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Sunday, January 27, 2013

Shop Spotlight: Vintage G1 My Little Ponies

Shop Spotlight is a new feature that will highlight a mix of old and new items currently in stock at it's a great way to find a hidden treasure you might have missed in your searches, or spot a great gift.

For our inaugural shop spotlight post I'm focusing on a section that's near and dear to our hearts, Vintage My Little Ponies. Growing up a little girl in the 80's it was almost impossible not have a My Little Pony or 2 (or several dozen for some of us.) My childhood ponies (most of which I still have!) inspired a lifelong love of the cute little pastel ponies. So it's only natural that they're a large section in our shop.

My little Pony has been changed several times over the years. MLP collectors refer to these different periods as G1, G2, G3, and G4. G4 is the most recent iteration with a reboot as Friendship is Magic, which unless you've been hiding under a rock you know is wildly popular. We focus on the vintage stuff at Avane so we usually only go up through G3 and in this entry in particular we're going to focus on G1 Ponies. So if you're looking for Twilight Sparkle, you won't find her here. However, you will find Applejack but she looked a lot different 30 years ago.

Whether because of childhood nostalgia or because I just like how cute and chubby they are, the G1 Ponies (produced 1982-1992 in the US) are by far my favorites. Unfortunately I have this problem where whenever we get new ones in I want to keep them all, which means we have fewer of these than the other generations but we do have a few great ones right now.

Applejack. This is a GORGEOUS early Applejack in fabulous condition. I always thought applejack was one of the cutest ponies from her simple color scheme to her little face freckles. She's 100% Adorable.

I already have a perfect applejack in my collection but I still want to keep this one, they could be adorable twins! Ahem...  Please save me from myself by picking up this one for only $13.

Baby Blossom. G1 babies are by far the cutest. This is the smaller cuter version of one of the original adults, blossom. Unlike adult blossom baby blossom has freckles on her nose and a few less flowers in her cutie mark. This particular Baby blossom has been well loved over the last 28 years, so she's got some rubs and is missing her tail. She's still cute as is or would make a perfect base for a custom pony. Whatever you do with her, at only $2.25 she's a great purchase.

Lickety Split. Lickety Split seemed like the pony everyone had, I don't think I knew anyone who had ponies who didn't have her. Being common doesn't make her any less great though. This particular pony is in good shape considering her age, but her hair color has faded to pale pink with age. Personally I think it looks good on her so I think it's a hardly a detractor. For Just $6.50 she can be part of your Pony herd.

Cotton Candy. Cotton Candy was one of the originals, first released in 1982. This Cotton Candy is a later reissue so she has the concave hooves. She's got a few rubs but she's otherwise in great shape for being almost 30. For just  $8 this classic cutie can be yours.

Dream Castle Spike the Dragon Cel. If you really want something unique for your G1 collection what could be better than a one of a kind hand painted cel used in the commercial for the dream castle? This one is of Spike the dragon (the unicorns are a color copy and NOT part of the cel) who only appears for a few seconds on screen. Traditional animation is all done by hand so no two productions cels are exactly the same.  For $35 you can have a great pony collectible and a piece of television history.

We've got more of those vintage lovelies in our shop and are frequently adding more so come if something in this post didn't strike your fancy we might have something that does on the site. If G1 ponies aren't your taste we also have G2 and G3 ponies as well. Check out all our ponies and pony related goodies, we're sure to have something you'll love.


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Thursday, January 10, 2013

Retro Review: Metal Gear Solid

It seems almost redundant to make Metal Gear Solid the subject of any further reviews, as it is one of the most popular games ever to have come out on the Sony Playstation (though, we took the screenshots off the PC version).  But when you love something as much as we love Metal Gear, you'll look for just about any excuse to talk about it. Metal Gear Solid could arguably be regarded as the title which definitively established the idea of a video game being a cinematic experience, with its captivating cut scenes, impeccable voice acting and stunning visuals for the time period. A game that commanded your undivided attention and commitment to see your mission through to the very end, Metal Gear Solid spawned several, no-less enchanting sequels and easily cemented its legacy as one of the greatest video games of all time.

     For those of you who missed on the original title of the "Solid" era, the following words and images will do all that they can to assure you that Metal Gear Solid, without a shadow of a doubt, is a must play. For those of you already well versed in the rich offerings of this exceptional creation, grab a pack of cigs, get cozy in your cardboard box and prepare to be reminded of just why this game left an unshakable impression on you and millions of others.

    The story of Metal Gear Solid, as briefed to you, is that a group of terrorists lead by the disgraced unit of elite warriors known as FOX-HOUND are threatening the world with a new type of nuclear warhead and have taken over a nuclear warhead storage facility, commandeering several hostages. Although not initially disclosed, it goes without saying that the terrorists also have another new weapon of mass destruction - Metal Gear. Playing as Solid Snake, your mission is to infiltrate the terrorists' base and stop the nuclear threat by any means necessary. As your mission unfolds, plot twists and new revelations transform this story from a simple "good guys vs. bad guys" plot to a very much gripping tale of deception, corruption, and the passion and sacrifice that goes with being a haunted mercenary.

    Metal Gear Solid appears to play like a common 3rd-person action game, but unlike games which basically involve the player running out into the open, guns ablazin', MGS gives you the twist of Tactical Espionage Action promised to you on the game case. It is focused on sneaking and stealth, the majority of the game based on remaining out of sight and avoiding conflicts as much as possible. However, there is no shortage of gun fights and action via some unforseen situations and boss fights.


    First, let's discuss the game's visuals and audio. The thing that should be mentioned straight away is that while the game looked just fine for 1998 standards, the graphics have not stood the test of time well. Character sprites suffer from virtually no facial details, shadows in place of eyes, and immobile mouths. Speech is accented with the comical bobbing of heads as well as the gesturing of limbs. Speaking of limbs, those aren't particularly beautiful either. In fact, most of the characters and game sprites are a series of polygons, like just about any other 3D renderings of the time. Now that's not to say that Metal Gear Solid is the worst example of that, after all the characters at least have fingers on those cubical hands (we're looking at you, Final Fantasy VII). But it's not all bad, these graphics allowed you to use your imagination, something today's kids know nothing about. With his delightful accent and long blonde hair, it seems like a safe assumption that Liquid Snake is indeed sexy, and there are no pesky facial details to debunk that for you, unlike that meddling Gamecube remake. 

Environmental graphics are a little better, probably because they spend most of their time stationary or otherwise too far away to see in close detail. Still, many of the "decorations" on the walls and floors are flat graphics meant to look three-dimensional from a distance, and things such as illuminated computer screens are nothing more than brighter colors which don't adhere to the shading effects. In short, graphically speaking this is a PS1 game that never once tries to convince you that it's not.

    However one credit that must be given to Metal Gear Solid is the draw distance. You can pretty such see everything from any distance which can't be said for many games of the time. And in a game such as this where knowing the position of your enemies is everything, being able to see from long distances is paramount. Also the explosions, while existing as the same recycled circular fire graphic at varying sizes and quantity, look alright for what they're representing, especially when used in a group. Yes they're very pixelated in their own right upon a closer look but in some ways I still prefer them to the "upgraded" explosion graphic in Metal Gear Solid 2, which essentially looked like you detonated an ash tray.

    There's nothing much to complain about with regard to audio, however. The sounds are clear and varied depending on the given situation. Running along metal indeed sounds like running along metal, explosions sound appropriate although admittedly could perhaps use more than one sound effect depending on what particular thing is going boom. I'm not going to discuss each and every sound, so just trust that they're all fine.

    The bigger audio story here is the music. The music in Metal Gear Solid sets the theme nicely and feels very "spyish." I'm convinced that if you were to go to the fridge and get a snack with the sneaking music of playing, you'd tiptoe the whole way there and back. It's not too repetive nor obnoxiously present, but you definitely know when it's gone. When things get serious, such as during a chase, the music switches to a reoccuring dramatic piece utilizing chorus and strings sound effects which heightens your sense of urgency. During a boss fight this same theme is remixed to a more dramatic and percussion-heavy version, making sure you know that the ante has been upped significantly. Other themes which play in various instances include a generically sad piano tune to go along either with a sad story or imminent death, and a song entitled "The Best Is Yet To Come", a slow, methodical arrangement with an old-world sound to it (and what I believe are Gaelic lyrics)  which seems a bit out of place, yet perfect for the moments it accentuates. The song's longest playtime happens during the ending credits, and it makes you think that it would somehow put this whole crazy journey into perspective if only you could understand the words.

     Controls are responsive and relatively easy to use. You're able you run, crawl, wall hug and strafe along walls in order to remain stealthy. For the most part you won't be dealing with too many wasted movement or unintentional actions. A definite down point however is that Snake doesn't climb, dive, or even just jump. You can also look in first-person view but unfortunately, the ability to shoot while in first person was not yet adopted until Metal Gear Solid 2, and it's one of those things you wonder how you ever lived without. Snake will thankfully lock onto enemies if you hold the shoot button, at least salvaging some accuracy. If you're unarmed, you have the option to attack enemies with a 2-punch and kick  combo, flip enemies onto their back or put them in a choke hold.The control for flipping is similar to the control for choking so expect a few accidental and annoying flips here and there. Guards occasionally spot you while being attacked which is also very irritating.

Another activity you can choose from the main menu is VR Training, a fun addition which involves the player taking part in various Virtual Reality missions that train you on the basics of how to play the game. The play area looks like a sci-fi cliché with the floor and walls being made up cubes and prisms of various sizes while bright lights whisk around to try and further the whole virtual-reality thing. Note that VR Training shouldn't be confused with the actual VR Missions game on the Playstation, which features a much wider array of missions utilizing most of the in-game items of Metal Gear Solid. The VR training featured in Metal Gear Solid itself is a smaller collection of 31 missions, all of which take place in the same 10 areas. Differing positions and number of enemies help to keep it from becoming too repetitive, as well as the later additions of time-attack and a gun. It's an effective means to getting you used to the game's mechanics although most of the situations encountered in VR Training probably won't occur in the main game. In fact, VR almost makes the game appear harder than it is.

    Metal Gear Solid revolutionized the concept of a stealth mission, and what makes the main gameplay interesting is that your goal is to stay out of trouble and avoid conflict as much as you can. Rather than rushing a group of enemies and opening fire, you're trying to sneak, crawl, or strafe around them, fighting only when absolutely necessary. This style of gameplay will definitely better suit players who fancy themselves a thinker and a strategist rather than a power player. Now, the guards in Metal Gear Solid aren't especially intelligent, despite what Dr. Naomi wants you to think, so after sustaining an attack, they'll rise to their feet and, assuming they don't see you, just say "huh?" and then go about their business, not even informing their buddies that something went wrong. They will respond to sound, such as gunfire, knocking on walls or running through puddles, and they also follow any footprints you leave behind, so it's not to say that enemy AI is too easy or boring. Unlike later games, the guards in Metal Gear Solid respond strictly to their rather small field of vision, so either they see you, or they don't. They don't say, see you just outside of their field of vision and get mildly suspicious like in MGS2.

    You collect all kinds of items in the game that perform different functions depending on the situation. Gadgets such as thermal/night vision goggles or the mine detector further the concept of the "secret agent" theme, as does the ability to hide in a cardboard box which frankly, rarely works out but is at least amusing until it goes awry. You have standard weapons such as a pistol and assault rifle, while weapons such as remote controlled missiles and land mines are used for more specified situations that turn up throughout the game. Eventually your inventory fills up nicely and you can enjoy figuring out which item is right for the given situation, which keeps the game from getting too stale. It's true that for the most part, you won't need much more than a pistol in non-boss scenarios know, I know there's no real reason that I MUST attach a C4 plastic explosive to an oblivious enemy sentry, but I just appreciate the fact that I can. Unfortunately the game won't allow you to collect ammo for weapons you don't have inevitably begging the question "Gee snake, don't you think we might pick that up eventually?" For me personally, possibly the game's biggest detractor is the fact that you have to equip the key card to open every locked door. It may sound trivial but I've seen oh, too many game over screens as a result of forgetting to equip my life-replenishing rations because I had to equip that stupid key a moment prior. It's sort of like first person shooting in that when Metal Gear 2 made it so that the key didn't have to be equipped in order to open locked doors, you wondered how you ever lived without that.

    Metal Gear Solid plays in a straight-through format as opposed to stage-based play. Nearly every area can be revisited at any time. However, the game is sort of broken up into "chapters" depending on the current mission. Each of these chapters is highlighted by a boss fight and a lengthy cut scene. The cut scenes are possibly what puts Metal Gear Solid and all of its sequels above most of the other action games on the play-field. They are exceptionally well written and the voice actors bring a truly believable energy to their parts, almost making you forget that the story happening on your television screen isn't real. The cut scenes utilize both in-game graphics as well as live-action video from various sources, depicting launching missiles, DNA labs, and war zones. However, none of the characters appear in the live action shots, so don't worry, no cheesy cosplayers of Solid Snake or worse here. As stated earlier, these can be lengthy so if you're the kind of person who shoots first and thinks later, you might get tired of sitting through them. Thankfully, you can skip most of them if you wish.

    If you get lost or something you're supposed to do isn't immediately apparent, you can use the Codec to call a member of your support team. It seems basic but the Codec ends up being one of the most interesting plot devices of the game. The Codec screen is simplistic in design but offers a unique opportunity to enjoy animated concept art as opposed to 3D renderings, allowing for more detailed faces and subtle expression changes between the characters. Occasionally, the calls will come to you, some of them being mandatory, others allowing you to choose whether or not to take them. Codec calls can also drag on a bit especially when the characters lose sight of the original point - it's somewhere in between the Codec calls and the cut scenes where you realize that every single character in Metal Gear Solid is apparently a philosophy major on top of being a trained killer.

    Ultimately, as you progress through the game, the experience gains more and more momentum with monumental boss encounters which put your battling skills to the true test. Every boss requires you to reinvent your strategy as no two battles are the same, even in cases where the enemy is a repeat from before. Boss battles can be anything from a simple (but challenging) gun fight, to a contest of man versus machine, pitting you against tanks, helicopters and oh, so much more where you must perfect the art of tossing grenades or firing missiles. Add in a sniper duel, a straight up fist fight, and a battle with a telekenetic psychopath and it is immediately clear that every boss fight has a truly unique feel to it.

 In most cases, the AI won't insult your intelligence with repetitive, ritualistic attacks, although it can happen on occasion, mostly with Psycho Mantis. Still, even if you replay the game on the same difficulty level, no battle will happen the same way twice, and your enemy will generally take the best opportunity to hit you with the best available attack, making these boss fights appropriately feel like just that, a fight which both sides truly want to win.

    All things considered, the size of the play area of the game is rather small. There are three main areas in which the gameplay for Metal Gear Solid takes place, and for the first two-thirds of the game, you'll be travelling back and forth between the first two for one reason or another which can get a little tiring around the third time across that canyon. The actual gameplay time is not very long, but it does vary depending on your skill and how much you mess around. If you're new to the game but a quick learner you can expect it to take you around seven or eight hours to complete. More skilled players could probably beat MGS in as little as two hours assuming you don't bother with any auxilary items or codec messages. The game earns replay value points for its four difficulty levels, mutiple endings, unlockables, and differing cutscenes, conversations, and gameplay dependent on the routes you take, the methods you use, and the skills you demonstrate.


    We're using this review as the inaugural usage of our rating scale and out of a 5 Cephalopoint scale Metal Gear earn a solid 4.9 Corneilius Rating.  With most of its minor detractors being a direct result of the time period, there is very little preventing this game from existing as a perfected example of PS1 gaming at its finest.

4.9 We round to the nearest half Corneilius
Trying to keep these past several paragraphs in proper review format rather that just writing a love letter to the game proved nearly impossible, as Metal Gear Solid is one of gaming's greatest accompishments. Although there are small errors, and although there are updated sequels and even a Gamecube remake, it is absolutely essential you first play the PS1 original, the way it was originally meant to be seen and heard. Metal Gear Solid is a profound gaming experience and one of the greatest titles of all time.


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Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Medical Device or Silent Hill Monster?

I think I find real world references to Silent Hill a little more often than your average person. I don't know if it's because I'm a poorly reformed goth kid or because everything has the potential to scare the crap out of me given the right lighting conditions and personal mindset. Either way I come to you with another random discovery that makes me think fondly of the quiet little resort town on the shores of Toluca Lake.

Today our little gem comes from the vintage ads community over at Livejournal. They're currently running a lovely little contest devoted to self improvement which is why this one surfaced recently. It's supposedly a device for keeping your spine young, but to me it just looks like concept art for a Silent Hill monster.

I admit just about anything old and medical could have some silent hill connotations. I've certainly never been able to look at a wheelchair the same way again, but this is an especially nefarious looking contraption.  I'm pretty sure no amount of "keen relish" would get me to climb into something that looks like that looks at best like a bondage apparatus gone wrong and at worst like a torture device straight from the mind of the devil himself. Just image a dark rusty hallway of those things spinning. It's enough to make your skin crawl.

So there's just a bit of horror for your day. You're welcome.


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