Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Machinist

The Machinist is a difficult film to classify. I suppose Psychological Thriller is the best genre to describe it I can think of, but the movie is sort of all over the place. I don't really think this is a detriment to the film since it makes parts of it less dry and more entertaining, but suffice to say you won't be predicting how this movie ends all that quickly.

Perhaps I've been spoiled by Christopher Nolan but I do like a film to have somewhat useful foreshadowing tools, in this there is foreshadowing but the vast majority of it is extremely difficult to notice your first time watching the film. While I imagine watching the film a second time would make several more scenes seem like foreshadowing it doesn't have quite a tight enough plot to keep it together.

Christian Bale is a factory worker who hasn't slept in a year and you quickly come to realize that everything revolves around what happened a year ago. When he's asked when he met someone it's "about a year ago" or when he tries to find out something it's a year ago et cetera. He eventually fucks up at his work and sort of zones out while assisting another worker, thus causing that worker to lose his arm, why it takes him an entire year to screw up a delicate operation is anyone's guess (right at the start Bale is established as one of the more competent workers).

In addition to insomnia he's also lost about 80 lbs of weight from his standard bale frame, think Dicky Eklund but much more holocaust victim looking. Bale's devotion to the craft is admirable, and it sort of adds to the number of things pushing you further away from what really happened a year ago. This film has a mostly Latino production cast and feels fairly foreign in it's construction, it is still pretty good but as I've said it is extremely difficult to predict what happens, while you may discern bits and pieces of the truth the reality is still going to be much different than what you anticipated (I personally predicted like 25-30% of what happens at the end).

Overall I do like the film and its atmosphere, one memorable moment for me was when he was chasing one of his many phantom pursuers he finds out what the guy's license plate is but in a 1 second shot it shows the license plate is the exact reverse of the one already on his truck. As I said you could consider that foreshadowing but how exactly you'd determine precisely what occurred prior to actually seeing it is beyond me. Another good performance by Bale in a non Stoic Lawman role!

Final Score: 7.5/10

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Oh Noes!

Unfortunately my life has gotten a fair amount busier in the past week and it looks to be continuing that way into the future. I'll still write movie reviews once or twice a week and the occasional game review (next month I might have a biweekly White Sox update as well). Plan posts will be monthly instead of weekly as well, and this is the first one.

Next week I'll be reviewing The Machinist starring Christian Bale in another obscure, but this time full of range, role. Future films to review this month will include There Will Be Blood, A History of Violence, City of God, and my favorite movie of all time. I may also review other films as well. The next movie I'm going to see in theaters will probably be Thor and I'll naturally post a review of that as well.

Game reviews will include, in some order, Resident Evil 4 (the greatest single player shooter of all time), Resident Evil 5, Valkyrie Profile 2, Killzone 2, and possibly a few others. In the more distant future I'll be reviewing Shadow Hearts: Covenant, Uncharted 2, Every God of War, and possibly Vanquish. Saint's Row 2 and Painkiller (two Yahtzee supported games no less!) look to be on tab relatively soon as well.

As far as sports are concerned I'm going to buy a month subscription to to watch every White Sox game in April and then go from there, the NCAA tourney is interesting enough but I only have CBS at the moment and I'm too lazy to watch games online so I wouldn't really have much to say there. Gus Johnson is awesome, the whole tourney is an entertaining crapshoot, Fuck Duke, et cetera.

Albert Pujols' next season: 74 HR, 250 RBI, 400 OPS +, 350 million dollar contract over 10 years, count on it.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

AL West

Seattle Mariners
Ichiro will presumably get 200 hits for the billionth straight time and his Mariners will likely be just as terrible as they were the past few years. Last year they got some hype due to having a decent pitching staff but they wound up with one of the worst offenses in recent major league history (despite making some decent offensive moves that didn't pan out). Felix Hernandez did of course win the Cy Young and presumably would have had 22+ Wins on an actually good team but that's really all they have left, and it's too bad for Felix as he's stuck in a terrible situation for another 4 or so years. Almost as bad as the KC Royals with Semper Failcouer

Oakland Athletics
Ah Billy Beane the legendary GM, master of making a team be successful with absolutely nothing. Err wait he had 3 excellent starting pitchers and simply had a decent team apart from them, now that he has exclusively Beaneball or Moneyball projects his team isn't so stellar. On the other hand it's mostly the owners fault for not wanting to pay for any free agents whatsoever and Beane does run a reasonably competent organization with a tight budget. The Twins are vastly superior and have only recently begun to spend, but Beane is okay. I have the utmost respect for non douchetastic Sabermetricians but Billy just hasn't done all that much to be remarkable of late. The playoffs may be luck but even getting a shot at them is not.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
The Angels are a very oddly run team, they have money and a very large market but are generally late to the buying market every time a big time free agent is available. Unless they pick up Pujols next year they look to be a mediocre team with a fairly large contract and they traded for Vernon Wells for fuck's sake. Vernon Wells has either the worst or second worst contract in the majors, while Zito continually puts up astonishingly mediocre years that is somewhat valuable for a pitcher, Wells is hit or miss and it is doubtful that he'll ever be as good again as he was last year. While the Angels can probably soak the damage they'll still want to pick up quite a lot more than just Wells if they want to compete with the Rangers.

Texas Rangers
The Rangers are actually a pretty competent team. While the Giants getting to and winning the World Series was something of a fluke the Rangers weren't really that much worse than the Yankees or Red Sox(or Phillies or Twins for that matter) last year. They have Josh Hamilton, who might have a short peak but while he's still in it he's going to be pretty damn good, Nelson Cruz who is one of the most underrated players in the majors, and a very good young pitching staff and bullpen. While their offensive numbers are somewhat illusory in that hitting haven of theirs in Arlington they still do have an above average offense in the league when adjusted. The Red Sox might have a 30% chance or so of making the World Series while the Yankees have anywhere between 25-30% but the Rangers probably have 20-25% chance of returning themselves.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Front Mission 3

Alisa Scenario
+++ Excellent storyline
+++ Lukav is extremely badass by the end
++ Moderately Difficult
++ Fairly good gameplay
++ Over 60 levels (with several short branching paths and slight variation in available characters)
++ Around half of the battles have Imaginary numbers involved
++ Great Soundtrack
+ Very impressive CGI for the PSX
+ Tech system is pretty good
+ Liu is much more interesting than he is in Emma's Scenario
-- Accuracy and Techs randomly occurring can make some encounters luck based
- Optimal setups can be obtained fairly early with captured Imaginary mechs
- Somewhat repetitive

Front Mission 3 is probably the rarest underrated yet excellent game I have, VP2 might eventually take that spot but it'll probably be another 5 years or so. I randomly got my Uncle to buy it for me about 10 years ago and I haven't really had a better experience with a tactical RPG since. FFT became much easier to find after it randomly became Greatest Hits, but I do like this game slightly better. They both have excellent storylines but this one is much more plausible and the villain becomes more over the top. Of course, this game has two entirely separate scenarios and the split off point is somewhat obscure, near the start of the game it asks if you if you want to accompany your friend to the mall and that is the point of no return for scenario selection. I imagine most people who played this once through didn't realize there was such a separation and probably picked the worse of the two scenarios as a result.

The whole Front Mission universe is in a fairly realistic vision of the future wherein there are several collective mega-states that unified in order to compete economically with the US, in this game the USN, OCU (Oceanic Community Union), and DHZ (Da Han Zhong) are the major units involved in the action. A few people show up from the EC (European Collective) and some of the characters are from the Soviet Block which is called Zaftra. OCU is Japan/Australia/Indonesia and everything in between, Da Han Zhong is China + Korea and Indochina, and the USN is North and South America unified under US rule.

I imagine eventually at least Europe will economically if not nationally unify to compete with China, India, and the US more effectively, and by doing so will force another such economic unification somewhere else in the world. It might even happen within 50-60 years or so. FM3 takes place in the early 2100s I believe. Wanzers (Mechs) are the primary weaponry following the first two front missions and the entire game is mech based combat in a standard tactical setting. You do still encounter tanks and even basic soldiers but predominantly you fight and always fight with Wanzers.

The Alisa scenario is a harder, shorter scenario, though it will still take you 45-50 hours the first go around. It doesn't drag on all that much at the end and you make a nice circuit of OCU and the DHZ from Japan to the Phillipines to Taiwan to China to Korea to Japan again, with a fairly large campaign at each locale. When I first played I thought the Phillipines was the end of the game as there is this spectacular cutscene and up to that point all you're doing is looking for MIDAS to reacquire it.

Unexpectedly when the shit hits the fan this first set of vaguely bad dudes decide to use it on the incoming DHZ fleet to save the Phillipines from Rebels and also destroy half of the city. It is probably the best cutscene I've ever seen in a game, to this day, no silly action sequence no voice acting just a bigass bomb blowing a hole in the ocean and creating a circular waterfall whilst also annihilating a city. MIDAS is a gold based bomb that does not produce radiation while still producing a similar effect to a Nuclear Weapon, and there are two such scenes in the game though the other is much later. I'd never really scene a climatic scene come that early in a game but it really was and still is awesome. Afterward you just leave the Phillipines behind as the Rebellion is in shambles, the next lead to MIDAS doesn't come along for quite some time though you do run into Imaginary numbers shortly thereafter.

Imaginary (and Real) Numbers are genetically modified and enhanced soldiers who pilot extremely powerful mechs and you fight them for half of the Alisa scenario. The leader of the Imaginary Numbers is Lukav and he is the primary antagonist, you fight Lukav close to 15 times in the game and he just keeps coming back. Naturally the final scene pretty much solidifies him as the baddest motherfucker ever to roam the JRPG verse, only a nuke to the face could actually kill him (he submerges following the final battle in a giant crab mech and you assume he's dead but he pops up and starts to tear apart your ship). The last MIDAS attack takes out Okinawa Ocean City, a virtual Atlantis that is a manmade metropolitan Island off the coast of Okinawa in Japan, and Lukav is barely within the radius of the explosion while your landing craft is not.

Final Score: 9.5/10

Emma Scenario

++ Decent Storyline
++ Campaign is about 20 hours longer
++ You get to see the whole story from a different angle
+ Mostly different characters and different missions in the same setpiece
-- Lukav only appears twice and the end is not nearly as epic
- Liu becomes an ineffectual opponent instead of a strong supporting character
- Only about 10% of the levels are against Imaginary numbers
- Substantially easier than the Alisa Scenario

I'm leaving out some of the commonalities for Pros/Cons so the final score will look a bit odd comparitively speaking. The Emma Scenario is quite a bit longer and sort of drags on and on right near the end even after the Okinawa explosion occurs. Lukav is fought just a few times and dies relatively easily without any particularly interesting speeches or random nukes to the face occurring. On the bright side you do actually get to see several of the same events from a less personal angle. With Alisa you generally are directly involved in events but Emma follows slightly behind, though the plot does twist a ton regardless. Most of the same events occur but the very end is different and the interaction with the villain(s) is pretty weak.

Additionally some of the more interesting levels are removed and most of the game is much less challenging. You only fight Imaginary Numbers (or Real Numbers in this case as they are now your enemy) about 1/4th of the time and special units from other forces only occasionally encounter you as well. Beam Weapon bearing enemies appear with some regularity in the Alisa Scenario but are only present once or twice in Emma's. The worst part is that the Emma Scenario is the more obvious selection and most people will have seen it exclusively prior to finishing the game off, but it really does make a huge difference which one you play first. It's still enjoyable and the game is still good while the plot holds together well enough even without Lukav, but it's sort of just a long standard tactical RPG instead of something special.

Final Score: 8/10

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Battle: Los Angeles

Battle LA is sort of a Black Hawk Down ripoff with Aliens. They did bother to cast a very good actor (Aaron Eckhart) as the main lead but there really isn't much acting required in the film. The first 45 minutes or so include about 5 minutes of fighting and 40 minutes of cheesy emotional scenes involving marines, some of whom are unbearably retarded. Most of the retarded marines die out by the end which is a blessing.

The first major fight scene takes place on a bridge, several marines die and they kill a few aliens along the way. It is a decent enough scene, while the film does use the evil shaky cam it isn't all that unwatchable during the 2 best action scenes (up to that point you really can't tell what's going on at all). Evidently the aliens use some sort of slow moving artillery piece like a cannon despite being vastly technologically superior to the US and have to manually control it personally, though fortunately the Marines are terrible shots so the only way they kill it is with a giant explosion.

Aaron Eckhart does a reasonably good job in his role, despite all the forced silly emotional scenes he does do a convincing enough job in the last 2 or 3 of them that they actually work, while the rest of the movie might have had you facepalming. I'm pretty sure Call of Duty increased the amount of business this movie did by about 20 million, since it shockingly did 36 million in 3 days while being fairly mediocre. Eckhart is essentially Rambo and invincible in the film, though the other soldiers think he'll purposefully get them killed since he's too awesome for them.

The last sequence of events is great in this movie, it doesn't make any sense but it is fantastic. Evidently aliens use some sort of immobile contraption to control their drones from afar. Obviously in a "realistic" alien setting they'd have a self propelled battleship or something and it would be guarded by more than just a few dudes, but either way that's what they fight against and it is pretty exciting to watch. It would have been great if the whole movie was like this with just a few cheesy emotional scenes but it was not to be. If Unknown is still in theatres I'd suggest you go see that since this is much worse.

Final Score: 6.5/10

Apologies for not having a post yesterday but something distracted me. MSU got a 10 seed in the tourney though they're in the same bracket as BYU so I don't expect them to get past the sweet 16 at best. Still it's a nice improvement over a few weeks ago when it looked like they wouldn't get in at all. It must be nice having 14 losses and still being in the tourney... I picked OSU to win it all in my first bracket setup.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Sid Meier's Pirates!

Pirates is a fairly interesting game, it's sort of a dumbed down simulation game compared to any other Sid Meier game. However it is still quite fun and pretty varied from time to time. You'll mostly fight ship battles but if you like you can fight on ground strategic battles to capture ports as much as you like and perform dancing minigames to win the hand of Governors' daughters (which you can apparently switch between at will with no consequence). You can even take down legendary pirates and steal their ships which are some of the best in the game.

Ship combat is simple enough, maneuver around an opponent and try to knock out their sails before boarding, a combination of guns and maneuverability wins the day typically. Some ships are pretty much invincible on normal difficulty like the Frigates and Ships of the Line (which is absurdly rare to find) so once you get a really good ship it's pretty simple to annihilate every ship in the Caribbean. I like that you can have various shots designed to do differing things to the enemy ship, ultimately sinking the opposing ship is a great waste of booty that you could just as easily sell to the harbor.

Once you board an opponent's ship you can take on the officer in a linear combat which is basically Rock Paper Scissors with some modifiers. It is absurdly difficult on harder difficulties, as are the rest of the minigames, but nearly trivial on normal. Ultimately I don't find quick time events to be all that entertaining so these ones being tuned poorly don't really aggravate me too much. You can get items to improve your odds of doing well but chances are you'll continuously fail at various things prior to dying of old age or losing your ship or something along those lines.

Invading opposing capitals is one of the most fun things to do in the game, you can bring your few hundred men against a few hundred to several hundred of theirs and it is quite possible to win the battles against vastly superior odds (with decent rewards), though it takes a few tries. The strategic battle music is great so I didn't mind redoing it a few times just to listen to it a bit more. Terrain and opposition are both random so you could get lucky and win easily even in pitched battles or you could get unlucky and fail repeatedly. It does still end with another duel with their commander which is just as annoying as ever.

Pirates! has a lot more things to do which are all sort of fun little minigames, while it lacks a bit of polish and balancing issues abound I still had a ton of fun initially playing it and while the replayability wears out after about 40 hours it's an entertaining and certainly unique experience meanwhile. Helping the various factions take down the Spanish while looting gold and whacking Blackbeard is a worthy adventure. I believe it's still bizarrely expensive but if you can get it for cheap I'd recommend buying it just for a nice, fairly short adventure game with a lot of variety and enjoyability. While the Pirate genre has lacked a particularly good video game as of yet this remains one of the best efforts thus far.

Final Score: 8/10

Saturday, March 12, 2011


Half a league, half a league, Half a league onward, All in the valley of Death Rode the six hundred. 'Forward, the Light Brigade! Charge for the guns' he said: Into the valley of Death; Rode the six hundred. ~ Lord Tennyson

In Celebration of Aaron Eckhart's amazing alien killing powers we celebrate the Crimean War! A good old fashioned Trench battle predating both the American Civil War and World War I, but foreshadowing both. The war was not exactly strategically interesting but yet a great deal of poetry was written about it since it was the first widely publicized War, as reporters came along for the ride and most of the people who died died due to poor medical care, with only a scant 10% of casualties coming in actual combat.

Sunday ~ Sid Meier's Pirates!
This game was redone 17 years after the original was produced and I'll look at the modern version. I own it on X-Box and enjoy it quite a bit. Like every Sid Meier game the higher difficulties more or less eliminate the enjoyability of the game, striving for realism instead, though Pirates isn't quite as bad as some of the others. Normal is too easy and Hard is tedious and irritating, alas. Still a fun game regardless.

Monday ~ MSU's miraculous return
Michigan State defeated number 9 Purdue yesterday, and while they fell to Penn State today they will almost certainly actually make the NCAA tourney, though only as one of the final 4 teams (the field is 68 this year). I believe this means they'll have to play one more game just to participate in the first round, but either way making my bracket will be much more enjoyable with the wild card.

Tuesday ~ Battle LA
I somewhat miraculously actually went to see this despite several setbacks and intending to review The Machinist instead. But it's right about what I expected from it, as a whole not entirely terrible but not particularly special either. Can Harvey Dent save the world from aliens?

Wednesday ~ Front Mission 3
Another tactical RPG with an excellent storyline. This game also features 2 separate but extremely lengthy scenarios which follow the same plotline through the game from different points of view. It all begins with a simple decision but spirals outward from there. While the plot stays similar one of them makes the main villain look incredibly awesome whilst the other isn't all that interesting by the end, 150 hours of gameplay on one CD-Rom is pretty impressive though.

Thursday ~ AL West
The AL West has ranged from being an excellent division to a terrible one over the past decade. Can Billy Beane the legendary Moneyballing guru defeat the immaculate Nolan Ryan in a battle of wits? Actually it turns out having a budget to spend on players does matter, so regardless of whether Beane really is special Texas is probably in much better shape for the long haul.

Friday ~ Game of Death 2
Brucesploitation part 2! I haven't really heard anything special about this movie so I'd imagine it's going to be pretty terrible, but hopefully there's a few nice fight scenes with Not Bruce 2 and actual Bruce again.

I bought Saint's Row 2 for about 5 bucks for PC, and while it does have a fair amount of random slowdown this game is ridiculously fun. It's essentially GTA without all the plot bullshit and just a crapload of blowing shit up alongside demolishing the fourth wall. Yahtzee's review is dead on.

Random Favorite Song: Land Down Under

Random Favorite Game Music: Rose of May

Friday, March 11, 2011

Game of Death

This movie features 3 different Billy Lo's, we'll call them Not Bruce 1, Not Bruce 2, and Bruce. Not Bruce 1 is just some guy who looks kind of like Bruce Lee and always wears sunglasses, he has some weak fight scenes early in the movie. The first 40 or so minutes of the film are all Not Bruce 1 territory and somewhat dull I suppose, though the plot is decently constructed considering how far they're stretching it. There's the standard facial reconstructive surgery gimmick to explain why he looks different but then they use the real Bruce in the last part of the movie so it doesn't make much sense.

This was the last movie he was working on, though I'm pretty sure the plot had nothing to do with what this film talks about, but they decided to buy the archive footage and too their credit construct a vaguely believable film. While the first 40 minutes do suck the last part is pretty great and Bruce isn't the only one who shines in fight scenes. For the first part they randomly show extremely brief scenes from the Way of the Dragon, Fist of Fury, and Bruce's actual funeral and somehow construct some weird plot around it. Bad dudes want Not Bruce 1 to fight for them and his girlfriend to sing for them.

The second stage of the movie is in Macau, where Not Bruce 2 makes his first appearance. Not Bruce 2 is a guy that doesn't look much like Bruce but can sure as hell fight pretty damn well. Not Bruce 2 has a pretty sweet one on one fight scene in a locker room and a few other decent fight scenes as well, though he never says anything and whenever the camera shows a little bit of his face it's kind of jarring. Still he's got enough moves that he could have been a decent enough action hero I imagine, Not Bruce 2 could probably kick Steven Seagal's ass.

My DVD for this version did not have the Cantonese, though this film was cross produced and did originally have a Cantonese version, so I was forced to listen to the english voice-overs. Of Course, Bruce having no lines in the film makes this sort of a moot point but it would be interesting to heart the tonal difference instead of just random voice-over differences. I'm not positive but I think at least a few of the lines are actually Bruce speaking English, which is a bizarre but decent enough touch.

Bruce only comes into the picture right at the end, as he ascends three floors of a tower and has 3 consecutive badass fight scenes. The first is against another dude with nun-chuks that's pretty good, the second is against another martial arts master whom I've never heard of but it seems to be an interesting enough fight, and the third is against Kareem. Kareem rather famously sparred with Bruce Lee and produced a few photographs which are now extremely famous, I think the most popular Bruce Lee poster is the Jumpkick to Kareem. This part is a bit different in construction than those sparring sessions but it still goes over pretty damn well and Kareem has some nice moves of his own to spice it up. Not Bruce 2 takes over for the ending couple of scenes (one of them being a decent fight) and credits roll. The finest example of Brucesploitation, though I'll have to watch a much worse movie next week it seems.

Final Score: 7/10

Thursday, March 10, 2011

AL Central

The Kansas City Royals acquired Dayton Moore last summer, as Pos writes; it is impossible not to like Francouer as a guy but you really do have to hate how terrible he is. He came to the majors extremely hot but it was mostly an illusion and major league pitching adjusted to him quickly thus eliminating any threat he might pose. It's possible he might put up another 29 HR/100 RBI season but he'll do so with a sub 800 OPS and deteriorating fielding skills. The Royals GM Dayton Moore has a thing for acquiring terrible players, like Francouer and Yuniesky Betancourt, and despite their number 1 farm system they seem likely to be terrible for at least a few more years.

The Cleveland Indians had a lot of talent just a few years ago, unfortunately they were unable to keep those who would become Free agents and signed their DH to the biggest contract in team history. They still have Hafner and Grady Sizemore (who up until last year looked like one of the best CF's in the game) but they really don't have much else. The formerly good pitching staff with CC Sabathia, Cliff Lee, and Fausto Carmona now has neither of the first 2 (two highest per year paid pitchers in major league history, to be fair) and Carmona has disappeared. It'll be a battle between these two teams for second to last place in the AL Central.

The Tigers are a solid enough team with 2 of the best players in the entirety of baseball. Miguel Cabrera is the best hitter in the American League and actually still quite young. Whenever I personally go to a Tiger's game he is the one dude who seems to scare every pitcher he encounters. Justin Verlander is also quite excellent, though he did have a down year a few years back. Last year he was second or third in pitching WAR. If Zumaya would stay healthy they'd have a pretty good bullpen as well, but unfortunately they don't have much else going for them and look to be right around .500 this year. They're the best major Detroit franchise at this point aside from the dominant Red Wings.

The Twins are a pain in the ass, no matter how terrible their team looks or how little they paid for it they will eventually get to 90 wins every year. While the White Sox have more or less split division titles over the past 10-15 years it's still annoying to have them close every single year. It looks like they might get slightly hampered by injuries this year but I'd be stunned if they didn't magically get 90 wins somehow. Next to the only recently good Rays they are the best run organization in baseball.

The White Sox have labeled this season "All-In" as they've resigned every good player on the team and additionally signed Adam Dunn. Last year they picked up Rios and Jake Peavy so we now have the highest payroll in team history by about 20 million. I guess Jerry Reinsdorf's idea is that the Sox could supplant the Cubbies with another WS win. I don't know if that's the case but it sure makes me happy that the White Sox have a competitive team every year and the GM knows how to acquire talent (though he is admittedly poor at not trading young talent). It's pretty much a tossup who wins the division but I'd give a slight edge to the beloved White Sox.

Blogger changed the format of posting for some reason so subsequent posts will be somewhat less impressive, alas.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Final Fantasy Tactics

Poor Delita. By game's end all his ho's have left him and he's bloodied up his nice king outfit. He's FFT's real victim! ~ Glass Shard (Fan Art caption)

+++ Delita is the best video game character ever to exist
+++ Excellent Storyline
++ Good gameplay
++ Endless customization options
++ Extremely complex Battle System
++ Moderately difficult first half
++ Velius is one of the hardest bosses in any JRPG
+ Set the standard for every Tactical RPG to follow
--- Orlandu makes the latter half of the game too easy
-- Protagonist kind of sucks
-- Game would be much better if you played one of Ramza's brothers
- Villains that you actually kill get sort of samey and disinteresting rather quickly

Final Fantasy Tactics is the seminal tactical RPG, and somewhat rightfully so, many of the things used in this (whether first or near the beginning) have become standards in virtually every other tactical RPG. In addition it has one of the best storylines of any game period, though that is largely driven by one character. Tactical RPGs tend to be about political strife during a war or pre-war era as opposed to just random tales about 5 random people and thus tend to have a much better narrative and FFT is no exception on that front. The main character, Ramza, is nothing special but lots of the supporting cast is pretty solid and Delita is the best Iago impression of any game villain ever. While he isn’t directly antagonistic to Ramza he does sort of manipulate the whole plot to his own benefit.

In terms of actual gameplay this is a pretty standard tactical RPG, except that there’s special characters who have inaccessible abilities to random people that tend to murder everything. Orlandu essentially breaks the game once you get him but prior to that the game is fairly difficult and one point in particular tends to make everyone restart the entire game on their first try. Ramza can become any class you want but if you don’t level him appropriately (regardless of the class you pick, though some will make it easier) you’ll wind up getting massacred by Velius/Wygriff and typically you’ll only have one save inside the castle and be forced to try and fail that battle over and over, and then reset with new knowledge in hand.

Personally I used Ramza as a Summoner for that first go around, which suffice to say failed miserably. Velius is probably the hardest battle in any Final Fantasy main story portion, though I guess with XIII Bart is debatably harder. In this game overlevelling just makes random battles almost impossible (though admittedly fixed battles do get easier) so you have to prep for it if that’s what you’re going to do. Of course, T.G. Cid can just smack down everyone else for you when you get halfway through the game. Another thing that’s pretty overpowered is stealing equipment, several items can only be gotten through stealing and they tend to be the best items in the game, while they can be troublesome to get eventually you do get them and thus forth have invincible characters other than Orlandu.

Delita is one of the best characters in any game period, it’s tough to say if he’s my favorite villian but from an objective point of view I’d have to say he is the best. Instead of going some cheesy or sappy “friends will support me” route he decides to take over the throne via various political machinations and then sends his dog, Ramza, out on missions to wrap up loose ends prior to burying his name in the history books and swiftly glorifying himself. He even kills the main heroine (well, non retarded one anyway) of the game at the end, just because he feels like it. In short he’s ridiculously awesome while not being a crazy motherfucker, and considering virtually every other JRPG is a crazy son of a bitch this makes him quite special. He wouldn’t be out of place in any modern or classical piece of fiction of any genre or type, and would summarily dominate in any of those positions. He is as masterful as the man himself, Mr. Iago. FFT is still pretty fun to replay and has a huge amount of customization options but even if it didn’t it’s still worth playing at least once just for Delita and his Lion War.

Final Score: 9/10

Tuesday, March 8, 2011


Equilibrium is a post apocalyptic futurey movie with guns, so naturally some comparisons to the Matrix have been made. It does have some excellent shooting scenes but the plot is quite a bit different from the Matrix and it's not quite as good. However, it is still very enjoyable and though it tanked at the box office it has become something of a cult classic amongst Christian Bale fans. Bale showed a lot of range in his early roles prior to getting locked down in the stoic lawman cliche up until the Fighter for about 5 years (The Prestige excluded). However this might be the first film in which he plays a Stoic lawman, and he does it fairly well. The performance isn't amazing by any means but the plot causes that.

In the future Church Nazi dudes have decided human emotion is the cause of conflict and have found a way to suppress it and thus eliminate all war. Meanwhile they form a fascist government and militarize the fuck out of it alongside making super soldiers "Grammar Clerics," every character with more than 5 lines is one of them. There's a brief scene that explains how they shoot people at specific memorized trajectories and dodge according to predictable shooting patterns of humans but it doesn't make a whole lot of sense. However it's still fun to watch even though this movie's from 2002. Bale is the highest ranking Cleric and is sent on a roundabout mission to burn out all causes of human emotion, random rebels with stockpiles of paintings and music and other random cultural elements.

This film has its share of plot holes, none of them are catastrophic but some of them are quite odd and somewhat humorous. The first major plot hole is that evidently solidarity and ambition are both encouraged even though both are generally motivated by emotion in the first place, to completely eliminate emotion would eliminate all activity it seems to me, if they singled out specific emotions then it would make more sense. There's a semi-explanation for this near the end but it still doesn't fix the issue entirely. Bale burns the Mona Lisa at the start of the movie but it isn't really explained whether that has any effect on him (one would assume it doesn't) but he eventually becomes pretty malleable anyway, though it seems to have more to do with the magic powers of plot device Prozium.

When you're nearing the end of the movie you have no idea what's going to happen and it's pretty exciting and entertaining up to that point. However when it gets to the end the plot twists back and forth between victory for good or for evil like 6 or 7 times to the point of absurdity. Bale says it's suicide, plot twist something saves him, plot twist something reverts it to the Nazis' favor, plot twist Bale is too awesome for that, plot twist no he isn't, plot twist maybe he is... and so on. This is the biggest flaw with the movie, while it wouldn't be as good as the Matrix without the myriad mistakes it still could have been a great movie instead of merely a good one. I do highly recommend this to people who like Sci-Fi or Christian Bale, it's quite a bit superior to most other Sci Fi movies.

Final Score: 7.5/10

Monday, March 7, 2011

How to Troll - To mimic or not to mimic

Here I'll make a somewhat specious suggestion for beginning the fine art of trolling: choose a template to follow in your procession through the intertubes. The best examples of trolling are XL's infamous post and some of Brucelovely's old posts alongside Metro's "Give Illidan Glaive Throw" of yore (all faded into non existence since the forum rolls over every 2 years or so). I never directly ripped off anyone's posting habits but I did try to find a way to post within the confines of their system. Of course you don't want to write something exactly like another would or it would defeat the purpose of trolling, surely they are superior at it and needn't be troubled with those who follow. Firejoemorgan, that wondrous sports troll land, was perfectly fine on its own and basically never needed anyone to follow their very easy method of humor, though now that they're gone you sort of wish someone funny would start doing it again.

In some regard you tend to realize that by reading others you are increasing your own acumen, and this is also quite true of trolling, browse various forums and determine whether something is funny or merely deemed funny by the confederacy of dunces. Obviously larger forums are more likely to actually have funny people present as opposed to a small forum which has the problem of too many people agreeing with each other and violently disagreeing with anyone else. In some regard the Warhammer forum was actually like this, though not entirely and more often than not they agreed with me so it sort of worked out in the end, but I do try to actually be funny from an objective standpoint instead of just pleasing a crowd that already likes me.

This is a well known issue with comedians as well, they are actually funny for a while but eventually going with the same old conservative jokes draws better crowds and ratings than continuing to "push the envelope," it's why Dave Chapelle stopped doing his show and it's why everyone hates Jay Leno for being a "sell-out." Of course, Leno still demolishes Letterman in the ratings even with all the NBC scandals, and the internal comedic train of thought is ultimately irrelevant to the comedic capitalist. Still, I have my pride for sticking with lost causes and so we stick with being humorous instead of pleasing the crowd. Frank Caliendo is another stellar example of continuously stale comedy, while his impressions are funny the first few times the 30th and 40th times you hear them get to be just a tad tiresome.

It's difficult enough as is trying to be funny, use others' previous efforts to your own advantage and improve your knowledge of the trolling fields. Eventually just by sheer practice you may troll well without even thinking about it, and that is generally when the funniest random stuff comes out. While it is easy for me to make someone look like an idiot I still have a grand challenge in improving upon comedic methods and actually attempting to be funny. Though I do recommend sticking with one or the other it's nice to know that you'll eventually be able to do both somewhat well. Remember your training, Leonardo's here with you. I am the best extractor.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Vagrant Story, Best Deal ever made Part 3

As previously mentioned VS is now on PSN for $5.99. Greatest game ever made, 6 bucks, sounds like a good deal eh? VS's file size is also fairly small thus allowing me to use my ancient PSP once more to store it. I played on it for about an hour and it looks very good at the small resolution, more or less comparable to most modern PSP games, despite being made 5-10 years earlier. Additionally you can also speed up the load times which were fairly long on the PSX, reducing the amount of menu-wading needed.

This time in VS I journeyed into the Abandoned Mines B1, one of the more bland environments in the game which is still somehow captivating. The upcoming Undercity and Town Center West are both much more impressive visually but the mines really aren't too bad on their own. The first boss in the mines is the Wyvern, the first big cockblock boss in the game. He has very high STR and chain resistance so it's fairly difficult to bring him down just by chaining from 0-1 damage up.

The first time I walked in the room he breathed fire in my face and one shot me, thus spurring me to remember you're supposed to treat him like a dragon and sit under his head. However simply by closing to melee distance you are essentially doing that so it's not quite as odd as the positioning in dragon fights. I used Prostasia and Degenerate to inflict more than 0 damage on him though it still took a fair amount of time to kill him. Originally you get to this point and have little to no Cure Bulbs left from using them but as an experienced player I didn't require them to beat most of the previous bosses so I still had 35 or so to clear this particular gauntlet (and 25-30 left afterward).

However according to the guide I just bought for the game casting any debuff or buffing yourself actually increases the Wyvern's reaction speed, so theoretically it's possible to run around him and hit his tail (weak to Edged weapons) while he isn't debuffed, but afterward it becomes nigh impossible. This is the thing with Vagrant Story, there are little AI complexities that you'd never think to observe but are actually present, additionally going from room to room with low HP will sometimes lower the difficulty of the enemies in that particular area, (or strengthen them in one special case) and of course there's the famous ability to "charm" human enemies by healing them after you beat the hell out of them.

After the Wyvern is the Fire Elemental, there are several of these bosses (some of them optional) who then become normal enemies later in the game, and their elder cousins in the last dungeon, the Great Cathedral (Ifrit in this case). Naturally you simply raise your water affinity through spells and gems while raising fire protection as well to defeat them. Fairly straightforward though still quite chain resistant. The Ogre boss actually comes immediately after that, and this is another massive cockblock type of boss. Without degenerate on him he hits for 80 or so damage (critically hits for 140) and does it quite rapidly while running away from you between hits. Apart from that he has even higher STR than the Wyvern so it's that much harder to do damage. I used my most powerful weapon and still only hit him for 7 or 8 to start with.

However you can gradually wear down specific body parts, I focused on the head, and this causes them to take more damage. If I had focused on the legs he would eventually move 50% slower, on his weapon bearing arm and he would have been half as likely to actually hit me with attacks, the head causes him to be silenced I believe, though it did take the most damage and thus speed up the battle. This only really comes to play at this point in the game as before enemies would die before they were actually afflicted. However for every major humanoid (and some non humanoid) boss after this point you can actively wear down parts of their body for more damage potential. The same thing can actually happen to Ashley, though assuming you're healing regularly it won't (and if it did you'd be pretty much dead regardless).

If you do buy this game be wary as it is not for the faint of heart, dying will become a fairly regular experience, and while there is always some way to kill a boss it might not at first seem to be the most intuitive way. There isn't a great deal of bullshit as in Demon's Souls it's simply extremely difficult from the get-go. However finding yourself enjoying the game and overcoming its challenges will leave you undoubtedly satisfied as you gradually grow to respect and even adore the game.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Charlie Gekko

[Sheen], for lack of a better word, is good. ~ Gordon Gekko
Today we celebrate the greatest man alive, Charlie Sheen, and his obliteration of all things comedy. He's like an F-18, Bro, even when he sleeps. I did buy Wall Street a few months prior to starting the blog and watched it, 'twas an inspiring cheesy story about how awesome Michael Douglas used to be. But now it's become a story about how Bud Black weaved his way through a mass of pathetic losers with ugly wives to become the master of the corner office and took down a mere mortal lacking tiger blood and Adonis DNA in the process.

Sunday ~ Vagrant Story the Best Deal Ever Made part 3
On March 1st Sony put Vagrant Story on PSN for the emazing price of $5.99, naturally I bought it immediately and was surprised to learn that the game only had 97 Megs consisting it. VS is the best looking game on the PSX, but apart from that my Vagrant Story soundtrack is more than twice that size. Of course, what this ultimately meant is that I could fit it on my old broken analog stick PSP (VS is pretty playable with a D-Pad) and now have a portable copy of VS to go alongside the saved copy on the PS3 and the actual disc which I won't have to use again. In short this was the greatest thing to happen all year, and if you happen to have a PS3 I strongly recommend purchasing this grandest of games. Xenogears was also released last week, oh wait that's an almost unplayable 80 hour drag through hell, stick with "#Winning" alongside Sheen and Vagrant Story.

Monday ~ How to Troll Part 2
After thinking about it for several days I was unable to come up with another non regurgitating sports topic due to the dearth prior to March Madness, so more trolling shall commence, in honor of the fine troll himself Mr Sheen. Perhaps with the powers of my mind I can cure the cancers of the internet in a nanosecond too.
Tuesday ~ Equilibrium
I recently went to a discount used DVD store which actually has competitive prices with the internet and picked up a few good movies which I did not yet have in my collection, I haven't seen either of the first two Bale movies but I have seen the other two films I bought, but I will review them all over the next few weeks regardless. Is Bale the lawman superior to Keanu's inability to act!?
Wednesday ~ Final Fantasy Tactics
We start our taciturn travels through tactical RPGs with the most famous one of them all. Tactical RPGs seem to all follow the same exact mold and all play fairly similar, while graphics and storyline may differ wildly. Fortunately many of their storylines tend to be superior to more traditional JRPGs and enhance the experience greatly, FFT is no exception. Of course, the supporting cast is much more interesting than the protagonist and his party members.

Thursday ~ AL Central
I liked how my last divisional post turned out so now this will be a series of posts over the rest of spring training and the first couple of weeks into the season. Can the mighty White Sox with Country Strong Adam Dunn defeat the accursed Twins and noble Tigers? I'm sure the Twins will mysteriously eke out 90 wins no matter what happens so it's simply a matter of the White Sox getting to 95 or more.
Friday ~ Game of Death
This is the first post Bruce death movie which uses archive footage and look-alikes to piece together a plot. I have no idea how it will turn out but I'm pretty sure this one is actually pretty solid, much better than every other Pseudo Bruce movie out there. The famous fight with Kareem occurs in this movie as well. Can Bruce defeat everyone while in ethereal form? A humorous term for this sort of movie is "Brucesploitation."

I have to recommend Tony Kornheiser's Podcast for the Sheen coverage alone. The sports coverage is fairly decent and Kornheiser's probably the best talking head in the business but the off sports talk is pretty entertaining. It is a local Washington DC radio broadcast but in podcast form it is much more easy to listen to and one of the best shows on the podcenter now, though they don't archive past a few weeks for some odd reason.

Random Favorite Game Music: Each Lullaby

Random Favorite Song:  Push it to the Limit

Friday, March 4, 2011

Fist of Fury

More Bruce! This movie actually breaks the Bruce mold slightly. Bruce's Master dies at the start of the film and Bruce suspects it was poison, however his master told his students not to pick fights with other schools and to stay out of trouble. This of course would ideally be the Bruce limiter for the first hour or so of the movie but instead he just waltzes right into another Dojo (that insulted his master) and kicks everyone's ass about 15 minutes in. This is pretty awesome to say the least though Bruce soons learn retaliation can occur afterward as his school gets beaten down immediately afterward. You would sort of assume he would decide to stop fighting for at least a little while at that point but instead he becomes a master of disguise and sneaks around waiting to discover who killed his master.

Naturally it turns out the most obvious dude possible did and Bruce continues to disguise himself for a while, waiting for an opportunity to strike. Amidst one of his forays into the opposing dojo he discovers a foreigner who bends metal pipes for a living, this guy is supposed to be Russian in the movie but he looks American, talks with an American accent, wears American clothes (including the omnipresent bowtie), and was played by an American. This happens a lot in Bruce movies, foreigners are brought in so Bruce can kick some varied asses instead of just Chinese or Japanese dudes. About 10 minutes before the end Bruce is victorious and I was legitimately clueless as to what would happen next, thus making those last 10 unpredictable minutes more interesting than much of the film.

Clearly this movie is much better than the Big Boss but just how much better? The plot centers around Bruce being a badass that can kill people in one punch (hence the title) and who actually hails from a dojo. He does do the one punch thing several times in the movie and I guess the meaning is he punches people so hard in the chest that their hearts explode, assuming this is possible why can't Bruce do it? Very realistic in my opinion. This Fist of Fury became Bruce's signature move to go alongside the flying Jumpkick (an extremely epic one of those is in this film as well) to match Chuck's Roundhouse Kick to the Face and Seagal's Blank Stare of Death, unfortunately for the other two they never had movies named after their signature moves.

The fight scenes in this movie, along with being more frequent, are also much improved over Big Boss, as Bruce beats down 10-15 people at once and occasionally pulls out the mighty Nun-Chuks and beats down people with swords as well as bare hands. Apart from dispatching people with his Fist and Jumpkick he actually kicks a dude's sword in the air and then places him under it to kill him, which is immensely satisfying. Of course the plot is also much better, even though they use several similar actors and actresses most of them seem to have improved and nothing Bruce does is utterly illogical either. Hopefully the rest of the Bruce films I own will be as good as this one.

Final Score: 8/10

Thursday, March 3, 2011

AL East

The amazing Wieters of Baltimore fame is off to an unprecedented start with a career 266/328/393 line in the majors (to go with his 343/438/576 line in the minors). He is indeed Joe Mauer with Power, and has secured Baltimore's second consecutive World Series title (hell might as well not even play the games next season, it's over already). Unfortunately the beleaguered Yankees and Red Sox must deal with his omnipotence. Baltimore now has quite the lineup actually, with the strikeout king Mark Reynolds alongside the slightly better than Konerko Derrek Lee and the declining but still austere Vlad. Unfortunately much of the rest of their team is terrible, so we expect them to be last place this year.

The Toronto Blue Jays also have quite the lineup and much like the Rays I'd expect them to win half of the other divisions in the league at this point (or at least have a shot), but in the AL East you need to win 95 games at least to get in the playoffs and the Blue Jays are perhaps an 88 win team. Jose Bautista was resigned to a relatively team friendly contract after his ridiculous 54 homer season last year (never hit more than 15 in any prior year) obviously the cynic in you would suggest he used steroids but it mostly looks like his powerful swing combined with the Blue Jays' mysterious new ability to hit HR and greatly enhanced his performance. The Blue Jays pitching staff isn't terrible like Baltimore's, but I'm fairly certain either the Yankees or Red Sox' pitching payroll exceeds their entire team's payroll.

The Tampa Bay Rays are the best run organization in baseball, however their owner doesn't much care for spending money so he lost one of his best players in the offseason, one Carl Crawford, to the Boston Red Sox, the equivalent of giving them 5 wins on the schedule basically. Granted, Tampa Bay is a terrible market for baseball games and even a young, exciting, and frequently competitive team like the Rays failed to draw more than 15,000 fans per game. Florida, that land of dying people, simply does not go to sporting events, even the Heat have pretty terrible attendance considering the hype machine behind them. Tampa Bay still has Longoria forever and David Price alongside excellent pitching but their offense is going to be down quite a lot this year.

The Yankees have a very good team packed with former all stars much like always. However they didn't improve at all in the offseason while their primary rival gained two of the top 20 players in baseball, so obviously their chances of winning the division went to hell. The Yanks have probably the best offense in the league but their pitching leaves a lot to be desired, after the Corpulent Curmudgeonly Sabathia there really isn't another good starting pitcher on the whole staff. In a strange bit of fate Andy Pettitte also decided to retire, he was their third best pitcher last year (or maybe 2nd?) so the Yanks are pretty much going to have to score 6 or 7 runs a game to win 90+ games (which admittedly they probably will).

The Boston Red Sox had the best offseason in the majors. While the Phillies are going to get more hype due to the absurd rotation of 4 aces the Red Sox do look a fair amount better than them as a team. Boston acquired Adrian Gonzalez, one of the best first basemen in the game (roughly half as good as Pujols!) from San Diego and the aforementioned Carl Crawford from the Rays, greatly improving their already potent offense alongside improving their defense. While Adrian Beltre is no longer with the team after a career year and Scott Boras got him a shitload of money from the Rangers the Red Sox have made such an improvement at First Base and in the outfield that it more than doubles that loss of WAR going from Beltre to Youkilis. The one major thing that the Bo.Sox have to deal with is injuries, as that crippled them last season, but I think they could have half the team injured and still win 90 games, they are the juggernaut of the AL.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Samurai Warriors/SW XL

Samurai WarriorsPros:
+++ Completely new storyline and characters
++ New, much more in depth combat system
++ Moderately Difficult
++ Every character feels unique and several of them are supreme badasses
++ Story mode for each of the 15 characters is basically unique
++ Superb Voice Acting
++ Adds 3 force battles
+ Fairly well connected storyline
-- No Sekigahara
- Too many "comic relief" characters
- Some of the fifth weapons are nearly impossible to get
- Eventually gets somewhat repetitive
- Castle levels always have the same layout
- Strike Ninjas hit way too hard

Samurai Warriors is based on the Sengoku (Warring States) period in Japan, in which Japan eventually unified under a single warlord, Hideyoshi Toyotomi. Hideyoshi is naturally a character in this though he isn't playable in the vanilla game. The game centers around his lord for much of the period though, the legendary Nobunaga Oda, who seems to have as many stories about how he died as Rasputin (though he's not quite as tough as that mad monk), this game follows history somewhat closely and each individual character has a variety of battles in which they were actually present, some of them completely unique to the character. These characters span 70-80 years of actual history so you don't necessarily cross many of them on your path through the storyline and there isn't as much overlap as in DW. Amongst the characters in the game apart from Nobunaga are the famed strategist Shingen Takeda, the crazy drunken badass Kenshin Uesugi, the most legendary ninja in history Hanzo Hattori, and rear guard specialists Yukimura Sanada and Keiji Maeda. The traitor Mitsuhide Akechi also appears (in a rather sympathetic light compared to Kessen 3) to defeat the demon.

Even if a battle isn't unique this game now has missions to follow which vary greatly between characters and can lead you on completely different paths in a level. Additionally each of the battlefields feels completely unique and different areas of the same battle look different and more interesting, which is more or less unique in the DW universe. Thus, even though you may initially feel "jipped" that there is 1/3rd as many characters as there was in DW4 you gradually realize that each of the characters is totally unique and quite playable on their own.

Unlike DW this game has a different attack system and added several movement methods that were later added to the main series. The mid-air recovery is extremely useful, as is rolling, and jumping on horseback, along with that characters' speed enhances as they level up (using a much better experience based system instead of the "collect every +1 attack on this level" gimmick) so eventually some of the ninja characters move faster than most horses. The two ninjas can double jump, allowing them to access specific portions of levels that are completely inaccessible to other characters, and take useful shortcuts at other times.

The attacks themselves are now split into 4 groups, the square x 4 main attack, default charge attack, the first charge (after one normal attack) which hits them into the air and then follows them up or continues to combo them (as opposed to just knocking them in the air in DW) before smashing them back into the ground, the second charge attack which stuns the opponent but also has several different attacks within it, and the third charge attack which is generally an effective AoE attack. Additionally Musou now slows time around you and enables to do your regular attacks (in case your character's musou attack sucks you can use something else that will do substantially more damage than it would otherwise), which is important since "Musou KOs" is one of the experience based ratings you'll get at the end of the stage. While on Horseback every character in SW attacks on one side of their horse like Ma Chao and this enables you to play entire stages on horse if you wish (and adds another layer of diversity to the game) Naturally much of this is more intricate than DW's very simple system and allows for quite a bit of variety when playing different characters, though of course some are better than others.

This game also adds 3 side battles so it's not just "red vs blue" like every DW to date. Now you can wind up fighting 2 different forces while they're busy trying to kill each other, or occasionally assist one force against the other along mission paths. There aren't a ton of these battles but each of the one's present is quite enjoyable. Okehazama is probably my favorite level in the basic game since it was the first 3 side battle I fought and there's lots of different ways for the battle to end (as opposed to just bumrush the commander).

There are several flaws with the vanilla game, Chaos is present but immensely difficult on anything but the first stages (and still ridiculously hard then) as stats max out fairly low for most characters (only Maeda and Kenshin really have a shot). Strike Ninjas hit for almost half your HP on Hard and Chaos (and rocket you across the map), and even on Hard it is very troublesome to get some of the 5th weapons. Yukimura Sanada's (this game's Zhao Yun) weapon requires you to get 1000 KOs in the hardest mission in teh game while succeeding at all missions and keeping all of your generals alive, for instance, which takes 20-30 attempts to actually accomplish assuming you played perfectly.

Final Score: 9/10

Samurai Warriors Xtreme Legends
+++ Adds 4 new characters to the mix with their own unique, well polished storylines
++ Adds 6th Weapons for each of the original characters
++ Greatly improves the leveling system
++ Balances several enemy types
++ Adds a new survival mode which kicks ass
++ Retreat at Kanegasakai is the best level in both games
-- A few of the 6th weapons are nearly impossible without a second character
- Still has that terrible title

This game essentially is what an XL expansion should be, additional characters and balancing alongside new content for each of the original characters. No retarded gimmicky modes like Xtreme or Destiny here, simply more, better content and various improvements to the original game. The limit for leveling of characters has increased by 100 points per stat, so now each character can perform reasonably well on hard and functionally well on Chaos. Essentially Chaos becomes a slightly harder version of Hard instead of being impossible for most characters, and getting 6th weapons on Chaos is extraordinarily difficult (though it feels quite rewarding). Alongside SW this is the only game I've really done everything there is to do in, I now have each character close to being maxed out and all of their 5th/6th weapons.

The new characters added include Tadakatsu Honda, Hideyoshi, Inahime, and Yoshimoto Imagawa. Imagawa is the only weak character here, though his attack pattern is unique and halfway decent, he's basically retarded in the game (and he was one of the first lords killed by Nobunaga in reality so the storyline is pretty much out of nowhere). Honda is a huge addition however, as he is the Lu Bu of this particular storyline, albeit Maeda and Uesugi are actually better in game. Ina is Honda's daughter and fights with a bow in a style completely unique to every other character up until the newly designed bow characters in Strikeforce. She basically hits people with the bow prior to opening fire at the end of each combo and hitting everything in a wide swath in front of her for quite a load of damage, her first level is also the most fun level for powerleveling since it is well balanced and enables you to kill several hundred enemies while still fulfilling every mission requirement and sealing every stronghold (without having to backtrack at all). It's not as quick as Guan Yu's Escape in DW5 but it is still very enjoyable.

This combined with SW make for one hell of an experience, though the splitting of the game into two needlessly ultimately hampers this score a bit. Still when combined this is a near perfect design for the genre and would deserve a 10 in some alternate universe. However since we still have to function in reality I can only give it a modest score for being half a game. I've always thought Koei could produce a masterpiece but I didn't realize that this game was probably the height of their creations, the subsequent SW and Orochi games are all unfortunately terrible.

Final Score: 8.5/10

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Big Red One

I watched the reconstructed version of this film, which added about 40 extra minutes on to it, though unlike some director's cuts none of the new scenes felt particularly out of place. This movie is not your typical war movie, sure there's explosions and gunfire and it's too chaotic to follow (intentionally) but this movie actually has a happy ending and a humorous tone throughout. That's not to say it isn't a serious war movie, it is, but none of the main characters die off while in every other war movie known to man everyone dies except for one or two whom you try to guess as the film goes on. Additionally many of the quotes in the movie are pretty silly and campy, though they're mixed in with the more apt mocking of officers and typical war jargon.

There is also quite a lot of action in this film, if it didn't have those extra 40 minutes (which I can only imagine included mostly non-action scenes) it could be construed as an action movie ultimately. Lee Marvin stabs close to 15 guys throughout the movie and uncountable Germans are shot or blown up by the squad. The horrors of war are still depicted quite well but "War is about surviving" as Samuel Fuller says at the end of this picture. This, of course, is the major twist of the film as well, somehow 4 guys keep living while replacements for the rest of the squad keep dying horribly.

This film tracks the titular Army's First division through North Africa, Italy, France, and Belgium, occasionally splitting to a particular German soldier in the same area who seems to be a typical Nazi and several other American officers. This adds a lot of environmental detail, and while the photography isn't all that great compared to Saving Private Ryan this film is still quite visually impressive and the eerie sound of tanks rolling down a rubble blasted street is still present. One major complaint on this front is that for the entire movie everyone has an M1 Garand which has a distinctive "ping" noise every time you reload but it is only heard once or twice throughout, saddening me greatly. The explosions do look pretty good though and rest assured, many things will be blown up, shot, stabbed, and Lee Marvin'd.

Another complaint about the film is that the Italians speak Italian, the French speak French, but the Germans speak English (save for one obviously extraneous scene) which is baffling to me. If a film is going to have historical context I feel it should maintain the actual spoken languages from whichever regions it takes place in, there's nothing wrong with reading a few subtitles (and it's not like the Germans have a huge role in the film speaking-wise). The mandatory holocaust sequence seems a tad historically inaccurate as well, the vast majority of the Concentration camps were on the Eastern front so the chances of this one squad blundering into one is minimal to say the least. (I'm pretty sure only one or two were even contacted by Non-Soviets)

Overall though the film is entertaining and unlike most other movies I did not see the end of this movie coming. Of course I sort of expected most of the squad to die by the end but apart from that the actual scene at the end ties into the film very well and is probably one of the best endings to a war film around. I would spoil it but I actually know of someone who intends to watch this 80's film at some point so I'll keep it quiet and just say it ends the same way it starts. Lee Marvin's performance eclipses Tom Hanks' role in Saving Private Ryan by a shitload.

Final Score: 8.5/10