Tomb Raider (2018) Review

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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

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Murder on the Orient Express Review

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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

Secret of Mana Review

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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

Legend of Kay Anniversary Review

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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

Cave Story 3D Review

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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

Ducktales: Remastered Review

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It’s time to look at a retro game from the good ole days. It’s pretty nostalgic when you start the game up as you still hear the classic Capcom logo and all of the sound effects are very retro. It’s like getting that arcade feeling while still having the polished graphics from a modern game. Ducktales is a solid adventure for fans of the series as well as fans of the genre and is reasonably challenging as well.

The game starts off with Uncle Scrooge’s home being broken into by the Beagle Boys. They capture Scrooge’s 3 nephews, but the old Uncle is more than a match for the thugs. Scrooge then comes across a painting which works as a map and points to some legendary treasures. He decides to go and snag all of them, but the convenience of this map does make you wonder. Is Scrooge merely dancing to the tune of an unseen manipulator or is he simply leading the charge and got a lucky break? Our fearless main character is about to find out one way or the other!

When it comes to the gameplay, Ducktales has a very simple control scheme that is easy to pick up and play, but rather difficult to master. You move and jump as you go from one stage to the other. The main gimmick that Scrooge has is his cane which you can use to jump on enemies or even on spikes. You hold the O button to take out the pogo stick while in the air, but if you decide to play on Extreme Mode then it’s a two button combination of Down and O. You typically have to find a few objects which are labeled on the map. Once you find them, then you can head to the end of the stage and face the boss. I should mention now that I’m glad the objects are clearly labeled. It would just add unnecessary duration if I had to actually search for them all and get lost a few times. It’s not as if the levels are huge, but I think that this is a reasonable accommodation for the player.

There are 6-7 stages I believe. You can choose any of them to start out with first after the tutorial level and not counting the actual final. I went in order from top to bottom but the difficulty will really depend on which boss you find the most intimidating. They are all pretty tough the first time around, but gradually you’ll learn the patterns and do better the next time. Quite a few of the bosses took me two tries. It’s hard to sit back and memorize the patterns without getting hit, but this way it’s a life well spent. Surprisingly the final boss is one of the easier ones as out of Dracula’s 3 special abilities, one is really easy to dodge and the other two are pretty manageable. He does have more health than the other bosses which helps to balance that though. It’s a good amount of difficulty that tests your strategic thinking without being overly grindy. It’s a good balance.

You start the game with 3 hearts, but there are 5 upgrades that you can find in the levels. Grab all of them and your health will really be ready for the boss fights. Upgrades are really key in this game and the last parts would have been a lot tougher without them. I found 3 on my way to the goal, but I’ll look for the other two someday. The toughest part of the game actually isn’t a boss though, but the running challenge after it. In a scene much like a Mario game, you have to outrun the lava that is quickly creeping up on you. I died quite a few times during this part as the level is quite difficult. Make one mistake and you’re done. Even if you don’t make any mistakes you can still lose if you weren’t quite moving fast enough. Just keep on doing the level and eventually you will be able to clear it.

The main campaign is pretty short so you’ll have it beat in around 3 hours or so. Add in a bit of time depending on how often you die. There is replay value as you can keep clearing levels to buy all of the collectibles and earn trophies. The trophy collecting may lose some incentive since there are no Gold or Platinum trophies in the game. It’s a little surprising. Also, you have to beat the Game on Extreme, which means beating the whole game in one siting with only 3 lives. That sounds crazy hard so I already know that I won’t be getting all of the trophies in this game. Still, I got most of them so I’m still pretty satisfied in the long run. This is really a game that you complete once or twice and move away from it so it’s just important that you enjoy the initial run.

Fortunately I can say that I did enjoy the game. The story is quite solid and the writing is great as Scrooge has a lot of witty dialogue. He’s certainly a quick talker and always has a quip for the situation. His rival also made for a good antagonist. His constant insults during the last level are enjoyable for sure although Scrooge still gets the last laugh. The witch was a good villain, but a little overpowered. Since she can just stop time whenever she likes, I don’t see how the heroes can ever truly defeat her without plot hax. She just seems to be way stronger than the rest of the cast since everyone else is powerless. They’re just ducks. Count Dracula had a nice appearance even if he was completely used as a pawn here. He didn’t even get any lines in defiance!

The soundtrack is pretty solid. The level themes are memorable and in particular the final level has a great theme. It’s definitely a soundtrack where you can tell that a lot of effort was put into it. I do miss these retro soundtracks from back in the day and Ducktales definitely hit all of the right notes. The animation also looks really good as it’s about as HD as you can get for an old side scroller. The levels all look very clear whether they are in the light or in a dark cave.

Overall, Ducktales Remastered is definitely a very fun game. It’s a short one, but an enjoyable game nonetheless. You’ll have fun mastering all of the levels and making your way to the end. It’s a game that rewards your effort and each death will only lead you closer to victory. I’d love to see another game with Uncle Scrooge since he’s such a lead. The game’s ending just proves that point all the more as he’s just a nice uncle. He helped the nephews feel like the celebration was their own as well. Just don’t ask him for any money and you’re all set!

Overall 7/10

Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy Review

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I don’t buy games on Day 1 too often. When I do it’s typically for a big franchise that I follow like Super Smash or Dragon Ball Z. If you asked me a few months ago if I’d buy Crash day 1, I probably would have chuckled. Crash always seemed fun enough, but I’ve never played any of his games so I couldn’t call myself a big fan. That being said, the collection got a lot of hype and just about everyone I talked too had also pre ordered it. I decided that I needed to see what the hype was all about. It’s not the greatest game of all time as I’ve heard some say, but it is definitely a very solid title. The fact that it is 3 games in 1 just makes this even more of a bargain!

Lets start with the first game. There isn’t much of a plot, but Cortex has decided to destroy the world. Crash must stop this mad scientist’s quest for power while he can. The problem is that Crash isn’t very smart so he just mindlessly runs around and beating people up. He’s a force of nature and fortunately he is acting on the side of the heroes. The 3 games have some similarities as they all have around 25 levels and in the same format. You have 5 worlds and each world has 5-6 levels. That’s where the similarities start to end. The first game is easily the hardest of the 3 and relies less on gimmicks than the others. All of the levels in the first game are classic platforming challenges in 2D and 3D.

One of the level styles is the overhead water ones. They were my favorite levels but they were admittedly the easiest as well. I found them to be pretty bearable as I jumped from platform to platform. There were also the boulder chase levels where you have to rely on your reaction times to jump when a pit appeared since you couldn’t see them. (You’re running towards the screen) Surprisingly, this is the one aspect where the sequels were a bit tougher..or maybe my reaction time just slowed down.

The meat and potatoes of this game are the sky levels where you have to get past crumbling bridges. Apparently you can cheese parts of the level by running on the rope, but I didn’t notice that so I had to beat them the old fashioned way. I must have gotten 30-40 game overs on this level style because I just couldn’t get past some of the obstacles. Finally completing them was always a very satisfying experience. There were quite a few levels that I just barely completed and can’t imagine going back anytime soon. The game is merciless with the difficulty and it’s no walk in the park. I usually would only beat 1 world every time I turned the game on because it wasn’t easy to beat them in large batches like the sequels.

The gameplay is simple as you just run, jump, and spin. It’s easy to know the controls, but the levels are still tricky because you have to be very precise. If you don’t time your jumps perfectly, then it’s game over for you. I have to give the game credit for never being unfair though. The challenges were tough, but they weren’t luck based or anything like that. The more you played the levels, the more you got used to the obstacles. Also, you would only have to restart the level so the penalty for dying wasn’t absolutely terrible or anything. It was an intense way to start the collection.

The sequel adds some more plot and cutscenes into the mix. Cortex has asked Crash for help because an asteroid is going to crash or some other villain is messing around. Anyway, he demands that Crash find all of the gems once again and gives them to him. Crash’s sister consistently warns Crash that the guy is lying, but Crash doesn’t seem to understand and after being threatened, gives them to Cortex. I may as well say it now, I don’t like Crash. He’s not smart and not endearing. He makes all of the wrong decisions time and time again. He’s just lucky that Cortex isn’t much of a villain either. He’s certainly no Eggman or dare I say even Bowser? At least Bowser was threatening for a time. Cortex is just a second rate Wily.

This game is noticeably easier than the first. I only got the game over screen a handful of times and in particular the first level of the final world. Part of why the game is easier is because they added a new dash mechanic similar to DK Tropical Freeze. You don’t have to be as precise with your jumps anymore because the dash grab can cheese almost any obstacle. All of the villains are slower now so it is easier to time when you should spin. The final boss takes this low difficulty to the extreme as you can beat him in about a minute. He literally can’t attack you so you just chase him down 3 times which is incredibly simple. I was shocked at how fast he went down. There was no final form though so I guess that was that.

The second title experiments with the game a little more as you get airship levels and other gameplay styles. This meant there was a little less time for the traditional Crash levels which plays a big part in why the game was easier. Although, the normal Crash levels have also been nerfed from the first game so it’s probably a moot point. While the first game may be more satisfying, I can safely say that the second one is better since it had more of an actual plot and I did like the gameplay variety.

Finally, we make it to the third game. This one ramps up the gameplay variety even more as you get racing levels, water racing, underwater submarine combat, Star Fox simulator, and then the occasional Crash level. This game easily has the fewest Crash levels which may be a little sad for gamers who had to wait until it came out back in the day but since this collection already had a bunch of those I was pretty content. This game is even easier and I only saw the Game Over screen once. Admittedly that was kind of my fault for underestimating the game. It got so easy that I allowed myself to get a bit sloppy for a while there.

The plot for this game is that Uka Uka has returned and is commanding Cortex to destroy Crash. They also halfheartedly try to trick Crash again, but don’t seem too committed to that as they flip flop around the issue. I doubt Crash figured that out anyway though. Despite the hype, I can’t say that I care much for the mask. I can’t really take him seriously and his design isn’t all that good. Honestly the Crash series needs a better supporting cast. Who knows, maybe I’ll like them more as I play more games though. There are definitely a bunch of others to get at some point right?

There is a lot of replay value here and that’s an understatement. Even after beating the three games, there are many collectibles to get in each. Obtaining the 3 Platinum Trophies in the game will also take a considerable amount of time. Games 2 and 3 are easy enough, but part of getting the Platinum in the first game involves completing all of the levels…without dying. That sounds pretty insane to me and I just can’t picture pulling that off without an incredible amount of work. I don’t think I want to spend quite that much time since the deaths will really get to me, but this is certainly great news for Crash fans. You’ll have a shiny trophy to prove that you’ve overcome all of the odds.

The graphics are pretty good and it is nice that the game completely redid them from the ground up. They have certainly modernized Crash and friends with the new designs. The soundtrack is also surprisingly catchy. Some of the themes are pretty memorable like the final boss tunes and some of the factory ones. Crash 1 certainly has the best array of songs, but they’re all pretty good in their own right.

I do have one big criticism with the game though…the unskippable cutscenes. You can’t skip the Gameover screen which is the saltiest part of the whole losing experience. You have to watch the Mask laugh at you a few times and there isn’t anything you can do about it. The cutscene isn’t incredibly long, but it is definitely long enough to make you wince and take a step back. It feels quite bad. You also can’t skip the opening credits to the game. Every time you boot it up you have to watch all of the logos fly by and the narrator try to hype the game up. I can understand doing that the first time, but I don’t want to have to watch it every time. That’s just a little too much product placement.

There are no other real negatives to the game, but I did find a glitch during one of the boss fights. If you hit the scientist who throws the bottles at you too soon, he’ll forget to drop the bottle and just stay in a permanent electrocuted position. You then have to get out of the game and retry. It’s a mild thing as you can easily beat the boss another way, but it felt like I was being punished for being too fast. Did the quality testers never see this because they weren’t fast enough to beat him that way? Not to toot my own horn or anything. I do like the fact that there is an auto save for the game active and that you can save at any time as well. It’s just a nice quality of life addition that makes the whole package better.

As for the bosses, most of them were pretty easy. The only challenging ones were in Game 1 as you’d expect. It took me a little to realize that I could jump on the first boss so that took a bit. Any boss that involved aerial combat was a breeze. The final boss in Game 1 was reasonably difficult since dodging the energy bolts was tricky. Game 2’s was easy as I mentioned and Game 3’s was also very simple. It wasn’t all that hard to dodge his attacks. There was a lot of variety in the bosses so the game did good on that front. Very rarely was a boss similar to a previous one.

So, how does Crash stand up next to the all time greats? Clearly he is no match for Mario or Sonic, that one’s a given. I’d also give Ratchet and Clank as well as Jak the edge. Crash does surpass Sly and Klonoa though. I think that’s roughly all of the main platformers. I’d mention Rayman, but I haven’t actually gotten to start that one yet. One of these days though, it’s just around the bend.

How do the 3 games stack up? Well, as I said Crash 2 is the best, then 3, and then 1. I do appreciate Crash 1’s challenge and difficulty of course, but you can see how the games got a little more polished after that. As I mentioned, I like how they shifted the gameplay a lot in the sequels. The first will always be a classic, but the addition of a plot is just too big of an advantage to miss either. I will say that the first does give you the most bang for your buck since you’ll be there a while.

Overall, I’d definitely recommend picking this game up. It’s quite a bargain considering that you’re getting 3 full games for the price of 1. They are all classics as well so it’s not like you’re getting Flip’s Twisted World or anything like that. They have a seal of quality on them with solid level designs. It’s an all around pleasant experience. The 2nd and 3rd games are great for relaxing as you can breeze through the levels with minimal effort which lets you enjoy the scenery more. Then the first game helps wake you up every day as you have to bring your A game to conquer it. I suppose I may buy the next collection day 1, (After all, the 3rd game does end with a cliffhanger!…even if you can’t take it seriously) but it likely won’t be an issue because I plan to buy the sequels way before such a collection comes out. Gamecube/PS2, here I come!

Overall 8/10

King Kong (1976) Review

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I wasn’t a big fan of the original King Kong film or the recent 2017 one. I’m just not a King Kong fan at all which may seem odd since I’ve always enjoyed Godzilla and Gamera. It all comes down to the fact that he’s a big monkey who seems like a 2nd rate Donkey Kong and he’s more interested in the main heroine than being king of the world. That being said, the first two films still made a name for themselves. The original created the character from the ground up and the 2017 version decided to do a very bold re imagining of the whole thing. This one….is just another King Kong film. It tries to follow the original step for step in a rather soulless fashion and is extremely generic. It has the most unlikable King Kong to date and there’s just nothing good about the film. Ah well, prepare yourself!

The film starts off with Fred wanting to head to an unknown island to grab some oil and get rich. It’s a perfect scheme and he ignores all of the variables and tough weather. Unfortunately for him, a man named Jack has stowed away on the ship and this guy isn’t exactly a pro. He breaks his cover by interrupting a big meeting to point out that the atmosphere is getting crazy and there’s probably a big Ape on the island. After a lot of laughing and everyone putting their game faces on, they decide to let Jack walk free. He’ll help them whether he likes it or not. This works quite well for Jack since he wanted to be on the island anyway. They come across a lady in the ocean named Dwan. Her cruise full of people was destroyed and they all died, but she gets over it in the span of 5 seconds. She’s more interested in being a star who will achieve fame and glory after all. The problem is that she shines too brightly and is kidnapped by the natives on the island and given to King Kong. Jack must save her for purely professional reasons while Fred wants to capture King Kong and bring him to the city. No way anything tricky is going to happen because of that!

Lets run through the negatives right off the bat. The whole scene of King Kong bathing Dwan and drying her off was pretty terrible. Then messing with her clothes before getting interrupted was just as bad. If anything, King Kong should think of her as a pal or someone who needs protecting. The film just did a really bad job here and he should have stuck to being the King Kong who just goes around breaking his opponents. You can never tell if he’s heroic or if he just wants to get on Dwan’s good side. You wouldn’t catch Godzilla making a fool of himself this way. It’s just hard to like anybody here, but these scenes are painfully long and hurt the film.

As this is a King Kong film, we get the obligatory scene of him destroying normal animals like a giant snake. This is one trope that I could certainly live without. You can’t help but feel bad for the snake and while the scene isn’t super violent since it’s so old and low budget, it still qualifies as animal violence. I don’t want to see the snake get ripped in half, I wanted to see him win!

There’s not much to say about Fred. He wants to get rich and that is his character plain and simple. He’s as generic as it gets. I don’t really mind the guy though and he does better than some of the other characters. Jack’s a reasonable main character I guess, but he’s usually content to stay back and watch from the sidelines. We never learn why he is so athletic and manages to elude King Kong when the trained professionals could not, but I guess we’ll just chalk that up to being the main character. He’s not very fun either as he doesn’t get much of a purpose in the film. So, he wants to meet King Kong, but why? I guess it’s for his job since this is like a hobby, but it feels like such a weak motivation. He quickly takes control of every situation so that’s nice for his hype, but he’s just there. I would say the same for Dwan, but it’s a worse situation for her. She’s not generic like the rest, but she’s just a bad character. She lets her guard down constantly and maybe considering that they’re in enemy territory at night, she shouldn’t stay by the water. She was kidnapped without a struggle and she spent most of the film being traded as a prisoner from one group to the next. Once she was finally freed, she didn’t even get to enjoy the city much as King Kong found her and then the reporters soon followed. She never got any peace or quiet and didn’t have a tough enough personality to get everyone to back off. She just let everyone do as they pleased and this doesn’t help her character at all.

Beyond all of this, it’s just a rather boring film. King Kong’s home isn’t very flashy or fun. The tribe acts completely evil as you’d expect and they basically just vanish once the kidnapping is over. It’s like they knew their roles were over and ran off as soon as possible. I also don’t get the concept of building a large wall to keep King Kong out. I mean..he agreed to it for some reason and stays away, but the wall won’t actually do anything. If he wanted to get out, then he could. It also reminds me that King Kong is totally evil here since he accepts the sacrifices every time the tribe brings them out. Not exactly something a nice monster would do. The city climax should have been really hype but since King Kong is incredibly slow and not all that durable it wasn’t entertaining. You were just waiting for the army to shoot him so we could get the whole thing over with. I wouldn’t call King Kong’s mild struggle by waving his arms around a real climax to be honest.

Overall, This King Kong film is about as bad as the rest, likely slightly worse. It had no individuality or creativity in its corner. It was just another King Kong film that completely played everything by the books. It should have been bold and taken some different twists or turns. That likely would have helped a lot. The heroine and King Kong scenes bring the film down along with the animal violence. You could argue that Dwan was used more for fanservice than as an actual character which is just sad. I highly recommend avoiding this film if you possibly can. Watch any other King Kong film instead, you’ll have a better time. At least the new film won’t make many of these mistakes since Godzilla will be fighting King Kong next time. Unless King Kong 2 comes out first, but I hope the crossover is on the top of the priority list. It could make other mistakes, but I want to have hope that King Kong will surprise us with a good film. At the moment, his only good movie is Godzilla vs King Kong and once again it was Godzilla who had to pick up the slack.

Overall 2/10