Reviews, TV Show Reviews, TV Shows

Cardfight Vanguard (2018) Review


It’s time to take a look at the recent Cardfight Vanguard reboot that came out. The franchise has definitely done pretty well for itself over the years. It’s got numerous seasons, multiple movies, and a solid manga. I suppose it was about time the franchise took a step back to redo the first season to get that nostalgia in. This time they’re adapting the manga adaption of the original season so there are some differences to be sure. This title effectively covers the first 3 seasons of Vanguard in one shot but it’s a very loose adaption since otherwise cramming 3 seasons into 1 would have been pretty crazy.

The show starts by introducing us to a kid named Aichi. He’s a pretty timid guy who has no friends, but one day he is introduced to the world of Vanguard by a kid named Kai. Fast forward a few years and while Aichi is still timid, Vanguard has helped him gain confidence and actually make some good friends. The timing was fortunate since a villain group by the name of Asteroid has shown up and they are twisting the game into something painful. They force the duelists to wear gloves that shock you every time you take a hit and are taking over all of the card shops. Aichi has to stop them while hanging onto his joy of the game.

That’s the first arc and it’s the famous one that introduces Ren. From the various arcs I’d say that this one is the least changed from the original series. The series does a good job of introducing us to the characters and slowly expanding the cast. Aichi is a solid main character as always and I dare say that he gets to be a good character even quicker in this version than in the original. He becomes pretty confident during arc 1 and by the end of it is already known as a world class fighter. Once he obtains Psyqualia he definitely doesn’t back down to anyone and he isn’t afraid to fight it out with Ren.

Ren is still a super solid villain as always. He’s definitely a little insane in the first arc as he tries to act like he’s not the villain at times, but that can only go so far. Even if you plead innocence, you’re a villain if you’re the leader of the group that is terrorizing everyone. You can’t just look the other way and expect it all to fade. Ren’s definitely talented and tends to win most of his duels. The other characters are just seriously outmatched against him and Psyqualia is still as broken an ability as it always was.

Kai is still a cool rival as always. Due in part to the fact that the series has to go through the early arcs pretty quickly there is less time for him to show everyone up. He still gets a lot of wins of course, but I’d say that he isn’t quite as untouchable as he used to be. He also mellows out a little bit faster. He’s still one of the best characters of course, but this time instead of being my favorite character he was actually surpassed by someone. Kai gets a good role in all of the arcs though so I was glad about that.

Misaki gets a big role as well since she is featured in all of the arcs and is a central figure in the high school arc. Her memory method of dueling is still super useful and she saves the day quite a lot. Misaki gets a lot of character development and is definitely one of the more well rounded characters in the series. Kamui gets less of an active role here, but he actually gets to act as a coach for quite a bit of the final arc. His fans will likely still be a little disappointed that he isn’t actually on the front lines dueling, but at least he is still shown to be a great duelist.

Tetsu definitely feels pretty sinister in this series. He’s basically the reason why Asteroid turned evil in the first place so it’s hard to feel all that sympathetic for him when the losses start piling on. The characters let him off the hook for being evil pretty quick so you’re glad that at least someone got to knock him off his high horse. He’s a solid duelist for sure, but he doesn’t have the same passion that the others have. Meanwhile Asaka is still a lot of fun and she has one of the most emotional duels in the series. Her battle against Ren while being mind controlled was definitely intense. She’s certainly the most loyal of the antagonists and while she never really gets to have any big wins she is still quite skilled.

Kyou actually got a much bigger role than I would have expected. He tails Aichi around for a while to learn how to wield Psyqualia and eventually is able to access it even if it is a forced activation. He has a lot of confidence and has a lot of good duels. Once his spirit is broken he still gets to show up at times and does a better job of getting back into the mix than even some of the big characters like Kai. He’ll continue to have a role in the next season.

Alas, characters like Leon don’t get nearly as big a role as they had in the original. That’s partially because of the 3 seasons, season 2 was definitely abridged the most. Most of it simply didn’t end up coming through into the remake so that’s to be expected. Leon still gets a good duel though and while he may not have gotten to make much of an impact in the story, at least he appeared right? Better to show up and not do much than to miss out altogether.

The second half of the show is about the High School arc. Aichi decides to form a Cardfight Club and thanks to help from Naoki is able to assemble a full squad. The squad is Aichi, Kourin, Misaki, Naoki, and Shingo. Together they are ready to enter some big tournaments, but their plans are put on hold when a new villain threatens to destroy Vanguard once more. His name is Takuto and he has the ability to control the soul of anyone he defeats in a match. Likewise anyone he defeats can then go and defeat someone else to continue this cycle. Then you’ve also got Kouji who is going around deleting opponents. When he defeats someone that person is cut off from Vanguard and can never enjoy the game again. Aichi has to stop these guys, but can he do it on his own?

This is really the arc that stands out in the series because it really doesn’t have a whole lot to connect it to the original. There are a lot of elements from the Link Joker arc in here, but it’s handled completely differently. Kouji also throws a lot of wrenches into Takuto’s plans which is always cool. The arc definitely has the highest stakes out of all the arcs and it’s a nice way to get the full cast in on the action. Even in the original series the Link Joker arc was the best. It’s just hard to top because it serves as a final tribute to all of the original characters like Kai and Ren as they get their big battles.

Kourin has always been the best member of the idol trio and that continues here. She actually likes Vanguard and does her best to resist the mind control. She made for a good teammate and was a valuable member of the club. As with the original series she gets a bit of a sad ending here, but at least there is actually hope for her since the next season will be continuing the plotline. I still don’t care for Suiko and think of her as a total villain. She’s more like Tetsu as she is totally on board with these crazy plans and doesn’t even care about being a nice person like Kourin. Rekka is in the same boat. While she doesn’t seem as overtly corrupt as Suiko, you can tell that she’s got her own agenda going on.

Naoki is still one of the better characters in the series and his intro is pretty great. He may be a newcomer to the game, but he does try hard to learn the rules and is quick to help Aichi out. He’s one of the more determined characters in the series and added a nice spark to the main cast. He’s one of the highlights of the final arc and I hope to see him continue to get a big role in the upcoming episodes. In comparison Shingo’s character is still more of a miss for me. There’s not a whole lot to his character’s personality and there’s not much about him to make the guy all that likable. He never gets a big moment where he finally gets to prove himself.

Takuto is the main villain so naturally he gets quite a few moments to shine. He’s definitely a tough duelist to beat and his cards have a lot of crazy super powers. I’d like to have seen Kouji take him on a second time but they did fight once so we already know what the outcome would be like. Takuto makes for a good mastermind behind the shadows so the “Concert Master” title is definitely pretty fitting. He’s definitely a much better character when in his pure evil form.

Finally you’ve got Kouji. He’s easily the best character in the series and I was impressed by just how cool he was. Every scene with him is incredibly intense and he gets some of the best fights in the series. His duels against Kai, Aichi, and Takuto are among my favorite fights in the series. They’re all just incredible and I think part of what makes Kouji work is his absolute confidence. He’s basically just a random guy who walked into a battle between worlds and he took the whole thing in stride. Kouji isn’t worried about what is going on for a minute. He just strolls in and takes names. That’s the kind of villain that you want to have. He’s a chaotic wild card and there aren’t a whole lot of series that can pull this off. He takes down the main villain and the rival. I can’t think of a single other time where something even close to that has happened. He’s like a secret final boss.

As always the animation is definitely quite solid here. The character designs are on point and the colors are sharp. You can really get into the intense cardfight battle animations and it’s all just very bright. The soundtrack is also pretty solid. It’s not quite as off the walls as the original series, but there are several hype themes like Kouji’s delete theme. They help to set the stage for the match and the music properly amplifies the experience. A good soundtrack should always make every scene even better.

This series is just awesome. Once the climax starts in both arcs it’s basically a nonstop roller coaster of intense scenes from start to finish. I’ve always loved card game shows and this one has all of the good qualities involved. The duels have a lot of strategy and it’s nice seeing how many different kinds of decks you can build. The main cast is pretty strong and the writing is on point. Even the episodes that are just for character development end up being entertaining and that’s what makes for a good series. It achieves success in every tone it goes for.

Overall, Cardfight Vanguard (2018) is an excellent title. It’s also a nice way of recapping the first 3 seasons if you don’t have time to watch that many episodes. You can watch this one and jump right into Legion Mate without much of a problem. It’ll be interesting to see how far the series goes with this. The next season seems like it’ll be a totally original story at this point. Then we’ll either get a G remake or the series will do something else. As long as the franchise continues to go on I’ll be fine with whatever they decide to do next. So I definitely recommend this series. Whether you jump in as a newcomer or you just want to relive the original days it will definitely satisfy your needs.

Overall 8/10

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Live Action Movie Reviews, Live Action Movies, Reviews

Poseidon (2006) Review


It’s time to look at the remake to the original Poseidon film. It’s a pretty faithful remake although it does take its own twists and turns. The basic plot and resolution are unchanged, but the movie takes some liberties with the characters. I’m always up for that since a word for word remake doesn’t have a whole lot of point if you ask me. We’ve already seen it once so throw in a few wrinkles if you’re gonna do it again.

The film starts off with all of the characters getting on the Poseidon boat. They are looking forward to a nice relaxing cruise. All of the characters are here for different reasons. Some are literally along for the ride while others are here for the excitement. One guy even came here to die. Well, all of their plans go haywire when the boar is struck by a powerful wave and goes upside down. While most of the people on the ship decide to stay in the lobby since the pilot thinks they’ll be okay, Dylan has other ideas. He aims to get off the boat right away by going to the bottom which is now on top. Robert decides to follow him because his daughter is trapped in one of the rooms up ahead. There are 2 main plots here since half of the main characters are trapped and the others are trying to get to him.

With ensemble casts the main thing the film has to get right at all costs is making the characters good. Fortunately this one is able to pull that off. I won’t say that I liked all of the characters, but it was definitely a strong cast. We also get a good amount of time to each plot and the film manages to keep up the tension the whole way through. The length is basically perfect as it doesn’t end too soon nor does it drag on. I dare say that the writing may have even been better than the original’s. I definitely did enjoy it more than the first although it is pretty close. I just think this one was able to take advantage of the modern effects more which really helps for a local disaster film like this one.

Seeing the wave hit the ship is just handled really well. In general the rooms of the ship all look very realistic and the explosions are handled well. You can tell that no expense was spared on this film. I’m also glad that nobody randomly brought a pet on board as that would have hurt the immersion. The film also doesn’t really dwell on the violent scenes here. There are a ton of fatalities of course since almost everyone dies but while you see the bodies and such it is never too gruesome. The film focuses on the story and getting the characters through this.

Robert is the main character if you ask me although it’s meant to be pretty debatable. He’s a solid lead and I was definitely on his side with the Jennifer debates. While he might prefer to take the cautious route he definitely does whatever it takes to find her once Jennifer goes missing. Robert’s a very intelligent character who makes the right moves and is a natural leader. Without him the group would have definitely been in trouble. Then you’ve got Dylan who is the other side of the coin. He’s quick to think of plans and is physically able to get things done that the other characters would not be able to do. Robert’s the one who convinces the others to jump on board while Dylan thinks of the plans first. He is able to look at everything objectively and Dylan was definitely my favorite character. His character was just handled perfectly.

From the side characters Jennifer and Christian were definitely a lot weaker than the others. It was pretty insensitive of them to be constantly flirting when Robert was just trying to get a few days to relax. Jennifer was also wearing rather risque attire just to mess with him. (Well in her defense it seems like she was oblivious, but considering how quickly it happens after the last scene it’s hard to take seriously) Christian doesn’t really get anything to do. It is pretty impressive that he was able to swim so well after being pinned under a bunch of debris for so long though.

Richard is the old man of the group and he came close to jumping overboard near the beginning. This disaster helps him learn to keep on fighting, but what may hurt how much you like him as a character is when he sends someone else off to their doom. Keep in mind that Dylan was encouraging him, but ultimately Richard is the one who made the choice to kick the guy off. Since that chef was the one who suggested Richard go first it was a really big betrayal. He never saved himself from that.

Elena started out real good, but started sinking later on. Elena snuck on board the ship, but is one of the first to try and help once Christian is pinned down. She seemed like a really nice character and definitely was a good supporting one although she also had a tendency to get scared a lot and did nearly cause the team to die on several occasions. Maggie is solid as well but is more consistent and does a good job of hanging in there even while her son is constantly messing up. Conor is definitely pretty terrible imo, but the kids rarely end up ranking for me. They just hold everyone back and running out on everyone near the climax was extremely foolish.

Then you’ve got Lucky Larry who I guess was a slight homage to the Texan from the first film. Either way Larry looks really bad here. He just shows up to taunt the heroes quite a lot and then dies as soon as you would expect. If anything he’s just here for some grim humor although I’d say he was handled well. There’s almost no way you’ll like the character, but that’s basically the point. He’s no hero and he’s not going to get any noteworthy scenes. He’s just here to cause trouble and slow everyone down.

Overall, Poseidon is definitely a fun film. It’s the kind of fast paced disaster film that really holds up well. There’s a lot of replay value here since the scenes don’t drag and something is always happening. Even from a pure visual perspective I’m sure there is a lot here to re-watch. If you haven’t seen this film yet then I recommend checking it out. As long as you like a good action title or just enjoy a solid ensemble film then you’ll like this one. Naturally it’s the kind of film where not everyone survives so you can also try and make some predictions on who will make it.

Overall 7/10

Live Action Movie Reviews, Live Action Movies, Reviews

A Star is Born (1954) Review


It’s time to look at the second adaption of A Star is Born. The film plays it pretty straight compared to the first movie so there aren’t a lot of changes. Mainly it’s the heroine’s backstory that has been altered for this one. In the first film she had a modest upbringing and wanted to follow her dreams of being a movie star. In this one she is already a pretty talented singer but is then given the opportunity to be a star thanks to being noticed by Norman Maine. She can’t turn down an opportunity like that right?

The basic plot revolves around both Norman and Esther. Norman used to be a very big star, but he became an alcoholic and ever since then his talents have suffered. Nobody wants to work with him at this point and even though he is under contract that may not be the case for long. One night he spots Esther and decides that she is someone who should be a part of Hollywood. He gets her the audition and her talents take her the rest of the way. They get married, but the problem is that Esther’s fame quickly eclipses Norman and his ego isn’t ready for this. He starts going back into his spiral of doom and threatens to destroy both of their careers once and for all.

This movie does try to make Norman a little less antagonistic although his being drunk is a crucial part of the movie. In the original he broke Esther’s Oscar statue while at least here is showed some restraint there. Still, he’s not a character that you are likely going to root for. He is simply too far gone and from the start he gets hurt too quickly when people don’t recognize him. Even in the first minutes of the film before Esther is introduced he is already getting himself into a lot of trouble. As the judge says later on, he got a lot of advantages that nobody else had and yet he squandered them all. Even at the end of the film he takes the easy way out. Sure, he was doing it for Esther’s sake so he wouldn’t sabotage her anymore, but at the same time that’s also saying that he couldn’t stop his bad habits.

As for Esther, she’s definitely a solid character. I’d say that she was more likable here than in the first film as well. As she was already a singer she was well equipped for Hollywood from the start. She never felt out of her depth or anything like that and dived right into the action. Even once the difficulties with Norman started to arise she always put it behind her and acted as always. Once it became obvious that her success wasn’t helping matters she was willing to throw it all away to help him. Esther’s definitely a selfless heroine and one that is easy to root for.

Libby serves as one of the antagonists here to an extent. He may be Norman’s agent, but he definitely doesn’t like the guy. He waits for the day it all catches up to Norman and seems to be bitter about all the times Norman threw him through windows or caused a general mess of things. He gloats a lot by the end. He’s a pretty fun character and definitely made sure Norman did not recover. Meanwhile Niles is a guy from Hollywood who actually was looking out for Norman. He did his best all things considered. While he was not quite able to help him in the end you can’t say that he didn’t try.

Then you have Danny who is probably in the most tragic situation. He helped Esther get a career but was then thrown away once she had this gig. He was always trying to help her, but got friend zoned in favor of Norman. Still, he never stopped being her friend so that was definitely nice of him. Even by the end he is the one who comes in with the speech to finally help her get a hold of the situation.

As for the musical aspect of the film, it was okay although I can’t really say that the songs were my thing. They sounded well enough but the beats weren’t fast enough and the singers were only okay. You’re not going to find anyone at the level of “Let It Go” here. Not every film needs to have a standout number like that though. The scene of Esther running about the house showing her latest number to Norman also was maybe a tad too long. The musical did show restraint with the number of songs though, at times you may not have even known this was a musical to be honest. Songs are featured, but it’s not quite as constant as something like High School Musical. Of course, it helps that this movie is about 3 hours so you have time for both the songs and the plot.

The writing is pretty solid as well. The characters are pretty quick witted. Norman’s sudden personality shifts from being aggressive to normal are very rapid which works well for how his character went. The romance between him and Esther is pretty weak though. It’s hard to see it escalating so quickly considering that he almost ruined her dancing number and then comes across as very over the top. She goes from treating him as a nuisance right away to quickly becoming more than friends. It all happens so quickly and I dare say that the original one made more sense. At least there you could also say that it was part gratitude since he helped her from nearly being penniless to being a star. Here? He forgot about her for several weeks after convincing her to quit her job. She shouldn’t be all that grateful after such a turn of events.

Overall, A Star is Born has its solid moments, but still does suffer from a pretty weak ending. It’s definitely not a very satisfactory way to end the movie as in a sense Norman lost. He proved everyone else right and while Esther’s legacy hasn’t been tarnished, it would have been good for both of them to have gotten their win. Esther ensured that Norman wouldn’t be forgotten with her final line in the film so as always she did a good job of making the best of the situation. As the movie is also very long there isn’t a whole lot of replay value here, but it’s not a bad movie. It’s good for a one time watch at least and as long as you can get around the fact that you can’t root for Norman then I’d recommend checking it out.

Overall 5/10

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Godzilla 1985 Review


It’s time to look at one of the older Godzilla movies. This one brought Godzilla back in his most fearsome film yet. It’s easy to see why this new series of Godzilla movies really took off. People liked the originals quite a lot of course, but I think the world was ready for a more serious incarnation of the character. Personally I preferred the cheesier days, but I like the newer films as well. This one is fairly good, but still makes you end up missing having some other giant monsters for Godzilla to deal with. Just having the Big G on his own is not quite as exciting.

The film starts with someone wandering onto a boat and seeing that the whole crew has been murdered. A giant sea creature is responsible, but everyone decides to pin the blame on Godzilla instead. Honestly the big Kaiju was innocent this time around, but Godzilla decides to destroy all of Japan just to clear his name. Japan seems doomed, but that’s when America steps in. They decide that they’ll end the threat of Godzilla once and for all and prove that modern weaponry actually can make a difference in this fight.

I have to admit that the beginning was a lot more atmospheric than I expected it would be. The scene of the guy walking through the ship and encountering the alien like species was intense. It was like something out of a horror film. The scene was a little on the violent side with the corpses though. I think they could have been more subtle with the effects which would also work better with the horror vibe. This subplot never really amounted to much in the dub version either. You would barely even know it was concluded. Apparently it seems like the subplot was still wrapped up according to Wikipedia, but it was shortened to the point where it really just felt like filler.

On the positive side, it is always nice to see Godzilla. He appears for a reasonable amount of time here. It is unfortunate that he is more of a mindless monster here than the cunning Kaiju that we see him to be in other films. It really depends on the movie, but sometimes Godzilla is just a monster who is out for destruction and other times he actually has a will of his own. This movie seemed to be the former although he certainly made the most of it. This Godzilla was happy to crush anyone he could find and even his facial expression seemed a lot meaner than usual. His face was frozen in a glare throughout the entire movie. This was very clearly not a Kaiju that you could mess with.

For the human characters, I guess they were okay. They didn’t have a whole lot of personality, but ultimately were trying to do the right thing. The main character wasn’t particularly good at his job as he tends to talk aloud and spill government secrets. I can only assume that he will improve from here on out though. The heroine doesn’t really do much besides bring papers to the main characters and such while the old professor is busy telling everyone that you can’t beat Godzilla. As the Kaiju was ultimately defeated with ease he ended up looking bad.

The Cold War battles between the U.S. and Russia were pretty interesting here. It was nice to see us shoot their missile out of the sky and save the world. The U.S. ultimately did the most to save the world in this film. Not only did they save Japan from Russia but they also stopped Godzilla by pressuring him into the Volcano. I think it’s safe to say that they were the MVP here and that’s why it’s fun to have them around. There are many Godzilla films where you wonder how much quicker it would have finished if America had stepped up to the plate. Well…not we know.

On that note, I do have another issue with the climax. As mentioned, in this film they portray Godzilla as a mindless monster which allows the heroes to trick him. They play some bird sounds and throw it in the Volcano so Godzilla peers over and then they push him in with controlled explosions. That’s really not a very satisfying way to end that plot and I don’t think Godzilla should have gone down like that. He’s the King of the Monsters! A quick fall into a volcano shouldn’t do much and I don’t think he should have been lured to the edge so easily either. It was a bit iffy, but I guess they had to end the film somehow.

The special effects are pretty decent. The city shots have improved quite a bit compared to the Showa days. The actual suit seems to be about the same but the laser blasts are certainly more colorful. It looks like a strobe light show by the end as explosions of all colors start popping up as Godzilla torches the city. At one point the whole city appears to be in flames which was a nice touch as well. While the soundtrack is less noticeable, I did like the Godzilla roars as always.

There is one comic relief character who decides to rob some restaurants while Godzilla is nearby. Honestly it’s not a bad plan if you’re a villain since everyone evacuated so you’ve got the city to yourself. The problem for this guy is that he’s drunk so everything takes him forever and ultimately he ends up just getting stomped like everyone else. I do think the main characters did seem to surprisingly not care about the guy at all, but at that point all they could think of was surviving.

Overall, Godzilla 1985 isn’t a bad reboot. I think it was an unnecessary one though and the films should have just kept going from the Showa series. Ultimately this era would pick up steam as the monsters were introduced, but it was a bit of a rocky start. It’s a controversial opinion, but I believe Godzilla films are always best when there is another monster for Godzilla to face. When it’s just him then there isn’t as much tension or excitement since it’s not as if the government can do much against him. (Well…they win sometimes, but it’s still not as exciting) Still, the writing was on point and the pacing was good. This film is still worth a watch and if you can’t take Godzilla seriously then you should certainly watch this movie. It’s probably one of the darkest Godzilla films even if you might find it a little hard to take the movie too seriously with the voices. For the record, I enjoy the dubbing, it’s always pretty fun.

Overall 6/10

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Tomb Raider (2018) Review


It’s time to look at the new Tomb Raider film. It had a lot to live up to since the first two movies in the series were quite solid. It would also be starting at a disadvantage since the first two took place when she was a pro while this was a prequel where she was just starting out. Origin stories are never quite as good as the hero’s later adventures but maybe this one would be an exception. The first trailer was pretty solid after all. While the movie isn’t quite as good as it looked, it’s still a decently good movie. It just needed more scenes of Lara actually taking down the villains as opposed to letting her friend do most of the work.

The movie starts off with Lara losing a boxing match against who I assume must be the regional champ. She tries to pull herself together in time to win a race of catch the fox but loses there as well and is brought to the cops. Fortunately her family is rich so she gets to walk out with no repercussions. Her aunt tells her that she needs to sign the power of attorney to give the aunt all of the power within the company. Lara thinks that this is ludicrous. Not because the aunt will effectively be stealing the company away but because she resents the fact that her father died so early and wants to make it on her own. Still, money troubles don’t just go away so she made the tough call to accept the money. Her father left one last message in a puzzle with the will and it shows an island on it. Lara quickly jumps on this and dashes over with the help of a local guide. They have to stop an evil company from destroying the world by bringing back a plague with them. The issue is that Lara is just one person against a private army and her father certainly isn’t going to help. He’s not dead anymore, but his spirit is broken and that’s effectively the same thing.

We get quite a few action scenes here where Lara challenges the main villains in hand to hand combat. As a boxer she certainly does have some moves. While she can’t go up against groups of fighters anymore she can still manage some 1 on 1 fights well enough. The fights are close and there’s nothing fancy about them as it’s simply a fight to the death. The fights can be a little dark so it’s hard to see what’s going on, but they’re all right. A little below average compared to the average action film, but they serve their purpose. Seeing Lara use the bow and arrow briefly will definitely remind you of the Hunger Games.

As for Lara herself, she’s a good lead. At times the accents for some of the main characters including her can make it a little tough to understand them, but it seemed to be a realistic accent I suppose. It’s good that she’s always ready for a fight and is rather headstrong. I don’t really have any complaints about her. Hopefully for the sequel if we get one there will be a time skip just so she can be more powerful to keep up with her confidence. Her father is definitely irredeemable at this point though. Richard is annoying through every scene that he’s in. He leaves behind a tape with a ton of confidential blueprints that will help out the villains immensely and then blames Lara for bringing it along. What else did he actually think she would do? He references that she never likes doing what she is told so that wouldn’t change here. The worst part is that the villain organization already had an inside agent and there was a huge chance that they would have gotten the tape instead of Lara. Richard’s plan was just heavily short sighted from start to finish.

The main villain Mathias was very generic. He’s just another guy who works as a lackey for a richer guy in order to get an early retirement. He tries to have a mild sob story about how he can’t see his kids until the mission is done, but the film doesn’t even try to make him sympathetic. That’s a good thing since it never would have worked. He can’t really fight but has a lot of raw strength so he gives Lara a good match. There just isn’t too much to this guy and you just won’t remember him a few years down the line. He probably should have finished off Lara from the start since she was clearly a threat to his plans.

Finally we have Lu. He has a shaky start as he gave in to his drunk tendencies and doesn’t come across as very brave but mans up when the going gets tough. In the climax he actually does most of the work as he shoots down a bunch of guards and even takes down more fighters once he is out of ammo. The guy definitely seems like the low key MVP here and hopefully he got paid pretty well by Lara afterwards.

There is a cliffhanger at the end to set up the sequel. It’s fairly open ended though so while we know who the villains will be the plot can still revolve around anything. I think a sequel would be pretty solid so I’m game for that to show up soon. In theory we need a good rival for Lara soon though so maybe the corporate villains will hire an adventurer of their own in order to keep up. The film can really do anything at this point although Lara is certainly to blame for the villains getting a better foothold since her decision at the end didn’t really make any logical sense.

Overall, Tomb Raider is a film that’s very by the numbers. The action scenes aren’t all that good and while the main character is fun, she really doesn’t feel like Lara Croft for most of it. Ironically her first scene would have felt the most like her except for the fact that she was getting her boxing gloves handed to her in the fight. It’s based on the newer Tomb Raider game which is the weakest one in the series so it’s most likely due to the game’s influence but since the next movie might go its separate path things might be different. I’d still recommend this movie if you’re looking for a good action title though. You won’t be bored as the pacing is fairly good.

Overall 6/10

Live Action Movie Reviews, Live Action Movies, Reviews

Murder on the Orient Express Review


Murder on the Orient Express is definitely a classic book turned into movie format that was a lot of fun in its original version and keeps the same level of quality in the remake. It’s a pretty faithful adaption as while it does take liberties it doesn’t do anything that drastically changes the outcome or the way that the story unfolds. If anything the first change helps legitimize Poirot as a great detective who can predict the actions of the villains pretty well. We didn’t actually see much of that in the original version and had to take their words for it. I mean, he did solve the main case so we know that he is good, but seeing him solve a real case at the beginning was a really good move.

The plot of the film is about the world renown detective known as Poirot who is finally on vacation after having solved a bunch of tough cases. He is interrupted though when a case pops up overseas so he quickly snags a ride on the Orient Express. Once aboard however it turns out that a new case is on the horizon and this may be the most difficult one yet. A bunch of suspicious characters are aboard this train and they all have secret agendas. They all insist on lying to Poirot directly as well which doesn’t make his job any easier. He needs to solve this case fast since the train will be up and running again within 2 hours which isn’t really all that helpful to him.

Poirot is definitely a fun main character. He definitely is very smart and I’m glad that he isn’t afraid to admit it as he even states for the record that he is the greatest detective in the entire world. That’s quite the claim and I like how bold he is. Poirot also shows that he has kept in shape despite being quite old at this point as he chases someone across the train tracks outdoors and actually manages some pretty good jumps and agility. It may be a bit of a stretch, but I guess if he uses his tactics to know where to jump and how to corner the opponent it is a little more believable. I’m guessing he found out about the money stealing himself in the original or it was just admitted instead of actually chasing the man down, but either way works pretty well.

One thing I always have to give credit to the film with is that they don’t go into the actual murder case much. It’s a pretty dark case for sure so we just need to know of its existence, not any actual details. That would certainly be a jumping the shark moment for the film so I have no qualms with this part. It also gives everyone a pretty good motive here so that makes them all good suspects. Even if the ending might be well known I won’t spoil it here in case you don’t know about it.

Now, I guess the question is how you feel about the ending? I definitely agree with Poirot’s initial response which is that there is good and evil and ultimately the guilty party made a choice. There is nothing left to do but to take this to the cops. Taking revenge is a pleasure in itself so of course it makes sense that this would come with some kind of repercussions. They may have felt justified about this in the end but it doesn’t change anything about how the action was wrong. 2 wrongs don’t make a right after all and that’s one of those facts that cannot be changed. So, my view on the ending is that the guilty party should be arrested and that’s the end of that. On that note the ending isn’t all that satisfactory, but it wouldn’t hurt the score all that much. Now, if the villains had actually destroyed a few more people or something then that would have been an issue. I also think Poirot should be holding a little more of a grudge considering that the doctor was very close to murdering him in the end. It’s fortunate that Poirot’s friend was here.

Poirot’s friend certainly was the best character in the film. He came through when it counted and really felt dependable. He got Poirot a seat on the train last minute like he said that he would and was just a great backup the whole time. It would have been extremely difficult if Poirot had been on his own so even having just one person around to help him out was absolutely crucial.

The location looks pretty good as the scenery of the mountains is quite realistic and I do like the scenery. After seeing a bunch of films take place in hot environments the cold is a great contrast. I’ve always been a bigger fan of the cold as well so naturally that appeals to me more in films as well. The actual train looks quite refined as well and while I am not a fan of taking a train overnight like this I wouldn’t mind on this one as long as the Wifi is good. The food should really be complimentary if you ask me instead of purchasing everything once aboard. Of course, I’m sure that this is how the railroad makes the bulk of their money.

Usually I would talk a bit about the suspects, but they don’t really stand out all that much. There are so many of them that each suspect only gets one scene to themselves for the most part. Of course with a train this big it makes sense that there would be a bunch of suspects. If anything I have to question how there aren’t more suspects running around. They did say that the train was filled to capacity after all and I feel like a lot more people would have fit on the train based on how large it was. Perhaps that is just how it was back in those days though as adding more people would potentially sour the experience.

Overall, Murder on the Orient Express is a solid remake. Fans of the mystery genre will certainly enjoy it even if everyone probably already knows the ending at this point. It’s fun seeing everyone try to give Poirot the run around. There is even a teaser for the sequel at the end of the movie which should be interesting since I am not familiar with any of the other Poirot books. It’ll be tough for the Nile to top this film, but maybe it can pull it off. The thing is, this film didn’t really make any actual mistakes which makes it tough for a sequel to possibly top it since not making a mistake is incredibly difficult. Of course I would still recommend you watch the original version first, but both are very close overall.

Overall 8/10

8 Star Games, Game Reviews, Games, Reviews

Secret of Mana Review


The Secret of Mana is an RPG that I had heard of in passing but never focused on too much. It just got lost in the shuffle next to Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest. Well thanks to the HD PS4 remake I have finally gotten to play it. It’s definitely a great RPG as you would expect and the real time/turn based mix will remind you of the .hack series.

I renamed the main characters so bear with me here. Terry is the chosen hero who is finally able to wield the Mana Sword. Everyone is shocked and dismayed because once the sword is lifted the world is supposed to fall into ruin. Terry meets a girl named Terret who needs help in stopping a witch to rescue the hero named Dyluck. Unfortunately this is a dead end but she must continue on her quest and since Terry has nothing more pressing to do at the moment he agrees to join her. Finally, they run into a sprite known as Terry Jr. who was scamming people for money. We show her the error of her ways and add one more member to the party. Now we must attack the enemy fortress and save the planet!

The gameplay is a blend as I mentioned earlier. You have a number under your character. Once it rises to 100 you are free to attack again and deal some damage. While you can attack sooner than that, it will almost definitely miss and even if the attack lands it will be weaker. Furthermore, the count will go back to 0 so waiting it out is just the better option. Also, you should start leveling up your magic early on as it is incredibly useful. Level them all up if you can, but you should focus on 1 in particular to get it to a high level early on. The Gnome magic was really useful for me, but each boss is typically a different element which is why you want a lot of them.

Equipment is extremely handy in this game as well and is basically mandatory to clear the game. You want the top of the line stuff and if you think you can beat an area without purchasing some armor then wait til the next village. Each village gradually adds better equipment options so you save a lot of money by just waiting. Of course, earning money is actually pretty easy in this game so it’s not something that you have to worry about that much. It will come naturally. Likewise, the EXP grind here isn’t bad either. It will go very quickly. That’s why you just want to stay at the top of your game since the A.I. won’t help much. They tend to just get crushed very quickly throughout the game.

Terry is a reasonably solid main character. He does actually talk and everything so he has a real personality. His personality is that he’s a hero and while that may not be all that deep or anything, the character means well. We do get a random plot twist involving his Mom which was kind of out of left field, but Terry took it in stride. Terret is a solid heroine. Her whole adventure is about saving the legendary Dyluck which is a nice twist of events. You rarely see the heroine have to go and save the famous hero and I can definitely get behind this. Shockingly they don’t even try to get you into a contrived romance with her as Terret only has eyes for Dyluck the whole game. I can applaud the title’s restraint here. Terry Jr probably has the least time to get really good, but she’s not a bad character. I still don’t get why she is referred to in the plural sense, but I don’t want to assume that it’s a translation error. Either way, she helped to raise everyone’s spirits.

As far as the villains are concerned, I would have liked them to have had more screen time. The villain group shows up out of nowhere and half of them are defeated quite quickly and without a chance to really show off their personalities. The King who makes a deal with the main villain wasn’t very smart, but made for a decent antagonist. Thanatos is the main villain to watch out for and he is definitely pretty strong. I like the design and he made for a cool antagonist. Then we have the Team Rocket trio who felt really out of place. They weren’t quite as hype as the others.

One major plot point is that you have to choose a side. Destroy the Mana Beast or destroy the Fortress. I felt like the game couldn’t really decide which the right option was as the Fortress is evil from the start, but by the end of the game we decide to destroy the Beast instead to balance things. This was part of the main plot and it made no sense. Now, I know a lot of behind the scenes stuff happened with this game and that is probably what made the plot feel rather off at times. It’s unfortunate but that’s also part of why I consider this RPG’s plot to be one of the weakest RPG plots in a while. It takes a little bit to get going and then once it does it’s like we’re playing an abridged game. Not to the same extent as Sonic Forces fortunately, but enough that parts of the plot feel weird like with the Beast. Personally I would have helped the guy, but apparently he was going to destroy the planet in the process so I suppose that wasn’t a viable option. Then we have a guy named Genma who talks tough throughout the game, but never actually got to do anything. Ah well, at least he looks rally tough.

The graphics were switched from sprites to 3D character models which usually works pretty well, but perhaps not in this case. The boss designs looked a little more intimidating in the original version and the colors were nice and sharp. As far as the cutscenes go, the characters don’t actually move their mouths while talking half of the time. Not a big deal I suppose, but basically it had the art style of World of Final Fantasy without the detail. I guess if this allowed the game to come out a few years early then it was probably worth it. As far as the soundtrack goes we have quite a few tunes. Each area has a different theme and they all work pretty well. They are classic rpg style themes so they should remind you of the good ole days.

The length of the main campaign is roughly 20 hours give or take so it’s definitely a solid amount of time for the rpg. You will almost certainly need to grind by the end so I’ll give you a pro tip here. Max out your Dryad skill since you cannot defeat is he final boss without it. I made it to the final boss without leveling it up at all which meant I had to go back and grind it out. If you level it naturally then it won’t actually feel like a grind. You’ll probably end up shaving an hour or two off as well. For replay value you can probably nab most of the trophies to end up with the Platinum. Out of the 38 in the game, I think around 26 are obtained just for completing the game. That’s a pretty solid number if you ask me. If you want to get the Platinum then you need to make a backup save before you beat the Blue Dragon as there are some rare item drops that you can’t go back for. It’s probably a good idea to defeat every new enemy you see as well to register them. Getting the Platinum here isn’t hard at all but it does take a little time and nobody wants to replay a 20 hour game just to get one missed trophy.

Overall, Secret of Mana was a pretty fun game. As far as RPG stories go the plot was rather weak, but the gameplay was still enjoyable. I just love RPGs in general as leveling up and grinding can be a blast. I can see why they got so big back in the day. Many RPGs will end up being quite solid by the end since you get used to the characters as you shared so much time together. This one is no exception and there is certainly a lot to do. Even without replay value, the story length justifies the price that you paid for it. Maybe I’ll get to play some more Mana games in the future. Until then, I recommend checking out this game and seeing what the Secret of Mana has to offer you. It’ll test your mettle one way or the other.

Overall 8/10

7 Star Games, Game Reviews, Games, Reviews

Legend of Kay Anniversary Review


It’s time to take a look at the Legend of Kay Anniversary game. I never really knew about the original Legend of Kay, but I suppose it had to at least be moderately popular in order to get a remake like this. It’s essentially the Legend of Zelda, but with a weaker plot/main character. It’s a fun enough game, but odd level designs and the story are probably why it never became all that popular. Still, it’s a fairly fun game that is worth your time.

The plot follows a kid tiger named Kay. Unfortunately, Gorillas and Rats have teamed up to take over the world so not even his village is safe from this. He quickly decides to liberate the village and this way Kay can show off his warrior abilities as well. In order to stop them, he will have to defeat the commanders and also assemble the legendary Cat statues in order to proceed to the villain base. Lots of other animals have also been captured so Kay will try to save them all on the way.

As I’ve already stressed, the plot isn’t all that interesting. It’s probably because the villains are rather inspired. Neither the rat nor the gorilla seem to be much of a threat if we’re being honest and the supporting cast is basically nonexistent. As such, it’s all up to the main character and the heroine. Kay talks really tough and does have a fun personality so I’d definitely say that he is a very solid main character. The villains talk smack all of the time so why not have the main character respond to it for a change right? Well, Kay can certainly dish it out just as well as the rest of them. The heroine is also one of those characters who talks really tough. It’s a little less deserved as she doesn’t actually do any real fighting, but it’s better to talk tough than not to do so I suppose.

The romance is fairly weak though. The two characters keep cutting each other off and it pretty much comes out of nowhere. Why couldn’t they just be friends? I think that’s always more of an admirable goal from the game’s view as it defies expectations and even shows restraint on the game’s part. All right, with the plot and characters out of the way let us look at the most important part of the title. The gameplay.

It’s a fairly standard 3D platformer. You wield a sword, hammer, and claws as you fight your way through enemies. The sword is the most fun to use, but the claws are the quickest weapon and the one that you’ll want to use to overwhelm smaller enemies. The hammer is great for when you’re outnumbered thanks to its wide range and great attack power. You’ll be able to upgrade these weapons as you progress through the game. You can also shoot a blast of thunder by charging up an attack although it’ll cost you some magic meter. The combat here is very fun and it can also be quite challenging. You’ll definitely have to utilize some strategy here as opposed to just rushing straight at the enemies.

Most of the bosses are fairly easy, but the final boss can be difficult. He has 2 phases and while you may have the edge in health, if he knocks you off of the tower you lose a life and respawn without any items that you may have used. It can get pretty dangerous as you can arrive at the fight filled with potions and armor and then have to start the fight without any of that if you fall. It’s high stakes and I managed to beat him on my 3rd try on my final health point. It’s always nice and dramatic when that happens. Basically, that’s when I activate my Ultra Instinct.

The platforming is a little weaker. Basic jumps can be a little difficult because of the camera angles. It’s hard to adjust the camera and it simply can’t keep up. While the game has a map, it’s not very good and you can actually get lost and not know what to do. That happened to me for quite a while in the fire level. Toning down some of the puzzles within the levels and making the routes a little more straight forward would certainly go a long way. It certainly could have been far worse though.

There isn’t much replay value to be found here as once you fight the final boss you can’t go back. You’ll just have to start a new file if you want to do anything else. Aiming for the platinum trophy is the only reason to keep on playing the game and to get that one you will need to complete the game on Nightmare difficulty. That should certainly be a real challenge so good luck on that one. Still, the base game is long enough where you can still justify the price in the end. It’s a good amount of content.

The graphics look pretty good. The fire effects in particular are pretty nice. Unfortunately most of the big cutscenes are story book style which is still one of my least favorite formats. There just isn’t much that you can do with it and there’s no real animation there so it’s like the game is taking the easy way out. At least the cutscenes during the gameplay are animated normally and have voice acting so that was certainly nice. Part of the fun throughout the game is Kay’s banter which works a lot better when you can hear what he is saying. As for the soundtrack, it’s a little limited, but certainly doesn’t sound bad. You’ll definitely recognize the danger theme after a while since it plays so often. It’s not the most memorable soundtrack, but it’ll get the job done.

Overall, The Legend of Kay is a good game. It’s not a great one by any means and you can tell that the developers were still finding their stride as far as platformers go, but it’s still good enough where I can recommend it. Just play the game for the gameplay as opposed to the story and you’ll be good. Truth be told, you should always be playing for the gameplay anyway so it’s not as if this should be anything new. I’d be up for a sequel coming out one day. There’s more they can do with Kay as a character and I’m always up for more action platformers. Maybe the enemies in a sequel could be wolves, those guys are threatening.

Overall 7/10

7 Star Games, Game Reviews, Games, Reviews

Cave Story 3D Review


Cave Story is a retro side scroller that was a pretty big deal when it came out for the 3DS. I remember seeing it all the time back in the day. After all these many years I finally got to play it and it is definitely a pretty solid title. It has a good amount of difficulty which should challenge and frustrate even the most skilled players of the genre.

The game starts off with two “kids” (seemingly) chatting through their computers. One of them is locked up in a hut while the other one has managed to escape from the villain organization. Their predicament still isn’t great though as the villains are looking to kidnap Sue again. (The one who escaped) Fortunately, a Robotic soldier from the surface has shown up and decides to help these guys out. He will stop the nefarious organization and save the world. This soldier may be brave but is he up to the challenge?

One thing you’ll notice right away as you play the game is that the title is very cryptic. You are kept on a need to know basis as everyone makes references to past events or tell you parts of stories that you have to fill in on your own. As you talk to more and more NPCs you will likely have more and more questions. The game is definitely trying to set up a lot of lore and I’m sure it was fun for some people to decipher it all and put it in a wiki. I’ve always been content to figure stuff out in my own as well and don’t think the game/any form of media should spoon feed you all of the info. Let us figure out most of it on our own and only give the really crucial parts.

The gameplay is like the classic Mega Man games. It’s primarily run and gun as you go through the levels. It is part RPG though so it’s not as simple as merely running to the goal each time. You will have to talk to people and go back and forth to get the necessary items to carry on. The backtracking isn’t all that extensive though so I wouldn’t really worry about that part. You start out with a classic beam gun and quickly get missiles. How the game works is each gun starts out at level 1 and can be upgraded to level 3. Enemies drop the energy that you use to power up the weapon. Taking any damage will then cause you to lose the energy. Thus, the game highly rewards a patient approach as you try to clear the game without really getting hit. You gather energy quickly so it’s not as if you can’t afford to get hit but I like to see how long I can last. One thing to note is that level 3 of the upgraded machine gun you get later on allows you to fly by shooting at the ground. Unlike the jet pack, you can fly forever this way once you also get the quick ammo reload power up. There is apparently also a powered up Jetpack you can obtain which may do the same thing but I never found it so this is a great alternative. As you play you will have to decide which weapons you really want to level up. You can level them all up of course but there is rarely a need too. Some abilities like the sword slash feel like weaker alternatives to your regular weapons anyway.

Each boss has patterns that you can learn and exploit through experience and quick reactions like the Mega Man games. There doesn’t seem to be much RNG (if any) in this title which is good since it comes down to skill. Even then I was glad that we got consistent save points throughout or it would have been a tough trek. As it stands, there are two parts of the game where you go a long stretch without a save point and those parts was tough. In particular, the triple final boss is really difficult and I definitely had to retry that one a few times. Find each boss’ weaknesses and learn how to win while taking minimal damage. It’s a considerable challenge, but I’m sure you can get it done.

The main character is a nice enough guy but of course he doesn’t have any actual personality. Sue seems reasonable enough but she basically spends most of the game getting kidnapped so it wasn’t her best role. The guy who was on the computer turned out to be a rather old guy and one who wasn’t very brave. When push came to shove he was ready to abandon ship and even offered us a ride home. I wasn’t having any of that and stayed in to fight. The bad ending was tempting to watch though, but I was on a mission. Either way, that guy is ally that you don’t want or need to have on your side. The villains were pretty interesting and charismatic though. Not really the main villain though, but his partners. The scientist comes off as rather generic. His plans aren’t bad I suppose and he had a good super form but he just didn’t look as cool as the others.

One big villain who kept showing up was this sentient Toaster. Perhaps the game meant for him to be a boom box or an oven but he looked like a Toaster to me so I’m sticking with that. He even had his own theme music which was really fun to listen too. While the Toaster’s redemption arc may be rather cheesy and hard to buy into considering just how mean he is, it could have been dragged out a whole lot more. He is the best character in the game for sure and you have to admire his drive and persistence. No matter how many times you defeat him he will come right back. Another villain who was cool was this evil fire mage/fairy creature who is bound to serve the one in control of the temple. As a result she works for the Scientist. She’s a good fighter and her abilities seem similar to that of Infinite’s. She doesn’t get to do a lot in the game but at least we do fight her once so that was neat.

The soundtrack is limited but fairly good. As I mentioned, the Toaster got the best theme in the game. It’s just excellent and really makes you enjoy the fights. The rest of the themes aren’t bad, but you will hear them a lot so get used to it or it’ll be a tough time. The graphics aren’t quite as good as the music though. The levels are all fairly dark and the sprites are small. This makes it rather easy to get hit by stage hazards and the like even when you would have dodged them otherwise. This happened to me a few times in the final level with the stone spires. The graphics aren’t bad, it’s just that the lighting was dark which hurts the overall look. It’s still bearable though and just make sure you play in a well lit area. I also wonder if it might just be my 3DS since screenshots of the game look fine. In my playthrough you wouldn’t have even known how the main character looks if not for the cover. It’s like it was zoomed out too much or my 3DS is getting ready to kick the bucket.

The game is reasonably long and took me 8 hours. I can’t say that there is much replay value beyond beating the game but there is enough. You can keep on chatting with everyone to find out more about this war torn world. You can also grab new weapons and I believe you do unlock a new level so that would be pretty fun. All in all, it’s definitely enough content to justify the price. The game will last you for a satisfactory amount of time and the level of difficulty will ensure you don’t beat the final levels too quickly. I died quite a lot in this game so I can definitely vouch for the game’s difficulty.

Overall, Cave Story 3D is a fun game. The gameplay is on point and I did like how the weapon levels worked. It’s a very unique take on the leveling system in general and one that I’d say works. The plot may be vague and even by the end you don’t know what the full situation is, but the mystery aspect can be enjoyable in its own way. You don’t always need all of the answers. I’d recommend checking this game out. It’s a very solid side scrolling adventure with a lot of options on his to play the levels thanks to your array of weapons. When in doubt, just fly. That’s my motto in this title.

Overall 7/10