The Tick’s Great Super-Power: Relevancy

I’m sometimes surprised by the kind of shows that stay relevant over the years. A good example of this is Samurai Jack, a show that was off the air for 13 years. When it did come back with a fifth season, it was applauded and received many accolades for its storytelling. Despite this, there was a massive lull in content. Aside from a parody of the series on Duck Dodgers, there wasn’t any related to Samurai Jack within that huge gap of time.

The show was heralded as such a classic at this point, that it was a no-brainer people would come back to watch it. This raises a very important question: What keeps bringing people back to the superhero franchise known as “The Tick”. What is The Tick? It was a series from the 90s about a bug-themed superhero named “The Tick”. He was a hero who wore a blue suit and possessed a very muscular body, but also was certifiably insane. He was assisted by Arthur, a seemingly normal man in a moth-themed costume, one that was capable of flight.

While this seemed like it would be a recipe for your typical zany 90s superhero cartoon, The Tick was far from it. The show prided itself on its absurdist humor, its memorable and likable characters, and its entertaining action sequences. The Tick came out in a time when zany superhero shows were the big thing. You had similar crazy shows coming out around the same time, such as Mask: The Animated Series, Freakazoid, and Earthworm Jim: The Animated Series.

What made The Tick so interesting was both its superheros and villains. Unlike most shows at the time, the heroes were utterly pathetic. Most barely had powers, and those that paled in comparison to the ones you’d see on other shows, such as Spider-Man and Superman. The Tick was one of the most powerful heroes on the show, and one of the few to actually have useful powers.

The heroes weren’t the only ones who were pathetic, the villains were also losers in their own rights. What made these characters likable and interesting wasn’t there powers, or lack thereof. No, it was their personalities, designs, and unique quirks that made them so watchable.

It was these things that really attracted an audience for The Tick. It also helped that the show had some fantastic writing, and some rather risque lines for the time. I think this is the only cartoon I’ve ever seen where someone got called a “Jingoist”. Despite the massive popularity of the series, it only lasted 3 seasons and for a total of 36 episodes.

While that may seem like a fair low number, the popularity for the series was definitely there. That’s why 5 years later, the show was brought back! The Tick rebooted as a live-action series, one that focused on Tick and friends doing stuff during their downtime. The 2001 show was great, with some great humor, and some fantastic casting.

Despite this, the show only lasted 1 season, due to going over-budget. There was definitely a fan-base for this revival, just like there is for the newest reboot of the series. That’s right, not only did The Tick get 1 live action reboot, but recently got a second one! This is rare and almost unprecedented for most cartoon shows, especially those from the 90s.

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Thank god that this isn’t the suit they use in the actual show! That would just be embarrassing…

Now, I have yet to see the new show. Therefore, I cannot comment on it as of now. However, I hear it’s really good and pays homage to both the original show and the comics it was based on. It even carries some of the darker elements from the comics, ones that were left out of both previous adaptations.

People may be wondering why The Tick gets brought back so often, especially when it isn’t massive like other superhero franchises. I think its a bit more than nostalgia, I think the show is genuinely good. On top of that, every adaptation brings something new to the table, and introduces new and fun characters into the mix.

Unlike most franchises, each individual shows feels unique and its own thing. You have three shows, all baring the same moniker, yet feeling like completely different shows. This is what makes Tick so popular and keeps people coming back, its different. While The Tick founds its home with absurdist superhero cartoons from the 90s, it one of the few shows of its ilk to somehow remain relevant in the modern day. That’s not something you can say about any old show.

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Robotech: The Wasted Potential

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Gotta love ‘dem classics!

When it comes to 80s television, there wasn’t a whole lot of stand-out shows. The TV programs that did stand out in this era often found a niche audience, and some are often lauded as classics. I talked about particular 80s show, a cartoon called “Galaxy Rangers”. What made Galaxy Rangers unique for its time, was that the animation was done by a Japanese anime studio. The wonderful animators over at TMS put hard work into presenting well-animated action sequences and characters for this series.

Shows that used Japanese animation often saw success, as this animation style often allowed for more expressive characters and more fluid movements. Not only was there a demand for shows with Japanese animation in them, but also for shows that originated from Japan. Voltron was one such show, using animation from a failed Japanese television anime called “GoLion”.

Unlike its Japanese counterpart, Voltron sold well and became staple of American pop-culture. This is a show that got a ton of sequels and reboot, with some studios even talking about doing a live-action version of the series. Voltron was definitely a pioneer of this early era of anime translation, but it was not without its faults.

Voltron completely rewrote the entirety of the original series, reworking it into a vastly different show overall. New characters, elements, and even concepts were introduced. Heck, they even merged the show with a completely different series to create a brand new show! Hardcore anime fans were generally un-pleased, though Voltron definitely found an audience with the many people who tuned in during that era.

While Voltron was definitely the longer lasting series, no one could deny that GoLion’s source material had found its way into the hearts of old-school anime enthusiasts. Despite Voltron eclipsing GoLion as the head of the franchise, there’s still a small contingent keeping this dead show alive. Now, why am I bringing this all up? Well, Voltron wasn’t the only show of this era to combine footage from separate unrelated anime.

A lot of people often forget about Robotech, a series that also combined different shows into a singular continuity. However, Robotech has an advantage over Voltron: It used three different shows to help craft its own lore and timeline. These shows happened to be Super Dimension Fortress Macross, Super Dimension Cavalry Southern Cross, and Genesis Climber Mospeada.

These three shows are completely unrelated, despite the identical names of a couple of them. Macross and Southern Cross are considered to be part of the same series, though follow separate continuities. In Robotech though, they are all part of the same continuity. The same goes for Mospeada, which was an entirely different show altogether.

Unlike a lot of shows that attempted to merge multiple anime together, I’d say Robotech was mostly successful. While the series were watered down when compared to the originals, they still kept a fair bit of grit and dark subject manner. It was still fairly violent, and death was a constant. Not only that, but almost all of the main story was kept intact.

The show had its faults, such as sub-par voice acting and the obligatory name-changing. Still, it was a pretty solid localization for the time. Honestly, I prefer Robotech seasons 2 and 3 to both Southern Cross and Mospeada. Despite this, the original Japanese version of Macross trumps season of Robotech, in my opinion.

Robotech definitely had its share of flack. The creator of the series, Carl Macek, was often criticized for how he handled the show. A lot of people didn’t like that he was mashing up three unrelated series, especially the people who often prefer their anime to be close to the source material.

I’m certainly not against an adaptation being like this, the problem is that Robotech was not handled well after the original show. You see, the franchise was and still is owned by the company known as “Harmony Gold”. To this day, Robotech is still seen as their most popular and well-known franchise. Most of Harmony’s other dubbed anime fell by the waist-side, but Robotech remained somewhat relevant in the public’s eye.

I say somewhat, because Robotech isn’t as big of a series as Harmony Gold would have you believe. At least, not in the West. You see, after the show aired back in the 80s, every project in the series ended up either cancelled or delayed. Robotech II was cancelled and made into a TV movie, Robotech: The Movie bombed in the initial box office airings, Robotech 3000 never made it past the pilot, and the ambitious N64 game Robotech: Crystal Dreams was also cancelled.

Not only that, but Robotech Shadow Chronicles received a ton of delays. When it finally came out, it had mediocre CGI and a somewhat bland story. I still enjoyed the film, though mostly in a “guilty pleasure” kind of way. The thing that really irks both me and a ton of Macross/Robotech fans, is how the franchise is treated over here.

The problem is that Harmony Gold owns all the rights to the US distribution of Macross, due to a copyright loophole. One may think that Harmony Gold would want to bring as much Macross material over as they can, right? The thing is, Harmony Gold is very protective of their copyright.

They won’t allow DVD releases of Macross, Southern Cross, or related shows in any way. DVD releases of these shows did crop up, but Harmony Gold shut them down as quickly as the could. The problem here is that HG would only allow the American versions of Macross to be released, while refusing to release the original Japanese versions.

This meant that they only allowed their audience to watch the show in the ways they deemed fit, instead of allowing people to see the alternatives. The problem is that in the early years of DVD releases, this was the only way to watch the show. Anime streaming wasn’t really a thing yet, so it was pretty difficult to watch the Japanese version.

You either had to have the original DVD release before HG shut it down, or bootleg subtitled episodes from Japan. Even the Japanese version of Voltron got a proper western DVD release, yet HG felt it necessary to throttle all attempts to bring the show in its original format here.

This wouldn’t be a huge problem if HG had a lot of Macross and Robotech releases, however the franchise has become stagnant. The last time we got anything Robotech related was in 2013, with the release of the abysmal “Robotech: Love Live Alive”. This film was just a 90 minute summary of the third season of Robotech, with some new footage made just for the movie.

The new footage is sparse, and clashes horribly with the old animation. Love Live Alive was meant to act as a bridge between Shadow Chronicles and Shadow Rising, which is the planned sequel to the previous film. 4 years later and Shadow Rising still hasn’t been released, which is par for the course with this franchise.

To summarize, I feel Robotech is wasted potential. I’m not saying that because I hate the original show or the novels, I actually enjoy those quite a bit. I say this because of how poorly Harmony Gold handled its releases. They acted like Robotech was a household name, when it was really a cult-classic anime that should’ve stayed in the 80s.

Over 30 years have passed since this show came out, many voice actors and even the creator have passed away, yet HG is still obsessed with trying to bank on nostalgia. It’s impossible to watch the newer Robotech projects and be completely lost, especially due to all the elements and characters that lack explanation.

As mentioned earlier, HG also hoards Macross and Southern Cross like its going out of style. While they are legally viable to hold the rights to these shows, it’s still a shame that most audiences will never get to experience them legally in their original format. I’m not saying that HG is awful, nor is the franchise they helped build. Still, they handled the franchise so poorly, that I feel there is no coming back.

I’ve heard there are talks for a live-action Robotech film, which I feel is a bad idea. Why adapt a franchise that hasn’t been relevant in almost a decade? I’m not saying that it can’t be done, I just don’t think it’s the best idea. I think HG needs to get its act together before it commits to such a large project. Whether you love or hate Robotech, you have to admit that it deserves better than the treatment it got.

Samurai Jack In Theaters?!

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Doesn’t Jack know that smoking is bad for him?

So, a couple days ago it was announced that Samurai Jack would be getting a theatrical presentation. The series revolved around a nameless samurai who was thrown forwards in time to the future, where the demon Aku had seized control. For the longest time, we were told that the series would end with Samurai Jack movie. We eventually did get that ending, in the form of a 10 episode mini-series.

However, it was announced 2 days ago that would be getting a theatrical Samurai film, sort of. I say sort of, because the film is actually the Samurai Jack TV film put in theaters. The first three episodes of Samurai Jack were originally released as an hour long TV movie. The film was exceptional for the time, and served as a good prelude for the series to come.

The thing is, this TV movie came out in 2001 and they releasing it theatrically in 2017. What’s interesting though, is that this film will be remastered in HD. It will be made to look better, plus it will have commentary from series creator Genndy Tartakovsky. Now, even though it’ll look better, that doesn’t guarantee that there will be new animation.

I’d honestly love to see the TV movie with new animation, especially if it looked like the newest season. Now, I get this would be difficult. Still, if you’re going to put something that was aired on television in 2001 into theaters, wouldn’t you want it to look good? I’m not saying that the pilot was bad, but parts of the animation have not aged well.

Certain shots of Jack can look off, and some action scenes don’t flow as well as they would in later seasons. Regardless, I still think the pilot movie is worth seeing. The pilot film will also be released on the collected DVD box-set, containing all the episodes. Now, I know what the big question here is: Is it worth seeing in theaters?

That really depends on your outlook. The Samurai Jack pilot film mostly holds up, but it’s not something I feel should be put in theaters. Most TV films just cannot work when brought to the big screen, which is why they are mostly kept to television and DVD only. Of course, I do believe that certain movies (Like Transformers Prime: Predacons Rising) should be given the theatrical treatment.

The thing here is that the film is readily available on DVD, with an improved version coming out later regardless. The only real reason to go to this event would be to connect with all the other Samurai Jack fans, and experience the show for the first time with fellow fans. The thing is, it’s still going to be a rather niche experience.

This is mainly due to it being released only in the United States. Canada, Japan, and other countries will not get the theatrical release at all. So, fans from all over the world who enjoy Samurai Jack will never get to experience it in theaters. I get it, it’s expensive to have the film in every theater across the world. Still, why no love for Japan? This is especially confusing, due to the fact that the film is (mostly) set in Japan.

As a Canadian citizen, I can’t really go see it either. To be fair, even if they brought it here, it would most likely only be shown in the Imax theater in Regina. That would mean a rather long car-trip just to attend. Still, it’s a single individual’s choice whether or not to see this film.

Honestly, the idea of watching Samurai Jack in theaters is enticing. I just think it would be a waste of cash to pay to something so old and outdated, that hard-core fans have most likely seen a thousand times. Regardless, this will be the only chance we will ever get to see this show in cinemas. So, it’s really up to you guys: Pay to see something old in order to support a beloved series that just ended, or skip the film and get the HD version on DVD. Personally, I’m going to go for the latter and buy it on DVD.

Why Transformers Prime Is The Best Show In The Series

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“We dig giant robots!”

When it comes to the popular giant robot series known as Transformers, I’m not the biggest fan. Sure, I’ve watched several of the shows in the series, but it’s never really been my jam. I liked it as a kid with shows like Beast Wars and Transformers: Robots In Disguise / Car Robots, but gave up on the franchise shortly thereafter. Armada and Energon were a bit too bland for my taste, and Cybertron never interested me that much either.

This all changed with the release of Transformers: Animated. For the first time since Beast Wars in the 90s, did I feel that I had struck gold with Transformers. You had a show that was funny, dark, entertaining, and stuffed with more giant robot action than you could shake a stick at. During the dark ages of the franchise when Hollywood was moving in to drain the last remaining energy from a dying franchise, Animated stood in defiance.

After Animated ended, a new series was announced. This was to be a fully CGI series, much like Beast Wars. This show was made to be dark, edgy, and contain a ton of elements from many previous iterations. This was Transformers Prime, which I’d argue is the best show this series has ever seen.

So, for those who don’t know what Transformers is, allow me to explain: While each iteration of the series is different, they tend to focus on transforming robots battling each other. You have the Autobots, which are the good guys, while the bad guys are the Decepticons. They often fight over Energon, control of the world, or powerful artifacts.

Prime is interesting that it draws a ton of elements from the films, while still feeling like its own unique property. Not only that, but ti manages to be way better than those live-action monstrosities could hope to be. In this series, the Autobots have dwindled in number and are fighting to simple stay alive against the overwhelming number of enemy forces.

The Autobots have to take the form of everyday vehicles, so they can hide from the world. Meanwhile, the Decepticons circle the earth in a giant ship and constantly battle the Autobots. The Decepticons are lead by Megatron, while the Autobots are lead by Optimus Prime. What’s interesting about this is that both leaders are played by their original voice actors, the one who played them in the 80s.

Honestly, I loved this. It allowed them to merge the old with the new, kind of like what the films attempted to do. The CGI for the show was fantastic, the robots were well-designed, and generally things looked very nice. Sadly, the show’s color palette was a bit too drab at times. Dull-grey and darker colors littered this show, and it got a bit bland after a while.

The show was also a bit too story-heavy at times. It’s hard to follow the massive amount of continuity this show has, since almost every episode is important to the overall story. Kids are most likely not going to keep up with the amount of lore the show offers, especially when a lot of it is steeped in concepts kids wouldn’t get.

What do I mean by that? Well, this show is extremely dark. Characters can die, and several die during the show’s run. Violence on this show can be somewhat extreme, though its kept solely to the mechanized protagonists and antagonists. Regardless, Prime is still an immensely intense series.

My favorite character on the show was Starscream, who is probably the best iteration of the character. Cunning, manipulative, yet so full of himself and his rank that it becomes his greatest weakness. Starscream gets a fair bit of development on the show, even forming his own splinter faction for a while.

Speaking of splinter factions, there was one group on the series that I feel was a good addition the mythos: M.E.C.H. What made M.E.C.H. interesting was that it was an organization ran solely by humans, and led by a man known as “Silas”. Silas was obsessed with trying to create his own Cybertronians, one that could serve him as robotic servants.

Silas ended up creating several mad science experiments, all of which ended up as viable threats to the Autobots. Silas and his group definitely ended up adding a lot more to the series. It was nice seeing other factions rise up and tip the scale. Prime was definitely a show that managed to do a lot of things right.

This is especially true for its action sequences. Fights were always dynamic and energetic, having a lot of good animation to back them up. Fights on the show always had a unique twist to them, without feeling too gimmicky. The constant addition of new elements and characters allowed the show to have a near endless amount of powerful action set-pieces.

Now, I’ve gushed quite a bit about this show so far. Regardless, that doesn’t stop the show from having some glaring flaws. While the faces of the many robots on the show looked great, human faces were almost always hideous. Jack had a very weirdly shape head, to the point where it looked like his face had been bashed in with a shovel.

Sadly, he is not the only human with an ugly visage. Characters like Miko and Raf are just as bad. Speaking of Miko, I think she was a terrible character. The problem here is that they tried too hard to make her spunky and interesting, while at the same time making her fairly annoying. I like Jack and Raf, since they actually do add something to the team on occasion. I just always thought Miko was too idiotic and annoying to get fully invested in.

The show’s biggest problem is that several parts of it feel samey. For example, the finale of Prime’s season 2 felt a bit too similar to the season 2 finale of Beast Wars. I guess that’s kind of to be expected when you have a series with over 30 iterations. Speaking of iterations, Hasbro decided to stop rebooting the series constantly after finishing Prime.

This was a thing with the franchise for the longest time, the constant rebooting of its characters and story. Hasbro decided to make Transformers Prime into its own animated universe. This resulted in a spin-off show aimed at much younger viewers called “Transformers: Rescue Bots”, and a direct sequel aimed at slightly younger audiences called “Transformers: Robots in Disguise”. While I have yet to view Rescue Bots, I must admit that Robots in Disguise is a pretty darn solid show.

Sure, it isn’t as good as Prime, but that’s a hard show to top. Robots in Diguise manages to be its own thing, while still bringing in some elements of Prime here or there to spice things up. For example, the much beloved Starscream returns once more, though with a color palette more similar to his G1 incarnation.

While RiD does feel formulaic in how it structures itself, I must say that I really enjoy its art-style and animation. It goes for a colorful cell-shaded look, and it gives the show a unique look, at least when compared to its predecessors. Regardless, I think there’s enough in either Prime or RiD for fans of giant robots to enjoy.

These are by no means perfect shows, but they definitely add quite a bit to the overall mythos. With so many different versions of the franchise to enjoy, I can definitely say that Prime and its sequel are some of my favorites. They are solid and fun shows, that now how to take things serious when the plot calls for it. In short, these Transformers shows have some solid CHANGES. Get it? Changes? Because they transform into vehicles and… Uh… I’ll see myself out.

My Favorite Indie Game: Mount & Blade Warband

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“Our arrows will blot out the sun!”

When it comes to video-games, it’s hard to top a good “Indie” game. A game made by a small team of developers, but made with a ton of love for the genre its based off of. The “Triple A” market always tends to cater more towards popular trends in gaming. Meanwhile, Indie games pretty much cater to anyone. If there’s some kind of game you liked in the past, reason stand there is an Indie equivalent of it. Sadly, I have yet to find any Indie equivalents for Phantasy Star Online or Skies of Arcadia.

Sometimes though, an Indie game can something that completely separates itself from said genre. That’s where a game like “Mount & Blade”, and its various sequels and expansions come in. This is a game that is equal parts strategy, RPG, action, and open-world. It’s this unique war game that puts you in the armor-plated boots of your own custom war general.

You traverse the land, acquire new allies, befriend or make enemies of neighboring lords, or do whatever your little heart desires. What makes Mount & Blade stand out from its rivals is that it manages to perfectly blend action-RPG elements with those of strategy games.

This is a game that focuses on making a somewhat believable world for you to explore, along with adding some fairly realistic combat in there. For one thing, in this game you aren’t a god. You can’t tank an army single-handedly, unlike similar games such as Dynasty Warriors. Instead, you have to rely on your knowledge of the battlefield and the skill of your allies.

Not only that, but you also have to block enemy attacks and learn their patterns. Believe it or not, your playable character is one of the most important people on the battlefield. It’s easy to lure enemy soldiers away on horse-back, drawing them away from your main forces.

While this does sound a bit complex, being able to manage the battlefield in this game is actually pretty easy. Especially once your forces are fully upgraded, and you have at least 6 “Swadian Knights” in your army. Of course, the best thing about armies in this game is that you can take them into wars. You could fight on the side of any kingdom in the realm, and conquer towns and castles at your leisure.

The world was your oyster, and there was definitely a large amount of things you could do on this virtual continent.  Mount & Blade was one of those Indie games that really pushed the limits of what Independent gaming was all about. This was one of the first (and few) Indie games to ever receive a physical release in stores.

This was a game that managed to bring mainstream attention to itself, and the developers were more than happy enough to keep providing this series with new content. 2 years after this game came out, the team of developers at TalesWorld bestowed upon us Mount & Blade’s definitive version: Warband.

Mount & Blade: Warband was the ultimate evolution of the franchise. It added in an entirely new faction, the ability to start your own kingdom, a rich online multiplayer mode, and a completely reorganized world map. Not only that, but both the graphics and character animations were vastly improved. Political options were also added, allowing you to ally with lords or marry the ladies of the realm.

The game felt much more rich and nuanced, and was truly the best version of the game. Of course, Warband was not without its faults. For example, it became pretty easy to earn gold and game the system after a while. Betting on yourself in tournaments made making cash fast an easy prospect, and doing enough tournaments made it so you could finance a large campaign for an entire year.

All of this made it so that gold was frivolous, and way too easy to earn. With enough gold and the right soldiers, you could have an army that could easily take over a country on its own. This is not helped by the fact that some soldiers are so overpowered that they undermine all the challenge in the game.

On top of this, tournaments themselves are pretty bland. While they do manage to spice things up by giving you different weapons, half the time they are weapons you aren’t really used to. One of the game’s biggest flaws though is the opposing armies themselves. It’s so hard to defend a village from a band of marauding soldiers, mainly because they’ll keep running back to it after you chase them away.

So, you get into this rut of trying to attack the people laying waste to your villages. However, they’ll out-run you (unless you have enough points in a certain stat, that is) and you’ll never catch them. Meanwhile, the other armies could easily attack your village whilst you deal with that single unit.

Don’t get me started on the largest issue the game has: Infinite treason. You see, if you play the game for up to 300-600 in-game days, then you are treated with a rather odd gameplay quirk. Due to the way NPCs are programmed, lords of the various lands will start constantly blaming their vassals for treason. This causes them to be constantly kicked out of every country, sometimes resulting in them leaving the game entirely.

Now, all of those problems I had are pretty much non-existed in the “Floris Evolved” mod. This mod fixes and improves so many aspects of the game. Tournaments now require a lot more skill, and are more prone to customization. Enemies are less cowardly and will actually stand their ground if they see you, even if they are outnumbered.

Best of all, the game looks much better and combat feels a bit more balanced. Horse-mounted combat still feels overpowered, but everything else about the mod if top-notch. Heck, you can even set the game so all your recruit-able allies appear in one location, meaning you don’t have to run around the country just to find a single person.

So yeah, I really love the Mount & Blade series, though more specifically I love Warband. I have played a bit of the expansions, such as Napoleonic Wars, but nothing comes close to the main game in terms of quality. Sure, Napoleonic Wars has some fantastic new multiplayer mods, but it is hard to top Warband’s main single-player campaign.

Of course, there is also “Mount & Blade: With Fire & Sword”. I own this version of Mount & Blade, though have yet to play it. It’s a game with more of a focus on story, unlike the first two Mount & Blades. I plan to sit down and finally play this game eventually, and I’m looking forward to giving it a good shot. With Mount & Blade 2 coming out supposedly this year, I think it’s about time I go back and play ALL the games in the series!

First Impressions: Monster Hunter Stories Demo Review

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“…Shining shimmering splended!”

It’s hard to believe that it has been over a decade since Monster Hunter first hit store shelves. Since then, the series has been host to a ton of sequels and spin-offs. Almost all spin-offs have yet to receive an American release. Since the games never sold well in America for the longest time, it stood to reason to now release the spin-off titles. However, Capcom is finally changing their tune!

They released a main-series spin-off last year, known as “Monster Hunter Generations”. This game acted as a celebration for the past 10 years of this franchise’s existence. A year after this game hit American store shelves, we are finally getting a Monster Hunter spin-off that ins completely unrelated to the main series.

This spin-off is “Monster Hunter Stories”, a brand new game from Capcom. Released in Japan of last year, Stories is finally making its way to American shelves in just under a month. As such, Capcom put out a demo in order to advertise the game. This is quite a meaty demo indeed.

To put things in perspective, it took me 3 hours and 17 minutes to beat the story portions of the demo. This includes me running past monsters and skipping 90% of the sub-quests. For a trial run, this is pretty expansive! So, what is Stories and why is it so unique? Well, most Monster Hunter games often rely upon you playing as a custom here. You one of the eponymous hunters, sent out to kill monsters and skin them. You then take the precious pieces of the creature back to town in order to gain new gear.

Most of the games lack a story, and even those that have one generally don’t have much of a story structure. As the title would suggest, Monster Hunter Stories takes this is an entirely different direction. Not only does Monster Hunter Stories have a plot, it’s a damn good one at that!

The game mainly focuses on the “Blight”, a strange disease that seems to possess normally docile monsters and makes them go absolutely berserk. In the game, you play as a “Monster Rider” and you are tasked with stopping this Blight from spreading. On top of this, the game focuses on the relationship between both you and two friends.

This relationship is pushed to its limits after a rather unfortunate accident befalls the village, causing the trio to slowly break apart and follow their own paths. I honestly really liked this, as it made the characters feel like real people. I understood their trials and tribulations, as it reminded me a lot of what some of my friends went through and how it affected them.

What really makes the game great is its game-play. This game is like Jade Cocoon meets Monster Hunter meets Toukiden 2. This game has a massive open-world, with lush environments and colorful set-pieces. You can fully explore the lands you have access to, and can even gain monsters that allow you to traverse different parts of the world better. For example, the Velocidrome can allow you to leap onto tall surfaces and the Rathalos can allow you to fly.

This is a result of the game’s biggest mechanic: Monster riding. Almost every monster you can obtain can be ridden, and sometimes offer special abilities whilst riding them. This makes monsters feel more unique, and gives them more of a flare outside of battle. Sadly, monster designs can be a bit jarring at times. Certain monsters look too realistic, and often clash with the more cartoon-y look the game is going for. It’s not terrible, but it is quite jarring.

The game’s combat is probably its strongest element. This is a turn-based RPG with an emphasis on “Rock-Paper-Scissors” styled combat. A lot of Nintendo RPGs have taken this route as of late, including Dragon Ball Fusions and Miitopia. Honestly, I like this a lot as its a simple enough system to grasp and Stories does its best to do some cool things with it.

For example, you don’t control your monster teammate in combat. Your monster will either select one of the three attack types, or do a special attack. If you do the same type of attack that your monster is using during the same turn, then you’ll do a flashy double-team attack that does massive damage. These always look cool and have a lot of flare to them.

Speaking of monsters, they were definitely the best part of this demo for me. The game allowed you to collect eggs in order to hatch new monsters, which is kind of a cool concept. I gotta admit, I do feel bad for all the parents I steal these eggs from. Regardless, to get said eggs you have to go into “Monster Dens”. Think of these as randomly generated dungeons, ones that holds the best items in the game inside it: Monster eggs.

You can collect monster eggs at the end of each dungeon, and even have the chance of getting rare eggs on occasion. By hatching an egg, you are given a new monster ally for you to boss around. The best part about this is that you get all kinds of monsters from all previous generations, giving you a good mix of allies to collect and train.

Something I have mixed feelings about is the open-world itself. This is the first Monster Hunter game to have open-world exploration, and at times the world can feel a bit too barren. The game’s emphasis on exploration is hindered by the game’s awkward camera. It’s one of those cameras you have to operate with the trigger buttons, which can get awkward when you are trying to run away from enemies or fly around. I much prefer the camera to follow me around, rather than stay static most of the time.

One last thing I’d like to touch on is how the game looks and sounds. The game looks fantastic, with beautiful graphics and fantastic character designs. The music is good, through re-uses a fair bit of tracks and sound effects from previous games. This game also sets it apart from every other game in the series by having voice-acting.

Oddly enough, there is no English dub for the game. I was confused by this, especially due to the fact that there was an English dub of the Monster Hunter Stories anime. Maybe Capcom couldn’t afford an English voice cast for the game, that’s my guess. Regardless, the Japanese voice cast is solid enough to carry the game.

In conclusion, I think the Monster Hunter Stories demo is fantastic! This is a demo that could take a person 5-7 hours, if they decided to do everything in it that is. I’m definitely pumped for when the game hits in mid-September. Lately, I’ve started to lose interest in the MH series. Here, have a game that brings in elements from games like Pokemon and Jade Cocoon, and merges them into this unique mesh of a spin-off. I can definitely say that this is one of the best Capcom games I’ve played in years, based on just this demo alone!

Exosquad: The Amazing Show That Time Forgot

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Giant robot battles: They transcend decades.

The 90s was a wondrous time, at least for television. 90s cartoons were my jam, and quite a few of them still hold up today. I’m not gonna say the 90s was perfect, or that all the animated shows that came from it were masterpieces. Still, the 90s had a ton of good content that often gets overlooked. One such show is the ever excellent ExoSquad series. This is a show I never even knew existed until my friend told me about it last year.

So, what is ExoSquad exactly? Well, it’s a series filled with giant robots and space battles. It’s an epic storyline, detailing humanity’s battle against a race they helped create: Neosapians. The humans (also known as Terrans) end up going to war with this race, after a revolution is started by the Neosapian known as “Phaeton”.

What follows is 52 episodes of one of the darkest and most mature cartoons to ever come out of the 90s. ExoSquad never shies away from focusing on hard-hitting issues, including racism, death, war, and psychological trauma. Heck, one episode has Phaeton vaporize one of his generals ONSCREEN and then replaces him with a clone.

Stuff like this is all too common in this series. The series often revolves around Lt. J.T. Marsh and team of commands known as “Able Squad”. More often than not, the show revolves around Able Squad fighting off Phaeton and trying to reclaim the planets he has taken over. The show will often focus around other protagonists as well, including Sean Napier’s earth resistance force.

The show was often advertised as an “American Anime”, in a time where most Westerners didn’t even know what that term meant. More often than not, ExoSquad is compared to Robotech/Macross, as both shows focus on giant robots taking part in wars. ExoSquad definitely had some interesting mecha designs, though they differed greatly from how Japan would often depict its robots.

The robot suits in ExoSquad would often look like actual combat suits, instead of giant humanoid men made out of metal. Giant robots in ExoSquad had this good design quality to them, where they felt like equal part robot and equal part weapon. The characters are also pretty strong on this show. Some of my favorites include the rather skilled yet disgusting slob known as Bronsky, or the various generals under Phaeton’s command.

The show lasted for 2 seasons, but ended up getting shoved to a 4 AM time-slot. This is the death sentence for pretty much any cartoon, as few kids actually get up that early just to watch them. As a result, ExoSquad died a slow and painful death. Plans for a third season, a possible movie, and a spinoff cartoon were all cancelled.

Since then, ExoSquad became buried to the sands of time. No one is crying out for a sequel in this day and age, or even a reboot for that matter. If the show was brought back, it might not be able to find an audience. Still, if this show were brought back on something like Adult Swim, then maybe we could that revival after all.

It’s not impossible for something like ExoSquad to make a comeback. It’s obscure, but that’s not to say plans for a revival can’t happen. We are seeing a resurgence in content relating to giant robots, with series like Pacific Rim and the newest reboot of Voltron. If ExoSquad were to come back, I’d definitely watch it.

With a solid enough team behind it, you could probably make a show that’s just as good as the original ExoSquad, if not better. In short, I feel that ExoSquad is a good show that’s worth going back and watching. Unlike most shows to come out of the 90s, it’s aged remarkably well. Sure, some of the animation can seem a bit stilted, but its dark and emotional writing make for a unique and intriguing series. If you happen across the DVDs, I highly recommend checking out this forgotten sci-fi romp.

The Ultimate Disappointment: Voltron Legendary Defender Season 3 Review

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These guys look as bored with this season as I was.

So, recently I watched the third season of the newest Voltron show. For those of you who don’t know what Voltron is, it’s a series about a group of 5 young cadets. These cadets pilot robot lions, which they can fused into a giant humanoid robot known as “Voltron”. Throughout the various incarnations of the series, Voltron has done battle against various foes including the Galra and Drule empires.

This newest Voltron show is actually a reboot of the original series, taking many of the same elements and putting a new spin on things. Generally, I enjoyed this series and loved it to death! However, after I finished season 3, well… I started to lose interest in the series. Now, I get that a lot of people really liked season 3, and I can respect that. However, I just could not get into it.

To fully discuss why I didn’t like this series, I’ll have to drop some MAJOR SPOILERS. This spoiler warning is necessary, since I’ll be spoiling all three of the currently available seasons for the show. You’ve been warned. Before I get into the plot, let’s talk about the good. The animation, music, and voice acting are still top-notch. It’s good to see that the production value hasn’t declined, especially after Netflix started cutting down the episode count.

WARNING: INCOMING SPOILERS

 

 

 

Another good thing was the introduction of the new villain: Prince Lotor. I liked him a lot more than the original bad-guy, Zarkon. This was mainly due to Lotor feeling more fleshed out and more unique. He also brought with him a bunch of henchmen, who all have unique quirks of their own. Lastly, I liked how they changed up the current cast and had them piloting different lions. Well, I sort of liked this, but I’ll get into that in detail a bit later.

So, why is this season so bad? Well, despite the show looking and sounding as amazing as ever, the characters and plot took a nose-dive. So, our story starts after the season 2 finale. Our heroes have defeated Zarkon, who is now stuck in a coma. Our heroes are now a lion short, as Shiro mysteriously disappeared after our heroes pushed themselves to the limit to beat Zarkon.

This seems like a good setup for a new season, right? Well, it starts out promising enough. Our heroes now have to find a new cadet to pilot the black lion. So, they all decide that it has to be Keith, who Shiro was training to be the new leader. So, Shiro gets the Black Lion, but who gets the red lion? Well, the Red Lion is given to Lance, while the Blue Lion is given to Princess Alurra. Right there, I kind of have to wave the red flag.

While its cool that they got new lions and had this little “changing of the guard” thing, I hate the fact that Alurra needs to be a cadet. In the original show, she was a cadet, but here it just doesn’t make as much sense. I liked Alurra best when she was piloting and controlling the floating castle. In this show, the castle is like a second Voltron. It’s a backup to Voltron, and also acts as a base of operations.

The thing is, by making Alurra just another cadet you’ve taken away the main thing that made her unique. Now she’s just another pilot like everyone. Honestly, Coran should’ve been the one to pilot the Blue Lion. He has more knowledge of the universe, and seems to have a fair bit of combat experience. Plus, it would be great to see him molded from this bumbling assistant and into the proud warrior he pretends to be. Instead, it’s just Alurra again, like in the original show.

The changing of the guard also introduces more problems into the show. For one thing, the intro does not change at all. Despite the change of cast, a new villain, and some altered character designs, the opening sequence remains unchanged. I get that its expensive to make a new animated sequence, but they couldn’t have altered a few things about it? So much has changed this season, yet the opening sequence remains static. This is a small gripe, but it did bother me quite a bit.

The biggest problem that this new Voltron team introduces is the fact that they have to learn to work as a team again. The first 2 seasons were spent trying to mold the new Voltron team into a truly powerful force, a team that can defeat Zarkon and save the galaxy. For some reason, the writers thought it was a good idea to have the Voltron team learn how to pilot their new lions and learn to work as a team… Again.

This makes the past 26 episodes of them learning to get along and act as one pointless, since they have to learn how to do it all over again. They do manage to work as a team again, but all it takes is 1 whole episode. The episode itself is pretty bland on its own, the episode is just the team bickering and ending up getting separated. They all get lost and have to find each other, while trying to work around their own weaknesses.

Sound familiar? Well, that’s probably because the first few episodes of season 2 had this exact same plot. However, those episodes were more fun and interesting, while this episode was pretty boring and formulaic. The episode after this is slightly better, though still pretty bad. The fourth episode in season 3 was called “Hole In The Sky”, but a better name would’ve been “Hole In The Plot”.

This is an episode that adds very little to the overarching story, and is more just a big in-joke. So, this episode revolves around Allura and the cadets ending up in alternate dimension. In this universe, the Alteans rule the galaxy and aren’t nearly extinct. Allura is happy to see more of her own species, though it soon turns out to be a facade.

This episode goes pretty much how every alternate universe episode goes: The heroes go to an alternate universe where the supposed good guys won, but the good guys are now evil, and they have to escape. That’s pretty much the entire episode. Nothing new or unique done here, just a bunch of bland writing. The one thing that this episode did that I liked, was bring in Sven from the original series.

You see, in this episode, we are introduced to this universe’s Shiro: Sven. He’s a walking parody of the rabid censorship that took place during the original series run. Sven was Shiro’s name in the English dub, and this version even shares his infamous phony Norwegian accent. Sven even gets mortally injured, but claims he just needs to go to the “Space Hospital”. This was a clever little reference to removal of Sven’s death in the American version of Voltron: Defender of The Universe.

Still, Sven does not save this episode. While he was a funny and quirky in-joke, most people watching this would not get the gag. Without this background knowledge, Sven just comes off as an out-of-place Norwegian caricature with no real point in the show. Despite this episode coming off as pointless, it was probably my favorite episode in this season. Despite how generic of an episode this was, I’m always a sucker for alternate universe stories. This episode also introduces the magical Macguffin of this season: A giant meteor that can tear holes in reality. We’ll talk more about this once we get to episode 6.

We now have episode 5, AKA “The Journey”. This episode reintroduces Shiro, which I think is an outright horrible idea. Shiro should’ve been kept out of the show for at least an entire season, so we get more time to adjust to our new team. I felt like most of Shiro’s story had been covered, like he had gone through his arc as a character. It would’ve been more interesting to re-introduce him into the cast much later one, once our new team had matured.

However, a measly five episodes after his appearance and he’s already introduced. Tell me if this sounds familiar: Shiro wakes up on a Galra ship, and somehow mysterious gets off with little memory of how he accomplished it. Yes, that’s right, they lazily copied Shiro’s backstory from season 1. So, Shiro somehow escapes from the Galra and loses some of his memory AGAIN.

How did he end up on the ship this time? Why would the Black Lion seemingly teleport him? Why weren’t the best soldiers in the galaxy guarding him? None of these questions are answered, at all. We never get a single explanation for any of this for the entire season. I get that you can only do so much with a 7 episode season, but the lack of explanation for Shiro’s new escape from the Galra is utterly disappointing. If they were going to rehash backstories from past seasons, the least they can do is elaborate on them slightly.

Anyways, Shiro ends up on an ice planet, where he’s captured by these two random aliens. After a fight breaks out and they befriend each other, the aliens help Shiro out. I actually kind of like these characters, despite their short screen-time. They were nicely designed and seemed like fun characters. The aliens then give Shiro their only ship, which he uses to escape the planet.

Shiro then proceeds to single-handedly board the ship, take out several robots, and even high-jack a fighter vessel. All the while, no one seems to notice him or even detect his presence until its too late. There is a part where Shiro blows up the hangar and then flies out, yet none of the Galra try to stop him. He murders at least 30 Galra, yet no one really pursues him or tries to chase him.

So, Shiro flies after Voltron and the castle. Before he can get there, they fly off and leave Shiro all alone. So, Shiro spends a solid week travelling and trying to find his friends. I’ll be honest, I actually like this scene. You really feel Shiro’s desperation, and it really shows how dedicated he is to getting back to the team. The whole scene reminded me a lot of that Voltron fan-film, which is something I thought was pretty cool.

Just when Shiro is about to die, he’s found by the Black Lion. So… Why did it take the Black Lion so long to be aware of Shiro’s presence? It seemed like the Black Lion only noticed Shiro’s existence when he was about to die. One could make the argument that Shiro was just too far for the Black Lion to notice him, but there’s nothing to imply they were within close proximity to him. Then again, that could be me overthinking things.

This leads directly into the sixth episode of season 3: Tailing a Comet. This episode starts by showing the Voltron team in action, before showing Shiro recovering from his near-death experience last episode. After Shiro awakens and is fully recovered, this leads to some controversy in the group. Now there are 6 cadets, and only five lions.

This leads to a scene that I found extremely annoying: Lance wanting to quit the team. You see, Lance feels he’s a nuisance and that he doesn’t belong on the team. This is yet another thing recycled from previous episodes. In season 2, Lance doubted himself, but was able to prove to both himself and his allies that he was a great member of the team. Here, we have Lance once again doubting himself once more.

Unlike the first time, this scene really amounts to something. Keith tells Lance he is a worthwhile member of the team, Lance agrees, and this is never brought up again. This scene is overall pointless, and does nothing with what it was trying to set up. Anyways, with Shiro back, our team gets ready to set out.

However, Shiro can no longer pilot the Black Lion, so now he’s just backup. They go out on this mission to take out Lotor, who’s attacking one of his own bases for personal reasons. The team then goes out on a mission to stop Something I forgot to mention earlier was that Lotor stole the meteor from episode 4. So, you’re probably thinking Lotor will do something unique or interesting with this meteor. After all, it’s made of the same material as Voltron! Well, he makes a ship with it. Yeah, that’s all he does with it.

He’s got an all-powerful meteor made of the same material as the strongest machine in the galaxy, one that can rip open holes in dimensions. Instead of building some kind of all powerful doomsday weapon, he builds a ship… Why? It’s a really lame looking ship as well. You can tell that the ship was meant to transform into a giant robot just by looking at it! Sure, it doesn’t do it this time, but I’m going to go out on a limb and assume they’ll do that next season.

Lotor decides to use this (supposedly) all-powerful vehicle to steal a piece of the “Teladuv”, which was a weapon used to battle Zarkon at the end of season 2. Our heroes manage to destroy the Teladuv, but not before bickering for a solid two minutes. Look, I get that Keith is the headstrong one, but does he really need to always argue before doing anything? I get that he’s a leader in training, but has none of the past 30 or so episodes taught him anything about logic?

The worst part about the episode involves the ship itself. Somehow, the Galra are able to build this ship off-screen in the span of about two episodes. Not only that, but they optimized it with weaponry that would be deadly to Voltron. They did all this in an extremely short span of time. Even Allura is confused that they were able to build the ship so quickly. This wouldn’t be so bad if we got some sort of explanation, but they just leave this plot-thread swinging just so they can have more reveals next season.

So, then comes our last episode. I’d say this is probably the weakest one in the entire season, if not the entire series. I’m talking about “The Legend Begins”, and it’s just as generic as the title would imply. So, this episode starts with Coran finally deciding to tell the Voltron crew the ENTIRE story. Why did it take him this long to actually tell it? Who knows. You could have easily put most of this episode at the start of season and it would have barely changed anything.

So, this episode shows how the Voltron team came together, how they started as friends and became warriors, how the war started, and how the lions were created. Normally, you’d think a 40-60 minute episode would be enough to cover this sub-plot. Unfortunately, they cram this entire story into about 22 minutes and it feels rushed.

This was meant to be the season finale, and ends up being just a backstory episode that details a lot of things the audience already knew. The episode revolves around Coran detailing how the Voltron lions came to be, how Alfor and Zarkon started off as allies and friends, and how the original team of cadets united.

Sadly, the episode does not handle telling its backstory that well at all. For one thing, we are introduced to three allies of Alfor we never heard of before. These three aliens make up part of the team, but they lack any real personality or defining character traits. We are given a rough outline of who they are, yet are told very little about them. In fact, some of them seem to just be ripoffs of our current team.

I get that it’s supposed to echo how similar the team of old is to the new team, but it comes off as repetitive. Especially when the Blue Lion’s cadet has the exact same reaction to piloting the lion for the first time as Lance does. Anyways, a lot of the episode is spent detailing Alfor’s friendship with Zarkon.

It depicts how they were the best of friends, but how Zarkon and his Altean apprentice began work on a deadly experiment. Eventually, this leads of Alfor creating the lions. This is probably the most disappointing part of the entire season thus far. We don’t see the lions getting built, we don’t see any detailed explanation on how they were constructed, and the first Cadets are shown mastering their lions in zero time flat.

What’s worse is that the Lions have chipped paint jobs, despite just being made. While it’s true that the current lions have paint damage, that could be attributed to them just being extremely old models and dealing with erosion over the years. The problem here is that the lions are supposed to be brand new, yet they don’t look that way at all. I get that they had to re-use the CGI models due to budget costs, but it just comes off as extremely lazy.

Eventually, the Voltron team have to unite to stop the destruction of Zarkon’s planet. However, they are not able to stop it. Worse still, Zarkon uses the dark Quintessence energy in an attempt to save his Altean wife’s life. This backfires and kills both Zarkon and the Altean. The Dark Quintessence then resurrects somehow, also granting the pair immortality in the process.

With Zarkon and his Altean wife (who now goes by the name “Haggar) learning of the death of their planet, they decide to blame Alfor and begin a long war. Now, you may think this huge war would get a lot of screen-time. After all, this war is one of the biggest events in the entire timeline, leading to the scattering of the lions and the defeat of the Alteans. Sadly, this is all shoved into about 30 seconds.

This was the biggest downer for me, as this was always the part of the show’s backstory that interested me the the most. With that, Coran finishes the somewhat pointless backstory. All in all, we don’t learn a whole lot from this backstory we didn’t already know. The big thing we learn is that Zarkon and Haggar are immortal because they are alien zombies powered by space magic, essentially.

Some plot elements do come out of this episode, such as our heroes being able to piece together Lotor’s motives based on the info they are given. Also, Haggar is (conviently) having the same flashback at the same time. She regains her memories and awakens Zarkon, using the aforementioned space magic. Keep in mind, the last few things I mention happen in the course of about a minute. It’s like they awkwardly squeezed small plot elements into the last bit of the episode, in an attempt to make the episode seem important.

Yeah, that’s how the season ends. On an episode that is just pure backstory, with nothing much else to back it up. I get why this was done. The last two seasons both ended on epic confrontations, so it only made sense to give season 3 an epic ending. Since they didn’t have enough time to resolve Lotor’s story arc, they put this in here instead. I wouldn’t really have a problem with it, if it didn’t feel so pointless. I felt like I was watching a shortened version of the series’ pilot all over again, just with less charm and quality to it.

I think that’s this season in a nut-shell: It’s still a fantastic quality product like the rest of the show, but it doesn’t have the same magic to it. Elements feel reused, half of the cast gets little development, and the season is too short to get used to all the new changes. Again, I get why it was shortened. Budget cuts and all that, it’s completely understandable.

In fact, I’m sure season 4 will probably make up for most (or at least some) of the shortcomings for season 3. Season 4 is probably the second half of 3, and will likely fix some of the issues I had with this. Now, was I overtly cruel in my assessment of the season? A bit. I think my main problem was that I went into season 3 with such high expectations, especially after how much I loved seasons 1 and 2.

I get to season 3, and it ends up just feeling like a generic kids action show. There’s nothing wrong with that, since it is for kids. However, the show had such a good rhythm going. Yet, they do bland things with this season, like a generic alternate universe episode and a pointless backstory disguised as a season finale.

I do respect that people like this season, to each their own. I can be overly cynical with how I assess things, and my feelings on this season does not change how I feel about the show overall. I still love the show, and with a series that is planned to be 78 episodes long, there is bound to be slip-ups.

This season was sadly the victim of trying to bring too many new things to the table, while having a short run-time. The Castlevania anime’s first season was short as well, but I never felt like they were going through the motions. Anyways, those are my personal thoughts on how I felt about this season.

I’m going to keep watching, and possibly go back and watch both 3rd Dimension and Voltron Force while waiting for season 4. Though I hear Force isn’t the greatest, I want to at least give it a shot. The last thing I’d like to say is: While I did find season 3 to be a bit bad, at least it wasn’t as bad as “Voltron: Fleet of Doom”. *Shudders*

The Treasure Trove of Hidden Gems: Nintendo’s Obscure RPGs

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I’m getting some huge Cardcaptors flashbacks from this cover art.

When it comes to RPGs, I tend to consider myself a “connoisseur” of them. I play a ton of RPGs, both old and new. It’s my favorite genre, and it’s no surprise that some of my favorite RPGs have shown up on Nintendo consoles. However, a ton of them are fairly obscure. This is probably because Nintendo doesn’t advertise a lot of their RPG games, usually focusing on making commercials for the big-name games.

As a result, most RPGs end up becoming extremely obscure. Today, I want to discuss some forgotten (or obscure) RPGs on Nintendo consoles. Let’s start off with probably one of the most well-known, yet rather obscure Nintendo RPG series: Custom Robo. What is Custom Robo? Well, it’s game that is part action-RPG and part fighting game.

The main draw of the Custom Robo series is that you can swap out various parts of the robot and essentially create your own variations. The game lets you tweak the colors, swap out weapons, and even change different bodies for your Custom Robo to use. In my opinion, the Gamecube game is probably the best iteration of the franchise. It was darker than most kids games, deconstructed elements related to the “Monster Collecting” genre, and even had some really cool designs. Plus, that opening cut-scene was badass!

Custom Robo Arena, which is the DS game, wasn’t as good. While Custom Robo was deconstruction of kids anime, was Custom Robo was just straight-up homage to the genre. Designs bordered on the more cartoon-y designs of the N64 games, and the more realistic designs of the Gamecube game. It played almost identical to the Gamecube version, though lacked a lot of the grit and edge that made that game feel so unique. While I can say that enjoyed Arena, it’s still not what I would consider one of my favorites.

Custom Robo is definitely an obscure game, but was more well-known at the time it came out. One game that was pretty much destined for obscurity since day one was “Fantasy Life”. Fantasy Life is an action RPG that focuses on both exploration, and its unique job system. Unlike most RPGs, jobs in this game function similarly to how they would in real-life. An example of what I’m talking about are things like being a chef and cooking food for people, or being a miner and mining for rare materials.

Fantasy Life had charming writing, nice visuals, a good sense of humor, and a massive surplus of content to indulge in. It got good reviews and a lot of people have fond memories of this game. So, why did this game sell like hot garbage? Well, it lacked advertising. Did you see any adverts for the game online? How about any commercials, or trailers? I didn’t even know the game existed until I saw it in a “Best of 2014” list!

The game came out near the end of the year, and managed to get zero attention from the press. So, despite its positive press, nobody really bought the game. As a result, the sequel was released exclusively in Japan and ONLY on mobile phones. Still, Fantasy Life isn’t as obscure as “Summon Night: Swordcraft Story”. A spinoff of the semi-popular Summon Night series of games, Swordcraft Store was a series of action RPGs with a unique twist.

In this game, you play as a Craftlord’s apprentice, a young man tasked with creating swords and using them in combat. The game is a simple story, though manages to present its characters in a unique and interesting way. I ended up getting attached both my hero and his chosen “Guardian Beast”, especially due to how interactions were written. On top of this, I loved how the player’s character would earn new sword recipes after defeating enemies. You could only get the best swords in the game by breaking the weapons of your enemies.

They made 3 different Swordcraft Story games, but only 2 made it out of Japan. Even then, no one really bought them. This comes down to a lack of advertising once more. I get that Nintendo can’t advertise every single game to come out for their consoles, but it was still a shame this became so obscure!

The last game I want to touch on is probably the most obscure one: Solatorobo. I’ve talked about this game a couple times before on this blog, so I’ll keep this one short. Solatorobo is a spiritual sequel to a game called Tail concerto, and even takes place in the same universe. In this world, all the beings inhabiting it are either dog or cat people.

You play as Red, a “Hunter” who completes missions for cash. The game puts you into his fuzzy paws, and sends you all over the world to do menial side-tasks and save it from destruction. The game has an amazing soundtrack, beautiful graphics, and fantastic gameplay. The game revolves solely around you grabbing your enemies and tossing them at each other. It’s simple, but fun. On top of this, the game’s amazing lore and well-written story-line kept me engrossed throughout my entire play-through.

So yeah, those are my thoughts on just a few of the many forgotten RPGs released for Nintendo consoles. I highly recommend tracking these games down, if you can. I do realize that some of these games are pretty rare, though. So, you may have to rely on emulation to play some of these. Regardless, I think you guys will have a good time with any of the games I mentioned. Anyways, thanks for reading and have a great day!

First Impressions: Miitopia

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Shigeru Miyamoto’s singing is a punishment no mortal man should be forced to sit through.

I’ll admit something, I’ve never been a fan of Nintendo’s “Miis”. For over three console generations, Nintendo has tried to push these customize-able avatars onto its audience. This on its own isn’t bad, but Nintendo kept trying to make these paper-doll characters a household name. They were in several games, including ones where they were just guest stars.

Now, I don’t think the Miis are a bad idea in practice. The problem was that for the longest time Nintendo didn’t really know what to do with said characters. The thing about Miis is that while they were in a lot of good games, their appearance never enhanced the feel or enjoyment of the game. That’s because these were paper-doll characters, generic templates that are hard to project on to.

Now, this is a common practice with a lot of games. Several games will let you make your own character and adventure as your chosen avatar. What makes Miis different is that Nintendo wanted these to be a franchise, they wanted to sell their template characters in games that only managed to show how generic of an idea it was.

This all changed with the release of Tomodachi Life though. Tomodachi Life was unique, and changed up the concept of Miis quite a bit. Nintendo focused on showing the weirder and more bizarre side of these characters. The game was a life simulator, one that focused on putting the custom characters of the player in bizarre and random situations.

This focus on weirdness and all around oddness became a selling point for the game. Unlike previous games such as Wii Music and Wii Party, Nintendo managed to take a boring concept and morph it into something enjoyable. A lot of people really dug the game, so Nintendo kept this going. Nintendo brought us Miitomo a little while later, which was a conversation app that utilized Miis. For a little phone app, it was decent, though nothing groundbreaking.

However, we would get the next big Mii game in 2017. This game was Miitopia, a JRPG for the Nintendo 3DS. Now, I haven’t played the full game yet. I was curious about this game enough to play the game, though. So, what do I think of the game thus far? Well, it’s a pretty darn fun game! Miitopia is pretty unique in that it lets you cast various Miis in the roles of the game’s cast.

These Miis could belong to you, or you can choose from a pool of Miis made online. I used the only Mii I had made as my hero, and cast the rest using “Mii Central”. This lead to some rather bizarre results, I must admit. For example, my village was populated with a ton of fictional characters: Brock from Pokemon, Hercule and Android 17 from Dragon Ball, Heath Ledger’s Joker from the Batman movies, and Batman himself as the mayor!

This game is like crossover city! While villagers and certain random NPCs are cast as miscellaneous Miis, you are free to cast whoever you want in most of the major roles. This lead to a lot of craziness, as I found myself casting random fictional characters as the primary cast. The villain was Skeletor, the Great Sage was Segata Sanshiro, and one of my party members was Spiderman!

And the story actually had a pretty solid setup and unique scenario. What happened was that the “Dark Lord” came down, stole everybody’s faces, and put them on monsters. So, it’s now up to you to get everyone’s faces back. The world being infested by custom characters is really a unique idea. It’s a ton of fun, and the crux of what makes the game so entertaining. Seeing all these characters, both real and fictional interact is a ton of fun!

The combat is pretty simple, in that you only control your own hero in combat. All of your other party members are computer controlled, and often act depending upon their selected personality. Different personality types work better with different classes, so mixing and matching is always fun in this game!

The primary problem I had with the game was its simplicity. There’s not a whole lot to the gameplay, even if a bit of it does involve strategy. However, the game itself managed to avoid being repetitive. This is due to party member taking completely random actions in combat.

This could involve them helping or hindering certain party members, or even not getting along with other characters. This makes these paper-doll characters feel 3-dimensional and also allows for some unique scenarios to play out. Battles feel more like legitimate fights than most RPGs, taking the sometimes random nature of D&D and mixing it with Final Fantasy.

It’s nothing new or revolutionary, but it’s refreshing enough to feel like its own thing. Another thing I liked about this game was its surprisingly epic soundtrack. I wasn’t expecting such an amazing soundtrack out of a Mii game, but this game was full of sweet tunes! It had rock music, Japanese sounding music, music that sounded like it was sung by a choir, and even some genres which I didn’t really recognize.

From the demo alone, I have to say this game is definitely solid and entertaining. Sure, it’s simple and is pretty easy at times, but its unique character creation and customization opens make it really unique. I’m definitely going to buy the physical game and give it more in-depth review. I think this game will mostly attract a niche audience, but I think the more hard-core audience probably won’t play much of it.

It’s obviously meant for the casual crowd, though I found myself enjoying it quite a bit. This isn’t a game that’s going to change the way people look at RPGs, but it’s something that definitely stands out as both unique and interesting. It’s a fun little time-waster meant to be played in short-bursts, which is something I truly appreciate.