Tag Archives: Nick Pino

The Best of the Best: Pino’s Picks for My (Satirical) 6-Man Squad

So here we are, 16 hours into the game, the elite 4 just got a lesson in battling 101 and my rival, POOPJR, is now whining in the corner like the 10-year-old child he actually is. Now, believe it or not, this may be the most controversial I’ll ever write, but it has to be done. I think the world deserves to see the Pokémon team I’ve been using for the past decade. Love it or hate it, these are the six electronic hombres I’d bring with me on the no-holds-barred battlegrounds of Pokémon.

Lead off with:

Dragonite

But Nick! Why? 

He’s a goddamn dragon, that’s why! The quadruple threat of Surf, Thunderbolt, Fire Blast, and Ice Beam, and there’s few Pokemon that can withstand the awesome might of the doofy, Charizard knockoff.

“I wouldn’t choose that…”

You’re wrong. You would. His only glaring weakness (besides the lack of a solid STAB move) is that Ice may literally fell the draconic powerhouse in one fell swoop. But really, who opens up with a Jynx anyways? Other than that, you’ll probably one-hit KO anything that comes your way on the opening set, if not do critical damage to anything they’ll switch out to.

Once you’ve rocked them with the dragon, bring out:

Gengar

But Nick! Why?

Because. I said so. And, more importantly, Generation 1 Psychic is beyond broken. Basically Psychic is the God-Mode of the late Nineties monster collecting genre, best part is,  not only can Gengar wield it, but also has a quick-ready counter in the form of Nightshade when the opponent’s feeling a bit frisky.

“I wouldn’t choose that…” 

Seriously? You wouldn’t choose a Ghost (one of three in the entire frickin game) that not only had one weakness (another Ghost) but could also rock about half the game by an attack ambiguously called “Psychic?” No way. Plus Gengar’s wicked fast. So…there’s that.

But OK, at this point your opponent is in tears, you’ve probably swept the floor with them with about one third the team, but let’s say for sake of conversation they still have the misguided hope they’re going to win, well that’s when you use:

Tauros

But Nick! Why?

You probably think normal’s so passé. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. You’re wrong (unless you agreed, which, good for you.) He is a bull who can cause earthquakes, start a blizzard on command, and when in doubt, shoot a goddamn laser from his face. Yeah, a laser from his facial region.

“I wouldn’t choose that…”

Let’s be honest, if a regular bull could start 2012-like natural disasters and assault my enemies with the force of an atomic weapon, I would not be in the games journalism field right now. I would be out taking over the world with a herd of apocalyptic cattle, the likes of which the world has never seen. So do the right thing and choose Tauros.

But these are Pokemon almost everyone worth their weight in Pokeballs know and use regularly, now here’s how I shake it up:

Magneton 

But Nick! Why? 

Magneton has two rules. Rule one: don’t talk about Magneton.Rule two: refer to Rule one. You hit them with a Thunder Wave, then laugh when the paralysis cripples any battle plan they had going for them.

“I wouldn’t choose that…”

Of course you wouldn’t. That’s why it’s so smart. Magneton: shutting down Gyarados since ’97.

Now I know by four Pokémon in you’ve at this point decimated any credit they’ve ever had at being “good” at this game, but here’s where you close them out with:

Kabutops

But Nick! Why? 

Kabutops is eons old and can still learn Mega-Kick. That means a literal walking fossil is running up and going all 300 style on your opponents. WTF. Plus, Goonies never say die, so when he’s low on health he just absorbs some away from that water/rock type on the other side of the playing field.

I wouldn’t choose that… 

Why? Because it’s a Sparta-Kicking Fossil that continuously replenishes its health by laughing in the face of its enemies. Yeah, smart choice.

So at this point, what have we learned? You’ve had a bull shoot a laser from his face, a dragon perform 4 different elemental attacks, and a fossil rocket kick opponents from a cliffside, what can you possibly end with?

Ditto

But Nick! Why?

Because all great champions probably won with the first five choices, this one’s just for the figurative victory lap. What better way could you humiliate your opponent when he’s on his last legs than to mimic his last ditch effort, move for move? Is it spiteful? Sure. Sadistic? You betcha! Is it the way champions play the game? You bet your badges mister.

“I wouldn’t choose that…”

Says the person who hasn’t written a “Best Pokémon Team” article today. Step your game up son and choose Ditto. Why? Because harassment and overconfidence are the names of the game…well, that and Pokémon.

Who would you bring into battle? Leave it for me (and everyone else) to read in the comments!

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All the Colors of the (Razor) Wind

(Author’s Note: Below you’ll find the review of 2011’s Pokemon Black and White versions, penned by yours truly, and found originally in a March issue of The Spectrum. While the review itself is a bit dated, I figured what better way is there to enjoy yesterday’s rant (found here) than a pun-laden synopsis of the latest entry in the series? Enjoy.)

Game: Pokemon Black and White
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Game Freak
Genre: RPG
Original Release: March 2011

In 16 years, this generation has seen more monsters than any generation previous, and it’s all thanks to one Japanese commodity:Pokémon.

This year, the pokémaniacs at Game Freak have chosen two more colors to add to the ever-growing collection of monster-enslaving Nintendo games.

Pokémon Black and White represent a transitional time in pocket monster history – as the original fanbase ages, a new one must take its place – but to do so, the company would have to produce a game like its original hit while making it feel distinctly new.

Thank the great Charizard in the sky; the developers have done just that. They created a game so fresh out of old material that Tide should look into hiring Game Freak employees.

Improved battling, plot, and interface are the markings of a fantastic “evolution” of the game itself. Every minute detail of the franchise has been inspected and upgraded, and the final product shines brighter than a Cubone’s skull.

Players begin, as every Pokémon game has for the past decade, in a small rural town inhabited by a world-renowned professor, three incredibly weak Pokémon, and a friend who one can’t help but hate.

Choosing a companion will be one of the hardest parts of this generation, as all three starting monsters have admirable traits. Players choosing the grass starter, Snivy, will have the toughest time of the three, as many of the region’s eight gyms have an advantage over the player’s grassy intentions.

After introductions, the player begins his adventure fighting Pokémon vastly similar to those in the original games, and before long, his elemental arsenal of monsters will grow larger than an Onix introduced to a metal coat.

This time around, battling is perfect. The game processes move faster, and the battles move along at a Pokéball-breaking pace. The only downside to this year’s monochrome adventures is that elemental advantages have been toned down in this game, so having superior strategy won’t matter to an opponent six or seven levels above the player.

The game, as it is intended for a new era of Pokémon masters, attempts to placate players by having random trainers heal their teams after a battle. This player-coddling continues until after the first few gyms, as the game gifts players with the appropriate Pokémon to use in that town’s gym.

This additional help can be unwanted for battle-hardened gamers, but does little to detract from the overall joy this game brings.

Game Freak is taking the route less traveled and attempting to imbue this children’s game with a deep philosophical premise, abandoning the iconic Team Rocket in exchange for Team Plasma. These new adversaries explain that forcing animals to fight one another is immoral, and therefore must quest to liberate all of the Pokémon in the world.

While this unexpected exploration of poké-morality is a step in the right direction, it can, at points, make the player skip all the verbose dialogue the game’s developers wrote for Team Plasma.

By far the greatest addition to the title is the implementation of the C-Gear, a device that lets real-world Pokémontrainers communicate wirelessly. This serves as the perfect utility for densely populated zones such as malls, airports, or even college campuses. Introduced in Diamond and Pearl, players will be able to trade globally for the game’s most elusive monsters, instead of spending hours of their own time searching.

The Bottom Line:

The various tweaks to an already perfect role-playing game are the icing on this monster-laden cake, and without a shadow ball of a doubt, these versions are the closest pokéfanatics will ever get to their beloved elementary school days.

Pros: Fun battling system, cool multiplayer options, doesn’t fix what’s not broken.

Cons: Monsters don’t feel as creative as the original 151, too much player coddling.

Final Verdict: 8.2 out of 10

Pino Accepts.

Email: arts@ubspectrum.com

Original post can be found here. Credit to the fine new staff at The Spectrum.

Pokemon Blue: A Retro Rant (Review)

(Author’s Note: I feel I must preface this review by clearly stating how vital this game was to both myself and my peers as a whole while first delving into the electronic entertainment medium. You’ll note I’ll actually use personal pronouns to emphasize the fact that this review has bias. All that being said, I implore those who never got the chance growing up to partake in this exceptional franchise to take a few hours away from being an adult and introduce yourself to a land of complex collection and near-perfect world crafting that caused an RPG renaissance, known world-wide as Pokémon. This is the first of three posts to follow, so stay tuned right here!)

Game: Pokémon Red and Blue
Publisher: 
Nintendo
Developer: Game Freak
Genre: RPG
Original Release: September 1998

There’s literally dozens if not hundreds of points throughout a writer’s life where the inspiration fades, drudgery sets in, and the 9 to 5 grind of putting pen to paper loses its purpose. Times like these writers return to their roots, the epicenter of why they’ve chosen their vocation and the wellspring of their inner fire. For some it’s their first book, others a film that wholly and unabashedly changed their lives for other. For gamers, well, we were given something even better: Pokémon.

There’s no need for plot synopsis in this review, the overarching plot of the game was never its focus, nor even a concern. Instead developer Game Freak one-uped the fledgling industry by making the game about the visceral emotions that have long inspired human beings to create, relate, compete, and acquire knowledge, and for that reason, along with its exceptional use – and expansion of – traditional role-playing elements, Pokemon Red and Blue remain one of the greatest games in the history of the medium.

Pokémon, in my eyes, appeals to two camps. Those that are the admitted completionist, the antiquated equivalent of someone who aims for the full 1,000 GS on the latest 360 title (or platting for my PS3 folk) and those that choose to wander not because they’re lost, but because of the pure explorative urge they get to see everything the world has to offer. Proving even as early as ’96, Nintendo had its finger on the pulse of what components made games great.

For the completionist, this is their virtual playground. Between catching, collecting, and learning the minute details of 151 detailed creatures, analyzing the game’s inherently deep battling system, and exploring every nook and cranny of the extensive Kanto region the game never pigeon-holes the player into any one style of play. Coupled with the ability to converse and trade with anyone else into the scene, the game delivered in spades for those of us whose lives revolve around lists.

Honestly the team at Game Freak could’ve stopped there and commercially, the game would’ve succeeded. Fourth quarter sales would’ve been big, in a post-2001 world Blue and Red would’ve scored an above-average score on metacritic, and the corporate big-wigs would’ve accumulated barrels more money to roll around in at night. But what makes this game truly outstanding is the developer didn’t stop at “good enough.”

Then the exploration kicks in, there’s an entire world full of NPCs and a cast of characters just as varied as the monsters themselves. The inept professor too old to fill a device that he spent years developing, the rival who apparently never learned the proper way to part ways (“Smell ya.” Really, Game Freak?) and a score of gym leaders infatuated with beating up children daily, each one brought another talking point, and though separately irrelevant, together ground the game in reality. Surprisingly, at least in accordance to today’s gaming landscape, there’s no filler. No fetch quests, no “defeat 10 Digletts, then return to see me,” and especially no escort quests. The game thrived on giving players the keys to their own experience. If they chose they could’ve waltzed through the game with an empty pokedex, one mega-powered monster and an empty inventory, never leaving the confines of the first town. There’s an unparalleled amount of freedom in the game, and for that Pokémon deserves to be commended.

Up until now (and thanks for bearing with me) this review has been about the mechanics and faux-philosophical reasons this game has had the longevity as a series and continues to succeed both commercially and critically. Let’s change this a bit.

As an RPG the game’s plot successfully led the core of the experience, generating a series of obstacles that became ever-more possible through leveling and building a team. Pacing is outstanding the whole way through and though road bumps arise (I’m looking in your direction Victory Road) the game never actually grinds to a halt as much as it does a controlled crawl. But more important than pacing and plot was the core battling system that incorporated the long-standing random encounters of JRPG past and shaped them to fit the form that Pokémon was attempting to fill. Elemental strengths and weaknesses collided with stat-based number crunching and tactical tom-foolery, giving clear advantage to players who knew the ins and outs of the game. Move sets, evolution requirements, and the faux-rock, paper, scissors of the experience melded together in the mind of the practiced player, encouraging more than a brief one night stay in the land of pokeballs and safari zones, but instead making available to players a home to return to when the droll offerings of the latest titles seem to offer little refuge.

The Bottom Line:

Accessible to all ages and skill levels the game becomes all-inclusive, a whole-hearted attempt in a half-hearted industry, and a living memory for all those who enjoyed it ages ago. The game isn’t without subtle flaw, however. Take away the game’s collecting aspect, those visceral feelings, and you’ll quickly find the great Pokemon balloon deflated. There’s little substance here besides what’s been presented to the player, little emotional or intellectual intrigue beyond the scope of what’s offered and while the game is one of the best examples of what electronic entertainment can offer in terms of a distraction does little to further the human condition – something I, as a games journalist, value above all else when reviewing an entry into the digital art form. But for me to have to complain about the game on a philosophical level, lacking no concrete mistakes, well, that’s a masterpiece.

Pros: Visceral entertainment from start to finish, exemplary role-playing elements, nostalgic part of American pop-culture.

Cons: Perhaps not as intellectually satisfying as other entries in the medium.

Final Verdict: 9.9 out of 10

Pino Approves.

A Week in Ink: Issue No. 50

Below you’ll find the last issue of Vol. 1 of The Spectrum’s seminal comic reviews, penned by yours truly, A Week in Ink: Issue No. 50. This issue is the culmination of every comic review I’ve had the pleasure of working on in the past two years, detailing my favorite graphic novels I’ve had the pleasure of reading on my ink-laden travels. Enjoy.

A Week in Ink: Issue No. 50
Your Summer Reading List
By NICOLAS PINO

Senior Arts Editor

With commencement a few weeks away and spring semester coming to a climatic close, summertime has once again crept its way back into Buffalo. Somewhere between killer pool parties, lounging around the progenitor’s place, and that part-time resume builder, here’s a list of nine graphic novels best taken out from under the bed, or the local library, and prepare you for a lifelong love of the medium.

Flashpoint

Comic crossover events are a Kryptonian quarter a dozen these days and more often than not, when the dust settles there’s little carried over into the overarching realm. DC’s 2011 literary titan, Flashpoint, changed everything. Taking on a Flash thrown out of time and space, it’s up to Barry Allen to figure out exactly how the bizarro world of Thomas Wayne, Supe’s doppelganger “Subject 1,” and the Atlantean-Amazonian warfront got so bad. An essential read for those looking to understand exactly why The New 52 means so much to the industry.

Superman: Red Son

One of many literary masterworks from comic craftsman Mark Millar, Red Son explores the ultimate alternate universe in DC and poses readers a nail-biting, culturally defining question: “What if Superman didn’t land in America?” Millar’s exploration of the Russian superhuman takes characters that once stood beside the man of steel and placed them on opposite ends of the Cold War, adding a new dimension to the historical arms race. Plus, with a twist better than most M. Night Shyamalan movies, Millar brought the world a story 20 years in the making.

Batman: The Killing Joke

Thought Heath Ledger brought the Clown Prince of Crime to life on the big screen? One of the many sources the postmortem savant read while preparing for his part was Alan Moore’s iconic take on the absolute insane psyche of the Dark Knight’s number-one nemesis, The Killing Joke. But, before readers get swept away by one of Moore’s most quintessential Batman books, know that this graphic novel isn’t exactly the literary equivalent of the cartoon show – it’s a gritty, white-knuckled foray into Gotham’s underbelly and the two men who shaped the mad metropolis. Playing with the duality of the two iconic figures, Moore explores a concept that beats at the core of the franchise, placing this book into the must-read of any wannabe comic connoisseur.

The Death of Captain America
There’s a saying in comics, “heroes never stay dead,” and no better example of this truism exists than Ed Brubaker’s seminal Captain America novel, The Death of Captain America. Though the star-spangled hero would eventually be brought back into the crime-fighting limelight a mere year later, Brubaker had the whole world stop for the death of an icon. If nothing else, the series proves that, even though comics’ readership has dropped over the past 20 years, there are events that rally the world into reliving the nostalgic experiences with one of the industry’s most revered heroes.

Spider-Man: The Night Gwen Stacy Died

Before audiences get a look at the wall-crawlers old flame in theaters this summer, there’s one book that had more defining moments for Peter Parker than any other, Spider-Man: The Night Gwen Stacy Died. Imagine a Peter Parker who’s left to deal with his best friend recovering from a near drug overdose, a financially crippled Aunt May, and a girlfriend, loved by all, killed atop the George Washington Bridge – or Brooklyn Bridge for those savvy city-dwellers.Though written in 1973 by Gerry Conway, the story-arc has stood the test of page-yellowing time and remains one of the most heart-felt narratives of all-time, leaving readers with one final question: did Peter Parker accidentally kill the woman he so loved?

Origin: The True Story of Wolverine

Most long time readers couldn’t count the amount of times they’ve read a specific super hero origin story on two hands, but when the 2001 narrative of Logan’s life hit shelves the comic community couldn’t help but take notice. As writers Bill Jemas, Paul Jenkins, and Joe Quesada explain, the man known as Logan has always been abused, and while he once lived in the lap of Canadian luxury, he’s always forcefully lost something he’s loved. Origin may not be relevant to Marvel’s summer comic-crossover event, Avengers vs. X-Men, but it sets the stage for the incredibly complex character that Wolverine becomes and explains, if albeit briefly, why Logan’s ice-cold exterior rivals that of Bobby Drake’s when he gets close to someone. For its character development on the iconic mutant who’s completely over the hill, for X-Men fans Origin is one of many in a long line of must read issues.

Wanted

Comic derived movies, much like the graphic novel medium itself, are often hit or miss…and as far as the former is concerned, they typically tend to miss. Wanted was one such derivation that got the silver screen treatment only to be sterilized and bastardized for the general public. Following Wesley Gibson as he aspires to fulfill his father’s legacy in the secret society of super-villains, Gibson learns that this world has mistreated him from birth, and, more importantly, that the world is self-oppressed by its own black and white morality, stripping many of the opportunity to actually create real change. Serving as both a social commentary and frenetic, white-water rapid ride through Gibson’s journey from zero to hero, Mark Millar takes readers down the rabbit hole and on the other side shows them the pigeon-hole of a home we’ve made for ourselves.

Irredeemable

Writer Mark Waid has always stunned audiences with his almost unrivaled talent to tell stories like the six-time nominated Eisner-Award contender Daredevil andthe quintessential classic Kingdom Come. So when Waid began work on Irredeemable back in 2009, the community knew it had to be good. Waid wrote a story about a hero, not different from the DC’s American icon, pushed to the edge of insanity by a world he could never please, and in the end driving him to be the most atrocious human rights violator the world has ever seen. The emotional magnitude of the story is its unabashed hook, which places readers in the front seat as the world they once knew collapses in the fires of the superhuman’s rage. For its exceptional story and artwork to match, Irredeemable has brought comics into an area where moral ambiguity and notions of duty collide, and for that, readers should get in some quality time with Waid’s emotionally devoid delinquent.

Y: The Last Man

This list is comprised of some of the most famous authors of all-time – writers like Alan Moore, Ed Brubaker, and Geoff Johns, all who’ve shaped the industry for the past 10-20 years. Writer Brian K. Vaughn may not be credited with changing the ink-laden landscape forever, but the man’s paramount project, Y: The Last Man, proved that some of the best writing in comics is just now coming down the pipeline. Spanning 10 paperback volumes, the series will test both reader’s mental faculties and story-telling prowess as what he leaves out from his writing becomes more important than what he’s printed on the page. Y: The Last Man is last on this list not because it should be discounted or of the least value, but because in comics we always save the best for last.

Email: arts@ubspectrum.com

Author’s Note:

What you just read was the 50th incarnation of a comic column I started two years ago. I dedicated hundreds of hours of my life to this pet project and between all of the positive feedback, the fans I’ve met, and everything I’ve gotten to take away from the medium, it’s been the one of the most important and fulfilling parts of my life. This note is the better half of my sendoff, the rest coming in a column next week, but I wanted this last paragraph of A Week in Ink for you, to tell you how very thankful I am you’ve all been reading – yes, even if this is the first one you’ve read! As I prepare for the cold, cruel outside world I can’t help but think of how it all started with that first panel. It’s time for everyone reading this to begin his or her own journey as the summer months approach us, to start down a new path or even find a fervent start to a beaten path and figure out a passion in your own life. Thank you again to both my readers and peers for helping me find my passion and voice over the last few years and while I leave now for what I hope to be bigger and better things, I’m going out with the overly simplistic phrase that Max Ehrmann etched in my memory almost 10 years ago, “With all its shams, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.”

Original post can be found here. Credit to the fine new staff at The Spectrum.

Resume – 2012

Nicolas Pino
4070 Harris Hill Road  Williamsville, New York  14221
Phone: (716) 361 -1248  E-Mail: njpino@buffalo.edu  Twiter: @peendaddy

Objective
Cum Laude college grad well versed in the vernacular of the digital age and armed with the skills to be the next word-smithing, computer bug-squashing savant. A triple-threat of honed communication skills, stellar writing ability, and coding renaissance man, shaken, not stirred with a touch of team-driven mentality and an undefeatable outlook to succeed.

Experience

Sales Associate, Best Buy June 2012 – Present
Game sales guru, bringing section revenue through the roof and hitting well over 100 percent of the monthly store sales goal. Trained to talk to, relate with, and sell to customers, matching their needs to our product and delivering a phenomenal experience each and every time. In August I ran a .02 percent return rate – typically stores run about 8 percent.

Senior Arts Editor, The Spectrum September 2009 – May 2012
No task was too big for a senior editor. Content planning, managing staff, assigning stories, juggling PR reps and delivering high-caliber content was all in a day’s work for the senior editors. Focused on music, movies, and entertainment, while personally churning out 100+ articles primarily critiquing recent video game and comic book releases.

Intern, Official Xbox Magazine June 2011 – August 2011
Brought my A-team game to San Francisco to work for one of the largest magazine publishers in the country, Future US. Not a fluffy, “get my coffee” kind of ordeal, spent 40-plus hours in the editorial room, writing content for web and print, conducted developer interviews, and attended game demos with Bay Area devs.

Education
State University of New York at Buffalo September 2008 – May 2012
B.A. in Computer Science with an external concentration in Communications

Skills
Programming: Java, Python, CSS, C++, Visual Basic, Objective C, HTML
Content Management: WordPress, Drupal
Hardware/Software: Apple OSX, Windows Platforms, Xcode, Photoshop, InDesign, Final Cut, MS Word…

Awards
Editor of the Month (Jan.-Feb.) – Produced 8 front-page articles, doubling the desk’s semester-long average.

Office Superhero (Fall 2011) – Stayed late to write articles and came in early to work one-on-one with writers.