different. I guess it had to do with the fact that my grandmother died of natural causes. She was 71 at the time, and luckily she didn't have to live with any sort of diseases or ailments that folks get when they get up in years. Also, because her health deteriorated over a long period of time, and it was obvious that her time was short, I was able to brace myself for the blow.

Six months go by, and tragedy struck once again when my uncle Lowell succumbed to a long battle with liver disease. As much as it saddened me, I felt worse for my father, as he had to deal with the death of both his older brother, and now, his younger brother, and both at such young ages.

So in a period of just over two years, I lost my best friend, my grandmother, and my uncle, three people that I gladly and willingly would have traded places with in order to give them just a little more time. I dealt with all this while also trying to mend a failing relationship. In an attempt to fix it, we decided to get engaged, which was basically the equivalent of putting a band-aid on a gunshot wound, it'll cover up the problem for a while, but eventually you're going to have to amputate your leg.

With all of these things bothering me, I just felt completely overwhelmed. I decided what I needed to do was go visit my grandmother's grave. At her resting place, we placed a concrete bench, where we can just sit there, talk to her, and just be with her in general, because she was someone that everyone in the family just loved being around. I figured if there was anyone that I should talk to, it would be grandma. So I sat there, told her everything that was going on (like she didn't already know), told her how much I missed her, and I just started bawling. Uncontrollably sobbing. I was crying so hard that I could barely fill my lungs with enough air to breathe. And for the first and only time in my life, I questioned God's existence. I had always been a good person, I made mistakes, sure, but who hasn't? Why was all this bad stuff happening to me? Without speaking a single word, I was subconsciously saying "Okay, God, if You're real, if You're always here for me, then I need You to prove it to me right now. I need to know You're here."

Then, it happened. As I was sitting there, crying harder than I ever had before, face buried in my hands, I felt it. I felt something on my back. If you've ever tried consoling someone, and you put your hand on their back just to let them know that you're there, that's what it felt like. When I felt it, I didn't even look up, because I knew there was no physical body there, only a spiritual one. I knew exactly what was going on. It was God saying "Hey, I'm here." When I felt that, I immediately got a feeling like a wave rushing over me and I had chills go all through my body. I suddenly had an instant feeling of relief, and I knew that everything was going to be okay.

I know some who read this will think I'm out of my mind, but what I felt was very real and supernatural. There's no other way to explain it. I'm not crazy, I know what I felt, and I'm certain that what I felt was the physical presence of God. I feel like that day God was pushing me in the direction He wanted me to go, but it wouldn't be for another two-and-a-half years that I finally went all the way. For whatever reason, I was resistant. For a long time, I didn't know what it was about the life I was living that prevented me from truly following God, but when I finally did, all the answers became clear. At the time, I was an addict.

I've never had a problem with drugs or alcohol. The most alcohol I've ever consumed in one sitting is two shots of a very weak drink, and my entire foray into drugs was the one time I smoked pot when I was 14 before the Franklin-Springboro football game during my freshman year. No, I was addicted to something else, something that for a long time, I considered a badge of honor. The one vice I had was sex, or to expand it a little bit, pornography and sex. A lot of people will think that sex can't be an addiction, but I know that it is, or at least it can be. My addiction to women was a contributor to one of my relationships ending, it would cause me to get depressed or angry if I tried to get it and failed, and it eventually got to the point that I would take it wherever I could get it. Now, that's not a shot at any women I have been with in the past, because it was always a mutual thing, but it was to the point that if a woman offered herself, I would accept with no questions asked. I also wasn't very smart about it, I believe it's no small miracle that I didn't wind up with either a child or an STD. To give validation to the "addiction" claim I made, I had scares for both instances, but once I was in the clear, I continued doing what I was doing. And if any of those women are reading this, I apologize for my reckless, careless behavior.

Pornography and masturbation were daily occurrences. I didn't even think about it, it was just something that I did, like taking a shower or brushing my teeth, it was part of my "routine," for lack of a better term. I never saw anything wrong with it.

For the two-and-a-half years after that day at my grandmother's grave, I would go through spurts. It's like the story of the harvest in Matthew 13:3-8, which reads:

“What do you make of this? A farmer planted seed. As he scattered the seed, some of it fell on the road, and birds ate it. Some fell in the gravel; it sprouted quickly but didn’t put down roots, so when the sun came up it withered just as quickly. Some fell in the weeds; as it came up, it was strangled by the weeds. Some fell on good earth, and produced a harvest beyond his wildest dreams."

Jesus goes on to explain the meaning of the story in verses 20-21, and at the time, I was much like the seed that fell on gravel:

“The seed cast in the gravel—this is the person who hears and instantly responds with enthusiasm. But there is no soil of character, and so when the emotions wear off and some difficulty arrives, there is nothing to show for it."

I would go through spurts where I would get really into my faith, and I would always say "This is the time I stick with it." But I never did, it never lasted more than a couple weeks, I would always revert back to my old ways. It wasn't until I met a very special person that I finally committed and stopped participating in this self-destructive behavior.

Just a couple hours after the year 2012 officially began, I was in the passenger seat of my friend Hooks' car, making our way back home from a New Year's get-together, and he suddenly turns to me with a "Eureka!" type look on his face. He looks at his phone, looks back at me, back at his phone, back at me, and then finally says "I don't know why I never thought of this, but I think you and my friend Heather would be perfect together." When he started talking about her, I just had a good feeling about it, even before meeting her. I pretty much fell in love as he was describing her, she was into video games, used to be a pro wrestler, and was very involved with her church. Six days later, we officially met and I also discovered that she loved metal. It was official, I was going to marry this woman. And I believe that I was given another sign from God that night that Heather was the right one for me. Prior to Hooks mentioning Heather, I had made plans to meet up with a woman that very night for purposes of lust, and since I had a feeling that Heather was going to be the one for me, I figured "Well, I may as well get one last hurrah." I say God gave me another sign because meeting up with the girl didn't happen, and for very bizarre reasons. I won't go into those reasons, but just believe me that they were so weird that there's no way I could ignore it.

Also, before even meeting Heather, I stopped masturbating. Cold turkey, I just stopped. Now, I did have a couple relapses with pornography, where I would just watch it for a few seconds. I justified it by saying "I just want to see if I can resist it." Well, I was, but it was nothing more than an excuse to watch a little porn. That was very early in my new life, and it's been a long time since I've viewed any. To say that my faith helped me overcome these addictions is an incredible understatement. I simply made a decision, and God helped me see it through.

Earlier, I mentioned how I felt God was pushing me towards where I needed to be, but it would still be a while before I actually got there. Well, I think He was giving me a nudge in this direction, but I needed Heather to be on the other side pulling me the rest of the way. In addition to the spiritual push, I needed a physical pull. Once Heather and I got together, everything got better. My faith and relationship with God grew astronomically, my promiscuity disappeared, and my vanity also vanished, which was another problem that I had (Warning: there is a lot of foul language in that link).

Being around Heather also provided me the opportunity to be around tons of other positive influences. The people from Faith Chapel have become my spiritual family, and in some cases, have become part of my real family. Being around the Taylors, the Reeds, the Walkerows, and the rest of the Walriven clan, among others, has made a tremendous impact on my life, and I can't thank them enough for everything they've done for me. Over the summer I was fortunate enough to go up to Cornerstone Church as a youth leader. That was a very eye-opening experience. On top of the amazing worship services, I also got re-baptized. This time, however, I understood the significance, I understood what it represented, and I understood why I was doing it. The first service at Faith Chapel after returning home, Pastor Connie called me out and challenged me to become the "Spiritual Giant" that God is calling me to be. I hope that I've made her proud since then.

It's still hard for me to believe that when this year started that all of this would have happened. It's hard to believe that I've known Heather for less than a year, I never would have believed that when the year started that I would be married less than 9 months later, start a new (better) job, and have my wrestling career go in a completely different direction. I'm still young in my walk with God, and I'm still learning, and will continue to learn until the day I die. This isn't a fad, this is a completely new life for me. I will still make mistakes, I will still have setbacks, but I know now that whatever adversity comes my way, it's for a reason, and it's nothing that I can't handle.

Like I said earlier, I wrote this simply because I feel like if it helps anyone who reads it to more actively pursue a relationship with God, it's completely worth it. I understand that some who read this think that everything I've written is just me being illogical, or naive. Naturally, everyone agrees that everyone is entitled to their own opinion. I definitely agree. I understand why some people don't believe. I understand atheism, I really do, it just doesn't work for me. Atheism is as illogical to me as Christianity is to an atheist. My faith lies in the experiences that I've had, both before and after I gave my life to God. God has shown Himself in so many ways in my life that it's impossible for me to stop believing. Call me crazy, but I will always stand unashamed with what I believe.

Thank you for reading.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Jill Sandwich: The Best of the Best of Resident Evil

I love Resident Evil. I’ve loved it since I first encountered the series back in 1997. Being such a big fan of anything zombie related, I was drawn to it immediately. I even enjoy the really bad movies the series has spawned. I’ve read through the Resident Evil novel series twice. I know the timeline of the series as well as almost anybody. I’ve even had a birthday cake with a picture of Hunk on it. With the imminent release of Resident Evil 6, I’ve been in a Resident Evil mood, and wanted to write a little something about it. I think the thing about the series that has always drawn me to it are the characters, whether they be good, bad, human, or not so human. I’ve compiled lists (because everybody loves lists) of the five best heroes, villains, bosses, and monsters in the series. Without further ado, let’s get started.

Top 5 Heroes
Ada Wong


I may get some guff from any Resident Evil fan for not including Leon Kennedy on this list, but I do have my reasons. I will preface this by saying that Resident Evil 2 is my favorite of the series on the PSone, and Resident Evil 4 is my second favorite game of all-time, and Leon is one of the protagonists in both of those games. That being said, Leon is a tool. I mean, he just is. He looks like he spends more time on his hair than a teenager getting ready for prom, he throws out one-liners that would make John Matrix smack his forehead, and he constantly gets the crap kicked out of him. Ada Wong, however, always appears alongside Leon, and always outperforms him. Ada may not fit the typical definition of “good” but I also wouldn’t classify her as a villain. Her intentions are never quite clear. We first find that she’s a spy sent to recover a sample of the G-Virus, then we see her in RE4 working with, and eventually double-crossing, Albert Wesker.

Ada and Leon seem to have a Batman and Catwoman type of relationship, and the feminine side of me thinks “Wouldn’t it be nice if they settled down together?”

Barry Burton


Barry Burton oozes machismo. He loves 3 things: guns, weights, and being bearded. There’s the old joke that Chuck Norris has a third fist behind his beard, well Barry Burton has a colt python and a barbell. Not only is Barry the epitome of what a man should be, he’s also a big teddy bear. Reading the novelized version of the first game (The Umbrella Conspiracy) will give you a look into the heart of the bearded beast. He constantly thinks about his family, specifically, his two daughters. When Wesker forces him to turn on his companions Chris and Jill, he is only able to do so by convincing Barry that his family is in danger.

The original Resident Evil is legendary for its campy dialogue, and Barry delivers probably my favorite line in the game. No, I’m not referring to the “master of unlocking” line, I’m more partial to “You were almost a Jill-sandwich.”

Unfortunately, there has never been a game that features Barry Burton as the main playable character (I‘m not counting the GameBoy Color game Resident Evil Gaiden). You can play as Barry in Mercenaries mode in Resident Evil 5, but I never played it. As much as I loved Mercenaries in RE4, going as far as to S rank every level with every character in order to unlock all the special goodies, I just never cared enough to play it in RE5. I like the idea they’re going for with Resident Evil 6 and having you play multiple characters, but if I were in control of the direction for the Resident Evil series, I would keep it as a single player game, keep the multiple viewpoints, and Barry Burton would always be included.
Chris Redfield


Based on his appearance in Resident Evil 5, Chris Redfield could probably bench press more than Barry, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he broke the BSAA‘s wellness policy. Regardless, Chris Redfield is THE hero in Resident Evil. He has been there from the first game, he reappeared in Code Veronica, RE5, and will come back in RE6. He is the only man truly able to stop Albert Wesker in his quest for world domination, and after the conclusion of RE5, we can only assume he finally succeeded in doing so.

He survived the horror of the Spencer Mansion in the original game, he rescued his sister and escaped Antarctica in Code Veronica, and he stopped the Uroboros virus from spreading across the entire planet (as well as saving Jill) in RE5. That’s a pretty impressive resume. The man has seen the types of living horrors that would drive a man to utter madness. It’s no small miracle that he hasn’t developed a very severe drinking problem, because if I had to kill a snake the size of a bus and lived to talk about it, the first thing I would be reaching for is the hardest liquor I could find mixed with the second hardest.

Claire Redfield


We’ve all heard the complaints levied at developers for being unable to create a strong female character who isn’t over-sexualized. Capcom, however, pulled it off in Resident Evil 2 with Claire Redfield, the younger sister of Chris. I know that Jill Valentine was basically the same character in the original game, but I never real viewed Jill as strong character. Considering all the differences between Jill and Chris, like the fact that Jill had more inventory space, and she gets more powerful weapons in the game, it always seemed like Jill was the character you picked if you wanted the game to be easier.

As well as being a strong female lead, they also show Claire’s nurturing side, as halfway through her side of the story she comes across Sherry Birkin, the daughter of scientists William and Annette Birkin, the former of which being the main man behind the G-virus. Claire acts as a mother figure to Sherry, and eventually escapes Raccoon City with both Sherry and Leon.

Claire’s next major appearance was as the main protagonist in Code Veronica, where she attempted to escape the horrors of Rockfort Island after being captured by Umbrella. While still playing a strong character, we‘re reminded of the fact that she‘s still a young woman, developing a semi-romantic relationship with the most annoying character in all of Resident Evil: Steve Burnside. Partnered with her brother, Claire and Chris are able to take down the T-Veronica virus-infected Alexia Ashford and escape Umbrella’s secret Antarctic complex.

Claire also reunited with Leon in RE: Degeneration, which is easily the best film featuring the Resident Evil name. The movie is considered a part of the official canon of the series, though not considered to be a crucial installment in the story arc. But if you’ve never seen it and you’re a fan, it’s definitely worth checking out.


There is a reason Hunk was given the moniker “Mr. Death,” because he is a one-man killing machine. His character isn’t exactly something you’ve never heard before: he works for a secret organization, has carried out several successful operations, many times being the one member of his team to return alive, is devoid of emotion, and refuses to die. Basically, other than the secret organization part, he’s the Rambo of Resident Evil. Hunk is my favorite character in the entire series, and when I think about it, I don’t know why. Other than a secret mission in RE2, and being a total beast in the Mercenaries mode of RE4, Hunk hasn’t had much of a role in the RE universe, but remains a fan favorite. Maybe the fact that he doesn’t have much of a role is the reason he is so beloved, kind of like Pyramid Head in the Silent Hill series. Hunk is cold, dark, and mysterious. He somehow manages to be a likeable character despite working for the enemy.

Playing as Hunk in Mercenaries is incredibly satisfying. Using him results in the game being a breeze, but even though Hunk is essentially the “win” button, his unique abilities make the somewhat tense situations of Mercenaries incredibly fun. Shooting a ganado in the face, rushing toward them and snapping their neck is something that never gets old. Or shooting the legs out from under someone, setting them up for what I call the “Hunk Punt,” where he basically punts the enemy’s skull out of their head, makes for another satisfying way to conserve ammo.


The "Hunk Punt" in mid-awesome!

Top 5 Villains
Albert Wesker


None of these lists are ranked, but let’s be honest, Albert Wesker is THE villain in Resident Evil. He is the yin to Chris Redfield’s yang (gross!). He pulls the strings from behind the scenes, but he’s by no means afraid to take matters into his own hands to see to it that things get done.

Albert Wesker is to Resident Evil what Bowser is to Mario, it just doesn’t work without him. The ending of RE5 seems to insinuate that Wesker is finally dead, but then again, if he weren’t, it wouldn’t be the most befuddling thing to happen in the series. Whenever Capcom decides to call it quits with their beloved Biohazard (which doesn’t seem like it’s going to be anytime soon) I think it needs to end with a final, epic showdown between Chris and Wesker.

I’d also like to point out that I think Robert Patrick would have been the perfect actor to play Wesker in the films. Just saying.

Alfred Ashford

Resident Evil: Code Veronica is the one game in the series that I was never able to complete (well, also Resident Evil 0 because I never had a GameCube). For whatever reason, I would lose interest after about an hour, and would never return to it. I’ve tried playing this game three different times, and just couldn’t get past that point. That being said, however, I think Alfred Ashford is an excellent villain for the series. While Wesker is a no-nonsense kind of villain, Ashford is just completely over-the-top…also, insane. It’s a nice change of pace from the typical villains we had seen in the series up to that point. Alfred has an obsession with his dead twin sister Alexia, and you encounter him in the game dressed up as his deceased counterpart and pretending to be her.


Pictured: Alfred being not not creepy

So, as you can see, Alfred definitely has a screw loose, and even though he appears in the one RE game I can’t really get into, I still like the story and characters it has to offer (except Steve Burnside. Seriously, I hate him).



Straight off the set of an 80s Arnold Schwarzenegger film comes Jack Krauser. He is introduced in RE4 as a former comrade of Leon Kennedy who is now working for the game’s antagonist, Saddler (and also in cahoots with Wesker). Krauser exemplifies exactly what a generic action movie character should be. The only problem with Krauser is that he fits the role of the hero’s buddy or the villain’s right-hand man so perfectly that he couldn’t be the top-dog in either respect. The hero needs to be likeable and the villain needs to be believable as a manipulator, whereas Krauser isn’t likeable in any sort of way, and is being manipulated by not only Saddler, but also by Wesker.


Krauser is involved in two of the more memorable sections of RE4. The QTE knife fight between Leon and Krauser is amazingly intense for a battle that basically requires no effort other than reacting in a quick enough manner so as to not see a “You Are Dead” screen. You encounter him again near the end of the game, and while his boss battle is very basic, the events leading up to the battle make for some nervous moments, as Krauser can appear at the drop of a hat and deal damage to you unless you’re able to effectively react and evade/attack.

Krauser is also a nice change of pace for the Mercenaries mode. While all other characters use firearms, Krauser’s weapon of choice is a bow and arrow. Each arrow results in a one-hit kill, but arrows are limited, which brings about the need to be more accurate and to make good use of exploding barrels to deal damage to multiple enemies with just one shot. Also, having that mutated arm doesn’t hurt when in close-quarters.

Nicholai Ginovaef

Apparently, no one ever told Nicholai that the Cold War ended, because this Russian Umbrella operative still acts like he’s in 1985. A lot of people are probably asking who Nicholai Ginovaef is. He only appeared in Resident Evil 3 as the leader of the UBCS Delta platoon (and again in the throwaway RE: Operation Raccoon City). When first encountered by Jill, he is only one of three men left alive in his squad, the other two being Mikhail Victor (who dies soon after) and Carlos Oliviera. Nicholai disappears early in the game and is presumed dead, only to appear later exposing his true role: he is a “Supervisor,” a special operative for Umbrella chosen to gather combat data on Umbrella’s bio-weapons.

RE3 was unique in that it allowed the player to make choices, so it was the first Resident Evil game that wasn’t completely linear, as some decisions you make result in different scenarios later in the game. These decisions can lead to three possible outcomes for Nicholai. One path that can be taken results in his death at the hands of Nemesis. The other path can lead to two different results, either fight Nicholai as he flies around in a helicopter, or you can negotiate with him, which allows him to escape from Raccoon City. This leaves his story arc open, and I wouldn’t mind seeing Nicholai replacing Wesker as the primary antagonist of the series (I should note that I haven‘t beaten Operation Raccoon City yet, so if he dies in that game, please disregard that last sentence).

Ramon Salazar


Salazar is adorably twisted. While he may just be a pawn in Saddler’s quest for world domination, Salazar is a much more memorable villain. The second act of RE4 takes place in the Salazar castle, and Ramon doesn’t take kindly to Leon treading on his family’s ground. The two things that make Salazar such a unique character are his over-the-top voice acting (which often results in some pretty good dialogue between he and Leon), and his little person stature. Being protected by two “Verdugo” monsters, Salazar takes great pleasure in being a cocky jerk to Leon.

One of my favorite parts of RE4 is when Salazar goes on one of his trademark spiels, only to have Leon throw a knife, which hits its intended mark and pins Salazar’s hand to the wall. The shocked pause of Salazar’s reaction and his subsequent hyperventilation, followed by Leon’s smirk and chuckle make this one of the highlights of the game.


Part of me wants to feel sorry for Salazar, as he was tricked into unleashing Las Plagas back into the world by Saddler, which ultimately results in his death. Poor Salazar…

Top 5 Bosses
Lisa Trevor


I was debating on if I should list Lisa Trevor as a boss or a monster, ultimately I decided on boss because there’s only one of her and you only encounter her twice. Despite how grotesque Lisa’s appearance is, when you read up on her, and understand her back story, you really feel sorry for her, she‘s kind of like the Sloth of Resident Evil. Lisa’s father was the man responsible for building the Spencer Mansion in the Arklay Mountains, and Lisa and her mother were used as experiments for the Progenitor Virus. Lisa eventually started to mutate physically and deteriorate mentally. After the death of her parents, Lisa would kill anyone she encountered, tearing off their faces and keeping them with her at all times until she was able to find her mother and “give her back her face.”


"I told you, Barry has your mom's face. Or Jill...go kill Jill."

Lisa Trevor is only encountered in the remake of the original Resident Evil, and she makes for probably the most frightening experience in the whole series when you encounter her in the shack right outside of the mansion.



Everyone has had the feeling of being followed, and it’s a truly terrifying feeling. It’s even scarier when the one following you seems like it can’t be stopped. Nemesis reminds me a lot of The Terminator. “It can’t be bargained with, it can’t be reasoned with. It doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead.” Those are the words Kyle Reese says to Sarah Connor when he explains what the Terminator is, and it’s also an excellent way of describing Nemesis from Resident Evil 3.

This game often receives a lot of criticism, as it was basically pushed out to give fans something to play until Code Veronica, but I really enjoyed it. It was the first one to give you branching paths, and it has a much wider variety of locations than in the two previous titles. But Nemesis is what really makes the game great. The first time you play through, you have no idea when he’ll show up, and in most cases it’s exactly when you don’t want him to. Oh, you’re about to find sanctuary in the Raccoon City Police Station? Boom! Here’s Nemesis! What’s that? Your evacuation helicopter is about to descend to your rescue? Nope, Nemesis is on top of the clock tower, and he has a rocket launcher! Because, why not?

The end of the game results with a final decision: Leave Nemesis dying and let the nuke that’s about to destroy Raccoon City take him with it, or grab the magnum that’s conveniently placed by a dead soldier and get the satisfaction of killing him yourself. I don’t care what anyone says, RE3 was awesome.



The thing that makes the T-103 (or Mr. X, if you prefer) is his sterility. He’s just a giant man with gray skin, dead eyes, and a green trench coat. Resident Evil gets some criticism because the majority of it’s scares are startle moments as opposed to setting up a creepy atmosphere (Silent Hill) or using superior sound design to set the tone (Dead Space). But what’s wrong with that? I argue that it can be more effective. In the RE series, you’re often tricked into thinking you’ve found sanctuary, when in reality, you’re being set up for an ambush that you don’t see coming unless you’ve played through the game before. The T-103 is the best example in the series of being taken by surprise, while you do see it coming the first time, every subsequent occurrence is completely out of the blue, and is usually done with a bang.


He’s the original, so there was no way I couldn’t include him. The final boss from the first game. Even though Resident Evil 0 eventually caused him to be edited to be known as the T-002, in my eyes he’s still the original. Designed by Umbrella to be the perfect B.O.W. and the ultimate killing machine, this beast is eventually loosed on the members of S.T.A.R.S. After seemingly disposing of him in the underground Umbrella laboratory, he comes crashing upward through the concrete of the heliport as our heroes are making their escape. Obviously, the T-002 wasn’t as efficient of an “ultimate killing machine” as Umbrella had hoped, as they made several more iterations of the Tyrant, and this particular one wound up killing exactly zero people before biting the dust at the hands of a rocket launcher. Even though he didn’t have the best win-loss record, he’s still a great boss, he scared the crap out of me when I was 12, and he is the template for what all Resident Evil bosses should be.

William Birkin aka “G”


While Nemesis gets the credit for being the boss best known for pursuing you throughout a game, William Birkin in his G-transformed state did it first. You encounter G multiple times in RE2, and to spice things up, each of those encounters features the G monster in its next evolutionary step. He goes from being human-like in appearance, to animal, and eventually ends up as a giant blob of tentacles and teeth. The first few times you come across G, you can still see some physical characteristics of William Birkin, but by the end of the game all of Birkin has vanished, which I always thought was a nice touch.


The main purpose of G is to find new hosts and impregnate them, and this leads to a very Alien-esque death for one character. G also spends the first few mutations trying to find Sherry Birkin for the purposes of impregnating her, which…yeah, I’ll just leave that alone.

Top 5 Monsters


I’ve always thought that the chimera monsters that appear in the original Resident Evil are easily the most underrated monsters in the entire series. This human-fly hybrid is genuinely a disturbing sight to behold. You only encounter them near the end of the game as you attempt your escape, and even then there are only a handful. As far as the physical appearance of these mutations, they’re rather disturbing and I would rank them as the enemy I would be most terrified of actually encountering.

Crimson Head Zombies

Once you get past the first few zombie battles and realize that you can just run past most of them, you start to lose the feeling of tension and dread you get from the opening door load screens. How do you make zombies scary again? One simple solution: make them run! For any zombie that you don’t burn, they will return stronger and faster, like a zombie on steroids. The first time I saw this happen, I nearly pooped ‘em. I’d be interested to see the series take this approach again. While enemies in RE4 and RE5 have enemies run for short bursts and lunge at you, it doesn’t have the same impact of a zombie quickly getting up off the ground and sprinting toward you with its arms extended.

Hunter (Alpha)

The original Hunter from the mansion is the best and most terrifying enemy in the game. They decided to make several variants of the Hunter over the course of the series, whether they just look like modified versions of this one, or the weird frog-like version that appears in RE3. But when you think Hunter, you think of this big green mother. This human-reptile cross is one of the mainstays of the series, as it’s brought back over and over again, albeit a little bit altered from the original version. The first time I had one of these guys leap across the room and decapitate me, I sat there for a moment in stunned silence, turned the game off, and walked out of the room. You definitely need to be prepared to take these guys on, as they’re certainly no joke.



Before I knew the proper way to play the older Resident Evil games (run when you can, fight when you have to, and save your bigger weapons for tougher enemies), I thought I could just get by with the handgun. Obviously, that was a huge mistake. When I first purchased Resident Evil 2, I made my way through the zombie-infested streets of Raccoon City, found false safety in Kendo’s Gun Shop, watched Robert Kendo get eaten alive, grabbed his shotgun, and proceeded to use the five rounds of ammunition the gun had in it on the next five zombies I came across. Yeah, that was dumb. The first Licker in the game had little trouble disposing of Leon S. Kennedy.


Lickers are skinless, eyeless creatures with tongues that put Gene Simmons to shame, with giant talons and the ability to leap great distances. Lickers aren’t used as often as Hunters, but they’ve still made their fair share of appearances, including a memorable appearance in Resident Evil 5 which prompts you to slowly walk past several of them in an attempt to bypass a difficult fight.



I will go on record and say that the Regenerators from Resident Evil 4 are the most terrifying monsters in the series. These giant, sexless creatures are made more terrifying by their barrenness. Their pale, gray skin combined with the low moan they let out result in a Hungry Man sized serving of creepy. My buddy Luke had a similar experience with the Regenerator that I did with the Hunter. Near the end of the game you come to a corridor with prison cells on both sides. Luke could hear the Regenerator somewhere, but couldn’t see it. He checked a cell on the right, turned around to check the one parallel to it, and had the monster right up in his grill. Luke then turned the game off and came back to it the next day.

In addition to their appearance, the only way you can kill them is by using a sniper rifle equipped with an infrared scope (or the Chicago typewriter or rocket launcher, if you want to be boring), which makes it even more difficult on the player. The Regenerator also has a brother, referred to as the Iron Maiden, which is basically just a Regenerator with spikes protruding out of its body to use against its opponents, but I find the simplicity of the Regenerator much more scary.


But they apparently both have the same signature pose

So, there. There’s a bunch of Resident Evil goodness for you. I’m sure some agree with the lists, I’m sure some don’t. Some are probably thinking “Oh yeah, the chimera was pretty underrated,” and others may be thinking “Wait, who was Nicholai again?” The series has experienced its highs and lows, and I’ve stuck with it through the good times and the bad. Considering how amazing Resident Evil 4 is, and how much I enjoyed Resident Evil 5 (when played with a human partner, at least), I’m very hopeful for the newest installment.


Personally, despite my love of the series, I wouldn’t mind seeing it come to an end, at least in the story sense. That seems unlikely, as Resident Evil is still a big money maker for Capcom, but as a fan who has been following the series for 15 years, I think it’s time to get a definitive story end. It seems fitting though, as some of the series’ biggest stars are finally put into the same game with Leon and Chris, and the return of Sherry Birkin with her partner, Albert Wesker’s son, Jake. Not to mention the inclusion of Ada Wong. I would still prefer Resident Evil to be a single-player game, but I’m sure Resident Evil 6 will turn out to be an amazing experience.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Enough Talk. Have At You!


Very few series these days have the ability to make me feel like a kid again. Any time Nintendo releases a traditional platforming Mario title, whether in 2-D or 3-D, they succeed in giving me that feeling. Mega Man 9 & 10 also pulled it off, and quite well I might add. The Wii version of Punch Out!! was nothing short of brilliant. But outside of those games and only a handful of others, if I want that nostalgic feeling, I actually have to hook up my old systems and pop those games in, or use a downloadable game service like the PlayStation Store or Nintendo's Virtual Console and eShop. It's nice having these games available on the current generation systems. I spent a lot of money on NES and SNES games when I first got my Wii, as well as some PSOne Classics once my PS3 was hooked up.


Right before this fight, Dracula loses all credibility.

Over time, the Xbox 360 became my console of choice, the number one reason being that I love playing online co-op games, and most of my friends are on the Xbox. After I finished Super Mario Galaxy 2 and realized there were no games in the foreseeable future for the console that interested me, I got rid of it. My PlayStation 3 has been collecting dust for quite some time, only being broken out in order to play a few rounds of Hot Shots Golf: Out of Bounds every six months or so. So, as it stands right now, the only gaming platforms in my household that get played are the Xbox and 3DS. I've managed to build up quite an impressive downloadable games library on the Xbox, including one game that I've already owned three different ways: CastleVania: Symphony of the Night.

I would rank Symphony as one of my top 5 games of all-time, and along with Super Mario World (easily my #1 game ever), it's one of the few games I repeatedly come back to at least once every year or so. I bought the game on Xbox Live Arcade over a year ago, and when I first booted it up, I found that playing with the analog stick was out of the question, as even the slightest tilt upward would result in using my special weapon instead of my regular handheld swords, and I was also getting a lot of weird reactions from main character Alucard from using the Xbox's sad excuse for a directional pad. It was so bad that I was unable to defeat the pair of Slogra and Gaibon, the game's first boss encounter. After repeated attempts of trying to defeat the two demons, which would culminate in watching Alucard make a lot of flinching motions before eventually taking his final hit, I turned the game off and did not come back to it until about a month ago. I was looking through my XBLA games library out of boredom and came across Symphony. It was laughing at me, and my masculinity refused to let myself be laughed at unless I was the one making the joke. I fired it back up, lost to the pair one more time, reloaded, paid attention to the patters of the two, and eventually emerged victorious. After this battle, I retreated to the save room right outside the one I was currently occupying and saved my game with a sense of desperation. It didn't make sense. How did I lose to Slogra and Gaibon so many times? I've played this game a dozen times and never had that kind of trouble. I chalked it up to the abysmal d-pad of the Xbox 360, and continued on my way, never again losing a boss battle...or any battle for that matter.


Insert penis joke here.

Symphony is not a difficult game by any stretch of the imagination. Before you reach the halfway point of the first castle you're already so leveled up and have found enough good armor and weapons that the game is a breeze, and refilling all of your health when you reach a save room only makes the game that much easier.

Okay, okay, you're probably wondering why I'm going into such detail about a game over a decade old. Why? Because this game is so good that it deserves to be revisited. I've always been a huge CastleVania fan, from the very beginning all the way up to Lords of Shadow, I just can't get enough of the series. When it comes to the Metroid-style CastleVania games (note: I hate you if you say Metroid-Vania, Metroid did it first, it deserves the credit), Symphony is the pinnacle, all their efforts since then, despite all of them ranging from good to excellent, have fallen short, Order of Ecclesia being my personal favorite of those particular games. But what makes this game so good is the fact that I've played it a dozen times and I still discover new secrets every time I play. I consider my buddy Luke Roberts an expert on the game, and during my most recent playthrough, he showed me several things that I never knew existed. Like little nooks in the castle walls that you can bust to discover new items, areas where you never would have thought of if you didn't have either a friend or the internet to tell you (or a whole lot of free time), and weapons that seem inferior to your current ones, but when used in conjunction with certain other abilities turn them into both the best and most entertaining weapons in the game.

I also can't talk about CastleVania without talking about how much I love the enemies and bosses. My personal favorite being Beelzebub, who looks like Luke Roberts after 4 minutes of exercise, and is nothing more than a giant corpse hanging up who doesn't attack you directly at all, instead, the giant flies that swarm around the corpse are the things you much take notice of.


Sup Luke?

Also, let us not forget Legion.


Insert testicle joke here.

Whereas Beelzebub is just one big dead guy, Legion is a giant ball of dead guys with a central nervous system that you find in the Catacombs. Of course you have your classic CastleVania standbys like Medusa and the giant bat, but for every Frankenstein's Monster you encounter there's also a Scylla. For every boring zombie you fight there's also a Diplocephalus. I can't talk about Symphony without mentioning Galamoth, the toughest battle in the game. Galamoth is a giant beast you find in the Floating Catacombs. He's so big, in fact, that you only see his entirety when he kneels down. For inexperienced players, make sure to bring lots of potions and as much lightning resistance as you can, as all of his attacks dish out quite a bit of damage, and only a few hits without healing is enough to result in a game over screen...a very long game over screen.


There are so many small, unique touches in the game. Like the boots Alucard can equip that make him one pixel taller, and serve no purpose other than that. They don't help you reach higher places, or give you any extra defense, they simply make Alucard taller. There are numerous hidden areas in the game that reveal new weapons, armor, or health items. Of course, the reveal of the second, inverted castle is old news, but it's still worth mentioning. The game literally takes the castle you just fought your way through and turns it upside down, room for room. It's only by decrypting the messages inscribed on the two rings you find throughout the game that you can find the castle and, ultimately, get the true ending and defeat Dracula


Yes, CastleVania: Symphony of the Night is an all-time classic, it's only faults being a lack of difficulty and a tediously and annoyingly long game over screen. Aside from those two minor inconveniences, the game does everything right. The combat is simple enough for anyone to be able to finish the game, but includes spells for the more experienced players to add a little difficulty and variety. I could continue to write and write about this game, I didn't even go into all the relics, magic, and familiars that you can find. I didn't mention the voice-acting that's so bad that it challenges Resident Evil in corniness levels. The game references all the classic horror monsters: Dracula, The Mummy, Frankenstein's Monster, werewolves, etc. It references classical mythology: Medusa, Scylla, Cerberus, and Minotaurs, among others. It references Christianity and Catholicism with the Angel of Death, numerous demons, and even a confessional booth Alucard can sit in, as well as lots of Gothic art that can be seen scattered throughout the game. There are even enemies that reference The Wizard of Oz with dark version of the Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Cowardly Lion.

The argument among CastleVania fans is whether Symphony of the Night is the best in the series, or it's linear predecessor, Rondo of Blood. Despite growing up with the original side-scrolling games, my vote goes to Symphony, and I don't see Konami ever making a more perfectly crafted CastleVania game than this one.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Why Water Is The Most Terrifying Video Game Enemy Ever

When it comes to making virtual worlds, game programmers can do whatever they want. They have absolute freedom. They can concoct a terrifying monster, they can give you the ability to fly, they can provide you with the catalyst to live out all of your Rambo-esque fantasies. They can build entire cities, dense jungles, or underground temples. They can hide Easter eggs anywhere they please, they can fill the dialogue with classic video game in-jokes, and thanks to recent technology, you can have sex with prostitutes, followed by murdering them and taking your money back.



However, even though I appreciate the creativity that goes into even the worst games (because let's be honest, it's hard to make a compelling video game, especially these days), there is one thing that I hate so much that it's literally a deal-breaker for me in some games. I'm talking about water.

I love horror games. The only kind of game I love more than a good horror game is a good, challenging platformer. I got more excited during this past E3 from watching footage of Dead Space 3 and Resident Evil 6 than I did anything else. But you know what? If one of those games has a section that requires me to be underwater with enemies, there's a good chance that I'll get so stressed out that I'll either turn the game off or ask someone else to play that section for me.

Now, this fear I have didn't become realized until the advent of 3-D worlds. I can handle swimming levels in 2-D games just fine, and I think it has to do with controls. In the old school platformers, the controls in water were practically identical to the controls on land. In the case of the NES, the button you used to jump was the same one you used to swim upward, makes sense. When it comes to 3-D games, however, you usually need to learn a new set of controls when encountering a swimming section. No matter how many 3-D Mario titles I play, I always have trouble getting acclimated to the controls again.

But getting used to the controls is my own problem. It's really just about stress. It may be because I have an oxygen meter, or because I have to fight enemies, but being underwater in games just stresses me out. The first instance I can think of is in the Sega Genesis Sonic games. In this case, though, it has absolutely nothing to do with the oxygen meter, absolutely nothing to do with the enemies, and everything to do with that terrifying music when Sonic is about to be deep-sixed. You know the music I'm talking about.

I still hear that music in my nightmares, followed by the horrifying visage of Sonic's slow, agonizing death. The fear continued with Ecco the Dolphin, a game that takes place entirely underwater. Why did that game scare me? Because sharks, bro. Then once games got into the 3-D space, Tomb Raider II came along and traumatized me forever. Ecco the Dolphin is understandable, because he's a dolphin, he belongs in the water. But the first time I got attacked by a shark in Tomb Raider, that was it. No thank you, sir. I turned the game off, and never returned to it. Stupid Lara Croft, there's a reason you don't go underwater, because that's where God put all the monsters. Seriously, have you seen some of the stuff that washed up on the shores after all the tsunamis in recent years?


You can't look at that thing and then tell me that it's not a monster. That thing has about 7 SyFy original movies in production about it at this very moment. I don't know what species or family this fish belongs to, so I made one up that seems the most fitting, and I've decided to call it "Satan's Nightmare Fuel."

I've always been fascinated by Greek mythology, and one of my favorite movies of all-time is Clash of the Titans. Not the 2010 remake disaster, but the 1981 original, the one that had real thespians like Burgess Meredith (Rest in peace, Mick). That movie still rocks from top to bottom, and if you've never seen it, you owe it to yourself. It was one of those movies that was always on television when I was a kid, and I never passed up an opportunity to watch it. The giant scorpions, the Stygian Witches, Cerberus, Medusa, Calibos, this movie had some amazing villains and awesome stop-motion effects. But the highlight of the film was definitely the Kraken, the most terrifying creature from ancient mythology.


Look at that thing...just awesome! Being the mythology buff that I am, I was pumped to play the original God of War back in 2005. Then I realized something. I said to myself "I'm probably going to have to fight the Kraken." Then I remembered that the Kraken came from the water, and I'm probably going to have to go into the water to kill it.....F that! The Kraken did make an appearance in the sequel, and I was beyond happy to find that I didn't have to follow it into the depths. But the God of War series, despite being a personal favorite series of mine, is also one that I find myself with feelings of unease to. I'm yet to play Ghost of Sparta, but in the four titles I've played, there is always a swimming section. Going back and playing them now, I have no problems, but upon the first playthrough, my stress level is at an all-time high because I didn't know what to expect. The swimming sections are mostly pointless in the series, except in the original, which is also the only title in the series that has obstacles and things that can kill you.

Remember Kingfin from Super Mario Galaxy? Yeah, he was terrifying. Remember El Lago from Resident Evil 4? Horrific. Remember swimming with Emma in Metal Gear Solid 2? That's the reason my hair started turning gray.

Have you ever heard of Leviathan? The most terrifying thing ever thought up by anybody ever? He's mentioned in the Bible as a giant monster. In Satanism he is one of the four princes of Hell. You know where Leviathan lives? The water. I rest my case.

I'm not scared of water in my every day life. I'm not afraid to go pools. Screw the ocean, man. When I'm in a pool, the worst thing that'll happen is I run into some urine or I see a very hairy, sweaty man walking around. But I still prefer that over being swallowed whole by Nessie.


The face of evil!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

My Top 5 Workout Albums Ever

For anyone who reads my blogs, it's quite apparent to you that I am very passionate about certain things: pro wrestling, video games, The Simpsons, etc. But two things that I enjoy go hand-in-hand, two things that I partake in every single day. I am of course referring to working out, and heavy metal. I've been working out regularly for almost ten years now, and right when I first started, my taste in music went from metal to RAAAAARRRRRGGGGGGHHHHH!!! Basically what I'm saying is that I started listening to heavier and heavier bands. I went from a mostly nu-metal fan (Korn, Limp Bizkit) to a straight up "Hey, let's put on some metal and fight something" type of metal fan. And there is nothing that can psyche you up to lift serious amounts of weight than these five albums...

5. Chimaira - The Impossibility of Reason


This album came out right before I graduated high school, so it was a mainstay in my car's CD player the last weeks of my high school career. I had listened to their previous album Pass Out of Existence, and I had enjoyed it for what it was, but it wasn't until Impossibility was released that I absolutely fell in love with the band. From the opening track to the final 12-minute medley, it's one of the best metal albums of the early 2000s, and still gets regular play on my iPod. I got to see them live a little over a year ago, and they played more songs from this one than any of their others, and rightfully so, it's brutal from beginning to end. When "Down Again" is the softest song on your album, you know you've created a monster metal album, and the song "Pure Hatred" has defined what Chimaira is: a whirlwind of destruction, which is why they close all of their live shows with this track. It doesn't get more metal than a chorus where the singer simply screams "I. Hate. Everyone." This is definitely a good option if you're going to the gym angry.

Additional awesome tracks:


"Pictures in the Gold Room"

"Eyes of a Criminal"

4. Throwdown - Vendetta


I discovered Throwdown in around 2005 when I was really into the straight edge thing, back before the word "throwdown" was synonymous with MMA apparel. I don't remember how I discovered them, but it was most likely because of MySpace or my friend Adam Buell introducing them to me. Vendetta hits all of the themes I like to hear when I'm at the gym, themes of loyalty, respect, supremacy, and discipline. They reminded me a lot of Hatebreed, which is a plus for any band. Throw in guest vocals from Howard Jones, the best metal singer of this generation, and you have a winner. The band has evolved in the years since Vendetta, and I would go as far as to say that their latest effort, Deathless, is the closest thing you're going to get to a modern day Pantera. But this album is definitely their magnum opus.

Additional awesome tracks:

"We Will Rise"


"Give My Life"

3. As I Lay Dying - Powerless Rise


It's no secret to anyone that As I Lay Dying is my favorite band, so they were bound to make an appearance on this list eventually. Every album they put out is better than the previous one, and they're live show is one of the most intense things you'll every experience. The amount that they've evolved over the last decade is astounding, and The Powerless Rise will be hard to top. The album never lets up, even their "softer" songs still pack a powerful punch. Most bands in metalcore these days sound identical, and there's a reason As I Lay Dying have emerged as the leaders of the genre, most notable of reasons being Tim Lambesis' vocals. You'll be hard-pressed to find anyone in music who sounds like him. Combine that with some truly inspiring lyrics, and you have my personal favorite album of the past 10 years.

Additional awesome tracks:



"Upside Down Kingdom"

2. Pantera - Vulgar Display of Power


The album cover speaks for itself. If you're not familiar with this album, shame on you. Pantera is the reason I am who I am today, because they were the first metal band I ever heard, and I instantly fell in love. Every metal fan is familiar "The Big 4" of the 80s: Metallica, Megadeth, Anthrax, and Slayer. But when it came to defining metal in the 90s, the majority of the credit goes to Pantera. Even if you're not very familiar with them, I guarantee you've at least heard one of the songs from VDoP. Other than the final track, the entire album is testosterone in musical form. It's all about anger, frustration, stress, and getting all of that negativity out of your system. Pantera will never be duplicated, it was a matter of all the stars aligning and bringing the best musicians together to form a beast with unlimited fury. If you look up "Heavy metal" in the dictionary, there should just be a picture of "Dimebag" Darrell shredding on his Washburn. No band better represents what metal stands for.

Additional awesome tracks:

"Mouth For War"

"A New Level"

"F**king Hostile"

1. Hatebreed - Perseverance


This album punches you in the face as soon as it starts, it doesn't even give you a chance to get settled in. If you're wondering where my man-crush on Jamey Jasta began, look no further. The man has written more motivating songs than Bill Conti. My favorite memory pertaining Perseverance was when I brought it in for morning weightlifting in high school. I played the first song, and everyone got mad at me and made me take it out...we spent the rest of the workout listening to Incubus, because there's nothing more motivating than listening to a skinny dude wailing "Wish You Were Here." When I saw how angry everyone got, I knew I would forever love Hatebreed. Perseverance is an album based on just that: persevering, and it's received more play time at the gym than any other. It's a mainstay on my gym rotation, and I seek it out whenever I need an extra boost. This is, quite simply, THE workout album.

Additional awesome tracks



"Remain Nameless"

The Most Iconic Images In Pro Wrestling History: Part One

There are certain moments in history that we all will never forget. Things like the Twin Towers going down, Michael Jordan hitting the game-winning shot against the Jazz in Game 6, the moon landing, or the "Miracle on Ice." For me, however, it seems like the majority of the images that are burned into my memory are from the world of professional wrestling (not surprising, I know). There have been so many great images in wrestling history that this will in no way be the only article I dedicate to these beautiful moments in time. With that said, let's get started

"The Irresistible Force Meets The Immovable Object"


If you're roughly my age and grew up as a wrestling fan, this image needs no explanation. Two legends meeting in the ring in the main event of WrestleMania in front of a sold out crowd at the Pontiac Silverdome. In one corner, you have the Hulkster, who at the time (and still today) was one of the most recognizable faces on the planet. Charisma that can't be matched, the bleached-blonde hair and mustache, the trademark yellow trunks, Hulk Hogan was the man.

In the other corner stands the largest and most well-respected professional wrestler of all-time: Andre the Giant, managed by the most diabolical of men, Bobby "The Brain" Heenan. Some would argue that the image of Hogan slamming Andre would be a better image, but if there's anything I love in wrestling, it's a good stare down.

A Star is Born


You may think that "Stone Cold" Steve Austin became a star when he defeated Jake "The Snake" Roberts at the 1996 King of the Ring, where he coined his "Austin 3:16" catchphrase. But for my money, I would say Austin became a true superstar during his match with Bret Hart at WrestleMania 13. I remember watching this live on pay-per-view at the age of 11 with my eyes wide and my jaw on the floor. This is my earliest recollection of seeing that amount of blood in a wrestling match. I was rooting for Bret in the match, and even though he did wind up winning, his victory was secondary to the fact that Austin refused to give up. Seeing the blood dripping from his face, down the front of his teeth, and onto the mat in one I'll never forget.

Best. Entrance. Ever.


I've always been attracted to "dark" things. Things like metal music, horror films, etc. So it's no wonder to me why I've always been awestruck by the Undertaker. In my opinion, he's the greatest of all-time, it's not even a contest. The Deadman's undefeated streak at WrestleMania is always the biggest attraction of the show these days, and every year they try to make his entrance bigger and better, but in my opinion, nothing can match the first time they brought out the druids and torches for his first ever encounter with his brother, Kane.

Celebrating Life


This will probably go down in history as the saddest image in wrestling history. If you're reading this, then you're probably a wrestling fan, and if you're a wrestling fan, then you undoubtedly already know the outcome of these two individuals' lives, so I won't say anything about that. This was at WrestleMania 20, and the end of a 16-year journey for Chris Benoit to receive the recognition he had long deserved. His best friend, Eddie Guerrero, had a similar tale, and had won the WWE Title one month earlier. Even today, despite what became of Benoit, and what happened to Eddie, I still fight back tears when Benoit is handed the belt for the first time, turns around, and sees his best friend there to congratulate him.

"The Boyhood Dream Has Come True"


There is a large amount of people who think that Shawn Michaels is the single greatest professional wrestler of all-time. At WrestleMania 12, after coming out victorious in a 60-minute Ironman match with Bret Hart, he definitely staked his claim. There are very few men who can have as good of a match for that period of time, and I would count this match as the best Ironman match ever. There is no doubt that Shawn Michaels is a legend, and he took a big step toward cementing his legacy with this incredible match, and seeing how emotional he was after the win, capturing the WWE Heavyweight Championship for the first time, is something you don't see very often.



I was never a huge Goldberg fan. But over the years, I've become less close-minded, I now realize that Goldberg needed to happen. There needed to be a bulldozer who just destroyed his opponents. One thing that a lot of people not involved in the business don't understand is that becoming a huge superstar is as much about your character as it is your in-ring skills, and Goldberg's entrance was always a sight to behold. The pyro surrounded him, and as soon as it stopped, you would see him breathe the smoke out of his nose like a raging bull and let out a primal scream. His intensity was unmatched, and his entrance was the calm before the storm.

The Macho Man and the First Lady of Wrestling


The "Macho Man" Randy Savage is one of the greatest wrestlers ever, and as far as charisma goes, few could compare. Elizabeth, his wife, was the precursor to what you see as Divas today. At one point, they had parted ways, Macho Man turned heel, and all was wrong with the world. When Macho's new manager, Sensational Sherri, had turned her back on Randy, it was Liz who came back to claim her man, and the two were reunited. This was one of the most emotional moments in wrestling history, and the last time I recall seeing fans cry.

Part two of this series coming soon.