Sakura Wars: School of Paris Review


The Sakura Wars marathon continues as we now focus completely on the France division. Aside from Ogami that means it’s time for a completely new team to shake things up. The OVA has 3 episodes so it’s definitely a pretty quick experience but that’s enough time to get all of the characters introduced. It looks like the team will have a fun dynamic. I certainly wouldn’t put these guys above the original Flower Division or the hype New York Branch quite yet but it’s definitely early as I’ve been with those guys for many hours while this group only about an hour so far.

The first episode focuses on Erica and Glycine meeting up for the first time. Glycine has royal heritage from her Viking ancestors so she believes in always holding her ground and behaving in a prim and proper fashion. Meanwhile Erica is more of a spacey person who gets distracted easily. She is a little more capable than she lets on though as Erica is actually a member of the Paris division. A group of secret fighters who protect the country from alien monsters who would attack it. Unlike Japan, Paris isn’t attacked very often but the government wants to be ready as they fear the attacks will soon increase in intensity. It’s why they are looking to bring Ogami in but at the moment their group is pretty small. In fact, Erica may have been the only member.

It’s a pretty fun way to start the OVA. Erica is a fun enough lead and her banter with Glycine is good. We also get a solid action scene in the museum which gets pretty intense. The monster was actually giving them a pretty good fight here. It’s why I always advise not having a gun as your main weapon because it will always be limited in how much damage the bullets can deal unless you are somehow able to augment their abilities. Otherwise you’re just not going to win the big battles. Fortunately for Erica, Glycine was able to use her super strength to turn the tides.

The second episode is more of an elaborate chase. So there is a villain known as Lobelia who seems to have the same spirit energy as the main heroines. Unfortunately she uses it for evil though as she is a burglar although the government says she performs just about every kind of crime. They’ve decided to take her down alive so they can force her to join the other heroes. It won’t be easy though so the two political leaders decide to have a chess match while waiting. The episode has a lot of subtext going on here as the chess battle mimics the actual events. It’s also pretty interesting to see onw of the future Sakura War members actually be a villain. She may be forced into helping them out but it doesn’t mean that she’s happy about it.

While not as solid as the first episode this is still a pretty reasonable follow up. I always like being able to see the actual powers on display since that gets a lot more focus in the game than in the actual OVAs and shows. Lobelia’s abilities are definitely the real deal with her master over fire. It’s pretty impressive how long she is able to elude the heroes and even to the end her reaction times served her well. I may not really be a fan of the character but she would definitely add quite a lot to the overall dynamic.

Then we’ve got the final episode which probably does end up having the most action. So the team is finally all united with the various members. Ogami is running them through a typical practice session when the robot ends up being corrupted by the clown villain. The Team has to then try and team up to take it down but this robot’s actually pretty tough and most of the members don’t have their robots ready. As a result it’s really Erica and Ogami doing their best to take it down. The fight switches between hand drawn and CGI a lot which makes for a pretty interesting action sequence. You definitely couldn’t have ended with a more fitting episode. You’ve now got the team assembled and also got to see what they’ve got against a true villain even if most of them were caught resting on their laurels here.

With only 3 episodes not all of the characters get a lot of development quite yet though. Coquelicot for example joined the group later on but doesn’t have much to do yet. We know that she likes animals but haven’t gotten to see much more than that. I can only assume that she is able to fight pretty well with the spirit power but we’ll have to wait and see that. Then you’ve got Hanabi who seems rather timid and trying to get over a recent death. She’s very polite and seems like a pretty kind hearted soul who’s a little in over her head. She doesn’t get a focus yet either.

Mainly the OVA is trying to give the screen time to the main 3 plus Ogami. Ogami definitely looks pretty good here even if it does seem like he’s not ready to handle this group yet. They’ve already started driving him crazy and he’s brand new there. I can only imagine how it’ll be for him soon. He probably just misses the gang but maybe he’ll warm up to these guys soon. In the meantime his sword skills are as good as ever.

As mentioned, Erica is a fun enough lead. She can maybe be a bit too oblivious at times and doesn’t have her priorities straight at times but at least she is good when it comes time to fight. She’s definitely experienced there. Glycine was definitely my favorite character here. I like her confidence and she was ready to jump right into the action when needed. She also doesn’t put up with Lobelia’s attitude the way the rest of the characters do. One thing she definitely does not tolerate is disrespect.

As for Lobelia, I do typically like when the characters show a lot of attitude and are rebellious. Lobelia fits those qualifications but at the same time her bar adventures are pretty suspect at best. She definitely goes all in on keeping her edge as she refuses to help even when her teammates are in trouble and about to be blown up. At least they definitely know where they stand with her. I imagine she’ll soften up a little more with the rest of the group eventually but for now even Sumire would have to be impressed with how antagonistic she is.

The animation is pretty solid here. You can definitely tell that it’s a bit newer than the last few. The colors are sharp and it’s all smooth. For the fight scenes it is interesting that they’re using more CGI. It’s definitely noticeable but CGI can work well. I’ll never put it quite above the classic hand drawn but it’s still good enough where I’d say the fight scene with the robots was pretty solid. It’s nice to see the mechs looking pretty fast now and having some real fight scenes here.

The OVA definitely leaves you with a good amount of questions to wonder about for the future. The villain appears briefly here as a clown but other than that we don’t really know anything about him. Most of this you’re not supposed to figure out as this is a supplementary OVA to the game as opposed to adapting the whole thing. It’s a pretty fun thing about these materials because if you own the game you can really pop these episodes in and have the complete experience. I’d definitely be down with more series doing this where you get to see the characters a little more in different scenarios.

Overall, The Paris Division is off to a pretty solid start. The Sakura Wars series is still in good hands here. The group dynamic may be a bit weaker but it’s always hard to catch up to the original bunch. I definitely hope we can have a crossover with the original cast from the Japan branch someday. After all we know without a doubt that these guys are in the same universe so I don’t think it’s too far fetched or anything like that. They just need to go ahead and do it. I think it would definitely be a pretty big hit. Hopefully we can also get more Sakura War titles licensed in the U.S.

Overall 7/10

Happy Birthday To Me Review

This review is of the edited TV-14 version of the film. All thoughts below should be addressed as such as a review of the unedited version would be more negative

This movie definitely has one of the more disturbing posters you’re likely to see around that’s for sure. Right away you can probably tell that this film is not going to end well and you’d be right. It’s your classic slasher title as the villain takes everyone out one by one. The main draw here is figuring out who the murderer is as there are plenty of suspects. All of these guys feel like people who may be guilty so no character is innocent here. We’ll see if you can figure out who did it.

So the movie starts by introducing us to a nice little town. In this town there’s a school with the Big 10, the students who are destined for greatness. Some of them got this status through money…well just about all of them to be honest and a few with good ole fashioned hard work. They like to mess with people as a clique by harassing people and showing a general disregard for public safety. Someone clearly doesn’t like this because members of the Big 10 keep getting murdered one after another. Some of them start suspecting foul play while others treat it all like an elaborate joke. There’s a whole lot of plot convenience here as well I should add.

The main character here is Ginny. She’s a member of the group but is fairly new to the town and is still getting used to being a rebellious person. She has just recovered from a traumatic event involving the death of her Mother but is finally ready for society again. Unfortunately these murders are having a pretty bad effect on her psyche. In fact, Ginny believes that she may be the one doing these murders but can’t find a way to prove it. The whole thing is driving her insane and her “friends” only seem to care about how they can use this momentary weakness to get together with her as a rebound. With nobody to turn to and her father away on another business trip Ginny is definitely in a pretty bad spot here.

One of the big problems with the film is just how unlikable everyone is. Part of this is the film going out of its way to make everyone suspicious but because of that there is nobody to root for. One of the big 10 for example has a creepy fascination with wax modes as he even creates some based on the girl who just went missing and did it in a violent fashion. Not exactly the kind of guy you want as a friend right? Another guy is a player who gets together with everyone all the time. Everyone is constantly trying to manipulate the others or just hooking up with everyone one after another. Ginny isn’t exactly removed from that either and doesn’t look much better. These are all deeply flawed characters to the point where none of them are even remotely likable. It’s just unfortunate.

Ginny also doesn’t put herself in a great position to try and keep some distance from the murders. She keeps on meeting up with different guys by herself. Not exactly the best plan. Of course it’s not hard since all the guys seem to like her but she should be the one avoiding these scenarios. It’s one of those films where you feel like it may not have made a difference to be honest but it still would have been nice to see her trying. Even the scene where she runs into the graveyard by herself is kind of suspect. Why distance yourself from the group like that when it’s so late at night? The fact that she lives in the middle of the forest is also pretty crazy. I suppose it’s one of those things where it probably looks better when you’re not watching a horror film but it doesn’t help here.

It goes without saying that the movie is definitely very violent. Each of the characters are murdered in very violent ways. Nobody gets what you’d call a simple death here, they all have to really go through the wringer so you can tell that the murderer really doesn’t like these guys either. They just can’t catch a break. It does raise some questions later on when you actually know what’s going on though. It also reminds you why you need to keep your guard up at times. In the very first murder, I don’t care who it is but you were just being choked by someone with black gloves and then someone with the same pair appears to help you…..suspicious right? This character didn’t think so until it was too late unfortunately. Not every murder was careless like that but another one involving weights was pretty suspect. This character is literally not saying a word the entire time you’re talking. Isn’t that kind of odd?

So of course the writing is going for the classic moments like this. I’d have to give it a thumbs down though in large part to how bad the cast was. I think you can definitely try to make this kind of film without making the characters that unlikable. It was a bit excessive at times. The only good characters were some of the supporting characters like the headmaster. At least she was trying to get a handle on things and keep people out of trouble. She may not have been very successful but at least she tried.

The movie’s big reveal at the end will either be a genius move for you or you’ll roll your eyes. As I said, there are a lot of plot conveniences for this to work that’s for sure. The actual reveal I’m cool with because it’s a lot more interesting than the other routes but you do feel like the writing doesn’t hold up. One character looks pretty terrible the whole time though as he just panics and doesn’t do anything the whole time until it’s too late. It’s too bad because in the present he seemed good even if the flashbacks got tricky. Ultimately at least you don’t get the feeling that he was a bad person, it’s just that things would come up suddenly. The villain just took things way too intensely and ultimately there’s no excuse there. Villains will be villains I suppose.

Overall, I definitely wouldn’t recommend this. Happy Birthday to Me is really just your classic teen slasher. If I had to compare it to a film it’s probably most like I Know What You Did Last Summer in terms of how bad the main cast is. Whenever you have a film with no likable characters you know that things are not going to end well. You need some good characters or your film’s going to fall through just like this one did. No amount of shock value is really going to help to cover that up. As soon as members of the Big 10 were all getting bumped off though I would have moved away if I were the rest of the kids. We’ve already established that they’re rich so that’s the best thing to do. Just jet out of there! I’d also ask for Police Protection, the last thing I’ll do is head to the graveyard by myself again in the dead of night…..

Overall 1/10

Attack of the Crab Monsters Review


Whenever you see a title like this you know you’re going to be in for a good time. They just don’t make creature features like this one anymore. At the same time Roger Corman usually only delivers pretty bad film experiences at least from the titles that I’ve seen so this was really a close one. Would it be amazing, terrible, or somewhere in the middle? I wasn’t sure if I was ready to find out but then it was time to dive in and it actually worked out quite well. This is definitely his definitive title at the moment.

The movie starts by introducing us to the main cast. They’re not exactly the most memorable characters but you’ll quickly get the dynamic. You’ve got the main heroine Martha who is an experienced biologist. She is going to an island along with fellow scientists Dale, Hank, and a few other people. This group is trying to do some research on the radiation that covered this island not too long ago. I feel like they should have protective suits but I suppose at this time it wasn’t really known quite how long radiation would tend to linger in the area. Well, everything appears normal at first until it turns out that the radiation has changed the Crabs in the area. Now there are huge Crabs roaming the area and murdering people left and right. The heroes want to get off the island but it isn’t really an option at the moment because of huge storms. When you try to escape your plane either blows up or you fall into the ocean and get obliterated. Making things worse is the fact that they can hear the voices of their dead friends.

One thing that really differentiated this from your classic monster film is the whole ghosts aspect. Now it seems like there are ghosts around but there’s actually a great deal of intelligence on the crabs part making it seem that way. Here’s where things get pretty interesting. The film has an Invasion of the Bodysnatchers element to it on top of the classic Godzilla action. There’s even a bit of a mental thriller aspect here. So the Crabs have the ability to mimic the people they murder as well as hold onto their memories. They turn these people into their arms of sorts and also get regeneration. It’s sort of like a hivemind of sorts. Once you are absorbed you can say goodbye to being a good guy. It made the enemies so much more interesting than they would usually be. I mean, a giant monster running around blowing people up works well too but I just liked this spin on things.

One of the best scenes in the film is when one character goes outside after hearing his friend call out to him. Now you do have to excuse the fact that this guy isn’t very smart at all since the “friend” is saying a lot of suspicious stuff like coming alone to the abandoned cave in the middle of the night and not to tell anyone. That should throw up a few red flags right? I mean…what friend would tell you that? Well, the guy goes anyway and does the whole “Where are you” yells while looking around. That’s when you hear the guy say “Right here man” in a very calm voice as a giant claw shows up and ends the guy. It’s a pretty intense scene partially because it’s so unexpected. I mean, you know foul play was involved from the start but I just wasn’t expecting these mastermind Crabs. It was really quite genius.

Now, that’s not to say that the movie is perfect of course. The writing is pretty solid but the characters are all very lacking in common sense. You wonder how they became such top notch scientists because they make a lot of mistakes here. Splitting up, entering abandoned caves, etc. Even by the end Hank gets way closer to the giant Crab than he needs to. You could have done the plan from a better distance. Then you’ve got Dale who is always trying to keep Martha out of the action but leaving her by herself isn’t really going to help her out much. I also question the scene with the Giant Crab in the closet and his reaction. He basically panicked and ran out but did the whole “Can’t tell you what’s going on” to Martha and split. You should probably mention the Giant Crab right away.

The movie has some pretty intense scenes like one guy’s head literally getting taken out but the film’s usually not very gruesome. It can be surprisingly intense for its age but it’s nothing too drastic so you should be okay. The Crabs just don’t take any prisoners and I could have told you that. I suppose the worst thing you can say about the film is that it’s fairly forgettable. The characters are all very traditional with personalities that just don’t stick. Martha’s a nice lady who knows a lot about science but does faint if things get too difficult. Dale is the everyday man of the group who does his best to cope with the situation but tends to snap a lot. Then you have Hank who can come up with ideas at times but isn’t even the smart one of the group because everyone here is relatively smart. Then there are two sailors who are around but you know that they’re doomed from the start.

The most annoying character is easily the oldest scientist. So he figures out that something is wrong almost immediately but refuses to say anything about it. He keeps telling the other characters that they’ll know eventually but that’s not very helpful in a life or death situation. He kind of goes out like a chump too. I dunno what the guys deal was. To me it felt like half the time he wanted the humans to lose to the Crabs but when he got bumped off he didn’t seem too keen on the idea anymore. Maybe the whole thing just played out better in his head? That’s the only explanation I can think of but it didn’t do him any wonders. Makes for some fun dynamics though.

Overall, Attack of the Crab Monsters is a pretty surreal film. It works really well though in large part due to how original it is. You just don’t see movies like this with the monsters actually having master plans and overwhelming the heroes like this. The main monster basically acted like a tactical genius and I suppose it makes sense with how many people he’s absorbed. The voices added to the effect and the movie just passes by real quickly. The characters aren’t very smart but I wouldn’t dock points for the film from that. The writing is still a lot of fun and this just feels like a very balanced movie. You really can’t go wrong here.

Overall 7/10

Need For Speed Rivals Review


Well, at long last the Need for Speed marathon is now over. Rivals was the last one I owned that I had not yet played so this was quite the milestone. It’s been a lot of fun racing around and Rivals definitely does feel like a lot of effort was put into it. The graphics are definitely top notch and there’s a whole lot to do here. You have fast travel here which is always a must for games where the hub world is so huge. The story may be a bit weak but you’re here for the gameplay and definitely will not be disappointed.

The game starts off by asking if you want to play as the rebels or the cops this time around. I went with rebels since I played as the cops last time. Please note that you can switch sides at any time. Ideally the game is hoping you’ll go ahead and complete both stories. As it is, each side is fairly long so the game did a good job of really making sure the purchase was worth the money. I don’t think it would be possible for you to beat this game in under 10 hours for example. On the Rebels side the plot is basically that the main guy is trying to prove that it’s best to live life on the edge getting your 15 minutes at a time as he breaks all of the rules. The cops begin getting more and more desperate to catch him. Then you have the cops who are doing everything they can to take this rebel down but it’s proving to be difficult. They’re also having to deal with a lot of copycat racers so all of those guys need to go down and fast.

The game has a lot of different ways to race. You’ve got the standard races, time trials, pursuit races which is a race while being chased by the cops, and Interceptor which is a 1 on 1 battle with you and a police car. Each chapter is divided into missions and each mission is divided into a few tasks. For example one mission might be to win 3 races, clear one time trial, and earn 100K. Once you do all of that then the mission is completed and you will move onto the next set. I like the clear plot progression here as well as the fact that none of them feel all too crazy to me. The tasks are all pretty achievable even if they may take some time. The toughest set always seemed to be the drifting ones so I didn’t even try those. Typically you’re given 3 options on which set of tasks you want to complete and I would go for the racing focused ones. They just seemed the most direct.

I’d say the game took around 12-15 hours but I suppose it’s hard to say exactly. The final race in particular was a really tough one that took me quite a few tries. You have to drive over 30 miles nonstop in order to reach the end and if you made a wrong call or had a bad bump then there’s a chance you would lose and have to start from scratch. Let me tell you, starting from scratch is never fun. Still, since it’s the final level I can give it a pass. None of the other levels are nearly so long and it does make sense that you would want the final level to be a challenge. This game actually had far better pacing than most other Need for Speed games with how the levels go so I have to give a lot of kudos there. I also liked the variety. This was just a really well balanced game.

Part of what makes it work is how interactive the hub world is. It just feels alive with cars moving around at all time and the cutting edge graphics. As I mentioned earlier the game looks amazing. Definitely what you would expect form a next gen title. The soundtrack was also not all that annoying this time around which is great. The franchise is not usually known for having a good amount of solid themes so it’s something that can always be a bit concerning. This way there wasn’t really anything to worry about. When you pack on the replay value then you’ve definitely got a bargain here.

At its core what makes Rivals so good is of course the gameplay. It’s all very smooth and you feel in control of the car. I like that you unlock cars which you can use and buy them with cash but there isn’t the crazy level of customization that other titles have. I don’t mind a little customization of course but after a point you want to be able to just jump into a car and start driving instead of always wondering how you can optimize it. This one leaves things reasonably automatic as well which I think is a great middle ground. The game also has a lot of items at the ready here as you can attack with mines and shockwaves as well as protect yourself with Jammers and stuff like that. Items can work quite well when used the right way. For racers I really don’t mind not having any gimmicks but I won’t complain about them either.

Overall, Need For Speed: Rivals is a great game. It really captures the essence of the series and executes on every angle quite brilliantly. There is no part of the game that I would shake my head at. Even the story which can be a bit overdramatic as you follow a lead who is so far from being a hero that you can’t root for him, is okay in the end. At least it doesn’t drag on which I appreciate. You don’t get to see a whole lot of cutscenes but at least each one has a direct purpose. If you’re looking for a good racing game to pick up then I would definitely recommend this one. You really can’t go wrong with Rivals.

Overall 8/10

Pinkie Pie vs Goomba




Suggested by Destroyer Finally it’s time for the Goomba to show up and give these characters the work. Pinkie Pie is a pretty tough pony and a proud member of the Mane 6, but is she really ready to handle this Goomba? I have some doubts at first since Goomba can turn giant and has a lot of determination but in the end I’d say that she has this. Her Party Cannon really does wonders as well as her brief energy manipulation in Equestria Girls. A compact energy blast should take care of this guy. Pinkie Pie wins.

Pinkie Pie vs Thumbelina (DC)




Suggested by Destroyer Thumbelina has always been an interesting character. It’s great that she’s a crimefighter but the ability to turn small never really seems like a good thing. At least for Ant Man he keeps his relative strength but that isn’t quite the case for her. So Thumbelina’s best bet is actually not to use her powers. Either way that won’t be enough to win though although it may at least buy her a bit of time. At the end of the day I think that’s all she can really hope for here. Pinkie Pie wins.

Pinkie Pie vs Wybie Lovat




Suggested by Destroyer Poor Wybie has been taking some tough losses lately. It doesn’t look like that will end here as Pinkie Pie will put him through the wringer once more. Wybie has a bike but he has no defense for cannons or things or that nature. Pinkie Pie is very creative and always knows a few different ways to score a win. The most direct one here would probably just be to blast Wybie into next week. If he were a bit faster then maybe he could change things but as it stands I don’t see him being able to do much of anything. Pinkie Pie wins.

Pinkie Pie vs Python




Suggested by Destroyer A Python is a pretty deadly snake but not one that will give Pinkie Pie a lot of trouble. She’s certainly gone up against deadlier opponents in her days and lived to tell about them. She has her human form with some magical abilities as well as her Party Cannon from Equestria. A Python isn’t really much of a fighter so even if it tries to escape I don’t see things going very well for it. Pinkie Pie just has too many options at her disposal so she’ll be able to find a sound way to win by the end. Pinkie Pie wins.

Dracena vs Mothra




Suggested by Destroyer Dracena is a pretty powerful robotic monster but it hasn’t really gotten to do much of anything since the character was invented. When you think about it, his only moment of glory was the opening boss fight to Counterforce. Meanwhile Mothra has had many super forms such as Leo in the past which have given her a bunch of abilities. I don’t really see Dracena being able to keep up here as the difference in firepower will just be too vast. Mothra definitely takes this round and I don’t see Dracena being able to make a comeback. Mothra wins.