Sunday, June 26, 2016
Let's get this out of the way straight off the bat. This is a gorgeous movie, and part of the reason I like it is because it's just so god-damn cool-looking!
I've never understood the idea of liking something based mainly on aesthetics until I saw this movie. Everything is just so freaking pretty. The costumes, the environments, the swords, the shields, the armor, the gear, the books, the sets, the fights, the effects, the makeup, the cinematography, the direction, the music. My god I just love to watch this film. Where some movies have unimpressive weapons, this film makes literally every single weapon look awesome, like you'd want to have it hanging on your wall. Even the Orc weapons that look like they were cobbled together from random crap are cool. The Horde armor and clothing looks really cool too, but the Alliance armor is freaking sweet, from the king, all the way down to the lowliest foot-soldier. If you want to watch something that will make you want to buy toys and/or props, this is the movie for you.
It's just a shame that the story isn't structured better. And it's a shame there are hardly any British accents in the movie. For as cool as The Alliance's gear and locations are, The Alliance characters are the weakest part of the movie. Part of that has to do with the fact that most of them just have American accents, and part of it has to do with the fact that we start about a movie too far into the story for any of the characters to be really compelling, which is a shame, because I want to care about them, since they've got the coolest gear and some awesome fights. They're not exactly the good guys in the story, but they're definitely the best-dressed.
The orcs side of the story is much more interesting, but unfortunately we're only privy to a very small portion of it. We're in yet another position where the lead-up to the story is more interesting than the story itself. Not that the story is bad, but it would benefit from being a sequel, not the first movie in the series. The orcs are fleeing their home planet to Azeroth. The portal is opened up with evil green magic powered by draining the life from living beings. Rather than being shown the origin of this magic and how the magician, Gul'dan became as he is, we are told later on in the movie. Rule #1 of storytelling: Show, don't tell. I suppose they must have cut the story down in all of the years of production, which I'll get to later on.
The Orc Horde spills over into Azeroth, and our Orc lead, Durotan's (Toby Kebbell) wife has a miscarriage, but Gul'dan brings the baby back to life at the expense of the life of a deer. I don't quite know what emotion this was supposed to elicit from us, but given the chance to sacrifice the life of a deer for a 100% chance to bring someone back to life, I'd take that chance. Anyone would. Snap decision. Unless it was someones pet, in which case no, but just a deer? In exchange for a child? I can't be expected to see that as some horrible act, any more than killing and eating the deer would be a horrible act in something like The Walking Dead. It's necessary for them to survive. For some reason though, the movies soundtrack expects me to see this as something horrible.
The orcs begin their raids, and the military of Stormwind Kingdom is taken by storm, and slaughtered. As they regroup, the commander, Anduin Lothar (Travis Femmel) finds an errant mage looking over the bodies of the fallen. The mage, Khadgar, (Ben Schnetzer) explains that he found traces of the evil Fel magic on the bodies. The mage persuades the king, Llane Wrynn to seek the help of the guardian of Tirisfal, Medvih (Ben Foster).
Lothar and Khadgar go see Medvih, who accompanies them and a scouting team tracing the remnants of Fel magic, and along the way they get ambushed by an orc party. They manage to fight them off and take a half-orc named Garona, who can speak both Human and Orc. Neither of which are English, btw.
They find out that the Orcs are planning to use all the people they've captured to bring The Horde into Azeroth at the expense of their lives.
Durotan deduces that Fel magic was responsible for the death of his world, and begins plotting against Gul'dan. He invites King Llane to a meeting to negotiate a truce, but Blackhand's Orcs ambush them, and Lothar's son is killed by the sheer incompetence of Medvih.
King Llane leads an attack on the Orc encampment, while Lothar and Khadgar deduce that Medvih must be aiding The Horde. Sure enough, he's possessed by a demon using Fel magic to aid The Horde. Lothar and Khadgar fight him and a clay golem to victory, and with the last of his life, Medvih closes the portal to Draenor and opens one to Stormwind, allowing Llane's men to retreat through with the prisoners, but not Llane himself and some of his soldiers. Lothar arrives too late to save anyone, but Llane orders Garona to kill him so she can try and take command of The Orcs herself with the honor his death would bring him. Lothar faces off with a Fel-roided Blackhand, and kills him with Llane's sword, leaving with the kings body on his griffin.
The races and governments of Azeroth form together to create The Alliance to combat The Horde, and Durotan's son is found by humans.
All in all, god-damn I wish this movie was better. I want to like this movie. I really freaking do. It doesn't exactly fall apart, more like it never really came together in the first place, and I can totally pinpoint why. This should have been Warcraft II, and there should have been another Warcraft movie ahead of it. Probably sometime last year, or two years ago. Hell, I'd say it should have been released back in 2012, it would have been amazing to see the start of this whole Warcraft story back in 2012. Then this movie could have been released in 2014 and a third Warcraft movie could have been out this year instead.
However, it's a god-damn pretty movie. I can't even get over that for a second no matter how much I try and focus on the issues with the story. I just love the swords so much. I love the armor, the environments, the effects, everything. This is such a polarizing movie for me, since on the one hand I love it for the aesthetics, and I love it for some parts of the story, but on the other hand I wish they'd bothered covering all of the lead-up to the events in this film. Plus, there are way too many American accents in this cast. King Llane is freaking British, and European accents are standards for fantasy settings. I'm not saying they should have put on bad accents if they couldn't put on good ones, I'm just saying they should have at least tried.
Then there's the fact that hardly anyone in this movie speaks with any kind of pomp and circumstance. The orcs do, Llane does, but Medvih, Lothar and Khadgar don't.
As far as accuracy to the games goes, I wouldn't really know beyond the fact that Gul'dan looks like something out of WoW. I've never beaten Warcraft: Orcs and Humans and I don't own any of the other games. I played quite a bit of World of Warcraft right after it went Free To Play, but I wasn't particularly impressed by it. Best I can tell you is that everything looks about right, and if it's not, who cares? It's a freaking gorgeous movie.
The worst I can say about the effects is that in the very first scene in the movie, the orcs look like they were stripped out of WoW and given a bunch of extra polygons and points of articulation in their skeletons. In fact, the first few minutes of the film have a generally strange air to them, as if they were using incomplete, under-polished animation and CGI. Thankfully it's solved immediately afterwards, but it's still off-putting.
In the end... I can't decide, really. I know I'm going to get it on Blu-Ray as soon as I possibly can, because I really want to see another Warcraft movie. Hell, I might even wind up re-installing Warcraft and playing it. I do love me some old-school RTS.
I guess I'm going to have to abstain from giving this film a score since I'm so conflicted about it. I'll be back again next week, hopefully I can give a more definitive review then. Probably either gonna be Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows or Senran Kagura 2: Deep Crimson.
Image from Impawards.com
Sunday, June 19, 2016
There were two Dragon Ball games to come out last year, Xenoverse, and Extreme Butoden. As of this moment, I've only played the latter, and so far it's a bit of a disappointment, both as a tag-team fighting game and as a Dragon Ball game. Fair warning, if you're not a fan of Dragon Ball, you won't understand a word I'm saying here, so if you're interested, you should familiarize yourself with the comics, most likely available at your local library, book-store, or preferred internet retailer. They're really freaking good, so you should read them.
To start off, the roster is incredibly limited, both in comparison to that of the comics and of previous Dragon Ball games. Extreme Butoden boasts of having over one-hundred characters, but as of writing only twenty-six are playable, and all the others are assists, and none of them have any alternate costumes, meaning they're stuck in one set of attire throughout the entire game even during story-mode. None of the Saiyans have Super Saiyan 2, 3, or 4 forms playable, except for Gohan, who doesn't have Super Saiyan 1 playable. Gohan is stuck as Teen Gohan in his Frieza/Cell Saga gear during the Saiyan Saga, which makes him about five years too old. Vegeta only has Super Saiyan playable, despite Goku have Super Saiyan God and Super Saiyan God Super Saiyan forms in the game, and is stuck in the gear he wore in the latter part of the Frieza Saga and all of the Cell Saga, but for some reason, during cutscenes when he transforms into Ozaru, he's wearing the right armor, and during cutscenes set in the Buu Saga he's wearing his correct gear. Despite this, Majin Vegeta is unplayable. Speaking of Ozaru, there aren't Great Ape or Golden Ape transformations for any of the Saiyans, nor are they included as assist characters, despite Great Ape Vegeta showing up in a cutscene towards the end of the Saiyan Saga in-game. Future Trunks is stuck as a Super Saiyan, and there's no playable Kid Trunks period. Adult Gohan has Ultimate and Super Saiyan forms, but no base form or Great Saiyaman costume. Goku has his Dragon Ball Z gear, and his SSGSS form has his Resurrection F gear, but there's no King Kai gi, no Kame House gi, no Dragon Ball or Dragon Ball GT gi, and he can't wear his Resurrection F gear in his base form. Speaking of which, Frieza is only playable in his final form. No first form, second, third, mecha, or golden form. His brother Cooler isn't playable, and their father, King Cold isn't even in the game. Their ancestor, Chilled isn't playable either. This brings us to Bardock, who doesn't have a Super Saiyan transformation period. Goku and Vegeta both god Super Saiyan transformations as part of their Ultimate Combos, but Bardock doesn't get one at all. Nappa and Raditz don't get any Super Saiyan transformation, and Bardock's other son, Turles isn't playable at all. Vegeta's brother, Tarbles isn't in the game at all. Nor is King Vegeta, or any of Bardock's squad. Dodoria and Zarbon are unplayable, and Zarbon's lizard form isn't in the game at all. The only member of The Ginyu Force that's playable is Ginyu himself, and all the others are assists, as are all of Frieza's other men that are even included in the game. Only Android 18, Lazuli is playable. Her brother, 17, AKA Lapis is an assist, as are Dr. Gero, Android 19, Fusion Android 13, Android 8, and Super 17. Imperfect Cell, Semi-Perfect Cell, and Cell Jr. are all assists, and Android 14, 15, and Hellfighter 17 aren't even in the game. The only Z-Fighters who are in the game are the ones I previously mentioned, so all the others are assists. The only playable fusion there is is Kid Gotenks, while Gogeta is stuck as an assist at SSJ4, while Vegito isn't in the game at all.
As you could tell, the rather anemic roster affects how the story plays out. Since Tien, Chiaotzu, Yajirobe and Yamcha aren't playable, you can't fight Nappa or Vegeta as them, despite their fights being rather pivotal, especially since Yajirobe's "fight" with Great Ape Vegeta saved Goku's life, and by extension, the whole planet.
Story-mode is split into a series of six simultaneous stories, with an additional seventh story that takes place after all of them unlocked once you're done, akin to Sonic Adventure. The difference is, Sonic Adventure wasn't trying to adapt any existing source-material, and each characters story more or less made sense both on its own and as a part of the whole. Yes, each of them would wind up contradicting the other, but in the long run it didn't matter, since you got the full picture of the story by the end of the game. You also had alternate levels to go through, alternate boss-fights, alternate approaches to existing ones, etc, while this game has, at most, two extra fights for every character in the game, so until you get to the "Bad Guys" saga, Story Mode is going to be incredibly repetitive. For one thing, Dragon Saga has all of the same major fights in it that the other subsequent Sagas do, except without some of the incredibly plot-sensitive or important fights, most of the establishing elements of the story, most of the defining moments in the series, and most of the Buu Saga. In other words, if you don't already know the plot of Dragon Ball Z, you won't know what the hell is going on. Even if you play through all six Sagas, so much of the story is missing that anyone experiencing the story for the first time will be left wondering what they missed.
The main issue I have outside of the general issue with the horribly abridged story is the sheerly linear nature of the game. No matter what you do, who you beat or how good you are, the game follows the story of Dragon Ball Z exactly. If you win fights characters lost in the story, then they lose in the story. If you lose fights characters lost in the story, you get a game-over. I'm sorry, I thought we'd moved past this in the '90s! WWF: No Mercy had branching storylines perfected back on the N64, and subsequent WWF/E games had branching storylines based on whether you won or lost fights as well. I love the Dragon Ball story, but I've been there and done that before in almost every DBZ game I've played, I want to see something different once and a while! I also don't want my accomplishments in the game to be meaningless in terms of story. Even if you beat Raditz in the first fight in the game, Goku still dies, and the story proceeds as normal. It's disappointing, since it means your actions have no affect on the game. All I want to see is a Dragon Ball game with branching storylines. They could make fights that the characters lost in the series to be super hard to beat, but if you did manage to pass them, something different could happen. Or they could keep retelling the same old story with worse writing every time, it's their choice.
After you beat that, anything resembling story-mode ends. Roll credits. No Resurrection F storyline, none of the movies aside from BoG are covered, despite movie-exclusive villains like Cooler, Meta Cooler, and Turles showing up, none of the specials or OVA's, like Bardock: Father of Goku, Episode of Bardock, Yo! Son Goku and his Friends Return (Which takes place right before Battle of Gods) are covered despite Bardock being playable, and despite the latter taking place right before certain events this game does cover. Both the Bad Guys Saga, and Adventure Mode seem like they took parts of Dragon Ball GT and mashed them together with parts of Battle of Gods.
And then Broly shows up for some reason about halfway through the tournament to challenge Goku (At least I was playing as Goku because that's who you were supposed to be playing as in Adventure Mode) and if you were smart enough to pack your team with Super Saiyan Goku, SSG and SSGSS Goku, then you've got this in the bag. Then at the end, Beerus shows up, accompanied by regular old Goku and Vegeta for some reason, and if you don't know how to beat him, you're screwed, and you've got to start the whole tournament over again. Comparatively speaking, this mode is actually pretty hard if you don't know what you need to do to win. Extreme Survival is where the majority of the challenge will come from. It and the multiplayer are the only ways to accumulate Extreme Points to unlock Extreme powered-up versions of the characters. If you're only in this for the single-player, then this will do nothing for you, since it doesn't actually unlock anything you haven't already used. If you know how to handle the game, then you can beat Broly with Krillin. I'm not kidding, I actually pitted basic Krillin against Broly in a singles match and he freaking won. I've actually seen this happen before, I beat Vegeta with Yamcha in Super Dragon Ball Z once. I like this in concept, but all of the characters are ranked by "DP" (I assume that means Difficulty Points) and you wonder what those rankings even mean. Less DP means less HP, but if you're fast enough that doesn't matter. Plus, under most circumstances, the AI is so freaking stupid that they can't even hit you when you leave yourself open.
You can also change match duration and button-mapping if you wish, but there's one rather critical option missing. Audio. While all the text in the game is in English, all of the voices are in Japanese. Rather odd, considering all the previous games that have been released in America have had the Funimation cast as an option at least, in this game you're stuck with the Japanese cast no matter what, and most of them are either utterly unsuited to their roles or just plain bad. A quick example would be how Goku, Gohan, Turles, Goten, and Bardock are all voiced by the same woman, Masako Nozawa, even as adults. This leads to fights between these characters where you can barely tell the characters voices apart. Then there's Krillin, who shares a voice-actress with his wife, Android 18. You can tell them apart, but Krillin's voice is still too high, even for someone as small as he is. It's a rather bizarre choice, since there are plenty of Dragon Ball fans, such as myself, who despise the Japanese cast of Dragon Ball Z.
The rather odd thing is that despite having the Japanese cast, half the score sounds like it was composed by Zard and The Field of View (Composers and performers of the Dragon Ball GT theme song) and the other half sounds like it was composed by Bruce Faulconer, the Funimation dub composer. The upside is that we don't wind up with any of the really horrible tracks from the Japanese version, like the Super Saiyan transformation song, or the first ED. The downside is there's no Cha La Head Cha La, no Hikari no Willpower, no Solid State Scouter, no We Gotta Power, and no We Were Angels. The music in the game is perfectly fine, but there's nothing particularly iconic about it, nothing that particularly screams Dragon Ball Z.
This brings me to another technical issue. The voice-clips during combat have sample-rates lower than that of the music, which appears to be about CD-quality. The clips that play during cutscenes are of the same quality as the music, as are the sound-effects that play during battle, but the voice-clips almost sound like they were ripped from a GBA or early DS game for all their low-quality.
All in all, while this isn't a particularly bad game by any means, there are certainly better Dragon Ball games to choose from. Pick up any of the DBZ games on DS over this, or better yet, just pick up Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi 2. It's got the English voice-cast, the iconic Faulconer score, and it doesn't skip around like this game does.
In the end, this game is pretty mediocre. I give it a 4.9* rating. Sorry this is a little late, I've been stretched thin lately, and I've had a lot on my plate. Next week should be Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows or Warcraft.
Sunday, June 5, 2016
As someone who really, really liked Dawn of Justice, this film was brilliant. It's just a shame it's not out-selling the far inferior Captain America: Civil War. Yes, I'll go that far. Between this film and Deadpool, Fox has had a much better showing this year than Marvel has, at least in the theaters. Season two of Daredevil was awesome, and while The Punisher, Luke Cage, the second season of Jessica Jones, and Doctor Strange might make up for its failings later in the year, but at the moment it's not looking too good for Marvel's main stuff.
X-Men Apocalypse takes place in the 1980's with the cast of First Class, with a few members of the classic X-Men and characters made famous by the 90's animated-series added in for good measure. We've got Jean Grey, Cyclops, Jubilee, Angel, Nightcrawler, Storm, Psylocke, and probably others in the background. Jubilee doesn't really do much, which is a shame, but I'm glad she's finally something more than a background character. Angel also plays a much more critical role in this movie than he did in X3, as anyone who knows the Apocalypse storyline would know. Nightcrawler actually sticks around for the whole movie, which is longer than he was in X2 for, the one thing I really didn't like about that film. Returning from previous post-First Class films are Mystique, Charles Xavier, Magneto, Havoc, Beast, Wolverine, and my personal favorite, Quicksilver!
X-Men fans will basically know how this movie goes, but for those who don't know the comics or the animated series very well, spoilers inbound. Yes, I know I already said that Wolverine is in this movie, but it's an X-Men film, Wolverine has been in every X-Men film to date in some respect, he was even in Deadpool in spirit.
So, after head-trauma, Scott Summers' (Played by Tye Sheridan) mutant powers manifest in a much less overpowered, yet incredibly similar way to the way they emerged in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Due to the way they changed the past in X-Men: Days of Future Past, Scott is not abducted by the people behind the Weapon X program and is instead taken by his brother, Alex Summers (Played by Lucas Till, looking the most like Matt Smith he ever has) to the Xavier mansion to get his signature ruby-quartz sunglasses, made by Hank McCoy (Played by Nicholas Hoult), which prevent his eye-beams from wreaking havoc like they do. At the mansion he meets Jean Grey (Played by Sophie Turner) Jubilation Lee (Lana Condor) and Charles Xavier. (James McAvoy) Scott stays at the mansion and befriends others there, and Jean gets a vision of an apocalypse that's coming their way.
Meanwhile, Raven Darkhölme, AKA Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) is traveling around the world saving mutants. She rescues Kurt Wagner, AKA Knightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee) from a cage-fight in East Berlin with Warren Worthington III, AKA Angel (Ben Hardy). Raven takes him to a weird guy named Caliban to get him to Xavier, but Caliban informs her that Erik Lensherr (Michael Fassbender), has been located in Poland after the army there killed his wife and daughter, and he killed all of them. This prompts Raven to go with Kurt to the states to inform Xavier of this.
Xavier looks in on a few people using Cerebro, and finds that Moira McTaggert has discovered something related the seismic events that coincided with Jean's nightmares.
Once in the states, Raven meets the new students, and Nightcrawler befriends Jean, Jubilee and Scott, and they go out to see Return of the Jedi together while Xavier and Alex go to Washington to talk to Moira about what they've found, and to undo the memory-erasure that Xavier used on her in First Class. They bring her back to the mansion so she can help him locate the mutant who is the source of the activity, and try and convince Magneto to rejoin them. This leads to Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac) taking control of Xavier's mind, and using Cerebro to find the worlds most powerful mutants. This comes a bit late, since he's already recruited a pair of the worlds less powerful mutants to his team, Angel and Psylocke (Olivia Munn) that consists of them and Ororo Munro, AKA Storm, (Alexandra Shipp) and Magneto. Magneto is War, and Archangel is Death, but we're never told which of the remaining two are Pestilence or Famine. Not that this really matters, because I'm sure Storm could handle both of those roles.
Havoc destroys Cerebro, but Apocalypse shows up to kidnap Xavier so he can use him to disarm the worlds nuclear weapons and send a message to the world. Havoc tries to prevent that from happening, but Apocalypse redirects the waves and they begin to destroy the mansion, but Quicksilver shows up in one of the best scenes in the freaking movie and rescues everyone before the mansion is destroyed, save for Havok, who was at the epicenter of the blast.
Colonel Stryker shows up at the mansion and knocks out everyone, and kidnaps Hank, Raven, Peter and Moira, but Kurt, Scott and Jean evade them and stow away on a helicopter to get to the base where Stryker is keeping Wolverine (Hugh freaking Jackman man). They free Wolverine, and he helps them free Hank, Raven, Peter and Moira. Jean helps him get some of his memories back, and he runs off into the snow.
Meanwhile, Xavier is made to disarm all the worlds nukes, and Magneto begins messing with the earths magnetic fields to cause widespread destruction and to build a new infrastructure at Apocalypse's behest. Meanwhile Apocalypse is trying to transfer his consciousness into Xavier's body so he can get his powers, but the X-Men have hijacked one of Strykers drop-jets and made their way to his location, and they begin to do battle with Apocalypse and The Horsemen. Eventually they stop Apocalypse from merging with Xavier, and thanks to intervention from Magneto and Storm, the team manages to beat Apocalypse.
Xavier, now bald thanks to his interaction with Apocalypse, begins to officially form The X-Men, and Mystique trains students in combat in The Danger Room.
All in all, hell yes. Amazing. Can't really see how it could be improved much. Granted Alexandra Shipp's Storm voice sounds nothing like it has at any point in the past, and McAvoy's head isn't shaped exactly like Patrick Stewart's head is, but he still looks more like Stewart than Tom Hardy did in Star Trek: Nemesis. The plot flows well, and god-dammit do I love the Quicksilver scene in this film, just like I loved the Quicksilver scene in Days of Future Past. Peter Maximoff is turning out to be one of my favorite characters in this series, and I can't wait to see him in another film.
In the end, I give it a 9.9* rating. I'll see you guys next week with either Deadpool, or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows!
Image from Impawards.com
Wednesday, June 1, 2016
I’m a sucker for JRPG’s, ever since I got into them I’ve found something truly entrancing about them. Mind you my love of JRPG’s only really came to fruition a few years ago which meant that many JRPG’s have managed to slip under my radar for whatever reason, maybe they were too obscure or never got a European release. Whatever the reason, I missed out on them.
One of these games was Odin Sphere, which was originally released on the PS2 back in 2007 in America and 2008 in Europe and Oceania. I would have been around nine at the time which is probably why the game completely slipped by me, well that and the fact that my family had only just got our hands on a Wii but that's besides the point.
So now, less than ten years after the release of the original we have an updated HD remake entitled Odin Sphere Leifthrasir, and trust me, this game has given me a lot of stuff to talk about so with that being said, lets start.
The story is... interesting to say the least. Honestly the interesting part isn’t the story itself but rather how the story is told.
You see, Odin Sphere is split up into multiple “books”. Each book represents a different characters campaign. While each character is going through the same overall story each characters stories will be told from their perspective and fill in blanks that might be present from other characters stories.
It’s an interesting way of telling the games narrative and honestly I think it works quite well. The game provides you with a special chart to show specifically where certain events happen in the timeline and also where certain characters events overlap. Each character will go on their own adventure but the things that occur in those stories all are important in the large overarching plot.
It’s a clever system for telling the story and one I don’t think I have really seen before in a game. Problem is because of this system it makes talking about the story itself a bit difficult if you haven’t played through the whole game.
What I can say though is that the story itself borrows elements from Norse Mythology and also feels a little Shakespearean in how it is told (heck there are scenes where characters get a spotlight shone on them making it look like a stage-play and everything).
So while I can’t say too much about the story I can say the way it is told is extremely creative. That's all I can really say without getting into spoiler territory.
Now this is where things get interesting. Odin sphere isn’t a JRPG in the classical sense of the term. In fact the gameplay is completely different to what I expected.
You see, Odin Sphere plays a bit like a side scrolling beat-em-up. No I am not kidding. Let me explain.
Odin Sphere plays out entirely on a 2D plane. You run about in 2D and you fight in 2D. Dungeons contain three types of rooms: battle rooms, rest areas and normal rooms.
Battle Areas are just as they sound, you enter the area and a battle commences. This is where the 2D fighter gameplay starts bleeding in.
Combat heavily revolves around chaining together attacks which is a very simple and smooth affair. You only have one attack button which gives you a basic three hit combo as well as the ability to juggle enemies when coupled with pressing up on the D-pad but really that is all you need. The combat is incredibly smooth and fluid and despite the fact that I am a total idiot at fighting games I found myself getting the hang of chaining together attacks and pulling off flashy combos quite quickly.-
With Odin Sphere, I always felt like I was in control while fighting, inputs were responsive, combos weren’t a pain in the backside to pull off and skills were simple to pull off but effective at the same time.
Speaking of skills they come in two types, Passive and Active. Passive skills are always active while active skills require toggling using either a button combo or the skills menu (which can be accessed at any time during battle with the L button).
Now the skills menu is nice to have but I find it a bit of a pace breaker. Combat is quite fast and frantic and having the game pause while you pick a skill is a bit offputting.
However thanks to a wonderful thing called shortcuts this isn’t really a problem. In the skills menu you are allowed to assign skills to a surprising amount of button combinations. You have basic combinations of pushing a direction and circle at the same time but if you so desire you can pull skills off Street Fighter style by setting advanced button combos. I really like this feature. It allows players to set shortcuts in a way that they can handle. New players can use the simple shortcuts while other players (like myself) can map skills in a more advanced way. Really there is just something so satisfying about pulling off a skill through the use of a good old quater circle attack motion.
There are two different meters that a skill can deplete. The POW gauge and SP. Skills that deplete POW are able to be used more often as the POW gauge recovers by itself over time. SP skills however require SP and actually replenishing SP can only be done through the use of an item or by picking up Phozons (these little purple crystal things that replenish your SP and are the way you upgrade your skills).
Now some might call me a bit of a skill spammer but I found myself running out of SP A LOT during the early game. This is probably why I find myself using POW skills more as the POW gauge recharges by itself over time. It’s a minor nitpick but it would have been nice if they had reduced the SP cost for SP skills just a tiny bit.
The important thing to note about battle areas is how they are shaped. You see, Odin Sphere does something interesting with its dungeon design. Rooms come in two flavours, vertical/horizontal and cylindrical. Yes, cylindrical. This is how battle rooms are shaped and honestly, in practise it is a really clever idea.
The thing with these rooms is that because they are shaped in a circle you will well... keep running around the circle. This means that you don’t run the risk of off screening yourself while in a battle area and that is a total godsend in my opinion.
It also means that the camera is almost always placed sensibly in battle rooms so you can see what is going on. It’s simple but incredibly useful.
The other type of room is the vertical/horizontal room. These are just as they sound, nothing really too fancy about them. Sometimes they have enemies in them but most of the time they are just connectors between battle areas.
However these rooms are usually where you will find secrets. You see, Odin Sphere has an interesting system when it comes to learning skills. You don’t learn them as you level up, rather you learn them when you find special Phozon Prisims hidden around the place.
Sometimes you’ll get a prism for finishing a certain battle area but usually you will find them in hidden rooms not displayed on the map.
This really adds a bit of Metroidvania to Odin Sphere's gameplay which is something I really REALLY like. I’ve always liked Metroidvania games and adding a dash of that into Odin Sphere just makes it all the more fun for me.
Finally we have rest areas. These are just as they sound, areas where you can rest. Here you will find a store, item box (yes you do have a limit to how much you can carry in your bag), touring restaurant, checkpoint/warp point and a few other things.
This is probably a good time to get into some of the other mechanics that Odin Sphere has. Firstly we have the alchemy system. In a nutshell this allows you to combine certain items from your inventory and create potions. To do this however you require special empty vials called material (yeah I dunno why they’re called that either). You can them combine material with items you have picked up to create potions. The most useful of these items would be the mandragoras which are basically vegetables with legs. These guys are found in the ground and upon walking over one that is hidden you’ll hear a little squeak sound. Once you get them out of the group you just need to give them a little wallop with whatever weapon you are holding and then you can pick them up.
Mandragora’s can be used to create the more useful potions, namely healing potions, antidotes and potions that can be used to hurt enemies when thrown.
As you continue through the game you’ll pick up scrolls with new recipes on how to fuse different potions. However you don’t require these scrolls to make the item found on them which is nice.
The alchemy system is one of the systems you will be using the most due to how useful it is. Alchemy can be performed anywhere, even in the heat of battle and you can take as much time as you want because the game pauses itself when you open the items menu.
The other system you will most likely be using a lot is the planting system. You can plant seeds that you find and when given phozons they will produce fruit. The useful thing about this fruit is that when eaten it not only gives you experience points but it also boosts a few of your stats a bit. If you want to survive in this game you are going to want to make use of this system. All food in Odin Sphere is like this with it giving you EXP boosts, stat boosts and other things when eaten. The nice thing about this is that it basically removes the need to grind entirely. This is also where the touring restaurant comes in as with the right ingredients you can make some dishes that boost your exp a TON.
Now these aren’t the only mechanics in Odin Sphere (trust me there are quite a few) but these are really the two main ones that you will be using the most often. The other mechanics are just fine but you simply won’t be using them as often as the two mechanics I just mentioned.
Odin Sphere also sports excellent controls. They feel great, incredibly natural and I always feel like I’m in control.
Overall I find that the gameplay of Odin Sphere is by far one of its strongest aspects. It’s fast paced, smooth and most importantly, fun.
Graphics and Sound:
I’m just going to say it right now, Odin Sphere looks and sounds fan-flipping-tastic. Seriously, this is one of the best looking games I think I have ever played.
Multiple times I was left simply gawking at my Vita for a minute or two just from how eye poppingly beautiful the game looked. This is partially due to the multi layered backgrounds which are all so detailed and have tons of stuff going on in them. From leaves blowing past to spurts of lava, there is always something going on in the backgrounds and it looks stunning.
The foregrounds have a lot going on too with more little details scattered all around that just make the game look stunning. To top it off the character and enemy art is top notch, it looks amazing and is extremely detailed and very well animated.
In fact, not only does Odin Sphere look amazing but it also is smooth as butter both animation wise and performance wise.
Animation wise everything is incredibly smooth and slick. The animation is spot on with no jagged edges or odd frames. What makes this smooth animation even better though is the games performance. Odin Sphere runs at a consistent rock solid 60 frames per second and coupling that with the animation and art it makes for the most beautiful game I think I have ever seen on my PlayStation Vita.
If you’re like me and own an OLED Vita then you’re in for an extra treat as well. The OLED screen really makes the games colours pop and it looks all the more amazing because of it.
Not only does the game look pretty however but it sounds excellent as well. This is one of those games where I would highly HIGHLY recommend that you use headphones because using the Vita's speakers would be doing this games soundtrack a horrible disservice.
The soundtrack to Odin Sphere is amazing, heck even the developers know it’s amazing because they slap the logo of the group who composed the music among the company splash screens.
Coupling the music and the graphics really makes Odin Sphere come alive in a whole new way. The music and graphics fit the setting so well and it makes the world of Odin Sphere really pop. Really no amount of praise can do this game justice when it comes to how well it is presented and I highly recommend you experience it for yourself (which you can do at the time of this review by downloading the demo off the PlayStation store).
Going into Odin Sphere I didn’t quite have much of an idea on what to expect but what I got was a game that was not only beautiful to look at but great fun to play as well. The game is full of things to do, secrets to find and areas to explore and the amazing presentation makes it a visual and audio pleasure to play. The game also plays amazingly on the Vita giving a lag free experience which just makes the game all the more enjoyable.
If you enjoy JRPG’s and are looking for something unique and enjoyable then give Odin Sphere a look. If you already played the original on PS2 then pick this remake up anyway because it tweaks and fixes all of the problems that the PS2 version had to make this version of the game the definitive experience.
Odin Sphere Leifthrasir gets a Highly Recommended
The Vita is certainly getting a lot of love this year with all these titles coming out and I’m sure I’ll be back with another review soon but for now this is BDVR Guest author Nathan Green signing off.
Odin Sphere Leifthrasir will be releasing on June 7th in North America and on June 24th in Europe for PlayStation Vita, PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4.
OFLC: PG (Unrestricted, Estimated Rating)
Game and cover image provided by Atlus.
Monday, May 30, 2016
This time around, I have 100%'d the game. I got every single mask, cleared all the optional side-quests, and gotten every single item in the game. So, if you've been wondering what took me so long to finish this game, that's what.
Majora's Mask didn't sell quite as well as Ocarina of Time did back when it was first released, but damn is it a good game. Majora's Mask was the first direct sequel in the Zelda series since The Adventure of Link. Yes, Link's Awakening was sort of a sequel to A Link to the Past, but it didn't pick up literally right after it ended, it was more of a direct-sequel to the Oracles games, which in turn were both direct-sequels to A Link To The Past. But we'll get to those later. Spoilers for the plots of Majora's Mask and Ocarina of Time inbound.
Majora's Mask picks up basically right after the end of Ocarina of Time. Link takes Epona on a quest to find Navi, who flew off into the land of Hyrule after their final journey though time. Link is set upon by a Skull-kid wearing a mask, accompanied by a pair of fairies, who scare Epona and steal The Ocarina of Time. The Skull-kid curses Link into a Deku Scrub, and the yellow fairy, Tatl, keeps Link from following the Skull-kid, but she gets trapped with Link, and winds up teaming-up with him to get out.
Link escapes the strange place in the woods, and meets the Happy-Mask Salesman from Hyrule Castle Town, who tells him about how the Skull-kid stole Majora's Mask from him, and entreats Link to recover the mask. Link leaves the mysterious watery place and finds that he is in another city in another area of the world, Clock-Town within the territory of Termina.
Link travels through the town looking for information on how to get up to the top of the clock-tower. He finds a Deku-flower, but it's occupied by a Deku-salesman, who will only trade usage of it for a rare trinket. Frustrated, Link decides to explore the town and see if there's any other way to get up the tower. In doing so, he finds and re-unites the damaged Great Fairy in the town, who restores his magic powers and allows him to shoot magic bubbles in his cursed form.
Link then uses this to shoot down the map-salesman in town and purchase a map of the town, and to shoot a balloon with Majora's Mask on it. This gets the attention of a local kid who was trying to shoot it down, who challenges Link to a hide-and-seek contest between him and the rest of his crew. Link finds all of them, and they give him the password to their base. Link goes there, meets an Astronomer, looks through a telescope at the moon and sees a rare stone fall out of the moon's eye. He rushes outside to get it, and sure enough, it's The Moon's Tear that the Deku-scrub was looking for. He trades it for the flower, boosts his way up to the clock, and waits for midnight on the final day, where he confronts the Skull-kid and knocks The Ocarina of Time out of the imps hands, and just as the cursed moon is about to fall on the planet and destroy all life on it, Link plays The Song of Time, which catapults him and Tatl back to the Dawn of the First Day. There, the Happy-Mask Salesman teaches him The Song of Healing, which restores him to his normal form, and gives him a mask which can transform him into a Deku-scrub.
Link then travels to the homeland of the Deku Scrubs in the Southern Swamp on the behest of Tatl's brother, Tael, who told him to travel north, south, east, and west to find... Something.
At the swamp, Link finds out that the Deku princess has gone missing, and her monkey friend has been captured on suspicion of killing her. Link talks to the monkey, who teaches him a song to get into Woodfall Temple. There, Link gathers the scattered shards of the local Great Fairy, defeats the guardian of the Temple, and rescues the Princess.
Looping back to the First Day, Link then goes North, but finds his path blocked by giant boulders of snow, so he goes back to town and finds a shop selling bombs, and blows them up. He gets the masks, travels to the temple, gets The Great Fairy back together, takes down the temple guardian, warps back to the first day, rinse and repeat for the rest of the bosses.
Some of you may know that I'm a sucker for a good time-loop storyline, and this game is no exception by any means, especially with the amount of great storylines scattered throughout the game-world. There are only four dungeons in the game, only four bosses, and only four collectible heart-containers. The game makes up for this with numerous optional side-quests to get pieces of heart, and on top of all of this, almost all of them have a cool story attached to them, as do most of the side-quests attached to optional items.
The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask seems like the kind of game that has inspired a lot of indie horror-games, and at its core, I feel like Majora's Mask is a psychological horror-game disguised as an action-adventure game. There are subtly creepy things scattered throughout the world, from the way the music shifts from upbeat to creepy, to the music that plays as the world is about to end, to the way some characters act, to what's going on in the world, it adds up to a very sad, very creepy world. Some of the stranger characters in the game talk in such a way, and say things that just kinda get to you, even though there's no reason that it should. Ocarina of Time is a classic, and one of the greatest games ever made, but Majora's Mask is as well.
Something that seriously irritated me is that whenever you close the 3DS, the Circle-Pad Pro disconnects from the game, and you have to press one of the buttons on it to sync it back up. This could have been gotten around if there was some kind of feature within the system to pair the system up with a Circle-Pad Pro, or if the Circle-Pad Pro just didn't exist, and was instead just a part of the system... There's ample space for another joystick on the Old3DS below the face-buttons, and if they had made the system a bit thicker and curvier, they would have both made it more ergonomic, and had the space for the additional triggers, which would have solved a lot of problems with the system in the early days. If I'd bought the system at launch and gotten Resident Evil Revelations and Snake Eater 3D hoping to play them, I would have been seriously ticked that I needed a twenty-dollar accessory to a three-hundred dollar handheld to play them properly.
As it is, the game isn't unplayable without the CPP, like Snake Eater 3D is, but I would have had a much harder time with the camera otherwise, as I did in Ocarina of Time 3D. Rather unfortunately you still can't walk around in first-person despite support of the Circle-Pad Pro, so
Another fairly major change I noticed was that all of the bosses have had giant Majora eyes stapled onto them, and almost all of them have been made significantly easier. Odolwa is just easier to damage, while Goht has been nerfed significantly. Goht's defeat was so feaking awesome in the original game, but here it's just kind of token.
The last two boss-battles have actually been made significantly more difficult with the addition of an entire first and second stage in the Twinmold and Gyorg boss-fights respectively. The additions to the those fights makes them impossible to beat with The Fierce Deity Mask alone, since for some reason, the incredibly powerful god-creature can't breath or fight in water, or break through the carapace of a giant flying bug with his magic sword-blasts. Or his sword. If The Fierce Deity could just walk and breath underwater it'd be perfectly fine, he is a god after all. Or he could just be Adult Link with a sword shaped like DNA, either way, it doesn't make any sense that he can't use the same items Link could, especially since Adult Link had his own gear in Ocarina of Time which stuck around when you went back in time, and since Link has basically infinite inventory space, he doesn't really have any reason to leave stuff like that behind. Maybe The Skull Kid stole it all while he was knocked out or something.
Overall, the game is fine, and it's a decent remake to say the least, and while most of the side-quests remain just as hard as they were on the N64, the bosses have been completely imbalanced to the point where they're legitimately either way too easy or impossible to deal with. The changes to Gyorg wouldn't have been so bad if he didn't just swim around the arena for most of the second stage of combat, wasting your time. The Twinmold fight basically just becomes incredibly frustrating in the second stage. It's not particularly hard, since by that point in the game you should have all of the bottles in the game and at least six of them filled with fairies, so even if you do die you can just keep going. I'm not opposed to the idea of having to find the Giants Mask inside the boss-room, but they make you kill one of the worms before you can get to it. Now, hiding it inside the boss-room would be a clever idea if you had to solve some kind of puzzle under pressure rather than covering the underbelly of one with a bunch of Majora eyes that you have to shoot with your bow. Then we get to the second stage of the boss-fight. Thanks to the fact that you've been slowed down significantly you can't react as well to the movements of the red worm as you could in the original, and since you attack with your fists instead of your sword, your range has been reduced significantly as well, which makes it harder to hit the worm.
There have also been a few changes to the dungeons, for instance, a lot of the stray-faries have been moved around, and a few of the puzzles have been changed around a bit as well. There's also been a side-quest added to give you a seventh bottle. I can only presume this was because there weren't enough items to fill the entire grid in the inventory and they couldn't think of anything else to add. The side-quest is great, just like all the other side-quests in this game, but having seven bottles is a bit strange considering how most Zelda games have an even number of bottles.
They've added fishing to the game, which is even more irritating than it was in Ocarina of Time, but without much purpose, since there aren't any items connected to it, or any pieces of heart, since all of those were previously allocated to existing side-quests.
Now we come to the things they've rather oddly left out. For instance, there's no Master Quest, second world, or New Game+. I know I ragged on that a bit in the Ocarina of Time 3D review, but it'd be something. I'd actually love to see some kind of arrange-mode in this game, maybe something with some new side-quests, some new dungeons, or something like that. There's also no boss-challenge mode and no boss-rush mode, despite Ocarina of Time 3D and Skyward Sword both having each of those respectively. I know there are only five bosses in the game, but still. No developers commentary, no playable sample of the beta version of the game, no development history or developers notes, no concept-art, no in-game music playlist and no in-game bestiary. There's also no Retro-mode to play the game with the old N64 graphics, and the soundtrack is only a remastered version of the old sample-based music on the Nintendo 64 as opposed to a CD-quality re-recording with an actual orchestra, this is once again reinforced by the fact that they play a CD-quality medley of the games soundtrack during the Grezzo credits.
As with Ocarina of Time 3D there are rather inexplicable instances of slowdown in the most ludicrous of places, which I'm sure are probably cleared up on the New3DS despite the fact that the N64 original didn't suffer from slowdown. You know, despite the fact that it had about a million things going on and had to have extra RAM to actually work and didn't suffer from any slowdown whatsoever. None of the subsequent releases for other systems managed to pull that off, even on consoles that were capable of even more than the N64 was, mostly because they were being emulated for some reason instead of being a proper port.
All in all, while Majora's Mask is a damn fine game, and this is overall a good remake, it's also somewhat disappointing because they didn't include many significant extras or extra content. The changes that they've made have made the game a bit too easy, while simultaneously not clearing up some of the less intuitive issues with the game. They lengthened the amount of real-time it takes for in-game time to pass, but that just made the game easier, rather than clearing up any kind of actual issue. The lengthened game-time, combined with The Inverted Song of Time means that only ever came up against the end of The Final Day by accident once, the first time I was fighting Twinmold. Every time before that I went up against the last six hours of the game on purpose for a quest, or just because I was trying to get something done before I went back in time.
Another rather strange change to the game is that it no-longer saves when you go back in time, which led to me accidentally repeating sections of Snowhead a couple of times.
In the end, while it's still a really good game, especially if you've never played it, veterans who have beaten the game will both feel a little too different and not different enough, and not in the good way. I'd love to give the game credit for the astounding depth, but all of that is left over from the original version which was released fifteen years prior to the release of this game. I can't really call it lazy, since much of the game had to be remade from scratch, but I'm sure they did what they did with the original and re-used and re-skinned plenty of assets from Ocarina of Time 3D. The changes that have been made will certainly throw-off veterans who have memorized the game inside and out, and anyone who's played the game at least once will find the first two bosses rather insultingly easy. However, the game is still fun, and if you've never played the original, this is a good version to pick up. I'll give it an 8.9* rating.
Cover from thecoverproject.net, screenshots taken by me.
Sunday, May 8, 2016
I didn't dislike the last Avengers film. Was it as good as Ant-Man or Guardians of the Galaxy? Hell no. Not even close. It was still pretty good though, and it outshone the other superhero movies that came out in 2015. (Despite that not being hard to do)
I'll be blunt, I thought the chance of this movie being good was pretty damn low. My expectations basically started out at the same place as my expectations for Batman v Superman, but after seeing that film I became optimistic for this one. At first, I thought my fears unfounded, as the film began with a quality akin to that of BvS, but around halfway through the film things began to fall apart.
This seems to be the year of superhero conflicts. Batman fighting Superman. Supergirl fighting Martian Manhunter. The constant levels of interhero conflict going on in Arrow. I think The Flash fought himself a few times in the most recent season of his show. Hell, there's another Civil War event going on in Marvel Comics. One that's actually stupider than the original if you can believe it. The Minority Report was a damn good film, we don't need to see a superhero version of it. Hell, the division of the two sides is even more retarded than it was originally. For some reason, Spider-Man and She-Hulk are on the pro-precrime side despite the two of them being historically tight with law-enforcement. One of Peter Parker's most important role-models was George freaking Stacy for crying out loud, and She-Hulk is a defense attorney!
I think the only superhero franchises not partaking in some kind of versus crossover event this year are Power Rangers, Kamen Rider, and Super Sentai, but the year's not quite over yet, any of those series could have some kind of versus crossover.
As much as the comics have beaten hero versus hero conflicts into the ground, this is the first time the mainstream audiences will be getting a taste of the kinda stuff we've been having to put up with for so long. Some may know that Civil War was one of the comics that made me stop reading Marvel Comics, partially because it was a direct lead-in to the worst story Marvel has ever published, One More Day/Brand New Day, wherein they split up the long-married fan-favorite couple of Peter Parker and Mary-Jane Watson, and one of my favorite pairings in comics. To say I thought Civil War was bad would be an understatement, Civil War was the event series that ruined the Marvel universe. Yes, there was an interesting dynamic of all the good heroes being outlaws and the government-sanctioned ones being villains, but what was gained was nothing compared to what was lost.
Since this film isn't a direct adaptation, it overcomes a lot of the major issues inherent to the comic. It's got a lot of the same beats to it, but they actually make it matter. The Civil War comic started out with a bunch of Z-list reality-show heroes nobody remembers or cares about blowing themselves and a bunch of people from here to kingdom come, and despite them being a bunch of idiots nobody expected to do anything right, and despite there being issues larger than this they could probably be dealing with (Planet Hulk anyone?) the government decides to take this opportunity to enact a superhuman resgistration act to try and curtail untrained heroes getting themselves killed. There are a few fairly major issues with this idea. First one being the fact that the Mutant Registration Act was shot down with a Death Star decades ago, and second being that I thought there were already laws in place that prevented people from going out and enacting vigilante justice? Bruce Wayne made this point in BvS, and Frank Miller made it in The Dark Knight Returns, the direct quote would be "We were always criminals." The question was always whether or not it was wrong, not whether or not it was legal. I thought that The Avengers was supposed to be the way they got around the legal aspect of superheroing. Batman gets support from the GCPD because they don't want to to take him in. Spider-Man, Daredevil, Luke Cage, etc, they get support from the NYPD for the same reason. Superman is beloved by all, it would be political suicide to try and take The Man of Steel in. Spider-Man is New York's very own hero, having put his life on the line for the city numerous times, no matter how much Jolly Jonah Jameson tries to paint him as a menace, everybody knows he's their friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. He helps people out, he saves children from burning buildings, he puts his life on the line for ordinary people on a daily basis, he's the guy everyone knows, he's the guy you can count on to help you when you're in a jam, he's Spider-Man for crying out loud and everyone knows that! He's sacrificed so much to help out as many people as he can, and he deserves to have a little something good in his life, and that's part of why I hate Civil War as a comic, because it took away two of the things that anchored him, his wife and his aunt.
My point is that the repercussions didn't make much sense. Again, who would turn on Captain America? He's literally the original All-American Hero, he's America's greatest war-hero, a living legend! How do you manage to turn the public against these guys? Captain America's team in the Civil War comic consisted of the street-level heroes and others who have a lot of public support. Tony Stark is just some rich dude with a suit of armor, and his team mostly consisted of people who the public has little reason to care about or like. Reed Richards might be one of the most important figures in the Marvel universe, and he might have saved the planet a few times, but he's generally considered to be a bit of a jerk.
Thankfully, since Marvel doesn't have the rights to all of their characters, the roster is significantly reduced, so the film is a lot more coherent than the comic was. The is in direct contrast to the actual scale of the conflict, or more to the point the scale of the regulation and what kicks it off. Rather than being cause by a bunch of nobody idiot heroes, the incident that brings things to a head is caused by The Avengers themselves while they're hunting down a group of former HYDRA agents turned mercenaries led by a guy called Crossbones, who reveals himself to be one of the guys Steve beat up and left for dead in The Winter Soldier. He detonates a suicide-vest in an attempt to kill Steve, but Wanda, The Scarlet Witch tries to redirect the explosion and winds up destroying the Nigerian Center for Infectious Diseases instead of containing the blast.
Meanwhile, Tony is trying to atone for his guilt over the Ultron incident by funding a bunch of projects for kids in college. For some reason his girlfriend and woman who basically keeps his life together is nowhere to be found. (Probably because she's too smart to put up with how bad the plot gets towards the end) On his way out of the school, he's ambushed by a woman who blames him for the death of her son despite her acknowledging that it's irrational. Keep this in mind, this is important.
Back at the new Avengers HQ, "Thunderbolt" Ross makes his first appearance in the MCU since The Incredible Hulk. He tells them that The United Nations are trying to pass an international law to allow them to control The Avengers.
Here's the problem with this scene. First off, they show a lot of footage from incidents completely unrelated to The Avengers. The Helicarrier crashing in The Winter Soldier, which was HYDRA's fault. The alien-invasion from The Avengers, which was Loki's doing. Things from Thor, things that there was no possible way to control or prevent. Yes, they showed Hulk hopping between buildings and busting things up, but if the damage he did was minimal compared to the damage he prevented. Yes, they show Ultron destroying Sokovia, and while Stark created him, I don't think anyone could have predicted the AI going rogue and becoming an omnicidal maniac. At least not without someone who can predict the future, or possibly a pre-crime machine.
Second, for some reason they reference The Avengers being a private organization, despite them being a sub-division of freaking SHIELD, a government agency that traces its roots back to World War II. Yes, SHIELD has a load of bad publicity after the HYDRA infiltration, but they basically had that sorted out after the second season of Agents of SHIELD. They're trying to push government oversight of The Avengers despite them being a government-sanctioned team. Yeah, I get that they're also trying to keep what seems to be basically an American organization from interfering in international affairs, but I thought SHIELD was supposed to basically be an international organization anyways? Hell, it's not like they've ever been able to stop America from basically doing what we want at any point in the last, what? Forty years? Not that there's been much official objection, or at least any that means anything. My point is that while they make a good point, it doesn't really match up to reality or established series lore, part of which is chocked up to the fact that the Russo brothers didn't bother watching Agents of SHIELD. Not that I can really blame them, the show is kinda boring at times, but they're supposed to be maintaining continuity between franchise installments.
Naturally, Steve objects to this, citing all the times when the government has either had an agenda or was corrupt. Considering SHIELD was basically saturated by HYDRA operatives, I can't see anyone supporting government control of superhero teams except for an overly controlling government. I could see them trying this kind of tactic if they rushed it through and pretended it was something cool and necessary, but with as public as the signing of the accords are I wouldn't be surprised if a bunch of politicians lose their jobs on the next election cycle, being replaced by more pro-vigilante, pro-superhero representatives.
Third point to make; Ross asks them if they know where Thor or Bruce Banner are, saying that if they misplaced two nuclear warlords there would be consequences. The problem with this logic is that Thor is a god, and he basically does what he wants, and Banner was only restrained by SHIELD for as long as he wanted to be. They're people with motivations of their own, you can't always control them. Orders only go so far when a Norse God is involved! Do you expect to keep tabs on your ace pilots or snipers or whatever at all times when they're not on active duty? Because that's basically what The Avengers are.
In Vienna, when they're signing the accords (They just skip all the campaigning for and against the accords) and the place gets bombed, killing King T'Chaka of Wakanda in front of his son, T'Challa.
Security footage places Bucky Barnes at the scene of the crime, and since he was last seen working for Hydra, they figure he's behind it, and decide to hunt him down. Steve tries to intervene, but him, Bucky, and Sam Wilson get captured by German commandos backed up by T'Challa and War Machine. Apparently The United Nations signed off on Germany airdropping a black-ops team into Bucharest.
I would like to raise the following issues with this. First off, why do they think they can capture The Winter Soldier? He gives Captain America a run for his money, and both of them made a career out of taking down entire enclaves of entrenched Nazi's on their home turf with enhanced weaponry and armor, and that was before the Winter Soldier transformation! After that, he basically became a combination of Solid Snake and The Terminator, who thinks that anyone but at least four Avengers could take this guy down easily? The only reason they even surrender is because Steve doesn't want to fight with Rhodey. The only reason they get into that situation is because T'Challa (Who supported The Sokovia Accords despite going off the reservation in this scene) stuck his nose into the situation and mucked things up.
This brings me to my second point, Martin Freeman's character, Everett K. Ross (Not sure if he's related to Thunderbolt or not) says that they could have brought in Bucky if not for Steve and Sam's intervention, to which I refer you to my above statements about the kind of work Bucky did during and before his stint as The Winter Soldier. If you think that anything other than a team of superheroes could take down The Winter Soldier, you're either fooling yourself, stupid, poorly written, or purposefully trying to let him get away.
Tony pulls a few strings to get T'Challa, Steve, and Sam out of custody, but a guy infiltrates the compound disguised as the psychologist who's supposed to psychoanalyze Bucky and his team sets off an EMP that kills the power to the base. The guy sets about activating Bucky's Winter Soldier programming and makes him tell him a few things about his missions as The Winter Soldier and the location of his old base before sending him on a rampage through the base before he makes his escape while Steve, Tony, T'Challa, Natasha and Sam are occupied with handling Bucky's rampage. Rather unfortunately, the government has confiscated Steve, Sam and T'Challa's equipment, so they're not working at full efficiency.
Steve and Sam manage to subdue Bucky, and Sharon Carter, the niece of Peggy Carter, give them their gear back. This was when I noticed that they weren't trying to fix what Joss Whedon broke in Age of Ultron and put Natasha and Steve together and decided to make Sharon and Steve a thing despite them not having had a whole lot of screentime together in the previous movies she's they've been in together. Although I'm glad they took this long to put them together, in the Albert Pyun film they were together before the end of the movie.
Steve and Sam restrain Bucky while Winter Soldier mode wears off. Bucky tells them the Helmut Zemo, the guy disguised as the doctor, wanted to know about a specific mission in the nineties as well as the location of the old Winter Soldier base. Bucky tells them about the mission and the purpose of it, which was to steal some stuff to make more Winter Soldiers. And they did. Except that they were already crazy good and the serum made them even better and even worse. Bucky was barely able to contain one of them on his own, much less with the help of the other soldiers in the base. Steve figures they need to intercept Zemo before he can unleash that group on the world, and that the bombing from earlier that was pinned on Bucky was caused by Zemo, but he figures Tony has lost all trust and faith in him (Rightly so as well, but this would still be a good time to at least try and extend an olive-branch) and that they need to handle this themselves since everyone else is convinced that Bucky is still The Winter Soldier and that Steve is delusional. Steve figures they need a good burglar to get into the base, and Sam recommends Scott Lang, the second Ant-Man.
Clint rescues Wanda from Vision and picks up Scott on his way to rendezvous with Steve.
Meanwhile, Tony has been given a day and a half to bring in Bucky, and (for some reason) despite having War Machine, Black Widow, Vision, and Black Panther on his side, he drops into Queens to recruit some kid with spider-powers instead of calling on, say, Skye from Agents of SHIELD, his ultra-powerful girlfriend, or possibly freaking Daredevil? Punisher? Someone who could legally sign on to be a part of The Avengers without needing permission from a parent or guardian?
This brings me to the place where the movie begins to fall apart. Tom Holland is a terrible Spider-Man. He's a 5'6", uber skinny waif of a boy, and his voice is really high in this film. All of that together gives the impression that he's supposed to be like thirteen years old. Spider-Man wasn't even that young back in Ultimate Spider-Man, and that was the "young and hip" Spider-Man! Tom Holland might be a few months older than I am, but he sure doesn't look it!
The dialogue in this scene is pretty good, in fact I'd actually call it great if it was being delivered by somebody more suited to the role. Aside from a handful of lines where they try and lampshade a few of the more jarring elements of the reboot, but we'll get to that.
In addition to recasting Peter Parker, they also recast Aunt May. Gone is the somewhat elderly version of the character we saw in literally every other iteration, because Marisa Tomei looks like she could be Tom Holland's older sister. Yes, I know that she's fifty-something, but she looks like she's in her late twenties at most. In fact, she looks like they took someone in their late twenties and made them look even younger in this movie! They should be trying to draw attention away from this fact, not lampshading it!
Peter in this movie apparently has some kind of problem with sensory overload (Funny, considering he didn't go through anything like that in the comics, so they must be taking this from the Raimi movies) so he uses goggles to help him focus.
I'm familiar with practically every iteration of Spider-Man there is, I have never once seen him to need a pair of goggles to focus his Spider-vision. In fact, his glasses actually made his vision worse in other iterations. The web-shooters are back, and they make as little sense as they did in the original comics. Fortunately they don't have the X-Men around with mutant powers to muck things up as much, but they do have the Inhumans around, which basically serve the same purpose. He should have spinnerets on his wrists, and have the web-shooters as a backup to that. That was the one complaint I had about The Amazing Spider-Man.
Tom Holland's voice is second only to Tom Holland's acting in terms of what makes him unfit to be Spider-Man. At least in the scenes he has in the apartment in Queens, he sounds like he's starting to get really irritated at the directors for making him re-take his characters angry rant ten times. I'll be blunt, he sounds like a bad child-actor at his worst, and while his native accent doesn't bleed through more than like once, he doesn't have any of the New York tinge to his voice that Andrew Garfield had, or any of the genuine emotion that Andrew Garfield or Toby Maguire had. Whenever he's called on to sound angry, or strained, or tired or anything beyond simple stuff he sounds like he's putting waaaay more effort into hiding his English accent than he is into actually putting forth the intended emotion. This is basically what I was afraid was going to happen in The Amazing Spider-Man. I guess I was about four years too early with that feeling.
Anyways, Stark basically cons Peter into joining The Avengers to take down Steve and Bucky, because Peter Parker is a poor kid and working for a multi-multi-billionaire with a guilt and savior complex is probably a good way to get paid good money, not that we see much in the way of Peter being poor besides him scavenging electronics from the garbage and having kind of a small room, neither of which are clear indications on their own.
If they'd stuck with Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker all Stark would have had to say to get Peter on-board is "I know a guy who can bring your girlfriend back to life," which would have been clear motivation on Peter's behalf, it would have been something that would pretty much push aside his reasoning and morals, giving him proper motivation to do what Stark says rather than just risking his life for him basically because he asked him to.
Stark tracks Steve and his team to the airport they're hiding-out at and they begin the conflict. This is when Peter shows up in his new Spider-Man suit, and might I say, for a costume that goes out of its way to try and be comic-accurate, this is the least comic-accurate suit in the history of Spider-Man suits. The eyes change sizes like they did in the comics, but that was an art thing, it wasn't meant to actually be something the eyes did, which is why nobody ever cared when the eyes didn't change sizes in any of the other five movies. Then there's the web-design, which looks like it's printed onto the suit instead of textured on like it's been in previous films. Then there's the spider. Good lord the spider. The spider on his chest is a black oval with thick stick legs. Anyone who's ever picked up a Spider-Man comic would know that the spider on his chest has never once looked like this, not even back in the original comics. It was two circles with thin lines coming off of it originally, the spider on his back was the oval with the short thick lines. Also, the spider on his back hasn't looked like that in thirty plus years, so I don't know why they decided to go with that. The Spider-Suit honestly looks like a cheap Halloween costume, especially when compared to the suits from previous movies Spider-Man has been in, or even the original comics. It looks like it's just spandex, which doesn't make a whole lot of sense when you're going up against people like Captain America, The Winter Soldier, Hawkeye and Scarlet Witch. In fact, it almost seems like he should have given him some kind of Iron-Spider suit.
Eventually Team Cap decides that they need to just try and get to their plane and leave. Ant-Man pulls a Giant-Man and distracts Team Iron Man while the rest of Steve's team tries to get away, but ultimately only Bucky and Steve get to the plane.
This brings us to one of the absolute worst jokes in the entire movie, and that's saying a lot in a movie where Spider-Man makes a bad joke every time he's on-screen. Well, not exactly bad jokes, more like Tom Holland botches the delivery on every line that would be otherwise funny coming from Andrew Garfield or Toby Maguire, Neil Patrick Harris, or literally any of the other actors who have played Peter Parker. Aside from Drake Bell I mean (But even he's better than Tom Holland) Not only did Tom Holland manage to totally botch the delivery, the joke is also something that Spider-Man would never say the way it's written. To quote it exactly: "Hey guys, you remember in that really old movie, The Empire Strikes Back?"
Excuse me, no. Just no. Spider-Man would never say it like that. He'd say something like "Hey, you remember how they took down the Walkers in Empire Strikes Back?" By the time I was thirteen I'd already seen The Empire Strikes Back three times. It's literally one of the most famous movies in cinematic history, it's one of the most influential films ever made, and it's part of one of the biggest, most important franchises in the history of the planet, its age has nothing to do with it. The way this line goes down is entirely to set up a line about how young Tom Holland looks. Yet again, something you shouldn't be trying to draw attention to. Sometimes lampshading something stupid or something that doesn't make sense is a bad idea.
Anyways, Peter almost gets killed taking down Scott, and Tony tells him to stay down rather than getting up and fighting, and Peter winds up following his advice.
Spider-Man is suppose to have more endurance than that. What happened to him in this film? Captain America dropped a small bridge on him, Falcon ran his drone into him and Ant-Man landed on him, that's nothing compared to the level of abuse he's supposed to be able to take. In Spider-Man 3 he was beaten up and strangled by Venom and got his entire body pounded by Sandman and still managed to keep fighting long enough to kill Venom! In The Amazing Spider-Man The Lizard beat him up so badly one of his ribs was sticking out of his chest (It wasn't broken, it just looked like his skin was torn off) and he was back to fighting fit in a couple of days! In the comics, Peter has repeatedly lifted gigantic tons of rubble off of himself from a prone position and managed to keep going. Spider-Man is supposed to be tougher than this!
Not only that, when Tony tells him to stay down, he does try to get up and fight, but he stays down after one little token attempt to get up. Like I said before, we know how tough Spider-Man is, so we know that he could basically walk what little injuries he had off in a few minutes, especially with adrenaline pumping at full-tilt. Spider-Man doesn't just sit down and let other people fight his battles for him, even when he's injured. Especially not someone could be killed, injured, or crippled due to his inaction. This brings me to an issue from earlier in the movie, where Peter gives his justification for not using his powers for selfish reasons, because he's trying to maintain his secret identity.
Excuse me? Did either of the writers on this movie ever read a Spider-Man comic? Peter doesn't use his powers for selfish reason because he learned the hard way what happens when you don't use them to help people. His motto is "With great power comes great responsibility" and if he hadn't been out-of-commission for the last half of the film Rhodey wouldn't have been freaking paralyzed! Peter could have webbed up Falcon on takeoff so he wouldn't have been able to go after Warmachine and Vision wouldn't have tried to shoot him down and missed! There are three people on Tony's team that could have taken down Captain America and The Winter Soldier, Black Panther, Vision, and Spider-Man. Vision was taking care of Wanda, and T'Challa and Natasha were squaring off as Steve and Bucky took off, leaving Spider-Man as the only one who could have taken both of them on and won, and he's just sitting on his ass off to the side while his team-mates keep fighting. Peter Parker made a name for himself as Spider-Man by taking a stand and fighting even when it's not his fight. If he thinks he can help, or if anything needs doing, Spider-Man does it.
The only conclusion I can come to is that they didn't want Spider-Man around for the whole fight because they wanted it to go a way other than the logical conclusion of Spider-Man beating up Steve and Bucky and leaving the Zemo plot out to dry. We can see that Peter is strong enough to take Bucky on and not take many hits, which is something Tony and Steve both struggled to do, so I don't even need to things from the comics and previous movies into account, he's established as this powerful in the movie! Hell, Tony has footage of Peter stopping a speeding car from hitting a bus with his hands, so we know Peter is supposed to be as powerful as he is in the comics and the previous movies, so I can only assume this was a writers cop-out.
While Bucky and Steve are flying off and Sam is trying to keep Rhodey off their tail, Vision tries to shoot down Sam and winds up shooting down Rhodey instead. This is entirely Vision's fault as well, and he never apologizes or owns up to that fact. Or offers to fix Rhodey's broken spine and lacerated spinal-cord and countless other injuries with his rather insane level of power. If Vision had aimed his shot better, or flown to try and catch Rhodey (Which Sam did, by the way) or told Wanda to catch him with her powers or literally anything that could have saved Rhodey from the fall!
After Steve's remaining team gets captured, Tony finds out that Bucky wasn't the one who blew up the conference in Vienna, since law-enforcement in Germany found the body of the doctor and stuff that Zemo would need to make himself look like Bucky, so Tony decides to go off and help Bucky and Steve take down Zemo, but T'Challa follows him.
Now, here's how I thought the movie was going to go from here. Tony teams up with Steve and Bucky to take out Zemo and the other Winter Soldiers, but T'Challa attacks all three of them before they're ambushed by the Soviet team, and forced to team up together to fight them, T'Challa finds out that Zemo killed his father, and they all wind up teaming up and deciding to work towards clearing Bucky's name and repealing the Sokovia Accords. That doesn't happen.
Instead, it's revealed that the guy Bucky stole the Supersoldier serum from to make the other Winter Soldiers was Tony's father, and for some reason HYDRA had footage of Bucky killing Tony's parents back in 1991, in the middle of nowhere, where nobody would have put a security camera even now. If they'd shown body-cam footage, that would have made some kind of sense, but why would a covert criminal organization want to have evidence of their criminal activities lying around in case they get caught?
This causes Tony to start fighting with Bucky and Steve, despite knowing Bucky wasn't in control! Despite the fact that he should know that Zemo is showing him this to make him fight with Bucky and Steve! He asks Steve if he knew this, and at first he gives the logical answer (no) but eventually he says he did and he kept it from Tony because it would upset him!
I'm sorry, Steve Rogers is supposed to have enhanced brain-power and intelligence, he should know that's a stupid decision! Unfortunately, that's not even the worst of it! Bucky barely remembers most of his actions as The Winter Soldier even immediately after he's dropped out of Winter Soldier mode, so why does he remember such specific details such as the fact that he killed Howard and Maria Stark? Why would he even be told who he was supposed to kill? Hell, he probably met Howard a few times back in the forties, but it had been like fifty years between then and the time he killed him, so it's not like he would recognize him! Yeah, Howard Stark was probably one of the few people in the world who could recreate Dr. Erskine's formula, so it's a logical leap to make, but come on! It could have just as easily been Richard and Mary Parker, who also would have died around the same point in time (And they were also killed by Hydra) or any of the other really smart people who have died in Marvel history.
Zemo killed the other Winter Soldiers and left Bucky and Steve to fight Tony, while T'Challa prevents Zemo from killing himself as his motives are revealed. Zemo's family was killed in Age of Ultron and he decided to begin a chain of events that would lead The Avengers to conflict and possibly killing each other. Not like anyone's died really. Rhodey and Scott came close, but there's nobody actually dead at the end. The guy who was supposed to kill Captain America died in the first ten minutes of the film.
Get this too, rather than going back inside the base and telling the three stooges that Zemo kicked all of this off to make you guys kill each other, T'Challa just stays where he is and does nothing. Tony rips off Bucky's arm, and Steve disables Tony's suit. At the end Tony chides Steve for carrying the shield that Howard Stark made as he and Bucky are leaving, and like a complete moron, Steve drops his shield right there. Never mind that it'll be impossible to find a shield that good anywhere else. Never mind that Steve has had that shield with him for most of his life. Never mind that it was a gift from Howard Stark, who was one of Steve's friends. Never freaking mind that the love of Steve's life, Peggy Carter has just died.
Afterwards, Tony lets Steve get away with rescuing the rest of The Avengers from prison, T'Challa's people set about repairing Bucky's damaged arm and Peter (Who I'm becoming more and more convinced must be some kind of degenerated clone of the real thing, take your pick whether that's Toby or Andrew's Spider-Man) gets the Spider-Beacon from his webshooters for some reason.
All in all, this movie sucks. It's a shame too, because it's such a good movie aside from a few major points that break the whole thing down!
God only knows why this movie is getting better scores than Batman v. Superman, it's edited almost exactly the same way. I mean seriously, if not for the fact that they came out months apart, I'd almost say that Marvel was trying to rip it off. They introduce a pair of new superheroes without movies of their own (at least with the current actors) who get involved with the final battle and wind up being fairly important. Except that it doesn't have as good of a resolution as BvS, or as good of a climax, or as good of an ending. It just seems like they kinda stopped in the middle of the storyline they were going for and then forgot how to write the characters.
And now, a list of things missing from Captain America: Civil War.
#1: The Iron-Spider
#2: Spider-Man joining Captain America's side
#3: A decent ending
#4: Common sense
#5: A decent sense of character continuity with previous Captain America or Avengers movies.
#6: Spider-Man. Because I refuse to accept this watered-down shadow of my favorite superhero as the MCU version of Spider-Man
I'll say this, at least most of the characters are still mostly in-character throughout the film, but not Spider-Man. This is the most disrespectful adaptation of one of my favorite superheroes since the Supergirl series premiered last year. I actually liked X-Men Origins: Wolverine, but I'll acknowledge how little respect the producers had for Deadpool. That's what kind of Spider-Man we got. The only thing that would make it worse would be if he wasn't even dressed in a costume that even remotely resembles any suit he's worn in the past. In fact, if his mouth was sewn shut it would be even less disrespectful to the character than the bad delivery. Spider-Man never botches a joke, even with a bad writer! They might not make you laugh all-out, but you'll at least get a decent snort out of it. A small chuckle.
Come Spider-Man: Homecoming I expect Tom Holland to be gone. I want him out of the MCU. You can replace him with Andrew Garfield, or Toby Maguire, or Thomas Brody Sangster if you want, any of the three would be good. I don't care. Just make Tom Holland go away. I'd say he should be the George Lazenby of Spider-Men, but say what you will, George Lazenby wasn't insufferable.
Towards the end of the fight when Tony is telling Peter to stay down is the point in time when you realize what's going on, that's when the suit looks its cheapest, when Holland looks his youngest. Tom Holland is a kid dressed up as Spider-Man who just so happens to have gotten a gig with Marvel. His suit looks like a Halloween costume, except it looks worse than the costume I dressed up in when Spider-Man 2 was new!
Honestly though, cutting out Tom Holland as Spider-Man wouldn't have saved the ending, since the ending basically makes the whole, otherwise great movie into an idiot-plot.
Tony starts a fight with Steve and Bucky because he's an idiot. Steve didn't tell Tony that Bucky killed his parents because he's an idiot. T'Challa doesn't tell them why Zemo kicked all this off, because he's an idiot. Natasha doesn't leave with Steve and Bucky at the end of the fight because she's an idiot. Tony doesn't ask T'Challa to fix Rhodey's spine because he's an idiot. Peter doesn't step in to take down Steve and Bucky when they're trying to escape because he's an idiot. Steve leaves his shield behind with Tony because he's an idiot.
At one point in the prison that they stuck Steve's team in Tony looks around and sees Jessica Jones just sitting in a cell. Way to reference the actually good parts of the MCU there, Marvel.
I can try and give this movie some credit for what makes it good, but honestly the ending and the Spider-Man scenes are basically enough to ruin the film from a critical perspective. Coming off Batman v. Superman I was optimistic for Civil War, but after all the good stuff it just crumbled at the end. I'm still holding out hope for Doctor Strange, Luke Cage, The Punisher and Jessica Jones later this year, but so far Marvel has lost a lot of credibility in my eyes after this film. I am not looking forward to Spider-Man: Homecoming next year as long as Tom Holland is still playing Spider-Man, and I am hesitant to see if Marvel can salvage the mess this film has caused.
In the end, I give Captain America: Civil War a 4.1* rating. I'll see you guys next week, I'll either be reviewing Ant-Man or Majora's Mask 3D. I'm off to re-watch the good movies with Spider-Man in them. I might even re-watch The Amazing Spider-Man 2 just to see if I can find it in my heart to hate it more than I do Civil War. It might have devolved into an idiot-plot too, but it at least understood and respected the characters.
Image from Impawards.com