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

Haikyu!


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

NES Open Tournament Golf Review


It’s time to look at a classic NES golf game. Golf is one of those games that is hard to make all that fun even in modern titles. The only one where I could say I really felt pumped up was the Mario Golf game for Gamecube and even then it got stomped by the other Mario sports. Needless to say I wasn’t a huge fan of this one either. I do see that some decent effort was put in here but it still wouldn’t be able to keep me in there once I’m done with a tournament.

When you boot the game up you’re given a screen with Mario and Peach getting ready to be crushed by Luigi and Daisy. I assume it’s Daisy at least but admittedly she looks quite different here. After that you see the various game modes. To this title’s credit, there are actually a few different modes when a lot of these games would just have one back in the day. You can jump into a tournament, free play, or a single player run through of all the holes. Naturally I went for that one, I wasn’t about to have to watch the computers throw me around when I was just starting right?

The controls are not too crazy once you get the hang of it. You move the stick in the direction you want to hit the ball too. Once you do that then you tap the a button twice when you’ve got it in the right part of the moving bar. From there you just try to angle your hits and select the appropriate power so that you get the ball to the flag in as few hits as possible. This is one of the few games where you actually want to have the lowest score possible. The higher score you have the worse you played the game. You definitely don’t want to see a +9 as that is about as bad as you can be.

The graphics here are pretty fun. Not surprisingly since Nintendo was really the ones behind this game it looks a lot better than most of the other NES titles. When they throw Mario in it seems like Nintendo really tries to give the game an extra shine to it. The soundtrack is also very peaceful. You feel like you’re ready for action and to have a good time. That’s the ultimate goal of the games right?

There’s a reasonable amount of replay value here since there are a lot of different stages. You will probably need to also replay the stages quite a bit to really get good and to hit your rhythm. It’s not something that will happen overnight after all. I averaged around a +6 for each hole so I got a ways to go. Ideally you want to be around a -1 or -2 for them to really secure the win. The toughest part about golf for me has always been all the different variables. You have to account for the wind and you have a ton of different clubs to hit the ball with and they all have their own range. What this means is basically no matter what you’re going to have to do a lot of memorizing to know what you want to do. Mario Golf handled this well with giving you a preview of how the shot would go while this one plays it a little more on the level. You just need to know the yards left to go and plan accordingly.

This is definitely a tough game so you can expect a good challenge. Of course with the rewind feature you have backup to an extent but either way this is not a game that you can expect to beat very easily. It’ll take some time and you’ll have to see if the game is fun enough to spend that time. At the very least I am glad that Daisy got into the picture a lot earlier than I would have expected. I’m not sure if you can play as her, but I certainly hope so.

Overall, NES Open Tournament is definitely a game you don’t want to miss if you reeeeeeally like Golf. Otherwise I’d say you should just bypass this one. There are a ton of other quality NES games to enjoy on the service so there’s no need to stick with one for very long if it doesn’t hit it out of the park for you. I don’t think there’s a whole lot more they could have done with the concept here so I’ll give them props for the attempt. That being said, Golf just needs something to give the games a little more pop in their steps.

Overall 4/10