Winter Has Finally Set In

Well, it took a long time, but the cold weather has finally settled down in Saskatchewan. In my city, we’ve had warm weather for a while not, but the last week it has gotten a lot colder. I’m not a big fan of the cold, to be honest, but hey it’s part of living in Saskatchewan. I hope to have new content up soon, so stay tuned everyone!

Sweet As Syrup: Dragon Ball Z Dead Zone Review

I often consider myself more of an anime fan in passing. I love anime, but I can’t say I can stand watching through 50-100 episode long anime, at least not as much anymore. When I was but a young man though, there was one anime that I loved passionately: Dragon Ball Z. It was a good anime, at least for a few time. While I find the later arcs to drag quite a bit, it was still an enjoyable adventure from beginning to end. So, with Dragon Ball Xenoverse now out and the Dragon Ball Super anime now in its second year of broadcast, I thought I’d talk about the Dragon Ball Z movies. Yeah, all 15 of them! This is gonna be a looooooooong November.

After all, I feel like anime films are a good way to introduce someone to a series. As far as films based off anime go, Dragon Ball Z probably has some of the best ones. Even though the films are usually rehashes of story-arcs from the show, they are still a ton of fun. So, let’s begin with the first Dragon Ball Z film and one of the best: Dragon Ball Z Dead Zone!

Background Information

Dragon Ball Z: Dead Zone was originally released in 1989, it made its way into the theaters as the series was just beginning. Since so few episodes had aired at this point in time, the creators winged it and based the film more off the style and feel of Dragon Ball as opposed to Dragon Ball Z. What do I mean by that? Well, Dragon Ball was focused on action as well as adventure, while Z focused more on just action. Dead Zone draws more elements from Dragon Ball, such as Goku using his power pole more as well as nimbus. On top of this, characters rarely fly in this film, which was a stable for Dragon Ball Z at this point.

Plot and Characters

Taking place after the end of Dragon Ball, but before the start of Dragon Ball Z, our plot focuses on Goku raising his son Gohan. However, Gohan is kidnapped by the mischievous and powerful imp known as Garlic Jr. who plans to use the 7 magical Dragon Balls to wish for immortality. Goku must muster up his strength in order to do battle against Garlic’s ruthless henchmen, while at the same time working alongside his arch-enemy Piccolo.

While the plot of the film is considered non-canon, it’s still an enjoyable ride. Sure, it’s basically a remake of the fight with Raditz, but is infinitely more entertaining. For one thing, I found Garlic to be a more memorable villain than Raditz. Garlic Jr. is effectively a ripoff of Emperor Pilaf from the original Dragon Ball show, though much more powerful. While it’s true that Garlic Jr. gets beaten like a chump in this movie, he’s still an enjoyable villain. It comes with the territory of having the voice who played Pilaf playing this character. I’ll get into that more a bit later, but for now I’ll just say that the character himself was top-notch.

Sadly, the henchmen were kind of forgettable. This is sadly par four the course when it comes to Dragon Ball Z movie villains. The only henchmen in these films that I found truly amazing were the baddies from movies 5 and 9. Most of the underlings in these films tend to be mostly generic, which is kind of sad. Even the Spice Boys (Garlic Jr.’s henchmen in the anime) were still more memorable than these dorks!

Visual Stimuli

For a film that came out in 1989, the animation looks stellar! Characters are designed well and have some pretty good animation behind them. Fight scenes look amazingly fluid and have a good sense of pizzazz. The soundtrack is pretty solid, what you’d expect from a Dragon Ball production. It captures the feel of Z and helps bring a lot of excitement to the action sequences.

While Garlic Jr.’s character is blatantly stolen from Emperor Pilaf, his voice actor Chuck Huber manages to bring a fair amount of enjoyment to the character. As previously mentioned, Chuck also played Pilaf in the original show. While the two characters sound and look identical, it’s Garlic’s ability to actually fight that makes him a surprisingly superior villain. Don’t get me wrong, I still Emperor Pilaf as a character, but I find Garlic Jr. to be a much more threatening villain.

All in all, I found the production values behind this film to be excellent and top-notch! Sure, parts of it seem dated, but it really stands out when compared to the animation that is often seen on television today. Voice-acting on this film is also pretty stellar, though some of the earlier versions of the film’s English dub are sadly very forgettable.

In Summation

Dragon Ball Z: Dead Zone is a short, yet immensely entertaining film. It lacks the punch that later films had, but had an entertaining villain and fantastic action sequences. The henchmen are forgettable, but the film makes up for it with a lot of heart. I can 100% reccomend this film to anyone and everyone, as it is truly a classic. That’s why I can say without a doubt that this animated film is as sweet as syrup! I think everyone who’s a big Dragon Ball Z needs to see this golden oldie!

The Various Problems With Dragon Ball Super Part 1

Before reading this, please know that I love Dragon Ball. I wouldn’t say that I’m a super huge fan of it now, like when I was 8. I’m more of a passing fan of the series nowadays. I still have yet to play the Xenoverse games, but they are something that I’d love to get into. Unfortunately, there are parts of this franchise that I can’t stand. While I love the adventures that the Saiyan Goku and his misfit band of Z Fighters get into, there’s only so much a person can take. I loved the original Dragon Ball anime, thought Z was good, though paled in comparison the original.

I found GT to be an underrated series. Sure, it’s not a good Dragon Ball anime, but I feel that its unique enough to be judged as its own thing. Plus, it’s always hilarious to hear Goku use his sexy voice every time he addresses his arch-enemy “Baby”. I know GT has garnered a fair bit of hatred, but it’s still a series that I can enjoy from time to time. The problem is that I just can’t get into Super. It’s full of plot-holes, retcons, weird plot devices, wasted characters, and the occasional bout of poor animation. While the series has gotten marginally better with the newest story arc, it’s still far from being as good as it can be.

That’s something I’d like to go over today. I usually don’t like to be a negative Nelly on my blog, but I thought I’d put my two cents into why I dislike Dragon Ball Super. Keep in mind that this is just my opinion. I still watch the show on occasion despite not liking it, but I know not everyone will have the same opinion. I’m not trying to knock down the opinions of others, only discuss my feelings about a series that could be so much more. Without further adieu, let’s get into Super!

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No, I don’t know why Trunks has blue hair now for some reason.

What is Dragon Ball?

Before discussing the show, I feel that its only fair if I first talk about the series as a whole. Dragon Ball revolves around an alien superhero known as Goku. He loves eating, fighting strong opponents, and not much else. Sure, he has a wife and kid, but he’s barely around them in the original series. Goku often fights villains using martial arts abilities, his super alien powers, and his multitude of transformations. Seriously, Goku has gone through more hair colors than Ramona Flowers.

The original show ran for over 100 episodes, while its sequel Dragon Ball Z ran for close to 300 eps. Dragon Ball GT ran for a measly 64 episodes, nowhere near as high as its predecessors. After GT ended, for the longest time we didn’t have a new DB show. The series was kept alive by its various videogame adaptations and occasional spinoffs and specials. That was until 2015, when the series was brought back from the brink and aired once more on television with brand “new” episodes as Dragon Ball Super. And this is where our tale begins…

Problem 1: The Rehashing

There are many ways you can start off your show, you can start by telling an all new story, you can begin in Media Res, or you can just retell portions of the story people may have missed. Unfortunately for Super, it chose the third option. Look, there’s nothing wrong with retelling a plot that the audience may have missed. After all, it’s difficult to do a sequel when your audience is mostly blind to the original. The problem? Dragon Ball Super chose to start off its series by recapping two films, that came out extremely recently! Heck, Resurrection F came out just a few months before the series even started!

The first 29 episodes are dedicated to recapping both Battle Of Gods and Resurrection F. 29 episodes, that’s insane! These are brand new films so many fans know about already, why bother recapping? You spent over half a year’s worth of episodes spinning your wheels with filler and hope the audience would stick around after. If this was any other anime, people might have just left then and there. However, Dragon Ball has such a well-known name that people couldn’t really say no.

The recapped episodes do add a fair bit more depth to the original films, but they aren’t really worth watching when compared to the movies that spawned them. Most of the stuff it adds are filler sequences, the occasional new adventure, and a lot of pointless fluff. While it is true that they improve on certain plot developments from the films, they still suffer from many other problems (which we will get to) that stops it from being a good alternative.

Now, lots of series or franchises will rehash their story-lines from time to time. A good example of this was the Justice League Vs. Teen Titans film. It felt like a retread of most of the Trigon arc from the cartoon and comic, but was still enjoyable in its own way. It had problems, pacing issues, etc. At the end of the day though, it was enjoyable. I can forgive Warner Bros. for this as they don’t often rehash plots from their cartoons all that often.

Unfortunately, Dragon Ball is a series that lives off rehashing. There’s Dragon Ball Kai, which is essentially a shortened version of Dragon Ball Z with a lot of the filler cut out. Then we have the “Yo! Son Goku And His Friends Return!” special, which rehashed a fair bit of the Saiyan and Frieza saga. Then there was the new Bardock special, which felt like a pointless retcon to a great character. That’s now even mentioning the constant rehashing the games were doing for years.

I wish those were the only examples I had, but sadly they aren’t. While Japanese anime is known for reusing plots, it never got as bad as Dragon Ball. The problem with the 29 episode retread is not the content itself, it’s the fact that the entire franchise has bestowed its legacy upon this show. I don’t mean that in a good way, as the Dragon Ball series has sadly become the equivalent of a recycling bin. While its true that Dragon Ball is mostly considered a kids show, I’m still disappointed in the fact that the constant reuse of plots has gone this far. The 29 episode recap feels like just another attempt to get more money, as opposed to telling something new or interesting. It’s one of the many things hurting this show so badly.

Honestly, I recommend skipping those early episodes in favor of just watching the last two films. They tell the same story, but are shorter and just way more enjoyable over all. There’s very little substance added to the arcs aside from a ton of filler and pointless additions. You’re better off sticking with the later arcs as opposed to watching those first two.

Problem 2: The Art and Animation

Believe it or not, I’m the kind of guy that can look past the animation of a TV series. If a series looks or is animated bad, I can still overlook it if it brings something unique to the table. An example of this is Spectacular Spiderman. I hated the character designs and art-style on that show, but still found the show as a whole to be one of the best superhero cartoons I ever watched! Sadly, the animation on this show is something that can’t be overlooked.

This series has several bouts of bad animation, such as poorly drawn hands and just awkward looking characters. A good example of this is when Frieza blows up a planet in Resurrection F, it lacks any of the finesse earlier planet explosions packed. When Beerus blew a planet in an earlier arc, it looked like fireworks of death. When Frieza blows up a planet, it just cracks all over and then explodes in a very generic-looking explosion. Animation problems don’t end there as you can find all kinds of weird animation errors anywhere you look in this series.

These aren’t just animation errors you probably won’t notice on first viewing, these are in your face! There are scenes that just look awkward, or scenes that felt like they had no impact. A good example was the Goku Vs. Frieza rematch, which just fell flat. There were issues with depth-perception in several scenes, and battles lacked any weight to them. I mean that literally, as Goku and Frieza would punch each other, but you don’t get that feeling of actual combat from them. It feels like their punches lack impact, leaving the fight feeling boring. It doesn’t help that there’s a scene where Frieza and Goku headbutt each other, but it’s really a single picture just shook around to make it seem like something was actually happening.

You think that’s lazy? I haven’t even mentioned episode 5 from the first arc yet! I think episode 5 is a deal-breaker for most people, mainly due to how terrible it is. A lot of long-running anime will sometimes get an episode with animation so bad it becomes infamous. It gets worse when you consider the fact that episode 5 was the episode that had Goku and Beerus fight for the first time. This was the first time we see Beerus fight against a truly capable and strong opponent in the series.

How does it go? Horrible. Half of the animated sequences in this scene looks like they were made by a 8 year old boy in Microsoft Paint. Goku flails about awkwardly as he attempts to punch a poorly drawn Beerus. Look, I’m no artist, and I’m not going to pretend to be. I haven’t done an art-class since high-school and I have no talent in drawing whatsoever. Despite this, even I can tell that this episode lacked any finesse to it. To better illustrate my point, take a look at this picture:

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THIS AIRED ON TELEVISION?!

Yes, your eyes are not deceiving you. This is honest to goodness frames of animation from that episode. Goku looks poorly drawn in so many scenes in this episode, and Beerus is not much better. Now, if this was some kind of pointless filler episode, I could forgive it somewhat. As mentioned earlier though, this is a pivotal part of this story arc. This is when we see a fraction of Beerus’ enormous power, enough to easily overpower one of the strongest fighters in the universe. Despite this, half the episode looks like it was drawn by a chimpanzee.

Toei is primarily to blame here. To be absolutely fair, I don’t think Toei is the worst animation company out there. When they produce films, the animation on them tends to be passable to pretty good. I can’t think of too many Toei animated films that I despise, at least animation-wise. Unfortunately, the same can not be said for the animated series that they produce. Back in the 80s and 90s, Toei could produce some fantastic looking stuff. However, ever since Toei discovered digital cel animation, the quality has gone down considerably.

Compare Saint Seiya Omega to Saint Seiya: Soul of Gold. Omega was animated by Toei, while Soul of Gold was simply produced by Toei and animated by another company. Soul of Gold looked amazing (despite have a couple occasional awkward bouts of animation) while Omega just looked kind of bland and lacked interesting character designs. Speaking of which, I think it’s time we discuss the character designs on this series.

Problem #3 New Character Designs

The Dragon Ball series has a lot of hit or miss character designs. This is probably due to the fact that Akira Toriyama can only draw about 5 or 6 faces. Heck, when I was a kid I would often mistake Yamcha for Goku due to their similar appearances. To be honest though, I was pretty dumb kid. Dragon Ball Z had a lot of bouts of interesting designs though, especially in its villains. Frieza and Cell particularly stood out at looking very interesting to me.

However, I think this series should earn some kind of award for having the worst designs. I know a lot of time and effort goes into designing a really good character, but it feels like the ball was mostly dropped here. You have a series that was dormant until 2008, with very few characters (Outside of maybe Beerus) who are that striking or memorable. A good example of this is Tagoma, Frieza’s main stooge in Resurrection F arc.

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Watch out, it’s purple Mr. Clean!

That’s a pretty bland design. There’s nothing memorable about this design, it’s just a random alien in a modified Frieza uniform with a scouter that stretches all the way across his face. The alien design itself is pretty bland. Let’s compare this to Dodoria, who looked like a pink fat pin-cushion. His body was bulbous and pink protrusions were spread out all across his head. We remember Dodoria because there was something interesting about his design, he felt alien. While Zarbon’s regular form felt bland, his monster form created a unique dynamic for the character. One form is beautiful and elegant, while the other form is monstrous and hideous.

Tagoma looks like a bald guy painted his skin a light shade of purple and then put on a weird outfit. Even Ginyu had protrusions that erupted from his head to give a more alien-like design. Couple that with Ginyu’s bizarre mannerisms, and you have a character that’s not only memorable but someone you could grow attached to. Also, don’t worry, we’ll talk more about Super’s depiction of Ginyu a bit later. Regardless, Tagoma’s design is just awful.

I’m not saying that all the aliens in the series have to look unique or have some interesting quirk or ability. That being said, Dragon Ball Z had so unique aliens on it! Heck, even Dragon Ball GT had a fair bit of unique and bizarre aliens that appear in its introductory arc. A good example of this was the mechanical alien life-form known as Baby, I freaking loved that villain!

Sadly, other cast members don’t fair much better. Goku and Vegeta get new outfits, but they mostly remain the same aside from a few changes. The blue part of Goku’s outfit is now non-existent, and Vegeta’s outfit has had its blood parts replaced with grey. However, the outfits are still primarily the same, but they still lack the finesse once had. Toei also realized this, and had their outfits returned mostly to normal in subsequent arcs. I say mostly, because they still carry Whis’ symbol on them.

It’s not just redesigns and new characters that the show has a problem with, but also rehashed characters. I know I complained about rehashes earlier, but there was an entire arc dedicated to Goku and friends fighting in an alternate universe tournament. This arc was notorious for having characters who were just alternate versions of pre-established characters.

Frost is just a palette-swapped Frieza, Hit is essentially a purple version of Piccolo, and Champa is just a fatter version of Beerus. And yes, I know that both Champa and his assistant Vados are technically related to Beerus and Whis respectively. However, having a sibling relationship isn’t a super good excuse for bad character designs. Gohan and Goten were brothers as well, but you never saw them wearing near identical outfits did you? You could always tell Gohan apart from Goten! This may be a nitpick, but I just find the lack of unique and interesting designs to be annoying.

Side Problem#1: Over-Hyping and Click-Baiting

Let’s be real here, hype can destroy a good series. Sadly, the hype proceeding Super’s release did not help this show in the slightest. Now, I know that that sometimes the hype can get out of control, even beyond what the creator’s intend. However, the hype for Super was just out of control. The moment it was announced, the internet went insane. People were getting over-hyped for an anime that hadn’t had a new entry in over 2 decades.

It didn’t help that the series premiered just a few months after the last film came out. Super was basically riding off the hype bandwagon from the previous film, using it as a way to get its audience over-hyped. Unlike previous Dragon Ball series, the manga started at the same time as the anime did. This meant episodes were released in conjunction with the manga, which was even more annoying. The fact that the manga was being released at the same time basically made it pointless. Why read the manga when the anime was covering the same material at the exact same time, but in animated form?

The problem is that so much hype was surrounding this show from the start, despite its immensely rocky start. It doesn’t help that various sleazy click-bait sites are adding to the unnecessary hype train. I’m not going to name any names, since I don’t want to get in trouble with any particular new outlets. Still, I want to bring attention to this extremely awful practice. You see, what these sites are doing are posting descriptions of episodes that haven’t even come out yet in the title of their articles. They use this to mainly generate clicks and traffic for their site. It doesn’t help that most of these articles feel like they weren’t even written by fans of the anime or the medium as a whole. I know that click-baiting is legal, but it’s still sleazy to do this for a kids show.

It doesn’t help that it shows up as soon as you Google search “Dragon Ball Super”. This means that episodes will be spoiled for you by the description alone, and there’s no way to avoid them because they show up at the top of the search results. I recommend not giving these click-bait sites your traffic and just going through the Wikipedia search engine and cut out the middle-man. Normally, this wouldn’t be a big deal, but it really goes against what the show is supposed to be about. It’s about a group of individuals who fight in order to save the people of their planet and restore peace, never asking for money or monetary gain. And here you have a bunch of sites, who are normally very well-known for providing popular content just using their descriptions in order to leach clicks.

The reason I listed this as a “side problem”, was due to personal preference. I doubt that click-baiting would get in the way of enjoying this show, and it doesn’t hurt the enjoyment factor that much for me. I just find it detestable that websites have been trying to bank off this show since the beginning, even when it started extremely bland. If a site wanted to post articles every 10 or 20 episodes, that’d be fine. It’s just a little too extreme. Hopefully, this evens out more next year and we have less click-baiting articles. Again, I have nothing against these sites personally. They put out fantastic articles and amazing content, but they could do a lot better with providing content to its reader base.

Problem #4: A Very Hole-y Plot

Plot holes and plot conveniences can cripple a good show, but they are especially bad when  they end up in a show that already has a lot of problems to begin with. To be fair, Akira Toriyama isn’t the best writer to begin with. A good example of this are plot elements that come out of nowhere, such as Goku having a brother and being an alien this whole time. Despite this, Dragon Ball Z was never a show people watched for the story to begin with. Likewise, Super isn’t going to be a show watched for it’s plot. Regardless, this show is littered with plot conveniences, plot holes, and inconsistencies.

For example, in one of the first few episode Beerus boasts that he killed all the dinosaurs on earth. However, the dinosaurs are still on earth and they have been there for countless years. It’s entirely possible Beerus wiped them out and they all just returned at some point, but a little expansion on that plot point would have been appreciated. There are various other ones, such as Ginyu’s powers working differently without explanation or the geography of the planet looking completely different for some reason.

Let’s be real here, Dragon Ball GT also had a fair bit of plot holes and inconsistencies. While GT had a fair bit of things that didn’t make sense, Super was much worse in this regard. Heck, the animators couldn’t even get Krillin’s height right, as he is now shorter than he was before. Couple inconsistencies like that with bad off-model character design and lackluster animation and you have a show that constantly bewilders its audience.

I know I shouldn’t complain so much about the plot in a series that has almost always been more focused on animation, but it’s not like Dragon Ball Z has ever had that complex of a story. Sure, the original Dragon Ball series had some pretty good plots, but there was never anything that was truly exceptional when it came to story-telling. The fact that Akira Toriyama fails at being able to tell a story, despite writing this series for many years is very telling.

Keep in mind, I’m still essentially a writer in training. I make mistakes, my paragraph spacing needs work, and I screw up my punctuation all the time. However, I can still look at the work of other writers and see what needs improving. Akira Toriyama has done some truly amazing work, but lacks the ability to tie a cohesive narrative to his works. I’m not saying that Akira Toriyama is a terrible person, it’s just that he has had decades to improve his writing and simply chose not to.

Summing It Up

Dragon Ball Super has a lot of problems, and I mean a lot! In this little rant / review I went over a lot of problems I had with the series. Keep in mind, that even though I think this show is pretty awful, I still watch and enjoy it. It’s entertaining and fun, at least in my opinion. I mean no offense to those who like or dislike it, this is merely my opinion. I love this show and want to see it get better, which is why I tear it apart so.

Now, I know it seems like I nitpicked a fair bit. This is true, but I feel want to get more of personal gripes out of the way before getting deeper into what I dislike about this show. Yeah, we’re only on part 1 of this rant! There will most likely be a part 2 and 3, though I don’t know when those will come out. I don’t want this to become a rant blog, but I feel like expressing a bit of negativity with something I feel could be improved is strangely therapeutic in a way.

I know that lots of hard work goes into making an animated series, but I feel that this show lacks visible effort. Now, I know that the show got really good as of late, especially with the new story arc that just started. That arc is fantastic, by the way! I’ll cover all the things I like about the show at the end of this series, as there are a fair bit of things I found entertaining. Again, this is all personal opinion. If you disagree, that’s perfectly fine. I respect everyone’s opinions and I can see why people like this show. Still, I want to continue with this series and continue expressing why I don’t like it. So, stay tuned for the next part in a few weeks to a month!

Remembrance Day: Lest We Forget

I know that Remembrance Day technically ended 12 minutes ago (At least according to my clock) but I feel it’s worth bringing up. This is a day when we remember all the soldiers who fought and died for us, so that we may live and build a new future for ourselves. I honor the sacrifices Canadian soldiers have made for us, as should anyone in Canada. Let’s all spend some time, no matter what day it is to remember the brave warriors who died fighting for us.

More Monster Hunter Reviews Coming Soon!

Yesterday, I released a written review of Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate, and I can’t wait to dig into the other games in the series. I’ve covered the first, second, and third games in one way or another. Next game up is Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate! I’m gonna play the game a bit more before doing the review, as I haven’t played it in quite a bit. I feel it’s best I tackle some other games first before moving onto 4 Ultimate. Plus, I have a ton of other reviews and written projects lined up for this month. Still, I want to play all the games in order. With Monster Hunter Stories and Monster Hunter Double-Cross on the horizon (and most likely getting American releases) I feel that I’ll have a lot of material to cover in the coming year. Stay tuned!

Sweet As Syrup: Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate Review

It’s been a while since I’ve tackled a Monster Hunter game! I’ve made it no secret that I love this series, even despite its faults and dated features. For as flawed of a game series as Monster Hunter can be at times, it does a lot of stuff right. It offers an action RPG that is both entertaining and enjoyable with a ton of unique and interesting monsters. As a result, its garnered an immensely large fanbase in Japan. The series didn’t start becoming big in America until just recently, though.

The Monster Hunter game I’d like to talk about today is the black-sheep of the Monster Hunter family: Monster Hunter 3 / 3 Ultimate. This was the game that a lot of hardcore MH fans had mixed feelings towards. This was justified, as the game tried to introduce new concepts and gameplay mechanics into the series, but weren’t implemented as well as they could have been. What we ended up with was a game with a lot of unique ideas and concepts, but fell flat in what it was trying. Let’s discuss this game and see if it is truly worthy of the Monster Hunter title or not!

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If that dragon isn’t careful, he’s gonna end up being another armor piece for that guy.

Background Information

The third entry in the Monster Hunter series was initially released as “Monster Hunter Tri” for the Nintendo Wii in 2009 in Japan. It was later brought over to America the following year. The game did marginally well in terms of game review scores, but received mixed reactions from fans of the series. A few years later, Capcom would release Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate for Wii U and 3DS, which was an expansion to the original. It added new monsters, new quests, new armor sets, along with various other things.

Monster Hunter 3 was originally marketed in America using a commercial campaign featuring a character called “Iron Beard McCullough”. I’ll be honest, I loved these commercials, as did a lot of other people. The commercials were charming, featuring a boisterous man with a Scottish accent who often brag about how real hunting paled in comparison to that featured in the game. The commercials were immensely enjoyable, and Capcom ended up making a whole mess of them. Sadly, the character is now mostly forgotten and Capcom didn’t even bother to bring his back for 3 Ultimate. Regardless, it remains one of my favorite commercial campaigns for any game.

Plot

Our starts in calm and serene fishing outpost, known as “Moga Village”. This small village works as hard as they can, gathering fish and expanding their trade. Unfortunately for them, their peace is shattered when a series of earthquakes strike the village. This causes chaos, which  urges the village to seek help. A Monster Hunter is sent to help solve the villages woes and destroy the monster causing the quakes, and this hero is you!

As with Monster Hunter 1 and 2, the story is pretty basic. Seems like there’s a bit more detail this time around, though. Parts of the plot didn’t make sense to me. Like, why not just move the village instead of killing giant possibly extinct sea monsters? I guess you can’t run a fishing village without wiping out a few dozen species of sea creatures! I can’t believe I’m actually over-analyzing the plot to a Monster Hunter game…

Gameplay

Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate brings the MMO-esque action-RPG elements of its predecessors into the one place it has never been before: Underwater. Yes, you heard me right, this was the first (and so far only) Monster Hunter game to have underwater sections. The gameplay on land remains mostly the same. You pick from 1 of many weapons to bring out in into the field, you craft and bring your own armor with you, and you fill up your inventory with all kinds of items necessary for the quest. It’s your standard stuff for a game of this genre.

While fighting on land, you can gather materials in order craft new gear or supplementary items such as pitfall traps and paintballs. Using your own weapons in conjunction with items is a good way to succeed in this game. It’s not all about your weapons and armor, but also about what kind of tricks you bring to the party. Want to stop your enemy in its tracks so you can pound him? Catch him in a trap. Want to temporarily blind an enemy? Use a flash bomb. There are countless ways you can make use of the various items you have in your repertoire.

What I enjoyed most about Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate was the increase of things you can do in the village. In other MH titles, the village was mostly where you crafted new gear, bought items, and occasionally spoke with a villager who had a yellow sign above their head. This game introduces things such as “Villager Requests”, which involve you doing various random tasks for villagers. This could in turn reward you with good items or bonuses.

You could also trade with the Argosy Captain, who can exchange rare or useful items with you. Some items in the game can only be obtained by trading with the captain, so be sure to do this often! In all honesty, you will probably not need a lot of these items. A lot of them are fairly superfluous, and most can’t be used in crafting. They are mostly useful in the farm, or for decorating your house with furnishings.

Furnishings are the worst addition to the whole village experience, in my opinion. Furnishings feel less like unique additions to your house, and more like pointless knickknacks that you place around the room. I know that furnishings are a small feature, and I shouldn’t be too annoyed about it, but I love room customization. Not only are the furnishings pointless baubles, but they can only be put in select locations in your house. There’s only three spots where you can put a furnishing and that’s it. Unsurprisingly, this feature was cut out from future games, probably due to the pointlessness of it. Even though I appreciate the attempt to had customization to the game, it just ended up feeling pointless.

Other things you can do in the village include the farm from previous games. This allows you to cultivate items such as mushrooms, bugs, and herbs, all items that will be useful to you in some way or other. In all honesty, I enjoy the farm, even if I don’t use it all that much. It’s fun talking to the various characters that populate the farm, and it adds a fair bit of unique extra activities to the game. It also feels relaxing, especially when compared to some of the intense boss battles in this game! You can do the aforementioned Villager Requests to improve the farm even more, adding additional accouterments to the farm and allowing you to gather items of high value.

You can also send out fleets to acquire even more items, such as fish. Probably the biggest addition to the village is an area known as “Moga Woods”. You can travel into Moga Woods and battle both monsters and collect various items. This grants you points, which can be used in the village as a secondary currency. Also, turning in hunt reports not only nets you points but also bonus items!

The improvements to the village are probably my favorite thing about this game! I think it’s time I stopped stalling though and discussed one of the weakest parts of this game: Underwater combat. While ground combat remains mostly the same, underwater combat changes up the dynamics of the game considerably. The basics of ground combat are there: You wield a big hefty weapon while wearing bulky armor (which surprisingly doesn’t weigh you down underwater) and have to do battle against a giant monster. Adding a third dimension to the mix is where things get a bit problematic.

You now have to account for controlling the camera in a 3D space while making sure you are close enough to the monster to deal damage to it. Normally, I find the camera to be a bit of a non-issue in the 3DS Monster Hunter titles. You have the automatic camera lock-on feature, which was introduced in this game. This allows you to focus on the boss and only the boss. One press is all you need to constantly track your prey no matter where you are on the map. Pressing the L button will snap your camera into a position where you can the boss instantly. Sure, it’s fairly useless when you are facing two bosses, but it’s still fairly handy.

Now, that doesn’t so bad, but things start to get shaky when you throw in underwater combat. You now have to adjust the camera constantly, while at the same time trying to be close enough to your arch-enemy to do damage. You also have to dodge underwater, which is difficult when you are facing a specific direction. I know that the camera is easier to control with the Circle Pad Pro, or with the New Nintendo 3DS. However, I don’t really believe in buying a new peripheral just to not suck at underwater combat. The battles proved easy enough to not feel too tedious regardless. Thankfully, you don’t have to be underwater for the whole fight. Enemies usually resurface multiple times, so underwater combat doesn’t ruin the game for me.

To be fair, I’m not against the idea of underwater combat. While its true that water levels in videogames usually get bad-raps, but the idea of going underwater in Monster Hunter is a fun concept. It’s like Endless Ocean meets Jurassic Park, it seems like a fun idea that could further flesh out the world. I love swimming around underwater in MH3U, because it’s fun to explore the watery depths. There’s some nice scenery underwater in the game, and I loved little touches like being able to spear sharks or catch fish swimming around in schools. It’s stuff like this that adds to the feel of this game, it feels unique when compared to its competition. The problem is that even though the underwater exploration is fun and unique, the combat isn’t.

The underwater aspect feels really hit-or-miss, but I think it shouldn’t have been removed from future titles. I have a strong feeling that if this feature was more polished, it could’ve been kept in or even made into its own game. The idea surrounding it is novel enough and all of the working elements are there, it just needed more polishing. Maybe have it so you only fight large monsters on ground, but you can adventure underwater for additional materials or to hunt smaller monsters. While I enjoy the improved vertical-combat in later games, I still miss this attempt at trying to bring underwater mechanics to the hunt.

Aside from the iffy underwater combat, I find that this game is pretty top-notch over all. The graphics are nice, and I love that they decreased the difficulty for beginners. Combat is far more approach, although there were some bosses in the game that I find to be fairly annoying. Duramboros is a good example of this, a monster with a sickeningly large amount of HP. The thing is massive too, and overall the fight against him felt boring.

Another thing I didn’t like was that they replaced Palico cats with the Cha-Chas. The Palicoes were great teammates, but I always found the Cha-Chas too annoying. It doesn’t help that you can’t really change their design, aside from what mask they wear. They lack creativity and adorableness when compared to the Palico cats from Monster Hunter Freedom Unite.

The last thing I want to touch on is multiplayer. As previously mentioned, this game was released on two different consoles: Wii U and 3DS. The Wii U version features online multiplayer, while the 3DS can sadly only do local. I only have the 3DS version, so I’ve only played a few matches with some friends who have it. Sucks that the 3DS one lacks online multiplayer, but the difficulty was approachable enough that I didn’t feel the need to get other players to help me.

Visual Stimuli

The game has fairly good graphics for a handheld game, though definitely lacks polish. Character models seem a bit dated, and several backgrounds seem to lack oomph. Underwater areas looked fantastic though, looking fairly gorgeous and having a good bit of detail to them. Armor and weapon designs are top-notch as usual, with a lot of them looking really awesome or really bizarre. Frame-rate seems to be fairly consistent, at least during my play-through

The music in this game is fantastic! It’s got the usual theme song, along with a ton of new themes. I especially love the calm serene village theme or the upbeat farm theme, this adds a lot to my enjoyment of these areas. This game lacks voice acting and populates its world with people who have a tendency to grunt and magically project text boxes. 3 Ultimate brings back the amazing CGI cutscenes, which have become a staple for the franchise at this point. I always enjoy the cutscenes present in the game, as they add a whole lot more depth and detail to the world. This game has fairly okay graphics, amazing sound, and beautiful cutscenes. While all those things are normal for this franchise at this point, I still find them to be an amazing thing, especially in this current game industry!

In Summation

Like a lot of people, I consider this game to be the black sheep of the series. It lacks the finesse that previous games brought to the table, as well as lacking the difficulty previous games had popularized. Still, its a far more approachable game due to its lacking difficulty and has a lot of heart to it. The underwater sections are so-so, but its still fun to adventure through the depths for precious minerals and rare fish.

The game brings the amazing music and gorgeous cutscenes of previous games, while also adding new features like more stuff to do in the village as well as a unique hub area for multiplayer. The story to this game is bare bones, but this is pretty par for the course when it comes to Monster Hunter. Despite some forgettable or downright obnoxious boss battles and forgettable underwater combat, the game is still a fair bit of fun.

It lacks the polish that previous MH titles had, but it’s still fairly entertaining. This game is as sweet as syrup, but difficult to reccomend. There are so many other better Monster Hunter games out there to play, and I feel that this one is definitely one of the most lacking entries. There’s elements to enjoy, but also a lot of stuff that feels forgettable. While it provided a good basis for later entries, it just failed to impress as much as the other games did.

Digimon Adventure V-Tamer 01: The Sorta Review

I’ve probably said it before, but I’m a huge fan of Digimon. I love all the various cartoons, movies, and games! However, recently I found myself reading the Digimon manga known as “Digimon Adventure V-Tamer 01”. I found this to be arguably the best thing to ever come out of the franchise, in my opinion. Good characters, good plot development, fun designs, and a story that feels more like a continuous arc as opposed to a collection of several somewhat unrelated arcs. I’m not saying that the structure of the anime series are terrible or anything, but I prefer the way V-Tamer structures its plot better.

I was considering doing formal a review on this series, and I probably will later down the line. For now I feel like discussing this series in a more informal way and going over a lot of what I liked about it. Of course, there will be SPOILERS. If you have not read the manga (which you can find easily online) I suggest you do so first before reading further.

 

digimon_adventure_v-tamer_01_cover
Similar Tai, different story.

So, what is this manga and what makes it so unique? Well, this manga first introduced the world to both Digimon and its first protagonist: Tai/Taichi. Now, this is a somewhat different version of Tai. Unlike the main Adventure anime series, this Tai has a Veedramon as his partner as opposed to an Agumon. Weirder still, all the primary Digimon have nicknames to better differentiate themselves from other Digimon. I kind of like this, to be honest!

The story primarily revolves around Zero and Tai trying to save the Digital World from an evil Digimon named Demon, as well as a power-hungry human known as Neo Saiba. The two have joined forces in an attempt to create the Ultra-level Digimon known as “Arkadimon”. While this does seem like it would be a fairly generic Shonen plot, it actually ends up being a lot more enjoyable and fulfilling than a fair amount of Digimon series.

Why is that? Well, for one thing this series ended up starting a lot of tropes associated with the series, such as having a goggle-headed protagonist who has a reptilian Digimon. However, it’s a lot more than that. The manga has a lot less characters than other entries in the franchise, which allows it a fair bit of character development. Side Digimon get a fair bit of development, including this universe’s Leomon.

What makes this series so strong is due in part to its length. Not including bonus chapters, the manga ran for 59 chapters. Sure, this doesn’t seem like a lot when you compare it to Naruto or Dragon Ball, but for a manga based off Digimon that’s pretty good. Most Digimon manga run for about 3-4 volumes, but this one ran for a crazy amount of time.

Chapters were released around the air of the first four seasons, but managed to stay fresh and their own thing for a long period of time. Despite the fact that the series was focusing a protagonist who was essentially the same character from season 1, the show managed to give him unique personality traits. This Taichi cares just as much about people as the anime’s Taichi does, but this one tends to brag and boast a bit more and take things far less seriously.

That’s one problem that the original Digimon anime had in spades: It took itself too seriously. Despite the silly and childish adventures our heroes got into, the dialogue was kept way to serious at times. This is why people often prefer the English version of seasons 1-3, due to the increase of comedy relief to damper the more somber and dark plot-lines of later story arcs. However, this series doesn’t have that problem at all. It can be serious, funny, goofy, and epic all at the same time.

Something else that makes this series so good is that it treat Digivolution differently. In the series, Digivolving allowed our heroes to essentially level up and get stronger. Though, most of the time they would return to their previous forms. Not in this series! Every-time a Digimon evolves, be it a Tamer’s Digimon or some other random Mon, then will stay that way forever. There are a few exceptions to this rule, but this is mostly played fairly straight.

This is why Zero stays in his Ultimate form most of the second half of the series. Since UlforceVeedramon strays away from that adorable Dinosaur design, Zero remains as an AeroVeedramon for most of the major battles. The writers didn’t want the character to lose its appeal, and I can appreciate that. This means that they had to make Zero overpowered, to the point where he could defeat Digimon who were levels above him with relative ease.

One of the best part about this manga were the crossovers. The manga crossovers over with Digimon Adventure 02 and Digimon Frontier. It’s never been stated if the crossovers were technically canon or not, but they did help develop the protagonists of these two shows a lot more. I could never get invested in the characters of Davis or Takuya, until reading this manga that is. Despite only getting a singular crossover chapter each, they still got more development than they ever did in the show, which is saying a lot. I also love that goofy chapter that had Tai going up against Ryo Akiyama in a (quite literally) heated argument.

Moments like this made the series a joy to read through. This was a series that was its own thing, but drew enough elements from the series itself to be familiar. It was fun, entertaining, and used more obscure and unknown Digimon to fill out its cast. If I had any major complaints, is that the ending felt a bit cliched. I also felt that the main antagonist, Neo Saiba, was redeemed too easily. Neo was heartless and cold monster consumed by his desire to change and “improve” the Digital World so bad that he let himself be manipulated. Unfortunately, he goes from being a really good and badass villain to a complete turnaround in the course of a chapter. He’s not even punished that bad for what he’s done.

Regardless of the few faults I have this series, it’s something I can reccomend to read, especially if you are a Digimon fan. Of course, it has its problems, but it also a lot of heart to it. When I read through it all, I felt like I had stumbled across some sort of treasure-chest of awesome Japanese 90s nostalgia. I always love that feeling, and the manga definitely captures that in spades! Sadly, the manga may be hard to come by nowadays. It may be even more difficult since you need to be able to read Japanese to fully get the impact of the comics. There’s always scanlations though, if you’re really craving the manga and don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars on import fees.

Whichever option is entirely up to you. Since the manga hasn’t been re-released in years, there are few ways to adequately enjoy the series. It’s never been brought over here, nor it has received any type of anime or videogame adaptation. I still think its something that’s worth cherishing, especially since it introduced so many concepts that would become very important and integral to this series as a whole. Give it a read, and let the Digi-nostalgia wash over you like a wave!

Happy Halloween, Y’all!

I know I’m a bit late to the party, as Halloween ends in approximately 20 minutes. Regardless, I wanted to wish you all a good one! I’m an avid fan of the Halloween season, and was actually working this night. I missed a fair bit of the festivities, but regardless I still had a pretty good night. And I hope you all had a great night too! Nothing better than getting free candy. Unless it’s free videogames, that is! Who doesn’t love the occasional freebie? Anyway, I’ve rambled long enough. Have a good night everybody and enjoy the season!