The Italian Job Review

The Italian Job is one of those movies that you are unlikely to have heard of despite being familiar with the heist genre. It even has some big actors but I still don’t remember it making any headlines. I guess it probably just came out at a tough year. Still, it’s a pretty solid film that may not be amazing but manages to avoid making any really serious mistakes which is important.

The film starts with a group of burgers pulling off a pretty big heist where they had to race the cops in a boat and got to walk away with millions. Unfortunately just as one of the characters was finally going to retire, the group was betrayed by Steve who decided to keep the money for himself. He shots the best crook, drowns the others, and then runs off. Years have passed and now the burglars want their revenge and also hope to secure the money in the process. They managed to survive with their wit and have stayed under the radar for a long time. It has all been for this one moment but to make sure that this mission is a success they will need to bring in a secret weapon, the daughter of the dead burglar.

You will have to turn your suspension of disbelief on full blast right away here as the plans are so detailed and convoluted that you probably won’t be able to accept what is happening with a straight face otherwise. In the climax of the film the villain gets a helicopter and even a private militia as he drives through town but the main character, Charlie is able to hold his own on a quick motorcycle. His team of quirky hackers seem more than capable of taking any villain down after this film.

Where the film really did a good job was with the fast moving plot. A lot of things were always happening. The talking scenes are pretty engaging and I do tend to enjoy the planning. The execution is also on point and it’s just a solid film from start to finish. The ending was also really good. One thing that tends to happen in a film like this is that the heroes will win it, but the villains end up destroying all of the informants along the way thereby preventing anyone else from ever replicating the feat. I was worried for “Tiny” or “Slim” (I forgot which one was his name) when the villains showed up at his door. Fortunately it turned out all right for the guy and in the end everything worked out. It’s also rare for a villain to not get away with murdering random Jim #34 but in this case it’s one of the main things that comes back to bite him. Turns out that this guy was friends with the mafia and you don’t mess with those guys.

The cast of characters was also surprisingly good which is always important. Charlie is a great tactician which is shown from the start. He may not be infallible but is able to adjust his plan at a second’s notice to fix any oversights. Even by the end he was one step ahead of Steve and never found himself at the back. Steve is also pretty solid as he always talks with a lot of confidence and has a smug air about him. Definitely not a guy who gives up easy and even if he isn’t as smart as the main character he isn’t half bad at making plans. Against someone else he may have stood a chance. Of course, he definitely should have sold the gold by the time the heroes found him though and shooting the merchant just delayed this even further. Not the smartest villain around even if he is fun.

Stella is solid as well. Initially I forgot about her first appearance and for a second thought that the film was bringing in a new character. The opening does certainly make more sense in light of this. Unfortunately, her character is used for fanservice quite a bit as we have the unfortunate trope of someone walking into her room while she is still getting changed. Likewise, Stella’s entire first scene seems to be focused on her attire more than the actual dialogue. Once we get past these moments this fortunately stops happening. Stella is a solid locksmith even if she is not quite at the same level as her father yet. She can also drive with the best of them. I think her character could have been handled better but overall she was a good character.

Another one of the thieves was the Napster. This guy spends most of his time complaining about how Steve stole his inventions. He takes this the least seriously compared to the rest of the team and nearly blows there cover several times by pulling pranks on the cops and the government. So much for being discreet right? I suppose he has his own priorities so you can’t really argue with that. He’s definitely a pretty bad character though. There is also Gilligan who does his best to mess up everyone’s chances as well. When it comes time to broker a deal with someone who has the supplies they need, he can’t help but stare at the guy constantly even when he is told not too. Actually, as far as the great character cast maybe I should be more specific. Steve, Charlie, Stella, and the father from the very beginning are solid characters. Everyone else definitely has a lot of room for improvement if you ask me. Still, since the characters with the most screen time are at the top that’s what counts.

We also get a long car chase scene that I referenced earlier and works well as the climax. Who doesn’t like a good car chase right? After a while they may all start to seem like the same race if you watch enough films, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that they work quite well as a satisfying way to end the film. It’s not as if we could have had a real hand to hand fight at the end as you would have then had to ask where they learned how to fight. A battle of two self taught fighters could be fun, but I don’t believe Steve ever would have bothered learning how to fight while Charlie showed earlier that he could throw a good punch.

Overall, The Italian Job is a pretty fun heist film. The pacing is always on point and the characters make for some pretty enjoyable banter. Some of the plans may seem like a stretch at times but that goes hand in hand with the genre. If you like watching a game of mental chess going on with plans and counter plans then I’d recommend checking this film out. It’ll keep you entertained the whole way through and never really make any mistake big enough to get you out of the action. It’s satisfied with just being an entertaining film and that’s a pretty solid approach if you ask me.

Overall 7/10


Mario & Sonic at the London 2012 Olympic Games Review

If there was ever such a thing as a low budget Mario and Sonic game then this is it. We no longer have the intense campaign mode from the first game and we don’t even get to keep the tournaments. With all of the characters and games already unlocked as well you just have to wonder what the developers were thinking. It’s not a bad game but it doesn’t do anything to help the Olympics legacy. It would have gone over better if this had been the first title in the series.

We do have a new mode though and that is essentially Mario Party mode. Here you run around a board trying to get items and bump into one of the characters who is running around. This will trigger a mini game. You want to win the mini games to get cards that you can put in your sticker album. Once you’ve obtained 16 stickers (or more depending on the length you choose) you will have won the game. Inside your sticker board you have two random items as well which may steal stickers from other players or just give you extras. They’re pretty handy so use them wisely. If you want to blast through the party then simply seek out the NPCs as soon as possible. I’m not sure if there is even a point to delaying it to be honest since grabbing the items didn’t actually seem to be doing anything. There’s probably something that I’m missing though.

I also have to point out that the mini games are starting to randomly get convoluted here. You should always be able to get a basic understanding of the game from the rules section before it starts. That wasn’t the case for the Dream Bike mini game. This one is a team game of 4 vs 4. You have to try and stay in a perfect line and shake your way to the goal. The problem is that you have to switch places during the race and the controls for being in the back were not clear. I struggled as best as I could but I just couldn’t form a line and I ended up losing the mini game and nearly the whole party map. I actually did lose the first time I played the mode, but I got them the second time.

Even the really solid games suffer from dicey instructions. Take the Nintendo/Sega trivia. The questions were solid and with prep time I could probably even get them right. However the game tells you to hold the Wii Remote horizontally when in fact you are supposed to hold it vertically. This cost me the very first question which I knew I would have gotten right. So the main point here is to read the rules carefully and be warned that you may not be able to win some of these games on the first try because you will have to figure out how it works.

One of the new games that is pretty solid is the throwing darts one. You essentially have to hit the bullseye as quickly as possible and try to get others. Essentially I don’t know if you go for all of the bullseyes but that would make sense. I hit 2 and won the mini game so just aim for the center and you will be all set.

We’ve also got some games that I believe are old like Table Tennis and Soccer. Table Tennis is the same old same old so I wouldn’t expect too much more out of that one. It’s a fun game as always but it didn’t take much effort to port it over. I forgot if soccer already existed or not but it doesn’t look good for this game either way since the soccer gameplay is probably the weakest I’ve ever seen in the genre. I know low budget Wii games with better soccer gameplay. Your passes always go too high so it is usually safest to take the bell through the whole field yourself before shooting. That’s just not good gameplay and teamwork is supposed to be the name of the game here. I just don’t know how you can possibly mess up a game like soccer this way.

100mm Swinming is another mini game that doesn’t even try to hide how recycled it is. It’s the exact same controls as always in what appears to be the same background. It’s a good mini game so I’m fine with it coming back of course, but we just should have had more games. Reusing minigames is like bringing back old fighters in a classic fighting game. It’s a great move and one that I stand by 100%. However, if the cast is unchanged then there is no point in upgrading as in the case of Godzilla Save The Earth to Godzilla Unleashed on the PS2.

What this Olympics should have done was have close to 40-50 events. They could easily have brought back events from the previous games in addition to a bunch of new ones. The only reason why I could see this being a bad thing is if they are trying to perfectly emulate the games that will be at each Olympics. If that is the case then I suppose they will need to find another solution (have the old mini games be unlockable) but either way we definitely needed more games than the rather limited amount that we got.

The graphics look nice as always at least. It’s about the same as the last game only without the cinematic cutscenes so maybe it is actually a downgrade. Those cutscenes strike me as being the hard part after all but maybe the gameplay is just as difficult. Either way the last game did manage to do both so I’d give it the edge. When it comes to the soundtrack there is no contest that the last one was better. It blended together a bunch of brilliant themes from both Mario and Sonic which made the games even more fun. While this game has a lot of those songs in the music player, don’t expect to hear them very often.

As far as the replay value goes I suppose that there is a lot to buy here. You can use your money to buy clothes which boost your stats and you can try to earn medals for all of the various mini games. That could take a little while and then you also have a lot of challenges to complete for the bragging rights. Complete all of the challenges and you will really be an Olympics champ. Considering that the game is pretty cheap I’d say that this is already enough value to justify the cost.

Overall, This is one of those games that may have been more acceptable if it had been the first in the series. However it is the third and after seeing what this series could really do with the second game it feels like a total downgrade. The game just lost all of its heart and it felt like the developers just cashed it in this time. There wasn’t much effort put behind this game as far as I could see and even though this is a decent game I would recommend going back to buy the Winter Olympics instead.

Overall 6/10

Donkey Kong Barrel Blast Review

It’s time to look at Nintendo’s biggest mistake when it comes to the racing genre. A DK racer practically writes itself and just has a ton of potential. It’s a shame that the game squandered this so readily. Motion controls are what hold this game back and while it was an attempt by Nintendo it completely backfired. Sometimes just because an idea makes sense in concept doesn’t mean that it should be implemented. This is most certainly one of those times.

There is no story mode of course but we do have a few different tournaments at the ready. There are 4 main tournaments and 2 bonus ones. The bonus tournaments allow you to pick your own stages to have a tournament with friends and another one allows you to randomize the stages. Both are handy when playing with friends but you don’t get a trophy for clearing them so there is no single player incentive. The main tournaments start out at 3 races and eventually go to 5. There are multiple difficulty levels but you are forced to start with Rookie so I just stayed at that level. Even then the game is surprisingly difficult. You have to stay at top speed and use a lot of boosts if you want to come out on top here. Of course, the Mario Party luck factor is around here so sometimes you’ll just get blasted by other racers behind you which is out of your control. Not much can be done about that.

Each racer is using a pair of drums instead of a car. It is for this reason that instead of accelerating like normal you must beat the drums to keep going fast. You have to make the motion of hitting the drums constantly to stay at peak levels and just hit one drum to turn. Hit both at the same time to jump and hold down on the Nunchuk to activate your boost. Your boost is the most important skill that you have here. It can change a whole race and just know that you can extend your boost by hitting enemies or normal barrels. If you time the boost right you can keep it going for a very long time. Just focus on the combo and don’t use your boost unless you see something to bump into.

There are a lot of games that can be called painful while you are playing them, but there aren’t many which you can say that in a literal sense. Your wrists will be absolutely exhausted after playing this game and I am convinced that it wouldn’t be healthy if you played this game long term. You can even expect some neck and back pain if you were straining a lot and too rigid while playing. Naturally the trick is to simply not play too hard but that’s easy to say until one of the computers passes you. Then it’s back to hitting the drums as quickly as you can.

When it comes to the graphics then this game finally gets to shine. The character models are definitely on point and are appropriately high quality. The levels all look great and there is a lot of variety to be found here. Whether it be Jungles, Volcanoes, or even Space DK has you covered. The final level in the game is the hype space one and it is as cool as you may expect. I was pleasantly surprised at how much effort Nintendo put into some parts of this game, but maybe I shouldn’t be. In theory this was supposed to be their next big racer. The stage themes are pretty solid as well even if they aren’t all that memorable. I suppose you can’t have every game be quite as legendary as Mario right?

Aside from the tournaments which won’t keep you busy for very long, the game has other modes at its disposal as well. One of those is the challenge mode where you attack various missions and see if you can accomplish them. The missions are actually reasonably difficult as you can easily lose a stage if you’re not entirely sure how to approach it. Take one wrong shortcut and it’s time to retry. Between the various unlockables and the main tournaments, I think you’ll find that the game has a reasonable amount of content to back the pricing.

All of this is only if you can get past the gameplay though. None of the other stuff will ultimately matter if you wrists simply can’t take the pressure. The items are fun though and if you use them right they will help you take a break. Build up some good boosts and just use it when you know that you’ll be able to keep it going for a while. During this time you don’t need to beat the drums. You have other items like armor and missiles but you have to keep shaking the controllers during this. Interestingly enough, the descriptions in the game say that you can stop shaking once you’re at max speed, but they must have meant that you could stop shaking for a moment because after that the car will immediately start slowing down again. So much for that I suppose.

Overall, Barrel Blast really could have been a good game. It had a lot of the right pieces in place like the animation, soundtrack, and array of content to keep you busy. The one area where it went wrong was with the controls and you’d think that this wouldn’t be a big deal. It’s just so drastic that it ends up bringing the whole game down with it and that’s the unfortunate part. You actually feel like the game isn’t healthy to play. If you want some exercise for your wrist and don’t think that it will end up having a detrimental effect instead, then I suppose you may want to give this game a chance. However, if you’re playing this game in the first place because you want to relax while cruising through the levels then this isn’t the right game to add to your collection. There is nothing relaxing about constantly beating the drums.

Overall 5/10

Sword Art Online Calibur Review

As I am currently playing through the Sword Art Online Fatal Bullet game, I figured that I should finally go and wrap up one of the spin-off manga titles. This one shot is based on the mini Asgard arc and has always been known as a relatively weak story. Unfortunately the manga makes it even worse by adding in a ton of fan service so you can probably already tell how this review is going to end.

The manga starts off with Suguha letting Kirito know that some players have finally found out the location of the hidden sword Excalibur. The heroes had found it about a year earlier but because they were so slow the rest of the world caught up. Kirito has to form a group of 7 people in order to conquer this quest but it may prove more dangerous than expected. If the heroes don’t complete the mission quickly than the whole virtual game will turn from a happy fairy based one into an apocalyptic ice land. Fortunately Kirito is up to the task.

This is Sword Art Online so I should probably bring up the unfortunate fan service right away since we all know that it’s coming. The manga sets the tone for how this is going to play out right from the beginning as the very first panel on the first page is a fan service shot. The author even mentions at the end that he added more than usual. It is constant enough during the volume where it probably happens every chapter. Some of the scenes are totally made up for the manga and really don’t help the overall case. It really limits what the rest of the manga can hope to accomplish.

At least the general art looks pretty good. The characters are very detailed and this translates well into the fight scenes. The quality here is high so it’s too bad that this artist couldn’t have picked a better arc than this one. Of course, this manga also has to have a quick flashback to a certain scene in arc 2 just to fit that extra bit of fan service in. So, very solid art but it’s used for scenes that really don’t help the overall manga.

Fortunately Kirito is a pretty solid main character as per usual. He comes up with the plan to save the day and even uses a new skill that is game breaking. He is always surpassing his limits so it should really come as no surprise. Even when everyone tries to mess with Kirito like putting him on the spot by asking if he would pay for the meal, Kirito takes it in stride. He was happy to pay and comes across as a solid team player.

Klein unfortunately looks about as bad as ever. He is still a very desperate character who will try to ask out a computer program and he is also super weak. The guy doesn’t even work well as a comic relief character but he does help to make Kirito look even better. That always seems like the real reason Kirito keeps him around. Klein just can’t go one page without humiliating himself.

Sinon gets the biggest role from all of the heroines. Unfortunately the author uses it for the wrong reasons at times but at least her fight scenes are solid. Since her bow and arrow skills are double that of the usual max, her weapon is actually pretty overpowered. Her reaction times are likely second only to Kirito’s here so that is very useful as well. Considering that she has apparently had the account for a day (if I recall correctly) Sinon must have trained a great deal.

Leafa is around just to feel bad for the creatures getting destroyed by the other players but doesn’t do much beyond that. If anything she can be a little on the annoying side since she knows about the Asgard myths but conveniently forgets about them until right after the fight. Asuna, Lizbeth, and Silica don’t actually get to do anything. They are basically just here to fill up the party.

Then we have the main villain who is certainly a terrible character. He’s a very sketchy villain whose goals are terrible and so there is absolutely nothing to root for in his character. There is also the prisoner who has a big plot twist which does not help her character. That’s because her actions up until the plot twist are extremely manipulative and she was basically using the heroes. Certainly not a very nice thing to do if you ask me. Not that it would have been much better without the twist but the character was having too much fun with her role. The plot twist is pretty obvious but the manga does a good job with it since the characters are self aware about it. They all know the twist but decide to play along anyway. Even then they only play along because Klein essentially forced them into doing so.

I think the only positive change that the manga did was give Sinon an extended fight. At the very least I don’t recall that happening in the show. It’s not much, but it shows that the manga did something right. With the artist’s skills he/she should still do well in a future SAO manga provided they focus on fight scenes and not adding anything else that would be tragic for the manga’s score.

Overall, This was definitely not a good SAO volume and it doesn’t do this wounded franchise any wonders. It just continues to make the same mistakes that the franchise has always made. It had great fight scenes, but is bogged down by all of the fanservice. I’d recommend just sticking to the original Sword Art Online manga instead of checking this one out. You’ll thank me for it someday.

Overall 4/10

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

Tekken Review

Tekken has always been a fun franchise. The gameplay is a lot more simplistic than Street Fighter at a glance and every blow you land is satisfying because of the loud sound as well as the splash of color. While I probably remember Tekken 5 the most and played it quite a big back in the day, the whole franchise is pretty hype. I knew that I had to dive into the mobile game once it came out.

Unlike most mobile games, Tekken has a real story mode with an actual ending as opposed to most mobile titles that keep on going forever. It was a nice change of pace and I think it’s a good thing that the game came out with the full story right from the start. Granted, I certainly wouldn’t be surprised if some kind of dlc expansion came up at some point. So the plot of the game is that a mysterious foe known as Remnant has surfaced. He has begun mind controlling some of our friends in his quest to possibly destroy the world. Kazuya decides to take this guy down but he realizes that just having himself and Nina likely would not be enough to do much of anything. As such he must start recruiting more fighters to his cause and along the way they will beat Remnant’s mind controlled lackeys to free them. It will be a tough fight, but Kazuya is always ready.

The story mode will take you a couple of days at most so it’s not very long. There are 3 main chapters and each one has 5 acts. Each act has around 5-12 fights in them and each fight can end in about a minute or so. The difficulty rises slightly as you go through but not by much since if you want a challenge you can just try fighting the story on a higher level. A couple of days is actually generous since this is about 2 hours, but you may not be playing the game that much at home when you have home console games to play instead.

The gameplay is a classic tap title like the various Marvel and DC fighting games. As far as I know it may be that all of the fighting games use this as the default control scheme. Perhaps it just makes the most sense when it comes to how the phone is set up. Regardless, tap to attack, hold your finger on your character to block, and tap on your cards for super attacks. You can string together combos with your cards and deal a whole lot of damage. You’ll have the gameplay basically mastered before very long.

Aside from the story there are quite a few other modes. This is one of those mobile games that does have a lot of post story content to keep you going at least. There are daily events which happen….every day and they give you a chance to get tokens and characters. The game has around 70 characters I believe although many of them are clones. There are also a bunch of made up characters, but that’s still preferable to clones I guess. Do we need 3-4 different Nina Williams? They all have the same attire and fighting skills, the only difference is their star rank. I believe I got around 12-15 of the characters which isn’t too shabby.

You can also fight other players of course. Not really in real time though, but you fight their Dojo and try to get points that way. The rewards seem pretty reasonable to be honest. Then there is the shop where you spend your coins and tokens. Bandai has a lot of experience with creating apps so it makes sense that they were able to set up so much for this game. In a world without Pokemon Go perhaps I would play this game more, but seeing as how it does exist I won’t really be playing this one now that the story is over. It’ll join the ranks of Sonic Forces, Fire Emblem Heroes, and Ingress as I just log in every day to get the daily bonus. If they add in a story update then I’ll check that out of course. I wouldn’t be surprised as the Marvel Contest of Champions game that I mentioned earlier is very similar, but it had hundreds of levels. That amount is pretty daunting to be honest and I didn’t bother even going through a quarter of it. It’s not like the plot ever seemed to move. That’s an issue here as well, but since the story is so short it’s okay that it only has a short cutscene at the beginning and ending.

As far as the graphics go, the game does a good job of looking like the mainstream titles. The character models are on point and the attack animations are good. I couldn’t really ask for much more than that and the simple fact that you could mistake this for a home console game shows how solid it is. The soundtrack is rather limited, but the tune has a lot of replay value. You won’t mind hearing it over and over again which is certainly a very good thing.

The only real negative to the game is that the servers are still wonky at the moment. Sometimes you’ll beat an opponent but then the game won’t count it and you have to keep beating them until it does. The best thing to do in this case is typically to log out and then go back in. The game does have an interesting health mechanic though as when your fighter loses you must heal them with an item. If you are out of items then you must use another one. I guess Pokemon Go has a feature like this, but getting health items here can be a little trickier. It’s a problem you may have down the road, but at the very least you’ll definitely have enough to get through the main campaign.

Overall, Tekken doesn’t do anything new in the mobile genre, but it still manages to be a solid game. Naturally if you’re a big Tekken fan then this game already has many reasons for you to play this. It will depend on how many fighting game apps of this type you’ve played before and if you want to go with this one or not. There are some server issues but as the game gets older and people leave that shouldn’t be much of a problem. I’d recommend the game, it’s a solid title that will have a continuous stream of content for at least a year and likely longer. Running out of things to do won’t be an issue.

Overall 7/10

Mario Tennis Open Review

It’s time to take a look at a Mario Tennis game that was pretty much overshadowed the instant it came out. That’s because it’s basically the same as playing the Gamecube game except with no cutscenes and less games. As a result, there is little reason to buy this game unless you desperately want to play it on the go. Nonetheless, it was only 10 dollars so I figured..why not? It was basically free thanks to a coupon and I’m glad I got it. The game doesn’t do anything unique, but it still has good tennis fundamentals.

There is no story mode of course and so the closest thing is the traditional Tournaments. There are 8 tournaments and each tournament has 3 rounds. Complete the first 4 to unlock the star version of the character you are playing. The battles never actually get too tough. One thing I noticed about the AI is that if you let them get to the ball then you are unlikely to win a rally against them. Fortunately they can’t seem to handle your serve on any level so you can easily score with your return. If you don’t then you will most likely have lost the point. That adds a little extra tension to the rounds I would say.

You can complete all of the tournaments in a little under 2 hours. To help with the replay value, you can do that with every character in order to get all of their Star Forms and some more items for the shop. Every time you win a match a random item is unlocked for purchase. The annoying thing is that the tournaments don’t get you any money though. To earn money you have to play the minigames. They are surprisingly difficult though so clearing all of them could take some time. This way at least you are earning money and accomplishing at the same time. That’s a plus right? Before talking about the minigames, I suppose I should mention that we also have Doubles tournaments. I was never the biggest fan of doubles and didn’t really go into that mode, but it’s sure to add more length to the game. As per always with sport games, the true replay value occurs if you have someone to play with. Otherwise you likely won’t end up sticking with the game for very long. I find it telling that the game is only 10 dollars when Nintendo games rarely go down in price until a very long time has passed.

There are 4 minigames. One has you relive some of the old 2D Mario levels as you try to keep a rally going while going through the level. It’s a fun concept, but a little too slow for my liking. The level goes by incredibly slowly so it’s more tedious than difficult. Ideally you want to have a good mix of both. It’s probably my least favorite minigame. Then we have Coin Mode. You have to shoot through the rings and gain as many coins as possible. This one is probably the most rigged as it will largely depend on your opponent. As a result I actually lost the Silver version of this game. It’s a decent concept, but I don’t care for the execution.

Time for the 2 best minigames. One is a Rally where you have to keep returning the ball without letting the computer touch it. This one’s actually pretty fun and it’ll definitely test your reaction times as the plants fire the ball at you. You won’t know which one is shooting until the very end. Finally, the best minigame is the rally one. You have to keep hitting a ball back and forth as parts of the stage vanish. This game is taken directly from the Gamecube one and so you can probably see why it is the best. It was just thought through very well and is the right blend of challenging and length. The time goes by slowly at first, but by the end you’ll barely notice. These minigames may not be much, but at least they give the game a little more content.

I haven’t talked much about the actual gameplay, but that’s mainly because there isn’t a lot to be said. It’s a very standard tennis game. You feel the power behind each hit and have different options on how to strike the ball. You fire off a high one, a low one, or a standard shot. You do seem to have special attacks, but I couldn’t figure out how to use them and didn’t even need them in the end so that’s why I didn’t try very hard. Perhaps I would have needed it against Ace level opponents at some point. The game has a dynamic camera view option, but I recommend turning it off. It’s distracting to suddenly have the game zoom in when you head to the net. I don’t know who thought it was a good idea, but it was probably the same person who doesn’t give the game the option to remember your choice. As such, you have to turn it off again after each match. It seemed really random though so at least you don’t have to worry about it happening after every match. Otherwise, I have no qualms with the actual gameplay, it’s what you would expect from a Tennis title.

The graphics look really good. I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of the effort went here although perhaps the character models were just grabbed from somewhere. As there aren’t any real cutscenes it probably wasn’t too hard to just focus on the models. Every character looks to be on point and the stages look sharp as well. The game delivers on this front. When it comes to the soundtrack, it’s fairly decent but forgettable as far as Mario games go. You likely won’t remember it all that well by the time you finish the game.

Overall, Mario Tennis Open is a good game. The Tennis gameplay is solid and that’s really what counts. There just isn’t any extra content to keep you busy. Your attention will only stay on this game for as long as you enjoy playing tennis. I suppose collecting all of the items could help if you’re really a serious collector, but there isn’t a whole lot of point to getting it all otherwise. If you see it in stores for a fair price then I recommend checking it out. I can’t imagine grabbing it at full price though. No matter how fun Tennis is, it just wouldn’t have been worth it.

Overall 7/10

Amada Anime Series: Super Mario Bros Review

It’s time to look at the Mario OVA which is so obscure that I wouldn’t blame you for not hearing of it before. There are 3 episodes in this OVA which each tell a story that shows why Mario is a true hero. They decide to mess with his origin a bit and each story is a stand alone, but it’s interesting to see Mario be used in a bunch of classic fables like this. It may not be the greatest Mario adventure, but they aren’t bad.

The first story starts with Peach and her Hammerbro parents. They are not able to protect her from the mighty Bowser. That’s where Mario comes in as he is born from a shooting star and grows up very quickly. He heads off to save her, but he will have to deal with many powerful threats like the King of the Koopas. Mario isn’t scared though and quickly gets ready to take them all down. This is a more vicious Mario than we are used to as he even wields a gun. It’s cool to see Mario fight like this. He actually uses some hand to hand skills which is something that never happens anymore. We seriously need the upcoming big budget Mario film to have some real fights. This is the Mario we deserve. The whole special is very surreal though, like how are Peach’s parents Koopas? I figured they would at least be Toads or something. Bowser doesn’t look very good as can be expected though. It’s a short little story and one that is fun enough.

The second story is about Mario but this time he is only 1 inch tall. Mario doesn’t care about this and wants to go check out the big city anyway. He knows that this will help him quickly become one of the all time greats. He meets Peach along the way and has a great time. Unfortunately, Mario’s plans are cut short when Bowser appears and decides to take Peach away. Mario can’t have this so he grabs his sword and then begins a fight for the ages. Mario may be small, but he has some serious moves and Bowser makes the mistake of swallowing Mario without chewing. I never quite get why the big villains do this since of course Mario will stab him from the inside. Bowser didn’t really think this plant through, but I suppose I can give him some kudos for the attempt. It’s a fun special as well although I prefer the first story. Mini Mario just doesn’t make for as endearing a character as his normal form.

Finally, the OVA decides to end with a bang on the last episode. This one is a Snow White homage as Bowser dresses up as an old lady and tricks Peach into biting the poison apple. Mario arrives too late to save her, but breaks into the castle in a rescue attempt. Surprisingly he wasn’t doing too well this time, but granted Mario was outnumbered. Fortunately Luigi comes in to save the day and the duo finally get to team up. It was nice to see Luigi actually show up for a bit since I thought the OVA had forgotten about him. This was the last special but probably also the best one so it was a good way to close things out. The action was on point.

So, it’s hard not to like this special as how can you not enjoy a Mario anime? Granted, the anime is fairly low budget. There is a lot of reused animation throughout the specials and they went for stills whenever possible. There’s not much of a soundtrack here either so on a technical level the OVA is pretty bad. That’s why you always want to have a good story to help counter balance these elements. If this wasn’t a Mario product then it probably wouldn’t rate quite as highly as it does. Still, it is great to see Mario on the big screen so I guess he deserves some props for that.

Even if you combine all 3 episodes the OVA isn’t all that long. You can fast blast through this with ease. The pacing for each special is pretty good as a result. It’s all pretty easily available online if you decide to check it out. Mario makes for a good hero and Peach is pretty consistent. Bowser isn’t a great villain though and you probably won’t be able to take him seriously for any of the specials. I think Bowser Jr/Baby Bowser may have been a better pick here or perhaps a made up villain. Bowser just seriously needs a better goal than constantly trying to marry Peach. It’s a futile mission and one that was doomed to failure from the start.

Overall, The Amada series may not have put Mario on the map, but they gave it a good shot. The special is reasonably fun, but there isn’t too much replay value to be found here. Watching it once is good enough to enjoy the surreal elements of the OVA. After that you’ll probably want to stick to the main Prince Haru movie. That’s where most of the Mario elements stayed after all. Of course, if you want to see Mario with a gun, then you have no choice but to run to this series. Either way, if you’re a Mario fan then I recommend checking this special out. If not, then I probably wouldn’t recommend it quite as highly as you could find better alternatives, but it’s a good adventure story for any viewer.

Overall 6/10

While You Were Sleeping Review

I can’t be the only one who thinks that this poster looks a little off right? It just seems photo shopped a bit with how Bullock’s character is being lifted. Maybe they couldn’t keep the pose up for the photo and had started to fall when it was snapped which caused a little blur effect. Maybe I’m just reading too much into this. Anyway, despite the lackluster poster the film is actually fairly decent. I dare say that this is one of the best romance films I’ve seen and maybe that’s because there wasn’t much actual romance until the end.

The plot revolves around a train ticket person named Lucy. Every day a guy named Peter comes by and deposits his tokens at her booth. She knows they are meant to be together, but they’ve never exchanged a word. Finally Peter works up the courage to tell her hi, but then he is mugged and thrown into the train tracks. Lucy manages to save him and takes him to the hospital. Peter is in a coma, but the family believes that Lucy is the fiancee after a quick mix up occurs. She decides not to tell them the truth because it would hurt them too deeply. Still, Lucy will have to plan things out carefully since Peter will be waking up at some point and his brother Jack is starting to suspect that something is off. Can she keep the secret from him?

So, you can probably imagine that quite a lot of shenanigans and hijinx ensue. Fortunately, they’re handled pretty well for the most part. You can basically tell what is going to happen the whole time, but as one Reddit user once said, virtually all movies are predictable. If anything, you should be worried when something unexpected happens as it may mean that the film has made a mistake in getting to the end. Instead you just want to see if the film executes the plot well. So while this film was predictable, it was still entertaining the whole time with most of the humor being on point and not being generally annoying.

Lucy is a reasonable main character. Saving Peter was naturally the right move and she tried doing what was best for everyone. She probably shouldn’t have tried going through with the wedding just to make everyone happy though. There’s definitely a moral there about keeping your happiness in mind as well. If you try to make everyone happy, but are miserable inside then this clearly isn’t the right path. Not to mention that then she would have been stuck with Peter for her whole life. Lucy tends to get along with everyone she meets in the film and it shows what a nice personality she has.

Meanwhile, we have Peter who doesn’t seem like a very nice guy. I don’t think he’s all that bad to be honest as he just has to sit in the antagonist role thanks to the film’s plot. If anything, he just doesn’t seem to have much of a backbone. He was knocked into the tracks quite easily and got knocked out instantly. That’s not really the kind of moment that will impress you and since Peter doesn’t really recover from this until the very end of the movie there isn’t much reason to like him. Not to mention that he seemed to be having an affair with a married woman which throws any last chance he may have had out the window. It sounds like he abandoned the family and while we never hear his side of the story, there’s not much reason to like him.

Then we have Jack. Honestly, I can’t say that he is a good character either. The main reason for this of course is that from his point of view, Lucy and Peter are together so she is strictly off limits. Yet, he still can’t help but fall for her. I don’t care if she were a super model, the instant she is taken then you have to be able to completely move on. Jack doesn’t actually do much about his feelings and while he doesn’t make a move on Lucy, he’s not exactly subtle either. He should have probably just avoided her until the wedding or something if he really couldn’t get over himself. Of course it turned out okay since the whole thing was fabricated and he ended up with Lucy, but things could have easily gotten troublesome. He’s still much better than Peter though.

The rest of the family is pretty fun as well. Once they showed up I knew we had a quality family going. They quickly pushed the doctors aside and took charge once they saw Peter. They have a lot of fun at the Christmas gatherings and while they bicker and talk a lot, it does keep the place lively. While skeptical at first, they end up taking Lucy’s word on events and seem to be rather trusting. They’re also pretty sensible and don’t hold the whole thing against Lucy. Considering that they are the ones who typically take the rumors and confirm them as fact, it wouldn’t be right to blame her for any of this. As a result, the family was rather solid.

Lucy’s boss was also pretty fun. He did his best to listen to her stories and give some half hearted advice. You could tell that he was never too invested in her situation, but at least he still took the time to listen whenever they had an encounter. He couldn’t quite keep the names straight, but the guy was earnest so he was definitely low key one of the best characters. To counter this, we have Joe Junior who is easily the worst character. The guy doesn’t have much of a purpose in the film other than to create some misunderstandings and to look really bad. Why does the eligible bachelor character always have to be so untidy, unintelligent, and generally gross? By the end of the film things seem to have possibly worked out for him which is nice and all I guess, but he probably could have been cut out and the film wouldn’t change. At least his father was good as he didn’t blame Lucy for dropping the tree through his house.

The best scene in the film is probably the big wedding as everyone quickly storms in to stop it. We had objections from Lucy which is understandable and better late than never. We had objections from Jack which naturally doesn’t help his case. We had objections from Peter’s ex who I guess drew the short end of the straw here, but considering that she was already a sketchy character I can’t feel sympathetic. Finally we had objections from Peter’s ex’s husband which was pretty intense. That guy came out of nowhere and really added some weight to the scene. It was great to see everyone show up and this was a joke that went over well. All told, the film’s writing was pretty strong for the most part and many of the jokes were sound. You really can’t ask for much more than that.

Overall, While You Were Sleeping is a pretty fun film. The pacing is always quick and so the film never drags on. Given that Romance Comedies aren’t exactly my thing, this one definitely performed quite admirably. If the general premise sounds like fun then I’d recommend checking this film out. You really can’t go wrong here and if you view it more as a general comedy then you’ll enjoy it more since that’s definitely the main focus. It never gets too over the top and most of the misunderstandings are just amped up a little to make the whole thing work. If only all romcoms could be like this one.

Overall 6/10

Coco Review

It’s time to look at one of Pixar’s newest films! It’s definitely been a pretty big hit and the film has a lot of heart. While it may not be the greatest Pixar film of them all, it is definitely quite solid. The music selection is probably Pixar’s best since and Mexican music in general is something you don’t hear too often. If I ever became a ghost I would certainly expect everyone to leave me a lot of Macaroni and Cheese. I didn’t see any cheese products in the film from what everyone was leaving for the ghosts so I felt like this had to be pointed out.

The film stars a kid named Miguel who is having a hard time fitting in with his family. They really can’t stand music because a long time ago their great ancestor left the family to become a world famous musician. Miguel believes like Gon Freecs that maybe this was justified and still wants to be a music master. The family forces his hand and which causes Miguel to break into a shrine and steal the legendary guitar. The problem is that he is now stuck in the world of the dead and must find the famous musician to be able to get him back to the real world.

Naturally there are a few twists and turns in the film and my plot summary is rather general and cuts out quite a bit. While you will likely see the final plot twist coming about the musician, it doesn’t take away from the character. Ernesto makes for a pretty hype villain and the guy certainly knows how to put up a pretty good front. Nobody dares mess with this guy in either world and he has a strong cult to back him up. The scene where he embraces the song while still trying to get the picture away from the heroes showed that the guy was quick on the uptake and he had no hesitation. This villain wasn’t going to start doubting himself after coming this far or do anything drastic like turning good. Ernesto always knew to seize his moment and never forgot this.

As for Miguel, he’s a reasonable main character I suppose. He’s not great, but kids rarely are. At the very least he showed that he was pretty good with a guitar. I think the movie would have worked even better if the main character had been someone like Ernesto, but a lot of the plot would likely have to be retooled if that was the case. Pixar did a good job of keeping him from being too annoying at the very least and I also wouldn’t have accepted going back to the human world with the conditions that were imposed on him from the family. That would have definitely been a little too much if you ask me.

Hector, pronounced Ector is another one of the big characters. Again, you’ll probably see his plot coming from his first appearance, but that doesn’t hurt him…the rest of the film does that just fine. I just couldn’t bring myself to be a fan of this guy. Not only did he actually leave everyone for music, but then he couldn’t even see his dream through to the end. In the dream world he is basically a running joke to everyone around him and it’s just hard to sympathize. He was naive to the end and not noticing what he was drinking was a rookie mistake. Perhaps if he had won a fight I would have gained more respect for him, but at this point I think it was all over for him. Don’t think he’s a terrible character, but he is probably the worst character in the film now that I think about it.

Despite the film being called Coco, the character doesn’t get much of a role. She seems like a nice enough person I guess, but her memory could use a bit of work. I wish she could talk a little more so she could actually stand up to the others. Miguel’s Aunt/Grandma character seemed reasonable. She was good at throwing her shoes around and keeping Miguel in line even if it didn’t work too well. On the whole Miguel’s family seemed nice. They really just had one rule, don’t associate with music. For everything else they were perfectly reasonable. It’s just a shame that Miguel had to find the one taboo and quickly shatter it.

I do have one relatively big issue with the film. It’s the dog’s design. Lately it seems to be an in thing to make the animals look rather ugly at times. Remember how disturbing kid Dorry was in the Finding Nemo sequel? This is even worse as the dog’s tongue is always hanging out as if he is panting and it makes the character hard to look at. That honestly just looks painful and I felt bad for the dog the whole time. He never actually served a purpose in the film and should have been cut out. Whoever did the character design for the dog also should have been fired on the spot or told to axe the design instantly. It’s just so unfathomably terrible and it was distracting whenever he was on screen.

That aside, I didn’t really have any problems with the film. As I mentioned earlier the soundtrack was quite good. It probably wouldn’t hold up as well if I could understand all of the lyrics since I got most of them and the songs weren’t exactly my style. The beat of the music is good though which is certainly important. They are all very fast tempo which is exactly what you want to see with good music. Slow songs work once in a while, but I have to stress that these are very rare times and usually a fast tempo is the safe option.

The whole ghost dynamic was pretty fun as well. It’s definitely interesting to have a whole system set up, but it does make you feel bad for the people running the scanning program. That was my first thought at the cashier wished the ghosts a happy time on this special once a year day. That’s because the people working the desks wouldn’t be able to enjoy the day themselves. It’s definitely pretty realistic as many people have to work holidays here as well, but I just felt bad for those people. Hopefully they got triple pay.

Overall, Coco is a pretty fun movie. Aside from the distracting dog it’s hard to find any real issues with it. I suppose the cast wasn’t great, but we got some solid musical themes and a lot of action pieces so that worked well enough for me. I’d be up for a sequel, but the movie has a really complete beginning and ending so I suppose it’s not like it actually needs one. Pixar continues to impress with consistently good movies so it’ll be fun to see what they have planned for next time. If you haven’t seen Coco yet then I definitely recommend that you fix that!

Overall 7/10