Haikyu!! Review

It’s time to dive into Haikyu, a series so well known that even Slam Dunk and Prince of Tennis had to give it a side glance before resuming the race to the top. It’s definitely a great title and I can see why it got so big. The volleyball really goes into depth and there’s time to develop a whole ton of characters. The tournaments really don’t hold back either. It’s too bad it had to eventually end since I feel like the time skip had the potential for a whole lot of other stories but maybe someday we’ll get a true sequel series here.

The series follows a kid named Shoyo who is really into Volleyball. Unfortunately nobody else in his school seemed to care that much so it was hard to form a team. Even when he did, he was promptly knocked out of the tournament right away. Now in High School he is eager to show the world what true power really is but he will have to be on the same team as his rival Kageyama. Kageyama is a prodigy and one of the best up and coming setters out there. Meanwhile Shoyo likes being a spiker but he’s rather short which is tough to get around in this sport.

At least if you aim to be a spiker. It’s not as bad if you want to be the guy digger or another position but that’s not Shoyo’s passion. He did get to see someone on TV in the pros who was also short and made a name for himself though so now he is eager to go all the way for the win. Along the way he will meet a lot of friends and enemies but as long as he is alive, Shoyo will continue to get better. The other teams have to watch out!

With 40+ volumes at the ready Haikyu is really able to give a lot of time to both character development and the actual matches. It’s not all that uncommon for a single game to cover 2 volumes and longer which is really impressive. I don’t think any other series has the games go on for this long on such a consistent basis and you love to see it. Each game has a whole lot of emotion to it and you can feel the drama. Part of why the series is so good is because whether you’re a fan of the sport or not, you know the characters well enough to where you can feel their sorrow.

Fortunately I do find Volleyball interesting so I also like the sports aspect on its own too. I can’t say I knew much about the professional rules beyond the basics so I even learned a few things here. It’s really a team sport too so you can’t just dominate the whole game on your own. Of course there are some players that come close and a good spiker/setter can get a lot of points but at the end of the day a balanced team will always be your best bet to claiming victory.

One of the benefits of being a sports title is also that the series is basically devoid of fanservice. That can be a little rare for the average series but Haikyu passes with flying colors. There isn’t really any big romance here either. A few crushes and such but the characters are just so busy with volleyball that they don’t have a whole lot of time for anything else. That’s the manga’s focus and it knows it so I applaud the author in not trying to cram too much in. It’s always the right balance here.

The artwork is also really good. It’s got a lot of detail to it and the action scenes come across very well. You can always tell what is going on and you don’t get overwhelmed. It makes the books a real page turner but at the same time I wouldn’t say it’s a super fast read. There’s a surprising amount of dialogue even during the matches as everyone has a lot of inner thoughts and plans. As far as the sport series go it’s probably the longest read on a chapter to chapter basis.

As I read the series I wouldn’t say there are any weaknesses. The cast is very solid all around, I liked a lot of them. At most I guess you could say that the series doesn’t have any standout characters the way that PoT, Kuroko’s Basketball, or Eyeshield 21 has. Even my favorite characters here aren’t ones I’d really write home about but they’re all consistently good. So instead of a few characters who transcend their limits, it’s more that everyone does good and helps the team out.

The only other thing I’d say is that the ending feels rushed which is something you may not expect from a series that’s over 40 volumes long. Surely by then you would have been able to set everything up. That’s what I figured at first but with how the time skip happens it just feels like there was a lot more of the story to tell. The ending is pretty emotional and does leave room for a true sequel but this series had a lot of gas left in the tank. It’s not the kind of thing that hurts the series since I naturally want any good title to end. This one just stood out to me.

As the series really focuses on the high school adventures, you could say that the heroes have 6 chances to become the champions. There are 2 big tournaments a year and they’re around for 3 years. Of course the seniors wouldn’t be around for future years so that’s something to keep in mind. Not everyone gets to dash off into the sunset here and often times sport titles can be about sacrifice as well.

So each tournament that goes on in the series starts to feel more and more important as they are all really running out of room. Their time is ticking after all and meanwhile every other team has reasons on why they want to win too. Everyone has their own aspirations and goals so in trying to accomplish their goals, the heroes know that they are sinking someone else’s. So it becomes a battle of wills and you don’t always know who is going to win.

Now lets start talking about the characters. First up is Shoyo and he isn’t an expert prodigy at first or one of those super talented players. Initially he’s rather weak in all of the areas and gets better as the series goes on. He has a solid rivalry with Kageyama the whole time and he’s a fun lead. Even by the end it’s fair to say that Shoyo isn’t the greatest player or anything like that but he has certainly made a name for himself and is no pushover. He can hold his own and really came a long way. Shoyo even builds a lot more confidence in himself.

I did prefer his rival Kageyama though. Kageyama is a very serious guy who wants to be the best setter there is. He was talented right from the jump but initially he wants to be more of a one man army and as the series goes on he learns about the true values of friendship. It ultimately makes him a better player since taking other teammates’ preferences and skills into effect is a skill in itself. I thought he was consistent all the way through and was a lot of fun. You need this kind of character to keep the fun dynamics going as Shoyo needs someone to compete with.

Tsukishima is another fairly big character here. He isn’t obsessed with volleyball the way that the others are and so he starts to doubt himself several times. He wonders why he is putting so much effort into this and starts slacking off a few times. Gradually he learns to love the game as much as the others and that’s when he really comes into his own as a big player. He also knows how to trash talk which is always important. You need that in your teammate to keep the other team off balance.

Daichi is the all around kind of character. He’s a solid captain who keeps the troops in line. He doesn’t have a specific specialty for the most part but it’s still good to have someone who can do a bit of everything. In that way he’s definitely still one of the most important players on the field. I don’t feel like he ultimately got to do as much as some of the others but as one of the older players he was quite desperate to win. He stood by for all the years when the school didn’t have a great team. He just kept at it until victory was at hand.

Then there’s Sugawara who is a nice guy and used to be the setter before Kageyama. As you can guess that pretty much means he was doomed from the jump. I appreciated that he never got petty or super jealous about this though. Sure, he wishes he could be out there but he put victory above all else and didn’t make a scene. Even then he had some moments where he would come off the bench and land some key points. He’s a real good moral booster at all times.

Azumane is the big spiker on the team so in a way he’s also a rival to Shoyo. Shoyo utilizes his quick speed and Kageyama’s instant throws to land points while Azumane just smashes the ball in there. As the power hitter that means a lot of teams will have a moment where their player stuffs Azumane to show how good they are. The worf effect hits Azumane the hardest and he can be a little timid for my liking. I never felt like he could compete with some of the other setters. He’s a good guy to have around but I think he should have been portrayed as just a bit stronger if you ask me.

Nishinoya is the libero, the defensive player of the team. He does really good in this and starts out as one of the best in his position. He actually stays near the top for the whole series so that shows how much time he put into this. His position won’t get a lot of the splash plays that others get but he gets a good amount of focus and can always be counted on. I liked his energy and spirit throughout, he’s definitely one of the more enjoyable characters here.

Tanaka is the punk type of character from the team although while he is loud and has the signature haircut, he’s a nice enough guy. He has a crush on the team’s manager and is always acting rather desperate around her. He’s a spiker but isn’t nearly as skilled as the others. It feels like he is often stuffed at the line and just can’t move forward. He has a lot of drive though and never gives up no matter how tough things get. It’s definitely something you can appreciate about the character.

Kiyoko does well as the manager, she keeps the team focused and makes sure they have what they need for the games. Whether it’s getting the equipment or even something like making sure they have their lunches for away games, Kiyoko takes care of it. It would have been nice if she could have joined in the games as well at some point but ultimately that’s not one of the duties.

An underclassman Hitoka works under Koyoko to be her eventual successor. She’s a lot more nervous though and isn’t quite as capable at first. She continues to improve as the series goes on but just doesn’t have Koyoko’s poise. Then there’s Takeda who acts as the coach for a while. I forget whether he or Keishin has the official position but Keishin really helps with devising up the plays and strategies. Takeda is more about reminding the team to play fair and have a good time. As long as they try their best then there’s nothing to worry about. He’s a good guy and doesn’t make any real mistakes. Keishin is also solid and while he only very reluctantly joined the group at first, he ends up getting very invested in it.

That about wraps it up for the main character’s team. Now you can see why the character roster is so big since every team has that amount of players. They all get real designs and things to do as well but for the most part every team has 2-3 really memorable guys who ends up playing a big role. I’ll mainly stick to the big members of each team. So first off is Oikawa who was easily one of my favorite rivals. He’s always taking shots at Kageyama and is immensely confident in his own abilities.

The guy deserves to be confident too because he actually does back it up. He’s one of the most impressive setters in the whole series and he has to pull off his big plays without someone like Hinata to break through the enemy lines. Part of what makes the main team (Karasuno) so good is the combo that Shoyo and Kageyama have where they can put the ball anywhere. The fact that Oikawa can keep up without that is impressive.

Then you have Kyotani, known as the mad dog who is a big player on their team. His offense is really good and if he would follow the plans and play sensibly then he would be an even bigger threat. Either way he’s not someone that you are able to take on lightly. I liked him well enough and he made for a very solid villain to pit against the heroes.

Kenma is probably the smartest character in the whole series. He is a big video game player and treats everything like an RPG. He’s always looking into how to make the team more efficient and how to get past the opposing team players. Considering how many players there are on both teams, it’s really impressive that he can plan things out so thoroughly. I was really impressed all the way through at least. Not just anyone could pull off what he did. He was also a good friend to Shoyo. While there isn’t often a lot of time for things to happen between games, the series gave them some moments to just have a good time.

Then there’s Kuroo who is really the opposite. He’s great friends with Kenma but he’s all about throwing the insults and getting inside the heads of the opposing teams. It’s quite the valid strategy and I thought he did a good job with it. They really didn’t know what hit them the whole time. I liked his confidence and I would often root for this team when they weren’t fighting the main one. They’re just a likable crew, particularly as their team is an underdog like Karasuno.

Bokuto is one of the more memorable characters because the series went all out with his design. He’s got spiky hair and a very loud personality. His play can be a little too affected by his emotions so he’s not the most consistent player out there but he can play very well when he is in the right mood. His name also just makes me think of Boruto the whole time. His teammate Keiji does a good job of keeping him focused at all times though. I think it would have been a lot tougher if his team was without Keiji because then they would all fall flat as soon as Bokuto got knocked off his rhythm.

The twins Osamu and Atsumu definitely have a good role as well. It is easy to mix them up which is intentional but even their personalities are rather similar. It was cool to see them pull off a team combo as well. Hey, if anyone could copy the bond between friends that Shoyo and Kageyama had, twins would make the most sense right? They’re on the same wavelength and all much more than standard players could be. They were quite skilled as well and made for good antagonists.

Sakusa is one of the best spikers around and he got to train with Kageyama at one of the summits. Beyond being a great spiker I can’t remember too much about him but it’s always nice to meet the top players. Ushijima really left an impression for that reason as he is known as the very best. In every sport there will always be someone at the very top and it just so happens that Ushijima got that spot this time. He has quite the rivalry with Shoyo as well. The guy seems to take the main character very seriously which in a way is a pretty big complement.

I liked Ushijima, he always had a whole lot of presence to him. When he appeared it was easy to see that he was the best. That’s probably true even by the ending as well so if this was a 1 on 1 sport then things would be tricky. There are a lot of other players and also some new characters who appeared after the time skip but that’s it for a lot of the big ones. It’s a pretty well rounded cast with a whole lot of people to meet. Also, not all of them would go on to stay with volleyball forever which makes sense. So in the time skip we see that a lot of them have moved on to other things and it’s not something you see usually. I thought that was interesting, they can still play but it makes sense that they would have other passions as well.

As you go through the series you really get to know all of the characters and the teams which is why it isn’t as simple as just saying that you’ll root for the main characters all the time. Of course you still might which is totally fair as they are the leads but as you read through the origin stories and character motivations that really could change. For the most part a lot of the teams are likable but of course you’ll find a few that aren’t quite as easy to root for. None of them turn into actual villains or anything as these are still school tournaments and all but not everyone has a tragic backstory. Some are just here to play volleyball and that totally makes sense. If anything there would be something funny about a team like that winning it all.

The series has its share of humor as well which is handled well. The games themselves tend to be deathly serious to the point where characters have to remind the lead to breath (He actually faints at one point because he forgot to even drink water) and so you can see how everyone’s stressed out. As a result they all hang out and relax between games. It’s the only time where they really have any down time so they have to make the most of it. It never get boring or drawn out and works well in getting more character development. It is still very character driven in as much as it’s also super detailed with the sports. That’s why it’s got such a good balance.

Overall, Haikyu is definitely a great manga and I’d recommend it to anyone. There’s really no reason to miss out on it. Whether you like sports or not, you should be able to enjoy this one just on account of the solid writing and plot development. There is always something happening here and the manga does a great job of getting the emotions across. Once you start the manga it’s a real page turner so you don’t want to put it down. I would say that it’s one of the best sports manga titles. I’d put it right after Prince of Tennis and Kuroko’s Basketball as the third best one. That could change once I finish Eyeshield 21 and Slam Dunk, but either way it’s in very distinguished company. All of those are heavy hitters worthy of the top rank.

Overall 8/10

Madden 21 Review

It’s been quite a while but I finally got the next Madden game! I’m still behind as there’s one more I need to get but it felt good upgrading. I’ve been playing a lot of Madden 20 so this way I was really able to see what had changed. On the whole I would say Madden 20’s a little better but it’s close and I still had a blast with 21. I ended up playing through an entire season and won the Super Bowl so I can really say that I got to experience the game all the way through. I won’t be forgetting Madden 21 anytime soon, that’s for sure!

There is a bit of a story mode with how you go from college to the pros but the cutscenes are still completely unskippable so it didn’t really seem worth it to go through this mode. I went through the normal Franchise mode instead and played a season that way. I then went into the only offense version since I don’t care for defense quite as much and it worked out pretty well I would say. I didn’t win every game and the system did well in making some teams tougher than others based on their record. So this really became apparent by the end of the season.

I found myself running the ball a lot because throwing always feels risky in the newer Madden games. The throwing mechanics definitely did seem to be a bit different now as you could actually miss some automatic type throws if you held your control stick too much in any direction. I get that it makes the game a little more realistic but I was not a fan of this. Just let me throw the ball and I’m set. I know you have to have a balance here but Madden 2004 and Madden 2013 should be the templates for that. They were absolutely perfect with throwing the ball. I would feel comfortable just airing the ball out.

That’s something that the newer Maddens haven’t encouraged in a very long time. Throwing slants is good but a deep shot up the middle? It’ll get picked off or blown incomplete pretty much every time. There’s almost no reason to even try attempting the pass which is a little disappointing. I love throwing the ball but it’s just smarter to run it in this game. I must have ran for over 60% of my plays in every game and it turned out well. I had Zeke run for over 200 yards on 4 different occasions and I’d usually run for close to 100 with Dak.

Running is fun too of course but not quite as epic as throwing the ball. To me that’s where the heart of Madden is as it’s all about making the right read at the right time. Most times there will be someone open but whether you notice that in time or after you throw the ball is really the deciding factor here. Still, I don’t throw much because the defenders can all jump 6 feet in any direction and just snag the ball out of anywhere. It’s crazy just how good they are and they have lightning fast reaction times.

Fortunately running the ball is still a blast so there’s that. The gameplay is just absolutely top notch so even if Madden were to keep on throwing out the same game every year, I would still have a blast with it. I just wish online play wasn’t an added cost or I would be having a lot of battles online. As it stands I don’t really get a chance to do that but if Madden 23 ends up coming out for the Switch that would be excellent and fix everything.

Outside of the normal games there are a bunch of other modes of course. We have an NFL street kind of experience as a new mode which is interesting. I don’t feel like you get a whole lot out of it compared to the normal games though so I wouldn’t say that it’s really a winner. More options is never a bad thing though and it doesn’t take away from playing the normal games. You’ve also got the story and all the online content so you won’t run out of things to do.

I will say that you might want to turn off injuries while playing through Franchise mode though. I decided to keep all settings as default but there were so many injuries during the games that it was crazy. I must have lost close to 10 people for the season which seemed excessive. Then there were a ton of injuries during the game that would hold them out til next week. It did make the playoffs a little more difficult but fortunately I got Zeke back for the championship and I never lost Dak. If I lost Dak then things might have really been curtains for me.

One feeling that the game really captures 100% is how some teams will stuff the run. There was one game where by halftime I had 12 rushes for 18 yards which is just sad. I eventually had to give up on the run and I ended up losing that game but for the most part I won all my games thanks to a very healthy blend of running and passing the ball. You need that kind of balance if you want to capture a win. Of course if you practice hard enough then you can probably win any which way. Fortunately there aren’t many fumbles going on either. That can feel cheesy since it’s an error that you couldn’t control so it should always be a rare event.

Naturally the game still puts a lot of effort into the graphics and how realistic the presentation is. I like how much detail is on the screen whether it’s your player’s stats or the team as a whole. You see a live sports ticket on the bottom of the screen as well and of course it’s fun to hear the commentators. Naturally they can improve and it’s no secret that EA has been very lazy with the series but it shows how good the fundamentals are. They could just keep copy and pasting the game over and over again and it would still end up being amazing. I would like to see what EA can do if they really try though. To date the best games are 2004 and 2013 so I’d like to see if they can ever be surpassed.

Overall, Madden 21 is definitely a blast. The series is as good as ever and you’re bound to have a lot of fun here. The content is almost literally unlimited and you can always try different plays and teams to freshen things up. Hopefully one day they can remove the unskippable cutscenes and also make the franchise mode a little more extensive. Do that and the series will just keep on getting better and better. I know Madden has the potential for even more greatness!

Overall 9/10

Facing the Giants

Facing the Giants is a film I saw a very long time ago before the blog days. Well, now I have rewatched it and the movie holds up well. It’s a solid drama story with the main characters being put through a lot of trials in their faith but ultimately they are able to overcome them and get even closer to God by the end. While you can likely see all of the story beats coming in advance, this isn’t really meant to be a film of twists and turns so the execution is what counts here.

The movie starts by introducing us to Grant who has been having a rough time. His Football team has been losing so many games for years and years. Just having a mediocre season is the best that they have been able to pull off. This is causing Grant to lose a lot of standing with the fathers whose kids are losing their time to shine here. Meanwhile Grant isn’t doing much better at home. He and his wife Brooke have been unable to have a kid for a while, their car is broken down, and the house is in poor condition. It seems like everything around Grant is falling apart and even his faith is now strained. Is there any chance at a comeback?

There is also a sub plot where a kid named David is interested in joining the Football team but he’s worried that he will fail. He figures that if he doesn’t join then he can’t possibly lose but his grandfather pushes him to try anyway. David ultimately makes the team but now he’s scared about actually kicking. Can he manage to go past his fears? There isn’t a ton of time for the subplot but ultimately David steps up eventually. It’s a tricky situation for Grant though because the team does already have a great kicker. Considering how bad the team is, he was probably hoping that David would be playing a different position. He makes sure to give David his chance to shine though which is good.

The movie’s got good pacing and goes quickly. My only issue/weakness for the movie is I think the drama aspects can be overplayed a bit. Grant’s various sad moments just don’t land for me in that I think he goes overboard. If the movie dialed down the sad scenes a little bit I think that would be for the best. The deck is certainly stacked against Grant but he just keeps on doing the right things and it pays off.

The turning point for the team is when they decide to finally start playing for God instead of focusing on wins. This way they’ll stay happy whether they win or lose. The team certainly has a lot more motivation after that as they start dominating on the field. Ultimately to put that to the test I would have kept the ending without the plot twist near the end. It would still have been a happy ending with how far they made it in the season without it feeling a bit cheesy. The very final game just seemed like a stretch.

Low key, the team’s defense was actually really good though. So in the first game we see in the movie, Grant’s team fumbled 4 times and threw 3 interceptions. So if you’re counting that’s 7 turnovers yet the final score had them losing 21-7. So their defense was absolutely rock solid in stopping them each time because otherwise the score should have been far greater. I like to think it shows that the team did have some talent, they just couldn’t turn that into points on the other side. So by the end of the film both sides were finally playing well and it made a difference.

Meanwhile Brooke had to deal with her share of trials as well since she really wanted a kid too. She goes through a lot of tests and is always hoping that things will be different. While I don’t think taking the individual tests to see who is at fault was a good idea (Puts unnecessary guilt on whoever is not performing) you can see how desperate she was. Ultimately things turn out well for her.

So the movie definitely has a happy ending for everyone. Someone even gets a new vehicle and along the way one kid’s relationship with his father is mended. Each character certainly has a lot to be thankful for. We get a lot of fun Football scenes as well so this was definitely a quality title. The title itself was also clever as it means a few different things as you watch the movie. A versatile title is nice because it shows that they really thought hard before selecting it. Sometimes a title just feels thrown on without having a whole lot to do with the movie.

Overall, Facing the Giants is a solid movie. It’s well balanced with the writing and trials that the characters have to go through. Grant may overdo it a bit with his reactions but you know that things will turn out fine in the end. Ultimately he made the right choice in having the kids learn to accept the result whether it be victory or defeat. They would place everything in God’s hands and what will be, will be. There won’t always be a happy ending but you just have to stand strong through to the end.

NHL 19 Review

It’s been quite a while since I played one of the hockey games. Well, no better time than the present right? I got to play this one a bit more than the others as I went deep into the game for the trophies. One of them was for completing all tutorials so as a result I finally developed some fundamental skills here. I wouldn’t call myself a Hockey pro or anything yet…but I wouldn’t bet against myself either at this point. It’s a decently solid game that should please Hockey fans.

There are a lot of modes here, so many in fact that you can pick a few to pin to the quick access menu at the top in case you don’t want to have to navigate through all of them so often. It’s a solid quality of life feature although I think some modes could have really been bundled together. I mainly stuck to the quick matches but also played some levels in Be A Pro and the World Career mode. They all essentially lead to the same gameplay although the main difference is that in Be A Pro you can only play as one character (Yourself) in the matches while in the other modes you can switch between players at all. It’s a key difference.

Personally I like controlling all of the players. When I’m only one person it just feels like I’m not really controlling the flow of the game as much as I’d like. Also, there’s more dead time as a result since you have to wait to get the puck back while in the other mode you are always with it. I’ll give the game props for having a choice though. More choices is always a good thing since everyone will want to be able to play the game in their own way. I think that makes a lot of sense and is just practical. Shouldn’t be hard to implement either so it’s worth going the extra mile here.

The graphics are really solid as expected. You definitely don’t have to worry about anything not being very clear here or anything like that. Everything is fairly HD and if EA knows how to do one thing exceptionally well, it’s how to make a game look visually appealing. You also have to give them credit for the smooth gameplay. They may not change it almost at all from year to year but it works pretty well and they are the ones who set that up initially. The soundtrack isn’t very good but it’s rare to have a sport game with a very memorable one.

Going more into the gameplay, the main idea here is you want to shoot the puck into the opponent’s goal. This scores you a point and whoever has the most points at the end of the game claims victory. You want to prevent your opponent from doing the same to your goal. You move throughout the hockey field and on offense you can pass to other players or take a shot. On defense you can openly body slam opponents but be careful about tripping them. The latter counts as a penalty but if you can shoot your stick out with good timing you can prevent a shot from soaring into the goal.

Defense is really difficult which is no surprise since that’s often the toughest part of any sport game. Even in Football I have a hard time with that. I will say that the body slaming is really satisfying though. I don’t understand all of the rules in NHL so occasionally I’ll draw a flag for being on the wrong side but on the whole you don’t need to know a lot of technicals. Being able to maneuver around the arena is really the most important skill to have so if you can do that then you’ll be good.

Now on offense, the main thing I would recommend you learn how to do is pass effectively. It’s almost impossible to get a straight shot past the goalie so what I found is the most efficient way to score is to have one ally near you. Have both characters sprint at the goalie and then immediately pass to the other player and shoot. If you do this in one quick motion the goalie is usually not fast enough to stop this attack and then it’s off to the races. I found this to be the most reliable way to score at least and I even blew out one of my opponents using this trick.

A fun thing about hockey is that even the computer has a very hard time scoring. So if you can score just 2 goals in a game you should win over 90% of your matches. I’m sure if you bump the difficulty level up then this will change but for the most part it really is an excellent way to make sure you come out on top. I don’t have any other gameplay advice other than that. In terms of movement it’s really all just about making sure that you’re at the right place at the right time. Don’t let the computers surround you or put too much pressure on. Keep them at a distance and you’ll be just fine. Although the field is limited so just do your best.

Overall, NHL 19 may be the best of the NHL games I’ve played or at least it’s definitely one of the better ones. It helps a lot that the tutorial mode was very comprehensive so I felt like I actually could play the game instead of button mashing. Parts of the game feel a little overly complex but I suppose watching high level NHL battles would likely be really fun as a result. If you like hockey then you’ll enjoy this game and if not then you won’t. At least that makes it extremely easy when thinking about recommending this one or not. There aren’t a whole lot of extra thoughts you’ll need to put into that aspect. I’ll probably get NHL 20 in a year or two once I can find it for $5 like this one. I’m not a big Hockey guy so I only play the games until I get a C rank in terms of trophies but it’s worth it to at least get that far for me and for that price you can’t go wrong.

Overall 6/10

The Natural Review

It’s been a little while since I saw a film about Baseball. The last one was probably the Field of Dreams and that didn’t actually have a lot of Baseball action in it. This one changes all of that and it makes for a pretty fun adventure. It’s a well written movie that is long enough to really go into depth on the various events occurring. It’s almost surprising that it’s so long because at first the movie moves very quickly but a Baseball season is quite long and the film shows that.

The movie starts off by introducing us to Roy who is a Baseball prodigy. He has been interested in the game ever since he was a kid. One day he even strikes out a fairly well known pro batter. It looks like the sky’s the limit but unfortunately the fame goes to his head. He immediately cheats on his girlfriend and promptly gets shot by the temptress mafia style. This takes almost 20 years to heal. Can Roy make a comeback and still live out his Baseball dreams or is it all over for him?

Most of this review will be for talking about all the solid points of the movie because there are many. I really only had one issue with the film and that’s the main character. I never found Roy to be all that likable and I didn’t even feel like the film was trying to redeem him much until near the very end of the film either. Women are clearly his vice right from the start of the film but he just never learns his lesson.

Take the initial instance of cheating for example. He gets shot immediately afterwards because of that so you kind of figure that he won’t make the same mistake again right? Well, one of the villains hires a girl to mess with him and this works incredibly well. If not for having to do some rather obvious actions like giving him poison candy, the girl would have definitely kept Roy under wraps the whole time.

It feels more like Roy was forced to get past this since she couldn’t follow him on some of the away games as opposed to actually realizing he was messing up his life. By the time he confides to the original girl, it all just feels a little too late. This guy just wasn’t serious enough about Baseball or about his own convictions. He likes to think of himself as an honorable guy but we learned that this wasn’t the case early on. Roy’s even lucky to get away with arguing with the coach.

He defied the coach’s orders in front of the whole team and then refused to go back down to the B league. Good thing Roy was a solid player because he would have been doomed otherwise. I do question how the coach had never seen him batting before though. Perhaps it’s normal that a coach would skip the practices? I’m certainly less familiar with Baseball compared to Football, Tennis, or even Basketball and Soccer. Still, I’d expect the coach should have at least been told that Roy has been playing amazing since the start especially since the team was winless and badly needed any kind of spark.

Pop was a great supporting character though. I always like a coach who really gets heated along with the players and storms the dugout. He’s a very old school kind of coach who gets the job done and pushes his players to the limits. He’s also in a pretty tough position with how he may lose the team to the villainous Judge.

Judge is a very memorable villain here because of how over the top he is. The guy bribes everyone, is super rich, and even has a villainous looking room since he keeps the lights off. The guy has a flair for the dramatic and it has served him well over the years. His inclusion helped to raise the stakes in the film so it was definitely a good idea having him around.

Then you have another one of the villainesses in Memo. Not to be confused with the first lady who tricked Roy, this one was a little more subtle and doesn’t take the gun out until the end. She’s a decent villain I suppose but in most of her scenes you’re just shaking your head at Roy. He’s finally close to achieving his dream and is quick to just toss it all away just like that. Watch closely during the montage of him losing every game. He isn’t nearly as broken up about it as you would expect.

Finally you have Iris who was the girl from the opening scene. She ends up appearing in the second half of the film. If I were her I probably wouldn’t give Roy a second chance in the arena though. As a friend, maybe, but that would be it. She’s a reasonable character though and has done well for herself in the meantime. Not only did she manage to keep the farm but she’s able to support her kid as well and has a pretty decent home. Iris is definitely a go getter who put a lot of work in.

The Natural is a fairly serious film but one that is able to squeeze in a good amount of humor as well. The jokes tend to land well and the writing is solid so throughout the movie you are interested in what is going on. The cast is also rather big when you consider the other players running around. Most of them don’t get a big role but some do get a little important by the end. Then Judge has a few minions as well. The movie may be well over 2 hours but it doesn’t drag on which is really the important thing.

The Baseball scenes are also handled well. They’re always exciting and actually make Baseball look fun to watch. After all, you don’t have to worry about commercials or the waiting in between pitches. In the movies you just go right to the action and it works quite well. The scene where a Baseball is cut in two after a solid hit was certainly memorable as well. The effects for that were on point without a doubt. We even got a little thunder and lightning for when Roy first went up to bat in the big game.

Overall, The Natural is a solid film. It really doesn’t have any big issues and you’ll have a good time watching it from cover to cover. Really, if the film just made Roy more of a likable character then the film would be even better. After all, he has a lot of good moments like when he outwitted the psychic using his two gold coins and the banter he has with the villains. A lot of the best scenes involve Roy so he had a lot of the traits you’d want to see in a lead. Either way if you like Baseball then you should definitely check this film out.

Overall 7/10

Harry Potter: Quidditch World Cup Review

Quidditch was a lot of fun to play through in the first Harry Potter game so it was fun to see it make a return here. I definitely missed it when the latter games were cutting it out. Of course with a whole game built around this concept that means that you really need to have tight gameplay. Fortunately it is quite good and a lot of fun. I just think the game should have had a bit more of an ending to be honest.

When the game starts you are told to pick a team. I naturally went with Griffindor because you just can’t go wrong with that group right? The first few levels are about taking down all of the other schools. Then you can enter the World Cup where you have to go up against the other countries. Once you’ve done that then you’re done. The game loops for extra matches and you work on getting the rest of the cards. I ended up with 33/104 so I suppose that’s not too bad. It would be nice if the game could save your spot in a tournament though. While you can save your title at almost any time, it always takes you back to the menu when you boot it up again to start a tournament from scratch.

I should quickly talk about the gameplay since Quidditch is a pretty unique sport. So the goal of the game is to pass the ball to your teammates to earn points or to shoot the ball through one of the 3 hoops. Each time you do so you get 10 points. Once the meter is fully charged an event will start where you and the opponent try to grab the Quidditch ball. Whoever grabs it first gets 150 points and then the battle ends. So this keeps the hoops points from being meaningless or anything like that but at the same time the points don’t matter much. I was beating an opponent by around 400 before I realized this match wasn’t ending. That’s why scoring shouldn’t be your top concern. It doesn’t build the meter much at all.

The best way to win a match is to use combo passes. Hold down the L button and keep on passing the ball around. This will build the meter very quickly and the more meter you have, the more time you have to boost your broom in the final chase. Be careful about turning the ball over though as that will negate any meter build up you had amassed from the current combo. Clearly there are a lot of variables to consider here and you really want to try and take them all into account. Of course if you want to be really safe you can still score around 200 points so that way even if the other team grabs the Quidditch you would end up winning. You should always be able to grab the Quidditch first though, at least I found that part to be pretty easy.

You also have some special abilities but they aren’t all that necessary. Often times I found it easier to just do a basic tackle with A to knock the ball away then to get into the fancy stuff. For example, if you press B you get a mini cutscene where you take the ball away. Y allows you to gain a quick boost that lets you go forward and there’s X which lets you fire off one of the balls to hit the opponent with. I don’t mind the abilities but in a way they have 0 impact on the game. Whether you use them or ignore them they will not affect the entire match at all in which case I wonder why they are even around. You’ve also got the final smash attacks for a team which give you instant goals but it takes a while to build up enough energy for this. I got to see the computers use it a few times but I never had enough energy for it unfortunately.

The graphics are pretty decent. I wouldn’t say they are anything special but the character designs are on point and the whole thing looks pretty nice. The only time you may have some trouble is with navigating the turns during the final chase but that’s not really a graphics thing so much as it’s just about the gameplay. On the whole I would say the gameplay is pretty legit but those turns are just rough. I wouldn’t say any of the game’s tunes really stood out though.

In terms of length this game will probably last you around 2 hours to beat every opponent I suppose. Outside of that the only replay value is in collecting all of the cards by completing specific challenges. It’s a reasonable incentive to at least add a bit more punch to the usual gameplay but I’m not really sure if that would really be enough to get you back to play a bunch of extra matches once you’ve already won. I feel like it would be a hard sell at least.

So the game is pretty fun but I do have to emphasize that it is just very short. You need to make sure that you pick it up at a good price or you may end up with a few regrets there. There is multiplayer mode as well though which should also increase the replay value. As long as you find the gameplay fun then I suppose that’s really the most important thing here.

Overall, Harry Potter: Quidditch World Cup is a pretty fun spinoff. It’s nice that this sport got an entire video game to itself even though the sport itself does not yet exist. It just makes for a very original game. A bit of a story mode would have been nice but I suppose it’s not something that would have been expected. Hopefully the new PS5 Harry Potter game coming out will include some Quidditch gameplay as well. I look forward to seeing how it looks with the modern technology backing it up.

Overall 7/10


I started this series a little while back and it’s definitely been a pretty hype title. I’ll have a review up for when I finish it but you really can’t go wrong with Volleyball so I don’t see this title taking a dip. Every sport should have a definitive manga title and with this one in the books that’s one more sport complete to join Basketball (Kuroko), Football (Eyeshield 21) and Tennis. (Prince of Tennis)

Overall 8/10

Draft Day Review

It’s time to look at an NFL film from a while back. I always like to see films based on Football because it’s such an interesting sport. Watching the live games is already great so a film like this would be sure to land as well. Having the Browns be the main focus also makes sense since they tend to never be doing all that well. This year is the first time they’ve had a winning record in many years as it is. Of course that means you feel like the Browns are doomed no matter what here but at least they’re trying to draft well. Ultimately this is a solid title even if I feel like some plots weren’t really needed.

Draft Day is here and the Browns GM Sonny is being pressured on who to draft. The owner Anthony wants Sonny to pick up the #1 quarterback since he is guaranteed to make a splash. The coach thinks that Sonny should be picking up a running back to help the offensive team really have a balanced attack. Personally Sonny wants a linebacker since he believes that this guy is the best fit for the team but defensive players don’t tend to make big headlines like that. It’s just the way it’s always been and Sonny knows that his job is on the line here. Is there a way he can make this draft a success without getting himself fired?

Naturally the owner has a lot of pull so you can’t blame Sonny for quickly thinking he just needs to go with what his boss says. At the end of the day if the owner wants something it’s going to be pretty hard to stop him if you want to keep your job. The pressure he gets from the coach isn’t nearly as serious. It’s also tough because a fresh quarterback can change everything while a superstar defensive player can only do so much on his own. It’s why quarterbacks tend to make so much money. No single player is a whole team but the quarterback does have his hands on the ball for every offensive play so he has more control than any other player on the field. Additionally this quarterback seemingly has no weaknesses and is considered the best player in the draft.

I’m glad that the film didn’t give us a cop out by making the quarterback turn out to be terrible or anything. We do get some potential weaknesses on and off the field here but the film doesn’t do anything too drastic so there’s still a good debate to be had. The linebacker, running back, and quarterback are all very valid picks to be sure. I also enjoyed all of the banter between the teams. There was a lot of fun back and forth with the Seahawks for example. He definitely manipulated the Browns GM with ease initially although Sonny gets ready to start turning the tables later on. None of the other teams get huge roles although they are certainly present the whole time.

What I could have done without here was mainly the plot with Sonny and his family. In particular he had some issues with his mother and his Ex. This plot didn’t really seem to add much to the film and also hurt Sonny as the main character. While their demands weren’t always the most reasonable, it just makes Sonny a bit less sympathetic when he’s yelling and breaking laptops. He seems like a guy who ultimately balks when there’s a lot of pressure as seen with his opening draft deal which was pretty terrible. The film tries to make this up by showing his greatness later on but the final deal is extremely convenient to the point where it’s not very realistic. Personally I’d say an ideal ending would have just omitted the final part of the deal or nerfed it a bit so there was still some sacrifice while giving an ending that worked out for all of the characters. I think that would have worked out quite nicely.

One character I enjoyed quite a bit was the coach. He definitely disagreed with Sonny at almost literally every turn but I liked his confidence. The guy clearly just wanted to make sure his offense was intact and didn’t like that Sonny’s trade threatened to jeopardize everything. Sonny’s right that he has no obligation to bring the coach in on these decisions but when the decisions are incredibly suspect like that it does make you think that the coach had a point. In a way the film shows the organization as being very split in their decision making which makes a decent amount of sense when you consider how poorly the team tends to handle its new recruits. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were a lot of disagreements within the staff there.

We also have a subplot with Sonny and his secret girlfriend Ali that doesn’t seem to add a whole lot to the film. It’s the kind of romance where you feel like they could have just gone public with it a lot sooner and it wouldn’t have been an issue. As it is it seems like all of the important characters knew that they were together anyway. Sonny also didn’t take Ali’s news at the beginning very well either although interestingly the film mainly starts right as/after the announcement was made rather than having a whole scene devoted to it. I thought that was a good idea.

So what I’m getting at here is that the sports aspect of the film was great but the drama around it wasn’t as solid as it could have been. The sports angle is why I liked the film though and it more than makes up for the rest. The writing is definitely really solid when it’s focused on the main plot. The pacing is nice and tight with a lot happening at all times. Whether you like Football or not I expect you can enjoy this film. Some of the terminology may go over your head but the film at least explains the main parts so you should understand what is going on with the draft.

Overall, Draft Day is a solid film. I don’t think it’ll go down as being the definitive NFL title or anything like that but I thought it was handled well. Draft Day is definitely one of the biggest days for a GM since a lot of important calls are made on that day and they will be remembered for the rest of your career. Make a mistake and people aren’t going to let you forget it even after years have passed. That’s just the way things shake out here and not without due cause. A GM makes a whole lot of money to be able to prepare for days like this so you have to be ready. In that sense Sonny should have had his team prepared a little better than he did at the start but he learned gradually as the film went on. It was also a really nice touch that the coach had been with the Cowboys and won a Super Bowl. Even this film had to remember to acknowledge that the Cowboys are always winners!

Overall 7/10

Natsume Championship Wrestling Review

It’s time to look at another wrestling game. I played one on the NES so it was finally time to try the SNES version. Unfortunately I definitely would not say that this game was very good. In fact, I thought it was fairly bad and has not aged well at all. There are a lot of little choppy animations thrown in and parts of the game where you have to watch what’s basically a small cutscenes. There are just too many breaks in the action and that ultimately ends up hurting the experience quite a bit.

There’s no story mode so right off the bat you can just jump into some exhibitions or the tournament mode where you fight off everyone at once. Definitely a pretty reasonable structure for a fighting game but then you need the gameplay to be on point and this one was not. You have 3 basic moves when you start to fight, you can punch, kick, or go for a grab. You can also try running blows but they are unlikely to land even when the computer is on easy mode. When you throw an opponent to the ground you can follow up by kicking them where it hurts, getting them into a submission, or picking them up to get a free hit in.

My favorite option was the free hit because it seems like a no brainer to me. You get the free hit and then knock him down to repeat the cycle again. It can be tough to time the first punch though so that you are in a position to grab again after that. It’s not quite as easy as it sounds after all. The annoying part is when you go face to face with an opponent and they grab you. There’s basically nothing you can do about it and I tried many different options. I would rewind and take just about any action but it wouldn’t matter. Once the opponent wants to grab you they won’t stop until they do. It triggers a cutscene of sorts where they make you run back and then forward into their punch. They then follow it up with all of the counters I described above.

Eventually they will try to pin you. With good button mashing you can break free almost every time but it’s still annoying to have to keep doing this over and over again every round. Then when you pin them they also break free so each match drags on for an incredible amount of time. You spend more time messing around on the ground then you do actually fighting and that just feels like a mistake to me. It takes away from the entire point of wrestling doesn’t it? I want to actually be interacting with the game. The problem is that while you’re on the ground and they jump on you there’s nothing you can do for a little while. Dead time like that doesn’t work in game format.

At least the graphics are okay I guess. They’re clear enough. The game is very down to Earth so it’s not like they’re going to be able to show a whole lot anyway. What we do get works well enough I suppose. The soundtrack is pretty much nonexistent though. It’s to be expected as Wrestling isn’t about the music anyway but I still would have liked to have had a few good themes. I think it would have been a good idea. Anything to give this game a bit more life. As it stands there isn’t much in the way of replay value aside from fighting more people in wrestling matches I guess.

Overall, Natsume Championship Wrestling just isn’t fun. At the end of the day that’s one of the last things you want to hear about a game. When you pop a title in to play a few rounds you’re expecting to have a fun time and to be entertained. This game just doesn’t let you do that and I would sooner go back to the NES version which was at least a bit more fast paced. I don’t really buy wrestling games in general but I’m confident that the Gamecube ones would have better gameplay. Just call it a gut feeling but I think it definitely is a reasonable assumption.

Overall 3/10