Game of Thrones: Book of the Stranger Review

May 22, 2016 no comments Posted in Film, Television

Something finally goes right for our protagonists this week in Game of Thrones!

Another high-quality episode in season 6 this week. While this episode is technically focused on set-up again, it was fantastic! So, here’s my thoughts on Book of the Stranger.

spoilersAs usual, spoilers for all of Game of Thrones abound. Get outta here if you’re not caught up.
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Anime for Dummies -Part 1

May 18, 2016 no comments Posted in Animation & Anime, Film

Anime is an interesting beast to tackle as not every body watches or enjoys but nearly everyone on the internet has an opinion on. So that makes the task of recommending anime to beginners and incredibly daunting task. Many people either love anime and are die-hard fans like myself or people who don’t watch any and like to make fun of those who do.

If you aren’t interested in watching anime but are still reading this post, then I highly suggest watching Digibro’s analytical post about the appeal of anime. And for those of you who do like anime watch it anyway and then watch all his other stuff cause its great.

tl;dr: anime is incredibly varied and creative with shows from all over the spectrum but I think I have narrowed down some of my favourite anime into a list of ones that a good for beginners

One thing I want to get out of the way first is the type of shows I like. I am typically drawn to action shows. Most commonly the Shonen genre popular exams being Bleach, Naruto, Dragon Ball Z and One Piece. But I do watch other shows too. For example on this list I have a series of shorts (a show who’s run time is typically 3-5 minutes as apposed to the typical 22-25 minutes), a horror show, two romance anime and a thriller so there is something here for everyone. For the most part it doesn’t really matter what order these are in but for the first two I think it would be good idea for these come first.

Studio Ghibli

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Studio Ghibli has earned a reputation amongst anime fans and others as one of the pinnacles of the medium. All of there films being amazing easily deserving a 8.5+. With the exception of a few they’re typically not action heavy. They all are story and character based. The graphics in all are visually impressive and each tells a compelling story that will stay with you.

Many of these films are aimed at younger audiences but don’t let that discourage you. Studio Ghibli will provide you with hours upon hours of entertainment.

Cowboy Bebop

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An undisputed classic in anime, Cowboy Bebop follows the bounty hunters who live on the Bebop space ship. Bebop is one of the few shows that is recommended even by non-anime fans fans and for good reason. It’s at first episodic nature allows you to take your time and go at your own pace through it but once the story starts kicking it your instantly drawn in and compelled to watch the rest.

Cowboy Bebop has a bit everything which is one of the reasons it appeals to so many. It’s got action, adventure, interesting characters & scenarios, a great story, and music. Oh dear lord the music.  Even if a space western doesn’t appeal to you I highly recommend you just look up the soundtrack to this show it is seriously great.

If you aren’t completely sold on anime yet. Cowboy Bebop will help you decide. It’s not crazy but introduces you to enough anime centric elements for you to generally expect what’s going to come in future series.

Action

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Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood

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I’m sure that at this stage many of you are at least passingly familiar with shows like One Piece, Naruto, Bleach or DBZ and may be aware of the heavy stigma around them for being insanely long. If you liked the idea of a slightly longer action heavy story like the aforementioned but felt that several hundred episodes was a bit to much and that the quality would probably dip anyway then Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood is the place for you.

In 2003 studio Bones decided to adapt Hiromu Arakawa’s Fullmetal Alchemist series into an anime. As is often the case with these types of shoes the manga is also being made at the same time as the anime so the show would either have to slow down to a crawl or invent its own story. Bones chose the latter. Today the show has incredibly mixed opinions some people saying it’s as good as Brotherhood and many saying that the original was total dog shit.

But in 2009 Bones decided to readapt FMA but this time with out dicking around. What resulted is what many, myself included, to be the pinnacle of the Shonen genre. Having evolved into it’s final form. The show was not only great in it’s own right with a gripping story, amazing characters and sky high production values, but kicked off a trend that has been getting rather popular in the form of anime re-adaptations, Shows like One Piece, Hunter x Hunter, Jojo’s Bizarre adventure and DBZ have all been fully remade.

FMA Brotherhood is almost universally praised being one of the highest rated shows on MyAnimeList, It has a great dub, the voices of which suit the characters perfectly. FMA can also be found on Netflix for your convenience.

Hunter x Hunter

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Did you like FMA but wanted a bit more action and structured fights? Did you want a deep system and slightly complex system with checks and balances for the abilities system as apposed to the the basically magic of FMA? Then Hunter x Hunter is the place for you.

I won’t go to deep into it because I have a full review planned but just know that while FMA didn’t really feel like a typical shonen. Hunter x Hunter does. In the best of ways. It has similar themes and character archetypes, structured fights and a great story. For fans of the Shonen genre it’s a must watch. But I also think it is good for beginners as it serves as a good introduction to the genre.

Plus the dub is currently airing, so it’s a great time to get into the series

 

 

Game of Thrones: Oathbreaker Review

May 15, 2016 no comments Posted in Film, Television

After a crazy past two episodes, Game of Thrones slows down with Oathbreaker. But is this change of pace for the best? Or is it a grind?

We return to a slower, more political pace to the show in this episode, with more of a focus on character dynamics than we’ve gotten since season 4. Let’s break it down!

spoilers (more…)

Game of Thrones: Home Review

May 8, 2016 no comments Posted in Film, Television

After a strong start, can Game of Thrones land one of the show’s biggest moments yet?

Whoo! What a loaded episode. After last week’s primary set-up episode, this one was packed with revelations and deaths. Here we go!

For reasons which should be obvious to people who’ve seen the episode, I’m putting the Wall stuff at the end.

spoilers

If you haven’t caught up with season 6 of Thrones, get outta here. Massive spoilers. (more…)

-Ratchet and Clank (PS4)- Review

April 29, 2016 no comments Posted in Playstation & Sony, Video Games

Yep, we’re skipping over the PS3 games (for now anyway, it’s mainly because my ToD copy decided to freeze). Ladies and gentlemen after 2009 it became clear Insomniac Games were running out of ideas for their franchise. The game before this one had only 5 planets for god’s sake. Then they got a movie deal for a retelling of the plot of the first game. So obviously we need a game tie in. That’s where a re-imagining of the original Ratchet and Clank for the PS4 comes in.

Ratchet and Clank was released last week this April, with the US getting it a good deal earlier and Europe getting it earlier than us in Ireland. At the time I’m writing this I’ve yet to watch the film. The game was in concurrent development with Rainmaker Entertainment who are behind the film adaption. This lead to there being shared or at least touched character models, environments, animation and some writing between Insomniac and Rainmaker.

I was happy enough to see this kind of direction be taken, and if there was any game that needed fixing it was the first one. Retool the characters to be in line with their less asshole sides from the future games, add upgrade systems, some sexy visuals and new stuff…..instant sell for me. One thing that was odd was how it was a PS4 game being sold for 45 euro. I immediately thought back to the last game in the series which was sold for 30 euro for a reason. There were reassurances this was done to throw back to the original games’ price but I was still uneasy.

“The game, based on the movie, based on the game”

For the sake of this being a recent game/recent film I’ll not bother with a plot summary, especially since it’s just a revamped version of the first game’s plot with some new faces with the Galactic Rangers and Dr. Nefarious there for fanservice. The plot is what it is and that’s all I can really say.  I feel I can’t discuss much for the plot here, especially since part of it as a whole is in the film. Fair Warning: This isnt going to be very long. Once again Ratchet can do everything he could from before so the new things are the things being talked about.

The aiming system is the same from Deadlocked and Into the Nexus, for some reason it was dropped after Deadlocked until the previous game. Also returning from Nexus and ToL is Raritanium. You can find it from hidden ores that you can break open or get it as a random drop from enemies and can use it to upgrade a weapon’s various stats like Range or Rate of Fire. This system, since its introduction in ToD, has always bothered me as it made leveling a weapon up only increase its power but its grown on me considerably although in my opinion getting Raritanium seemed a tad harder here from what I’ve played.

New to the series are Holo-Cards. These cards can be found in packs of 3 or from enemy drops. They all contain images and info on stuff from the series however when you complete a 3 card set you geta increased drop rate for more Bolts, Raritanium or Cards. Completing a Weapon Deck lets you buy its Omega version in Challenge Mode. There are also 9 RYNO cards in the game, find them all and you get this game’s RYNO (game breaker). The best part is you can get the RYNO right before the final two bosses in case things weren’t easy enough for you. I find the Cards to be a nice addition, especially for a fucking fanboy and collecting all of them is pathetically easy in Challenge Mode. Gold Bolts in this game aren’t just used for screwing around with cosmetic stuff and concept art, it’s now used for CHEATS. Want the game at a higher speed? Infinite Ammo? Invulnerability? Granted those last two can only be done right before the final boss but these things don’t turn off Playstation Trophies, they only turn off XP. This makes getting 100% in Challenge Mode a good deal easier and can help you scrubs nuke the final boss faster.

Now…for the downsides. There’s no Arena Battles. No Armor. This game takes a lot from earlier games but not those two for some reason. In fact out of the Weapons you can buy only TWO of them are unique to this game. They’re great weapons (the Pixelizer is fucking amazing) but c’mon only 2 new weapons? Really? In terms of this game being a reboot there is a lot of level design and structure taken from the original. While there is new additions around 70% of the game is better looking versions of the original areas. Speaking of which this game looks fucking fantastic, this game shows how well the PS4 can do more cartoonish environments spectacularly. However like the previous game it only runs at 30fps instead of 60fps. However I’m more okay with that choice here since Nexus LOVED to fall UNDER 30fps while this game has it more constant and uses motion blur as a cover up.

The game is longer than the incredibly short Nexus and Quest for Booty with about 12 planets. I ended up completing it within around 9 hours. In Challenge Mode, since you’re skipping all the cutscenes, you’ll end up with a pathetically short playtime for each run onwards. Speaking of cutscenes the uses both clips from the film and in-game cutscenes. It makes the game feel more like a tie -in game with these clips playing in between the gameplay segments, and the quality of cutscenes with NPC’s aren’t very good quality. The humor is more of what we’ve already seen, with good Ratchet wit….mainly from the cutscenes that are clips from the film. The in-game dialogue is probably the blandest in the series, especially outside story events but even those are a good deal on bland side. Voice acting is great stuff but I can’t stand the one’s for Cora and Victor Von Ion. No they don’t use Stallone for his game counterpart. Ratchet isn’t the jerkass he is in the first game obviously and impressively sounds a good deal younger in his voice acting. We have Captain Qwark narrating the game which is absolutely a great decision. Some of the things he says is obvious stuff although its played for laughs most of the times he does it.

Upon completing the game and getting all the Gold Bolts you can unlock the Insomniac Museum again which is a lot…shitter than its previous entries. It’s just fan service over cut content with some Japanese Ratchet and Clank stuff in there for good measure. At this point Insomniac could cut me a break with the fanservice, this isn’t exactly a series that forgets it’s a series. The soundtrack is decent, I find the first game’s soundtrack to be a lot better but there are some great tracks in here.

In Short

The game is great, but after all the games in the series I’ve played I wanted a lot more out of it than what I got and I feel there’s things missing besides the aforementioned lack of armor and arena challenges. Maybe I’m just sick of the series or disappointed for the wrong reasons but I can still recommend the game, it’s not difficult in any sense and has a immense amount of things going for it. It did what it set out to do I just would like a lot more than what was there but the great fun I had is fun I wanted from this series for at least nearly 3 years. I would say it makes me look forward to the film…that is until a bunch of not-good reviews of the thing started popping up since yesterday. Oh fucking well.

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-TheAceAlucard

Steelheart Review

April 17, 2016 no comments Posted in Books & Comics

steelheartSteelheart is bestselling fantasy author Brandon Sanderson’s entry into the superhero fiction genre. A big change from his usual fantastic fare, does Steelheart hit the mark?

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One Piece Zou Arc Review

April 13, 2016 no comments Posted in Animation & Anime, Film

I was going to write a “Beginners guide to Anime” but due to time constraints I wouldn’t be able to get it out in time, but worry not that should be out in a couple of weeks.

The Zou arc had been built up for literal years in One Piece, first being mention at the beginning of Dressrosa. After the finale of the Dressrosa arc we soon began our story on Zou.

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Zou for those who don’t know is an island on the back of a giant 1000 year old elephant. It is home to the mink tribe, a race of anthropomorphic animals, for example, Bepo for Law’s crew is a mink from Zou. And it was commented by Luffy that it was like a race of Choppers.

The arc starts off rather slow, with a lot of it being to do with what has happened to the crew members that were already there. tl;dr: Kaido’s right hand man, Jack (super badass) comes to Zou and wrecks everything. He then releases a gas that is releavled to have been previously created by Caesar Clown, who is still in captivity. The Straw Hats release him to help with the gas and him and Chopper save everyone. The reason Jack showed up was because he was searching for Raizou, the ninja Kine’emon and Kanjuro and looking for, along with the samurai themselves.

I felt that while this story line was good it wasn’t as good as Dressrosa. In Zou they really dragged the ass out of where Sanji was. Because he wasn’t with the other crew members. I’ll try and keep this review spoiler free and so I won’t talk about the specifics of what was up with Sanji.

But once that Sanji stuff starts to wrap up is when we start getting to the greatness of Zou. The last couple of chapters sky rocketed this arc to one of the best in the entire series. We begin to learn end-game level stuff, for example more clues to where Raftel is, along with the reintroduction of some fan favourite characters such as Marko the Phoenix. This arc is hard to talk about without spoiling thing so I can’t go into much detail. I highly recommend that you catch up on the manga if you haven’t already.

 

In summary, Zou was great. Jack was badass, Zunisha was better. Momonosuke stepped up. My mind was blown on several occasions. That fight at the end of the arc was the hypest shit I’ve seen since Gear Fourth and Carrot is mai furry waifu all years.

 

 

-Ratchet Deadlocked- Review

April 1, 2016 no comments Posted in Playstation & Sony, Video Games

 

Ladies and Gentlemen, in every franchise there comes a time of trial. At this point Ratchet and Clank started the trend of spewing out a game every year and a half or so. Now the previous games were of unquestionable quality. However, we have in our hands what may be the first outlier.

 

Ratchet OwTheEdgelocked was released for the PS2 in 2005. Europe once again got a title alteration in the form of Ratchet Gladiator, although I haven’t bothered to check what innuendo or inappropriate phrase “deadlocked” is. Strangely enough when searching for development info on the game next to nothing turned up. Probably appropriate because to a lot of people this game just…”exists”. It apparently got enough attention to garner a digital only HD remaster but we’ll get to THAT later. The game got some positive reviews from critics overall not as much as the previous games though. Although this is a little early to mention, the lack of Clank as a playable character was apparently a point of contention….WHY? I’ve barely mentioned his sections in previous reviews for a reason, I didn’t find them entertaining when they bothered to show up. Enough review stretching though, this isn’t going to take very long.

-ALL HAIL RATCHET, HEROES RISE AGAIN-

I kid, people make complaints about the darker plot but it isn’t REALLY “dark”, it doesn’t come close to feeling like it has edge shoved down your throat in the actual game in fact this is probably one of my favourites when it comes to Ratchet and Clank humour. Let’s begin.

Ratchet, Clank and a mechanic named Al (that I never mentioned in previous reviews) have been given command of the Starship Phoenix. The crew get warned by Sasha that Dreadzone; a show broadcasts gladiatorial combat in lawless regions of the galaxy, have been kidnapping heroes and forcing them to kill. Soon after Ratchet and his friends get boarded and kidnapped by Dreadzone thugs. Ratchet wakes up later finding that he’s been forced into some cool looking combat armour with no hole for his tail, and I’m not kidding about that he nearly flat out fucking says where it’s been stuffed. Soon after being forced into completing a “qualification course” he meets Gleeman Vox, the creator of Dreadzone. Long story short Ratchet is forced to compete in DreadZone, and is fitted with a Deadlock Collar which will explode if he becomes uncooperative or boring. If you’re wondering how Dreadzone is able to broadcast such “sport” on intergalactic television then you’re not running with the joke and somehow manage to not get why the station’s name is “Vox”.

Look I could get into more detail with some of the smaller scenarios but I don’t really NEED to. By the end the team compete long enough to find a means of shutting down the entire hero containment station as well as defeating Vox. The in between stuff is the great humor, most of the cutscenes don’t have much relevance to the plot but are fucking hilarious either way. Special mention goes to the news crew that comes up with creatively outlandish tales of Ratchet and Clank’s “true” nature, which includes Ratchet being a crime boss, selling cigars to children, getting drunk and crashing a oil tanker onto a bunch of baby alien equivalent of seals. Sure the game gets dark on occasions but overall don’t serve much of a purpose than to justify the change in direction. There’s this character named Ace Hardlight who is Dreadzone’s current major star who is losing popularity and appears on occasion to play up how much of a big deal your battle with him will be but once he gets defeated he brings up how he was corrupted by Vox before passing on for good from the plot and that’s it. Look I’d be complaining a lot more about the lacking of any major plot changes if the writing wasn’t so great. With that out of the way let’s get into what was really altered: the Gameplay.

-OBLITERATING EVERYTHING THAT’S NOT YOUR FRIEND-

Ratchet controls similar to how he used to with some changes. He automatically strafes when a weapon is equipped and now fires at whatever that camera is aimed at meaning aiming is more of a active thing now. Ratchet is now accompanied by two combat bots that fight with him and can be commanded to do things whenever the game forces you to make them to progress. They suck, they die a lot and getting upgrades for them only serve to delay the inevitable: they die and you need to command them to…rebuild themselves. There are only 10 guns in the game, a good deal fewer than usual but the weapon system has been altered a tad. Weapons can go up to Lv. 10 and can now be fitted with mods:

Omega Mods- Purchased through the Weapons store, these can add secondary effects if the weapon is compatible. Examples include Shock, Napalm, Acid and Morph mods.

Alpha Mods- Gained through leveling a weapon up which increases the amount of Alpha Mods it can hold and adds a new one. These I don’t generally mess with since the once the game puts on for you work with the weapon well enough, but in Challenge Mode the Weapons Vendor starts selling these along with XP Mods which help immensely in getting weapons and health to max.

The game is now set around completed missions in campaigns to unlock new campaigns on new planets. Most missions revolve around straight up shooting with platforming, vehicle missions and boss fights thrown in sometimes. Hence the game has quite some repetition and often times I hear people compare the game to what if the arena missions from previous games were turned into a whole game. I disagree with that comparison, I feel the game does change things up enough to make you forget the amount of combat there actually is and the fact that there are different visuals in the form of new planets help though a lot of the places have very little color due to fake edge. Plus this game isn’t as long as the others in the series so things don’t drag for long at all. From the start you can now select what difficulty you wish to play in which can be changed at any time and only affects what character skins you can buy with Difficulty Stars you get when completing missions.

Like Ratchet and Clank 3 the in-game economy is extremely lenient, especially since you get cash for completing missions and getting skill points in this game. You can blow through this game rather easily, the only major challenges being the final gauntlet followed by the final boss. For some reason though there’s no armor system in this game. Challenge Mode returns, and with it comes more powerful versions of your weapons that let you go to LV. 100 but its easy as hell to rack up levels and the power boosts when leveling up are smaller. Hey, at least when you reach Lv. 100 the weapon’s projectiles become rainbow powered.

-More multiplayer!?-

The online multiplayer returns with a couple of new modes. It met the same fate as the R&C3 multiplayer but when I tried to play some matches on the HD version on PSN NOBODY CAME UP. Apparently nobody cares about it as much as the one in R&C3 where I actually did get some matches. I suppose the online multiplayer is dead so let’s talk about LOCAL CO-OPS. 2 players killing everything in sight. You both share the same weapons and ammo meaning both of you cant hold the same weapon but it’s still fun to break the game with “teamwork” since when a player dies as long as one is alive the dead one will respawn. Too bad the co-ops is only local multiplayer though.

 

-What did I mention earlier about a HD version?-

I did mention a HD version. And it’s amazingly terrible. All of the cutscenes that aren’t prerendred have glitches galore which you can easily find on Youtube. Some are funny but most are not and its fucking unbelievable how messed up this port is. Thankfully the actual gameplay is free of glicthes…most of the time. In fact my most recent playthrough had a glitch where I got a skill point from a planet I wasn’t on yet. Special mention goes to the fucking slowdown when a lot of things are moving on the screen which happens more times than it should. Basically if you can find a PS2 copy that’s cheaper than the already cheap HD version then you should get that unless you want to see a poor excuse for a remaster.

-So does this game have quality?-

Might be nostalgia talking but I still find this game to deliver in the Ratchet and Clank fun I look for despite the repetition. The soundtrack isn’t memorable at all though and I can go outright and call some tracks just crap for trying to fit with the game’s fake edge. Same goes for the aesthetics although there are a couple of exceptions but I noticed a few reused assets from R&C3 on occasion. One thing that really gets on my nerves is the in-game commentary by the news crew that gets repeated REALLY DAMN FAST. Overall, the game is completely skippable but it’s not a long game. Its something I can at least still have some good fun with and not take a lot of my time doing so.

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-TheAceAlucard