Superb Surreal Horror: Local58 Review

Imagine something that you don’t understand, something that truly horrifies you. What if said thing you are imagining is also something you understand, or at least something you SHOULD understand? A decently sized YouTube channel called “Local58” is that something. Local58 is a collection of short little horror vignettes, designed to look like bumpers from old TV show channels.

Almost every short starts off relatively tame, before quickly descending into madness. One video may seem like a harmless weather forecast, before plunging into a story about the moon trying to kill everyone. Another video may be an animated short from the 20s, which starts off cute and then quickly becomes unsettling.

Local58 combines the dull and simplistic nature of old broadcasts with dark themes, resulting in a horror experience that resonates with its audience. This concept isn’t something entirely new, especially due to it being used by the creator before. The series was created by Kris Straub, the man behind the popular internet horror story, “Candle Cove”.

Candle Cove revolved around a strange children’s show watched by certain individuals, one that has horrific imagery not meant for kids. Local58 acts as a spiritual sequel, even using the same channel number as the one that aired the eponymous show. Local58 feels like the evolution of Candle Cove’s concept, taking the concepts introduced in that horror story and evolving them.

The thing I like most about Local58 is its aesthetic, which involves taking something old and subverting your expectations of it. Local58 is best described as “something you watch at midnight, while being half awake”. The videos feel like something unexpected that you catch during a late night broadcast when you’re barely awake, resulting in you seeing things that aren’t actually there.

It takes that concept of being up way too late for your own good watching TV, and develops it into a series of surreal shorts that toys with your mind. In essence, I think that’s what makes this series so great. It’s not something that’s completely new, but it does something that I wish more horror-based things would do. It doesn’t rely on blood, gore, or violence. It relies solely on making the audience feel unsettled, which makes it far more powerful than the average horror series.

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Neverwinter Nights: Enhanced Edition Review

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Good to see that 2002 is still alive and well!

Dungeons & Dragons is a game that is powered by the imagination and creativity of those who play it. It’s a board-game that has stood the test of time and continued to get many new iterations, while inventing the whole “RPG” genre. As you can tell, I am a huge fan of “D&D”, despite not playing much of the game myself. I never really had the patience to sit down and play a complex board-game, but I was always up for partaking in various adaptations of the game!

I loved that silly and weird Dungeons & Dragons cartoon, that overtly campy live-action film, and those downright hilarious D&D parodies made by the “Deadale Wives”. While those are all great, I prefer video-game adaptations of D&D the most! D&D has had many game adaptations, such as the extremely popular “Baldur’s Gate” series.

Set in the “Forgotten Realms” world of D&D, Baldur’s Gate was an attempt to bring the popular board-game to life in a whole new way. It was an RPG based heavily upon old-school D&D, drawing upon its many rules and mechanics to help build the experience. As a result, Baldur’s Gate felt like a worthwhile adaptation of both classic D&D and The Forgotten Realms.

Baldur’s Gate was made by Bioware, who was a brand new company at the time. They’re work on Baldur’s Gate propelled them into the limelight, making them a household name in the process. Baldur’s Gate did so well that they cranked out a fantastic sequel, right before following it up with an amazing expansion pack. Naturally, people loved the Baldur’s Gate games and wanted more.

Bioware was eventually handed the D&D license once more, but decided to make a completely different game this time around. Instead of doing a third Baldur’s Gate game, they ended up creating a spiritual successor to an older D&D game. Before Baldur’s Gate was released, there was a game called “Neverwinter Nights”. The game was unique in that it was the first ever “MMORPG”, paving the way for similar games like “EverQuest” and “Ultima Online”.

While the game itself shut down its servers in 97, Bioware decided to revive it in a way that nobody was expecting. Bioware brought us a new “Neverwinter Nights” game in 2002; one that was completely unrelated to the original. This game was unique and touted by trailers as a “Multiplayer Revolution”.

Neverwinter Nights 2002 set itself apart from the original by being a game with a single-player campaign, which could also be played entirely with friends. The new Neverwinter Nights was originally built to be another MMORPG like its predecessor, but Bioware had run out of time during development. They decided to make a rather formulaic story mode instead, while also adding in multiplayer and releasing the development tools to the players.

The game was a head of its time, as it was one of the first to embrace player-made content. In fact, the game was mostly known for its fan-made content. It was revolutionary in helping develop the game-modding scene, and really broke ground when it came to how such content was made. It also helps that the community who helped make these great mods were allowed to work on “Premium Modules”, which were essentially miniature expansions you had to pay for.

The system worked, and Neverwinter Nights enjoyed success for several years. However, this didn’t stop the server list from getting removed, or support for the game being discontinued. This all changed in 2018, when the game studio known as “Beamdog” decided to release a newer version of the game that runs better on modern computers. This version of the game was called “Neverwinter Nights: Enhanced Edition”.

This is the first version of the game I ever played, due to having never found the game in stores. It also doesn’t help that most of the older versions of the game are incompatible with modern computers. Thanks to Beamdog, I was able to properly experience this game for the first time!

So, what is this game like? Well, it’s certainly a grand experiment in game design, that’s for certain! While the game’s story mode is lacking, its endless amount of user-based content and premium modules make up for it. The Enhanced Edition comes with “Steam Workshop” support, which allows for the easy usage of various mods. Using mods with Steam Workship is as easy as a simple click of the mouse, making the installation of said mods a simple task.

On top of this, all mods and modules are treated as separate “campaigns”. What this means is that since almost every mod is its own thing, so you don’t have to worry about installing too many mods and causing the game to break. The game itself plays like your typical MMORPG, CRPG, or Dungeons & Dragons game. You click the enemy to attack, can use potions or abilities in battle, and can level up at your leisure.

It’s a pretty basic system, but the wide array of skills and abilities available make up for the simplicity. There are several classes and races to choose from, some of which have an impact on how you interact with NPCs. For example, choosing a “Half-Orc” as your playable character will give you “dumb” dialogue choices. On top of this, various characters in the game will often react in hilarious ways to your unintelligent dialogue.

I really wish modern games had this level of creativity when it comes to creating interesting characters. Speaking of modern games and how they do things; Neverwinter Nights is certainly lacking in some areas. I don’t just mean the horribly dated graphics, which I still find to be rather awesome after all these years! I’m talking about how the game’s mechanics are handled.

One such mechanic is the “Teleport Stone”, a magical stone that’ll warp you back to the temple. Once you’re back in the temple you can heal up, sell some stuff, and then teleport back to where you left off. The problem? The stone can be easily abused, so you can warp in and out of combat with no consequence!

The cost to teleport back to your starting location is a measly 50 gold, so most combat situations quickly become trivial. That’s not to say the game is easy, since there are certainly some tough battles here or there. On the subject of toughness, let’s talk about that story I keep harping on.

You play as a graduate of “Neverwinter Academy”, which is a school for would-be warriors and adventurers. After an attack by an evil cult, you are given the task of hunting down a bunch of creatures in order to cure a plague. From there, the game extents into a much grander quest and its up to you to set things right.

It’s the same story we’ve seen in most fantasy games, though it does benefit a fair bit from being set in a D&D universe. The setting allows for some great monsters and encounters, as well as some interesting characters. In spite of its lackluster story, it does at least provide an engaging world to explore.

Thankfully, the expansion packs and Premium Modules make up for the lackluster story mode. They include many interesting stories and activities, such as entering a jousting tournament, becoming a pirate, or even escaping from the underworld itself! Couple this with a cavalcade of interesting party members and you have a game that elevates its quality with each new addition.

The main goal of Neverwinter Nights was pushing the envelope of what the engine was capable of. This is why all of these expansions and modules are so ambitious, it’s because they wanted to see what could do with the tools they had. The “Aurora” game engine used to power the game is old, but is variable enough in nature that it allows for some amazing things to be made.

The last thing I want to touch on is the multiplayer servers, which are the real draw of the game. There are so many custom servers made by fans, all of which allow for some fun and epic adventures. Most of said servers are essentially miniature MMORPGs, and allow the players to interact with each other and have adventures. While the game’s expansions and main quest all allow for multiplayer; it’s the MMO servers are the true pull of this game.

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Gary Gygax: Gone but never forgotten.

One such server I’ve spent a lot of time is “World of Intiquity”, which is an awesome MMO-like world. It had a ton of quests to do, items to collect, and adventures to go on. The drop rate for rare, unique, or magical items was also pretty high. This meant that I would often be rewarded with something nice and shiny after playing for a measly 10 minutes. The way Intiquity doled out rewards kept me engaged, even if I found myself dying quite a bit.

I know this gets said a lot about many games, but Neverwinter Nights feel less like a game and more like an “experience”. While its main story isn’t all that good, all of its supplementary content is truly interesting and engaging. The base game has hundreds of hours worth of content, while the player-made content helps expand that greatly.

There’s just so much to love about this slightly updated version of Neverwinter Nights, in spite of how old and outdated the game feels at times. I highly recommend this game to those that want to try a unique take on the MMO genre, or those who want to experience one of the first games to thrive on community-made content. It’s not a revolutionary game, and its certainly past its prime. Regardless of this, it’s still a fun time for those with the time to invest into it!

ReBoot: The Guardian Code Review

The 90s was a unique time for television, an experimental age where all kinds of new and crazy concepts for TV shows were brought to life. Shows like Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Friends, the English dub of Dragon Ball Z, Shadow Raiders, The Maxx, and Cybersix populated this era of experimentation. However, there was one show that is often considered to be one of the most revolutionary cartoons to come out in this decade: ReBoot.

Made by the guys who did the CGI for the “Money For Nothing” music video, comes the first fully CGI cartoon ever. ReBoot took place inside a computer and revolved around a program named “Bob”, who was essentially an antivirus known as a “Guardian”. Bob made friends with the spunky young Enzo, and his sister Dot. Along with a stable cast of other likable characters, our heroes went on adventures through cyberspace in order to defend the computer world of “Mainframe” from evil computer viruses.

The show was fun, entertaining, and matured along with its audience. Starting off as a typical kids show, it eventually blossomed into a dark and emotional roller-coaster. While the fourth season dropped the ball a bit, it was still an entertaining experience from start to finish. Unfortunately, the season ended on an unresolved cliffhanger.

People who were enjoying the fourth season were left in the dust, when the planned third TV movie was cancelled. With no continuation from the TV front, the story was continued in comic form. Unfortunately, the comic was very unsatisfying, at least in terms of what it was trying to do with the world and characters. Not even the return of obscure fan-favorite character “Code-Master Lens” could save this comic for me.

The comic ended up being a bland continuation that lacked thrills and was resolved rather haphazardly. There was also a trilogy that was planned to continue the story, but it was ultimately cancelled. Another cancelled project was a planned spin-off, which was to be titled “Binomes”. This spin-off was aimed towards a younger audience, but never made it past early planning stages.

With the exception of a few rather awesome art-books (one of which I’ve reviewed on this very blog), ReBoot remained a dormant franchise… Until just a few years ago. A ReBoot continuation was announced and fans were excited! However, photos emerged from the reboot of ReBoot in late 2017. Suffice to say, fans were not impressed by it. It featured a ton of characters we never saw before, most of whom were generic teenagers and weird Power Ranger-esque superheroes.

When the trailer hit a month ago, fans were “treated” to their first glimpse of “ReBoot: The Guardian Code”. What they got was not what they were expecting at all. Instead of an entertaining kids show about a group of computer programs dealing with a deadly virus, it’s now about teenagers transforming into superheroes and fighting crime in cyberspace.

Yes, this series shifted genres from a fun cartoon filled to the brim with computer lingo, to a poor man’s version of Code Lyoko. Heck, even the creator of Code Lyoko thought they were ripping him off! Now, going off the trailers alone, I assumed this show was going to be terrible. However, I decided to gave the series the benefit of the doubt.

After all, few networks had faith in the original ReBoot back in the 90s. CGI was pretty new at the time, and no one really wanted to invest in a cartoon that had a radically different animation style than more contemporary shows. Still, ReBoot managed to prove itself as a fantastic show all the same.

Despite its generic premise, I went into the new show with the false hope that they would somehow surprise me and create something entertaining. I hate to say this, but I was completely and totally wrong. Before I trash on this show, let’s start off with the good. Most of the original voice cast is back, which is nice.

Some voice actors had to be replaced, such as the late great Tony Jay as Megabyte. His new voice actor Timothy Brummund does a decent job, but you can tell what he wasn’t given a whole lot to work with script-wise. I liked that the designs from returning characters are kept mostly the same, even if they barely appeared. I also dig the virtual form of V.E.R.A., due to it’s simplicity when compared to the designs of the main characters’ virtual avatars.

That’s about all the good I can find, as this show is pretty flawed throughout. The show revolves around these teenagers who accidentally bring V.E.R.A. into the real world, who then recruits them to travel into cyberspace to face Megabyte. Yes, Megabyte is back and he’s been upgraded to look sufficiently ridiculous.

They show his original design, right before turning him into this glowing buff monstrosity. He looks more like Gigabyte than Megabyte, which is a bit disappointing in my opinion. You can tell the redesigned characters just don’t gel well, as a lot of the designs from the original were done by seasoned comic book artists. They knew how to make a design pop, which is something this show has a problem with.

Now, it’s bad enough that Megabyte looks like garbage, but he also comes off way less intimidating than in the original show. By the third season, Megabyte had pretty much won and was only defeated by the show’s heroes coming together to stop. Season 4 ends with Megabyte not only returning, but also winning once more! In this show, Megabyte had already been both deactivated and defeated by the time the hacker found him.

Once brought back online and upgraded to maximum potential, what’s the first thing he does? Blast a few lasers at Frisket, that’s it. He’s then reprogrammed and controlled by some hacker, which means he’s not really a virus anymore. He’s a program, because viruses aren’t directly controlled by users themselves. This show can’t even follow the most basic rules set by the original, can it?

So, this show’s new villain is this generic hacker guy, as opposed to the Megabyte we all know and love. He doesn’t really do anything that interesting, aside from sending other people to do his bidding. Megabyte constantly gets thrashed in almost every episode, which means that he was more of a threat when he was a free agent. This is a guy who brought down an entire system, now he can’t even defeat a few teenagers.

Oh yeah, forgot about those old characters that we grew to know and love. These guys are our new “heroes”, despite the fact they are all very bland. They all have generic suits, generic powers, and generic personalities. You got the smart guy, the leader, the girl, etc. They are much less interesting than the vast cast the show used to have. You can’t tell me that the forgettable protagonist Austin is any better than Bob from the original show, since he lacks all the nuance and interesting characteristics that Bob had.

Now, before I end this off, I’ll go into what I think is the worst part of the show. So far, they’ve put out 10 episodes of the first season on Netflix. I ended up using the American Netflix at a friend’s house to watch the show, since they’re going to air the episodes in Canada last. Why? Since YTV is a Canadian-only network, and they need something to air between episodes of Spongebob. Now, this isn’t what I find to be the worst part.

The worst part is that out of these 10 episodes they put up, the original ReBoot gang only appear in one episode. Can you guess which one? It’s not the first, second, or even the fifth episode. They do not appear at all (aside from Frisket and Megabyte), UNTIL THE TENTH EPISODE. That’s right, this ReBoot show barely shows anything relating to the original series until the halfway point of the first season.

This series also shows us the User for the first time ever, portraying him as a ReBoot fan who lives in his mother’s basement and has no friends. Wow, way to insult your entire fan-base, Mainframe. The worst part isn’t even The User though, it’s Bob and friends. Despite Bob being voiced by his original voice actor, he’s not the same character. The CGI makes me look like a zombie, like a reanimated corpse. His lines are also terrible, forced, and contrived.

One of the first things he says in the series is his speech that he gave in the original show’s intro, to a random group of Guardians that he has never met before. I’m serious, this actually happens. There are many other problems I could go over, such as the bad CGI, bad acting for the human characters, lack of proper continuity with the original show, and many others. I feel if I were to go over every problem, then I’d be writing a book on this show, which is something I don’t really want to do.

I want to conclude by saying to not watch this show. It has little to do with the original and feels like it was only made to sell toys. None of the original staff work on this, aside from a few returning voice actors. I watched this show out of love for the original series, but now I feel I should’ve heeded the lacking quality of the trailers and stayed away.

I know people will enjoy this show, I’m not trying to stop anyone from doing so. If you like Guardian Code and think it’s a great show, then that’s fine. We all have our tastes and interests. The thing is that I can just not get into this series. It fails as a continuation, it fails as its own thing, and it fails at emulating the original ReBoot.

I suggest sticking solely to the original, as I feel there’s not a whole lot on offer in this new series. Watch Tron, Code Lyoko, or Superhuman Samurai Syber Squad if you want a show that does this superhero premise better. As for me, I’ll keep watching this show, mostly out of morbid curiosity. Considering how off-kilter the episode with the original ReBoot cast was, I’m curious to see what they mess up next. In short, this show is like a train-wreck in slow-motion, it’s very hard to look away from.

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*

Castlevania 2017 Episode 1 Review

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Reminds me of the Daredevil title card.

If there’s something I love when it comes to television, its shows that focus on depicting olden times. Sure, I love a modern piece as much as the next guy, but I always prefer my shows being focused on fictionalized versions of the past. Recently, it was announced there would be an anime based off a game series that takes place in such a time. Now, I have no history with Castlevania. In fact, the only CV game I ever played was “Order of Ecclesia”. I definitely enjoyed the game, but it never managed to make me a fan of series.

This all changed just today, when Castlevania received an anime adaptation on Netflix. I honestly loved this show, quite a bit. I binged all 4 episodes in just one day and had a ton of fun doing it. So, I thought I’d spend this week reviewing each individual episode. So yeah, I’m going to tackle season 1 right here right now. I’ll try to avoid major spoilers, but certain minor spoilers may be unavoidable, so you’ve been warned.

Plot

The show begins by showing us a young woman named Lisa venturing to Dracula’s castle. She’s doing this so she can not only learn more of the sciences that the world’s religion had kept hidden from her, but also connect with the denizen of the castle: Lord Dracula himself. Lisa and the vampire lord of darkness connect, and Dracula decides to take Lisa’s advice and travel the world.

However, when the vampire lord returns he discovers that his love had been taken from her. Enraged by the villagers who have killed the only light in his life, Dracula swears revenge. This results in a war waged by Dracula and his minions from hell, all in pursuit of petty revenge.

Stuff I Liked

  • The animation is pretty freaking solid, with action scenes looking pretty dang fluid. It’s pretty clear that a lot of the budget went into making the show look good.
  • Backgrounds are nicely designed and pop well, especially with the dark imagery the show presents.
  • This is a minor thing, but I really liked how personable Dracula is to the first human brave enough to walk right up to the front door. He’s a monster, but he’s not a monster about manners!

Stuff I Didn’t Like

  • We don’t really see all that much of the inside of Dracula’s castle. We see the main hall and the science lab, but we don’t really get a good look of what else was inside there.
  • Lisa feels like she could’ve had a bit more development before her untimely fate. We only see her for a few minutes, right before her demise.
  • Alucard only appears in this episode for what feels like a minute, which sucks. We only see him again at the end of season 1.

Stuff That Was Meh

  • Dracula’s design. I’m definitely liking the beard, but other than that, I wasn’t a huge fan of how he looked. Felt a bit too generic, in my opinion.
  • The villains of this episode were just generic dudes from the church, I wish they were developed more. At the very least, the show-writers gave them a good reason for doing what they are doing. At least, a good reason in the eyes of people would have existed during this time period.

In Short

Fantastic first episode for this series! Good animation, good character design, good overall stuff. I just wish the villains were a bit more developed, and that we could’ve seen more of Dracula’s sweet castle. Still, fantastic pilot all around! I plan on covering the other three episodes as well, so stay tuned for those!

The Various Problems With Dragon Ball Super Part 1

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

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

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

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

What is Dragon Ball?

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

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

Problem 1: The Rehashing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Problem 2: The Art and Animation

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

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

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

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

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

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THIS AIRED ON TELEVISION?!

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

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

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

Problem #3 New Character Designs

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

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

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Watch out, it’s purple Mr. Clean!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Problem #4: A Very Hole-y Plot

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

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

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

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

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

Summing It Up

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

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

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

My History With Phantasy Star Online And Why I Love It

I’ve made it no secret that I love Phantasy Star Online, it’s a really good game that means a lot to me. I have a long history with this series and I want to share that with you guys! My love for Phantasy Star Online started along. I was only about 9 or 10 when I read through this one videogame magazine. I can’t remember what gaming magazine it what, or what particular issue the article was featured in. Regardless, one article caught my attention: A review of Phantasy Star Online.

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Man, it looks like that group posing is a bit crowded. That robot dude on the top can barely fit!

The article described the game and how it was an “MMORPG”, or Massive Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game. I had never played an MMORPG before, so this immediately caught my eye. The article went on describe several hints and tips for the game such as “Striking the Rag Rappy before it flees makes it drop a item”. I had no idea what a Rag Rappy was, which made me even more interested in this game. What really sealed the deal was the picture featured in the corner of the article. It was a screenshot from the game featuring a guy with a lightsaber-like weapon fighting a large gorilla-like monster next to what appeared to be some sort of ruined building. I was both intrigued and sold on the premise, but lacked a Sega Dreamcast. Unfortunately for me, there was no way to play PSO.

This changed a couple years later, when I got my hands on a Nintendo Gamecube. One of the games for said console was “Phantasy Star Online Episode 1 & 2 Plus”. It was like the original Phantasy Star Online, but with a massive amount of new content, plus features that were previously only usable online could now be used offline! I asked my parents to buy me it, which they did. I played that game before and after school each day, enthralled by the unique sci-fi universe that game presented. The best part was that the game boasted a large variety of weapons to use again monsters. This included gigantic swords, handguns, magic staffs, and even heavy artillery. This armory also included the aforementioned lightsabers, which was just called “Sabers” in the game. The sabers were one of my favorite weapons in the game, mainly due to their designs.

Keep in mind that at the time I was playing this, Star Wars Galaxies was in its infancy. On top of that, Galaxies was a bit too much for my outdated. So, the only way to play an MMO with lightsabers in it, was to play PSO on my Gamecube. To be honest though, PSO was more than just lightsabers. It had several levels of pure dungeon-crawling bliss, as well as both couch-multiplayer and online-multiplayer gameplay. Since I didn’t have a stable internet connection and no way to pay monthly fees, I would often just play the game with my friends when they came over. There would also be times when I played the game solo, just to fully soak in the world and all it has going for it.

There were even times I would play the game with my friends and they would trade me rare items for my rares. I feel they scammed me though, by trading me a Brionac for my Soul Eater  scythe. To be fair, anyone could get a Soul Eater, but I just find it annoying that the guy was so lazy that he couldn’t do the quests to get the weapon himself. It’s the laziness that bothers, more than the actual scam itself. Anyways, PSO stood out to me as a good game to play on my own or with friends.

I loved PSO and wanted more of that good sci-fi fantasy action. At this time I didn’t use or know about Wikipedia, so it was difficult for me to research games outside of Gamefaqs or the occasional videogame magazine. However, I would soon discover the next PSO game and have my view on this series forever changed. It all happened on December 26th, Boxing Day. My family and I went to Future Shop in order to scoop up some sweet deals. That’s when I discovered it: Phantasy Star Online Episode 3: C.A.R.D. Revolution. I was so pumped, this was the new Phantasy Star game I had been waiting for! Except… It wasn’t.

PSO Ep. 3 was a spinoff of my the original PSO, that also acted as a sequel. The game was huge departure from the original PSO, as it was now a card game. You could still play it online, but real-time combat was switched out in favor turn-based card game combat. I’ve review Episode 3 already, so I won’t go into too much detail as to why I dislike it. I’ll just say that it was disappointing to me as a Phantasy Star fan.

After that, I didn’t touch Phantasy Star for a few years. By then, my family and I had moved away from my hometown and into an all new city. When first starting out there, I lived with my family, I had few friends, and no job. This resulted in me diving into the bargain bin at a local EB Games for something to whet my whistle. That’s when I found Phantasy Star Universe, a game I had never played before. Sure, I had heard stuff about Universe, but it wasn’t overtly positive. Despite this, it was 20 bucks for a game that was in good condition. So… How could I say no?

I bought Universe, struggled to get it running on my PC, and was disappointed with the results. Universe had a forgettable story, unlikable characters, and a lack of rare item drops. While I did enjoy the gameplay, I found the game lacking in side-content. I was annoyed with Phantasy Star this point. I found that I had wasted my cash on both Episode 3 and Universe. I gave up on the franchise for a while due to these events. Heck, I stumbled across Shadow of The Illuminus, an expansion pack for Phantasy Star Universe. I walked past this game and never looked back. I felt like the series lost its magic and I didn’t want to waste cash on new games.

I do regret this action though, as I’ve been told that Illuminus is actually really good. Cut to about a year later and Phantasy Star Portable 1 comes out for the PSP. I become intrigued, especially after watch the announcement trailer. I pick the game up, and to my surprise, I loved it! It felt like the older PSO games and focused less on story and more on gameplay. Character customization was great, there were plenty of items to collect, and the okay-ish voice-acting was saved for the few cinematic cut-scenes in the game.

My love for this franchise was restored! At this time, I did something I hadn’t done in years: Check PSO-World for news on new games. Back when I was hardcore into PSO, I would go to this site for tips and tricks, as well as news on new releases. When I went to this site, I discovered that a sequel to Portable had already been released in Japan. Best of all, it was coming to North America the very next year!

I wait patiently over the course of several months, which felt like an eternity to me. After all that waiting, Portable 2 was released. I made my way down there and picked up my copy of the game. I became enthralled in this game, due to the impressive amount of content and the customization options. The story was fairly entertaining as well, though it’s not something I’d rank as my all time favorite story. I hope to review both Portable games in the future, but for now I’ll say that these two games brought back my interest in this series.

So, I waited patiently for the next Phantasy Star game, but… It never came. Sure, Japan kept getting Phantasy Star releases, but America was out of luck. We never got the official sequel to Phantasy Star Online over here, nor any of the spinoff games that came after. Phantasy Star Nova was also not localized here, due to Sega thinking that the fan-base for these game is no longer there. That isn’t true, in actuality this game series has a ton of fans. The problem is that the fans couldn’t really deal with the weird way Sonic Team handled the online servers. People didn’t want to play online, which lead to a lack of interest in that mode. It doesn’t help that Sega didn’t advertise the Portable games at all and just expected them to sell, just because it’s Phantasy Star.

So, the years pass without a new game and with my interest in the series gone. My PSP 3000 died so I could no longer play either of the Portable games, resulting in me selling off the games. I moved on with my gaming interests and focused on playing different games such as Elder Scrolls, Fallout, and Divinity. Come 2016 and I had mostly forgotten about the series… Until I discovered the Ephinea private server for PSO. I played this version of the game and was able to experience the online portion of PSO for the first time!

I made new friends, discovered new items, and was at last able to explore Episode IV in its entirety. After this, I emulated Phantasy Star Zero as I found that they no longer sold copies. I found that copies of this game were a bit hard to come by, so I had to emulate it if I wanted to give it a shot. Turns out, this DS prequel to the original PSO was pretty grand. It felt like classic PSO, but used some of the improvements of Universe. This resulted in a game that felt both fresh and retro at the same time.

And that’s my history with this franchise thus far. This series means a lot to me, as it there during those tough times in life. Those times where I felt like giving up, I just played this game and it renewed my confidence. I know that sounds cheesy, but PSO was a game that I used as a good game to let off steam. When I was bullied, or lost a friend, or was just disappointed with something, I would play this game to cheer myself up. I’ve changed a lot since those old days. Completed college, got a job, made several new friends, as well as being introduced to a ton of new games that aren’t Phantasy Star related. While I don’t think I’ll ever quite be done with this franchise, I can say that my passion for these games will continue for years to come. And with that, I leave you with this:

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Yes, this is really in one of the games. Fan-art that transcends just being fan-art.

Monster Hunter Retrospective: 1st Generation

I have a very long history with the video game series known as Monster Hunter. These video games have definitely left their mark on the medium and created an entire sub-genre of RPG. Having played a fair amount of the main series games, I wanted to go into detail on what I thought of each individual generation of games. After all, I’ve had a very long history with the games and played at least one game in each generation. I’m going to go over every generation of the series starting with the first few games in the series that compromise the “1st Generation”.

The 1st Generation starting with the game simply titled Monster Hunter. It was originally released on the Playstation 2 in 2004. It was meant to be a million unit seller and it sell that many copies and easily surpassed that. However, Monster Hunter has mainly been a cult hit in Japan. It took several games in the series before it became half as popular in America as it was in Japan. Now, allow me to go into detail into what the game is all about and my personal experiences with it.

In total, there are three versions of the game. The first version was the aforementioned Monster Hunter. The gameplay in this game involved you hunting monster and gathering materials. You could also capture monsters, which could sometimes be difficult. I can’t tell you how many times I accidentally killed the monster when I meant to simply capture it. Sometimes, I can go a bit overboard with my greatsword! A game has a fair amount of bosses, such as the fire-spitting dragon Rathalos or the poisonous worm-dragon Khezu. You had to fight these creatures using your wits, skill, and endurance. At the same time, you had to keep a careful eye on your health bar. If your health bar drops to zero, you faint. And if you faint three times, you lose. The game also boasts a multiplayer feature, with the catch being that the three faints rule applies to this mode as well.

The PS2 boasted online functionality, as did the second version of this game. The third version does not, which kind of sucks because that was my favorite version. In the game, you choose from one of five different weapons: Great Swords, Lances, Sword And Shield, Hammers and Dual Swords. On top of that, two additional ranged weapon classes were available: Light Bowguns and Heavy Bowguns. The game features two different classes, your class will be assigned to you based on the weapon you chose. Those who use melee weapons are dubbed as “Blademasters” and those who used ranged weapons classify as “Gunners”. You can also craft armor and there are two different versions of each armor set. One can only be worn by Gunners while the other is only worn by Blademasters. I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’d play this game in my teenage years and accidentally make the wrong armor set for my class type! It’s embarrassing to say the least. The weapons I used most tended to be the great swords and hammers. I would occasionally use dual blades as well, but not very often. I preferred the heavier weapons, because they took a fair bit more skill to master. It’s extremely hard to line up your attacks properly with these weapons, but they deal enough damage to be just as useful as the lighter weapons. The game developers made the weapons fairly balanced.

Monster Hunter also let you gather off the land during missions. You can gather ore by mining, you can fish for various species of fish that have different uses, and you can even gather for herbs and mushrooms that you can use to brew potions. You can also catch bugs using a bugnet and gain rare insects. And if you’re really desperate for materials, you can root around in dung for monster feces and the occasional dragon scale.

Gross.
Gross.

On top of large bosses, there is also many smaller enemies such as the annoying raptors known as Velociprey and the moss-covered pigs known as Mosswine. You’ll also run into Bullfangos, a charging bull enemy who will constantly try to ram you. You’d think it wouldn’t be a problem once you got strong enough, but Bullfangos can become such a bother once you’re with a giant monster. I can’t tell you how many times I got knocked into enemy fire by a Bullfango’s charge. Definitely, the most annoying enemy is the Velociprey. The Velociprey will often leap at you and knock you back and on top of that they are usually found in packs. They’ll gang up on you if you’re not careful and in some areas they respawn constantly meaning you’ll deal with multiple Velocipreys while trying to gather or fight bosses.

I hate these things.
I hate these things.

I’ll be honest, I sucked at this game when I was younger. I probably didn’t get good at it until Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate. I started off pretty bad mainly because the game did a pretty poor job of explaining everything about the game. Sure, it gave me the basics but skimped on a lot of details. With the 1st generation, their wasn’t any complex weapon tutorials so using weapons that all worked different from each other took at lot of getting used to. Mastering the dual blades isn’t the same as mastering the hammer. Each weapon was different and took getting used to, but part of the fun was learning the intricacies of all the game’s weapons.

As mentioned earlier, this isn’t the only version of the game. The second version is known as Monster Hunter G. It basically was an enchanced version of Monster Hunter. It didn’t introduce any brand new bosses, in fact all of the new bosses were “Sub-Species”. Sub-Species are basically palette swaps, yet they possess new abilities, attacks, or elements. Maybe palette swap is a bad description, they are more like “Well-Constructed Counterfeits”. They also retooled the skill system. Originally, you would only get skills if you wore the right type of armor but now your special skills were dictated by the amount of points you had in that specific skill. Also, the game introduced two new levels of weapon sharpness. Before, the only levels of weapon sharpness were red, yellow, and green. This game introduced us to two new levels of sharpness: Blue and white. With these levels of sharpness your hunter was able to pierce bosses with rougher hides. The game also introduced G Rank quests, which would become a standard for every Monster Hunter game to come. You see, in the first game there was only Low Rank and High Rank quests, but with G Rank you can participate in quests that are 20 times as hard.

Monster Hunter G also introduced Kokoto Farm, a special area where you can gather items without doing quests. You can use the farm to create duplicates of plants or mine ore outside of quests. This was a very welcome feature, as it did make it so you wouldn’t have to repeat as many quests just to get materials. Monster Hunter G also introduced a much need Training School where you could hone your skills and become good at the game. Finally, the game introduced Felyne Chefs who would cook you foot inbetween quests. Choosing certain food options would give you much needed stat buffs. Monster Hunter G was only released in Japan, unlike the original version of the game.

And then came the last version of the game: Monster Hunter Portable AKA Monster Hunter Freedom. Monster Hunter Freedom was a portable version of Monster Hunter G and was actually released in America unlike G. It’s the same game as G and it’s the only one way to play the game in America. Monster Hunter G was also released on Wii, but again only in Japan. The 1st Generation was surprisingly solid. Even though I sucked at it, I couldn’t say that I hated it. It was one of the most fun PSP games I ever played despite being immensely hard. I’ll be sure to talk about the other generations at a later date.