Alita: Battle Angel (2018)

I had been waiting for this one since I saw the preview before Star Wars: The Last Jedi. It looked like it was going to be amazing and they made the lead robot chick super adorbs and gave her an excellent lead voice. Well-known hint: You put anything remotely like fighting robots in your movie and I will watch it. Except transformers, those are trash. Screw you Michael Bay.

Let me preface the rest of this review by saying that I never read the manga Alita: Battle Angel is based on. I will, after I finish this review. I don’t want to soil this review with “Muh source material”. Oh. Spoiler warning I guess.

Alita: Battle Angel is about an android discovered in a scrap heap that gets reconstructed. Surprisingly, the android’s brain is “perfectly maintained” or something. Despite being in the middle of a scrap heap for what later discover could be as many as 300 years. This winds up being a niggling plot hole for me later.

When the android (Alita) is restored, the mechanic, professor, whatever you want to call him says she should eat (real food) to maintain her human brain. Well hold on doc. That brain is centuries old. Likely went an extended period of time without any nourishment. Her human brain should be dead by now. But whatever, we let it slide.

Here, the professor begins to play overprotective father. Normally I would dislike this but it’s worked in well enough that it’s not unbearable. There are only like 3 references to it and it’s sort-of left alone. And it’s understandable because Alita is reconstructed with the body he built for his own daughter. They could’ve worked this in a lot better than they did and really made the professor a good character. Instead he just sorta gets relegated to plot device.

Then there’s the romance which I’ll say right now – ruined this movie. It’s weird too because normally romance is sprinkled throughout culminating before the final scene but in this case they like sprinkle it in at the start and then WHOOPS dropped the whole $#@!ing can in right at the end. It winds up easily destroying a third to a half of the movie for me. It doesn’t make sense and as good as Rosa Salazar is at delivering most of her other lines, she’s horrible at delivering the romantic lines. That might be part of what killed it for me too. She sounds insincere. Like she learned how to deliver these lines from a children’s cartoon or something.

Alright, where does the movie shine. Luckily enough, the action scenes here feel really good. We’re talking B quality work here, occasionally A quality. They blew their load on the midfight though, and then things just went downhill from there. Like, any time Alita was battle angeling, I was all in. Give me more. The environment is cool enough to make me want to read the source material which I probably will after I’m done here.

Unfortunately, that’s probably the best praise I can offer for the movie because the rest of it is rather lame. The actual villain in the movie? Just a puppet. They end the movie with sequel bait. Disgusting. You give me 50% of a movie with at most 50% of that movie being decent? Just cut out the romance and take us to the real boss.

If the movie ended halfway through I’d give it a solid 4 out of 5. Really, the movie is only good when Alita is beating the $#@! out of something. There’s a scene where she practically plays the black knight from Monty Python… but wins. Honestly, best scene of the movie right there. The sportsball scene that came right afterward was meh. I can’t believe I’m saying this but I really wanted her boyfriend to sell her out. Glad the chump died.

And this is a minor complaint but they had a golden opportunity to do ‘[X] hits jukebox to start the music for a barfight’ scene and threw it away. Just threw it away. Come on, we all wanted it. You show me someone who says they didn’t and I’ll show you a goddamn liar.

So, the short version: The movie is excellent when it’s being what its source material probably is: action. Cyberpunk fighting robots. More please. The movie is terrible when it’s trying to be something it probably isn’t. It’s not a romance film. They don’t utilize plot threads properly. So many scenes would go purely to waste if the scenery itself didn’t salvage it. Ending on sequel bait is cruel, especially when you don’t place a peak right before it. I do not recommend this movie. Thanks for reading.

Artemis Hunt

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Alita: Battle Angel (2018)

Orwell: Ignorance is Strength

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Steam

I believe some time ago I reviewed Owell: Keeping an Eye on You. It was an interesting game where you play as Morgan Freeman in The Dark Knight. You would listen in on people’s conversations, you would steal their information, access their calls, etc. And you would be a total establishment shill. Until the end where I messed up by trying to go against the system and shut it down but it was all an elaborate trap laid by my superiors. Very well-crafted game. Indeed.

Anyway, Orwell: Ignorance is Strength is not so much a sequel as much as it is another one. It runs concurrently with the uhh… other game. The game that was published first. Like the other game, you spy in on calls, access files, read the news, and be a total snoop. Typical day at the office of the NSA. Your job opens with an investigation into a suspected murder but slowly turns into a battle of controlling media narrative. Which over my several playthroughs, I never found a way to ‘win’, that is, prevent the people from rioting. This may have something to do with the canon of the first game, but I don’t remember and I can’t be bothered to play through the first one again.

Finding the information is fun and they’ve trimmed down the news articles somewhat, making the ‘side stories’ a bit less of a pain to tread through. Where I think this game loses me is in its lack of story. The game itself is only 3 episodes near as I can tell. I don’t know if it’s because it’s so short or because it feels so meaningless but I wasn’t sold on the story. The other game had a much larger impact on me, this one feels so meh.

I think what really lost me was that I didn’t find the characters interesting. Even now I can remember the characters of the first game as being a teacher, a soldier, a blue-hair, her lawyer boyfriend, and a freelancer. I remember their personalities, a teacher that just wanted to speak beyond the system. A soldier battling with her troubled past and providing for her child. A blue-hair looking for a cause to fight. A lawyer… being bland. And a freelancer that hated life. These characters are forgettable. A blogger in a wheelchair, his wife/therapist, and his brother.

Another thing is I think they sorta baby-proofed the game somewhat. I remember really thinking “Holy smokes, updating this stuff is permanent. Better make sure of every single thing I post”. In this game, (and this may be faulty memory) but I feel like there are fewer boo-boos you can make

Unfortunately, because this game is second to be published, it will ultimately be compared to its first. Did it keep the things that made the first one good? Yes. Did it introduce something new and interesting? Yes. Did it use these tools effectively? I think not. And unfortunately, for those reasons, I have to give it a thumbs down. Standalone, I might consider giving it a maybe, around a 5. But if you liked Orwell: Keeping an Eye on You and you wanted more? Just play the first one again. But that’s it from me. Thank you for reading.

Artemis Hunt

Orwell: Ignorance is Strength

[Article Response] “Damaging a Franchise”

This article was pretty short so I figured I could do a quick response to it. This means that my response will only be about 3-4 times as long as the article in question rather than 20 times.

Alright, so what’s going on here? Well, it’s exactly on the tin. “[James Mangold] warns fans that backlash will to films by hacks”.

At the point when work writing & directing big franchises has become the emotionally loaded equivalent of writing a new chapter of The Bible (w/ the probable danger of being stoned & called a blasphemer), then a lot of bolder minds r gonna leave these films 2 hacks & corp boards

In my opinion, his claim isn’t unreasonable. He claims that when producers fear backlash, they will take the safe route when it comes to making films and films will be produced by committee. I don’t know whether this is true or not, but it’s not an argument that I find difficult to accept at face value.

So what’s the problem? Well, there’s one big problem

Respecting the Franchise

I think it’s important that when new writers and directors take on a film, they need to show a great deal of respect to the franchise that they are picking up. They need to recognize that fans love the established universe as it is and work with that. Yes, you are writing a new chapter of the Bible. You don’t get to claim the glory of writing Chapter VIII while flagrantly abusing Chapters I-VI.

Outside Example: Doctor Who

Doctor Who is a show about a humanoid species called “Time Lords”. Time Lords are a unique species in that they possess the ability to “regenerate” when they sustain heavy injury, affording them a new body, new personality, new everything, while retaining the experience they’ve accrued in their past lives. This power is not infinite, it can only be used twelve times. When it came to be nearing the end of the Eleventh Doctor’s run, the producers of the show were faced with a problem: the twelve regenerations (as stated in already established canon) were up. What do we do? Do we create an ending to the Doctor? Or do we cheat, and try to find a way to keep the series going now that it’s relatively popular?

The directors chose to cheat, and ass-pulled some kind of time-energy regeneration. Don’t get me wrong, I loved that Christmas special in which Eleven ends his tenure as Doctor, but it is an ass-pull and it is a disrespect to the show. And after that episode, we see the ratings drop Could the ratings drop be due to something else? Certainly. But it certainly seems suspicious that the ratings drop by 30% over the years since Eleven. Could it be the writing? Moffat, a highly-renowned writer, was a writer for the series after Eleven. He seemed to have been doing an excellent job until then. Why did the ratings go downhill after Eleven? Could it be the Doctor? Peter Capaldi has an impressive discography, extending over 40 years. To say that he is not an accomplished actor would be a bold statement to make. Perhaps Doctor Who was just a passing fad that has lived its 15 minutes in the limelight.

I recognize that we all want to see our favourite characters do the thing, but all stories must come to an end, and by disregarding previously established canon, it is my belief that the writers disrespected the series and in turn disrespected their audience as well.

Star Wars

When it came to the writing of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, we arrive at a story which seemed to have the intent to “Let it die, kill it if you have to”. Let [Star Wars] die, kill [Star Wars] if you have to. This was not a Star Wars movie for people that liked Star Wars. This was a Star Wars movie to disrespect people who like Star Wars while attempting to sucker in a new generation. Which may be why Solo did not sell. People simply do not trust the studio to produce Star Wars in a respectful manner anymore. Star Wars Episode IX isn’t out yet, and we may need to see how Boba Fett plays out, but at this current moment, I will not be surprised if Episode IX does not sell.

The Point

I recognize the point in that you want movies to push boundaries but there is a way to do it without taking a dump on the source material. Of course failing that, there’s no reason that an established franchise has to have a movie that pushes the boundary. Marvel has been pushing out the same movie for at least 5 years, probably more, and all of the Marvel movies I’ve seen are legitimately enjoyable movies.

The decision to toss out tons of canon is incredibly baffling to me when the new canon to be written seems to want little to nothing to do with the existing material. It might’ve been forgivable if the writing actually made sense. But it didn’t. The world of Episodes I-VI felt so much bigger compared to this. Most of this episode takes place during the slowest car chase ever in the vast emptiness of space. The Force Awakens was so much better than this. It’s almost like you don’t even like Star Wars. You just wanted to slap your name on it. If that’s the case, don’t be surprised when in your act of greed that you failed to maintain the old guard while simultaneously being unable to entice a new order.

Conclusion

So I guess in summary, it’s not the fans that are damaging the franchise, it’s the producers.

The short version is that I don’t particularly like this criticism. Fundamentally, I think it misses the mark. Excepting that which I’ve stated above, Mangold’s statement could pessimistically be taken as “Don’t criticise movies or you’ll get bland movies”. I think the question you need to ask yourself is whether or not the fan backlash is justified. Again, I believe in this case, it is, or at least a significant audience believes that it is, considering the market failure of Solo. The people have voted with their eyeballs and their dollar. Whether or not Star Wars will recover from this, I don’t know. I don’t plan to speculate. But I would hope that the writers for the next movie are watching the internet, acknowledging concerns, and making necessary adjustments. If not, we may see the death of Star Wars, rather than the end of Star Wars. Which, in my opinion, would be pretty sad. That’s my take. Thanks for reading.

Artemis Hunt

[Article Response] “Damaging a Franchise”

Final Fantasy XV Windows Edition

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Steam

Not sure why ‘Windows Edition’ is important but whatever, it’s in the title on Steam.

Don’t think that this is going to be a habit or anything. I just happen to have had some extra time because I finished my certification courses and I’m waiting for the certificate to come in the mail.

I want to preface this review by saying I absolutely hate JRPGs. I hate the grind, I hate the backtracking, I (generally) hate turn-based combat, I hate the lack of good story, I hate the cliched characters. I just hate JRPGs. I’ve started several Final Fantasies, I’ve only finished one. That is to say, I’ve only finished Final Fantasy VI. Because I got sucked into the stories and the characters. Outside of that, I really couldn’t find myself getting attached to characters in any of the other ones I’ve tried.

This game is fantastic. It manages to avoid most of the major pitfalls that come with JRPGs. Taking place in a 3D world definitely plays to the game’s credit. It’s easy to get lost in the scenery while you’re traveling throughout the world. The Backstreet Boys also keep things interesting with their little dialogues and being able to listen to music from the other Final Fantasy games (and NieR… for some reason) really passes the time. Best part is, you don’t even have to suffer the drive if you’re traveling to parking spots or towns. Just fast travel. The grind is still there but relatively tolerable because the combat is actually fun even if simple and repetitive. When it works, it feels very fluid and you feel like a total hero flying from monster to monster. When it doesn’t work, the real monster is the camera trying to film you through 10 meters of foliage or through a wall. This didn’t happen often enough to me to really be annoying though. The characters are great. I found myself really appreciating the characters. I think this game gets by by having the characters fully developed before you really interact with them. They already exist and you don’t have to create them and the story doesn’t have to bend to meet your personal choices. And honestly? This Band of Brothers is just really cool. The way they interact and rely on each other really makes you feel like these characters have a history together. They’re all pretty likeable as long as you don’t look too hard at the story.

Which I guess brings me to what I believe is the game’s biggest flaw. The story. While there’s an advantage to having the characters developed before the game, there isn’t as much of an advantage of having the lore developed before the game. This game seems to assume some level of background knowledge to the lore and I have no idea where any of this comes from. I want to lose myself in this game, in the story, but it feels like there are so many pieces that were chopped out and I have no idea where to find them. Granted, I am still looking around the map for little things to read, but I dunno. Something about this presentation rubs me the wrong way. Another major flaw would be its load times and the last (and this one annoyed me for a few before I found a workaround) is that the game would often crash my computer. Not crash to desktop, literally crash my computer.

The open-world setting works well with the character because without a sense of direction it really just feels like the Fantastic Four being the Fantastic Four. Really. I just really like the camaraderie of these guys and playing the game is just bros being bros. In my view, the game is really relaxing. Just pick a direction and go there. Eventually I’d get overleveled and decide maybe it’s time to do the story but then I realized that the story is super short. This has to be one of the shorter Final Fantasy games because it feels like it just flew by. Or maybe time flies when you’re having fun? Who knows.

Either way, I really do commend Final Fantasy XV for being a great game and I do recommend it to people. Thanks for reading.

Artemis Hunt

Final Fantasy XV Windows Edition

Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse

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Steam

Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse picks up where Risky’s Revenge left off, with Shantae still effectively human. The town is getting bulldozed by its Mayor, Ammo Baron (yes, he’s still Mayor) and you decide to stop him. Unfortunately, this is effectively rebellion, so you get a court summons. While under house arrest, you uncover a lead into the revival of the Pirate King and decide to stop it. Who cares about court summons, amirite?

I’ll say outright that Pirate’s Curse is better than Risky’s Revenge. It maintains the quirky design and pleasing aesthetic of the first game.  It decided to go full 2D this time though, so that’s an improvement in my books. The movement feels so much more fluid and the movement options unlocked throughout the game feel better. You get a glide, a dash, and an extra triple jump… which you lose… in the final boss fight… because design decisions.

What I find most amusing is that this game sorta solves the problems of Risky’s Revenge while also adopting some problems that the old problem solved. The backtracking is less insufferable. Might be level design making it a bit more enjoyable to go through them. Luckily the backtracking is mitigated in Pirate mode (unlocked after beating the game once). Honestly, what might have fixed it for me in backtracking might be the addition of a new item called “Pirate’s Flare” which is effectively an escape rope. Tired of a map’s BS? Get out of the labyrinth and flare back to base. Speaking of items, they’ve rebalanced the items to be less broken and now none of them are required to unlock certain areas. Health drops regularly (if you’re killing enemies) and you can use these drops whenever you like instead of immediately.

There are few things more frustrating than entering a screen only to get knocked back because instant dash enemy. Yet here we are. Insufferable stealth section and the climb to the final boss is a series of spike traps that exist purely to try my patience. No enemies. Just spikes. And lord save you if you game ogre there because the save point is not between spike hells but rather at the beginning and at the end. Bring all of the potions.

Let’s talk about the final boss fight. Now in Risky’s Revenge, I didn’t really dock points for the game taking away all of your transformations because they weren’t really used for combat. The time required to dance for them took away from the pacing anyway. However, in this game, most of your upgrades are movement upgrades. Which means you don’t pause to use them and you’ve been using them the entire game. And they were instrumental in spike pit hell because each puzzle room was set up to utilize a specific upgrade. So by the time you’ve gotten to the boss, you’re pretty used to using them like, all the time. You get to use them for phase 1 of the boss. Then the boss takes them away. Then you have to deal with phase 2 with limited movement. Then phase 3 which is phase 2 with some extra patterns. And phase 4 which can be cancer because it’s not the same kind of combat you had been doing all game.

Look, the final boss is a test. A test on all of the skills we’ve obtained up until now. You don’t teach us all of the math required to do the exam and then give us a stinkin’ psychology exam instead of a math exam. That’s completely unfair to the player

But when the game works, it works. Pirate Mode (again, unlocked after playing through the game one) is a great replay option if you’re into that sorta thing. The game is legitimately enjoyable and the characters are as delightful as ever. I’m going to give this game a pass, but not by much. Be prepared. Thanks for reading.

Artemis Hunt

Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse

Shantae: Risky’s Revenge [Director’s Cut]

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Steam

I am a regular speedrunner of Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight. I’ve gotten my time to a pretty good spot and while I love the game to death, I’ve been flirting with other games just as a change of pace. Sometimes I watch speedruns and the Shantae series has been on the radar for a while because the “plot” is amazing it looks really cute. So while it was on sale, I bought the bundle. Looked up the order the games are in (chronologically) and started up Risky’s Revenge.

Boy what a mistake that was.

In Risky’s Revenge (a sequel to GBC game I will likely never play) you play as Shantae. She is a half-genie girl that acts as the guardian of Scuttle Town. One day, while her uncle unveils the magic lamp, an artifact he found, pirates attack and steal the lamp. Your job? Get the lamp back. Seems simple enough. In metroidvania style, you gather your genie powers from magic fountains throughout the world, become super powered, only to lose these powers in the final fight not like you were using the powers to fight anyway (we’ll come back to that).

Aesthetically, the game is quite well-designed. It diverges a bit from the typical metroidvania style of screen transition by instead showing you a faded version of the screen behind you as you travel through your current screen. This is a pretty cool innovation because now you don’t get surprised by random flea knocking you back into the prior screen. You always know where you’re going to land. Only works one way though, so to prevent you from getting mauled on the way to a screen “in the foreground” you’ll always land on a safe spot after transition. That’s not to say the usual screen transition from one room to another isn’t still there. Just that I found this little experimentation interesting. This experimentation creates a pseudo-3D map. The map is also very compact. There aren’t too many places to go in the game. Overall, maybe 3 major zones. So the design is incredibly efficient! The art design (as stated earlier) is quite cute. All of the designs feel good. The audio design is sweet too.

Unfortunately, while I praised the design in terms of ‘efficiency’, I’m afraid that the design is incredibly frustrating. James Montagna. That’s right, I wrote down your name before preparing this review. Why? Because SCREW YOU AND YOUR LEVEL DESIGN. I absolutely hate backtracking in games. I will tolerate backtracking if it’s to find new full zones in games. But in this case, you have to go to Zone A to get story progress then go to Zone B where you get a powerup which you need to use again in Zone A to get another piece of story progress to complete Zone B. Absolutely disgusting. I hate you. I want my five hours of life back. You can teleport between areas of the map but for some reason there’s no teleport in Scuttle Town, the hub for the game. Which makes no sense.

But wait! Are we incentivized to to back to these zones? What do we get? Well, magic jam, an item that lets you buy more item skills. But I went through the entire game only really using 2 items once. The fireball you use to break a wood barrier (why there’s a wood barrier, lord knows) and lightning to activate a bomb (required for story). The rest of the time, the pike ball pretty much carried me through the game.

Honestly, the backtracking added so much to the runtime of this game. I wonder if it’s intentional padding.

Oh yeah, let’s go back to the powers thing. So being half-genie you get to transform into aminals throughout the game. It’s the main map exploration gimmick. Now thank goodness the animals are never really used for combat on land, because if they were. Wooh boy I’d be ready to split skulls. Spoiler alert – the final boss of the game is you(r genie half) and you lose your ability to transform for this fight. How retarded would it be to spend the entire game collecting powers, using them, only to lose them for the final fight? That is horrendous game design.

Overall, I found the game more frustrating that enjoyable. I plan to try out the others, but this one is going to be a no from me. I wanted to like it, but I just can’t give this a pass possibly because of the map/power interaction. That’ll be it from me though. Thanks for reading.

Artemis Hunt

 

Shantae: Risky’s Revenge [Director’s Cut]

Orwell

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Steam Page

Orwell, in a not-so-subtle nod to George Orwell’s criticism of totalitarianism (*CoughCommunismCough*) 1984. I’ve actually read 1984. It’s not bad. It’s not great, and quite frankly I think it’s more of an observation than a story which in my eyes weakens it. It’s also an incredibly quick read so I do recommend you check it out. On a scale of 1-10? Probably a 7. Amusing, but not the best. Slightly better than average.

Anyway, the gameplay of Orwell is unconventional and reminds me greatly of Papers, Please. Which is another game I should write a review on and I do recommend it. In it you scan documents for information and upload this information into a mega-database which contains details on everyone under investigation (at this time). Presumably, Orwell would be expanded to cover all citizens. In the name of peace, surely! Everyone can trust the government to know every detail about them to make sure that they’re entirely safe!

Light Spoiler Warning: Orwell is a narrative, a visual novel of sorts. I’m going to do my best to avoid spoilers.

Throughout the course of Orwell you follow the individuals of an organization called ‘Thought’ named after some German poem. Thought is an alleged terrorist organization. Your job is to follow the members of this organization to prevent terrorist activity. The first person you investigate is a woman with blue hair and problem glasses because of course she is. Which now presents us with our question. What scale of authoritarianism would be acceptable in the name of protecting people? As the game progresses, it gets to the point where almost the slightest connection to someone (perhaps eating lunch or seeing a movie together) is grounds for investigation. Authoritarianism seems to have a very tough job reigning itself in from being conventionally oppressive.

You know, I could not help but giggle with glee as I listened to phone calls of people and other people got blamed for things that I did. It was glorious! And it kept happening! I felt no guilt at all for doing my job. Perhaps that’s the point of the game. Thinking.jpg

The art style is… quirky. Not bad. Just quirky. The music is pretty okay too. My (small) gripe (I guess) is how long I had to wait for responses when it came to monitoring calls and SMS. I get that it’s supposed to be realistic, that’s the point. Not really a point against the game, I just felt that it was sometimes a little long.

Overall, excellent game. Quite a nice length for the price ($10 at the time of posting). Of course, cheaper is always better. I think my first playthrough had a run of about 4 hours and there are multiple endings (all of which, I did not explore). It’s a thumbs up from me. Thanks for reading.

Artemis Hunt

Orwell