Night of the Emus

In the mood for some TurboGrafx 16 today, though I may come to regret it…

I’m just going to come right out and say it. This game is shit. It always looked so cool back in the day with it’s fancy 16-bit robot fighting, but in reality the robot fighting is actually a very small part of the game, and the game is just a shoddy production all around. There are 7 “worlds”, each with an overworld level and an underworld level, or playing a slow human in a town setting level and being a cool looking robot guy in a robot fighting level. Thing is, not only do these levels just copy and paste the same exact locations and enemies over and over again, just in slightly different order and with different colors (hell there’s only 2 damn songs that play on a loop for overworld/underworld for the entire game too), but you’re also going to be spending more time grinding for gold in the overworld than you will anything else. The only way to get weapon upgrades is to buy them at ridiculously high prices, and gold only drops from overworld enemies, and only at a rate of something like 1 in 10 kills. There’s no other way to get gold and you absolutely will not make it through the game without the upgrades, so get used to a shitload of boring grinding and fighting the same enemies over and over and over again. This game does not hold up one bit.

Looking back on it, Astyanax totally ripped this game off. This game gets a hell of a lot harder than Astyanax though. It’s a basic, but fun little hack and slash platformer, though it requires a lot of patience in the later levels. You’ll have to do a lot of standing around, waiting for your attack meter to fill back up to maximum, because you’re just going to get your ass beat otherwise. You get to fight angry bears with an axe though, so it’s got that going for it.

The sequel seems like an entirely different game, ditching almost everything about the original other than the fact that it’s also a side scrolling hack/slash platformer. The attack power bar is gone, the pace is much faster, and instead of some dirty caveman, you’re some Egyptian looking guy with a sword for some reason. It seems like there’s some kind of story here, but the game never bothers to tell it to you. Whatever. It’s a fun little game and it was actually a bit better than the first one.

Holy shit is this game bad. I knew I was in for a bad time right from the beginning when they got the theme song completely wrong, and it was just downhill from there. Horrible platforming that has you awkwardly jumping and slamming your ass into enemies to beat them, instead of you know, using the gun you’re carrying around. Awful, unfinished sounding music. It’s just a mess. If you ever get the urge to play a Darkwing Duck game just stick with Capcom‘s NES version, it’s much better than this.

This game always looked so cool back in the day, but I never got a chance to play it. Eh. It’s not that great. Nice graphics for the time, but it just feels like a weird mash-up/knock-off of Ninja Gaiden 2 and Legend of Kage. The bosses are kind of cool, but in between you’re just running in long straight lines every level, mashing the attack button over and over again, occasionally tossing a jump in there. It’s just very stale and repetitive. Not feeling it at all. Ehhhh I give up. No more games tonight!

Review: Final Fantasy XV

A MOST AGREEABLE PASTIME

81WyEyShisL._AC_SL1500_The previews and the demo for the long-awaited Final Fantasy XV made it one of the most anticipated Final Fantasy releases in quite some time (even if I didn’t actually get around to finally playing it until eight months after it came out), but could it possibly live up to all the hype that seemed to promise a return to greatness for the series? Unfortunately, there’s no simple answer to that question. This is one of those divisive games that you’ll either love or hate depending on what you want from your games, so I’ll just tell you what I took from it and maybe it’ll help you figure out which side of that fence you think you’re going to fall on.

So let’s start with the bad news. The bad news is that the story and the story-based missions, with a few rare exceptions, are pretty uneven and undercooked…

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That Final Fantasy XV ending

WARNING: This is obviously going to contain massive spoilers for the game, so you probably want to stop reading right about now if you don’t want to know all the secrets yet. If you don’t want spoilers, try my spoiler-free review HERE instead!


So, there seems to be a lot of anger out there regarding the ending, specifically regarding the lack of details and the seemingly contradictory actions of the big bad, Ardyn. Ardyn reveals late in the game that he’s that he was king before your family became the line of royalty, that he was the one who saved his kingdom from the demons by absorbing them all into his own body, which resulted in him being exiled for his troubles because no one wanted this crazy immortal guy full of millions of demons hanging around, and so everything he’s done has been to get his revenge on the new royal bloodline.

This is a guy who was basically running the evil empire from behind the scenes by whispering into the emperor’s ear, who used his stored demonic powers to help the empire create demon/human hybrid soldiers to win the war with by experimenting on thousands of children, who was responsible for the overthrowing of Noct‘s home and the death of his father, went on to plunge the whole world into a demon-infested eternal darkness, and was personally responsible for murdering Noct‘s fiancee right in front of him.

And yet throughout the game we see him helping Noct several times during his journey. He seems to go out of his way to ensure that Noct gains access to more royal arms and aeons, which will only make Noct more powerful and help him with his efforts against the empire. Ardyn even goes as far as to make sure that Noct receives the ultra-powerful Ring of the Lucii, which is supposed to be the most powerful royal artifact and the key to saving the world. Ardyn literally has his hands right on it and flat out refuses to take it, insisting that it must get to Noct, and it does eventually lead Noct to the final power he needs too, which he uses to beat Ardyn in the end, which he probably wouldn’t have been able to do without.

So why did Ardyn go to such great lengths to both torment and help Noct? The answer seems kind of obvious to me (probably from reading all those damn comic books): Ardyn really just wanted to die. Here was a guy that was so powerful that he could defeat an entire legion of demons by himself, who became immortal because of it, but was stripped of his crown, shunned and exiled, and probably in constant pain from having to deal with containing all those demons. Everything he had was gone, no one wanted anything to do with him, and he couldn’t even die in peace.

Sure, he probably really did also want revenge on the new royal family too, but that was just a bonus. Think about it, every action he took was to help make Noct more powerful, and looking back on it, what seemed like simple sadistic torment, was actually Ardyn taking every opportunity to make Noct hate him and want to kill him as much as humanly possible. It was all about creating the ultimate weapon to destroy himself with. Ardyn even taunts Noct after the final battle when they’re both in the spirit realm, making sure to let him know that his body dying won’t actually stop him from coming back, that his spirit needs to be completely destroyed too. Why in the world would you say something like that at that moment unless you were asking for it?

It’s interesting because it seems like a semi-happy ending for the world, where Noct gives his life to defeat the big bad and bring light back to the world to banish the demon infestation, and so hooray, things are great for everyone, right? Except…Ardyn actually got everything he wanted, didn’t he? Not only did he finally find his eternal rest, but he took every single one of his enemies with him in the process, and hey, too bad for those who knows how many people that died and/or lived torturous existences as Magitek troopers. Everything went exactly to his plan. The bad guy won and no one even noticed. How fucked up is that? As barebones as the plot of this game was, I have to at least give it credit for this aspect of it.

So…anyone else out there finish this game yet and actually read this? Got any thoughts? Alternate theories? Horrible insults? Whatever?

Review: Monster Bash

A MOST AGREEABLE PASTIME

bandicam-2017-06-29-23-56-48-914.jpgMonster Bash was one of those early 90’s games by Apogee, former king of weird PC platformers and shoot-em-ups. I think this was about the last game like this that they did before they became 3D Realms and started doing nothing but first person shooters (not that there’s anything wrong with that!). Monster Bash tells the thrilling story of Johnny Dash, whose dog has been stolen by the evil Count Chuck, a powerful, vampiric leader of the undead who I guess has nothing better to do but kidnap all the local cats and dogs for…reasons.

bandicam-2017-06-29-23-57-51-209.jpg Who exactly put these signs here?

You’ll have to slingshot your way through a slew of creepy locations, none of which you can escape from without finding and rescuing every pet first. This is all looks and sounds rather simple, but don’t let Johnny‘s silly pajamas fool you, this game actually gets pretty difficult…

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Watchin’ Stuff

I’ve seen some really bad horror movies, and sometimes I even enjoy them, but this was a special kind of awful. Let me set a scene for you. A naked girl that’s very visibly completely covered in blood awkwardly stumbles up to people at a campfire.

Girl at campfire: “There’s something wrong with her.”
Guy at campfire: “She’s standing right in front of us. Completely nude. There’s nothing wrong about this.”

People were actually paid to say this out loud. It’s just a small example of how childishly unpleasant the characters and dialogue are in this movie. These characters go far beyond the usual stereotypes of dumb teenagers in horror movies, to the point where it’s not funny, it’s just uncomfortable because it legitimately feels like this was written by a 12 year old child shut-in who doesn’t know what real people act like. Some poor dumb kid who thought “Gee whiz, it sure would be cool to make a horror movie where the monster is a nekkid lady!”, but didn’t consider that movies need things like writers and effects artists and etc., and so just slapped together a movie that’s almost entirely dialogue, all of which is excruciatingly bad, and padded it out with a few horribly juvenile gross-out scenes that lack any humor, and a bunch of cheap jump scares. If you’re going to make a ridiculous gross-out movie, you have to at least bring some funny writing and good effects, because otherwise what do you have? Just another piece of bargain bin trash.

This was an interesting old action movie. It really goes against most of the major action movie cliches of the old days. Jeff Speakman‘s character is a great fighter and ultimately comes out the final winner of the story, but unlike typical action heroes, he takes a lot of nasty hits in the process and even actually loses a few fights. His character is portrayed as surprisingly flawed too, with his hot-headedness and lust for vengeance actually having a pretty negative impact on him and the people around him, as he slowly comes to realize that he needs to learn some self control before he gets someone killed. It’s basically the complete opposite of your standard action hero story, which is perhaps why no knows who Jeff Speakman is anymore, despite there being no shortage of impressive martial arts on display here.

A compelling train wreck by Oliver Stone. U-Turn tells the story of a scumbag criminal who gets stranded in a small town full of other scumbag criminals and finds himself wrapped up in a bunch of their smalltown scumbag politics, as they all try to screw each other over in various ways. There is not one single likable character here, yet they were all interesting and well-acted enough characters to keep me interested in seeing what depravity they would each unleash upon each other next.

Another attempt to get into the giallo genre, since I’ve seen just about everything there is in world of supernatural horror, which I tend to prefer. This is an early Dario Argento movie, who I’ve only ever seen crazy supernatural horror from before. This one holds up pretty well for its age. It’s about an American visiting Italy, who was about to leave, but ends up witnessing a bizarre murder attempt and ends up getting caught up in the hunt for a mysterious serial killer. It’s not as bizarre as Body Puzzle, but it’s a pretty interesting mystery, with some great looking sets. There’s a surprising lack of any real graphic content too for a Dario Argento movie about stabbing people, though it managed to be a good enough story that I didn’t really mind.

Another 70’s giallo by Argento, but I didn’t really enjoy this one as much. It started off with a great premise, but things just don’t come together as well as in the previous one. This time the story is about a man who accidentally kills someone and is then apparently blackmailed by a mysterious stranger, but this stranger doesn’t seem to want money, they just start stalking the guy in increasingly strange ways. The main character just isn’t that likable this time though, and since his situation is all about saving his own ass instead of stopping a killer, his attempts to deal with the situation all end up coming off as pretty weasely. The final reveal of the killer and their explanation for their actions feels a little more convoluted and forced too, and things are resolved much too quickly immediately afterwards. Oh well.

Man, I haven’t seen this in a loooong time. Great animation and a fascinating story that makes you wonder even more exactly why the hell they changed the story of the modern remake so much. The only real downside of this movie is that it goes by so quickly, setting up this amazing cyberpunk world and then ending right when things get most interesting.

I had never seen the sequel. It’s pretty good and satisfyingly continues the adventures of some of the characters from the previous movie, despite being a bit heavy on the exposition and philosophy quotes. I had no idea just how many more sequels and prequels there have been since this came out. It’s going to take quite some time to get through all of them after this…

One final item of interest, the final season of The Strain has begun. I can only hope that Zack, the absolute worst child character to ever live, dies a horrible, horrible death before it all ends. Hopefully he becomes the new king of the vampires only to get locked in a box and dropped to the bottom of the ocean for eternity…

You like Castlevania, don’t you? Part III

A MOST AGREEABLE PASTIME

Super_Castlevania_IV_North_American_SNES_box_artSuper Castlevania IV finally brought Castlevania to the 16-bit world and did quite a fine job of it. Konami really went all out with this one, taking advantage of every bit of the Super Nintendo’s new technology. The backgrounds are highly detailed, animated, and often multi-layered. The vaunted parallax scrolling is also applied to the level in some interesting ways, making for some great background effects and that one very cool, but very short, level where the rooms start rotating.

castlevania4.jpg Manual whip control. The greatest new feature that you’ll never use.

Once again there’s a killer soundtrack too. I probably say that about just about every Castlevania game, but man, they just have some really good soundtracks, and this one is one of my favorites out of all of them.

Beware though, this game gets ferociously difficult in the later levels, with some very nasty platforming segments, and a…

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Review: Slayaway Camp

A MOST AGREEABLE PASTIME

IMG_1980Another mobile game? Has the world gone topsy-turvy? Slayaway Camp suckered me in by promising me piles and piles of puzzles, all with the theme of being goofy eighties slasher movies, and I’m pleased to say that it did not lie.

IMG_1965 Just like that Game Boy game where you moved the boxes around! You know…the one with the boxes!

Underneath all the blood and guts lies a very classic slide-the-block-around puzzle, the likes of which we’ve seen many times before, though I can’t seem to actually think of the names of any that I’ve really played and enjoyed.  Things start off relatively simple, with you having to navigate your killer through little mazes in order to pick off all the victims and then slide into the exit, but things get surprisingly complex the deeper you get into the game.

IMG_1973 JUST CLOWNIN’ AROUND!

You’ll soon find yourself having to deal with…

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Watchin’ Stuff

Watched this and its sequel on Netflix. They’re certainly interesting experiments in film-making. 26 different directors do their own short horror story for each of the letters of the alphabet. There are a good deal of segments that are merely mediocre, but surprisingly, there are very few that I would call full-on bad. In fact, only one really stood out as truly awful (“P-p-p-p-p is for scary”, which is even worse than that awful title makes it sound). There are enough good segments and enough variety that they manage to be entertaining overall, despite their inconsistency. There’s some reeeeeally strange stories in here too, like a disturbing Indonesian segment about a to-the-death masturbation tournament or a claymation segment about a young child and a killer toilet.

Also on Netflix, Black Road is a near future cyberpunk/Noir story that I have to give SOME credit for trying so hard and doing so many things so well despite having such a blatantly low budget. Ultimately, it doesn’t seem to know how to resolve anything it spends most of its time building up though. There’s this whole weird pseudo-mystical element thrown in there, where the ex-husband, who is the target of the investigation, is some kind of weird cult leader who gets all these people hooked on this weird mind controlling black root, which seems to give him some kind of special powers, but it’s never really explored or explained any further than this. Instead, despite all its valiant efforts to appear otherwise, it never manages to rise above being a very straightforward and cliched detective story, with a boring, too-convenient ending. Oh well.

This was decent. It’s visually amazing, and it’s very impressive that we’ve come so far that a story like this can be done in live action and look almost entirely convincing. I guess I can see why a lot of people are upset about it though. It’s strange and disappointing that they worked so hard to do so many scene-for-scene recreations from the original manga and anime, yet felt the need to dumb down the core plot and the ending by entirely removing A.I. from the story. Where the original was more about accepting the merge with machinekind in order to evolve, this version instead seems to be on the verge of demonizing technology and suggesting that we must uncompromisingly hold on to our humanity at all costs, and does so with a generic, happy Hollywood ending that doesn’t seem to serve any purpose other than to try to leave things open for sequels (which we’ll never see, because it sold horribly). As a sci-fi action movie in general, it was entertaining enough that I didn’t really think about any of this until afterwards because it was successfully holding my attention, but as an adaptation of a previously existing story, it’s a little depressing in its oddly specifically sanitized nature.

I tell ya, it sure made us want to go watch the original anime again though. In fact, it really got me thinking about all the old anime I used to watch and how I haven’t touched any of that stuff in so many years now, and I think I might have to go on a veritable anime frenzy now. Time to dig up all that old stuff like Bubblegum Crisis, Guyver, Ninja Scroll, Vampire Hunter D and etc!

An 80’s horror about a haunted prison, starring a young Viggo Mortensen, and directed by the semi-controversial and semi-competent action-movie-maker Renny Harlin. It’s pretty goofy and it’s very clear that everyone involved in this production did little to no research on how prisons actually work. It has some decent effects for its time and its not completely awful, but its not particularly memorable either.

The Attorney is a Korean legal drama set in the 80’s that is nowhere near as happy and pleasant as it seems to want you to think it is. It starts off being pretty light and goofy and continues along these lines, while focusing on the main character’s road to success in the legal world and sticks with this for around half of the whole movie before suddenly plunging into a super serious and somewhat dark case involving the arrest and torture of a group of youths who are falsely accused of being communists. These kind of jarring shifts in tone and slow, heavy focus on the development of single characters are pretty typical for Korean films and they can be a bit hard to digest if you’re not used to them, especially if done poorly, but I think it worked pretty well here. It’s a pretty interesting story that will probably leave you simultaneously depressed and inspired.

Sorry to the friend that recommended this to me, but I just couldn’t get into this at all. It makes the recent disappointing American remake of Godzilla look action packed in comparison. I didn’t even finish it, having had enough after the first hour, which was literally made up of about 5 minutes of monster action and 55 minutes of old bureaucrats sitting in various rooms, arguing about what to do about the situation. That’s…not for me.

The last bizarre comedy by Robert Zemeckis before he suddenly turned into “that guy who does all those biopics”. I don’t think I’ve seen this since it came out. It holds up decently. It’s no Back To The Future or Beetlejuice, but it’s decently funny and interesting.

 

Review: Arizona Sunshine

A MOST AGREEABLE PASTIME

5487A new VR game about killing zombies that uses the PlayStation Aim controller? How could this possibly go wrong? Well, let me tell you about my first experience with Arizona Sunshine. I started my journey, rifle in hand, walking towards the first zombies I saw with great anticipation for the moment that I would be introducing my bullets to their brains. I aimed, I fired, and I missed. Then I aimed, and fired, and missed again, and again, and again, and again. Alright, blind firing doesn’t work as well here as it does in Farpoint. I figured I better try switching to the sights. There were no fancy holographic sights or scopes here, just tiny little iron sights. I held the virtual rifle up to my virtual eye, lined up the sights, fired, and…missed again, and again, and again. Urrrrgh.

19601312_10154559403551366_7256561471292524357_n This is my rifle, this is my gun…

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Review: Last Voyage

A MOST AGREEABLE PASTIME

FullSizeRenderLast Voyage is the previous game by Nightgate creators Semidome. Like Nightgate, it offers a selection of beautifully bizarre abstract and minimalist puzzles, along with some non-puzzle flying sequences. Last Voyage approaches things a bit differently though, with each chapter being made of entirely different sets of mini-games, and with a noticeably heavier emphasis on the abstract part.

IMG_1954 Just press that red bit over there.

One set of puzzles require you to move pieces around to form various shapes, while another is a showcase of strange touchscreen sensory puzzles where you have to do things like trace your finger around a field, looking for the right spot to make a red bar fill up to the right length (seen above). Another set makes use of your phone’s motion sensors to have you guide a little ball through some treacherous mazes like those old Labyrinth games (anyone remember those?).

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