Sunday, July 26, 2015

Fire Emblem Awakening: Part 2

So, it's been about a year since I last talked about Fire Emblem Awakening... I suppose I should follow up on it finally. By the way, for those of you who missed the first part of this review, click here.
At this point I've clocked about seventy-five hours on my main save-file and over a hundred and eleven hours in the game as a whole, and I've reached chapter nineteen in the main story mode. I've unlocked about forty characters, and recruited six legacy characters and about twelve avatars from Streetpass hits. I've married off almost every first generation character, and I've spent a good deal of time finding out who among the second generation had the best chemistry with whom.
Aside from Story of Seasons, I don't think I've ever poured anywhere near that much time into a game. Super Mario World might come close for the amount of time spent on a game in a single save-file, and Ocarina of Time could possibly come close for total amount of time spent on a single game, but that's spread over three different save-files and almost two years of play.
Think about that. One-hundred and eleven hours, and I'm already planning what I'm going to do on my next playthrough! That says all kinds of positive things about the game right there!
Recently, I've spent a lot of time grinding my lower-level characters up to higher levels. I'd heard that some of the characters I'd neglected, like Donnell, had the potential to become very powerful.
Up until that point, I'd been blazing through story missions and paralogues fairly easily, having stuck with a group of tank characters like Chrom, Kellam, Stahl, GalanDun and Frederick. So I decided I might as well jack up my lower level first generation characters so I could build relationships between those characters and unlock more second generation characters.
Now, I've probably neglected the second generation worse than I did the first, since I tended to just keep them alive past their paralogue and then dump them into my army database safe and sound, never to be used for fear that they would die when I tried to level them up, like Donny kept doing so many times, whenever I tried to grind him higher early on in the game.
But what could I do? I couldn't bring them on story missions, since they'd have to be paired with one of my main units to survive more than one or two hits. The problem with that is that they wouldn't be able to get more than maybe one hit in before the enemies died, which would mean that they would get hardly any experience.
So what I did was summon a team of Legendary Heroes from the Bonus Box that was a low enough level that the weakest among my army could take them on and have a fighting chance.
For those of you who don't know what the Bonus Box is, it's a place where the game stores a bunch of free DLC that Nintendo sends out via Spotpass.
They haven't sent out anything new in a very long time, but what they did send out is invaluable. You get a handful of free weapons that are very powerful. You get some bonus maps, and most importantly, you get infinite access to a ton of elite squads from pretty much every Fire Emblem game ever made.
You've got characters from Shadow Dragon up to Radiant Dawn, with their levels ranging from one to thirty, and you can summon them up as many times are you want.
Which, naturally, makes grinding neglected characters up to higher levels a lot easier. So I went ahead and used the lower-level teams from Shadow Dragon to jack my lower level characters up a bit in case they ever needed to be in combat.
This was about the time when I turned off battle animations. Even though I liked them for dramatic purposes at the beginning, they started annoying me after a while. Despite the fact that they're fairly short, I decided they were taking too long as a whole, and interrupted the flow of battle. So I turned them off.
While you can use a button to skip the combat animations you don't want to see at a whim and let others that you do want to watch play, more often than not I'd forget, and the animations would just annoy me.
It's not much, but it's a small positive, the ability to turn off the elaborate combat animations. I can tell you, if I couldn't turn them off once I got tired of them, I would have been a little annoyed.
And the sad thing is that I didn't miss them after I got rid of them. I turned them off months ago and I've never felt the need to turn them back on.
Anyways, in the 96 or so hours I've spent on the game since my last article on Fire Emblem Awakening, I'd reckon that about twenty to thirty of those hours have been spent on grinding.
And even though I'm the kind of person who tends to hate grinding in RPGs, I had a lot of fun.
It was great pairing off both first and second generation characters. Testing to see who has the best chemistry with whom, and building relationships between units that can had relationships? It was awesome. Plus, the combat is still fun even after a hundred hours of play.
After I leveled most of my low-level characters up to the level cap and then upgraded them to stronger classes, they started becoming more useful. My avatars darling wife, Lissa, became a Sage, since a pure healer is hard to deal with in combat. Their daughter, Morgan, went from a Tactition to a Grandmaster, to a Grandmaster again, because it's just easier to reset a characters level to one than it is to try and adapt to a different class, at least for me. Then I spent time upgrading their weapon skills to maximum so they'd hit a little harder.
I've spent so much time grinding characters now that I've burned through almost all of the weapons I'd acquired. The good thing is that my army has a ton of gold in its treasury, so I can just walk up to any shop and buy silver weapons for everyone who can wield them and still have enough to buy more later.

So, let's go ahead and talk about everything I can remember about the plot so far. After the death of the Exalt, Chrom has taken over the throne and has managed to keep the peace for about the length of a year. His people love him, and he rules well. Then Virion shows up and starts talking about his back-story.
We never really found out anything about him in the beginning, when he showed up. He was just the randy French archer who was crushing on Sully.
So what's his story?
Apparently he's the duke of a country that's been taken over by some whacko dude, and he's brought along one of his retainers, Cherche. They tell Chrom about the dude and about how he's running around the continent of Valm taking countries over. And now he's apparently set his sights on Ylisse.
And even though his forces vastly outnumber the Shepherds, guess what they decide to do?
Yeah, you got it. They hop onto a fleet of ships with some help from their allies in Regna Ferox and Plegia and sail off to kick his ass to kingdom come.
Before we address the epic battle on the high-seas, I'd like to talk about what happens in Plegia.
You see, the current ruler is a guy named Validar. And he just happens to be a guy that my avatar personally slayed in the initial assassination attempt against Emmeryn early on in the game. So that's weird.
What's weirder is that he's palling around with a guy who looks exactly like my avatar. He looks the same, sounds the same and has the same name. And guess what? Validar claims to be the father of this weird duplicate
The problem is that he's got a completely different personality. Namely, he's a secretive and probably evil person who seems to revel in the suffering and annoyance of others. Diametrically opposed to my avatar, who stands against evil in all its forms. Who would give his every last breath to defend the helpless.
This started to get me thinking.... My first hypothesis was that we've just encountered some sort of stable time-loop.
The guy who looks like GalanDun (Which is what I called my Avatar if you don't remember) is in fact him from his past, and that duplicate will at some point travel back in time, through some method that winds up erasing his/my memory, and the actions of my avatar are what lead to him/me traveling through time.
The weird thing about that is that nobody except GalanDun and his daughter, Morgan, have amnesia. So that would mean he either had his memory wiped after he traveled through time, or before. Before doesn't make any sense, but there's no evidence that he did so afterwards....
The second hypothesis is that my avatar has found some way to destabilize a stable-time loop and escape from it, and whatever bad future the second generation came from is going to be averted through the actions of my avatar.
The third hypothesis is that my avatar has been faking his memory loss and he's really still an evil person.
This leads me to an idea I had early on about the plot.
The prologue shows you, the avatar, and Chrom killing Validar. And then it shifts to a first-person FMV from the perspective of the avatar, where they kill Chrom, who tells them that it wasn't their fault.
Then it cuts to you waking up in a field, being found by Chrom and the Shepherds.
In the case of my avatar, I married Chrom's sister, the princess of Ylisse. And I routinely have Chrom's life in my hands. With Emmeryn dead, and Chrom in control, all GalanDun would need to do would be kill Chrom and his wife, Sumia, and he'd essentially be in charge of Ylisse. Lucina isn't legally old enough to claim the throne, and while Future Lucina might be old enough, this is where time travel becomes tricky. Legally, Lissa is next in line, and GalanDun seems to have won over pretty much everyone in the Ylissean army, to the point where they would follow him into hell itself. And if he killed Chrom in secret, I would bet the country would take his word for it if he said that Chrom was slain by an enemy. He probably wouldn't even need to kill Lucina.
Now, knowing what I do about my avatar through interactions with other characters, I doubt this is true. I just thought I'd share this little headcanon I came up with last year with you guys.
Now, let's go ahead and talk about that navy battle, shall we?
The issue with it is that you've got no agency in it at all until the fighting starts. That might not sound like much of a complaint, but the avatar makes a pretty major decision on their own during the cutscene before the battle starts. Yeah, the decision that the avatar made was pretty brilliant, but it'd be even better if I could have been the one to make that decision. As it stands, not knowing what the character that's supposed to be your avatar is going to do is a little annoying.
What your character does is fill all of the ships with skeleton crews since they can't crew them all to their fullest, and then have them all set the extra ships on fire when they meet in combat with the enemy and hop onto the adjacent ships, effectively halving their fleet, but destroying most of the enemies vessels.
Thing is, as a player, I'd have liked to see if I could have made the journey from Ylisse and Valm with the entire fleet intact. That's pretty much all I have to say about that. It would've been cool to see if I could wipe out the enemy without suffering any casualties in either the form of personnel or equipment.
I'm not saying I could have, but I love having options. That's what I love about tactical RPGs. You get to move everyone around the field instead of just standing friend and foe on opposite ends of the screen and hitting each other in turn. Again, Intelligent Systems seems to have either forgotten to put an option in where one should be, or they possibly cut something out that they couldn't finish.
Considering they were under a crunch to make this the best game they could, I wouldn't be surprised if it was the latter. The surprising thing is that that's the only thing so far that I would reckon as having been cut for time. Aside from maybe the little thing we talked about last time this game came up, but that just seems like they only had one option in mind for how that scene was gonna go.
Unfortunately, I can't remember what happens next, and I don't want to look it up for fear of spoiling the game.
Yes, I've been playing this game for over a year now and have owned it for two years, and I haven't finished it. I've gotten a lot of stuff in for review, and I didn't really have a deadline to reach for this game.
So that's all the things I did in the game since my last article. I know this is going up pretty late, but I've spent all day working on it and refining it until I thought it was good enough to be read. If I missed anything, or if I made any mistakes with spelling or grammar, feel free to point them out in the comments.
Since I haven't finished the game yet, I won't be giving it a rating right now, but it's looking at a perfect ten-point-one right now. See you next week!

By the way, I scanned the above image from the cover of my personal copy of Fire Emblem: Awakening, and I edited it myself. The scanner washed out the colors a bit, so I had to deal with that, and then I had to mess with the logo and stuff, converting bits and pieces of the cover to grey-scale and then recoloring it to make it look good. I also made a rather obvious edit to it, moving some text over and adding some more.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Old Dogs

What do you get when Robin Williams and John Travolta team up to do a movie together?
Do you get an awesome, laugh-a-minute rapid-fire Blues Brothers style hilari-fest?
Do you get a well acted and well directed subversive drama about getting older and staying young inside?
No, you get a mediocre family-comedy that doesn't do anything new and doesn't do much well. The fact that it has the Walt Disney logo on it, combined with the fact that it's a live-action movie means that any of the edge it might have had was probably lost in production.
If it was released by one of their subsidiary studios it probably would have turned out better.
Unfortunately, I think I've used up all my negative criticism for it since it's really not all that bad a film. It's just sort of bland. It's not the kind of thing that I'd ever want to watch more than once.
And unfortunately it's not something I watched when I was a kid, like The Pacifier, so I can't even pretend I have any nostalgia for it. I literally just watched this movie this year!
And you know why I watched it? Travolta and Williams, that's why! They're both better than this!
Robin Williams! You were in The Bicentennial Man! You were in plenty of good movies, why waste your time and talent on something like this?
And John Travolta! Battlefield Earth might not have been great, but you've done a lot of good work! I would have to hope that most of the budget went to paying Travolta and Williams! Because it certainly didn't go into the special effects!
Seriously, there's one big effects shot of Williams flying in a jet-pack of all things over a zoo of all places!
No, that doesn't make any sense. Yes, that scene is eerily similar to one from the Arnold Schwarzenegger Christmas weirdfest, Jingle All the Way. No, this isn't a Christmas flick.
Let's go ahead and get this out of the way. If you've seen any (And I mean any) family movie in the last decade or two, then you've seen this movie. You can skip it. There's nothing in here that you've never seen before. At all. No, I'm not kidding. If this movie were a person, it would wear a five-piece suit of cliches, Magic: The Gathering cards for shoes with spats made out of re-used jokes and a hat made out of old reconstituted newspaper. This movie is a study in cliche and retread. It's not quite Daniel X level of cliched, but it's damn close.
And Bernie Mac is in it. And this was his last movie before he died. And of course, the few scenes he's in are great, and yes they're among the few highlights of the movie, but it's still a shame that he didn't have a better movie as his last. And he's barely in this!
So, let's just lay out everything right here. This movie is light on laughs, light on jokes, light on wit, and the plot is straight out of nowhere.
So while I'm writing this, I'm wondering if I should try to analyze why every unfunny joke sucks, or if I should just make a blanket statement saying that the movie doesn't have anything unique going for it and move on to reviewing another movie for the second half of this review.
Time for a rundown of this movies bad reception. It was nominated for four Golden Raspberry awards. And it didn't win in any category! Let's go ahead and run down what beat it out, and decide if they treated it right.
Worst picture: The other contenders were G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra (Which I didn't mind) Land of the Lost, All About Steve (Which looks really bad) and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, which won the award.
Was Old Dogs terrible? No. Was RotF worse? No. I'd actually rather watch Transformers 2 than Old Dogs, simply because I don't feel like it wasted my time. And I feel like this movie was a true waste of my time. I still don't like Transformers 2 a whole lot, but I don't think it should have taken the award over Old Dogs.
John Travolta was nominated as worst actor, which I think is kinda harsh, since he does try to be funny, but there's no way he was a worse actor than Seth Green was in this film. Not even gonna comment on the rest of the category, since I don't disagree with it too much.
Worst Supporting Actress went to Sienna Miller in G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra as The Baroness. Like I said, I didn't mind that film, and I don't think she did a worse job than Julie White did in Revenge of the Fallen as Sam's mother. And while Kelly Preston wasn't terrible, her role did suck a lot worse than Sienna Miller's did.
And finally, Worst Director went to Michael Bay.
Just, no... No... There's no way Michael Bay did a worse job as director than almost everyone in the category, especially not when Phil Traill was in the category for directing All About Steve, and not when Walt Becker was in the category for this mediocre and unstimulating piece of bland failure.
That's the problem, there are almost always movies that are worse than what Michael Bay puts out.
I wouldn't call this movie bad by any means, but I have more love for Revenge of the Fallen that I do for this film. Revenge of the Fallen wasn't a good film, but for every low trough it still had some high peaks.
This movie starts off with a nearly flat waveform and only gets closer to a flatline as time goes on.
That's just it, the biggest crime this film committed was being generally boring and cliched. And will I say that makes it worse than one of my most hated movies I've reviewed?
Yes. I remember when they were marketing this movie, the commercials acted like it was gonna be a laugh a minute comedy with two of the best comedic actors in the business teaming up to bring us a great movie that was going to be worth every second.
And it wasn't. It was a study in cliche, it was a study in mediocrity. It had no original ideas, and they flat-out lied about what the movie was going to be like. It didn't suck, but it was less than what they said. And I detest that. I can't stand that. This movie was a total of not plus great, divided by a marketing campaign that shot it in the foot.
And a movie that actively lied to the audience is a movie that I don't like.
And yes, Transformers 2 wasted its potential, and so did this. But it was still more memorable than this. So that's that. I'm not gonna rate it. Old Dogs deserved a rundown, but it doesn't need a rating.
I'll see you guys next week with something. I don't know what.
Hell, I didn't even know I'd be writing about this movie this week, I just resurrected an article I shelved before I even started writing it because I felt like talking about it this week. I've been a little sick this week, so it's unsurprising that I didn't have much new to talk about. Time to end this before I run on too long.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Satoru Iwata: 1959-2015

I just found out that one of the coolest people in the gaming industry has died young. Satoru Iwata, age 55, passed away earlier today due to a bile-duct growth.
He was always cool to watch in Nintendo Direct, and the world will be a sadder place without Satoru Iwata.
To the man himself, you helped make a lot of lives great and livened up many a day with Nintendo Direct. We'll all miss you, and I hope that wherever you are, you're happy. You've brought me joy that I will never forget.

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Fallout 4 Hype!

Hey everyone. I'd just like to let you know that I wasn't able to get an article written this week. I didn't finish any of the games I'm currently playing, and while I have some books in for review, I haven't had the time to read any of them, since I've been trying to keep my Let's Play videos and Dungeons and Dragons videos releasing on a steady schedule over on my YouTube channel. Especially since I've had those games in for a while and I want to try and move on to other games in my review backlog.
So, that in combination with how busy I've been has contributed to me not watching any movies this week.
I was planning on watching The Terminator, but unfortunately the local library doesn't seem to have a copy.
Which led to me watching The Big Bang Theory and The News Room all week.

That's the bad news. But I do have some good news. If you follow me on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, or, you'll have already seen the announcement that thanks to popular vote, I will be starting a playthrough of the first five Fallout games on Friday. I'll be playing Fallout, Fallout 2, and Fallout Tactics for PC, and Fallout 3 and Fallout Tactics for Xbox 360, in order of release.
I'll be starting it out with two videos on Friday , one an hour long of me creating my character and watching all the opening FMV's, and one thirty minutes long of me playing the game. The first will go up at four PM Central time and the second will be going up an hour later at five PM.
From then on, I'll be releasing one half-hour video a day every day at about 4PM Central time unless I need to speed it up for some reason.

So anyways, I apologize for the lack of an article this week, but I'll be doing my best to get either a game or a movie lined up for next Sunday. I'll see you then!

Sunday, July 5, 2015

The Maze Runner

Did you know that The Maze Runner was a book? I didn't. At least not until I looked the movie up on Wikipedia.
So, like Ender's Game I went into this movie entirely blind. And I'm not entirely sure what to think of the film.
On the one hand there are a few minor issues with the cast, plot and pacing that I'd bet the book didn't have. On the other hand, I wonder how much they chopped up, rearranged and added in that wasn't entirely necessary. For instance, there's a clip at the end that struck me as completely useless and possibly an attempt to drum up anticipation for the sequel, The Scorch Trials. It's entirely speculation on my part, of course, but I've seen that kind of thing in a lot of movies adapted from books, where they take a big reveal from the second book and stick it into the first movie.
I'll find out if I'm right or wrong when I read the original novel of course. All of what I'm saying about the adaptation of book to film is going to be speculation, since I would prefer to read the book and verify facts for myself instead of looking things up online.
Anyways, looking on Wikipedia I've found out that The Maze Runner was shot in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
Compared to, say, New York City or Hollywood, that's essentially in my backyard. Hell, I didn't even know the movie was being filmed that close to me. If it was, I might have auditioned for a role.
Probably not, but it's nice to imagine :-P
Anyways, enough with the jokes, let's actually talk about the movie.
On a budget of $34 million, I feel that this movie managed to do a better job than the first Hunger Games movie did with its $78 million budget. The Maze Runner film seems a little more organic than The Hunger Games film did, but that's speaking from a film perspective, rather than an adaptation perspective, and I'll have to compare the movie to the novel later on to see what all the movie has improved, made worse, or adapted straight up.
Now, after that little tidbit, let's talk about the characters and setting.
The movie takes place inside of a squared-off area inside of the titular maze known as "The Glade"
Our hero, the one of the titular Maze Runners (Pictured above) is named Thomas. He enters the Glade through an elevator, where all of the boys in the glade have come from. The leader of the group is named Alby, played by Aml Ameen, and he shows Thomas around the Glade, introducing him to the cast of the movie.
There's Newt, played by Thomas Brodie-Sangster, the voice of Ferb Fletcher in Phineas and Ferb, which I really like, and Jojen Reed and Donald Clarke in Game of Thrones and Death of a Superhero, respectively.
Neither of which I've actually watched. But I do have to say that I really liked his performance in this film, and I think he'd make a great Peter Parker. He looks the part, he's the right height, and seems like he could do a good job in the role. Imagine that, right?
Anyways, aside from them, there are a ton of other boys in the Glade, and a few of them even have names!
There's Alby, who's the head enforcer in the Glade, and also a bit of a dick and an idiot all in one. If I had to guess, I'd say his character likely took a bit of a hit in adaptation, since he's a bit cartoony in his nature. Then again, sometimes there are characters that are as cartoony in their original form as they are in their adapted form, so I could be wrong.
Now, let's talk about something I mentioned earlier in the review, the casting.
Most of the cast is fine, as they seem to have the right builds and appearances for the situation they're in.
Except for one kid. His name is Chuck, as portrayed by Blake Cooper.
Chuck has been in the Glade for about a month by the time he's introduced, but he's still pretty chubby. Yeah, he's young, but he should be working hard enough that he wouldn't have much fat on him.
It makes about as much sense as the fat dude in Revolution Aaron Pittman being fat as well. Actually, it makes slightly more sense, since Pittman had been in a post-apocalyptic world for a good decade and a half at the very least.
That's not the say that Cooper doesn't give a good performance, he does. And I like him. Hell, the kid got the role when he contacted the films director, Wes Ball (No relation to Uwe Boll as far as I can tell) through Twitter. I appreciate that! I think that's a cool thing to have happen! I just figure he should have been put on a diet and workout routine before they started filming so that he'd click a little more with the look of the rest of the cast.
The last boy in The Glade that actually has a name and a purpose is Minho, played by Ki Hong Lee. He's in charge of the titular Maze-Runners, and winds up being another really cool character.

Now, time to talk complaints.
For some reason, the kids in the Glade speak very cryptically about pretty much everything. It's like they were purposefully messing with Thomas. I hope it wasn't like this in the book, because if it was, they should have changed it. No matter how this weird little sequence came about, it shouldn't have existed in the first place. You could easily rewrite the situation so that it makes a little more logical sense.
First off, there are a few lines of dialogue that need to be cut, and a lot more that need to be altered. Have the rest of the boys tell Thomas more stuff outright, and some things not at all. And have Thomas ask a few different questions than he does.
If the other characters simply cannot answer someones questions, then you either need to have them flat out not know, find a good reason for them to not answer immediately (like some kind of event that interrupts the answer) or just make the character not even ask that question. It's that simple!
I don't know how people keep making that mistake when writing stuff. I see it everywhere, and I'm sick of it.
If one character does it, then that's fine. Hell, if the characters doing that are revealed to be deliberately screwing with the one asking the questions, I'm okay with that! But there's zero evidence produced in the movie that the boys in The Glade are messing with Thomas in any way. I wouldn't be surprised, but it just doesn't make any sense why some of the characters would do that to Thomas, considering some of the stuff they held back could have gotten him killed.
And then there's the fact that I'm not sure if some of the events are supposed to take place over the course of just three days, or a longer time. The reason I bring that up is because some of the characters seem to bond a little faster than they probably should over the course of three days.
That could be explained by hints of memory from their previous lives, but since that's never brought up, it's impossible to tell.
That's pretty much it for things that I noticed that seemed off, so now it's time to talk effects.
For the most part they look good. It wasn't until the very end that I saw some truly awful effects in the form of blood effects that are CGI'd in, rather than being practically produced. They look like crap and don't make much sense in comparison to the other (Very good) effects in the movie.
In the end though, it's a good movie. It's not as good as some films, but it manages to capture some movie-magic and save itself from being a boring affair.
All in all, I think it's good, and I think this series might be worth following. While it has some flaws that could have easily been ironed out, it doesn't have enough flaws to make the movie a waste of time.
I give it a 7.6* rating.
At the moment I don't have next weeks article planned, so you'll just have to check back next Sunday to see what I've decided to cover, or I might announce it over on the official Facebook page.

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