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Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Steins;Gate 0 (Nathan Green)

 Out of all the titles I was excited for this year, Steins;Gate 0 was pretty high up on the list. I remember watching the anime of Steins;Gate and adoring it so much that I went and played the game soon after. Steins;Gate 0 isn’t exactly a sequel or prequel to the first game, rather it expands upon the events that took place so that the true ending of the first title was even possible to begin with. It’s an interesting concept, which made me excited for what I was going to see it pull off. With that being said this review WILL CONTAIN SPOILERS FOR THE FIRST GAME. I’ll try to keep Steins;Gate 0 spoilers to a minimum but the final part of this review will be potentially spoilerific due to the subject matter so if you haven’t played Steins;Gate 0 yet then stop reading when you reach the spoiler warning. Anyways, without further ado, let's time leap!

Graphics and Sound:
Now I usually do this section later but since Steins;Gate 0 is a visual novel, the majority of this review is going to be focusing on the story so I’m saving that till last.
The first Steins;Gate was game that looked great and sounded great. The art was unique, the soundtrack varied and memorable, and the voice acting spot on. Steins;Gate 0 unsurprisingly continues this with some excellent art (albeit in a different style to that of the first game), an excellent soundtrack, and great voice acting.

Art-wise the actual art-style has seen a significant change with characters looking closer to how they looked in the anime than then first game. Old art does show up from time to time though, and it can get a bit daunting seeing it mixed in with the new art. It’s not a huge issue, but it is awkward at times. (Editors note; Think back to the Morrigan sprite that Capcom kept re-using in all of the SNK vs Capcom games if you need a point of reference.)
The soundtrack contains a mix of happy go lucky tunes, more intense nerve racking tracks and some really beautiful tracks which usually accompany the more important moments in the game. My favorite track would probably have to be Hoshi No Kanaduru Uta. More specifically, the rendition of it which accompanies the end credits for one route. The vocals on that version really make it that bit better, especially since they were sung by the Voice-Actor for the character of Kagari. The soundtrack does a good job of both setting the tone of the scene and adding to the overall memorability of scenes. It does exactly what a good soundtrack in a visual novel should do, and it does it well.
For voice acting, the entire cast of the original Steins;Gate retain their original voice actors, and they all sound as good as ever. Line deliveries are enthusiastic and really do make the characters feel more alive. The new characters also sound good with some solid performances all around, my favorite being from Maho Hiyajo, whose VA perfectly reflects her character in her acting. Dr. Leskinen's voice actor is a bit goofy with his broken English thrown everywhere, but overall his performance is pretty darn good as well.

Being a visual novel, Steins;Gate 0 doesn’t really try to sell itself on gameplay. Overall it’s a pretty standard visual novel affair although it is less linear than the first game. All the visual novel basics are present along with the ability to both lock your save file to prevent yourself accidentally saving over it (a very welcome addition) and automatic quick saves which allow you to pick up at important events in the game if you aren’t liking the results of your decision. It’s a small but very welcome change and is something I wish more VNs had. Also present is the tips system which provides you with information on special objects, items etc that are mentioned in the game. A vast majority of these tips are quite useful and helped clear up some confusion I had surrounding some things but some are a bit on the silly side, so your mileage may vary. You’re also able to advance text and menus using the Vita's touchscreen, although you can disable this if you’d prefer otherwise.
The only slightly irritating thing about the game is that the only way to access the dialog archive in case you miss something is to pause the game and select it. A vast majority of visual novels have a button that allows you to quickly access the archive without needing to pause the game so this comes off as a bit clunky. It doesn’t help that the menus lag, and aside from the main menu, you aren’t given any visual or audio feedback upon selecting an item, which can be awkward. I also found myself having to reboot my Vita on one occasion, because Livearea had slowed to a crawl after leaving the game open for so long. Again, your millage may vary.

With Steins;Gate 0 being a visual novel, the story is the most important aspect, and for the most part Steins;Gate 0 does a good job at crafting a solid plot with a believable set of characters. However it isn’t perfect. I’ll touch on why later on. For now though lets look at the characters.

The entire cast of the original Steins;Gate makes a return with the obvious exception of Kurisu who is well… dead. We also see a variety of newcomers in the form of Maho Hiyajo and Dr Leskinen from an American University that Kurisu used to attend. Fubuki, Yuki and Kadee, who are close friends of Maiyurii, and finally Armadeus, an AI who takes on the form of Kurisu for most of the game. Out of all these new characters, I’d have to say my personal favorite would have to be Maho, one of Kurisu’s closest friends before she passed away. The story does a great job of portraying her as a likable well rounded character, and portrays her inner struggle and love hate relationship with Kurisu very well.
Story-wise, Steins;Gate 0 in and of itself takes place before the true ending of the original Steins;Gate, so if you have not played Steins;Gate, then play that before even thinking about touching Steins;Gate 0.
In essence, Steins;Gate's true ending involves our main character, Okabe receiving a video from himself twelve years in the future giving him the keys to discover the world line knows as steins gate, a world line where neither his childhood friend Maiyurii, or his lover Kurisu has to die. Now that’s all fine and dandy, but how the heck did that video even get sent in the first place? This is the basic premise behind Steins;Gate 0. It works on filling in the gaps present in the true ending of Steins;Gate and bring a bit more closure to everything. On top of that. Steins;Gate 0 goes more into depth around the concepts of AI, time travel and time manipulation, and the consequences of such technologies, which is something I absolutely love. The portrayal of these topics is very well done, and most importantly, thought provoking. There’s a lot more of them as well. While Steins;Gate 0 does have its fair share of slice of life bits, it is far darker in tone than the original Steins;Gate. This really works in its favor, with the story exploring more possibilities that really wouldn’t have been possible in the original game. There’s a constant feeling of danger as the group realizes the size of what they have gotten themselves into, and it makes for an incredibly gripping read. It isn’t as dark as say, Zero Escape but it doesn’t need to be. The story is also paced really well, which really helps a ton.
All this stands true for the vast majority of the game, and compared to the original the story had definitely improved on the problems the original had with pacing and tone. HOWEVER, Steins;Gate 0 isn’t perfect. While the vast majority of the story is excellent the remaining minority kinda crashes and burns. Let me explain, but first here’s your obligatory spoiler warning.
I’m going to be blunt, Steins;Gate 0's story feels a bit unfinished. I came away from the game feeling like I had missed something or that a chunk of the game was missing. Now I’m not talking about the obvious cliff hanger due to how Steins;Gate 0 carries directly into the true end of Steins;Gate. The problem is that the true ending to Steins;Gate 0 is so incredibly disconnected from the events of the other endings that it in fact drags the rest of the game down with it a bit. Up until then the other 5 endings had been pretty incredible and had dropped little mysteries and tid bits here and there that stuck with me and kept me hyped up for the true ending where I’d learn what was going on. Then I actually played the true ending. My hype turned to confusion which then turned to disbelief which then turned to disappointment.
The true ending, rather than serving as an epic conclusion to my twenty-hour journey, was more the closest thing the game could do to blowing its own foot off with a rocket launcher. It commits one of the cardinal sins of storytelling by NOT SOLVING ALL THE MYSTERIES IT SPENT TIME CREATING. Not only that but the extent that it does this to is enough to drag the rest of the game down with it. All those mysteries you had learned in the other endings? All that stuff that happened when Armadeus got deleted in Maho's ending? The mystery surrounding the song in Kagari's ending? Kagari's lost memories? I hope you weren’t expecting answers to any of those mysteries because the game NEVER EXPLAINS THEM. Yes, those technically happened in separate world lines, so from a story perspective it at least has an explanation as to why it doesn’t get explained. However that doesn’t make it any less frustrating.
It ALSO doesn’t excuse the true ending from not answering questions about mysteries and events that happened in its OWN DAMN WORLD LINE. Who was that guy who attacked Maho, Okabe and the Professor in the carpark? What was all that garbage text Armadeus Kurisu left to Maho as a message on @channel? Why was Yuki given plastic surgery and brain washed with Kagari's memories? Where even WAS Kagari in this world line? All these seemingly important events and mysteries that happen in the true ending's world line? NEVER. EXPLAINED. What the hell happened?!? Why put in mysteries to advance the plot and then never give the player closure on the damn things? It isn’t like the player is left enough hints to figure it out themselves so they’re just left scratching their head and wondering where the rest of the game went.
The true ending to Steins;Gate 0 is simply a train wreck. That isn’t to say it isn’t enjoyable, on the contrary, I still enjoyed reading through the true ending. However the unfinished feeling it leaves the player with upon finishing it along with how it unsuccessfully ties up a surprisingly large number of mysteries CAN and most likely WILL get on your nerves. It isn’t enough to ruin the whole game and make me feel like I wasted my money but it is enough to weigh on my mind for a few days while the game is still fresh in my mind.

Steins;Gate 0 is an interesting one. If it weren’t for all the loose plot threads and the train wreck of a final ending I’d have no trouble recommending it to anyone who had played the original Steins;Gate. However, it isn’t perfect and the flaws that it does have are in areas which are very likely to effect your potential millage. If there was ever a game fitting of a Your Millage May Vary badge it’s this one. The vast majority of the game is absolutely excellent, with a great story exploring the potential consequences of AI, time travel and a third world war coupled with excellent character development and great pacing but the overall penultimate ending to everything kinda causes the story to run itself smack into a solid steel wall because it wasn’t looking where it was going.
Granted the fact that the true ending ended the way it did was due to Steins;Gate 0’s placement on the overall timeline but I still feel that even taking that into account they could have done better than what we got. It isn’t a deal breaker but it does mean the satisfaction you get from finishing the game is a bit dampened.
Despite the shoddy true ending, Steins;Gate 0 is still well worth playing if you are a die hard fan of the original Steins;Gate. I have no doubt in my mind that you’ll love it if you loved the original. If you’re on the fence about Steins;Gate 0, then you really need to consider one thing, “Do I really care that much if the game ends with mysteries left unsolved?”. If the answer to that question is "No" then by all means go and play Steins;Gate 0, you’ll be in for a treat. However if unsolved mysteries are more of a big deal to you then I’d probably either wait for a price drop or give it a miss. For the most part though the experience Steins;Gate 0 gives you is well worth the price of admission.
For Steins;Gate fans, Steins;Gate 0 gets a Highly Recommended.
For those on the fence about it Steins;Gate 0 gets a Recommended, but wait for a sale first.
For those of you who haven’t played/seen Steins;Gate, Steins;Gate 0 gets a PLAY THE ORIGINAL FIRST YOU GOOF.
Seriously, if you haven’t played the original Steins;Gate yet and are interested in Steins;Gate 0 then PLAY THE FIRST GAME OR WATCH THE ANIME ADAPTION FIRST. I can’t force you, but you’ll be doing yourself a disservice if you do otherwise.
Wow, the last review of 2016 from me (although by the time this goes up it will probably be 2017 already but I wrote this on December 31st so meh). At the time of writing I would have had my Vita for exactly one year now and what a year it has been. I can’t wait to see what is in store for the Vita in 2017 but I’m hoping to potentially get a review of Danganronpa V3, Mary Skelter and a few other games on the cards if everything goes well. In the meantime I’ll probably get to work on writing up a review for Danganronpa Another Episode Ultra Despair Girls since that’s the only Danganronpa game I have yet to cover so far. Either way I hope you have a safe and wonderful New Year and happy holidays.
This is BDVR writer Nathan Green signing off

PEGI: 16
OFLC: M (Unrestricted)

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Steins;Gate 0 was played and reviewed on PlayStation Vita (also on PlayStation 4) using a digital copy of the game purchased by the reviewer.
Steins;Gate 0 is developed by 5pb, and Nitroplus, and is published by PQube Games. All rights reserved to their respective owners.
This review is my own work. You are not allowed to duplicate, reproduce or republish on any other sites under any circumstances commercial or otherwise.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Top 5 Worst Movies of 2015

This is approximately a year late, but this at least means I've had the time to think my choices over, eh? Sorry that this has taken so long, I've been trying to find time between all my other writing and plenty of other things I've been working on over the course of the year, but generally speaking I've just been some combination of busy or tired over the course of the year and never got around to it. With record-breaking lateness, here are my top five worst movies of 2015.

Dishonorable mentions: Super Hero Taisen: Kamen Rider 3. This movie had a damn interesting premise and would have worked well as a mini-series centered more around the characters from the last Kamen Rider movie rather than introducing a whole new cast of supporting characters from previous Rider series rather than working with the Riders we know work well with Shinnosuke. Instead, we got a movie that goes by way too quickly as previous Kamen Riders fight as part of an incredibly weak premise that sounded strong at the get-go. The sequel mini-series, Kamen Rider 4 was far more interesting, yet it still had its own issues as well. If they took the two premises and combined them, then lengthened the whole thing to about twelve episodes worth of content it would have probably worked out fairly well. As it is, we got a rather interesting movie and sequel series, both of which rushed to a rather anti-climactic conclusion.
Another honorable mention would be Kung Fury. This short-film could have been something great, but it squandered its potential in the ending and the last half of the first act. Generally speaking, it's a damn fun movie, but it could do with a bit better pacing. It's not bad enough to work its way onto the worst list but not good enough to make it onto the best.
Finally, we have The Avengers: Age of Ultron. While not a bad movie by any means, it deserves a mention due to how badly they squandered most of the concepts they had. The fight-scenes were cool, and I didn't even dislike the rather strange social-interactions the team had, but it wasn't paced particularly well, it was way too short, and worst of all it squandered all of the development between Cap and Widow in The Winter Soldier and all of the development between Bruce and Betty in The Incredible Hulk. Whedon also seemed like he was sleepwalking through the direction in this film, because all of the funny writing is still here, but the comedic timing is all off from his previous works. I especially noticed this when I re-watched Firefly right afterwards. Now let's dig right into the actual list!

#5: Selma
I'll be honest, Selma wouldn't be here if it wasn't for the fact that it flies in the face of actual history that actual people who are still alive remember. I soured on this film over time even more than I was when I originally saw it. A movie about the civil-rights movement is a bad idea anyways, because it's a concept more fit for a miniseries than it is for a single two-hour movie. Also, don't make a movie about a great orator if you don't have the rights to their speeches. That'd be like making a movie about a musician without the rights to their songs. Not to mention the rather bizarre soundtrack choice with the references that make no sense. The cast is good, the pacing sucks and this film is just generally over-rated. There are worse movies, worse movies that were released in 2015 no less, but the history buff in me demanded that I put it somewhere on this list.

#4: Fant4stic
I saw this on Blu-ray before the official home-media release, and let me just say that this film was a fairly massive trainwreck for a number of reasons I went over in my review. Quick rundown; Complete and utter ignorance of modern science. Ignorance of how the world would react to the events of this movie. Ignorance of the procedures required for space-travel. General ignorance of basic things. You get my drift. This movie had potential, but between Fox's meddling and the fact that Josh Trank was trying to make Chronicle 2 originally, the final product was a boring, uninteresting mess.

#3: Smosh: The Movie
You know you're scraping the bottom of the barrel when you rip off Fred: The Movie. You know the mighty have fallen when the movie they make isn't as entertaining as watching 90 minutes of their videos would be. Smosh, I hope ya'll took a step back after this and tried to do better. You guys used to be funny, you could even be considered some of the funniest people on the web, but you guys fell hard within the course of a few years. Don't feel like saying much else about this movie, I've talked about it at length in my review. Suffice to say that it's a piece of crap not worth spending your time on.

#2: The Ridiculous 6
For everything one might have hoped this film would be from the opening sequence, it certainly didn't live up to any of it. It's an Adam Sandler movie, as one would expect. Amazing to see that they somehow managed to make it all the way through production without anyone raising a hand and saying "This is stupid, get out of here Adam and let a good writer handle this." They never once flagged that Taylor Lautner would have been a better lead than Sandler, they never once figured it'd be a good idea to cut the cast down to him, Luke Wilson and Terry Crews. Netflix, I hope you learned your lesson, because Adam Sandler certainly won't.

#1: Jupiter Ascending
If there was a bigger, more derivative piece of crap in 2015, I don't know about it. The Wachowski's failed harder than they ever did before when they made this movie. I don't think there was a single other movie in 2015 that made me quite as angry as this film. To put it bluntly, this film rips off everything under the sun and does it all badly. If you can think of anything, Jupiter Ascending ripped it off. From Twlight to Power Rangers, from Cinderella to The Matrix, from Pacific Rim to Soylent Green. This thing steals it all and does it horribly. The best part of this film is Sean Bean and Channing Tatum, but that's not saying much. If you want to know more about this horrible movie, just read my review. I've said plenty about this film already, and I can't list off everything that was wrong with it again.

That's it for now, I'll see you later with the "Best" list from 2015.
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Monday, January 2, 2017

Power Rangers Dino Charge Retrospective: Part 3

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome back to this deconstruction of the demoralizing dreck that comprises the contents of this juvenile junk. Power Rangers Dino Charge, everyone!
We continue this journey with "The Royal Rangers." Titled such, because Tyler and Shelby decide to impersonate the royalty of Zandar. This is where it would come in handy if they had contact with the government, or other teams of Rangers affiliated with the government. You don't need to come up with these stupid schemes when you have official support.
Or, and here's a radical idea, maybe they could... Talk to the actual Prince of Zandar and explain what's going on? It's not like he wouldn't have reason to believe them, considering there have been twenty different Power Rangers teams. Plus, they could just show him what's happening and he'd probably help them out. Especially considering Phillip's actions later in the series. What with him being the only competent team-member and the only one who's actually involved in this whole ordeal by choice.
Anyways, once Prince Phillip gets wind of this, he shuts the whole situation down. Like it would have flown in the first place, since royalty are typically celebrities, and people should know what they look like. Even being from an obscure country like Zandar, people have the internet. Not only will the public not buy it, the government of Zandar would find out quickly, and shut them down. Plus, since the villains appear to have access to the internet and to the news, they should be able to figure out that this is nothing but low-quality bait in record time. Except they don't. Because they're idiots.
The Rangers lure Fury out of hiding, but Tyler fails to kill him for fear that the figure he sees fighting to free himself from Fury is his father.
In the next episode, "Break Out," everything I predicted would happen, happens. Prince Phillip III of Zandar shows up to put a stop to their stupid antics. He gets attacked after reclaiming his kingdom's property from the nutjobs at the Museum, and the Rangers rescue him. Phillip realizes that Fury is the monster from Zandarian legend that the knight, Sir Ivan defended Prince Colin against. Lo and behold, guess who the gold energy was? Sir Ivan of Zandar, the holder of the Gold Energem. He uses his Energem to don his Ranger suit (With no explanation as to why he knows how to do that) Ivan defeats Sledge's ground forces, and then uses the Energem to free the Pterazord from Fury's control and uses it to defeat Sledge's enlarged monsters.
After the situation is wrapped up, Ivan offers the Gold Energem to Prince Phillip, as the Prince he was assigned to protect had requested he retrieve it. Phillip, being the only sane man in this whole situation, tells Ivan to keep it to fend off the aliens who are trying to tear the earth apart in search of a collection of incredibly powerful gems that could destroy the planet if misused.
The next episode is titled "Knight After Knights," and it's entirely centered around a villain by the name of Bones somehow removing the Ranger's backbones (Metaphorically) so they won't have the courage to fight. This causes Ivan to abandon them as a lost cause, and go out to recruit a posse of competent heroes to fight off Sledge. Except instead of getting a team of Rangers, he assembles a team of civilians. Not soldiers, not a Lightspeed Rescue style team of skilled professionals, random plebs. A magician, (A fake one, not the real kind like you'd expect to see in a universe with an evil witch and an entire team whose powers are based on freaking magic) a tuba player, a referee, an old woman on a scooter, and a crossing guard.
The most important person in this whole situation is the crossing guard, played by Bruce Phillips. For those of you who don't know, Bruce Phillips played Andrews, Summer's butler from Power Rangers RPM. Andrews was a great character who was important to Summer's character arc. He was well-written and a great addition to the series. Bruce Phillips did a damn good job as Andrews. Just a shame they couldn't have used him better in this series. You wanna know what happens when Ivan takes his new crew out to handle the monsters?
They flee in terror.
Now, to some extent that makes sense. They're just random people, after all, but as this series has proven, random people can prove to be the best of heroes. Andrews was a bonda-fide hero. In some other universe, he might have been a Ranger himself. I know this whole episode was about the Rangers finding courage in the face of abject terror, but this team just sucks! Back in the Disney era, or even the classic Saban era, it would have been focused on a single Ranger's issues, and resolved them without crapping all over side-characters. Unless they were Bulk and Skull.
Anyways, Shelby shows up to help Ivan, and after a motivational speech from Keeper, the rest of the team shows up as well. They get their courage back, kill Bones, and Ivan gets a burger with fries at the cafe.
In case you were wondering, this was a filler episode that did nothing but waste the audience's time.
We finally reach one of the episodes I referenced in the beginning of this series, "Sync or Swim." In this episode, in addition to the events I mentioned prior, Ivan and Tyler begin a rivalry to last all of one episode.
Compare this to Tommy and Jason's rivalry, or Theo and Casey's. The rivalry starts when the characters are introduced and lasts long enough for it to actually have an arc. To actually show the characters changing. Because who needs character development? Who needs good pacing? Who needs to have multi-part episodes where things actually happen? No, everything has to be smashed down to less episodes than they need to actually execute everything properly so we can fit in all this filler.
Long story short, they get over themselves, they lob the bomb that Sledge tried to use to destroy the museum and kill them at his ship, it barely does anything, and we never once see the Rangers go into space, with their clearly space-worthy Megazord to try and put an end to all of this. Because it's not like that would actually help. Not like they could prevent a lot of property damage and loss of life. Not like there was an incredibly popular and iconic episode dedicated to Rangers going into space and kicking ass. Not like there were two whole teams dedicated to exploring space and handling things in space! NOT LIKE THERE WAS A TEAM LITERALLY CALLED "POWER RANGERS IN SPACE." Either Lost Galaxy or In Space would have rocketed up to Sledge's ship as soon as they found out about it and wiped him from existence. Then again, there are a few other things that previous teams of Rangers would have done if Saban hadn't utterly forgotten about them. For all his talk about segregating Ranger teams to their own universes, Johnathan Tzachor did a better job acknowledging past teams than Judd Lynn has, who might I remind you, worked on In Space!
Aside from the fact that Rangers can clearly handle being in space, aside from the fact that there are other teams that probably should have handled the situation a good twenty-some years ago, or even the fact that Earth has the capability without relying on Rangers to take out Sledge, the Dino Charge Rangers had spacefaring capability before they got ahold of the Zord that was actually modeled on the freaking Space Shuttle! This means they could have ended most of the threat posed by Sledge and his crew literally as soon as they got ahold of the god-damn Pteracharge Megazord! As in about an episode ago! But hey, that's just my experience as a tactician talking, just my years of studying military strategy and military battles to their finest points to find out what went wrong where, and who did it worst. Hell, I don't even need to have studied all of that to know that they made a bad move by not bringing the battle right to Sledge when they got the chance, the simple fact that they could and didn't is a glaring narrative error.
Now, before anyone starts in about the ground-rules Zordon laid down, I would just like to point out that not only do they never once mention any of Zordon's teachings about reducing collateral damage and having a decent amount of restraint to your actions, they also violate most of his rules at some point in the series! Trust me, we'll get to that. That's gonna be a treat to see.
Back on the subject of them not taking the fight to Sledge, I would just like to point out that this level of stupidity on their part comes back to bite them in the ass a few times, both in this season and the next. In a big way. Something that goes beyond any of the mistakes any of the other Ranger teams might have made, perceived or real. If you don't already know what it is, I wish I could see your face when you find out.
Anyways, enough harping on this rather major piece of failure, let's move past it and start harping on the other major failures they have!
Actually, let's come back to "Sync or Swim" and talk about some of the dumb antics. Tyler and Ivan's rivalry becomes one of the most childish and petty things I have ever seen. Think back to previous rivalries, Theo and Casey for instance. Theo was rather naturally and justifiably skeptical of Casey's leadership qualities, since he was so inexperienced, and this attitude led to Casey being a bit irritated with Theo. Their rivalry was a perfectly natural representation of human interaction, especially as they grew out of it over the course of the series. Tommy and Jason were both take-charge kind of guys, so they would naturally butt heads. The two of them learned that neither one of them could handle every situation, and that sometimes they needed to really work together to succeed. With each of the Rangers being the equivalent to a one-man army, this is perfectly understandable. In this? The rivalry starts off with Ivan and Tyler wearing the same sweet coat, and them getting upset over this. Tyler especially when Shelby says Ivan wears it better. Shenanigans ensue. To the point that it actually lets the villains escape from them. Compare this piece of crap episode to "Gung Ho!" one of the defining episodes from Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers. Yes, they hardly ever used the Thunder Slingers in the show after that, but there was actual character development between Jason and Tommy!
Anyways, the next episode is titled "True Black," and it's another Chase-centric one.
Chase is testing out some new gear from Kendall, Dino Armor X. A pair of gator-jaws that turn him into a giant drill. They say it only works for him, but that's going to be forgotten soon.
Wrench uses a monster called Gold Digger to attack the training grounds later, and the Rangers try to stop him. Tyler, Ivan and Shelby are buried underground (They should by all rights be dead, either immediately or soon) and Chase tries to dig through Gold Digger's stone tablets with his claws, but it doesn't work. Apparently his inability to use the armor properly right now stems from his guilt over not helping Shelby get tickets to see her favorite boy-band. Neither Koda nor Reilly can use the Dino Armor X Charger themselves, so Chase has to apologize, the powers work fine and he saves the other Rangers. They finish off Gold Digger, tickets are gotten to see this pseudo-1Direction band called "The N-Zed Boys" and the Rangers get time off to go to the concert. This episode could have been cut entirely and nothing would have been lost. In fact, a future episode would make a bit more sense. Not a whole lot more sense, just a bit. There are still plenty of other unanswered questions. Dino Armor X is used a total of once, the N-Zed Boys are brought up a handful more times in the series, but their introduction could have been a lot smoother. Maybe have one of their songs playing on Tyler's car radio? Maybe have Shelby wear some of their merch earlier on in the series, or maybe use an actual band instead? They had to commission original music anyways, maybe they could have gone all-out on it and actually shown the concert they went to! Maybe they could have written something around that instead! It'd make about as much sense as some of the other things that happen in the series...
The title is absolutely meaningless, just like "Breaking Black" before it was. Back in the Disney and classic Saban eras an episode titled "Breaking Black" would have been more than just a cute little reference, they would have actually broken the Black Ranger's spirit. Maybe even killed him! Then "True Black" would have followed, and been focused on building them back up as a person. But hey, let's waste all the opportunities we've got to use titles in a way that fits thematically. Saban in this day and age would have had "Green With Evil" be all about the Green Ranger being jealous and getting a bit douchey for about an episode before everything wraps up at the end.
The next episode actually has a title that fits with the events of the episode. "Rise of a Ranger" is probably the strongest episode of the series, mainly because it focuses on my favorite character, Prince Phillip.
Phillip, rather than sit on his ass all the time and wait for those morons we call the Dino Charge Rangers to sort out the situation, he puts his influence to work figuring out a way to help. He has his people find an Energem, and when he can't figure out how to make it work, he decides to try and convince the forces that govern Ranger powers of his worth. He goes out of his way to help out the people of the world and actually make some kind of difference. As opposed to causing collateral damage, doing stupid shit, and not bothering to handle their villains properly like the rest of the Dino Charge Rangers do. Phillip practices combat training with a robot so he can partake in the beatdowns with the rest of the team, and basically does his damndest to be of some help. He decides to try and reconfigure his training robot for direct control and tries to use it to combat Sledge's forces. It doesn't work out 100% right, but his heart is in the right place.
Unfortunately, this isn't how the Rangers see it. They fail to acknowledge the previous robotic and cybernetic Rangers, and claim a robot isn't up to the task of being a Ranger.
*Deep breath* The Machine Empire, Robotic Turbo Rangers, Blue Centurion, Cyborg Lightspeed Rangers, Krybots, Mack Hartford, Dylan, Teneya 7/15, the Venjix Computer Network, Grinders, the various Attack Bots deployed by Venjix, freaking Robo-Knight. As well as any number of other robotic villains and/or allies who have kept up with Rangers in the past which I may be forgetting. Do you see the point? Do you understand the problem with this situation? I do. Yet again, another slap in the face to the legacy of the franchise. Judd Lynn not only worked on Turbo, he was rather involved with much of the Zordon era. On top of all of that, he was the second EP on Power Rangers RPM. You know, that series with the villains who were exclusively robots. Full stop, that's the premise. We don't even need to dig into Dylan and Teneya, the fact that the main villains were entirely made up of robots and killed plenty of the forces who came up against them, that alone undermines everything Shelby says right here. The fact that Overdrive was led by a cyborg, the fact that the third Turbo team was entirely made up of robots means that either Shelby is dumb or Judd Lynn is. Does Saban even have a continuity editor? A fact-checker, someone to keep the canon generally straight? If they do, did they listen to them? It's not like Judd Lynn is Michael Bay, and he was trying to make Armageddon more fun to watch. At this point, it doesn't even matter if he was the one who wrote that line, he worked on the script for this episode! He co-wrote it, he should have crossed that line out and had Kendall rather than Shelby feed Phillip a line about the clunkyness and complexity of the control-pad interfering with the efficacy of the robot. However, to run this all the way back to the robot itself. If I were a prince with wealth and influence like Phillip does, I'd create some kind of Real Steel-style control-system coupled with a VR headset and omni-directional treadmill. That way, I could control the robot, see what it sees, and control it as if I was actually there. You know, like the kind of control-system we've seen out of Megazords in the past. The Tigerzord, Jungle Pride Megazord, Samurai Megazord, hell even the Dino Charge Megazords are controlled like that. Probably a few more that I've missed, but the few examples I've shown should be more than enough to prove that the technology exists within the universe that could do exactly what I just laid out easily. Nothing else to it, this setup is idiotic.
Anyways, earlier in the episode, Fury saves Poisandra from one of Sledge's prisoners (Why hasn't this happened before and why hasn't Sledge just cashed in his prisoners to keep his girlfriend safe?) and gets back in his boss's good graces. This leads up to his attack on the Rangers. I'll get into that a bit later.
Right after Phillip's initial encounter with his Enegem, we move right into something which becomes a staple of this series. The endless masturbatory references to New Zealand! It was somewhat light earlier in the series, but this is where it all becomes a bit cringeworthy. Especially when they head off to New Zealand. As opposed to all the barely-disguised New Zealand shots they use throughout. How is it that everyone else who produces things in New Zealand, from Disney to Warner Bros. have managed to make it not look obvious that they were filming in New Zealand, but Saban can't? Or more to the point, don't care to?
Chase's little sister and a group from her school in New Zealand (Read: Just down the road IRL) perform a traditional dance in traditional Maori regalia. She wants to go skateboarding with her brother, but then Fury shows up and everything goes down as I said it did earlier.
Fury and his Vivix abscond with the robot, while Phillip tries to figure out what he needs to do to show the Energem he's a good person, and he does everything I just said he did. After none of that works, a dejected Phillip gives the Energem to the Rangers in the hopes that they can find a worthy wielder. Then Chase's sister shows up, and monsters attack. Phillip, without a thought for himself, rushes out to save her. Lo and behold, this is the catalyst the Energem needed to bond with him. They handle the situation (And the reprogrammed robot) and wrap things up. The girl Chase was dating earlier gets him a ticket so he can go home and see his family for Christmas, and Chase thanks her. Unfortunately, after he went through all that trouble to help, Phillip is called back to Zandar on royal business. Although I'd personally reckon he was having far more interesting solo-adventures fighting crime in his country. I think this because I feel like there's a more interesting story to be told here that wasn't.
Now, the next episode as far as continuity is concerned is "Ghostest With The Mostest," but it wasn't aired like that. In fact, it was aired immediately prior to "Rise of a Ranger." The production numbers actually put it as the twenty-first episode in the series. Considering it's a clip-show, and doesn't actually have any real impact on the series as a whole, it doesn't particularly need to be watched at all. There's no real enjoyment to be had, this episode (And all the holiday specials in this series) is nothing but pure filler.
Duplicon is resurrected, and between him and Memorella, Sledge now has a Ranger of his own to control. Kendall's system flags alien DNA, so instead of doing a blood-test on them, they decide to do a lie-detector test. Even if you didn't have their DNA on file, the one who doesn't submit to the test is likely the imposter.
Anyways, after a bunch of flashbacks to things nobody cares about, they flag that the fake Ranger is Koda right as the real Koda shows up. He was referring to Kendall as "Miss Morgan" instead of "Kendall" as he usually does.
There's really nothing of note in this episode aside for the fact that there was about a frame or two of Kyoryuger cockpit footage visible before they cut to the original footage. This wouldn't be noticeable if not for the fact that Saban has this rather strange fetish for introducing suit variants that the Rangers can only use in the cockpit of the Megazord. Even so, even with all of this, if it wasn't for the fact that the cockpits are so different, it probably would have been harder to notice. Back in the day, all you had to do was shoot some original fight-scenes and then the Japanese mecha footage could be used in its entirety. At least as long as the characters kept their helmets on. I suppose Saban just likes to try and sell more toys at the expense of the cockpit footage having zero continuity with the rest of the show. For the record, I think that Dino Drive was a complete waste of time, effort, plastic and money when a much cooler suit of armor would debut not too long after it did.

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Monday, December 19, 2016

Power Rangers Dino Charge Retrospective: Part 2

Power Rangers
 Welcome back to my Power Rangers Dino Charge retrospective, where we continue on with the fifth episode of the series, "Breaking Black."
Contrary to the title, there will be nothing in this episode related to "breaking" Chase, nor will there be anything drug-related happening. Shame, because it must have taken plenty of drugs to think that Chase's origin is anything resembling original. Or to consider this episode anything resembling good.
Chase is being careless, but an old friend of his, Moana, a Maori mystic woman who gave him his Energem when he saved her cat, asks him to watch her shop for a while. He agrees, but one of Sledge's minions, Spellbinder, robs the shop of an amulet. He then uses that amulet on Chase, and rather than taking his Energem from him and then proceeding to use him to get the other four Energems, he skips Step One and proceeds straight to attempting to steal the others from the rest of the Rangers. Spellbinder's cape manages to fend off some of the Ranger's attacks, but Moana tells the Rangers that Chase focuses best when he's riding his skateboard, and Shelby uses this information to snap Chase out of the spell. Yes, this is literally what happens. No, I don't know why. This episode sort of feels like it should have been later on in the series, after Chase got together with his girlfriend, and with a fairly massive rewrite. Once we get there, we'll start to see more orphaned concepts attached to incredibly dumb premises for no discernible reason.
We get to the end of the episode where Koda tells Chase it's his turn to mop the floor when it's actually Koda's. Starting the tradition that otherwise mediocre or good episodes get capped off by dumb shenanigans. This is going to stick around, unfortunately.
The next episode is titled "The Tooth Hurts." It's all about a cavity monster who makes everyone's teeth hurt. Yes, that's as stupid as it sounds.
Chase and Riley begin butting heads over training their training regimens. Chase follows his instincts, while Riley follows a strict method. Yeah, that's original. That dynamic hasn't been done to death and back in basically everything ever.
Poisandra sets about getting herself a wedding cake made (After sixty-five million years) by using one of Sledge's prisoners, a chef named Cavity, to make them.
Question. How does a chef that bakes weird, ultra-sweet cakes that makes peoples teeth hurt wind up on the radar of someone like Sledge? Or even his boss, Lord Arcanon? It's not like he's adept at creating cakes that kill people, but hey, I've gotten my idea of bounty hunters from Star Wars and the old west, where people usually have to have done something to get on the radars of a crime-lord like Arcanon. Maybe he borrowed money from one of Arcanon's loan-sharks (Assuming he has loan-sharks) and he sent Sledge out to handle it. Except that didn't happen, because the writers didn't think of that.
Anyways, once the Rangers catch wind of the situation, they go out to try and handle the situation. For some reason, rather than splitting Riley and Chase up so that they can stop clashing, Keeper says nothing and the two of them let Cavity get away. They later begin learning to work together and manage to overcome their differences to destroy the monster, to the surprise of nobody.
In addition to the points I brought up in the last review, we get to a few of the flaws in Sledge's plan. He has at his disposal an entire brig full of various dangerous monsters, and an entire army of Vivix footsoldiers. He could wage a campaign of espionage and infiltration that could break the very hearts and souls of the Rangers without them ever finding out what he's doing. This will be fleshed out further on in the series when we're introduced to a few more of the covert monsters in Sledge's prison.
The next episode marks the debut of the Ankylosaurus Zord, and the debut (Or rather, the continuation) of one of the series few overarching plot-threads. Who holds the Aqua Energem?
Now, call me crazy, but I personally would have made the Aqua Zord the Plesiosaurus, but that's more of a criticism of Zyuden Sentai Kyoryuger than it is of this show. Power Rangers couldn't have changed that unless they re-painted a Warrior-class and Auxiliary-class Zord and completely remade two suits. Then they'd have been stuck with plenty of unusable stock-footage. Considering how poorly this series spent its $35 million budget as it is, I doubt there was much left for fixing a rather obvious coloration error. Anyways, I'd much rather have them spend their budget on important things, like making sure the episodes are edited properly. Oh, wait. Yeah, we'll get to that sometime towards the end.
Anyways, back on track, the Rangers are on the hunt for the other Energems. Shelby comes up with a plan to eliminate fossils of dinosaurs that are already associated with an Energem, and Kendall begins working on Chargers which can hone in on the location of the Zords and the Energems. I say "Zords" as well, because that's what they pick up, the location of the Zord. Not, in fact, the location of the Energem itself. We'll get to the problems with this sometime later.
Anyways, Poisandra enlists Stingrage, one of Sledge's prisoners (Who can sting people or animals and put them into a berzerker rage. Name's a bit on the nose, no?) to track down an Energem. He, Poisandra and her sidekick Curio get to where the Zord is and Stingrage stings it. The Rangers arrive on-scene, but Stingrage stings Koda, and overwhelms their defense.
Now, do you want to know how Poisandra figured out where the Zord was?
Kendall didn't encrypt the transmission! In her own words, "Anyone could have intercepted the signal."
Yeah, no shit Sherlock! Apparently it doesn't require any common-sense to be a museum curator, because this is so far beyond basic that it literally makes no sense why she didn't encrypt their communication signals!
Anyways, long-story short, Shelby manages to calm Ankylo down, the Rangers beat Stingrage with its help, and Kendall gives Shelby fossilized Triceratops dung as a gift. Naturally, she overreacts the hell out of it.
Question, how do you know the fossilized dung is in fact from a Triceratops? Wait, you wouldn't.
This brings us the the last episode before the ridiculous Nick-mandated hiatus that mars the airing schedule of every Neo-Saban Power Rangers series. Well, that and their seasonal episode-limit. This is "Double Ranger, Double Danger."
After the Rangers blocked off their signals, Sledge tasks Poisandra with stealing their Energy-Tracer. Poisandra recruits Duplicon to help her out.
Tyler spends some time moping over his missing dad before aliens approach the site, and Kendall sends him off with the tracer instead of accompanying him herself. Yes, they sent him alone with the tracer while Kendall, who has no powers at this point in the series, stayed behind to fight them off. I'd think you might want to pack it into Tyler's Jeep, let Kendall drive and have a Morphed Ranger come along for the ride as backup.
Anyways, Tyler manages to get away, and Duplicon's cloned Rangers catch up to him (In Morphed form) and they ride off. Shelby, unmorphed, calls him up to figure out why he left without them. The cloned Rangers take this opportunity to assault Tyler and abscond with the tracer.
The Rangers regroup and face off with their clones. They kill them rather unceremoniously.
Tyler faces off with Fury. Fury gets the upper-hand, and almost kills Tyler, but a golden light emerges from his body and messes with him. Rather than take a few seconds out to blast him to kingdom come, Tyler pisses off to help out the other Rangers. Who could have handled their situation on their own if it wasn't for the obsession this series has with making Tyler use the Dino Spike to finish off villain. There's no reason they couldn't have handled that on their own. I'm almost positive that Jungle Fury handled monsters stronger than Duplicon with just the core three! Various flavors of Kamen Rider have taken down monsters more of a threat than Duplicon on their own!
Poisandra almost makes off with the scanner, but Fury attacks her and takes it himself so he can gain favor with Sledge. Rather than hopping up onto the walkway to wrest the machine from him, Tyler orders Chase to destroy the machine. The tracker is destroyed, but the Charger isn't, and Fury recovers it and escapes.
This brings us to by far, one of the biggest problems with Power Rangers on Nickelodeon. The summer hiatus. "Double Ranger, Double Danger" was aired on April 4th, 2015. The next episode, "When Logic Fails" aired four months less a day afterwards on August 3rd. Except it only aired that early in Brazil for some reason. In the states it was released on Nick.com on August 15th, and aired on television proper the next week on the 22nd. Two more weeks and it would have been a solid five months between new episodes. That's plenty of time to utterly forget a series exists and lose interest entirely.
There are a few simple rules that television shows should probably follow: You don't have more than one week between episodes from the same season. You never move a show from its airday or timeslot, be it in the middle of a season or between them. Also. This is very important too. Do NOT air episodes on different dates internationally! If you do, you're going to wind up in the exact same position Saban has been in for at least the last two years now! I was watching the fandom closely on social media, there was hardly anyone waiting on the domestic airings to watch the new episodes. No, everyone was flocking to the Brazilian encodes because they featured the original English audio track in addition to the native dub. Two episodes were aired on Cartoon Network in Brazil before the hiatus officially ended. Not that there should have been a hiatus to begin with, but wouldn't you want to synchronize your airdates so that everyone gets it at the same time and maximize simultaneous viewers? As many companies in Japan have found out, the best way to prevent people from pirating your product is to air it internationally as quickly as possible. Sadly, Saban hasn't curried on to that idea yet, because this issue persisted well into the second season, and has in fact, gotten worse! The only episodes that I know of that didn't air outside the states before they aired in France were probably the first half of the season, and the Christmas special! Yes, even the finale aired first in France before it aired in the states! At least that didn't happen for the season one finale, thank god!
Aside from all the meta-series quibbles, this is easily one of the worst episodes of the season, if not the whole series, for a number of reasons that we'll get into once I start breaking this stuff down.
Before Chase destroyed the eTracer, Fury was able to get a reading off the machine on the location of the Pterazord. The Charger is completely discharged, so there's no chance of being able to summon it without the Gold Energem. Sledge is irritated with Fury for getting the eTracer destroyed, and tosses him off the ship, but not before the cat-man takes the Charger with him.
In this scene, Wrench, Sledge's engineer, says that the only way to charge the charger up is to use the Gold Energem.
This raises a question that will hang over the entirety of the series, because it's never answered. There are a total of eleven Energems. Ten associated with a dinosaur and zord. There are a total of thirty Chargers used in the show, five of which have no dinosaur relation, and thirteen of which are associated with dinosaurs that have no corresponding Zord. (At least in the TV show) The question Wrench raises with his statement is one you may have thought of by now, but if not, I'll say it anyways.
What do the other Chargers run on? I get how the main ten work, they have Energems paired that can fuel them. The others though? They've got nothing backing them up. If this hadn't been brought up, I would have just rolled with it for the most part. All you'd have to do is say that Sledge and the gang don't really have the gear hooked up to charge it up properly and you're golden. The Energems can be a damn good source of energy for the Chargers, but regular old Electricity can work just fine as long as you've got enough of it, basically operating on the same rules that Stargate does. I presumed at the time that the Zords are intended to work with the Energems as the Morphers were demonstrated as doing in the first episode, but considering what we learn towards the end of season two, and the fact that there's a Zord that runs exclusively on Dino Chargers due to it not being paired with an Energem, I have the rather distinct feeling that they weren't paying the closest attention to the rules set down in this series. If they were even trying to follow rules when making this show, which is questionable, considering the amount of long-standing franchise rules they appear to be determined to undermine. Not to mention how often they've contradicted what were supposed to be hard and fast rules about how this series arsenal is supposed to function.
Episode Nine is where we see more than a hint that Riley is the geek of the group. Namely, he starts going full-on Sherlock Holmes to some extent, and being the only one with common sense for the entirety of the rest of the episode. Everyone is meandering about until Riley points out that the villains need to find a way to charge up the Ptera Charger.
Meanwhile, Fury and Wrench, accompanied by a prisoner named Puzzler are infiltrating the only other lab with the tech that could do that. I presume they're related to Alphabet Soup in some way, but we don't really find out why they have this technology.
Fury and Wrench leave Puzzler to guard the outside of the building, (He's a gigantic yellow thing with green maze lines all over him.) but he sees a pair of children playing chess dumbly and tries to give them advice. Naturally, this scares the crap out of them. The fleeing children tip off Chase that something's wrong, and he encounters Puzzler. Puzzler overwhelms him, but the rest of the team arrives before Chase can be killed. Puzzler flees, and the Rangers give chase. Puzzler decides to turn the building into a maze so he can have a chance of surviving his encounter. He also cranks the temperature down below freezing in an attempt to kill the Rangers. Which should't work for a number of reasons. First off, their Energems are supposed to protect them from freezing, as was demonstrated in the first episode. Second, they could literally just Morph and they'd be fine. Nobody has ever died in a Ranger suit. They're the most sophisticated life-support system in the universe, demonstrated by the numerous times that they've allowed Rangers to operate in a vacuum and not suffocate and die. "Forever Red" had a team of Red Rangers on the moon, In Space had them doing that all the time. Lost Galaxy too, probably, since it was a space-themed season too. My point is, this is a non-issue for the Rangers.
The maze is about what you'd expect out of a supernatural labyrinth. The illogical geometry, infinitely looping staircases, doorways that lead straight off a cliff, and jammed vending machines. No, not kidding. While all the other Rangers are preoccupied with other dumb things, Koda decides to get food. Once the machine jams, rather than smash the glass with his cave-man strength, or his gun, or his sword, he tries reaching inside, shaking it, doing generally dumb things. Because his character, which has some of the most potential to be interesting, is regularly reduced to "comedy" antics.
The only one to come close to actually doing something sensible is the focus-character of this episode, Riley. He climbs through the vents and sees Fury and Wrench harnessing the yellow glob thing inhabiting Fury to power the Pteracharger. Fury pilots the Ptera Zord out, and Riley escapes the maze. Now, rather than simply killing Puzzler and rescuing the rest of the Rangers, Riley challenges him to a game of 3D Chess. Riley beats him, frees the other Rangers, they kill Puzzler, and things wrap up. RIley isn't even the one to pull the trigger on Puzzler, Koda is the one to do it.
For a mid-season return, "When Logic Fails" is a pitiful excuse for anything. It's hard to describe exactly how underwhelming this was to behold upon initial viewing when it was aired. First off, this episode establishes Riley as the teams smart guy, despite the fact that this is never referred back to in anything more than a filler episode. Additionally, they dropped nothing more than one hint towards him being this much of a brain, and that was the name of his dog, Rubik! Riley just pulls this Sherlock Holmes-vision out of nowhere, and it never, I repeat, never makes an appearance after this.

That about does it for this part of the breakdown, I do apologize for the length of the wait, but I've been some combination of sick and busy for the last two weeks.
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Sunday, December 4, 2016

Power Rangers Dino Charge Retrospective: Part 1

Well, this is it. Two years ago, Power Rangers Dino Charge premiered, to a raucous applause from the fans. Then, on November 19, 2016, the series ended. Not with a bang, not with a whimper, but with a "what?!" from the fandom.
Generally speaking, I had high-hopes for this show. The characters had some good chemistry and charisma, for the most-part. The suits were kind of cool, and the mecha were as well. Even the collectible gimmick appealed to me on some level. Unfortunately, the series decayed over time into your typical Nickelodeon fare with dumb jokes, shenanigans, and generally stupid plots. The first episode of season two was slow and illogical, but it got better as time went on. Then things got stupid again for the middle of the season, and stayed like that until the last five or six episodes. I say "or six" because the last episode was about when things got strange again.
The false-climax around the middle of the series wasn't really a bad idea per-se, I love a good false-finish myself, but only when it's done well. The fact that the Dino Charge Rangers basically disbanded after Sledge's ship crashed without verifying their kill meant that they had to pull out plenty of nonsense to reunite the team, rather than continuing from last season straight up. Leave the team together, and just have the season end with them going out to investigate the derelict of Sledge's ship. That alone solves plenty of the problems I had with the show, and all you've got to do is change a few seconds in the end of the first season finale and the whole season two premiere and everything retains its momentum to some extent.
However, this isn't the biggest problem the series had by a long shot. We begin sixty-five million years before the present-day, and the main villain, Sledge, is chasing down some guy named Keeper to try and get ahold of the Energems he protects so he can give one to his girlfriend and they can get married.
Keeper then crashes on Earth, and he divests himself of the Energems, giving them to a rather odd motley crew of dinosaurs. Ten Energems handed off to seven herbivores and three carnivores. A T-Rex and a raptor who would have eaten Keeper as soon as looked at him. The rest could have stepped on or otherwise accidentally killed him rather easily. You know, I say ten, but there wasn't a Plesiosaurus anywhere to be found in that opening sequence, so I'm just a tiny bit confused by it all. Trust me, this will happen again later on.
Sledge's people then beam up the box that had the Energems in it, and it explodes. Sledge's ship then casts asteroids down on the earth, killing the dinosaurs.
At this point, I'm going into Mr. McNitpick mode, because frankly, this show doesn't deserve a willing suspension of disbelief.
First off, the prevailing hypothesis about the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event (The extinction of the dinosaurs) is that a single asteroid or comet (Known as the Chicxulub impactor, after the crater near Chicxulub in Mexico) caused the extinction. Even in competing hypotheses, when someone brings up multiple impactors, we're talking about four sites in three different parts of the planet! Most of those rocks Sledge was hauling around would have been vaporized before they hit the ground! I don't even think there was a single rock in that net that could have caused a planet-wide extinction event! The smallest of the potentially-related craters, the Silverpit Crater, is twelve miles wide wide, and the impactor would have been at least four-hundred feet across, and would have weighed about two-million tonnes. As in, it still would have been bigger, and weighed more, than Sledge's entire ship.
Here's my reasoning behind this. According to the Power Rangers wiki, the Dino Charge Megazord is approximately 52.5 meters tall, which translates out to about 172 feet tall. However, that number seemed a bit off to me, like it was significantly too big, so I measured my Dino Charge Megazord with a ruler and got about 10.5 inches, which when put into the scale used by Dungeons and Dragons (5 feet for every square inch) gets you about 52.5 feet. Put that into Shadowrun's scale and you get 10.5 meters, about 35 feet. I can't find any official statistics on the Dino Charge or Dino Supercharge websites, and based on my previous analysis of Power Rangers mecha, I'm somewhat more inclined to go with my D&D-based numbers than the ones on the wiki.
To further back this up, let's rewind to the season one episode, "Sync or Swim," wherein the Rangers dumped a bomb on Sledge's ship. The bomb could be held in the Megazord's hand, and it was about the same size as the bridge of Sledge's ship, so that means the bridge of the ship is slightly smaller than the chest of the Megazord. Also, the bomb in that episode was about twice as tall as Tyler's Jeep Wrangler (Just considering what was on-screen, the top was cut off), this means the bomb is about 14 feet tall, probably more. (Assuming Koda is about six feet tall, and basing my calculations of the Jeep's height on that of the 2006 TJ model, give or take a few inches.) Based on interior shots of Sledge's ship, I estimate the bridge to be about eighteen to twenty feet by about eighteen to twenty feet, which just about matches up to my calculations about the bomb, and just about matches up with my estimates of the size of the Megazord. Not to mention that in the first episode of Season 1, "Powers From The Past" we clearly see the T-Rex Zord alongside Tyler and Shelby, and I could count its height in single digits if I stacked Tyler toe-to-head alongside it. From here, we can figure out the size of the rest of the ship. Assuming the tip of the ship is the bridge, we're looking at about a 100 foot-long ship with a 75-120 foot wingspan. As you can tell, this isn't merely a baseless assumption, I've done my research.
Even if Sledge did have the asteroid in tow that destroyed the earth, he shouldn't have been able to steer his ship properly, as anyone who's ever driven a car with a trailer that was above the vehicles weight capacity can tell you. It would swerve back and forth. Even in micro-gravity, the laws of physics still apply.
Now, not only does this part not match up with the science, it's contradicted by previously-established Power Rangers canon, namely that of Dino Thunder. The Dino Gems in that show were salvaged from the one rock that crashed into the Earth and killed the dinosaurs, not from a big shower of them. I haven't seen Dino Thunder yet, but I know a bit about the plot. Depending on the specifics of that show, the details may further contradict what happens in this series, we'll see.
Anyways, back in the present day, Tyler Navarro has been searching for his dad, an archaeologist ever since he disappeared. His search has led him to Amber Beach, California. There he learns of the Sampson Caves, the place where his father was last seen.
Tyler investigates the caves, finding the fossilized remains of a Tyrannosaurus Rex within, alongside a mysterious, glowing red stone. A mysterious figure shrouded in black, something his father wrote about in his journal pursues Tyler through the caves, but he manages to escape.
At the Dinosaur Museum where Tyler learned of the caves, the curator, Dr. Kendell Morgan and her crew, Chase Randall and Koda leave to check out a fossil dig-site. Shelby Watkins, an archaeology student working at the Dino Bite Cafe within the museum. She wants to some along, but Morgan tells her no. She stows away with the team anyways though.
The figure who attacked Tyler earlier attempts to steal a crate from the dig-site, but Shelby and Tyler (Who has been following the creature since their encounter) intervene. Shelby drops the crate, and finds another strange stone within. The figure in the cloak reveals itself and attempts to freeze Tyler and Shelby alive so he can take those stones, the Energems from them. Unfortunately for him, the Energems keep the ice from holding onto them. Keep this in mind, this is very important, this is going to come up at least three times across two episodes, where this rather important event is going to be contradicted. Hard.
Anyways, the two of them gain fossilized Morphers, insert the Energems and Morph into the Dino Charge Rangers, Red for Tyler and Pink for Shelby. The fight with Ice Age before a rather strange-looking T-Rex shows up and kicks his ass to kingdom come before vanishing.
On their way back into the city, Tyler shows Shelby his dad's journal, with the picture of Sledge's footsoldier, Fury sketched within, as we see Fury stalking them in the distance.
Second episode shows us a farmboy named Riley practicing his fencing. His brother tells him to fetch some eggs. While doing this, Riley notices his dog, Rubik has wandered into the forest and appears to be barking at a rock. In fact, the dog is barking at Fury, who has come for an Energem in the vicinity. Fury makes to kill the creature, but Riley blocks the slash with a fence-post. He tries to drive Fury off with it, but the thing doesn't even scratch him. He manages to dodge Fury's slashes, which hit a rock. The Rock cracks open, and within the Green Energem is found. Riley grasps it, and his stick becomes a mighty Dino Saber, which with he fends off Fury.
Riley decides to take the Energem to the city, specifically to the museum to figure out what it is, but his bike breaks down on the way. He hitches a ride with Shelby and Tyler, but they find an overturned car with someone pinned beneath on their way. With their newfound strength, they are able to push the car off the person and save them.
They get to the museum, and through Tyler's own stupidity, they discover the location of the other Rangers. And on top of Fury still being alive, so is Keeper. With what we find out later, Fury and Keeper being alive sort of makes sense, but considering Sledge and all of his crew and prisoners are alive, I have a feeling the production crew wasn't all that fussed about internal consistency.
In the base, they find two other Energems docked in a crystal bed. The other three Energems fly to their docking station, which is when we find out that Koda and Chase are Rangers as well.
While in the base, Keeper explains (poorly) the history of the Energems and their basic abilities. Some things are defined clearly, others poorly.
They begin picking up strange readings from a volcano, Ice Age attacks the city, and this is when we find out for certain that Sledge is still alive.
This brings me to one of the most persistent issues with the series. Sledge has been kicking around the universe for millions of years, and never turned in any of the prisoners he has in his brig. Despite the fact that after the first few months of searching for the Energems, anyone with any sense would have turned in his prisoners for their bounties and pissed off to find something easier to use as a wedding-ring. There are eleven Energems, which means that (relatively speaking) platinum, gold and diamonds are literally several orders of magnitude easier to find. Not that one should have trouble finding something if they've got 65 million years to search.
Something to mention is that during my commentary videos on the series, I operated under the impression that Sledge had been hanging around the solar-system, laying low and searching the Earth for the Energems, while the rundown at the beginning of every episode states that Sledge was blasted "Deep into space."
My reasoning behind this is mainly the fact that the explosion that set him off-course wasn't particularly powerful, and his ship wasn't really moving all that fast. Plus, as we see that his ship appears to be incredibly powerful towards the end of the series, there's no way in hell he even made it to the outer planets before correcting his course.
This conclusion brings me to another point I made with frequency in my videos about this series. It requires a few assumptions to be made about the universe this show is set in. Namely, that they have the same level of science we do, and the same level of competency. Considering that in the Power Rangers universe humanity returned to the moon in 1993, there have been several government-led teams, civilians have developed Power Ranger tech on their own, there have been people who have built literal androids, and humanity is in contact with a number of alien races, I believe the former is a given. Hell, they've got better tech than we do. The latter however? Considering the level of obvious stupidity we've seen out of random people in the Neo-Saban era alone, I think it's safe to assume that around 2009-2010 in this universe, rather than the Venjix Virus infecting the worlds computers, the stupid virus infected the worlds humans, and we never really recovered.
But in all honesty, Doctor Who handled this incredibly well. Humans are the type of creatures who will create legends about anything, and when Amy Pond was locked in that cube for a thousand years, her husband Rory and the cube itself became legends. The Lone Centurian they called him, legends written about how he was always the protector of the cube and its contents no matter what. However, it seems like hardly anyone has noticed Sledge and his ship, or Fury even aside from the series leads. We've had telescopes for literally centuries, we've been looking up at the sky for longer than that, and we've been tracking interstellar objects for almost seventy years now. I have a feeling we'd have noticed him at some point.
Plus, how did Fury manage to survive the events of the In Space finale? Lord freaking Zedd didn't survive that! Rita Repulsa didn't! There wasn't a single villain left on Earth who wasn't sealed away left at the end of that series! This wouldn't be such a big deal if Judd Lynn hadn't also written "Countdown To Destruction!" Yeah, the Judd Lynn who was the freaking showrunner for this series, and the writer for, as far as I can tell, most of this series episodes!
Granted, it's been about a decade and a half since when In Space aired and the production of Dino Charge, but shouldn't they have a continuity manager working to make sure they never make these kind of screwups? Although, since the Neo-Saban production team appears to be lacking anyone willing to raise their hand and object when someone puts something incredibly stupid into the series, I'm not at all surprised that they don't.
Anyways, after they defeat the monsters, Dr. Morgan tells the Rangers not to reveal their identities to anyone, even family members.
To which I say, HAH! In this day and age, you can't keep something like that secret, especially when you go from civilian to superhero form the way the Rangers do. I've literally read fanfiction that handled this issue better than Saban does. IE, at all. Man of Steel addressed this, in that Superman basically had to tell the United States Government to knock off their surveillance of him by destroying one of their drones.
Anyways, I'm gonna list off the problems this concept has. First off, the Rangers always morph in plain-view of everyone present, and as you should know, everyone has a phone with a camera on it. Humans love to record weird things that happen. That's why we have footage of riots, terrorists attacks, natural disasters, etc. There should be plenty of angles on the Rangers morphing, considering the fact that 1) They're the only people who aren't running from the monsters, 2) they wear the same colors as their suits in civilian form and 3) They spend plenty of time between civilian form and morph with their faces exposed, there should be zero chance of them keeping their identities secret, from the public or the government! There have been plenty of criticisms of the Power Rangers for this in the past, but back in the 1990's, they had a damn good chance of not getting caught. It wasn't like everyone had a video-camera back then that they could fit in their pocket and whip out at a moments notice to start recording, something that we could then post on a worldwide information network which people are constantly scouring for something interesting. Back then you could reasonably maintain a secret identity with that kind of approach as long as you were careful. And for the most part, the original team was. In order for this team to accomplish that feat, however, they would have to morph and demorph exclusively in their base and only in the field when absolutely necessary. Even then, that would only preclude casual observers from figuring out their identities. The Rangers have a total of zero decent security measures on their base, so you can bet that the FBI has got bugs and cameras coating their "secret" hideout. Hell, a decently driven civilian could figure out where their base is, and from there could figure out who they were. All you've got to do is stake out the museum after you've tracked the Rangers down, see if there's anyone on the staff who regularly vanishes at the same time as monster attacks and you've got yourself a bona-fide breakdown of who the Rangers actually are. This is why MMPR had a base in the middle of nowhere, and why Jungle Fury basically didn't bother trying to keep their location secret.
I'll also get to the reasons why the Rangers keeping their identities secret is a horrible idea later on, because boy, oh boy are there a few massive freaking problems with this concept.
The third episode is where things really began to fall apart, firstly the fact that it establishes the status quo for the series, the Rangers working at the cafe for no reason whatsoever, and secondly because this is where they started glossing over major details with some heavy lacquer. This is the episode in which we find out for sure that Koda is in fact, a caveman. We don't find out many of the details of his character until the next episode, and the details of how he met the Ranger team are further pushed off to season two. Back in the Disney era, all these details would have been covered in one episode and fleshed out over the course of the rest of the series. In the Neo-Saban era, these details are forgotten until they're needed once more to drive the plot forward. But that's not the biggest failing of this episode. No, the largest failing is the fact that this is basically a filler episode, and yet it introduces the freaking Megazord. The fifty foot-tall thundering beast, the Rangers ultimate weapon, designed to perfection to be fast, dangerous, to soak up damage like a sponge and keep walking, and above all to be upgradeable at a moments notice should the situation demand it, is introduced in an episode that aside from the appearance of the Megazord and a few disparate character facts has nothing going for it. That's the recurring problem of this series as a whole, there are too many episodes where things just happen because they needed to fill air-time. Look back at episode two, there was no particular reason that they needed to have the Megazord form in this episode, the threat could have easily been handled by the individual Zords and nothing would have changed.
I'm no particular fan of the way Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers introduced the original Megazord. The Zords themselves had far too little time to stand on their own, and it might as well have been there just to showcase everything the show had to offer in a single episode. However, that was a clear and present threat for which there needed to be an immediate solution. The Megazord provided that solution in-universe in a swift and suitably monumental fashion.
Speaking of MMPR, back in the day, it was rather unique for a Ranger to take on a supersized villain in a single Zord. When Jason Lee Scott manned the helm of his immortal Tyrannosaurus alone against the monster of the week, it was seen as a testament to his ability as both a leader and a Ranger. The fact that he managed to do so in the less-maneuverable and far less deadly T-Rex Zord without any backup was awe-inspiring. It wasn't just a throwaway fight, that was something that everyone who saw it remembered. Then along came Tommy Oliver, one man on his own, who fought and defeated the rest of the team with his Dragonzord, a machine that was, on its own at least as powerful as the Megazord itself. My point is, you don't just throw away a moment like the Red Ranger icing the villain of the week off-hand, you either treat it as a desperate struggle, or you hold off on forming up the Megazord for a good long while until you actually face a threat that requires it. The time to form the Megazord was either in Episode 2, or later in the series. "A Fool's Hour" should have been cut from the episode lineup entirely, and everything important within rolled into "Return of the Caveman."
Speaking of which, that's talk about episode four! Or as I like to call it; Shenanigans: Or; We Don't Know What a Consistent Tone is!
Listen folks, I'm not the kind of fan who expects Power Rangers to be grimdark and serious all the time, god knows I love a good joke every now and again. Unfortunately for the Neo-Saban era, there aren't many good jokes in this series, just pratfalls, exploding food gags, and stupid writing. Equally unfortunately for them, I grew up with the original Saban-era and the Disney-era, back when the show had good jokes at the worst of times and phenomenal jokes at the best. In other words, this series had standards to live up to, and it failed, hard.
Oh, I'm certain these shenanigans elicited some form of laughter from what this show considers its "target demographic." Just a shame it won't from any of the old hands that have been keeping this show afloat for the last seven years.
Being a critic, I watch a lot of movies and television series, and a lot of those are ones aimed towards younger demographics. One of the shows I've been watching a lot lately is Star Wars: The Clone Wars. I'll admit, Star Wars is one of my favorite things ever, but that doesn't mean I'll lap up anything with the license attached, or accept a crappy installment just because it's Star Wars.
I have a number of points to make here. One of which being that I'm not one of those people who considers children's programming utterly atrocious as a rule. Another being that I'm not particularly blinded by nostalgia like some may accuse me of being. Yes, I like the series I grew up with and I don't like what's being put out now. However, there are clear, objective reasons why the Disney era and the original Saban era were superior to the Neo-Saban era in general and this series in particular. One of which being that the Disney and Fox eras never used the same joke more than maybe once or twice, more if it was something of a running gag. Even then, they didn't over-use them, and they were at least funny most of the time. This series panders to the little kid demographic with things that I guess are supposed to be jokes, but are just not funny.
Most of those jokes revolve around poor Koda, played by Yoshi Sudarso. Yoshi does his best to sell the humor, but it just doesn't work.
Episode four is titled "Return of the Caveman," and as suggested, this is a Koda-centric episode where the Black Ranger, Chase Randall (Played by James Davies) spends most of the episode trying to introduce Koda to the modern world. This makes a lot more sense after you've seen the first episode of season two, since Koda was frozen alive back during the Ice-Age. Would have been nice to have learned that during this episode, because those details would make this episode more tolerable. Well, maybe. Probably not, with all the bizarre shenanigans
The setup for everything that goes down here is Koda flashing back to his time living in a cave with his family. He finds the Blue Energem, but a horrible CGI Sabertooth Tiger attacks his brother. Koda tackles the tiger, the two of them fall off a cliff. Back in the present day, Koda awakens to the sound of a motorcycle.
Now, call me crazy, but isn't it a bad idea to run a motor-vehicle in an enclosed space like their command-center? I know they've got a lot of space, but unless those bikes run on... Whatever the hell Dino Chargers are charged with (And I doubt that, because it was making the kind of sounds an internal combustion engine makes) they're still running the risk of poisoning themselves and getting sick, if not outright dying. Gotta hope they didn't fire up more than one of those bikes in there.
Something else I would like to bring up; Where exactly does the one big door in the base lead to? The outside? We never really see anyone using it to wheel anything in or out, we just see people walking through it on occasion, and there's no way they got those bikes up the secret hatch in the mouth of the T-Rex head.
Anyways, after realizing there's no threat, Koda calms down slightly. Then Shelby's phone rings, and he attacks it.
Knowing that Koda is more Rip Van Winkle than Highlander, this is slightly more justified that I initially thought it to be. However, we still never found out how long he's been unfrozen. For all we know, he, Chase and Kendall could have been bumming around the museum ever since Samurai trying to find the other Energems. Which logically should have been plenty of time to adjust to the technology and whatnot. If they'd bothered developing Koda as a character before jumping into his focus episode, I could buy him being shook up by this, but the way everything is framed it doesn't work. Or more to the point, it's played for laughs when it really probably shouldn't be. It's called post-traumatic stress disorder, it's not supposed to be funny!
Anyways, Chase offers to teach Koda how to ride a bike. Fortunately, he gives him a decently-sized bike instead of a comedy kiddie-bike. Unfortunately, Koda has a helmet too small to fit on his head.
Maybe you should have had him wearing a motorcycle helmet, like the kind he'd be wearing when riding the Dino-Cycle so he can get used to the feeling. Or maybe they could have had him Morph and put him on the cycle. He should be alright like that. The Morphing Grid should handle all of that.
One of Sledge's prisoners, Slammer, goes out and tries to capture the Rangers and get their Energems. Chase gets captured because he's an idiot, but Koda manages to fend Slammer off for a while until he notices a stupid kid in danger. He and the kid get caged up, but the kids bike creates a hole in the bottom of the cage.
This brings me to a huge problem. The Rangers can basically summon their gear from nowhere. I don't know why, but they do. They also keep a bunch of Dino Chargers in their pockets at all times. There's no reason why Chase and Koda couldn't have morphed and busted their way out of those cages. They don't say anything about them being made of anything special, so as far as we know they're just steel cages. Considering the destructive capabilities of their gear, there's no reason that they shouldn't be able to get out. Slammer is, after all, just some criminal who makes cages. He's not Dai Shi or Lord Zedd, I don't buy him being able to hold a Ranger for more than a few seconds.
Anyways, Koda splints up the boys broken leg and makes a torch so he can see to get out of the cave. The other Rangers track a signal to their location, and they proceed to beat Slammer up with the Megazord.
This was one of the times when I realized that the show was going downhill. Not only could the conflict have been resolved stupidly easily, we don't even really explore the depths of the focus-character beyond the flashback at the beginning of the episode and a handful of scenes towards the middle and end! I found out more about Flit from Jungle Fury in a few minutes than I really learned about Koda in this whole episode!
Anyways, I've been working on this retrospective for two weeks now and there's no end in sight, so I'm going to split this up and get back to you next week with the rest of the rant-filled retrospective on the last two rancid years of wretched Ranger refuse. I'll see you guys then.
So, quick update. In addition to my Patreon, there's also an Amazon affiliate link you can use if you wish to support me. I've also made myself a new Amazon wishlist to go with the Amazon account I signed up for. Until now I was ordering things through my mothers account because it was more convenient. These days it's neither here nor there, plus since my ads are now served through Amazon that means I can get paid through there, as well as getting things I want. If anyone wants to send me stuff rather than giving me money, check out that Amazon wishlist. Also check out the old Amazon wishlist on the Donations page. I share the contents of that list with my mother, but there's an easy way to tell what I put on there from what she put on there. If it ain't video-games, DVD's, Blu-rays, electronics or toys, then it's likely not something I wanted, but if you want to buy something for my mother I'm sure she'd appreciate it.