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Monday, November 7, 2016

American Ultra

American Ultra
Sometimes movies can surprise you. For instance, American Ultra looked like it was going to suck based on the trailers. Surprisingly, it was pretty damn good.
To explain this, I'll ask you a question. What do you get when you cross The Bourne Identity and Blood Punch with a tad of classic Bond thrown in for good measure? You get American Ultra.
Look at that poster. First, there's Jesse Eisenberg, who can be really good in some movies and really bad in others. Next, there's Kristen Stewart, who has acquired a rather undeserved reputation for not being able to act. Funnily enough, Eisenberg has that reputation in some circles too.
Let's break this down based on this movie, BvS, Now You See Me, and The End of the Tour, the later two of which had trailers included on this film's DVD. In BvS, Eisenberg played an egomaniac with a commanding personality. He had the air of a supervillain to him, the kind of thing you'd expect out of Lex Luthor. He carried himself like he owned the place, and spoke like he expected to be heard. Then there's Now You See Me, where he plays a cocky son of a bitch. A smirking, cocksure, swaggering douchebag who feels like he can do anything he wants, while also acting detached from his environment. Then there's The End of the Tour, where he basically seems like any guy you'd expect to meet on the street. He acts like a background element, someone who just sort of blends in, while interacting rather effectively with his co-star, Jason Segal. Then there's this movie, where he's got perfect command of his characters' insecurities and quirks. Not only that, he constantly shifts back and forth between the passive, nervous stoner and his Bond-esque combat persona. To say that Jesse Eisenberg can't act is blatantly untrue. He doesn't change up his voice much, but he completely overhauls his mannerisms and the way he speaks for almost every role.
Then there's Kristen Stewart. Thanks to the Twilight movies, and Snow White & The Huntsman, she's been painted as a pretty face without much talent. Namely, a blank expression with very little obvious interest in what she's doing. Having seen Tara Reid in action, not only is Kristen Stewart not a bad actress, by any means, but she actually manages to carry her end of the film. In fact, if not for her expressionism and her expressive acting, this movie would have easily fallen flat. Stewart plays the straight-man to Eisenberg's wise-guy, in what is essentially a duo-comedy film.
Eisenberg plays Mike Howell, a stoner with anxiety issues living in Liman, West Virginia. He wants to propose to his girlfriend, Phoebe Larson in Hawaii, but at the airport Mike has a panic-attack and they miss their flight.
Mike and Phoebe go back to their lives of doing small things in a small town. Mike as a clerk at a local convenience-store and Phoebe at the bail-bonds office. Mike begins freaking out that he's holding Phoebe back, but decides to try and overcome his failings to make a spectacular statement. So he talks to his drug-dealer, Rose (John Leguizamo) to get ahold of some fireworks.
At the CIA headquarters in Langley, an agent named Victoria Lasseter (Connie Britton) is called on a secret phone and told that one of the experimental agents she oversaw, codenamed "Wise Man" is about to be terminated by "Tough Guy." Lasseter headed up Wise Man, while her colleague, Adrian Yates (Topher Grace, better as a villain here than he was in Spider-Man 3) headed up Tough Guy. Lasseter tries to get Yates to back down on killing the last Wise Man, (Who happens to be Mike) but he refuses. She decides to activate Mike so he can have a chance at not being killed, but he doesn't seem to be phased by his trigger-words as much as the guys from The Manchurian Candidate were. She decides to bug out before Lasseter's men show up to kill Mike, and leaves him to his fate. Naturally confused, Mike makes himself some soup for dinner, but notices a pair of guys messing with his car. He goes out to try and stop them, but they pull guns on him. Mike's training then re-activates itself, and he kills the two with a spoon and a gun he stole from them. After this, he freaks the hell out and calls up Phoebe to tell her what happened. Naturally, she's freaked out by all of this. Then a plastic-bag lands on Mike's car and the bombs the two guys he killed planted, explode. Fortunately, he took the fireworks out first. The two are then arrested because of these killings, and tossed in jail. Because two guys planting a bomb on your car and attacking you with guns doesn't justify killing them in West Virginia somehow. Before the cell-door is closed though, two more Tough Guy operatives, Crane and Laugher, lay siege to the Sheriff's Office. Mike's training then kicks in once more, and he manages to keep them from killing him. Laugher is left with broken teeth, and Crane is dead as a doornail.
Naturally, this brings up a few red-flags with Yates, who has already found out that two of his men have been killed. He works up a ridiculous cover-story and begins his siege. He blocks off the town so Lasseter can't escape, but she calls in an airdrop from one of her associates and gets herself a shotgun and pistol.
Mike and Phoebe get to Rose's house. Rose has tons of guns and an armored house, so they figure it's a good place to lay low. Rose and his henchmen have some pretty funny dialogue exchange with Mike, before Rose locks him and Phoebe in his rave-room after seeing Mike and Lasseter on TV as part of the coverup. Yates's men begin pumping poison gas into the house and kill Rose and his goons. They try to kill Mike and Phoebe, but thanks to Mike's skills and Phoebe's theft of one of their gas-masks, they manage to escape. Phoebe grabs a syringe from the body of one of the soldiers and injects the bleary Mike with it. She knows a bit too much about the gas and what it does, while Mike flashes back to various aspects of their relationship before coming back to reality. He realizes that she's probably a CIA agent, and she admits it. She was his handler back when he was with the CIA, but they fell in love. After he was brainwashed into amnesia, and dropped off in the town. She stayed behind rather than be reassigned, and we find out that all of his anxieties, all of his phobias and shortcomings were a product of the CIA suppressing his training. The whole reason Yates wanted to kill him was because he was slowly finding the ability to leave the town.
The two of them are then assaulted by Laugher, and Phoebe's car is set on fire, seemingly killing Mike. However, Lasseter manages to get him out before the flames get to him. Phoebe is taken back to Yates's base of operations, where he finds out that Lasseter and Mike are headed back to his house. Yates tries to call in an air-strike on Mike, but the guy he threatened into authorizing it, Lasseter's old assistant, Petey backs out, so Yates orders one of his men to take one of the Tough Guys out and take out the two of them. Meanwhile, Petey reports Yates' activities to their superior officer, Raymond Krueger, who sets into motion actions to shut Yates' operation down.
Mike takes out the guys who try to kill him and Lasseter, and takes their vehicle and his fireworks to Yates' base at the local superstore. Phoebe manages to get out of her handcuffs while Yates sends the last of his men after Mike. Mike kills most of them, but his fight with Laugher comes to a standstill when both of them are too heavily injured to continue, and when Laugher manages to gain enough lucidity to explain to Mike what the hell Yates did to him. Yates and his crew took mentally-ill people and screwed with their brains so they would obey orders they were given. The extent of Mike's brainwashing just blocked off his memories and gave him massive issues with anxiety. Mike gets to choose what he does, while Laugher is basically The Winter Soldier, but without the mental stability to be able to cope with what he has to do.
Mike lets Laugher get away, and Phoebe helps him get out of the building. They're then set upon by Krueger's men. Mike proposes and Phoebe accepts. The two are then tasered, Yates is executed, Lasseter convinces Krueger to make Mike into an agent, Mike accepts the gig, and he and Phoebe take up work traveling the world, killing people in unusual ways.
To put it bluntly, you could easily have told me this was a Hollywood remake of Blood Punch and I would have believed you. Despite lacking the supernatural elements, the plot of American Ultra is almost beat for beat the same as that of Blood Punch. Main-character doesn't know things about his situation, does drugs, has a hot girl who also does those drugs, the girl knows more about the leads situation than he does, there's a villain who wants to kill the lead and mess with the girl. Dark humor, kick-ass action, and a drug-dealer who turns on the leads after initially being friendly. Hell, both films start out with flashbacks, both are open-ended and both could either have a sequel or not and be perfectly fine. I could have pictured Milo Cawthorne as Mike, Olivia Tenent as Phoebe and Ari Boyland as Yates in a pinch.
There are plenty of differences, however. For one thing, American Ultra lacks the downer-ending of Blood Punch and some of the (no pun intended) punch of the action. Not to say that it isn't visceral, but Blood Punch had a lot more focus placed on the kick of the action, while American Ultra is filmed like a more-loose, less shakey Bourne movie. Not that that doesn't work, the cinematography and editing is basically perfect in framing the characters actions. On top of that, American Ultra lacks the incredibly poorly-choreographed wide-shot of the final battle-scene that could have been cut entirely that was my one major complaint about my favorite film of 2015. American Ultra also has far-better audio-effects editing and mixing than Blood Punch does. On the other hand, Eisenberg and Stewart are clearly breathing out CGI smoke in the beginning of the film, while Blood Punch relied far more heavily on practical effects for small things like that. Something they both share is the ability to sell the action no matter how ludicrous it might seem, and the use of either practical effects or very good CGI for most of the important scenes. You're not going to see any effects-failures on the level of The Expendables in this film. Hell, you don't see anything as cringeworthy as the parade from The Hunger Games despite the fact that this movie had about a third of that films budget. Just goes to show that it comes down to how you make a film and not how much money you've got.
All in all, while this film was a bit shaky in some aspects (Namely it's not paced quite as well as Blood Punch was) it's a damn good action-comedy with punchy writing, editing and acting alike. Just a shame it didn't make its budget back at the box-office. I would urge anyone who liked Blood Punch, or likes black-comedy action-films to buy this movie on Blu-ray or DVD and watch it. It isn't quite on the level of the suicidal brilliance of Blood Punch's morbid humor, but it's well worth watching to the end. Hell, it might even be worth a sequel. For that matter, the comic Mike wrote in-universe sounds pretty good as well. I'd like to maybe see a comic-book or some animated shorts about Apollo Ape.
In the end, I give American Ultra a 9.0*. It's a fun film to watch, and if you want to laugh at some punchy jokes, this is a good film to do that with. Plus, the ending-sequence is well worth watching.

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Monday, October 31, 2016

Resident Evil #2: Caliban Cove (S.D. Perry)

Resident Evil
Like the WildStorm comics, the S.D. Perry novels eventually delved into original content to pass the time between the releases of the video-games. Since Resident Evil 2 was still yet to come out, and these books were likely written several months before the game went gold, Caliban Cove takes place between Resident Evil and Resident Evil 2. Not in the way that it would actually patch up the big gaps in the plot between those two games. Just a book that fills the time between the release of The Umbrella Conspiracy and City of the Dead. At the very least it sort of cleared up where the hell Rebecca went.
Taking a quick look at the cover, we see Rebecca chambers running towards the camera with a gun in her hand. Tilted off to the side as if she'd had no training with it at all. I know she was recruited out of college to be their medic, but she was given enough firearms training to know how to hold her gun properly!
In the background we see a lighthouse shining out over what I presume to be the titular cove. Edited into the background we see the S.T.A.R.S. logo, a cerberus, and the head of a Tyrant.
The prologue starts us off with articles from the Raccoon Times "detailing" the destruction of the Spencer mansion and the dissolution of the Raccoon City S.T.A.R.S. team. This latter hackjob is enough to tell us that the city council and the police commissioner are all on the take of The Umbrella Corporation. In it, city councilman Edward Weist (Sounds like the name of a Bond villain) asserts that the S.T.A.R.S. team was hopped up on drugs and alcohol while they went on their mission to handle the cannibal killers. Despite the fact that that would be incredibly easy to disprove with a single drug-test for every member of the team. I mean, I wouldn't be at all surprised if Brad was on something, but the rest of the team? Considering Jill was something of a local hero, Chris an Air-Force ace, Barry the friendly neighborhood gentle giant and family man, and Joseph the cheerful mechanic. This is the last group of people I would expect to be doing drugs and alcohol on a rescue-mission!
Even the Bravo team consisted of a kid genius, a dude known as the single most levelheaded guy in the world, a mild-mannered landscaper with a Ph.D. in Chemistry, two well-disciplined snipers and a leader described as having impervious mental strength doesn't sound like the type of group to not handle things professionally. Either they pulled off a great spin-job on this, or the residents of Raccoon City are really, really dumb.
Anyways, Barry Burton has taken up the role of commander of the remaining S.T.A.R.S. members (Sans Brad who has skipped town) and they meet up with David Trapp, the captain of the Exeter S.T.A.R.S. branch. He informs them that he's learned about some corruption of the S.T.A.R.S. higher-ups. Namely the fact that the New York Headquarters has tabled the investigation at the behest of Umbrella, that they've forced the founder and face of the organization, Dr. Marco Palmieri out of his position and taken direct control of the assistant director, Kurtz. Trapp has assembled a team of his own from the few people he can trust in the Exeter division, and has come to Barry to ask Raccoon City's team for help in infiltrating and dismantling the Umbrella installation in Caliban Cove, Maine. Unfortunately, the only one to come along is Rebecca Chambers. The other members of the team elect to stay behind and try to handle whatever they can.
Before they split up, Trapp and Jill cross-reference their Umbrella information and find that they were both given similar information from a guy named Trent. Rebecca notices a name she recognizes on the list of Umbrella researchers, a biochemist named Nicholas Griffith who vanished after being busted for unethical experimentation. Barry calls up a few of his S.T.A.R.S. buddies to try and get Trapp some backup. Chris tries to get in contact with some friends in the FBI so they can possibly take down Irons, but Barry's house is attacked by Umbrella's operatives. As they fight their way out, Captain Trapp kills one of them, and finds out that he's Captain Jay Shannon, head of the Oklahoma City S.T.A.R.S. branch. The team takes refuge in the abandoned house of Brad Vickers, and from there Rebecca and David get on a private plane to Exeter, and from there to Caliban Cover with the rest of Trapp's team.
On their way to the facility, their boat is destroyed, and they are set upon by a squad of zombies armed with machine-guns. The team gets captured, two of their members infected with the T-Virus, but Rebecca, Trapp and another member of the Exeter team escape. They're rescued by Captain Blake and the Philadelphia S.T.A.R.S. team, and leave.
All in all, this wasn't a bad book by any means. It was tense, well-written and overall a decent addition to the Resident Evil storyline. It's also leaps and bounds above the Wildstorm comics of the same era. However, it's still not quite as good as Resident Evil: The Book. If we could have seen more from this series as written by Hiroyuki Ariga, it would have probably flowed a lot better. Perry seems to take more pages to tell less story than Ariga does, which is a shame because there's a good story to be told here. Not that she doesn't do it well in this book, mind. Since she was working with original material and not adapting a ten plus hour game into a single book, it feels like there was far less left out than in The Umbrella Conspiracy. Despite the fact that that book adapted the game fairly well, it was still a bit unfocused and leaned more on telling rather than showing for certain details. This book leans more heavily on demonstrating exactly what's going on for the sake of tension. While there are a few additions that are somewhat absurd on the surface, like the gun-wielding zombies, that concept would be brought to a head at the hands of one of the most memorable monsters of all time. None other than rocket-launcher wielding Nemesis T-Type. So yeah, I can buy zombies armed with M-16's.
Finally though, we come to this books continuity. Like the comics, this book was written well in advance of the development of Resident Evil 3, and as such doesn't fit in to the alterations that game made to the timeline. Resident Evil 2 mostly focused on the effects of what happened after the virus got out, and had less effect on the characters from the original game than Resident Evil 3 does. But that's something to get into next year when I cover that game. It's been two years since I reviewed a Resident Evil game, and it's about time I get back to the things that made me start it in the first place.
All in all, I enjoyed this novel quite a bit more than I enjoyed the WildStorm comics. While there are going to be plot issues later on in the series, there's still plenty in this book to enjoy if you wish to read it.
In the end, I give Resident Evil #2: Caliban Cove a 7.9*. I'll see you guys on Sunday with... Something. I don't know at this point. Probably Bomb on Basic City, or I could finally finish up my Fire Emblem Awakening review.

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Saturday, October 29, 2016

Superdimension Neptune VS Sega Hard Girls (Nathan Green)

Sega
If you know anything about me as a person then you’ll probably know I love retro gaming. I have a growing collection of consoles and games which I regularly add to and play and I spend a lot of time reading up on retro gaming related topics. For me though the thing that got me into retro gaming was the console legacy left by a little company called Sega. Ever since I started collecting I have been a Segahead through and through so when I heard that the retro gaming inspired Hyperdimension Neptunia series was going to be having a spin-off crossover game with characters from an animated series based entirely on old Sega stuff my interest was immediately piqued.
I’ve been keeping an eye on Superdimension Neptune VS Sega Hard Girls ever since I learned of its existence, and now having sunk around eight hours into the game I feel I can finally answer the all important question of “Is it any good?” So, without further fanfare let's start off by covering the story.

Story and Characters:
The Neptunia series is known for having oddball plots already, but Superdimension's plot is certainly one of the odder once.
For starters our hero of the story this time round isn’t Neptune, but rather her level headed explorer friend IF. At the start of the story, IF stumbles across a place called the grand library which turns out to be a place where all the worlds history is recorded. All seems fine and dandy until a girl falls out of the sky and history starts to just… disappear. Yes history just straight up starts to disappear and IF and the girl who fell out of the sky (who incidentally is named Segami) are the only ones who can do anything about it.
One time travelling bike later and it becomes your mission to visit various eras of history in order to correct what was lost. It’s a relatively simple plot on paper, but in practice Superdimension does more than enough to spice things up despite the premise being a bit cliché.
Character-wise, most of the Neptunia cast is present (apart from Noire, Blanc and Vert mainly due to how they represent non Sega consoles) but along with the regulars we also are joined by the Sega hard girls.
Now for those of you out there who have no idea what I’m talking about let me explain. The Sega Hard Girls were characters that first appeared as a Dengeki Bunko imprint before getting their own light novel, and eventually their own animated television series in 2014 entitled Hi-sCoool! SeHa Girls (If you’re a fan of retro gaming especially Sega retro gaming then I highly recommend you give a few episodes a watch. It’s jam packed full of references to old Sega video games and consoles).
Basically each of the Hard Girls is an anthropomorphized Sega game console. It’s a similar idea to what Neptunia did but the way the Hard Girls were designed makes the references a bit more obvious.
Superdimension features quite a lot of the Sega hard girls but only 4 play a major role in the story, those being Dreamcast, Saturn, Mega Drive and Game Gear. Each of the Hard Girls has a Neptunia universe counterpart. Saturn’s is Neptune/Purple Heart, Dreamcast's is Uzume/Orange Heart, Mega Drive's is Plutia/Iris Heart and Game Gear's is Nepgear/Purple Sister.
In typical Neptune fashion the writing is what really takes the stage here. The game is full of retro gaming references, one liners and dialogue scenes between characters which consistently left me with a giant grin on my face.
Overall, Superdimension does a pretty good job with its characters and writing. The story is a little bit cliché, but it throws enough curve-balls to keep me interested. If you’re looking for a game to play for the story though then this really isn’t it.

Gameplay:
Now for the meat and potatoes of the game, and oh boy there is quite a bit to talk about here so lets not waste any time.
For starters, Superdimension sports a new battle system. You still move around a free roaming circle and attack enemies and all that but instead of picking from one of 3 types of physical attack and using strategy to do stuff such as getting 2 or more enemies in the path of your attack you instead are treated to something new and honestly refreshing for the series.
The combat system works like this, similar to Megadimension you have a circle that you can move your character about in. You can attack, use skills, use items and surprisingly, jump. Yes, jump. I’ll come back to that in a second.
The combat is turn based which doesn’t sound all that interesting on paper but the game implements one major mechanic which makes the system very interesting in practice. Basically when your turn begins you are shown a gauge on the right hand side of the screen. This is the action gauge and it is what determines how long your turn will be and how many actions you can perform. At the beginning of your turn it is completely bottomed out however actions like moving and attacking will increase the action gauge. Once the action gauge fills enough to reach the red area you turn is over.
It’s a simple system but how it is implemented makes it incredibly strategic as well. Firstly unlike in previous games when you start a physical attack you are not locked into having to use a physical attack until your turn ends. When you perform a physical attack a bit of your action gauge gets filled back up but as long as it is below the red area you will still be able to attack, use skills and use items along with moving. This small change means that the variety of actions which can be performed in a turn increases dramatically. You’re given the potential to heal an ally and then attack an enemy or use an item followed by a skill. It’s a simple change but one which adds a surprising amount of strategy to the battle system not seen in previous games. There’s even an element of strategy around how much of the action gauge you think you should use before ending your turn because the further into the red zone your action gauge is when your turn ends the longer it will be until that character gets to have their turn again
As for other battle mechanics there’s your ability to jump for starters. It sounds pointless on paper but bear with me. During battles gems will regularly pop up floating in the air which can be picked up to help recover HP and SP. On top of that after you have dealt enough damage to enemies and have filled the fever gauge (which fills when you perform actions on your turn) up on the right of the screen a fever gem will appear in the battle field which can be picked up to activate fever time. Now when fever time is active all characters will receive a slight stat buff, enemies will miss a turn for the duration of fever time and EXE drives will be able to be used. Fever time ends once the fever gauge runs out though which happens as you perform actions during battle.
The important thing to note is that a full fever gauge carries between battles so if you finish a battle with a full fever gauge it will remain full at the start of the next battle. What I’m getting at is SAVE FEVER TIME FOR BOSSES. The stat buff combined with causing the enemy to miss a turn means that fever time is not only great for dishing pain out but also for recovering since the enemy won’t be able to attack as long as fever time is active.
Apart from fever time you also have access to a charge attack which can be used by holding the X button until the action gauge fills up fully. This deals quite a bit of damage but also results in the fever gauge being filled entirely meaning a longer wait until that characters turn rolls around again.
Skills behave somewhat like they do in other Nep titles however each character has a select number of skill slots which can accommodate either an active or passive skill. As the game continues on you’ll be able to expand the number of slots you have access to allowing for more skill equips.
Also noteworthy is the class system which allows you to gain new classes for characters and swap them to change the type of focus that they have in battle. Importantly this also effects their skill pool and the skills that they will learn as they level up.
Overall the new battle system is something I find quite enjoyable. It refreshes the gameplay style that has been present in the Neptunia series for quite a while and it does a good job of making something both new and enjoyable.
Outside of the battle system there are many changes that have been made in places like the overworld. For example IF is far more acrobatic in the game field than Neptune was in previous games. Not only can she jump but she can also climb ladders, run, enter crawl spaces and swing across ropes.
Now on paper this sounds like just a gimmick and I’ll admit I didn’t think much of it at first, however these new skills are actually used quite a lot throughout the course of the game thanks to the larger variety in dungeon design as well as brand new dungeons made specifically for this game.
The addition of new dungeons is quite nice and they’re designed pretty well however even the dungeons that have been recycled from previous games get a revamp treatment with them having different terrain layouts and routes that you can take depending on the era. In one era a part of land may not be accessible but in another era that same dungeon may have a swing rope or ladder placed in order to allow you to make it to this new area.
It’s a simple system but despite that it is an incredible breath of fresh air as it makes the dungeons that are recycled feel quite a bit more fresh instead of just copy pastes from the previous titles. It also allows for IF’s increased dungeon acrobatics to be used more and make them more than just gimmicks present in only the new dungeons.
Also new are collectibles that are present in dungeons. Inside dungeons you can find medals which are scattered all over the place. Now while collecting them all does give you a little message I’m honestly unsure as to what their real purpose is except for getting 100% completion. The same applies to the baseball collectible which are usually tucked away somewhere in the dungeon. These can be given to the robo pitcher back at the grand library but again, I don’t really know what these do per say.
Game progression is mission based. You select a mission and complete the objective listed. Missions however have a time limit on them in the form of a number to the right of the mission on the mission select screen. If this number reaches zero then the mission disappears. Without spoiling anything this system does lead onto an important plot point which the game explains pretty well so I’ll leave that for you to discover.
Overall, Superdimension is a breath of fresh air when it comes to the gameplay department with the new battle system and dungeon actions really making the game quite fun and quite unlike other Neptunia games we have seen before hand.



Graphics and Sound:
Graphically the game does indeed look nice but it is plagued by one problem, performance. Granted the performance issues present in Superdimension are nowhere near as bad as the performance issues present in say, Re;Birth 1 on the Vita (which has one of the most unstable frame rates I have ever seen). In comparison Superdimension is far more stable in terms of being able to hold a frame rate however it does tend to stutter a little bit in some areas. Compared to the earlier Neptunia Vita titles though the performance is far improved so that’s a plus at the very least.
Art wise the character models look quite nice on the field with nice detailed 3d models and smooth animations. Cut-scenes also use the now Neptunia standard Live2D system whereby 2D characters have idle animations that play while in text scenes. I really can’t fault the game much in this area.
In the sound department the music is a mixture of tunes present in previous Neptunia titles and a few brand new tunes which are OK but nothing to really write home about (although the new battle themes and especially the boss theme are pretty darn catchy). On the front of voice acting I played using the English dub and once again I can say that it is another incredible English dub from Idea Factory. Kate Higgins does an amazing job with voice acting IF and the English voice actors they got in for the Sega Hard Girls all do a top notch job as well. A special mention should also be made to the fact that the lip syncing in cutscenes now syncs properly to the English voice track which is something that wasn’t present in previous Neptunia Vita titles.

Verdict:
Superdimension Neptunia VS Sega Hard Girls is an example of a spin off title which does all the right things in order to make it stand on its own as a great game. Out of all of the Neptunia spin off titles, I’d have to say that this is probably the best one in terms of quality. It has a lot of fresh new ideas which it pulls off quite well which is certainly commendable considering the number of games released these days which have great ideas but never really do anything with them (See my last review on MeiQ Labyrinth of Death to learn more about that).
As fun as the game is though I did notice a few issues here and there mainly with the translation. Some tutorials had certain sentences repeated twice while some items had formatting issues that caused the text to go off the edge of the screen. It’s a minor issue but one that is still noticeable non the less. Here’s hoping that Idea Factory release a patch to fix it up sooner rather than later.
Translation bugs aside Superdimension is a fun time and gets a Highly Recommended.

My apologies for the lateness of this review, I’ve had a busy past few weeks and haven’t had much time to really sit down and finish this off. Hopefully this should go up in time for the European release of the time though. As for upcoming Vita titles there’s still a lot coming so stay tuned for more Vita goodness in the coming months!
If you liked this review, please consider contributing to our Patreonhttps://www.patreon.com/VariousReviews! This is BDVR Author Nathan Green signing off.



Superdimension Neptune VS Sega Hard Girls releases on the 18th of October in North America and the 21st of October in Europe and Australia.
PEGI: 12
ESRB: T
CERO: C
OFLC: M

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Resident Evil #4 (WildStorm)

Resident Evil
Welcome back to this week's 31 Days of Evil, as we continue with the fourth issue of WildStorm's Resident Evil comic series!
Yet again, we're looking at the cover. This time the shot on the cover is actually close to one from the book itself, unlike the shots from every other cover so fart. Issue #2 came close, but I'm almost certain that room on the cover wasn't actually in the comic.
Chris is doing his best to actually look like himself, and for once he's actually being a pilot outside of his back-story. Jill still looks like she stepped out of the eighteen-hundreds (Seriously, the version of her from Issue #1 looked more like Jill than this) aaaaaand Barry is starting to look like Billy Blazes as he's blocking the zombies out.
This cover appears to have been drawn by two artists, Carlos D'Anda and Mark Irwin. It's alright, but they could have done better.
Rather unfortunately, the cover-story of this issue is the last out of the three included within.
Our first story, "Night Stalkers" is written by Kris Oprisko and illustrated by Rafael Kayanan.
In the town of Saguaro Wells, a bunch of people have gone missing. Because of humanoid vampire-bats.
In a nearby underground laboratory that defies OSHA regulations, two Umbrella-funded scientists are remote-controlling the man-bats and attempting to mutate more of them. I know you can't actually see this comic, so let me assure you that their lair is the most stereotypical supervillain lair ever constructed.
Back in town, Sheriff Carey issues a curfew to keep people from going out at the times when the bat-men are attacking. He refuses to let them go out hunting the people creating the bats, but tells them they can defend themselves.
Later that day, his son "Little" Wayne is attacked by bats and bitten. By morning, he becomes a zombie. The scientists begin rushing to get more subjects to complete their flock. Meanwhile, Leon arrives to handle the situation. He looks more like himself in this comic than he has at any other point in the series.
Leon tries to fight the bats off, but they eventually overwhelm him and abscond to their lair. He regains consciousness, and hacks his way free with a machete and catches himself on a ledge. Leon then witnesses the mad scientists putting their plan into action. Leon then transforms into MacGyver (No seriously, come Page 16 he starts looking like a combination of Richard Dean Anderson, Jean Claude Van Damme and Neuclear Man) and starts rigging up a method of damaging the control-machine before calling for backup. Come Page 19, Leon starts looking like Tetsuo from Akira and begins acting like Kaneda. Leon's backup arrives as his sabotage kicks into action and firebomb the mountain base. The helicopter takes him out to his next destination, and the story ends.
Towards the start of the comic, the art looks good. Towards the end though, it delves into super-derp territory, especially around Leon's face. The fact that this was a quarterly comic should mean that they would have had the time to fix this shit.
The next story is called Special Delivery, written by Marc Mostman and drawn by Ryan Odagawa.
I'll be honest, this story is a waste of time. It's all about the guys in the helicopter who dropped Mr. X and a bunch of other Umbrella experiments off in Raccoon City before one of the monsters they're transporting busts out and kills them, moaning about "No loose ends."
The Resident Evil Files between this story and the next are of the zombies (No seriously) and Jill Valentine. If you needed to know what a zombie is at this point, then I envy you for having stayed away from the glut of zombie media for the last several decades.
Jill is listed as being 5'5" despite being drawn as only being an inch or three shorter than Chris is in the comic. She's also listed as weighing 111lbs, despite being drawn as having massive bulging muscles throughout this series. This is apparently taken from actual official Capcom stats. Now call me crazy, but I look at Jill and some of the crazy things she's done and can do, and I don't bet on her weighing less than 160lbs. She's a Delta Force operative after all, and she carries around a of heavy ordnance. If she was only 111lbs, she should have been knocked over by some of the weapons she's used. Once more, we're not told any more than we were already told in character bios from the first comic, or that we've learned from the games themselves. They mention a few of Jill's character details, but they forget to mention that she picks locks.
The final story is the one we came here for, the completion of the last story of the last comic.
Zombies Abroad is drawn by Norman Felchle (I won't even begin to try and pronounce that name) and written by Ted Adams.
Chris rushes to the cockpit to tack control of the plane. He comments "Of course, my S.T.A.R.S. training never required me to fly something as big as this!" Yeah, neither did your Air Force training, but it's still a god-damn plane! Take the controls and get this thing flying right! Or at least make sure the auto-pilot is working right.
Chris lands the plane and talks to his contact, Falcon about the leak. Falcon tells them he's on it, and instructs the three of them to investigate Europe's monuments to try and find Umbrella's headquarters.
Excuse me, no. No! There are too many monuments in Europe for this to be a reasonable course of action! They don't have enough information to go off of! This is like The Consuming Shadow with the lead cast of Resident Evil! Besides, I wasn't aware that the Umbrella Corporation's headquarters had to be secret, they're supposed to be a legitimate business. They should have just gone to the actual headquarters and broken in to see what's going on. They're likely to have themselves a large underground complex connected to it.
Anyways, after going to The Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, Madame Tusseaud's, The Eiffel Tower, The Lourve, The De Gooyer Windmill, (Which I've never heard of) Oktoberfest, (Which I wasn't aware was a monument) and finally rounding it out in Queck Castle. Chris mentions that this is the last monument in Europe. To which I say, no! You missed Stonehenge, The London Eye, Big Ben, 10 Downing Street, New Scotland Yard, New London Bridge, The Palace of Westminster, Buckingham Palace, Vatican City, The Catacombs, The Palace of Versailles, and I could go on! There's plenty more. Granted, they didn't have the space to show them checking everything I listed out, but this was such an insane premise from the start that it shouldn't have been in the comic. Just make the whole comic about espionage and leave the zombie-killing for later, my god!
The three of them split up (Like they would ever split up again after the mansion incident) to try and cover more ground. They solve some puzzles, and for some reason Jill isn't the one to solve the music puzzle despite the fact that she's the one who solved the piano puzzle in the first game. They are all then set upon by monsters.
This story is alright, but the art has gotten further and further away from actually looking like the characters. Chris has basically become Arnold Schwarzenegger from Commando, Jill's beret is left behind entirely in favor of arm-wrappings that make her look like female CM Punk and nail-polish and fake nails, and Barry has completed his transformation into Billy Blazes.
Chris is supposed look more like mid-eighties, early nineties Val Kilmer. Jill looks more like Ada than Ada did in Issue #2. Plus the illogic of an ex-Delta Force operative having manicured nails like that. She's a member of the bomb-squad for gods sake, those will only get in the way! While Barry could be a bit more on-model, he always looked plenty like Billy Blazes as he was, so it's not entirely that much of a big leap. Although god only knows what would happen if this crew was given the rights to make a Rescue Heroes comic. Billy would wind up looking like Wesker, Wendy would look like Jill and Jack would inexplicably look like Chris.
As for the rest of the art, there are shading lines all over the place. Hell, the art is all over the place. While Chris looks like Arnold most of the time, occasionally he morphs into Dolph Lundgren or Jean Claude Van Damme. Barry sometimes turns into a redheaded oversized leprechaun, and Jill goes between looking like a Revolutionary War soldier, The Wicked Witch, and Scarlet O'Hara. But above all, where in the hell is Jill's beret? She and all the other S.T.A.R.S. members in this story have their standard gear (Fortunately without the S.T.A.R.S. logo on the shoulder, unlike in the first issue) so why doesn't she have her beret? You know what, a better question would be why isn't her hair tied up properly? I'm a martial-artist, and I play paintball. My hair is about as long as hers is and I've got to tie up every loose end or it gets into my face and obscures my vision. It gets into my eyes, it screws up my aim, and it keeps me from performing at full capacity. I could go on, but I've made my point.
All in all, this is yet another comic that wasted the vast majority of its pages on stories that didn't really matter while leaving the actually plot-important story a minority of the pages of the comic. The artwork generally sucks from page to page. Occasionally there are some decent panels or decent pages, but nothing is all that great. It's a shame that weekly Japanese comics have more consistent, more precise artwork than a comic that took three months between issues. Three months between issues. Let this sink in. Kazuki Takahashi, Akira Toriyama, Eiichiro Oda, Takeshi Obata, all of them managed to put out weekly comics for years on end without a lapse in the quality of the artwork. These guys can't put out one comic every three months without screwing up from page to page.
All in all, it's alright. If these stories were arranged chronologically it wouldn't be nearly as infuriating to read. All I ask is that they put the comic together decently. That's it. Unfortunately, it's not. Not even close.
In the end, I give it a 3.4*. Next week, we wrap the feature up with the novel Resident Evil #2: Caliban Cove!

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Sunday, October 16, 2016

Resident Evil #3 (Wildstorm)

Resident Evil
We return to the Wildstorm Resident Evil comics once more this week with Resident Evil #3. Which doesn't actually have an adaptation of Resident Evil 3 contained within.
Instead, we get a prequel to the original Resident Evil, a filler chapter about an outbreak on an island, and a story about the S.T.A.R.S. team's journey to Europe. There's also an interview with Shinji Mikami, the fan-art and letters page, and character bios.
Before we dig into the rest of the comic, let's take our customary look at the cover. According to the Resident Evil wiki, the cover for this comic was drawn by Jim Lee. After the improvement of the last cover (Still can't find out who drew it), we're back to strangeness.
The cover depicts Claire wielding her handgun and a gigantic Uzi-looking thing with a huge suppressor on the barrel standing in front of a scratched-up wall with blood on it.. Okay, that's basically to be expected at this point. Pan down to the bottom and we see that Claire's legs look alright. Moving up her torso however, brings us to yet another elongated rib-cage and upper torso as we move beyond her abdomen. Soon as we get to her face, we see that she looks more like Lara Croft than Claire Redfield. We also see that her back and chest have ballooned out to bodybuilder proportions, which isn't accurate in the slightest. Her right arm is wonky, almost Popeye-esque in nature. It's also severely elongated, especially in comparison to her left arm. Her left arm is somewhat shorter than it probably should be, but in comparison to the right it's just tiny.
Claire's ponytail is depicted as going all the way down past her shoulder-blades, when in the game it came down to the base of her neck.
Going back to the upper torso, if we extrapolate from the massive back and huge chest (I'm not even talking about her breasts, those are pretty close to being alright) we can estimate that Claire's shoulders go out beyond her hips, which isn't how she was modeled in the game. They were basically on the same plane. Plus, while she definitely had some pectoral muscles in the game, they weren't jutting out like they do here.
Finally, her tights don't come down low enough on her legs, her shirt doesn't come down low enough on her arms, and her shorts and vest are red instead of pink. This is just what I could notice off the top of my head when thinking back to Resident Evil 2. It looks fine, and I wouldn't normally bring up these last points, but Jim Lee got so many basic things wrong with this cover that I feel the need to nitpick.
The editors note mentions that this first story, "Wolf Hunt" takes place before Resident Evil. Not Resident Evil #1Resident Evil 1. As in the game. This could be a typo, but who knows?
This story is written by Ted Adams and drawn by Ryan Odagawa. It starts off with three college-students, Michelle, Mike and Raquel, giving us exposition about how one of their classmates was murdered and the papers didn't report on it. Michelle gets attacked on her way from the library by some monster and killed. The next day, Barry and Jill are assigned to the case. Apparently the rest of Alpha and Bravo are on assignment, so Jill goes in undercover. Barry is Jill's backup, and is tasked with watching her back at all times. Come later that day, Jill runs into Mike and Raquel talking about Michelle's death. She asks what's up and gives her cover-story about transferring from another college. They tell her to go back and follow the curfew.
Naturally, since Jill is trying to bait the killer into revealing themselves, she disobeys these instructions and stays out late. She loses radio-contact with Barry and is set upon by the monster. She pulls out a Smith and Wesson (She's supposed to have a Beretta, but whatever) and puts three shots in its chest. Funnily enough, her gun appears to be drawn the way a gun should look. It's in the right scale and it's detailed properly. However, the gun appears to have been modeled on Claire's Browning HP from Resident Evil 2 as opposed to the modified Beretta 92F Samurai Edge she's supposed to wield.
Barry finally catches up to the two of them, and they find that the werewolf Jill just killed has transformed into a human. Since she didn't get a good look at him she doesn't know that he was a werewolf. The case presumably solved, they wrap things, and the story, up.
Throughout the story, the art has been alright up until these last two pages. Jill's gun basically just looks weird on the second-to-last page (I don't know what kind of gun the artist drew her as using so I can't confirm whether it's drawn improperly or not) and on the last page itself, save for the top and top-right panels, all of the art is derp. On the bottom-left panel Jill looks like a wraith with how distended her limbs are, and Barry's head looks squashed. Plus, his entire body looks like derp as soon as you move away from the torso and legs. His arms are just tacked-on, and his hands are the worst part. I'm not even sure how to describe how weird they look. It's like someone took one of those highly-poseable action-figure and twisted the arms all around until they looked like this. Barry's left forearm is twisted about, but his hand is basically in the right place. His right arm is drawn horribly, but it's the least of that sides problems. His right hand has been drawn upside-down. His index-finger is tiny and his pinky is enormous. Then there's the second to last panel, in which Jill looks more like Rebecca than herself.
In-between this story and the next, we see an ad for the S.D. Perry Resident Evil novels and an interview with Shinji Mikami. In the interview, Mikami discusses some of the Easter-eggs in Resident Evil 2 and the differences between the American and Japanese versions. One somewhat laughable question from Wildstorm is "How were the incredibly lifelike CG scenes filmed?" Look, I get that they're cool and all, but they're not realistic.
The next story is "Danger Island," written by Kris Oprisko and drawn by Lee Bermejo.
A couple vacationing in the East Caribbean goes snorkeling, while an Umbrella plane crashes into a nearby mountain. They emerge from the water to find that the guy they rented the gear from has been zombified, along with a bunch of leopards. An eel feasts on a body and somehow turns into a Tyrant within seconds. They flee into the jungle to get away from the monsters. There's a little reference to the games thrown in by way of a blue herb used to clean out the guys wounds. The problem is the blue herb is supposed to be an antidote to poison, not as an antiseptic. They are then set upon by a gigantic Venus Fly-Trap. The guy tells the girl to run away, while he fights the thing with his diving knife. They try to climb the cliff, but are set upon by the eel-monster, which kills the plant. Fortunately, the guy dislodges a fairly large rock with his foot, which beans the monster on the head.
They try to make their way to a satellite relay-station, but are set upon by a group of monsters. The man, Stan, manages to kill the eel monster after it scared off all the others that came after them. His girlfriend calls for help, but unfortunately for them, they don't get the United States Army, the US Navy, the US Coast Guard or S.T.A.R.S., they get William Birkin and the Umbrella Biohazard Countermeasure Service, who put two in their heads and then torch the whole island. That wasn't entirely pointless at all. No siree. Although it really wouldn't have been pointless if these stories were published in chronological order.
We see more Q&A with Mikami and the readers art-gallery before we move on to the third story, "Dead Air: Part 1" written by Ten Adams and drawn by Carlos D'Anda.
The team discusses their next course of action before deciding to head off to London to find out if Umbrella is up to anything else. Apparently they're being funded by some kind of top-secret international agency for some reason. I don't know what. This is an original concept introduced by Ted Adams. The Europe angle was never really explored in the games.
The first thing to note is that the art is super weird on this page. Barry looks alright, except for his eyes. Jill looks like Scarlet O'Hara, and Chris looks like a humanized version of Scourge The Hedgehog. (Ironic considering his longest-serving VA went on to play Sonic The Hedgehog) As they're boarding the plane, a guy from Umbrella is seen reporting to his overlords about how his team infected the drinking-water and champagne with modified T-Virus to make the plane crash. You know, because a bomb or sabotage would be effective. Because trying to infect a plane with a highly-contagious virus to kill three people (It should really be four since Rebecca should be with them) who might I remind you have already survived an outbreak and your ultimate weapons! Then there's the idiocy of trying to crash a plane with an ace pilot on-board! Need I remind you that Chris Redfield was thrown out of the United States Air Force over a nigh-impossible rescue-mission that he pulled off on his own! The man could have flown the S.T.A.R.S. chopper himself if he had to, and you're putting him inside an airplane instead of staging a home-invasion and filling him with copper?
Now, granted a fighter-jet, a helicopter and a jumbo-jet are very different, but he's a smart guy and he's made his name in S.T.A.R.S. on his ability to adapt to the situation as necessary. Plus, this is still a horrible idea! You don't call upon a horde of uncontrollable monsters to solve your problem when three bullets could do the trick!
As soon as the zombies start attacking, the S.T.A.R.S. team begins handling the situation. Jill begins herding the civilians to the back of the plane to keep them safe, and kills one of the zombies with a food-tray. Barry then creates a flamethrower from hairspray and a lighter to torch some zombies. Because this was pre-9/11 and you could still bring a lighter and hairspray onto a plane. Chris puts out the fire that spread to the seats with a fire-extinguisher and then bashes another zombies head in with it. Jill then smashes the last zombie with some CQC. Unfortunately, that zombie was the pilot.
The artwork in this story was horrible. Not only does Chris look nothing like he's supposed to, he's repeatedly drawn like a brontosaurus crossed with Paulie from The Sopranos. Jill doesn't look anything like either her actress, her in-game model or her previous appearances in the comic. But! She at least looks like a human-being.
Finally, there's Barry Burton. He looks like he's supposed to, apart from the overly-tiny eyes in some shots.
The unfortunate thing about the writing in this story is mildly off. Just off enough that it's less than perfect. Especially when it comes to the dialogue. Jill is spouting off one-liners like she's James Bond, and Barry is unnaturally quiet. He's supposed to be Mr. One-liner dangit!
After the story, we get character bios on Chris and Claire Redfield, with little portraits alongside them. Chris was drawn by Olivier Coipel, and Claire by Chris Brunner. Both of them look horrible. They look like someone took one of those chibi figures Japan loves so much and mashed them up with regularly proportioned drawings.
First off, this portrait shows horrible trigger-discipline. Second, Chris's face looks nothing like his in-game model, or his actor, and very little like his appearance in the comic previously.
As far as the bio goes, we're told very little, if anything that we didn't already find out in Issue #1
Likewise, Claire's bio tells us nothing we didn't already find out from Issue #2. In fact, only the bottom paragraph tells us anything about her. If we didn't know who she was already, this would offer absolutely no information.
All in all, this wasn't a bad issue, but it really shouldn't have been the third issue. Stick the first story in Issue #1 and the last story in Issue #2 ahead of the RE2 adaptation. Or just publish all of these stories as their own issues (Sans the stories in Issue #1, that should have been cleaned up and made into a single cohesive one-shot to gauge interest) in chronological order.
In the end, I give it a 4.2*. I'll see you next week with  Issue #4. Then after that, I'll wrap the month up with the second of the S.D. Perry novels, Caliban Cove.
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Sunday, October 9, 2016

Resident Evil #2 (Wildstorm)

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the third annual 31 Days of Evil! We're coming right off of another series of event reviews and going straight into another!
For those of you just joining me, every October I dig into my favorite horror franchise, Resident Evil! From the games, to the comics, to the novels, and eventually to the movies, I hope to one day cover it all!
We're kicking off this years special with the second issue of Wildstorm's Resident Evil comic series!
Yet again, I'm borrowing a bit of my format from Linkara of Atop The Fourth Wall by starting this review out with a quick look at the cover.
Compared to the first cover, this one is actually pretty good. The characters actually have the proper anatomy. Claire and Leon's torsos aren't extruded all over the page, and their legs aren't posed awkwardly for the most part. Claire's right leg is a bit wonky, but other than that she's fine. Leon's hair is drawn somewhat sloppily, but the biggest issue on the page is his body. While Claire's body is close to her model from the game, Leon's body looks like Brock Lesnar's. His biceps are huge, his back looks like a gorillas, and then we get to his legs. Those look fine strangely enough. That makes the rest of his body look even worse.  Then we get to the faces. Once more, Claire looks enough like her in-game model to get a pass, but Leon looks more like someone pasted Chris's face onto Leon's skull.
One other thing that I noticed is the gun in Claire's hand is horribly drawn. First off, it's too big. Look at it, the proportions are all wonky even if you don't know what the gun is supposed to look like. Second while the front of the gun is drawn like it's in the middle of being fired (And judging by Claire's other hand, has recently run out of ammo) but the back end of the slide isn't extended beyond the top of the grip like it should be. Also, the front of the Browning Hi-Power (Which is the gun Claire uses in Resident Evil 2, which this comic is partially based on) doesn't actually look like that when the slide is locked back. The barrel is supposed to extend over empty space, not the lower half of the gun. If you want a look at the way the gun is supposed to work, check out this video I found.
Speaking of guns, Leon's shotgun is slightly off from the in-game model, having been given a brown pump despite the in-game version being entirely silver. If they were going for the Custom Shotgun instead of the stock Remington M1100-p, the barrel should be much longer, there shouldn't be a pumping mechanism and there should be a stock, although it's not like we would be able to see that, Leon's body is blocking where it would be.
The cover boasts a roughcut metal version of the Resident Evil 2 logo, which I think looks mighty fine. Then we move on down the page and see that, once again, the comic has been divided into three stories instead of just adapting Resident Evil 2 as a single issue. It also boasts "Artists' zombie sketches!" and "Internet story cover!" which sounds utterly irrelevant and like this comic has been translated into English by an idiot respectively.
Turning to the inside, we once more find a letter to the readers, detailing the contents of the comic. We've got an adaptation of Resident Evil 2, a side-story (read; filler) and an interquel set between Resident Evil and Resident Evil 2. Seems like that should really be before the Resident Evil 2 story.
The first story, "A New Chapter of Evil" opens cold right in the middle of the opening cutscene of Resident Evil 2. Leon and Claire start out in the police-car they found in the beginning of the game before the truck-driver from the beginning (You really have to have played the game to understand what's going on here) crashes into it and and they're divided by a wall of fire.
Leon goes to the police-station where he finds it has been over-run by zombies. One remaining officer explains the plot of the last Resident Evil game and all subsequent events to Leon before telling him to shoot him in the head before he turns into a zombie.
Meanwhile, Claire makes her way to the police station and runs into Mr. X along the way. She unloads a grenade-launcher into him before meeting up with Leon in the S.T.A.R.S. office. Leon informs her that her brother and the S.T.A.R.S. team have left to Europe, and gives her one of a pair of radios he found. Claire leaves, and Leon goes downstairs to free someone he found in the holding cells. On his way there, he runs into Ada Wong. They talk the the reporter, Ben, in the cell. Ada tries to find out where her boyfriend, John Fay is, and Leon tries to convince him to leave with them, but neither get anything out of him. Then Ben is attacked by a monster in his cell, and tells the two of them everything he knows before dying.
Claire runs into Chief Irons and tries to convince him to leave with her, somehow not noticing the girl clad in white and blood laying on the mans desk. Attempting to leave, Claire runs into Sherry Birkin. Chief Irons then pulls a gun on them and promptly gets eaten by a monster.
Ten minutes earlier, Leon and Ada ran into Annette Birkin, and Leon was shot. Ada tucked him away behind cover and went to kill Annette. Claire bandages him up, and goes to find Ada. An indeterminate amount of time later, Ada emerges from around the corner and a giant gator bursts through the wall. Leon shoots the gas canister on the wall and kills it. On their way to the escape-train, Ada is attacked by a mutated William Birkin (Who we have not seen once in the comic so far) and Leon blasts the man with his shotgun. He then hauls the wounded Ada to safety, but they're set upon by Annette once more. The self-destruct sequence of the hidden Umbrella laboratory (Not that you'd know that if you hadn't played the game) and some pipes bash her over the head. Ada tries to take the G-virus sample, but gets shot by Annette. Leon tries to save her, but she slips from his grasp and falls. Leon and Claire reunite, and leave in the escape-train just as the lab self-destructs.
On the plot-front, this story has been abridged beyond coherence. If you haven't played the game it's based on, you won't have a single clue what's going on. Plot-points show up out of nowhere and vanish straight back into nowhere. That's what you get out of smashing a twenty-hour game into a twenty-page story, when you have to adapt an hour of gameplay for every page of the comic.
Then we come to the artwork. Starting at the first page, the architecture of the buildings and the details of the vehicles, etc are beautifully drawn, but the human characters look horrible. Leon is routinely drawn like he's a brontosaurus (IE, his neck is too long) and Claire is always a mess of tangled limbs and poorly-defined combat-gear. The weapons are almost universally too big compared to real-life and the game, and Carlos D'Anda seems to rely on close-up shots and obscuring shadows to avoid drawing too much detail on minor characters and wide shots. Speaking of, wide-shots of most characters look fine, but the closer they get to the "camera" the weirder they look. Leon's face looks squashed most of the time, but Ada generally looks fine. The reporter, Ben looks like a squashed version of Jaeris The Gunslinger and Claire usually looks more like Mila Jovovich than her in-game model. Then there's the picture of her in the lower right panel on page eleven. Her head is alright, and some of her upper torso looks fine but moving down the picture we see that she's been afflicted by the same issues as Jill from the cover of Issue #1. Her torso is elongated, her vest and shorts are red instead of pink, she's got two belts instead of one for some reason, her hips are at an odd angle owing to the elongated torso, (If they just came straight out from the first belt it would look fine) her gun is huge, and her right arm isn't attached to her body. Or at least it doesn't look like it is. I don't know, her right sleeve looks like it could be the shadow from the ax on the wall and her skin is the exact same color as the wall behind her. It could just be my copy, but it really looks like part of her arm is missing here.
Going back to character art, for some strange reason Annette actually looks the way she's supposed to.
Overall, this story was below-average, the art kind of sucks and if you've played the games there's nothing new for you here.
The next story is "Mutant Menagerie," and it's written by Kris Oprisko and drawn by Lee Bermejo.
Our story begins with two security guards at the Raccoon City Zoo chatting as one of them clocks out. Some thing crawls over the wall as one of them tells the other to check out the electrical grid. On the next page, we see the murder of William Birkin by Umbrella's security forces. Despite having been riddled with hundreds of bullets, he manages to inject himself with the G-Virus and turns into a Tyrant. Back in the present at the zoo, Birkin bites, eats and kills many an animal, not to mention wholesale slaughters the attendants. One of them, a man named Brady manages to escape the wrath of Birkin and his zombie army long enough to lock himself in a building with a radio. He finds Leon attempting to contact Claire on the radio. Brady explains what's going on, and Leon tells him that he needs to try and kill the animals before the G-Virus spreads to the city. Brady remembers that if the system overloads he can possibly blow the zoo up and take the infected animals with it. He loads himself up like he's John freakin' Rambo and shotsguns, cattle-prods and blasts his way to the utility shed. He overloads the grid and blows up the zoo, taking most of the animals with it. Several hours later, he regains consciousness and makes his way back to the headquarters building, where he contacts Leon and Claire, who have since escaped the city. Brady makes camp in what's left of the building as sleep claims him. Right before he's attacked by... Something.
In terms of plot, there's not much to this. Patrick Brady wasn't in Resident Evil 2, and he wasn't mentioned in the previous story once. The only plot-critical information is what Birkin did to turn himself into a Tyrant, and that should have been in the previous story.
In terms of artwork, it's certainly a step up from the previous story. There's nothing quite as egregious as any of the examples I mentioned before, although Brady's face looks a bit like Hank Hill's in the first few pages. Later on, he morphs into some sort of cross between Leon S. Kennedy and Patrick Swayze. In fact, William Birkin even looks quite a bit like Leon. I guess they were making up for Leon not looking like himself in the last story by making everyone look like him in this one.
I'd just like to take this opportunity to mention that Birkin only makes appearances in his second form in this story. I don't know when this is set, but the comic makes it seem like it's right after he got infected, which should mean he'd be in his first form. If there was any kind of telling how long it had been since he transformed, then I wouldn't be questioning this, but there's not so I am.
Our third and final story is "Lock Down" with the same writing and art team as the last one.
This story is set exactly a week after the mansion incident in the previous issue. Once more, I wonder why this wasn't the story that started out the comic. Barry hasn't been handling the zombies situation very well, as is demonstrated by the fact that he sees them everywhere as he walks to his psychiatrist, Dr. Lengle. At the doctors office, an alarm goes off and zombies attack. Dr. Lengle's throat gets torn out by a zombie, so Barry pulls out his gun and blasts the monster. He finds a security-access card on Lengle's body, and finds that zombies have overrun the building. Barry makes his way to the basement to seal the zombies in the building. There, he finds a disemboweled man who tells him to gather pieces of a bomb so he can blow up the building and kill the zombies. He kills the man to keep him from turning into a zombie and takes the instructions for the bomb. Barry then finds himself face-to-face with a Tyrant.... Somehow. Barry chops its arm off with a fire-ax and tosses chemicals in its face as he escapes with one of the parts. In the mail-room, Barry finds one of the parts and a shotgun in the same locker. He finds the last part guarded by giant bugs. After getting it, he puts it together, rides up to the penthouse, torches it with the flamethrower he somehow has, sets off the bomb, and dives into a conveniently-placed pool.
All in all, this story was basically filler. It's not bad, but not great and not particularly interesting.
The artwork is pretty good. Barry looks like he's supposed to throughout, and the weapons are actually in-scale as they're supposed to be, despite the fact that Barry is carrying a semi-automatic instead of his signature Colt Python. One major issue in the comic however is the fact that it's basically a Die Hard ripoff with some incredibly lame action-movie clichés thrown in for good measure. I also have no clue where Barry got his flamethrower. If they could keep this kind of steady quality throughout the comic, that would have been great. In fact, if they'd just stuck with adapting Resident Evil 2 and left out the other filler stories, dedicating the remaining pages of the book to adapting the story of the game.
Considering this series was released once every three months, and they got at most one issues worth of relevant content out of it, maybe they could have made it a monthly series, spread the adaptation of the first two games out a bit and brought in some connecting details between the stories. Dedicate several issues to the aftermath, clean up the overall pace, and I think they could have done incredibly well.
All in all, this issue was okay at its best, disappointing at its worst. I give it a 3.2*

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Friday, September 30, 2016

Yu-Gi-Oh! Volumes 31-38

This is it. The final story arc. The World of Memory, AKA Millennium World. Our journey as readers, as critics, as fans, and for some of us, as duelists ourselves is coming to a close. As the readers journey ends, so does that of the characters. These are the final seven volumes of the manga. Today is the day the Pharaoh regains his memories.
Yu-Gi-Oh!
The volume starts off with the story of how Solomon Moto got ahold of The Millennium Puzzle. In three-thousand years, the tombs of the Valley of the Kings have been pillaged for every treasure within. Save for one.  One of a pharaoh whom nobody knows the name of. Solomon's guides rushes in and trips a button which activates the traps in the opening maze. Solomon figures out that the statues don't attack you if you walk with your left foot forward. Despite this advice, one of them gets skewered, and the other one pulls out a gun and shoots Solomon in the shoulder. This causes the second challenge to dump the other guy down into a pit.  The Pharaoh's soul helps Solomon to safety, and he gets the Millennium Puzzle from the tomb.
In the present day, Yugi can't get any sleep after Battle City, and spends some time looking at the God Cards. Solomon notices that he's up, and Yugi lets slip a mention of his other self. Solomon reveals that he basically knew this from the beginning, since he met the Pharaoh once in the tomb. The fate of the one chosen to hold the pharaoh's soul is to be tested endlessly.
Yugi has a conversation with the Pharaoh about the doubts he's got about getting his memories back, but they both come to terms with what might happen. Then a thief breaks into Yugi's room and steals the god-cards. Yugi chases after him, but Yami Bakura stops the bandit in his tracks, and gives them back to Yugi. Yugi is naturally perplexed by this, but he accepts them. Yami Bakura then gives him Pegasus's Millennium Eye as a peace-offering. When it comes down to the very end, Yami Bakura will give Yugi the Millennium Ring, and help him solve the puzzle of memories.
He explains that when all seven items are placed in the Tablet of Memories the door to the afterlife. Yugi knows that he's supposed to escort the Pharaoh's soul to the afterlife, and Yami Bakura offhandedly mentions that if he opens the door he can get rid of Yami Bakura for good. Yugi takes the Eye and the next day meets the gang at school before going to the museum afterwards. There they meet Bobasa, one of the guardians of the Millennium Items. Before the go to the slab to see if it has any reaction to the God Cards, Téa buys a metal cartouche pendant for the Pharaoh, telling him to carve his real name into it once he remembers it.
Yami shows the cards to the slab, and the Millennium Puzzle glows before he disappears, leaving Yugi behind on the floor. Bobasa suspects that the Pharaoh's soul is traveling the maze of his own memories, searching for the truth, attempting to remember his fate.
Yami wakes up within the Pharaoh's palace, alongside many who appear similar to those he knew in his life as Yami Yugi, and some he never met at all. His vizier, Siamun Moran looks like Grandpa Solomon, Shada as Shadi, Seto as Kaiba, Akhenadan as Kaiba's father, Isis as Ishizu with a touch of Téa, Mahado as... Well he basically just looks like The Dark Magician and Bakura, lord of thieves. You can guess who he's similar to.
Back in the museum, Bobasa uses The Millennium key to lead the gang into the room of the Pharaoh's mind, all except for Bakura, whose soul weighs heavy on the Millennium Scales. Yami Bakura goes off to sulk and plan something new while the others go into Yami's mind to figure out where he's at.
Within his memories, Yami finds his court presiding over the trial of a graverobber who tried to steal treasure from the tomb of his father. Shada finds a dark spirit within the mans soul, and Akhenaden uses his eye to look inside to see the true form of the monster. Seto then seals the dark monster into a stone slab to be taken away to the repository with all the other monsters. The man is then sentenced to seven years of hard labor, and Seto asks Mahado why he's not been able to detect all of the evildoers who have been showing up lately. Mahado explains that the Millennium Ring has been screwing him around with its detection powers. There are too many people with monsters, good and evil alike for the ring to keep track of all of them. Even the Millennium Necklace can't keep track of all the possible futures. Speaking of which, Isis picks up a guy with powerful magic approaching the palace on her future-sight and that future comes true when Bakura, king of thieves shows up with the treasures looted from the tomb of Yami's father. Including the mummified pharaoh himself. Bakura demands that the High Priests and the Pharaoh hand over the Millennium Items, but naturally they refuse. Kalim tries to measure the mans evil, but it makes the scales go haywire. Isis sees a dark future ahead, and Akhenam sees nothing but hatred and darkness within Bakura's soul. Shada tries to bring out the spirit attached to the mans soul, but the sealing slab cannot contain it. Seto tries to seal it up anyways, but the monster breaks free. Seto summons a monster to the palace to fend it off, but Diabound phases through the floor and destroys the summoning tablet. While the priests do battle with Bakura, Yami boldly steps out onto the battlefield and shoves the bandit out of his way to reclaim the body of his father.
Yu-Gi-Oh!
Seto grapples Diabound with Battle Ox long enough for Mahado's Magus of Illusion to cast Spellbinding Circle and keep the beast from leaving.
Yami hands his fathers body to Siamun and summons Obelisk The Tormentor to tank Diabound's attack and save the priests. He uses Obelisk to blast Diabound, and Bakura barely escapes with his life. Meanwhile, Yugi and the gang look around through Yami's soul-room trying to find the door that leads them to where they need to be. Bobasa tells Yugi that his task is to find the true name of the Pharaoh, which is the key Yami Bakura needs to figure out how to unseal the power of the dark god Zorc Necrophades.
Back inside the World of Memories, Akhenamkhanen is being re-buried, and Seto and Akhenadan discuss strategies to find where Bakura is. If the Pharaoh hadn't intervened, they would all have been killed, so Seto and Akhenadan decide to round up as many criminals as they can and torture them until their hatred matches that of the pure hatred Bakura seems to have. Then again, I doubt that they can match the level of hatred brought on by the murder of all of their friends, family, acquaintances, and just general people in their vicinity. Seto hopes to create a monster to surpass the trio of gods.
After the break-in, Yami stations a load of troops near his fathers tomb to prevent another incursion from Bakura. Yami and his priests begin training to become stronger duelists and better strategists. Seto manages to overwhelm his opponents with a show of strength from sacrificing his team-mates allies. The Pharaoh decides to teach him a lesson about how to win without exposing weaknesses. Seto summons Duos, but Yami pulls out none other than Kuriboh. Seto tries to destroy the slab straight off, but the shattered stones spawn thousands of the little creatures. They surround Duos and detonate, winning Yami the duel.
Siamun and Mahado inform the Pharaoh that there are more traps added to his fathers tomb. Mahado leads a crew hauling a slab to the tomb, but notices his apprentice Mana hiding in a pot near the walkway. He tasks Siamun with watching her while he's guarding the tomb during reconstruction. Bakura takes the bait, and Yami's men seal the tomb behind him so Mahado can take the thief on and try to kill him outright.
Mahado unleashes the full power of his Magus of Illusion against Bakura's evolved Diabound. Diabound almost obliterates him, but he tanks the hit, and casts one last spell, fusing his own spirit with the Magus of Illusion. Creating the one, the only Dark Magician. He almost wipes Bakura and Diabound away with a Black Magic attack, but the evil within the bandit is too strong, and the thief steals the Millennium Ring for himself.
Meanwhile, Yugi and the gang manage to find their way into the memories beyond the doors. They try to make their way to the palace, but are repelled because Yami is very protective of his home and doesn't even know they're there. They then witness Seto and Shada hunting through the city, stationing troops and looking for criminals. They also find a maiden of blue eyes and pale skin being mobbed upon by a gang of ruffians. Seto notices this and steps in to save her. Shada doesn't even attempt to look inside her soul, but the Millennium Key finds a white dragon with power like no other within.
Yu-Gi-Oh!
Nefarious ideas cross Seto's mind, but rather than placing the girl in prison he sticks her in the palace where she can rest.
When Seto and Shada get done canvassing the city, the priests reunite at the palace to report their finding. They're unable to confirm if Bakura died, nor can they figure out where the Millennium Ring is.
Bakura slips through the guards and gets to an inn, hands over a gold bracelet and demands to be fed. A group of opportunistic thugs notice the gold ring hanging from Bakura's neck and seek to steal it from him. Naturally he just kills them.
Seto and Akhenadan begin their mad-science experiments on the prisoners, while Bakura sneaks his way back into the Pharaoh's territory. He uses the power of the ring to hide himself in plain sight on his way to the Shrine of Wedju to steal the Millenium Eye from Akhenadan. Bakura summons Diabound (Who looks more like a mutated Obelisk as time goes on), and crucifies Akhenadan on a stone slab. He then infuses a piece of his evil within the Millennium Eye and flees. Bakura steals a horse and blasts his way out of the palace to cover his tracks. The Pharaoh mounts up and rides out himself, summoning up Slifer to back himself up. The gang camped outside the palace sees Yami pursuing Bakura on horseback and follow. Yami tries to blast Diabound away with Slifer's lightening strike, but the unholy fiend phases through the ground and bursts up beside him. Unphased, the Pharaoh directs Slifer to blast it again, the force of the attack coursing through Bakura and his monster alike.
Bakura adopts a new strategy, using Diabound to destroy buildings and kill citizens to distract Slifer from attacking him. The Pharaoh uses Slifer as a shield to keep his subjects safe from the blasts. He takes a chance, and manages to be fast enough to sling Slifer around and blast Diabound before wrappings its tail around the monster and taking the battle further into the air. Diabound manages to slip out of the way of his next attack, and hits Slifer with a devastating blow, leaving the Sky Dragon charred and barely able to fly. The Pharaoh pretends to hand over his Millennium Puzzle so he can distract Bakura long enough for Slifer to attack him, but Diabound phases out from the rock around him and attempts to attack. Fortunately, the priests show up and Seto chops one of Diabound's arms off with Duos. Diabound retreats into the sky, but the Pharaoh uses Slifer as bait to lure its attack out, and Seto attacks the source of the Spiral Wave. Unfortunately, he finds another monster in its place. The Pharaoh doesn't have much power left after tanking that attack, but Yugi and the gang finally catch up to him, and Yugi uses his own power to summon Ra, the Sun Dragon. Light pierces the darkness and Diabound is revealed. Bakura tries to make it attack with its stolen Thunder Force attack, but Seto deflects it with a strike from Duos's sword. Ra blazes in flame, and burns Diabound to ash, killing Bakura. Naturally, this pisses off the Spirit of the Millennium Ring to no end, because this wasn't what was supposed to happen, especially for events to proceed as he intended, so he runs time back to undo the last several minutes of events.
Yu-Gi-Oh!
The gang tries to get back to The Pharaoh, but Yami Bakura stands in their way and challenges them to a duel. Joey decides to take the lead, and their duel begins.
Practically dead and on the verge of passing out, The Pharaoh runs down Bakura on his horse in a last-ditch attempt to finish things off, but Bakura smashes the stone bridge upon which he stands, and steals the Millennium Puzzle from his neck, leaving The Pharaoh to fall into a pit.
Flash-back to fifteen years prior to this ordeal. A foreign incursion has beaten the Egyptian army and Pharaoh Akhenamkhanen is informed that they have seven days before the forces reach the palace and take over the country. They know all but for sure that their enemy wishes to take a book of untold power from their hands. The Millennium Tome. The power within can rival that of the gods themselves, and whoever gets their hands on it can basically do what they wish. After one-hundred years, the translation has finally been finished. The shadow alchemy within details the creation of seven treasures to harness mysterious powers. It'll take seven days to complete the construction, so Akhenamkhanen entrusts his brother Akhenaden with the task. Akhenaden leaves his son Seto behind as he and the court magicians set off for the village of Kul Elna, a village made of nothing but criminals. It takes human sacrifices to create the treasures, ninety-nine human lives to create the seven Millennium Items. A little boy named Bakura witnesses the slaughter of all ninety-nine people, and is naturally scared out of his wits and scarred for life by this.
The court magicians forge the items, and Akhenaden makes a wish upon his new Millennium Eye, that his son Seto could become Pharaoh someday.
With the enemy closing in, the court magicians, led by the Pharaoh himself summon seven incredible monsters to fend off the encroaching army. And succeed.
Back in the first flashback, Seto goes to check out his mad-science experiments in the torture-chambers beneath the palace. Within is a battle royale, ten men enter, one man leaves. The will to live fuels the power of the monster attached to their soul, and the two men in the battlefield now have been fighting for thirty-four hours. Akhenaden orders that the girl who possesses the spirit of the Blue-Eyes White Dragon (Whose name is Kisara) be placed in the field against Seto's wishes to test the limits of her power. The two prisoners attack her, but she doesn't summon up her dragon, so Seto intervenes and kills one of them. Unfortunately, his attack cuts the chains on the arena, and he's left at the mercy of the dude who controls a giant spider. The spider tries to eat the two of them, but the White Dragon emerges from the unconscious Kisara, annihilating the monster spider with a single blast, punching through both it and the ceiling above straight into the clouds. Seto hauls himself and the girl back up to the ledge, and his fathers main mad scientist speculates that the dragon inside Kisara's soul actually is her soul. Akhenaden and his minion try to convince Seto to sacrifice the girl so he can wield the power of the dragon against Diabound.
The Pharaoh wakes up inside a cave with a dude in a metal mask looming over him. The mysterious figure tells him that a great battle is approaching before disappearing. Eventually, Isis's spirit monster finds him, and he reunites with his court.
Seto spends some time wondering what the hell is wrong with his father. You see, his father is normally a kind man, showing mercy to even the most ruthless of criminals. Now, he's saying that he should sacrifice an innocent woman to further his own goals. Seto contemplates further, and then decides to have Kisara moved to a different room without telling his father.
Since Bakura kept going on about Kul Elna, about what the Pharaoh did to him and his village (Akhenaden didn't tell his brother what they did to make the Items, and didn't tell his nephew either) The Pharaoh leads the priests to the ruins. The ghosts there and the Millennium Ring tip Bakura off to their arrival, and he begins to prepare.
Cut back to the gang, who's wonder what the hell happened to them, where Yami Bakura went, and why it's now morning. Bobasa figures this means The Pharaoh must have been unconscious for all of this. The ghosts of the village kill and possess soldiers and priests alike. As the spirits attempt to kill The Pharaoh, Mahado's spirit vacates its tablet of its own free will and banishes the ghosts from this plane. Bakura throws still more at him, but each and every one is vanquished. Frustrated, the bandit summons his own spirit, Diabound. The monster fires a bolt of magic at Mahado, but he redirects the blast into a pillar, causing it to fall towards the Tablet of Memories. Diabound catches it with its tail, but that's enough to slow it down. Mahado then blasts the creature in the face with his magic.
Once more, I have to complain about the cover. What the hell is up with The Dark Magician's color-scheme? It looks like the colorist based it more on Arkana's Dark Magician than Yugi's. Then again, he didn't have teal skin so I don't know what's going on here. At this point the Dark Magician's color-scheme was well established within the second animated series, so why wasn't it revised to actually fit the way it's supposed to look? Hell, it doesn't even look like the one color illustration I could find that doesn't use this color-scheme on the covers. The color-scheme of the Dark Magician has changed so much over the years that it's downright strange. The original design was a lighter blue with white highlights, natural skintones and a purple staff. Then there's the well-known version with the purple robes, real skin and green staff. Then there's the version within the book itself, which is black-and-white, certainly, but also has darker tanned skin as opposed to the pale teal of the cover.
Yu-Gi-Oh!
Bakura summons another creature and Diabound vanishes into the stone. Shada summons the two-headed Jackal Warrior to find Diabound and succeeds. Mahado attempts to attack, but Diabound is already on the attack. Shada tackles the Pharaoh to the ground, and tanks the attack with his Jackal Warrior.
The Pharaoh orders Mahado the blast holes into the ceiling, allowing sunlight into the room and revealing Diabound's location. Mahado blasts him with a thousand magic hits, almost winning, but Bakura calls on the spirits of the dead and powers up himself and his monster. Diabound flings Mahado across the room into a pillar. Shada tries to summon another monster, but Bakura's skeletal turtle blasts, and knocks him silly. The bandit takes the key from his body and sends a final blast at Mahado, but Mana flies into the fray to rescue her master. The rest of the priests arrive to back up The Pharaoh, and they gank Diabound, to no avail. Kalim uses his Millennium Scales to fuse Seto's Duos and his own Cursed Dragon to form the Drake Knight, and Mana recharges Mahado's magic with her own since she can't fight on her own just yet. Mahado uses this energy to double the power of the Drake Knight, but Diabound fires off two beams to counter the one from the Knight. Seto uses the Drake's sword to block the blast, and Kalim blasts through the ghost shield with another attack. Unfortunately, Bakura hits him with a blast from the turtle and stuns him long enough for the ghosts to bring him the Millennium Scales. Still, Mahado flies through the hole in the shield and hits Diabound with a concentrated burst of Black Magic. Bakura tries to put the Millennium Items he's gathered into the tablet, but he dies before he can do so. Akhenaden, possessed by the piece of Bakura's soul sealed within his Millennium Eye stops time, allowing him to gather the remaining Millennium Items. The only ones who can still move are Akhenaden, Yami Bakura, Joey, Bobasa, Tristan, Téa, and Yugi.
Back in the city, Yugi and the gang notice that time has stopped, about how the people look like... The figurines from Bakura's game back in Volume 7. Yugi looks straight up in the world and sees none other than his own Millennium Puzzle suspended in the sky. This is when the whole thing is revealed as none other than one massive Shadow Game, the ultimate Shadow RPG.
When Yami brandished the three God Cards in front of the slab, he found himself transported to a secret room within the museum. After all, Ryo Bakura's father owns the place, he knows it like the back of his own hand. The diorama the game is played within was made by Bakura himself, originally used as part of an old display, but created in anticipation of this final encounter. Bakura has stuck the unconcious bodies of Yugi, Joey, Téa and Tristan's unconscious bodies into sarcophagus's across the room.
Back within the game, Akhenaden places all seven items within the Tablet of Memories, and opens up the gate to free Zorc Necrophades. Akhenaden makes a deal with Zorc and becomes his high-priest.
Bobasa begins to glow, and transforms into Hasan, the spirit of the Tablet of Memories. Since Zorc has been freed once again, he decides now is definitely the time to lead the gang to the location of The Pharaoh's name. They fly to The Valley of the Kings (Because this is part dream part Shadow Game, there are rules that have to be enforced, but anything that isn't specified goes.) and check out his tomb.
Meanwhile, Bakura tries to use Zorc to blow away The Pharaoh and his priests. Yami tries to counter via roleplaying, but Zorc forces Akhenaden to finish the attack. Hasan intercepts the attack, and runs the clock out on the time-freeze.
Within the tomb, Yugi and the gang find all the traps frozen in time, and a Duel Monsters card from Yami Bakura's deck on the ground.
Yu-Gi-Oh!
Zorc tries to kill The Pharaoh and his priests once again, but Mahado redirects the attack since time is flowing properly again.
The gang manage to escape the traps, and encounters Yami Bakura. Yugi duels with him so they can pass. Yugi tries out a new deck he's been working on, and through a combination of misdirection, brute force and perseverance manages to overwhelm the Spirit of the Millennium Ring. Yugi and the gang rush to the end of the tomb and find The Pharaoh's true name written in hieroglyphs. They can't read them, so the memorize them and leave as quickly as they can.
Angered by this, Bakura activates the last of Zorc's special powers, a natural disaster.
The Priests face-off with Zorc. Mahado's attack hits Zorc straight on, but Zorc kills Shada. Akhenaden and Seto square off, but the father bests the son, and Akhenaden summons an army of the dead to protect Zorc. Siamun retrieves the Millennium Key, and summons up Exodia to face off with the dark god.
Meanwhile, Akhenaden transports Seto back to the palace, and Seto rushes in to rescue Kisara. Disappointed in his son, Akhenaden hits Kisara with a bolt of magic.
Siamun uses Exodia to obliterate the entirety of Zorc's undead minions. He then attacks Zorc directly, but the dark god cuts The Forbidden One in half, killing Siamun in the process. Zorc blasts everyone else, almost to the point of death, but Yugi and the gang arrive just in time. Yugi summons his Dark Magician, who takes the form of Mahado and Joey summons his Red-Eyes Black Dragon. They both hit Zorc straight on, but their attacks don't phase him. Zorc fires off a blast that destroys the Red-Eyes and threatens to kill every last one of them, but Hasan tanks the blast himself, and his mask peels away to reveal that he's actually Shadi.
Unable to think of anything else to do, the gang decide to take the memory of The Pharaoh's name and try to burn it onto the cartouche pendent that was brought into this world alongside everything else from the modern world. Seeing the glyphs upon the cartouche, The Pharaoh remembers his true name. Atem.
Atem then summons Ra, Slifer and Obelisk to bear against the brunt of Zorc's attack. He then unites them into the creator god of light, Horakhty.
Yu-Gi-Oh!
Horakhty annihilates Zorc with one blow. The gang leave the game, but the memories keep playing out. Despite having rescued Kisara, Seto's father killed her with one shot of evil magic. He places her body in front of a slab so he may preserve her soul. Akhenaden commits suicide, and does something to possess his son to attack Atem as he walks back from the scene of the battle. Possibly Bakura did something to the Millennium Rod with his power, or maybe Zorc sealed a bit of his soul withing the rod himself.
Anyways, the possessed Seto challenges Atem to a duel for the title of Pharaoh. Within Seto's mind, he struggles with the spirit of Zorc for control of his body, and Atem's words manage to keep Seto from attacking. The carving of the dragon vanishes from the slb, and Kisara's spirit appears within Seto's mind to banish the last vestiges of Zorc to the afterlife.
As Atem's memories end here, he asks that Seto take over the mantle of Pharaoh. He hands Seto the Millennium Puzzle as he fades away back to the present-day.
Back in the real-world, Bakura is unconcious, and Joey takes the Millennium Ring from the now-destroyed diorama.
A month later in modern-day Egypt, Yugi and the gang meet up with Marik and his family, who have pulled some strings for them so they can get into Atem's tomb in the Valley of the Kings. On the ship to the tomb, Marik informs them of the Rite of the Duel, something mentioned on the wall inside Atem's tomb. In order for Atem to travel to the afterlife, Yugi has to beat him in a duel. So, the two of them build their decks in preparation for their final duel. Nobody really wants to see this happen, but it's Yugi's duty to do so.
It basically goes like this. Yugi and Atem have to square off. Yugi wins, Atem gets to go to the afterlife and Yugi completes the journey he's been on since the beginning of the series. If Atem wins, he stays around.
They place the Millennium Items within the Tablet of Memories, and Yugi's shadow splits into two before Yugi himself splits into two.
Atem puts up a valiant fight, summoning Slifer and Obelisk, but he's unable to counter Yugi's strategy, and Yugi wins the duel. The door opens, and Atem marches to the afterlife. After he crosses the threshold, and the Tablet of Memories shatters, and the Millennium Items fall into the void.
The afterword says how this isn't a story of a great pharaoh, and to some extent I believe it. This has been a story about characters more than anything. The development of the main cast over the course of this series has been incredible. In fact, I'd argue that Yugi's development over the course of the series is one of the greatest character arcs in fiction. It's a long, slow development over the course of almost forty volumes, and it works out to a ridiculous extent in the end. Yugi went from timid, shrinking and shy to a confident duelist. The line between Atem and Yugi, which has been blurry at the best of times over the course of this amazing series becomes almost non-existent by the end. To the extent that I would say that Atem never really left, that there was never really any divide in the first place. The entire ending duel is symbolic of Yugi's coming of age, of him finally crossing the threshold into true self-confidence. I wouldn't go into psychotic break territory, but let's break this down from a character perspective. Seto Kaiba was basically the same as his ancient counterpart even without his Millennium Rod. Ryo Bakura was at-heart a good person with an evil spirit within him, while Atem never did anything that Yugi didn't want to. Atem basically did what Yugi didn't have the courage to do. He punished those who needed it, he took revenge on those who wronged the innocent. He did what a pharaoh does. He took command, he formed his court, and he waged war on his enemies.
Over the course of this series, the flair that defines the blurry line between Atem and Yugi became less and less confined to the Pharaoh. Aside from his hair, Yugi has a rather sedate, relaxed, raggedy appearance at the beginning of the series. At the end, he's got the same slick classy flair to him that Atem did when he took over. His suit is pressed, his hair is straight and jacket has that little cape-like flare-out towards the bottom. All he's missing are the ankhs on the wrists, two of the blonde spikes and the eye of Horus on his forehead. He was a world-class champion gamer before he finished the Millennium Puzzle, and all on his own, all he needed was the courage to use it in the big-leagues. Plus, since Atem and Yugi share a body and memories, Yugi has all of the memories Atem regained when he finished the Shadow RPG. I think I've made it perfectly clear that I don't think Atem ever left, I think he and Yugi became one entity. Not necessarily with the same crazy powers as before, but considering Kaiba was able to create real monsters and drive people insane without once touching a Millennium Item, the ancient powers aren't exactly necessary anymore.
One criticism I have for this arc, or rather the translation of it is the gratuitous use of Egyptian words in place of the English ones that have sufficed so far. It makes the translation seem a bit more roughshod than it should. Speaking of translation, every now and again there's a word missing, or the numerous times Maximilian J. Pegasus is referred to as Pegasus J. Crawford for some reason. How does this work? Why is the localization editor not able to keep this stuff straight? This is the eighth edition reprint for gods sake, they had a good nine+ years and eight+ opportunities to fix this. These should have been fixed at any of those opportunities. I have to say, if they bring the bunkoban edition to the states and they have all the same errors I will be very disappoint.
Then there's the cover. I'm not entirely certain where the art on this cover came from, but it's similar to that of the Tankoban covers from Japan. A painted art-style that clashes entirely with the style of the comic. Not to say that it's entirely bad (God knows I'm no fan of Alex Ross) but it would fit more as a standalone painting than as the cover to this final volume.
All in all, having read through this series for a third time while writing these reviews, it holds up incredibly well. The artwork is perfect from panel to panel. The writing is incredible, and aside from a couple of rough chapters towards the beginning of the series, it flows incredibly well. The placement of mini-arcs within the TPB's can be a bit questionable, especially in the Duelist Kingdom and Battle City arcs, but that's almost entirely rectified come the World of Memory arc. Cliffhangers are placed perfectly, almost ridiculously so.
Overall, all in all, I had so much fun reading this series. It made me laugh, cheer, and cry. Sometimes within the same volume. Sometimes even within the same chapter. I was afraid upon my second and even my third re-readings that I would notice something that would make the whole series fall apart, something that would make me hate it, but I just loved it more. After reading some horrible Marvel and DC comics in the last decade, it's nice to have a comic that not only holds up over time, but could take on anything from either one of them right now (Even DC, and DC has been great lately) and win. Not just win, but dominate. Compare the art in these thirty-eight volumes to anything Marvel has put out lately. They lose hands down. There's more texture, more depth, more personality, more expression, more character and more tone to it than almost every comics I've read from the Big Two (DC mainly in New52 era) in the last ten years. And this series is entirely devoid of color!

In the end, I give Yu-Gi-Oh! 10.1*. Happy birthday to one of my favorite series of all time, and to one of the greatest. This has been a hell of a month for me, both online and off. I know I'm about an hour and a half too late for this to actually be within the month of September, but it's still September 30th in some places in the world and I've never been one to give up in the long-run.
Next year we'll be delving much further into the franchise, and actually looking further into the history of the series. Hopefully I'll have less stuff on my plate next year and will be able to get all of the content for the second History of Yu-Gi-Oh! written and scheduled before September. If you want to try and ensure that will happen that way, please donate to my Patreon. I'd like to make this my full-time job if I can, and it would mean that I could get more work done with less stress.