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Count_Zero

Having reviewed the Duck Tales games on episodes of the Nintendo Power Retrospectives, I’ve come to really dig (no pun intended) the pogo mechanic from that game. When Shovel Knight was released back in 2014, that game caught my interest, and seeing it at various Games Done Quick events just heightened my interest.

However, my finances were never quite enough for me to pick up the game, even when it was available on sale – and then the game got a physical release for the Nintendo 3DS, which was carried by GameFly, so now I had no excuse.

The game has a fairly simple premise – Shovel Knight used to adventure throughout the land with Shield Knight. However, Shield Knight was lost within the Tower of Fate, which was then sealed. When the evil Enchantress forms a group of knights within which to terrorize the land, called the Order of No Quarter, and then un-seals the Tower of Fate, Shovel Knight sets out to defeat the Enchantress and find Shield Knight.

The game, at least with the Shovel Knight campaign, is primarily built around the pogo mechanic as a means of attack and traversal, with new abilities being made available in each level through “relics” which the player can equip, and which allow new methods of attack and traversal. These are obtained not when you beat particular bosses (like with Mega Man), but by vendors in hidden rooms in each level. Obtaining these items will cost a certain amount of gold. If you don’t have enough gold, a vendor in the first town can sell the item to the player – assuming you can beat the level. The abilities are incidentally useful – though rather than having their own power pool, like with Mega Man power-ups, they draw from a combined magic pool.

Rather than letting you take on the levels in any order, as with Mega Man or Duck Tales, the levels are presented in blocks of three, with optional bonus stages that will allow you to earn additional cash and take on additional bosses. After beating each block of three, the way is open to the next block, and so on until you reach the Tower of Fate, which is made up of two distinct chunks, like with Dr. Wily’s Castle.

The game doesn’t use a life system, instead giving you a near unlimited number of lives to get through the level. When you die, you are bumped back to the last checkpoint, marked by an orb with a gemstone inside, and you lose some of your cash – but you can get that money back as you make your way back through the level. However, if you die again, you will lose additional money, and the last batch of cash you dropped will no longer be available to pick up. Additionally, if a player wants some additional cash and an additional challenge,they can destroy the checkpoints for a quick buck, but the checkpoints (naturally) do not respawn if you die, and you’re bumped back to the last checkpoint that you didn’t destroy.

Shovel Knight controls incredibly well. The controls feel even more precise than the controls on Duck Tales, while the jumps are spaced well enough that they provide a little margin of error. That said, movement with the analog pad on the 3DS was very loose – on multiple occasions, I attempted to pogo jump using the analog pad, and the game completely failed to recognize the down-input, and instead of pogoing, I instead hit the enemy and took damage. I can’t say if this is an issue for the versions of the game released on other consoles, but I’d recommend taking that under advisement anyway.

My main issue with the game is with how the game’s final boss rush is handled. Generally, my views on boss rushes are that they should really be their own level, ideally with some sort of checkpoint in between each re-fought boss. The game does something similar to this by giving you a full health and magic refill in-between each fight. However, it also puts the bosses in a semi-random order, which makes planning your tactics rather frustrating.

Additionally, I have an issue with how Tinker Knight is implemented in the boss rush. As a character, he basically has two life bars. He first takes you on one-on-one. In this form, he’s mostly a cake-walk, but his attack patterns are set up so you will end up taking some cheap-hits, particularly through a couple RNG (Random Number Generation) based attacks. After you’ve taken down his first life bar, he runs off screen and returns in a suit of power armor, with only one weak spot at the very top of the armor, and with a whole new life bar, and no way to recharge your health mid-fight. By comparison, Mega Man and Zelda II both gave the player abilities that let them heal their health mid-fight, E-Tanks in Mega-Man, and healing spells in Zelda II.

Now, this is certainly a challenge, and if the game took the tack of, say, the way the Mega Man games handle their boss-rushes, by letting the player select the order of the bosses, I wouldn’t have as much room to complain – it would create a situation where the player could rip the band-aid off early, and take on the bosses that they felt they were weak at first, before moving on to the bosses that they felt were their strong suit, or vise versa. By putting the bosses in random order, that’s not an option, so you have to just hope that you get the bosses in the order that you want.

Aside from those frustrating bits, I really enjoyed the game – it’s an excellent 2D platformer, and I really wish I’d taken the time to pick up this game sooner rather than later. If you have an opportunity to play this game, I’d recommend picking it up.

Shovel Knight for the 3DS (and several other platforms) is available through Amazon.com.


Filed under: Video games Tagged: indy games, Reviews, Video games 6485 b.gif?host=countzeroor.wordpress.com&blo

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Having gone through the melodramatic gravitas of Fate/Stay Night (both regular route and Unlimited Blade Works), it’s prequel Fate/Zero, and the adaptation of the visual novel that came out sooner – Tsukihime, if I was to describe the next Type-Moon anime to come out in a short phrase, it would be “And now for something completely different!”

Carnival Phantasm is an adaptation of a comedic manga series that put the characters from Fate/Stay Night and Tsukihime (and with it spinoff works like Melty Blood) in a variety of comedic scenarios. The scenarios generally don’t have any sort of coherent narrative to them, at least across works, and instead take the form of a variety of comedy sketches.

The sketches range to everything from a bit where three of the characters from Tsukihime and Melty Blood perform as a manzai group, to the Holy Grail war being re-done both as a Japanese game show and as a Wacky-Races style car-race in two different episodes. The jokes tend toward the absurdist with a side of the slapstick. Generally, this works, through there are a few bits where the show does jokes based around how absurdly melodramatic and dark some of the bits in the shows can be, and the jokes come across less as funny due to the absurdity, and more hateful and mean-spirited.

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What helps the show the most is the fact that the because both visual novels have elements of harem series to them, when the show brings in more harem comedy elements as the basis for some of the sketches (like one where Saber takes a job at a cafe to buy Shirou a birthday present), it fits in perfectly.

The one issue I have with the show is a lot of jokes in the show are based on elements of the game that aren’t particularly accessible if you haven’t played all the games – major characters from the show include characters from Melty Blood (which only recently got a US release on Steam – and only with the final installment of the series) or from the expansion story from Fate/Stay Night – Fate/Hollow Ataraxia.

Unfortunately, as of yet Carnival Phantasm has yet to receive a US license. This  is a bummer because it’s an absolutely hilarious show, which I think would really hit it off with fans, though the inclusion of characters from those two other games could be something of a barrier.


Filed under: Anime Tagged: Anime, anime review, Fate franchise, Type-Moon 6429 b.gif?host=countzeroor.wordpress.com&blo

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This time I’m taking a look at the first of the film adaptations of Cornelius Ryan’s books, with The Longest Day.

Special Guest Appearance by The Historic Nerd: https://www.youtube.com/user/HistoricNerd

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Filed under: film Tagged: collaboration, Cornelius Ryan, Film Review, World War II 6351 b.gif?host=countzeroor.wordpress.com&blo

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A while back I reviewed the Log Horizon anime. Since then, I’ve also decided to start reading the Log Horizon novels as well. First off is the first volume in the series.

Log Horizon, at first glance, appears to be like the standard “Trapped in the MMO” game, but as covered in my review of the show – the dynamic of removing death’s sting does a lot to change the dynamics of the genre in a lot of respects.

The first book is a more conventional adventure story set immediately after The Calamity trapped everyone in the world of the game. The book almost exclusively follows Shirou as a point of view character, as the population of The World tries to adapt to the situation they’ve found themselves in, and Shirou starts collecting the first members of his group of allies – Akatsuki (aka Tiny Ninja), and Naotsugu. The perspective shifts slightly on occasion to Serara, as she sees how society in Susukino is collapsing and meets Nyanta.

The novel and the anime have some very pronounced shifts aside from adjustments to the point-of-view characters. In the anime, there is a clearly accessible HUD in the game world. By comparison, characters in the anime cannot access the HUD. Further, in the show, while in some flashbacks we see the game played in a Mouse & Keyboard format, the implication from the character’s experiences with the HUD is that the game had, at least for a little bit, been playable in VR. In the books, on the game has always been played Mouse & Keyboard style. This leads to another societal wrinkle – monsters are scary. Death may have not metaphorical sting, but fighting monsters hurts, and facing down a dragon is psychologically easier when you’re looking through a computer screen, instead of when it’s big as life.

Other than that, the book is fairly strong. The big Three – Shirou, Naotsugu and Tiny Ninja – are fleshed out fairly early, and with it is their character dynamic. This is the case both with their character relationships, and the idea that Naotsugu and Shirou have worked together in the past and know each other IRL, while Akatsuki has played with the two before, but isn’t friends in the same way, and thus she feels a little awed at how well they work together.

The book also starts laying the groundwork for some of the concepts that will be important in the next plot – the malaise filling Akiba, the state of the food, and so on, though it doesn’t quite set up what the real narrative thrust of the series will be in subsequent works.

Log Horizon volume 1 is available from Amazon.com and RightStuf.


Filed under: Books Tagged: fantasy, Fantasy Literature, light novels, Log Horizon 6391 b.gif?host=countzeroor.wordpress.com&blo

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The Cloud Roads created a very interesting and narratively distinct fantasy world – one that was very different than most of the other works of fantasy that I’d read, and which had a fairly clear sequel hook. So, I was ready almost right away to move on to the next work in the series.

The book starts fairly soon after the conclusion of The Cloud Roads, with the remainder of the Indigo Cloud court heading for their new home. They reach their home – the old lair of Indigo Cloud, a giant tree. However, on their arrival, they discover that the tree’s seed has been stolen, and they have to get it back before the tree dies.

The first book had an interesting exploration of Raksuran culture as Moon came into Indigo Cloud for the first time. In this book, we get our first look at inter-court interactions, as Indigo Cloud is not the only Raksuran court in the area, and they have to deal with another court in the area.

We also go into some additional world building in hunting down the seed, as members of Indigo Cloud end up heading for another groundling settlement in search of the seed. The settlement in question being on a leviathan – a swimming creature. Now, this already caught the interest of my inner DM in terms of interesting adventure ideas – one set on the inside of a giant tree, and the other set around (and possibly inside) a city on the back of a monstrous creature.

While the setting stays unique, the narrative is a little more conventional – in this case something that begins as a heist – stealing back the seed – and ends up turning into something dramatically more involved. If I have a complaint, it’s that the power structure of the City on the Leviathan is very important to the story, and while the narrative gets into it in parts, it’s only where the politics falls into contact with the magical and ecological side of things – that the Leviathan can be controlled and how it can be controlled.

The story doesn’t get into the groups of people who disagree over what should be done with that control and why they feel that way. Now, as far as the Raksura are concerned, that part doesn’t matter, as some of them aren’t really that concerned about the City and what happens to it. However, considering one of Moon’s defining traits is that he has learned how to blend into groundling society and feel out the local politics so he can pass among the people without making waves or getting into trouble – I would have thought this would have come up more often. Though, on the other hand, with the more focused exploration of Raksuran society with Indigo Cloud’s interactions with the other court, I supposed that from a time standpoint it couldn’t be helped.

 


Filed under: Books Tagged: Books, Books of the Raksura, fantasy, Martha Wells 6361 b.gif?host=countzeroor.wordpress.com&blo

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I saw the latest installment of the Legendary Films Godzilla Cinematic Universe! Here are my thoughts (mostly spoiler free) on Kong: Skull Island. Please refrain from spoilers until 4/15/2016, to give people at least a month to see the film.

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Filed under: film, videos Tagged: film, Godzilla, Legendary Pictures Monsterverse, vlog 6475 b.gif?host=countzeroor.wordpress.com&blo

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Thus far, the three shows in the Type-Moon universe that I’ve covered: Fate/Stay Night (F/SN), Fate/Zero, and Unlimited Blade Works (UBW) have been two-cour shows – spending 24 episodes to tell their story. In the case of F/SN and UBW, they have each adapted one route from the first Fate game – with the former title dropping a few elements of UBW in to give Rider a little screen time. However, Fate was not Type-Moon’s first game. Before this came Tsukihime, which set up elements that came up later in F/SN and Fate/Zero, and it too received an anime adaptation, one that came out prior to the release of F/SN – and with only a single cour (12 episodes). The question then becomes, how well can it tell its story in half the length?

The answer is… not as well. The show follows Shiki Tohno, a young man who was nearly killed in a traumatic car accident 8 years prior to the start of the series. That accident damaged his memory, and left him with the ability to see lines at which things will break when they die or are destroyed, and with it nexuses that can be struck to break things. To avoid being driven mad by these lines, he’s received special magic glasses from a mage that will repress this ability. Also following this accident, Shiki moved in with his aunt and uncle instead of living at the main house.

Immediately prior to the start of the series, Shiki’s father dies, and his younger sister and the current head of the family, Akiha, has him move back into the main house. While settling in to pace of life at the main house, he ends up discovering that families as old as his have some deep, dark secrets. Further, while all of this is going on, a vampire (or someone like a vampire, called a Dead Apostle) is attacking people through the town, and Shiki ends up joining forces with an attractive female semi-vampire named Arcueid (Arc for short), to find this vampire.

So, if that sounds super-cluttered, that’s because it is. The game this show is adapting has not 3 routes, like Fate, but five. There are three for the Tohno household – Akiha, and the family’s two maids Hisui and Kohaku – and two for Arc and Shiki’s classmate Ciel. The household and external routes interact some, but not entirely, with Arc not showing up in some routes entirely.

The show takes the decision to basically mash most of these routes together, so the important story mysteries get covered – Arc’s hunt for the vampire, and Shiki’s investigation of the history of his family. On the one hand, this leads to most of the loose ends getting tied up. However, because the show only has 12 episodes to tell its story in, nothing is tied up satisfactorily.

This also hurts characterization, which is curtailed, meaning that a lot of characters don’t get the development they need to be fleshed out for the audience. Further, while I can’t speak for the game, the need to focus so strongly on the story means that there barely any humor in this show. Even the most dark and dour of the Fate series, Fate/Zero, had some very funny moments. Here, moments of levity are few and far between.

To the show’s credit, the other Fate series covered over any sense of sex or sexuality related to the characters. Here, while we don’t get any sort of involved sex scene, the romantic relationship we see in this show doesn’t feel like it has to keep it chaste, something that even fanservice-heavy romantic comedy series like To-Love-RU feel like they have to do. I really appreciate that, and it gives the story a sense that it handles sexuality in an actually mature fashion.

There are rumors that the visual novel that the show is based on is due for a remake with some updated graphics and an added route. Watching the show, I get the feeling that this anime would almost merit from a re-make more. Type-Moon’s universe has established itself considerably more as a successful franchise, so hopefully a new series would get the runtime it needs to tell its story well.

Tsukhime is available on DVD from Amazon.com and RightStuf.


Filed under: Anime, Reviews Tagged: Anime, anime review, Type-Moon 6314 b.gif?host=countzeroor.wordpress.com&blo

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Mushibugyo is a series that has a real issue with tonal whiplash. There are anime series that have mixed creepy elements and comedy with tremendous effect – Ghost Hunt is an anime series adapted from a light novel with some strong comedy elements, which doesn’t overlook the creepier and more horrific elements of the narrative, with a well done escalation into further horror.

Mushibugyo doesn’t do that. Mushibugyo starts off with super-colorful characters, an over-enthusiastic and incredibly dense shonen protagonist, and numerous fanservice jokes, but which also contains some surprisingly horrific elements created to the show’s primary menace.

The show is set in an alternate Japan under the Tokugawa shogunate, where the country is terrorized by Mushi, giant insect monsters which kill anyone in their path. To fight against them, the Shogun institutes a patrol to fight against these creatures, underneath the Insect Magistrate (the titular Mushibugyo).

This leads to our protagonist, Jinbei Tsukishima, the main character, who basically shonen protagonist #3. He’s hot-blooded, he’s got a long spiky hairstyle, complete with idiot hair that sticks so far in front of his face that he could be an anglerfish. He’s more enthusiastic and energetic than Naruto, denser than Tatewaki Kuno, and more desperate to prove himself than Deku. Consequently, this makes him as annoying as hell.

The rest of the team is a little better. There’s Shungiku Koikawa, a hard drinking, hard fighting, brawler of a swordsman who killed 99 people to find out who killed his mother, before joining the Office of the Insect Magistrate. There’s Tenma Ichinotani, an onmyoji with paper familiars, who is young enough to be in Middle School (at least in contemporary Japan), and who is deathly afraid of insects. There’s Mugai, the cool, calm collected samurai with stoic demeanor and a dark and mysterious past. Finally, there’s Hibachi, the only woman of the team, a ninja who specializes in explosives and bombs, who seeks to prove herself because her clan doesn’t pass these techniques on to women (due to the fact that the Japanese name for this technique is a slang term for the testes), and who is hyper-sensitive about the fact that she has a flat chest.

In short, the show’s cast is a collection of very stock, rote archetypes that could have been rolled on a “Random Shonen Anime/Manga Character” table.

What kept me watching through the whole show was, frankly, the bugs. The show made the bugs look and feel legitimately creepy, and that they were a real menace that the public needed the forces of the Office of the Insect Magistrate to defend against. They rip through civilians in a gruesome fashion, and while the protagonists never have a really significant failure – losing a city or a district to the monsters, the animation gets across the menace of these threats without throwing a ton of redshirt characters in their way to get massacred.

This also leads to why you’ve never heard of this show, and why it hasn’t gotten a second season in spite of the ongoing manga still being in publication – or rather, the adaptation of the original manga which came out in 2009, and which got a new adaptation in 2011 which is still going. In short, the reason you haven’t heard of it is because the first episoe of this show came out literally the day before:

Seriously, when dealing with giant monster rampaging monster versus overmatched human shows, most people would likely go with Attack on Titan – and most people did go with Attack on Titan. The premise was novel, the setting was inventive, the stakes were higher, and the characters got fleshed out more before being brutally murdered.

In short, it hit it off better in Japan and in the us than Mushibugyo did, which also probably explains why, at present, Mushibuyo was only licensed for streaming on Crunchyroll, and has yet to receive a US home DVD release. The show got DVD and Blu-Ray releases in Japan, and the single-volume Blu-Ray releases are incredibly cheap, but I’m not sure if they have English subtitles. Keep that under consideration if you decide to pick up a copy.


Filed under: Anime, Television Tagged: Anime, anime review, shonen, TV 6260 b.gif?host=countzeroor.wordpress.com&blo

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This time we cover the conclusion of Marvel’s original comic run.

Opening Credits: Star Wars Theme from Super Star Wars on the SNES.
Closing Credits: Chiptune Cantina Band from Chiptune Inc. – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCvJtiGFudFlvYMfjiU1NKJg

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Filed under: comics, Star Wars, videos Tagged: comics, Marvel Comics, Star Wars, Star Wars Expanded Universe 6312 b.gif?host=countzeroor.wordpress.com&blo

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The Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha franchise has been interesting when it comes the Magical Girl genre of anime. The original series was something of a conventional Magical Girl vs. Dark Magical Girl show, like the Pretty Cure franchise, with the difference being that the battles between Nanoha and her opposite number, Fate, played out a lot like a superhero fight.

The later series played up this concept, with the second series, Nanoha As setting up a battle of superhero teams (or superhero and super-anti-hero teams), with Nanoha, Fate, Arf, taking on a team of opponents with more-or-less similar abilities. The series also played down the school adventure side of the traditional magical girl story, with Nanoha’s school friends, who were very much a prominent part of the narrative for the first series, being pushed to the side very early.

Nanoha StrikerS dumps the “civilian life” side of the equation entirely, with series protagonists Nanoha Takamachi & Fate Testarossa working as, basically, state-sponsored superheroes, and spending all of the series well away from Earth. Previous series had introduced the Time Space Administration Bureau (or TSAB), the bureaucracy behind it, and that the government that it answers to is based on a world called Mid-Childa. StrikerS spends almost the entirety of it’s runtime there.

The premise of the series is that it’s set a little over 10 years after the events of Nanoha As, which would put Nanoha and Fate in their early-to-mid 20s. Nanoha and Fate have become part of a special unit as part of the TSAB, lead by Hayate, the befriended antagonist of As. The objective of the unit is to hunt down Lost Logia, lost pieces of magitech which can be incredibly dangerous in the wrong hands. As part of this unit, Nanoha, Fate, and the Wolkenritter (Hayate’s now-less-dark Magical Girl superteam from As), are also training another team of, for lack of a better term, Magical Superheroes.

From a narrative position this setup puts the audience in an amazing position to see how the protagonists who we’ve followed through the last two series have matured, and it’s certainly successful at that. In particular, Fate and Nanoha have become the de-facto parental figures for two kids who are now part of their unit, Erio and Caro. While they were not actually adopted by Fate, they were adopted by Fate’s stepmother – Lindy, with Fate helping to raise them in a maternal/older sister role.

This leads to Fate & Nanoha. The writing of the first two series loosely implied that the two were homosexual. StrikerS, on the other hand, strongly implies that the two are in relationship with as strong a subtext as you can get without actively crossing over into text – like, stronger than the handhold in Legend of Korra.

The new protagonists, Erio, Caro, Subaru, and Teana, are generally well written, and have really strong chemistry. Erio and Caro, and Subaru and Teana have some romantic chemistry, which is read stronger for me with Subaru and Teana.

The overall story of the series serves to bring back together some plot threads going back to the original series. Hayate’s team, Riot Force 6, ends up coming into conflict with a mad magical scientist named Jail Scaglietti, who has been engaging in genetic engineering to create artificial mages and cyborgs for combat. The research he’s working on is similar to that that was done by Fate’s birth mother, Precia, in her attempts to raise her deceased daughter, Alicia from the dead – work that lead to the creation of Fate. The level of conflict here is nice and personal, and gives the conflict a strong direct tie to our protagonists that makes up for the lack of any real civilian life our heroes have.

That said, the animation doesn’t quite back up the story. This is a 2007 anime from studio Seven Arcs, who animated the earlier Nanoha series, along with the Triangle Heart OVA, and somehow, I can’t quite say why, but the animation here doesn’t feel quite right. The Digicel animation feels a little overly flat and stilted, particularly towards the end of the series. Now, it’s been awhile since I watched the first two shows, and maybe they’re just as bad, but with this series it feels like it stands out more, especially towards the end of the show.

There are also some weird decisions with the animation that seem to make little sense. The show cuts around some early stages of some very emotionally significant fights later in the series, showing the aftermath of the action instead of the action. Now, when we hit the climaxes of those fights, we see the full conclusion, but with this particular fight, the early stage was really important, and it was really disappointed with the fact that we didn’t get a chance to see it.

There are some issues with the costume design. The designs for the TSAB staff, and Riot Squad 6 are fine. However, there is Jail Scaglietti’s team of combat cyborgs, The Numbers. They wear these skin-tight outfits that leave as little to the imagination as the animation budget will allow, without actually showing skin. It’s the kind of outfit that 90s comics were mocked for putting female characters in, with boob socks and precisely defined butt-cheeks. The plugsuits in Evangelion didn’t go nearly as far in their form-fitting nature.

I enjoyed the show enough to finish it, but it was the characters who kept me coming back for the rest of the show, and in particular the fact that I’d come to appreciate these characters and their stories through the last two series. If it wasn’t for the writing and the characters, I probably would have dropped the show due to my issues with the animation.

That said, with how the show wraps up, considering the fourth series, Nanoha Vivid (focusing on a character that Fate and Nanoha adopt in this series), has not yet gotten a US release, StrikerS does make for a decent conclusion to the Nanoha series.

Nanoha Strikers had gotten a brief DVD release by Bandai USA, and is now available for streaming through Amazon Prime as part of their Anime Strike package.


Filed under: Anime, Reviews Tagged: Anime, anime review, magical girl genre, Nanoha franchise 6051 b.gif?host=countzeroor.wordpress.com&blo

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Fate/Stay Night, as a visual novel, had a several routes the player could take through the game. The original F/SN anime adapted the Fate route, with the inclusion of some elements of the Unlimited Blade Works route, with varying degrees of success. After Ufotable’s successful adaptation of Gen Urobuchi’s novel, Fate/Zero, there was question of what it would look like if they were to adapt one of the routes of the game, and in particular the Unlimited Blade Works route in its entirety. Two years ago, we got that adaptation.

As with the original series, the show follows Emiya Shirou, Rin Tohsaka, and Saber (Arturia Pendragon) as they make their way through the fifth Holy Grail War, and in the process deal with some of the aftermath of the fourth war, as seen in Fate/Zero. The route itself shifts by shifting the narrative focus from just Shirou and Saber (and Saber’s background), to putting equal weight on Rin as a dual protagonist. With that, instead of focusing on Saber’s backstory, we instead focus on Archer’s backstory as a Heroic Spirit, and his connection to Shirou.

In addition, because Ufotable also adapted Fate/Zero, and because Fate/Zero came out after Deen’s adaptation of the Fate route, this series takes the opportunity to go into the particulars of the previous Grail War, and how it effects the participants of this one, in a way that the Deen series couldn’t. The character dialog and motivations get a bit of a touch-up because of this. In particular, when Shirou re-affirms his personal philosophy later in the series, it makes sense through what he’s gone through that he’d continue down that route, though with mindset that because he’s informed by the information another character gives him, he’ll use that to try to avoid those mistakes.

Ufotable’s animation fits with their usual high marks, to the point that when they ran into financial issues and ran into some quality hits towards the third quarter of the series, I really didn’t notice. Their writing and animation also gives some of the characters who are more background characters more life then they would have received otherwise. In particular, the character of Sakura, who is basically your standard wallflower in the Deen series, has much more energy to her, while still keeping her traits as a semi-Yamato Nadeshiko.

That said, some of the comedic elements of the Deen series are more downplayed. As an example, there is a scene in the Deen anime where Shirou and Rin are fighting at school. Shirou runs down a flight of stairs, and Rin leaps down in pursuit. In the Deen version, Shirou nearly wipes out, and as Rin leaps after him, he points out that she needs to be careful because of her skirt. Rin panics and checks her skirt on her descent, ultimately nearly wiping out herself – and leading to her having a strong Tsundere reaction as she continues her pursuit. In this series, the entire chase is played completely straight.

Unfortunately, as with Fate/Zero, Unlimited Blade Works got a US release by Aniplex, which means the show is going to cost you an arm and a leg, with the DVD release costing you approaching around $80 each for Season 1 and Season 2 on RightStuf – which is still considerably cheaper than it would cost to buy it on Amazon.


Filed under: Anime, Reviews, Television Tagged: Anime, anime review, Fate franchise, Type-Moon 6150 b.gif?host=countzeroor.wordpress.com&blo

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I’m continuing my reviews of the books in the Legend of the Galactic Heroes series with the third book, and the most recent book to date – Endurance.

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Filed under: Books, videos Tagged: Anime, Books, Legend of the Galactic Heroes, science fiction 6143 b.gif?host=countzeroor.wordpress.com&blo

Count_Zero

This past week had the 2017 DICE Awards. I have a few thoughts on the awards.

On the one hand, the DICE Awards, being a juried award similar to the Academy Awards (but one where alcohol is served like the Golden Globes), didn’t have any particularly cringe-worthy stunts or overly crass attempts of humor like, for example, the VGAs and The Game Awards have had.

On the other hand, we had two MCs, Greg Miller and Vanessa Chobot who had no chemistry, with Vanessa taking the awards with what felt like the appropriate amount gravitas, and Greg feeling like he was hosting The Game Awards.

The rest of the presentation of the awards are what you would expect if watching an awards show, particularly an awards show put on by people who aren’t entertainers. The presentation for the awards is much more variable than your conventional awards show, with some presenters, like Matt & Erin Bozan (the head and art director of Waypoint Games, developers of the Shantae games) being incredibly entertaining, and others (Randy Pitchford in particular) being rather grating.

Several awards were announced in video packages. Unlike these compilation packages at at the Game Awards, all of the nominees get mentioned, rather than just mentioning the winners.

To get the nominees and winners out of the way (winners are in italics):

  • Best Action Game: Doom, Battlefield One, Overwatch, Gears 4, Titanfall 2.
  • Family Game of the Year: Dragon Quest Builders, Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Rachet and Clank, Rock Band Rivals, Super Mario Maker (3DS).
  • Outstanding Achievement in Character: Call of Duty – Infinite Warfare (Nick Reyes), Firewatch (Delilah & Henry), The Last Guardian (Trico), Uncharted IV (Nathan Drake).
  • Outstanding Achievement in Story: Firewatch; Inside; Oxenfree; That Dragon, Cancer; Uncharted 4.
  • Hall of Fame: Todd Howard of Bethesda
  • Outstanding Achievement in Animation: Inside (focus in package is on death animations), The Last Guardian, Overwatch, Street Fighter V, Uncharted 4.
  • Outstanding Achievement in Art Direction: Battlefield 1, Firewatch, Inside, The Last Guardian, Uncharted 4.
  • Outstanding Achievement in Online Gameplay: Battlefield 1, Hearthstone, Overwatch, Titanfall 2, The Division.
  • Outstanding Technical Achievement: Battlefield 1, No Man’s Sky, Overwatch, Titanfall 2, Uncharted 4.
  • Best Handheld Game: Dragon Quest Builders, Fire Emblem Fates, Kirby Planet Robobot, Pokemon Sun & Moon, Severed.
  • Best Mobile Game: Clash Royale, Crashlands, Gardenscapes – New Acres, Pokemon Go, Reigns.
  • Outstanding Achievement in Original Music Composition: Abzu, Battlefield 1, Doom, The Last Guardian, Titanfall 2.
  • Outstanding Achievement in Sound Design: Battlefield 1, Inside, The Last Guardian, Quantum Break, Uncharted 4.
  • Best Strategy/Simulation Game: The Banner Saga 2, Deus Ex Go, Fire Emblem Fates, Sid Meier’s Civilization VI, X-Com 2.
  • Best RPG/MMO: Dark Souls 3, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, Hyper Light Drifter, The Division, WoW: Legion.
  • Immersive Reality Technical Achievement: Eagle Flight, I Expect You To Die, Job Simulator the 2050 Archives, Superhot VR, Tilt Brush.
  • Best Immersive Reality Game: Eagle Flight, I Expect You To Die, Job Simulator, The Lab, Superhot VR.
  • Best Sports Game: FIFA 17, Madden 17, MLB The Show 16, NBA 2K17, Steep. Winner: Steep.
  • Best Racing Game: Driveclub VR, Forza Horizon 3.
  • Fighting Game of the Year: UFC 2, Guilty Gear Xrd -Revelator-, Killer Instinct Season 3, Pokken Tournament, Street Fighter V.
  • Best Adventure Game: Firewatch, Inside, King’s Quest, The Last Guardian, Uncharted 4.
  • DICE Sprite Award for Independent Games: 1979 Revolution – Black Friday, Firewatch, Inside, Superhot, That Dragon – Cancer.
  • Outstanding Achievement in Game Design: I Expect You To Die, Inside, Overwatch, Owlboy, Uncharted 4.
  • Outstanding Achievement in Game Direction: 1979 Revolution – Black Friday (I need to play that game), Battlefield 1, Inside, The Last Guardian, Uncharted 4.
  • Game of the Year: Battlefield 1, Inside, Overwatch, Pokemon Go, Uncharted 4.

The video package for Inside in the Outstanding Achievement in Animation category put a particular focus on the death animations, which makes sense, since as with Limbo, they were noted for their brutality.

Most of the nominees I couldn’t particularly disagree with, though there were some exceptions. The selection of nominees for Best Racing game felt really thin, with Driveclub VR feeling like it was nominated because they had to nominate something else in that category. It feels like perhaps that category should have been placed on hold for a year.

I also have problems with the lineup of nominees for Fighting Game of the Year, considering the state that Street Fighter V was in for much of the year, the step down in quality that UFC 2 was compared to the first installment, and the fact that Nitroplus Blasterz Heroines Infinite Duel was not nominated at all.

It was surprising to see That Dragon, Cancer leave the show empty handed. On the one hand, when it won Best Indy Game at the Game Awards, Inside wasn’t out yet. On the other hand, the power of the story that game tells was enough that documentary filmmakers made films about the making of the game.

That said, this is a juried award. As John Scalzi pointed out earlier this week when the Nebula Award nominees were released, there are no such thing as an automated award nomination, and my favorite games not getting nominated doesn’t mean that they were slubbed. I can be surprised by choices, and I can disagree with choices, in some cases strongly as far as Street Fighter V is concerned, but that doesn’t mean there is a conspiracy against Anime-influenced fighting games. Considering Guilty Gear Xrd -Revelator- made the list, that’s clearly not the case. It’s not that the nominees are objectively wrong.

With perhaps one exception – The Best Racing category should have taken a break. When you have to add a game with some dramatic issues like Driveclub VR (watch Giant Bomb’s VRodeo on Driveclub VR to see that) to the list just to make sure you have a second choice, then you don’t have enough nominees to make it worth having as a category that year.

 


Filed under: News, Video games Tagged: DICE Awards, News, Video games 6189 b.gif?host=countzeroor.wordpress.com&blo

Count_Zero

To get this out of the way first – the twist for this film has been spoiled to death. I’d say it probably was spoiled in its entirety well before I was born. On the one hand, this means that the film’s ending has lost some of its punch, as we all know it’s coming. On the other hand, this means that when you come into the film, since you know the twist is coming, you also know to look for the clues for the twist in the story, and generally pay more attention to the film itself.

So, the movie, on its own, is alright. The film follows an Earth expedition (presumably from the US), to a planet in the constellation Bellatrix, using an experimental FTL drive, allowing them to get to the planet a manner of months instead of years, though Time Dilation will still occur, meaning that by the time they arrive, it will be the fourth Millennia on Earth.

This also is where the film runs into issues very early. I get, considering the mission is launched 10 seconds in the future, that the planet in question was not scouted for habitability before the mission is launched. What I don’t get is the fact that this mission seemed to have little to no serious planning. The mission is a one-way trip, with the crew having to colonize and populate an alien world by themselves. However, the crew is made up of four people – three men and one woman. This is iffy on several respects, both in terms of the depth (or rather lack of depth) of the gene pool of this population, combined with some rather iffy sexual power dynamics.

Additionally, it seems like the crew seems to not have gotten a psych evaluation for compatability. Charlton Heston’s character, Taylor, begins as an obnoxious prick, whose interactions with his other crew members are made up entirely of mockery and ridicule of his crew members. While this allows for some character growth as he makes his way through the film, having the character start out as an asshole does him no favors.

Where the film gets interesting is after Taylor and his companions land and are captured by the Apes, in particular due to Taylor’s throat being injured during his capture. We see how Taylor, and the other humans, are perceived by the Apes, particularly through the eyes of Dr. Zira and Dr. Cornelius (played by Kim Hunter and Roddy McDowell, respectively), two chimpanzee scientists who are focusing their research on humans.

The Ape settlement is an interesting and well done set – with a distinct form or architecture that is both familiar, but also very visually different than most human settlements. The makeup in the film is, on the one hand, very iconic. On the other hand, it runs into the issues that other 1960s films with full face prosthetics run into – a loss of expression due to how heavy and inflexible the makeup materials are.

I enjoyed the narrative exploration of Ape Society, and how Taylor reacts to it (and how it reacts to Taylor). However, the twist doesn’t feel earned. There is nothing to set up its reveal until very late in the film, aside from a handful of points (the presence of Earth primates and humans, compatible blood chemistry). A good twist, while it isn’t telegraphed a mile away, on repeat viewings has some clues that it up for the audience, once they know what to look for.

Additionally, the “It was Earth All Along” was already a hoary old chestnut when Planet of the Apes came out. Women of the Prehistoric Planet (as seen on MST3K) came out two years prior, and had the same twist, and several short stories published in science fiction magazines (including one published in Galaxy, written by Richard Matheson) also used that twist. It resonates, but in terms of 50s-60s SF, it does come close to being the equivalent of “And his eyes open…” and “hand claws out of the rubble” in terms of being a stock concept. If the rest of the film wasn’t as enjoyable, the twist would have fallen flat.

Due to the film’s historical significance, and the good performances from the main leads, I’d say that this film is worth viewing, but the twist only works because of the quality of the film attached to it.

Planet of the Apes is available from Amazon.com.


Filed under: film, Uncategorized Tagged: 1960s in film, Film Review, Planet of the Apes, science fiction film 5991 b.gif?host=countzeroor.wordpress.com&blo

Count_Zero

This time we’re covering issue # 48 of Nintendo Power for May of 1993

Please support my Patreon at http://www.patreon.com/countzeroor
Member of The Console Xplosion Network: http://www.theconsolexplosion.com/
Watch my Live-Streams on http://twitch.tv/countzeroor/

Closing Music: “Welcome to Rainbow Resort” by Select Start – http://ocremix.org/remix/OCR02611

Games Reviewed:
The Lost Vikings – Interplay
Super NBA Basketball – Tecmo
American Gladiators – Gametek
The Duel: Test Drive 2 – Accolade
Battle Grand Prix – Hudson
Super High Impact – Midway
Shadowrun – Data East
Batman Returns – Konami
Zen Intergalactic Ninja (GB) – Konami
Ring Rage – Taito
Great Greed – Namco
Kirby’s Adventure – HAL Labs
Incredible Crash Dummies (NES) – LJN
Super Turrican (NES) – Imagineer


Filed under: Uncategorized, Where I Read Tagged: American Gladiators, Batman Returns, Battle Grand Prix, Game Boy, Great Greed, Incredible Crash Dummies, Kirby's Adventure, NES, Nintendo Power, Ring Rage, Shadowrun, SNES, Super High Impact, Super NBA Basketball, Super Turrican, The Duel: Test Drive 2, The Lost Vikings, Video games, Zen: Intergalactic Ninja 5893 b.gif?host=countzeroor.wordpress.com&blo

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