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"Making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil."

~Ephesians 5:16

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Pokemon X & Y Episode 2 'Lumiose City Pursuit!' Review

The premiere episode of the Pokemon X & Y anime was pretty average. Ash Ketchum arrived in the Kalos Region, met two friends, and of course battled Team Rocket. Since I just played X, I found it mildly entertaining. It wasn't bad, but wasn't very amazing either. Episode 2 fixes many of the problems seen in it. There's a sense of danger, and Ash is actually pretty cool.

It starts out right from where the previous one left off, with Ash going to deliver a wounded Frokie to Professor Sycamore. The Professor's place of residence is quite a mansion, housing some pretty interesting research. Team Rocket pops in however, and manages to get a rage-inducing collar on a Garchomp living there. After he blasts a them away, he goes on a rampage through the city. Yes, the story is pretty interesting, especially when Garchomp goes on a rampage. If only every episode could be like this.

It opens up however with Serena. She appears to be an extremely light-hearted version of the character seen in the game. I suppose the anime is trying to make her more of a likable character, but I just don't know yet. I'll have to see how she interacts with the outside world because once again we only see her at the house with her mom. The action is over at Professor Sycamore's lab. It's cool how Sycamore gets to appear, his portrayal is lifted straight from the game. While the scene with the Professor explaining to Ash why every trainer returns Froakie to him is pretty emotional, (as emotional as the show can be) the best part of the episode is Garchomp's rampage through Lumiose City.

Team Rocket appears, and while they are extremely annoying, they are a catalyst to the biggest plot point in the whole thing. They manage to get a pain-inducing collar onto the Garchomp living in Sycamore lab. I can forgive their inclusion this time. So, Garchomp. He was first established as a very likable free-roaming Pokemon, so when he starts going into rage mode thanks to the pain-inducing collar, you feel for the guy. The actual rampage was pretty awesome to say the least. It reminds us how deadly Pokemon can be without a trainer holding them back. Hopefully we'll see some more renegade Pokemon like this as the series progresses.

Clemont and Bonnie don't really contribute much. The only thing Clermont does other than get tired from running, (seriously, how does his little sister run faster than him?) is use his science skills to open a door. Bonnie is just there to be the cute little girl. Still, they aren't bad side characters. Ash thankfully is not his annoying self from the previous episode. The whole scene on the roof of Prism Tower reminds us why we like the guy. The final act has the return of Mega Blaziken and his mysterious trainer also appears. You can bet we'll see them down the road.

Overall, Episode 2 of Pokemon X & Y is an improvement over its premiere. The entire rampage through the city is one of the very best Pokemon scenes I've ever seen. Ash is actually likable and not annoying. If the show can be like this consistently, we'll have a winner.


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Pokemon X & Y Episode 1 'Kalos, Where Dreams and Adventures Begin!' Review

It's been quite awhile since I've seen the Pokemon anime. Like many, as a kid I grew up with the earlier adventures. When Advanced hit, it slowly started turning into a pretty lackluster show. Advanced was still solid, but after that it turned repetitive and just boring. There was really no character development or danger. I haven't seen an episode since Diamond and Pearl. I've recently played through the X game, which has rekindled my interest in the franchise. So, I decided to check out the anime adaption and see if it has gotten any better. It hasn't, but if you've played X or Y it's pretty enjoyable.

The story takes place naturally in the Kalos Region. Ash Ketchum arrives in Lumiose City in hopes of starting a new adventure and becoming a Pokemon master. Along the way in this premiere episode he runs into new Pokemon, new friends, and of course Team Rocket whom once again have followed him. I will give props to the opening for feeling very thematic, something fresh. In this opening we're introduced to Serena, the main female in the X & Y games. It's very cool how the anime recreates the environment from the games, from the Fletchling to Rhyhorn to the mom, it's good stuff for people that have just played those two. Sadly Serena seems to be out of character. I won't fault the writing until I see her interact with the outside world.

When Ash arrives the plot really begins, for better or worst. This is an example where years and years of episodes have amounted to nothing. He acts like a complete amatuer the whole time. It's very grating, especially for people like me that like Ash from the way earlier episodes. It's truly a shame, because this and coming episodes could have been called good if he was a likable and more serious protagonist. Seriously, almost every line he shouts out is cheesy and annoying to hear.

The two new ongoing friends established are Clemont and his little sister Bonnie. This is interesting because Clemont is the gym leader of Lumiose City in the game. It doesn't look like he's a gym leader here. In fact, the battle with Ash is apparently his first ever battle. The fight between Pikachu and Bunnelby is pretty solid. I really don't get however how someone like Pikachu, who by now should be like level 99 is about on par with Clemont's Bunnelby, which apparently is its first fight. But, the actual battle is pretty solid nonetheless.

Team Rocket is back again. Hopefully they won't be appearing every episode because this type of thing gets old fast. Their plan doesn't make much sense. How do they plan to take control of all the Legendary Pokemon of the Kalos Region if they can't even capture Pikachu? It's just silly and shows the writing needs some help. It is neat how Wobbuffet is actually a fighter now. Unfortunately, Team Rocket themselves are still the same exact jokes from eleven seasons ago. Hopefully Team Flare if they appear will turn out be better antagonists.

Overall, Pokemon X & Y premieres more or less what I expected. There are some cool things if you've played the games, such as a very awesome short scene of Mega Blaziken. It's great how the in-game world is replicated. Serena, while not being so far like her in-game self, is already proving to be a better character than the obnoxious Ash Ketchum from Pallet Town. (It's kind of sad since she only appears for less than two minutes while he does for the rest of the episode.) We shall see if this proves to be an entertaining adaptation of the games or another season of boredom and filler.


Saturday, October 19, 2013

Pokemon X Review

Aside from Super Mario, Pokemon is the Nintendo series. First appearing in 1996, it has spawned many games, spin-offs, manga, and a successful anime that is still going today. (And all the movies!) Like many, when I was younger I used to watch the show back when it was actually good. Unlike most however, I've actually never sat down and played a game straight through. I corrected this mistake with the latest release in the series, X/Y. These games when first unveiled received a lot of hype. Pokemon always does, but this was going to shake up the formula. Instead of sprites, CGI would be used, with a fully realized 3D world. There was going to be a new evolution called 'Mega Evolution.' And finally, a new Pokemon type, Fairy, was unveiled. X doesn't disappoint in the slightest. It's the perfect gateway into the addictive Pokemon world.

The story follows a trainer you name and his/her journey to becoming a Pokemon master. (Officially their names are Calem and Serena.) It's the same thing for every game, but what I like about this one is that there's also a story happening alongside it. Team Flare (basically the Kalos region's version of Team Rocket) led by a man named Lysandre has a plan to make the world 'right again.' Lysandre is the only real character of the bunch, the rest are just minions with some of the cheesiest lines in existence. The writing makes an attempt at making him a compelling character, he even sheds tears at one point. So I give props to the team for having this story within a story. Ultimately however, the most interesting thing is the emotional flashback with the Pokemon war. Now there's something that should get an anime adaption.

The main story ultimately however is the journey to becoming a Pokemon master, and it's a satisfying one. It's an 18 hour journey, and you'll be hard-pressed to put down your 3DS. Unlike Final Fantasy where leveling up is a chore, here you actually want to see your Pokemon become stronger. There is no greater feeling than watching them evolve, you develop an attachment to your starter and main team. Some might find it too easy, since it's a piece of cake to stock on items. The Elite Four isn't really as challenging as they're made out to be. The only real major difficulty I had was getting passed the final battle against the Champion's pokemon Gardevoir. But, it's still a fantastic journey no other game series can replicate.

Arguably the biggest thing that got fans excited about X and Y was that along with the Kalos region starter, you were going to get a second starter. The choices would be Charmander, Bulbasaur, and Squirtle, the original three. This was pretty exciting, especially for people like me that grew up with those characters. As you go through the game along the way you'll run into many of the classics such as Pidgey and Caterpie. So while being a whole new thing, these games grab some of the old, which is great. This brings us to the factor that will revolutionize Pokemon for years to come, the Mega Evolution.

Mega Evolution on paper is a pretty awesome concept. Basically select Pokemon have a fourth transformation where they unleash their true power once every battle. The results are quite impressive. Sadly, even though the trailers made a big deal out of it, you can go through the whole main part of the game without encountering Mewtwo, which is definitely disappointing. But, let's talk about the new Legendary from the X version, Xerneas. He has a very majestic and awe-inspiring design. He doesn't get to do much in the story, but his scene with destroying the Ultimate Weapon was pretty great. Xerneas easily has one of the best designs in recent years. Hopefully the anime will capture this deer's grace and power.

Overall, Pokemon X is a fantastic game. There's so much heart put into the journey. Sure, a lot of the dialogue between the main character and his friends is pretty cheesy, but it doesn't bring down the experience. There's not really anything negative. Sure, I could point out little things, such as the Pokemon themselves having very generic sounds. (Seriously, they couldn't use the sounds from the anime or create more unique ones?) And for some reason, the frame rate drops sometimes and the battle becomes a little choppy. But ultimately it succeeds in giving the player a journey of a lifetime.There is no satisfaction greater than watching your Pokemon evolve and earning the title Pokemon Master.


Ultraman Manga: Chapter Eighteen Review

Previously Shinjiro had an encounter with an alien called Red. Their battle is here in this great chapter of the Ultraman Manga. This one has everything the previous one lacked: Ultraman himself, a fantastic fight, and a major plot development. Moroboshi confirms that Shinjiro isn't the only one that can transform into Ultraman. This should open up for some pretty interesting things in the coming chapters. But first, Chapter Eighteen.

The story picks up where the previous chapter left off. Shinjiro has a fight with Red. Sadly he realizes he doesn't have the costume, so before he gets pummeled Moroboshi breaks up the fight and has him get away from the alien city. Later an investigation in a warehouse leads Moroboshi and Ultraman to run into a (pathetic) alien. The first part is centered around the fight between Shin and Red. It's fantastic, in both the actual blows thrown and art. Red actually has some of his dialogue translated, which was good. Hopefully we'll see him again in the near future.

The second act starts when Moroboshi gets Shin away from the alien city. Moroboshi reveals to him that he's not the only being that can change into Ultraman. It'll be intriguing to see everything surrounding what that means. The whole warehouse scene was good. The unnamed alien is pretty weak though, even begging for mercy. Shin (as Ultraman) spares him, which is a pretty interesting development. It shows he has a merciful heart. Rena returns for a short scene with her dad. He is becoming increasingly annoying, disliking Ultraman for no real good reason. Hopefully this won't evolve into some kind of petty grudge throughout the series.

Overall, Chapter Eighteen is a great chapter. It features a fantastic fight and some Ultraman action later on. The story itself doesn't move much though, hopefully Bemular returns soon.


Ultraman Manga: Chapter Seventeen Review

The Ultraman Manga continues with a pretty interesting chapter. One thing's for certain, the author is really great at crafting a long story. Here not really anything new is revealed, but there are two plot developments nonetheless. Shinjiro encounters a new alien while Moroboshi's investigation keeps on getting more complex.

The story as stated earlier focuses on two things, Moroboshi investigating and Shinjiro having a conversation with Jack before being confronted by an alien named Red. (More on that soon.) The chapter opens up with a pretty intriguing conversation between Moroboshi and Jack. It's cool because these two are complete opposites. Moroboshi is ultra serious with a zero sense of humor while Jack appears to be more of the laid back lazy type. The conversation with Jack and Shinjiro is just as good however, where we learn that Jack knows Shin is Ultraman.

Red is the new alien encountered. I don't know if the resemblance to Red King is intentional, but the name sort of confirms that. Sady his dialogue is written with alien words, so the reader has no idea what he's saying. We'll see in the next chapter if he's anything but a brute stooge.

Overall, the Seventeenth chapter is pretty solid. Not amazing, but there's enough interesting material to keep the reader invested.


Friday, October 18, 2013

Toy Story of Terror Review

Toy Story is arguably Pixar's greatest movie series. It has fantastic characters, great humor, and never fails to be engaging for viewers of all ages. It's been three years since the critically acclaimed third movie came out. It had a proper closing, with Andy growing up and heading to college. He gave his toys away to a little girl named Bonnie, who would have more use for them now that he's older. This Halloween special is the first canon thing where we get to see what the toys are up to. My only complaint is that in ends too soon!

The story follows the toys whom gets taken to a hotel with Bonnie and her mom. Things get pretty spooky when Potato-Head leaves and doesn't come back. Soon the toys start getting 'picked off' one by one. In the end, Jessie will have to face her fear of being enclosed in a box. First, I gotta give credit to Pixar for producing a short that could have easily been drawn out to be a movie. It has the same level of quality and humor as the films.

The writing is fantastic, every character has their appropriate lines. My personal favorite is when while watching a Dracula-like movie on TV, Buzz Lightyear comments, saying the woman should use the things around her as weapons. The story succeeds in having a Halloween spooky atmosphere. I'm sure all the young kids watching it got a jump when the toys were slowly getting picked off. Jessie has a pretty big role. It's interesting cause she has box-phobia. So while this is a Halloween special, it's also a story showing that you should face you fears.

There are a few toys exclusive to here. There's Combat Carl, (technically he appeared in the first film) who rescues Jesse from the lizard. He's a pretty cool G.I. Joe/Action Man parody. He's the one that encourages Jessie to face her fear. There are a few other notable toys in the glass container, but the highlight was the Transformers-like one, Transitron. He has a great robotic voice and fantastic lines. These toys would be good additions for a fourth film.

Overall, Toy Story of Terror is a fantastic special. I hope this opens the door to more specials. A TV series headed by the same team could also prove to be a great addition to ABC's lineup. This is a must-see for any Toy Story fan.


Thursday, October 17, 2013

Lego Batman: The Movie - DC Heroes Unite Review

Out of all the DC Animated movies to come out in recent years, this one was the most surprising. I don't think many thought we would ever see an adaption of Lego Batman. On the outside it looks like a light, funny parody of Batman and Superman. On the inside...that's pretty much exactly what it is. Is that a bad thing though? Nope! Lego Batman is one of the most fun DC adventures in awhile, great for families and longtime fans alike.

The story is typical Batman/Superman fare, the Joker and Lex Luthor team up. Luthor is running for president, but on the day before election he sees his ratings are seriously low. So to convince the public that they should vote for him, he breaks Joker out of prison and gets him to make poison gas to mind control everyone. As much as Batman hates to admit it, it looks like he's going to need some help on this one.

The story is pretty wacky on paper, but it's what you expect from something called Lego Batman. The Joker is a highlight, right from his stage entrance in the first act you know you're in for a treat. Of course, this being strictly more of an all-ages adventure than previous movies, things are definitely more tame. But, it doesn't stop the Joker from being his crazy self. It never fails to be a great dynamic between him and Luthor. It was great that they got Clancy Brown to voice Luthor, since he voiced him in Justice League and Superman: The Animated Series.

Despite being called DC Heroes Unite, the rest of the Justice League don't appear until about the final 10 minutes. Perhaps a bit disappointing, but Superman makes up for it. He's pretty much a parody of the golden age version of the character, always smiling and acting invincible. The dialogue between him and Batman is priceless. From them walking into Lexcorp to waiting for the bus, (I'm not joking) this movie reminds us why we love seeing these two together. (And it's also great how Superman's classic theme plays whenever he flies in.)

Lego Batman is a fun movie. It doesn't try to pretend and be anything but a funny take on Batman, Superman, and the rest of the characters. It's perfect for a Saturday afternoon with the family, and for longtime fans ready for a good laugh. Definitely a must-see.


Thursday, October 10, 2013

Trilogy Review: Resistance

First person shooters are abundant in the gaming world. It's popular because it truly puts the player into the game. They are the shooter in essence. Call of Duty is the most popular one today. While those are technically realistic, (well, aside from Nazi zombies) there are quite a few shooters that are science fiction and fantasy based. My personal favorite is the Sony exclusive series, Resistance.

Resistance: Fall of Man was a PS3 launch title way back in 2006. The story was engaging enough, being set in alternate history soon after World War 2 where creatures called the Chimera have taken over. There are virtually no real cutscenes, everything is said through narrated stills. This is perfectly fine for two reasons. This being a launch title, it was to show what the PS3 was capable of gameplay wise. And secondly, the game was downright terrifying in some parts.

Resistance somehow manages to balance plenty of button mashing shooting and horror. There's nothing scarier than being dropped into a battlezone where you have no idea what's happening. I'll never forget that first level in Fall of Man where I'm walking then at a corner a Chimera appears. Seven years later, Fall of Man still manages to be an engaging, and often terrifying ride.

Resistance 2 did away with the narrated stills and was slightly more cutscene driven. Finally we got see what exactly playing as Nathan Hale was really like. The game traded horror for a more science fiction shooter. The terror was still present, but to a lesser extent since you know what you're dealing with. Resistance 2 is also notable for introducing Dr. Malikov. It also introduced a Chimeran 'character' in the form of Daedalus which was pretty cool since it gave the story an actual villain instead of mindless foot soldiers.

Resistance 2 also had this ongoing subplot with Hale, he was slowly turning a Chimera. In the end, he's shot down by Joseph Capelli, who would go on to become the protagonist in the third game,

Resistance 3 is definitely the most story-based of the trilogy. It features plenty of CGI cutscenes and is character-centric. It spends its time in the opening parts showing us Joseph's wife and son. It's pretty nice how traditional the storyline is with these little things. Interestingly, it appears Joseph had a drastic character overhaul from the previous game. There he was a hard-nosed arrogant person, here he's the complete opposite. Sure, shooting down Hale changed him, but that drastically to the point where he's actually such a likeable protagonist? Pretty far-fetched, but we'll go with it since he's a good character to root for.

The gameplay isn't all that different, it's pretty much 100% identical to the previous two installments. It's still pretty scary and nerve-racking, but like the second one it can't come up with the dread the first one has. It's not really its fault however, by then we were used to the Chimera and on an active mission rather than never knowing what was coming like in Fall of Man. The most notable thing about Resistance 3 is the entire Graterford Prison level. This is by far one of the greatest video game levels I've ever played. There's such an amazing level of nerve-racking, dread, and fear throughout as you navigate this Hell on Earth. The ironic part is that the majority of it is occupied by humans, not Chimera! Sadly, there's no real final boss at the end of the game. I was hoping it would reveal some kind of evil mastermind to the whole operation.

Resistance 3 also gives a couple of pretty interesting scenes with the Feral Chimera against its military brethren. It's a shame the story didn't focus more on this, the scene with the Widowmaker demolishing the foot soldiers was fantastic. Unlike most horror-related things, this game has a very simple and nice ending. Joseph destroys the terraformer in New York and is reunited with his son and wife. It's simple, but a nice closure.

The Resistance trilogy rises above the usual first person shooter series. It's genuinely scary, to the point where you dread going into a dark tunnel cause you know something is going to pop up unexpectedly. There are two small console spin-offs I haven't had the luxury of playing. It's been said that there's no plans for any more games in the series. I think it's a shame, but who knows, maybe the PS4 will get one. And this trilogy is definitely ripe for a movie adaption.