New Graphics Card + Dragon Age: Inquisition

So, I just bought a new graphics card for my new-ish desktop. I had recently ordered Dragon Age: Inquisition using an Amazon gift card, and decided to get this graphic card so I can play it along with a ton of other PC games I had my eye on. The card is a Nvidia Geforce GTX 1050 Zotac, and it’s amazing! I was able to run Dragon Age: Inquisition with the settings turned up to Ultra no problem! I can’t wait to play more of this game, but for now I want to finish some current reviews and post them. Look forward to seeing some crazy new game reviews the next few weeks.

Discovering Old Shows: Galaxy Rangers

When it comes to very old animation, I usually steer clear of it. Sure, I love 90s animation and will still watch it, but it’s hard to go further back and watch stuff from the 70s and 80s. The 90s was that weird period in animation where shows were getting darker, or had weirder themes or bizarre scenarios. In comparison, 80s animation just seemed too watered down and bland to me. There are definitely exceptions to this, such as Visionaries or the first 2 seasons of The Real Ghostbusters. However, there’s another cartoon that often gets overlooked and that is “The Adventures of The Galaxy Rangers”.

517HqiPX-fL._SX940_
Otherwise known as “I can’t believe it’s not Saber Rider!”

Out of the many shows to come out of the 80s, few compare to the Adventures of The Galaxy Rangers. Coming out in the mid 80s, this series was unique in that it had really good animation for the time (or even today), likeable and memorable characters, an engaging and interesting plot, and having dark and serious undertones in a kids show. The series revolves around a group of people with cybernetic body-parts who are given special implants to make them even stronger. With these implants, these “Galaxy Rangers” are sent after an evil alien space queen who has kidnapped his wife.

That’s the general setup of the plot, but it’s a lot more deep than that. The show itself was written by former horror writers, and boy does it show! The show can be scary, epic, awesome, and atmospheric. Combine that with a kicking rock soundtrack, interesting characters (Shane Gooseman is my favorite) and some good action and you have a decent 80s cartoon.

I just discovered it recently, and already found myself binge-ing it. It’s got some awkward voice-acting here and there, but that doesn’t really kill the mood for me. Honestly, it’s one of the few 80s cartoons I found myself being able to get invested in. This feels like the Gargoyles of the 90, a dark cartoon with great action that treats its audience like adults. It’s got a huge cult following, despite the fact they never really revisited this amazing show in any form. I’d love a reboot or remake, but I’m happy with the show the way it is.

It’s a forgotten little gem of an 80s show that I can wholeheartedly recommend. It captures that classic anime feel, but couples it with American sci-fi and horror. It feels like a good mixture and a well put-together series. It’s some great 80s animation, and a stellar soundtrack. If you can past some awkward flubbed lines here and there, then you have a truly great sci-fi show to watch!

First Impressions: Dragon Quest VIII For 3DS

So, recently I got Dragon Quest VIII using a gift card I got for my birthday. I’ve played about 30 minutes to an hour of it so far, so I thought I’d give my first impressions of it. Keep in mind that I had never played the original version of Dragon Quest VIII, so going into the new 3DS version was a new experience for me. Playing previous DQ games really helped get me into the swing of how the games in the series play. Without further adieu, here is my opinions on the first 45 minutes or so of the game.

DQ8-Jan-20-NA-Ann
Wow, that’s new, a Dragon Quest protagonist that doesn’t look like that kid from Blue Dragon!

Dragon Quest VIII starts up with a really snazzy intro that utilizes the series’ trademark theme song. Once I hit the menu, I’m greeted with that elevator-sounding music that plays in every Dragon Quest game. The first thing that pulled me in when the playing the game for the first time was the voice-acting. Almost every character had an accent, be it a typical British accent or even a Cockney one. This gave the characters a good dose of vocal flare, and each character has a voice that goes well with their design.

I’m early in the game, but I have yet to run across a stale accent or voice role yet! Combat is about what you expect from Dragon Quest, a turn-based combat system that hasn’t changed too much over the past few decades. It’s still an entertaining little system, especially how it lets you “psyche” up your party members in order to have them do some sweet critical damage.

The game’s story is pretty interesting too. An evil wizard shows up at a castle and transforms all its inhabitants into planets, with the exception of the king and princess. Unfortunately for them, they get turned into a troll and horse respectively. You play as the one person who was spared by the curse, a protagonist who you get to name. It’s up to you and your crew of motley misfits in order to find the sorcerer and break the curse. It’s not a super unique setup, but it’s interesting enough to gain my attention.

Last thing I want to touch on is how the game looks. It looks marvelous, to be honest. Graphics are night and the visual effects look amazing!  Towns are well-detailed and environments look amazing and vibrant. So far, the game has me won over in terms of visual presentation.

If there’s anything that I don’t like about the game right out of the gate, it’s that the first dungeon can be pretty annoying for newcomers to the series. This game isn’t afraid to boot you in gonads if you choose not to play it in a strategic manner. Anyways, those are my first impressions on this game thus far. I hope to eventually review it, once I play enough of it.

Why I Think Mazinkaiser Is The Best Anime Ever

1456217512_30406_Mazinkaiser1
Geez, even as a toy Mazinkaiser looks badass!

It’s hard to find that anime that really interests me and keeps me invested in its plot. It’s even harder to find an anime that is both off the wall crazy and super entertaining to watch. I believe I’ve found the latter of the two, a little known classic named Mazinkaiser. What is Mazinkaiser? Well, it’s a giant robot anime from the 90s, and I love it! I’ve discussed this show before, but never in great detail. Today, I wanted to touch on why I love this series so much.

For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, Mazinkaiser is a spinoff of the long-running Mazinger Z anime series. A young man named Kouji Kabuto pilots the giant robot known as Mazinger in order to protect the world from a cavalcade of silly villains. This includes Baron Ashura, a being who is half man and half woman right down the middle, and the enigmatic and insane mad-scientist known only as Dr. Hell.

It sounds like a ridiculous series, and it very much is. When creating this spinoff / reboot, the animation and design team put lots of effort into creating a product that captures the raw bombastic energy of the original. In this show, Kouji is defeated in combat and even his allies from the Photon Power Lab can’t stop Dr. Hell’s latest batch of cronies from wrecking the city.

However, Kouji eventually stumbles upon his grandfather’s greatest creation: Mazinkaiser. This giant robot is so powerful that it proves to difficult for even Kouji to master at first. Eventually, he gets the hang of it and gains one of the most powerful mechs ever designed for anime. When I say most powerful, I mean it! Mazinkaiser never takes any physical damage at all, even when tossed into a freaking volcano!

So, with his new mecha and his friends by his side, Kouji fights to stop the advance of the evil Dr. Hell. If there’s one thing that this show does amazingly is its animation! It looks fantastic and super expressive, especially for an anime OVA released in 1999. Designs are sleek and have a retro feel to them, and the theme song is freaking amazing! It’s hard to go wrong when you have JAM Project singing the theme song.

Now, this show doesn’t really have a plot. In fact, it’s a mostly episodic series, until the last few episodes. This show is filled to the brim with blood, violence, and hot babes. It’s what would happen if someone took an edgy 90s kid’s journal and made it into an animated series. The show is 7 episodes worth of gratuitous violence and nonsense shenanigans. I’ll be entirely honest with you, I think that’s certainly a winning combo!

Mazinkaiser doesn’t set out to be anything than a bloody and campy giant robot throw-down, and is probably one of my favorite giant robot shows of all time. Sure, I love GaoGaiGar, Big O, and Gurren Lagann, but Mazinkaiser remains my all time favorite. It’s hard to go wrong with a series where people shoot jet-propelled rocket-fists at each other while screaming nonsense attack names.

Last thing I’d like to note is the voice acting! It’s supreme, on both the English and Japanese audio tracks. The English track always stands out as my favorite, just because of how well the voice-cast manages to capture the insanity of the original. Kouji and Boss were cast perfectly, and I have yet to find a Super Robot anime dub that does as good of a job as this series has done. ADV, you are gone but not forgotten…

Anyways, those were my opinion on Mazinkaiser. I wanted to give a larger more in-depth review on it, but I thought I’d just put this mini-review out there instead. Mazinkaiser is a show that’s hard to do a full review on, mainly due to the fact that the show is more style than substance. It looks great, has awesome bloody fight scenes, but lacks any real narrative drive. It’s just a mindless show to watch for fun, nothing to really over-analyze or look too deeply into.

It’s a show that really captured my imagination and at the same time, appealed to all of those things I love in classic anime. That’s why I can say without a doubt that Mazinkaiser is my favorite anime, nothing compares to it! I’d like to know what your guys’ favorite anime is as well. Feel free to comment below and tell me about the shows you enjoy!

My Thoughts On The Phantasy Star Online 2 Anime

It may be hard to believe, but it’s been a whole since the anime adaptation of Phantasy Star Online 2 aired. Believe it or not, I love animated series based off video-games. Some of my favorites include the Viewtiful Joe anime, Bomberman Jetters, Megaman Starforce anime, and Sonic SatAM. The thing is, those shows were trying to be proper adaptations as well as tie-ins. What happens when you get a show that is just basically a giant commercial with a boring first-half? You get something that is truly a chore to sit through and watch.

phantasy-star-online-2-image-34
Even cool posing robots can’t save our hero from getting bored, much like the audience.

Today, I wanted to give my personal thoughts on that very show. Keep in mind, I have nothing against the Phantasy Star Online 2 game. I may be a hardcore Phantasy Star fan-boy, but I’m not going to pick on a series because it tries something new. The problem with PSO2: The Animation, is that not only does it fail as an adaptation, it also fails at being entertaining.

So, what is this anime? Well, without spoiling too much, it’s a canonical tie-in with Phantasy Star Online 2. I can’t say how it ties into canon, because that would be spoiling it. What I’ll say is that the anime takes place on earth, as opposed to the universe that the games take place in. The first half of the anime is just people playing Phantasy Star Online, with very little threat or consequence plaguing them.

It’s boring, bland, and hard to sit through. The anime revolves around Itsuki, a young man who is invited to join the student council. The catch? He has to keep up good grades, while also PLAYING PHANTASY STAR ONLINE 2. Yep, it’s one of those shows! Yes, the point of the series (at least the first half) is for Itsuki to prove the higher-ups of the school that a person can play an MMO while maintaining good grades. What would normally be an easy task for someone with decent time management skills, eventually becomes a chore for Itsuki.

I was taking college courses last year and I decided to do an experiment: Could I get consistently good grades while playing Phantasy Star games? As such, I played both Phantasy Star Zero and Phantasy Star Online: Blue Burst around the time of several tests. I got good grades on all of them and didn’t fail a single one. Now, to be fair they were probably easier tests than what Itsuki would be taking. Still, point stands is that I juggled two different massively large Phantasy Star games while getting good grades, while Itsuki could barely handle a single one. This is just a nitpick, but let’s dive further into what makes this show so bad.

For one thing, those first six episodes are nothing but slice-of-life nonsense. Most characters are bland, and the lack of unique character designs makes most characters feel same-y. Sure, the designs in-game look more interesting, but we very rarely get to see those designs early on. Most of their time is spent outside of the game, with them engaging in a lot of boring exposition and filler. While it’s true that there are hints of something greater about to happen, it takes forever for the show to actually get to it.

The second half picks up and introduces us to some crazier elements and that’s when the show gets interesting. However, most people would have quit long before then. There’s little in way of the engaging content keeping the viewer watching. Heck, they spent an entire episode at a Phantasy Star convention, which I don’t even think exists in real life!

Another problem with the show is that those first few episodes treat the audience like idiots, a lot. They will explain internet lingo that most people who have been to a message board would’ve known already. This is especially confusing, since the anime is targeted mostly at people who already play the MMO. If you play any kind of MMO, you’re going to pick up on this lingo on your own, that’s just how it works.

Not only that, but there is just a lack of that energy and thrill that made Phantasy Star games so special in the first place. They could’ve easily adapted 90% of the PS games into an anime, but instead they just made a clone of Sword Art Online. Sega is actually friends with the makers of Sword Art Online, A1 Pictures, so it makes sense to pay homage to them with a series. The problem is that PSO2:TA just feels like it’s trying too hard to be like Sword Art Online, without trying to be like Phantasy Star. It’s got a serious case of identity crisis and it ends up hurting the show considerably.

Now, I’ll be lying if I said this show didn’t have some good stuff in it. The in-game designs are fun and interesting, and I love the charismatic personalities of the people who are playing the game. The opening them is pretty snazzy and fits the Phantasy Star world very well. Lastly, the final few episodes manage to be more entertaining than the entire package put together. Sadly, there’s not much more good I can say about it.

It’s bland, boring, generic, aimless, and doesn’t get to the good stuff until over halfway through. I get that it’s a tie-in, but that’s not excuse for putting out a sub-par product. People have been asking for a Phantasy Star anime for decades now, yet Sega couldn’t even put effort into creating something that lives up to the quality of the games. Worse still, they gave this series an American release, yet the game its based on still hasn’t come out over here. What the actual heck, Sega?

Regardless, I can get why people like this anime. Some of the slice-of-life scenarios can be kind of entertaining, plus it’s more PSO2 content. However, for the life of me I just could not get into it. I’m not going to judge anyone for liking this anime, I respect that people can get something out of it that I couldn’t. I just don’t think I’ll be re-watching this series anytime soon, because I was so turned off by how its content was presented.

Sweet As Syrup: Toukiden 2 Review

I’ve made it no secret that I love Japanese games, especially ones that play like Monster Hunter. These Monster Hunter “clones” are one of the reasons I started this blog, and to this date dominate the subject of a ton of my posts. So, I thought today I’ll go back and revisit a series I haven’t touched in nearly 2 years. Today I wish to discuss the new Toukiden game, Toukiden 2. Is it better than the original? Did it change anything? Are the fox creatures still cute? Find out in this review!

Also, I’d like to give a shout-out to moco1982, who’s website you can find here. Moco was the one mentioned this game to me, and he’s the reason I got it. I originally had no plans on getting a new Toukiden game, but after both buying and play it, I am extremely glad I did!

2017-04-16-172816
I’m getting some MMO vibes from this…

Background Information

Toukiden 2 was an action RPG made for the PS Vita, PS3 (In Japan only), PS4, and PC. It was released in Japan mid-way through 2016, and was recently released in North America just last month. The game was developed by Omega Force, a company known for their work on Dynasty Warriors and its many spin-offs. The game was published by Tecmo-Koei and is the company’s second attempt at a Hunter-like game series. The company’s first foray into the genre was with the lesser-known title “Dynasty Warriors Strikeforce”.

Plot

The game starts off 10 years before the plot of the main game. You are a soldier, under the command of the great general Kuyo. During an attack by monsters, a gigantic demon appears and sends you tumbling through time into the current day. You arrive a few years after the events of the first game, in a brand new village. The village you’ve arrived in is dealing with various problems, including in-fighting between “Insiders” and “Outsiders”, as well as the ongoing threat posed by the Oni.

Not long into the game, you are introduced to the enigmatic Professor and her machine doll known as “Tokitsugu”. While the game boasts many varied characters, I found these two to be the most interesting and entertaining. I especially love the Professor and her overtly eccentric nature. He was such a blast to have as a supporting character, especially compared to a lot of the bland characters that showed up in the first few games.

While I liked the general setup of the plot, it left a lot to be desired in the long run. The first half of the game presents the in-fighting between the town’s two main factions in a rather realistic and unique light. Their rivalries felt like they had a purpose and showed the two clashing ideologies very well. The problem is that halfway through the game, suddenly a generic antagonist shows up. You can tell he’s the villain and your ultimate threat.

All of this interesting in-fighting and politics gets shoved aside for a generic “Let’s save the world” plot line that feels like they copy-pasted it from the last game. The game’s starting quarrel is resolved haphazardly at the end, while the new plot takes center stage. It feels like the game writers wanted to do two different plots, and both of them got mashed together into this unidentifiable substance.

While I did enjoy that first half of the plot, the forgettable second half really soured the mood for me. It’s not an overtly long main questline, so I never really felt like I stuck trudging through the second half all that much. I feel the game’s plot is just so-so, with two different arcs of varying quality. However, the plot of the game is only one part of the whole package. How does the gameplay hold up?

2017-04-16-132434
Shusuke will forever be remembered at that one guy who got eaten by a giant lizard. Upon his tombstone shall read “Tastes like chicken!”

Gameplay

Toukiden 2 is a game that may be deceiving at first glance. One may think that this is just another Monster Hunter clone, since all of the trappings are there. After all, this is a tird-person action RPG with a focus on slaying monsters and gaining new materials to craft weapons and armor. However, if you thought this was just another generic clone, you’d be mistaken.

Toukiden 2 manages to not only improve on the last two games, but also make some great additions to the genre as a whole! The game now boasts a fully realized open-world! You can now venture across the countryside in order to slay monsters, which is much appreciated. The game starts off by only giving you access to a few sections of the open-world at first, but they gradually open up as you play through the game.

The open-world is littered with a ton of side-quests and different events. Sadly, a lot of the side-quests are just meaningless fetch-quests. Sometimes, you’ll find a quest that does expand the lore a bit, but those are few and far between. Some side-quests can feel a bit tedious as well, especially the one at the start of the game which sends you out to look for three brothers, all scattered about across the land.

One annoyance that I found with the new open-world system, is the “Miasma” system. You see, early into the game you are sent into the Other-World. This is a dimension where demons reside, and as a result it’s filled with deadly miasma. Too much of it will instantly kill your character on the spot. Normally, this is easy to work around. You’ll usually have enough time to get to where you need to be long before the miasma takes you. On top of this, there are ways to purify your body and slow down the miasma gauge.

So, what’s the problem then? The problem comes with the exploration of the Other-World itself. You see, the game doesn’t have any real indication that you are about to go over your miasma level, aside from the gauge itself. This means you need your eyes trained on the corner of the screen at all times, which can get annoying. This can be especially troublesome if you’re running through an area where the miasma is high and run out of stamina. You see, when the miasma meter turns red, your stamina loses its regenerate. This means that once you enter these areas and are far enough in, you won’t be able to run back out in time to save yourself. This can make exploring the Other-World quite a chore.

The open-world also introduces special events called “Joint Operations”. During these missions, you’ll stumble across a Slayer or a fox-like creature known as a “Tenko”. After doing these Joint Operations, you’ll be joined by either of these beings. Slayers will only follow you temporarily, but will act as a fifth party member of your team. This can help in more difficult battles, when needing a fifth party member feels like a necessity.

Upon being rescued, Tenkos will leave the field and go over to your house. At that point, you can feed them and even change their voices or pelt color. They can even join you on missions, though they can’t actually attack anything. You can even equip them with Mitama that will give you extra bonuses in combat. Joint Operations are something that I felt was overall fairly rewarding. They were nice little instances that let you acquire temporary allies, or even adorable pets. I especially liked the changes made to the Tenko system, who were originally only there to gather items in the first two games.

That begs the question, who gathers items for you now? Well, in this game you are given Machina Dolls. They are like the Tenkos from the first game, but have the ability to be upgraded. At the start of the game, Machina Dolls will be nearly useless. They will fail missions 9 times out of 10, unless you fully upgrade them. This means a lot of material farming if you want your Machina in tip-top shape. Speaking of farming, the game mostly avoids this. Aside from upgrading Machina, I never really found myself farming for items and materials all that much.

Now, let’s discuss the main selling point of this game: The combat. The combat remains mostly unchanged from the past 2 games. There are a few new weapon types, and each new weapon gains a few new attacks. Battles still playing in the third-person, with you and 3-4 allies going up against monsters of varying sizes. The game sadly doesn’t introduce a whole lot of new bosses. Sure there are some mini-bosses, and about a dozen new bosses, but the game still feels lacking when it comes down to opponents. This is even more annoying when you take into account the fact that a lot of bosses from Kiwami didn’t make the cut.

Some of my favorite monsters from Kiwami, such as Metagnost and Mynx are noticeably absent. This is even more annoying when you realize that most of the cut bosses are available only as DLC. Worse still, they are only available in purchasable missions, and never appear in the open-world itself. While the game does introduce some new bosses, the variety just feels lacking.

What does add variety is the various weapons and ways to approach combat. With 11 different weapon types, it’s not hard to find something that will fit your play-style. The developers took this one step further and added in a sort of sub-weapon called a “Demon Hand”. The Demon Hand allows you to latch onto enemies and pull them towards you, or smash them into the ground. The Demon Hand can lead to some great combat tactics and feels like a fantastic addition to the game!

Another new feature added to combat is that you can now completely destroy the limbs of giant demons. While it’s true that in previous games you could chop the limbs off of an enemy, they would create a translucent duplicate that acts as a replacement. This meant that no matter how many limbs you cut off, they would simply grow back. However, with the Demon Hand, you can now completely eradicate the limbs of an enemy demon! It’s almost kind of heartbreaking to watch a giant demon spider flail about with no limbs. Then you remember that these demons have exterminated a fair portion of the human race, and all of that pity just disappears.

Last thing I want to talk about is the hub-town. This place is gigantic, and I love it! It’s got some unique looking buildings, but also houses a variety of fun and interesting NPCs. Activities from previous games are all available here, such as the Pool of Purity, or the various item shops available to player. There isn’t a whole lot for the player to do here, but the fact the player needs to use the services provided here gives you an excuse to return back to town when you can.

I generally felt the gameplay was a step up from the first two games. While combat remains mostly the same, I found the addition of things like the new weapon types and Demon Hands to be a welcome change. The open world introduced by this game feels vast and unique, despite the fact that it feels woefully underpopulated in terms of unique monsters. The miasma system can also be a nuisance at times, as well. Generally though, I felt that the game really shined in what it was trying to accomplish. It’s an open world RPG where you hunt monsters, and I feel it delivered on those elements despite its shortcomings.

2017-04-17-145522
Howl’s Moving Castle, eat your heart out!

Visual Stimuli

The game looks pretty good, primarily on Vita. I haven’t played the other versions, so I’m basing all my opinions off of this iteration. Honestly, everything looks pretty good and is well-designed. Faces can look a bit weird at times during CGI cut-scenes though. The Professor’s face in particular always looked strangely alien to me during these scenes, as if we weren’t meant to see her in such detail. I can’t really put my finger on it, she just gives off an uncanny valley look.

The music is decent, but it’s nothing that will really stick with you after playing the game. There’s nothing super heart-pounding when it comes to the soundtrack, nothing that really feels too grandiose. It’s good enough that its easy to listen to, but it’s more than likely none of it will get stuck in your head.

The game uses the Japanese audio track, and they do their job very well. I especially love Tokitsugu’s voice and how well his voice actor emotes. Oddly enough, I’m glad this game series doesn’t have English audio. It feels natural to have all of these Japanese characters speak in their native language. Characters are well designed and look nice, with lots of them varying wildly in appearance. There was never a character in the game that I felt looked exactly like the other. Likewise, I enjoyed the visual flair given to each piece of armor in the game. This allowed the armors to look very different from each other, and made them feel wholly unique.

The game runs pretty well most of the time. It caps at about 30 frames per second on the Vita, and runs smoothly with little lag. I have noticed several glitches or bugs in the game, but nothing game-breaking. A glitch that really annoyed me was one that made it so characters don’t appear right away. You have no idea how annoying it is to go to the blacksmith, only to have him mysteriously absent with no explanation.

While the game does have some performance issues here or there, it wasn’t anything that soured the mood too much. Designs were varied, even if some of them looked a bit awkward during CGI cut-scenes. All in all, I felt the production values for this game were great, despite the shortcomings. Koei and Omega Force will definitely have to polish the game up more for when they eventually come out with Toukiden 3.

 

In Conclusion

The game was good, and a definite improvement over its predecessors. It adds an open world, some new gameplay mechanics, as well as some elements to help crafting be less of a chore. However, it does have some graphical issues and bugs, a lack of new and original bosses, and a story that’s too short and unfocused. The big question is this: Is this game as sweet as syrup? I find it hard to say if it is or isn’t. It’s a great game, but it certainly has issues.

I enjoyed my time with the game and still play it, but I still have trouble saying that it was as sweet as syrup or not. I recommend this game to people who like Monster Hunter or games that play like it. I especially recommend this game to people who always wanted to play an open-world version of Monster Hunter. However, I feel like people who don’t play these kinds of games may not get as much enjoyment out of them. In short: Great game, but difficult to recommend.

Is Joseph Joestar the best Jojo?

When it comes to the anime known as “Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure”, I’m really only a fan in passing. I watched through parts 1 and 2, as well as the first half of part 3. I sadly have yet to touch the anime version of part 4, and I’ve only read a small portion of part 5. For those of you who don’t know what Jojo is, it’s an anime and manga that series that’s been running for over 30 years. Jojo is divided into multiple parts and is currently on part 8 at the moment. Each part focuses on a different protagonist in a different scenario.

One common occurrence is that our heroes are usually going up against supernatural foes, fighting psychopaths with weird fetishes or god complexes, or just having all around bizarre adventures. With each new story we got a new “Jojo”. What is a Jojo? It’s one of the protagonists of any given arc who has the word “Jojo” somewhere in there first and last name. Some examples include Johnathon Joestar or Jotaro Kujo.

So, with a history of differing protagonists, which one is the best? Which is the ultimate Jojo, the most memorable hero the series has ever produced? Well, this opinion will differ from person to person, depending on who you ask. However, in my eyes, the ultimate Jojo is the one that debuted in the second part of the story. This man is Joseph Joestar, the hero of Battle Tendency.

joseph-joestar-the-invincible1
Don’t let the crazy hair fool you, this man is a walking weapon!

So, who’s Joseph? Well, he’s the grandson of the protagonist of part 1, the man known as Johnathon Joestar. Sadly, John is barely worth mentioning, as I found the character to be immensely boring. A lot of Johnathon’s personality and backstory is built upon him avenging his family’s pride and trying to stop Dio. Due to the short length of part 1, there just wasn’t enough time to build Johnathon into a truly likable and believable character.

If that’s the case, what makes Joseph so special? Well, Joseph is a lot more hot-headed than Johnathon ever was. Joseph has a tendency to get into fights that are well over his head, yet he manages to come out on top. Despite Joseph appearing to be an idiot, he often tends to out-think his opponent. This is showcased very well in the fact that he almost always accurately predicts what his opponent will say next, right before they say it.

Joseph’s combat abilities come down to the use of a special technique called “Hamon”. This allows the user to channel the energy of the sun through their body, allowing them to kill vampires or do any manner of special attacks. Joseph’s abilities are pretty unique when compared to Johnathon. Johnathon used Hamon mainly for straightforward attacks, while Joseph uses them insanely creative ways. Joseph can use Hamon to stick his bolas (which is a type of throwing weapon) to walls or even fling them back at an enemy.

Despite Joseph often been outclassed, he still manages to win due to the unique and interesting ways he approaches combat. He comes slight of hand, his own wit, his ability to think on the fly, along with his raw supernatural abilities to trump his opponents almost every time. Joseph goes from fighting low-level vampires and random street thugs at the start of the series, to defeating a god by accident right near the end of the series. The power-progression feels natural, and it doesn’t feel rushed or forced in the slightest.

Something I liked most about Joseph was his bombastic personality and general attitude about things. Joseph is a goofball and a bit of a jerk at times, but he honestly cares for the people around him. While he doesn’t think much about his lineage, he still goes into battle each time. Sure, he runs away most of the time, but still manages to pull victory out of nowhere most of the time.

Joseph doesn’t stop being interesting after his story arc ends, however. Joseph returns in parts 3 and 4, as an old man. Despite being much older and slightly more mature, Joseph is still the goofball at heart that he always was. Joseph manages to defeat powerful opponents despite his age, and gains new abilities along the way. While he isn’t the main hero anymore, he’s still a supporting character that manages to feel fairly interesting.

Joseph feels like a real person, despite his eccentric quirks. Unlike a lot of anime heroes, Joseph actually has flaws and manages to overcome them. While other Jojos have come along, they just haven’t matched Joseph in terms of memorability. While I did enjoy the thoughtful Jotaro, and the goofball Josuke, they just couldn’t compare to their predecessor.

Those are my reasons why I like Joseph. I respect that everyone has their own favorite Jojo, but for me Joseph will always be number one. Now I ask you, what’s your favorite Jojo? Feel free to reply to this post and tell me who’s your favorite and why, I’d love to hear about it! Try to avoid spoilers though, keep in mind I’ve only watched parts 1 and 2 and most of 3. I have yet to tackle parts 4 and beyond. Anyway, thanks for reading and have a great day!

It Was My Birthday Yesterday!

Yeah, my birthday happened to fall on Saturday, right on Easter weekend! It was a fantastic time for me, my family, and my friends. I got to see my sister, hang out with some pals at a local videogame bar, and just generally have a ton of fun. I got some neat gifts from some relatives and friends (including a fancy journal and free lunch) and also got to hang out at some new places. It was certainly was one of the best birthdays I’ve had in quite a few years! Here’s hoping for many more that are as great as this one.

Sweet As Syrup: Mass Effect 1 Review

One of my favorite genres of media are sci-fi, which is a little redundant to say. After all, isn’t there a stereotype about all nerds loving sci-fi? Regardless, it’s always been a unique subject for anyone to handle and it makes for some truly unique and memorable experiences in any form of media. However, I’ve always felt sci-fi was best depicted in videogame form. It’s really the only form of media that sends you into these bizarre sci-fi worlds, allowing you to live the life of an intrepid space adventurer, or a cosmic bounty hunter. Scenarios like this make sci-fi videogames very palatable indeed.

I think that’s why I gravitate towards Mass Effect so much, it really captures that feel of adventuring in space. It’s hard to find an RPG experience as solid and entertaining as the original Mass Effect. An open-world RPG that puts you in the cool-looking space armor of Commander Shepherd. Why do I love this game so much when compared to the other games in the series? Well, you’ll find out right here in this review!

mass_effect_3_trilogy_1_image_1
Politics have never felt so… Alien.

Background Information

Mass Effect was a game developed by prolific game developer Bioware, and was released in 2007. Bioware’s idea behind the title was to create their own sci-fi universe and game to go along with it. Bioware had previously done work on Star Wars: Knights of The Old Republic, and wanted to try their hand at a completely original property. Thus, the Mass Effect series was born. Mass Effect 1 was released to critical acclaim and ended up selling half a million copies in the span of a few months. Since then, Mass Effect has become a staple of the company and is one of Bioware’s best-selling franchises.

Plot and Setting

Mass Effect is set in a sci-fi universe that draws a lot of elements from both the real-world, as well as cosmic horror. Sprinkle in some more generalized science-fiction elements, and you have the making of what is essentially a universe that both feels real and feels very alien. This mixture creates something wholly unique, giving the player access to various star systems to fully explore as well as many adventures to undertake. Mass Effect did what few games before it have managed to do: Make you feel like a true star-ship captain in a world rife with both exploration and danger.

The game itself puts you in the shoes of Commander Shepherd, a protagonist who the player can fully customize. Shepherd is about to become the first human “Spectre” ever, a proud member of the Federation and one of the special few who are given full access to travel the galaxy. Unfortunately, during a routine mission on Eden-Prime, everything goes horribly wrong. A Taurian Spectre ends up dead, robotic entities once thought gone return, and an entirely new threat rears its ugly head.

It is up to Shepherd to take up the mantle of Spectre, form a team of various alien species, and do battle against forces that threaten the galaxy. I’m oversimplifying the plot quite a bit, as I don’t want to spoil too much of it. Mass Effect 1 has one of the best RPG stories I’ve seen in a game, and something that truly feels unique. The most unique pull of this game is player choices.

The story and outcomes of certain side-quests and events hinge on player choice. While most major events will remain the same no matter the choice, certain choices during the game will affect how people view you. Characters in the game will make reference to your behavior in certain scenarios. For example, Admiral Hackett will give you a firm scolding if you decide to punch out the female reporter. Another example is that you’ll have access to a ton of extra side-quests if you decide to spare everyone when saving this one colony from a mind-controlling plant. It’s stuff like this that makes the player feel more like an important person in this fictional galaxy.

The story isn’t perfect though, it has a large amount of flaws that I’ve taken notice of. Dialogue scenes are usually fairly awkward, with characters barely moving around at all. It seems like almost all NPCs share 4 or 5 different animations, causing them to feel more like robots than aliens. Also, I was annoyed by how almost all allies you can get in the game are acquired on either Eden-Prime or The Citadel. This is kind of annoying, since it means you’ll get 5 out of 6 possible party members right out of the gate.

Most RPGs make it so you acquire your party over the course of the game. Giving the play almost all of them within the first two hours feels a bit like overload. After all, we were just introduced to this world and setting. Having all of these party members available to the player just feels like overload. It just seems excessive, is all. Another problem with the story is that it often sends you on missions that don’t feel relevant to the story at all. You’ll be sent on missions that feel more like filler than anything else, ones that feel like they don’t factor into the overarching narrative. This makes the plot feel rather padded at times, which is something I wasn’t a fan of.

Despite the fluff and somewhat awkward intro, the game has a pretty good plot overall. It’s entertaining enough to keep you invested in the 20-40 hours you’ll spend playing this game. Just be warned that the game’s story doesn’t have the best pacing and that it’s awkward character animations may stand in the way of you getting fully immersed in this world.

Gameplay

I’ll say this outright: Mass Effect 1 is one of the few games I’ve played that have managed to expertly weave elements of role-playing games with third-person shooters to a masterful degree. It ain’t perfect and it’s got a lot of problems, but it’s still a good mixture of what makes both genres great. Allow me to go into detail on what I mean. Mass Effect is an RPG by nature and a third-person shooter by design. Combat often takes place in locations that may seem generic, but manage to feel like locations you’d see in an actual sci-fi universe.

You are given full control over Shepherd during combat, at which point the game plays like a typical third-person shooter. You can take cover behind objects to avoid bullets, fire back at your enemies using a multitude of different fire-arms, or use special abilities unique to your class. That’s right, the game boasts over 6 classes with a focus being on weapons, technology, or Biotics. Weapons and tech are self-explanatory, while Biotics are basically this game’s equivalent of magic. You can use Biotic powers to fling enemies around, throw them high into the air, or even freeze them in place. I honestly enjoyed playing as Biotic so much that every time I played the game, I made sure I chose a class that had some kind of focus on it.

While in combat, you are also aided by two allies. Unfortunately, their AI is pretty dumb, so their only real purpose is soaking up the hits for you. You can bark orders at them using the radial menu, but even then that doesn’t stop them from being stupid beyond all reason. Very often, your allies will charge ahead and get completely curb-stomped before you can ever fire a bullet. The enemy AI tends to be better, but it depends more on the kind of opponents you’re facing. Robots are easy to take out, since they barely take cover and can easily be destroyed by tech-oriented classes. On the other hand, Krogans are like walking tanks that can easily wreck you if they get the chance.

One of the most annoying aspects of gameplay comes in the form of the game’s various side-quests. Several side-quests help flesh out the world quite a bit, including introducing and focusing on concepts and characters that won’t become important until the sequels. On the other hand, most side-quests are meaningless fetch quests or obnoxious collection quests. The game has way too many collection quests, most of which are scattered all over the galaxy. So, you either need to scour every planet for the relics and dog-tags you need, or read through a walkthrough. I somehow managed to complete the one on The Citadel where you have to find and scan all the Keepers, who are bunch of bug-like aliens. This took me somewhere close to 2 hours, just because of how scattered these little critters are.

Another major problem is with the open-world exploration this game touts. You see, you can beam down and land on over 20 planets in this game, and explore a fair bit of the planet’s surface. The problem is that most planets are vacant with an extreme absence of life, very little activities to do on said planet, and are almost always difficult to navigate. The exploration becomes a chore due to the way the Normandy controls. It seems to spaz about uncontrollably with a mere tilt of the game’s camera. As a result, it becomes an arduous task to even drive in a straight line. God help you if you’re on a planet like Nodacrux, which is full of mountains that are nearly impossible for the Mako to properly traverse.

The game’s RPG elements are definitely the shining point in the gameplay department. There are tons of different weapons, armor, and upgrades to collect. Sadly, the inventory system is extremely chaotic. Choosing skills for both you and your party members and upgrading them the way you want is extremely satisfying. Sadly, few RPGs nowadays incorporate classic tropes like this anymore.

I felt the combat and exploration to be a bit sub-standard, but I definitely dug what the game was trying to do with its RPG elements. Talking to people, roleplaying as a space captain, and adventuring my way across the galaxy felt satisfying. Too bad the satisfaction was also offset with a lot of frustration when it came to driving controls and AI programming. Regardless, this game did a fantastic job of drawing me in with its gameplay.

Visual Stimuli

The game looks great for its time and has aged remarkably well. Sure, character animations can be a bit stiff and repetitive, but the amazing voice acting brings their wooden emotions to life. This game boasts the voice-acting chops of veterans like Jennifer Hale, Keith David, Mark Meer, and even Lance Henrikson! Heck, even Seth Green sounded great as the wise-cracking Joker. That’s saying a lot coming from a guy who doesn’t enjoy Green’s work all that much.

The music is great and sounds very atmospheric. It manages to capture vibes of both sci-fi and horror, while at the same time managing to sound unique and futuristic. The effects are okay, but lack a bit of punch at times. Some of the sound effects really got on my nerves though, especially the one that sounds whenever you equip something. Still, some awkward sound effects here and they never really got in the way of me enjoying the game itself.

In Summation

Mass Effect 1 is a great game and classic, but not without some major problems. This comes in the form of both the game’s somewhat archaic design philosophy, coupled with a company’s first attempt at blending FPS and RPG game-play styles together. What we have is a well-constructed game, that lacks polish in the gameplay department. Couple that with awkward character animations, and a crappy inventory system, you get a game that normally would be a chore to play through.

Luckily though, Mass Effect wins you over with its charm and its unique take on the sci-fi genre. It doesn’t feel like just another game that’s trying to be Star Wars or Star Trek, it feels like a game that is trying to surpass it. It may lack polish and refinement, but it’s definitely classy enough to remain relevant, even years after its release. It’s not a perfect game, nor is it some kind of “Ultimate Super Special Masterpiece”.

It’s a great game with a solid team behind it, who poured their passion and soul into this product. That’s why I can say without a doubt that this game is as sweet as syrup. However, I recommend it more for people who are fans of RPGs. If you’re a third-person shooter guy, you probably won’t enjoy this game too much. There are much better alternative for FPS games out there, but you’d be hard-pressed to find an action RPG out there that is as enjoyable and well-written as this game.

Tales of Maj’Eyal: Best Lord of The Rings game ever?

When it comes to Lord of The Rings games, there sure a lot of them out there. Right now, a lot of people are focusing on the recently released sequel Shadows of Mordor. In fact, the original Shadows game was lauded as the best LoTR game upon release. When it comes to officially licensed LoTR games, I think I’d have to go with Lord of The Rings Online. That game just felt so unique yet captured the feel of old-school MMOs so well. It contained a good mix of both old and new elements, and really let you get into the LoTR world and be the character you wanted to be.

Of course, licensed games aren’t the only Lord of The Rings games there are. There are plenty of unlicensed fan-made games, the most notable of which is Angband. This game was unique in that it was one of the first Roguelikes ever made. Originally released in 1990, Angband received various updates and became one of the most well-known fan-made games ever to be associated with the brand. It also inspired a ton of fan-games, including Tales of Middle-Earth.

You heard me right, there are fan-games of fan-games out there. Now we’re really getting complex! Tales of Middle-Earth took the original setting of the series and turned it on its head. It introduced more fantasy tropes, such as the ability to toss fireballs or travel through time. These elements clashed greatly against the universe LoTR was set in. Not only that, but the creator of the game (Who tends to go by the alias “Darkgod”) had to deal with copyright issues. Copyright issues are unfortunately the death of many a fan game.

TOME5
It’s way more exciting than it looks, trust me.

However, DarkGod continued to work on the game and retooled into its own property that was free of copyright limitation: Tales of Maj’Eyal. Now free of the burdens of being a fan-game based off a copyrighted property, Tales was free to be its own game. This game was a fantasy nerd’s dream. It brought in so many fantasy tropes, and combined them into one game. Featuring a large open-world to explore, modes that let you turn off the perma-death option, many different bosses and enemies to encounter, as well as over 25 different character classes. Maj’Eyal might be one of the biggest RPGs ever, especially due to the fact that it has never been 100% completed.

The achievements for this game are so ludicrously difficult to obtain, to the point where no one has ever gotten close to completing it. It’s not impossible, but it’s a feat that is definitely hard to accomplish. It isn’t the challenge or the prospect of a game that can’t be 100% completed that brought me to it. No, it’s the large support behind this game. This game has such a large, yet strangely underground fan-base.  There are a ton of glowing reviews for this game on Steam and people to this day still rave about how great it is.

After playing it for myself, I have to agree with them. There are so many options for making the kind of character you want. You want to be a mage? Go for it. How about a wizard who can manipulate time itself? Go for it. Wanna be a dwarf who is dual-wielding two different shields? Go for it, you magnificent crazy person. This is the kind of game that lets you do whatever you want, but within reason.

The game doesn’t shovel all its 25 classes onto you at once. You are given a fair bit out of the gate and have to unlock the rest later. Couple this with a Diablo-style combat system, and a surprisingly memorable soundtrack, and you get a game that really helps set itself apart from the rest. I want to do a proper review of this game one day, but not until I feel I’ve played enough of it. I’ve sunk maybe 8-10 hours into it, and I feel that’s not nearly enough for a game of this size and scope.

I want to get into this game during the summer and really play through all it has to offer. The concept of creating a character and having him fight through all these challenges with only one life (or many, depending on the mode I choose) to spare. In short, I want to get ready before I take my epic journey across this copyright-free Middle-Earth.