Lucien’s First Take: Aladdin Trailer (2019)

You know what I hate?  Modern Disney.  Modern Disney has lost every ounce of the creativity that old-school Disney had.  Their creativity hit its last peak in the 90’s, and after that it’s all been downhill.  Now, because Disney is so devoid of creativity and desperate for quick bullshit that they can cash in on because they need to get pools of money that they can dive into like Scrooge McDuck, we have live-action remakes of their biggest movies back when they were animated and cool.  And they have, without a SINGLE EXCEPTION, sucked.  Badly.  They are all terrible.  The worst offender among them is the live-action version of Beauty and the Beast.  A film that proved that not only can Emma Watson not act, but she also can’t sing.  Go figure.

Since Disney is out of creativity, they also decided that they should take the time to shit on the legacy of Robin Williams as well, and make a remake of one of their best animated films, where the late actor was able to bring so much to it.  His role as Genie is iconic.  But hey, that’s just how it goes.  I guess Will Smith will get a crack at it.  The idea of having to hear him sing “Never Had a Friend Like Me” makes my cringe muscles go out of control.

However, they have finally released a trailer.  Before this, there was the poster for the film, and I will say that if there is one and only thing that they did right in this, it’s that the lamp looks cool.  That’s it.  Now, let’s watch the trailer for this movie and see what the damage is.

We begin on what is, admittedly, a very cool shot of the Arabian dessert.  Sand dunes are always very beautiful to film.  While the heat and I are not friends, part of me would love to see that scenery in person someday.  But we have this terrible orchestral version of the song that begins the animated film, “Arabian Nights.”  Oh Groj.  Not holding up well and we’re only a few seconds in.

Then we cut to another shot of the dunes, but look!  A CG city in the background!  Oh boy!  Obvious CG is obvious.  It’s not even well integrated.  It looks so out of place in this setting.  We get a closer shot, with CG parrot who I am going to assume is Iago.  It’s a safe assumption.  And just like every CG character in all the live-action versions of these movies, it looks bad.  These films really have hit a high mark in all having consistently terrible CG creations.  That’s almost impressive.  Not a single film stands out in any real way for quality CG characters.  Maybe it’s because I am just so conditioned to this shit and it has gotten to the point that I don’t take this shit seriously anymore.  Oh how I long for the days of practical effects.  Would it have been that hard to train a real parrot to fly around?  I guess they couldn’t do that over a CG environment where everything looks fake.  The bird would get lost in front of a green-screen.

We get to hear the voice of the Cave of Wonders!  Oh boy!  The creepy cave that appears from the dunes because of a weird magic beetle thing.  So how bad is this CG going to look?  The irony is that it was CG in the animated film, and I guarantee that will have looked a million times better.  Wait, what?  It’s a regular cave, but with glowing eyes?  Then how, exactly, has no one gone to get that lamp before?  If this cave is just sitting there waiting, then how has no one gone in there?  The voice-over tells me that only the “diamond in the rough” can enter, but if the place doesn’t open, then that rings hollow.  I’m sure that the cave disappears without some terrible CG effect.  I was right, though.  The Cave of Wonders in the original film, with dated CG, looks better than this.  Can nothing impress me in this trailer?

Oh look!  CG cave!  With CG treasure!  In an entirely CG backdrop without a single bit of an actual set!  Wow!  That’s so fake that the fakeness of it is leaping right off the fucking screen at me.  We get the title in that iconic font, and then we have Arab main character guy reaching for the lamp, which, as I said before, does look cool.  There.  I found one thing that impresses me – the lamp.  Congrats, Disney.  Some underpaid artisan worked really hard on a cool piece to go with a terrible movie.  Kudos to that craftsman.  Whatever you paid them, it wasn’t enough.

This looks so fucking stupid.  This is the next entry in the creatively bankrupt Disney corporation, who is so desperate to just cash in instead of taking risks.  Gotta love.  Of course, these films make bank, so I guess the retarded American public eats this shit up too.  So I get to be in a wonderful minority of people who see all these truly amazing films languish on the vine, while endless dreck like superhero films and whatever cash-grab remake, reboots, sequel, or live-action version has the intellectually-void public paying money for.  This country needs to fucking die.  Not kidding.

Initial Verdict
I’m so sorry, Robin Williams, that Disney wants to shit on your legacy

Peace out,

Maverick

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SIONR: Anime Dubs Are Better Than Subs

The worst part about anime critique on YouTube is that virtually all of the ones that I see are in Japanese with subtitles.  There are SO many people online who will swear up and down that watching with subs is the “true” way to watch it.  And if you don’t do that, you’re just some philistine pleb who has no opinion worth considering.  I hate that to no end.  Why?  Because all the anime that I love, the dub kicks the living shit out of the sub in every conceivable way.

The big one people go to in regards to this topic is Cowboy Bebop.  Sure, that’s the best example.  The dub is objectively better than the sub.  But I can put every series on my Top 20 Favorite Anime List (linked here) next to its Japanese language counterpart and watch the Dub do it better.  Before you say that this is just my opinion – sure, whatever.  But seriously, watch the series on that list in both languages and tell me which sticks out to you more.

One of the ones that really sticks out to me is Black Lagoon.  That series had some of the craziest talent in the world putting their absolute all into it.  You have anime veterans like Brad Swaile doing the voice of the main character.  This guy has such a history in this medium that you can’t talk about the growth of it in America without him.  He’s been in everything.  Every character in there is pitch perfect, and the voice-work is downright haunting.  I think about the episode inside the submarine, where Revy is telling her dark story to Rock, and listen to her voice.  Or when Dutch is on the phone with the Neo-Nazi who got him that job.  It’s all amazing.  Or when the head of the Russian mob in Roanapur and her dialogue with the vampire child who comes to kill her as he dies.  Yeah, the Japanese can’t hold a pin to that.

One that catches me in why people prefer the Japanese to English is Steins;Gate.  In my eyes, Okabe can ONLY be voiced by J Michael Tatum.  There’s no one else.  That man has a gift at capturing the subtle balance between legitimate character and the madness that he exudes without going overboard.  You still find him to be believable.  Seeing his facade of a mad scientist crumbling around him as he gets deeper into the realm of time travel makes the dilemma he’s facing that much more heart-wrenching.  You see the mental toll it is exerting on Okabe, and feel him losing grip on what’s the right thing to do anymore.  I cannot think of any other voice actor who could do that the way J. Michael Tatum does.

It blows my mind the fact that the dub for Beck: Mongolian Chop Squad is so amazing.  One thing that any otaku cringes at is when there is TERRIBLE musical dubbing into English.  We’ve all been there.  You hear bad voice actors doing bad versions of music clearly not written with English in mind.  So a series about a band with the center-piece being their music had all the recipes for complete failure.  But it works!  Holy fuck does it work!  It’s a testament to the voice actors they got to sing, and the person who did the dubbing in how good that turned out.  It could EASILY have been the cringiest anime dub in history.  Not to mention, since two characters in the series are supposed to have lived in America, the Japanese version has some pretty painful Engrish in there.  It’s kind of ironic that because of it being in English, those scenes flow infinitely better.  I always love in Japanese films (that I do watch with subtitles.  For whatever reason, anime no, foreign films yes for subtitles) when they have terribly done English.

Then, of course, there is Baccano.  As I am to understand it, the Japanese cast really did put in their all into these performances.  But it’s clear even they knew that the English version of this would be superior in every way.  Every voice actor in this series fits perfectly.  Pitch-perfect, they bring their characters’ to life in a way that I genuinely cannot think of who else could.  Firo is my personal favorite.  That New York flavor of snide, arrogant, and cocky just shows through.

Speaking of people fitting the role perfectly, the greatest dub on the list I made, by far and away, is Wolf’s Rain.  That series has every single major dub hitter from that time.  We have Steve Blum, Johnny Bosch, Crispin Freeman, Mona Marshall, Mary McGlynn, Kari Wahlgren, and so many more.  Every single person who was the best name in the business at the time that that series was dubbed had a role there, major or minor.  Most people don’t appreciate what it means for a series to be “star-studded,” even if it’s just voice-actors.  That series was.  The best of the best, and they brought their best work to the table.  For a series that was so deep in themes and darkness, bringing that to light in a way that made you feel for every character was a testament to the skill of those involved.

Maybe this is just because of my very high standards, but I have only seen one series, ONE, where the Japanese version blows the English out of the water.  And that’s because the ADR director for it sucked – High School of the Dead.  The English in that show was some of the worst I have ever heard.  It blows my mind.  But then I look at who did the dub work, and then I realize why.  It was from one of the worst ADR directors in anime history, who has churned out some of the worst dubs of all time in series that did not deserve it.  Goes to show the power of what a good director can do.  Because all the talent in the world can’t save you if the person helming the effort is crap.

You don’t have the remind me that this is my opinion.  I know.  But since my standards for anime are already high, that means that my standards for the voice-work are high as well.  And for people to say that if you don’t watch it with subtitles, you are somehow doing a disservice to the medium just blows my mind.  Or that, bafflingly, the Japanese version is always better, is arrogant to say the least.  Don’t go thinking I am shitting on the Japanese who do the voice-work.  I’m not.  There is no doubt in my mind that in the vast ocean of anime garbage out there, there are a ton with infinitely better English.  There’s so much bargain-bin crap that that wouldn’t surprise me one bit.

Until next time, a quote,

“You sing off-key.” – Spike Spiegel, Cowboy Bebop

Peace out,

Maverick

Critical Examination: FLCL: Progressive and Terrible Anime Sequels

When I heard that a sequel was being made to one of my favorite anime, FLCL, you can imagine how skeptical I was.  A sequel?  Now?  The original series is almost two decades old.  Not to mention, what new ground could they possibly tread?  I was really confused about why this was being made, and the trailers for it didn’t help.  There was this itching sensation in the back of my mind that it was being made to cash in on nostalgia.  Another cash-grab anime.  That bothers me.  After having finally gotten to see it…fuck this series.

There’s a contention that has been going around the oldtaku community, and it’s one that I firmly agree with – anime will never be as good as it was roughly 10 to 15 years ago.  The glory days of this medium are long behind it, and modern anime is desperately trying to reclaim that glory.  Back then, there was a real sense of risk, and you had creative people doing things with no idea if they would work or not.  There were tons of passion projects from directors who loved this medium.  Now, we have glossy, safe, marketable garbage that is either PC to the point of boredom, or deliberately trying to cash in on the perv side of the medium.  That’s it.  The days of taking risks are long gone.

Another thing about modern anime is that they are now in this place where they want to make sequels to series that have long since passed or have no reason to continue.  Did you all know there is a third sequel to Code Geass?  I remember seeing that, and my first thought was – why?  What more could they possibly do with the plot?  It was over.  Lelouch had finally seen his plan of bringing about a peaceful world come to pass, and died in the process.  There is no good reason why the series would be back with him as a protagonist.  Britannia has been destroyed!  The knowledge of Geass is gone.  Only CC has it now.  Lelouch saw to that.  Everyone with direct knowledge of Geass has either been killed or brought under Zero’s control.  What else can they possibly do?

In all reality, it is going to be another cash-grab sequel, with none of the heart or charm of the original.  Much like, as I knew it would be, FLCL: Progressive.  This series sucked.  It absolutely sucked.  I think back to how much I love the original, and why I love it the way I do.  I think of how it was a passion project of a man who was the student of Hideyaki Anno, the creator of Evangelion.  He wanted to create something that was entirely different, take what he learned, but also let his creative team go buck-wild.  The fifth episode was directed by the same director who helmed Kill la Kill, so naturally it is action-packed and crazy.  There is a direct homage to South Park in one episode because that was a show the team was watching at the time.  The Pillows were featured because it was a band the show’s director liked and so he asked them if they would come and do the score.  Everything in the series was done to let the team go nuts and create a show entirely their own.  It was a passion project.  All the best series are, because a show without passion is a product trying to sell you something.

Meanwhile, what is the new series?  Well, it’s six episodes long.  Why?  Because the original!  It has The Pillows doing the music again.  Why?  Because the original!  Neat fact – it’s known in Japan that The Pillows have largely gone downhill, and it REALLY shows here.  The songs that are not retreads of stuff from the original series (the saddest thing in the world.  I mean, if you aren’t even going to be original, why not just use the original music?  With how hard this series banked on nostalgia, it might as well have used nothing but the original music) as mediocre and boring.  All the heart I could feel back in the day is gone.  There’s spastic animation.  Why?  Because the original!

What’s missing?  The heart.  FLCL was a series about growing up.  It had themes of youth, love, honesty, and yeah, sex.  The story of Naota and what happens when a crazy woman on a Vespa comes into his life is touching.  It takes me back to being that age and growing up.  Ironically enough, while I did watch this series as a kid, I loved it way more when I saw it as an adult.  Being able to watch the series with the hindsight of adulthood and think about my own journey to here makes it hit that much harder.  The plot isn’t especially deep, but it didn’t have to be.  This was a series about people and their growth over the course of the narrative.

The sequel, on the other hand, is loud, spastic, with mech combat and an animation style that couldn’t be more modern if it tried.  It can’t stand on its own.  This series works so hard to remind you about the original that it might as well beat you over the fucking head with it.  Anyone who wants to just watch this series as its own thing is wasted because it does callback after callback to the original.  Just so you know that this is why it’s here.  This series has no heart of its own.  It practically advertises that it only cares about cashing in on nostalgia.

There are so many terrible sequels to great anime.  The second season of both Darker Than Black and Psycho-Pass are great examples.  Both of those were just sequels made because they could.  All of the creative energy that made the first season great was all gone.  These were just coasting on name recognition until you didn’t care anymore.  There’s something to be said for knowing where to end a series.  Guess nobody told them that.  Oh, and they made a sequel to Steins;Gate.  It at least has the voices of the original.  But also none of the heart.

I’ve talked before about how Hollywood is out of ideas.  I’m starting to think that anime is too.  It’s gotten into the sequel cash-grab game.  Making things not because they want to, but because they think it will make them money on the die-hard audience.  That depresses me to no end.  FLCL: Progressive isn’t just bad.  It’s Disney sequel bad.  Hell, I would compare it to the very worst of the Disney sequel garbage.  If anything, just like the terrible remakes and reboots in Hollywood, it just makes me love the original so much more.  While I can feel the heart and passion that series had, this just is.  And that, more than anything, is why it sucks so bad.  A story that didn’t need to be told, without a single character you can actually care about, and a plot that is even less engaging than the original.  That’s how bad this is.

The lesson here – don’t make a sequel if you don’t fucking care!

Until next time, a quote,

“Let’s be honest – soon all anybody is gonna know about ‘Ghostbusters’ is the original.  This will be forgotten.” – Rich Evans

Peace out,

Maverick

SIONR: The Stupid Reaction to Black Cat in ‘Marvel’s Spider-Man’ DLC

Some of you may have noticed I don’t go after the SJW community all that much anymore.  There’s a reason for that.  For starters, I don’t have anything new to say.  It’s all kind of the same, at this point.  Doesn’t matter, anyway.  Nobody listens.  Anybody who disagrees with the social justice community is just ruled out as “alt-right” or some other buzzword that hasn’t been used to the point that it means nothing anymore.  But there is another side to it.  It’s because I don’t have a very high opinion of the anti-SJW community anymore.  They are just as bad as the social justice feminists that they deride.

It’s funny, but I remember when all of these groups came together during #GamerGate, and then subsequently went apart after it became clear that there was nothing to be gained from further cooperation.  I said this would happen during a live-stream I used to be a part of, back in the day.  My compatriots didn’t believe me then.  Wonder what they think now.

You all may be wondering – what does this have to do with the title of this post?  I’ll tell you.  See, a fair amount of comic book fans are all up in arms.  Why?  Because the new design for Black Cat in Sony’s exclusive Marvel’s Spider-Man doesn’t have her boobs on display!  That’s right, her cleavage isn’t hanging out of the outfit, so naturally they are all conspiracy theorizing that it is a big SJW conspiracy.  Saying that the character was written by the chick who said the tea-bag mod in GTA Online was “virtual rape.”  It is so frustrating to see this shit everywhere.

For starters, where are they getting that this character isn’t the same as she has always been?  I mean, did you play the game?  She is flirty as fuck with Parker.  Every audio-log you get on her quest in the main game has her talking in that sultry way where you know she is trying to goad Spider on.  It also hints of their past and how it was pretty complicated.

Next, have you seen her outfit?  Yeah, the outfit that is skin-tight, black, hugging every curve, that is not meant to be sultry at all.  Nope!  Not a little!  Morons.  Yeah, her boobs aren’t hanging out.  So that means…SJW?  I swear, these people can’t keep their bullshit straight.

Finally, did nobody pay attention to how this game is structured?  It’s definitely friendly for younger people.  Hell, the first outfit you have is pretty beat-for-beat similar to the one from The Animated Series.  Wanna know something interesting about that, for those who didn’t grow up in the 90’s?  In it, Black Cat didn’t have her boobs hanging out!  This game definitely breathes a vibe that it is modeled after the old animated series.  It wants to be played by kids.  Sure, the rating is T for teens, but how much foul language do you see in that game?  Not much.  It’s pretty marketable to the crowd it was intended.  You know what that means?  It means that you won’t have a character in it who has her tits hanging out!  Because that isn’t marketable to kids!  Did nobody pay attention?

In The Animated Series, Black Cat and Spider’s flirtatious relationship is all in subtext.  There’s a reason for that.  Because the series was made for kids, but there are teenagers in the audience who think that she is hot with that skin-tight black outfit.  It’s the same here!  I’m sorry that all the comic book nerds don’t get to cum in their pants over her.  I’m sure it must be so hard for you.

Grow the fuck up.

Until next time, a quote,

“Oh, poor Spider.  I know I disappointed you when I couldn’t go straight, but why mess with perfection?” – Black Cat, Marvel’s Spider-Man

Peace out,

Maverick

Lucien’s First Take: Cyberpunk 2077 Gameplay Reveal

Here’s a game that I’ve been keeping a cursory eye on, but haven’t really gone into too much because I didn’t know exactly how I felt about it.  I was not the biggest fan of CD Projekt Red’s last game, The Witcher 3.  Not because I thought it was bad.  Far from it.  I just didn’t have much engagement because it’s connected to a franchise with a TON of lore and story baggage that I had no connection with.  So while it objectively was fantastic, I was bored stiff because of that.  However, here we have a new game with a connection to a franchise that has more to do with pen-and-paper RPG games than anything else.  So it’s basically a blank slate, and CD Projekt Red has promised the lore will be flushed out.

Still, it was something of a distant look until I FINALLY got around to watching their REALLY long game-play reveal.  I’m going to be putting the video here so you can follow along, but it’s 48 minutes long.  If you don’t have the time, I understand.  Instead of going through bit by bit, I’m going to talk about the things that really stick out to me.  Let’s get down to it.

We start off with this really cool narrator telling us that we get to customize our character.  I am all about this!  But looking at the character select screen, can we ditch the pixelization over the fun bits, when it is so obvious they are wearing underwear?  I am nine kinds of in love with the aesthetic of this game.  It lives up to its namesake.  The menus all have that retro-futuristic appearance, and that just tickles me pink.  As an hardcore fan of Blade Runner, this warms the cockles of my heart.

It’s also pretty great that we get to set up a ton of stuff in respect to our backstory, and the narrator says that all of this stuff plays a role in how our game plays.  For once, I am almost positive this is on the level.  After all, it’s CD Projekt Red we’re talking about here.  Definitely hoping the customization options are deep.  I want to turn my character into someone wholly unique.  I also love me some scars and some ink, so hopefully I get a ton of those to play with as well.  Kinda hoping we can add more ink as the narrative goes along.  Looking at the stats, I am definitely gonna be a tech person, with a focus on infiltrator stuff rather than combat.  The narrator says there are no pre-selected class systems, so you can choose how you play.  I dig it.

We see our first mission, and get to rescue a woman who is butt-naked from a bathtub filled with ice.  Again, CD Projekt Red, and they have a pedigree of not shying away from the swanky stuff.  They are European, after all.  I say that all devs should be European and Asian.  Americans are too pussy to go the distance like this.  After the first mission, I see our girl waking up with our comrade.  The narrator says that relationships are something you get to make on your own, and I’m glad about that.  Don’t get me wrong, Jackie is a badass bro.  I could do missions and shit with him all day.  But not sure he’s fuckable material.  Also don’t know if he is that guy for male and female character.  Makes me wonder what the differences will be between them in terms of options for relationships.  Is sexuality a set in stone thing, or is that open to character choice?  Lots of things to think about.

This apartment makes my inner cyberpunk nerd squeee a little.  So much yes!  Suddenly wanna hit up Deckard and see if we can find some replicants.  I couldn’t help but notice in the armory in her place that there is a slot for a fucking katana!  I want my katana!  Wanna hack some people up.  Or, because I am really favoring the subtle infiltration style, I wanna be able to silently kill people with it.  Customize the blade a la Metal Gear Rising.

Heading out of the place, the city looks unbelievable.  Some definite inspiration from Dredd, but that is just fine by me too.  The inhalers thing clearly came from that as well.  So many people tagged.  Was really hoping we’d to get see inside the weapon’s shop.  Seemed that dude has a quest to offer us too.  Getting off at the elevator, I see there are a ton of vendors.  Here’s my question – how many of these people can I visit?  There is a guy selling music, and that definitely appeals to me.  Vinyl records.  Love it.  Had a person in my life who has vinyl, as well as a player.  It’s pretty good stuff.  Makes some kinds of music sound more real.  Everything is so processed now.  The narrator talks about how believable the city is, making the team sound very “humble” in the process.  Whatevs.  With how beautiful this game looks, they’ve earned some bragging rights.  Street cred, as the game has it.

As we meet with the provider of our next mission – Dexter DeShawn, I’m seeing that the game has a broad array of groups that we get to interact with.  There are the corporate people, the criminal elite, the smuggling types who are involved with this mission, and since there is a crime scene we walk past, potentially the cops?  One of my favorite parts of Fallout: New Vegas was how many different groups there were that you could get involved with.  All of which changed how the ending played out.  Makes me want to play with the politics of this game and see where that takes me.

We get our job from Dex and go to our ripperdoc to get some cybernetics.  Here is where I am so stoked.  The trailers for this game have had things like a woman who removed her entire jaw while doing her makeup.  How far can I go with this?  I saw a post saying that if you over-cyborg yourself, it does affect you over the course of the game.  Still, eager to find that fine line.  Or at least see what kinda crazy shit I can get.  The narrator says we can get illegal cybernetics that let me do all sorts of bananas shit.  Hell yeah!

The driving in this game can go from third to first-person.  I would probably do third-person, if for no other reason than to take in the gorgeous landscape of this game.  Really itching to see the night cycle.  Narrator said the day and night cycle are dynamic.  Oh how a man can dream.  When we’re negotiating with the corpo bitch, I can’t help but notice that the language in this game is so foul.  Kinda love it.  After all, the word “Punk” is in the name.  Foul language goes with that territory.  Just watch any of the great films in that class.  Not the cyberpunk class, but punk.  Lots of foul-mouthed assholes.

Player gets their job, which results in them heading over to the Maelstrom hide-out.  The first thing to notice about this guys is all the tech integration.  It’s freaky.  The narrator tells you that you can choose how you go about missions.  I am all about that.  I want to be an infiltrator, of sorts, but wouldn’t mind taking the approach of being able to talk my way out of a bad situation.  Though, not sure it’s worth it with the creepy borg people who have all the glowing eyes and shit.  The head dude looks like he ripped out the front of his face to replace it all with tech.  That’s creepy with a capitol C.

We get some stuff showing off cool combat abilities, but that’s just window dressing for me.  Especially since this person isn’t into the whole tech angle the way I want to be.  They are into the engineer side.  Neat, I guess.  After blasting your way through, you get out, only to be met by corpo bitch.  She tells you that this is how it is, and you head over to Dexter DeShawn’s club to make the drop-off of the creepy spider-drone.  Why did we not have the drone assisting us in combat?  That’s so weird.  We took the time to get it up and moving, but not explore how it can help me out?  So weird.

All things considered, this looks awesome.  For a long time, I’ve wanted to feel like I live in the world of Blade Runner, and now I get the opportunity.  We’ll see what happens next.

Initial Verdict
Jack in my brain, ripperdoc!

Peace out,

Maverick

SIONL: Death Stranding is Gonna Explode

The Tokyo Game Show just happened, and we got to see a new trailer for Kojima’s latest project, Death Stranding.  While morons are going to say that they don’t understand (seriously, I saw a trailer where someone outright said they watched the trailer three times and still didn’t understand it.  What was so fucking complicated?!) what this is, I couldn’t be more stoked.  In this age where everyone wants to have all their questions spoon-fed to them with all the creative mystery of a ham sandwich, Kojima is keeping all his cards close.  And praise that man for it!  The mystery has my anticipation so fucking high.

Sony has been on such a massive winning streak lately with their exclusives.  This year has had three, and all three were massively successful.  And good.  God of War was an engaging narrative and a beautiful story of a father and son.  Detroit: Become Human was David Cage doing his thing, and while it isn’t for everyone, for those who can appreciate his craft, it was pretty awesome.  Finally, we got Marvel’s Spider-Man.  Easily the best game in its genre, and with three pieces of DLC that the devs have promised are not just busy work but substantive story expansions, it isn’t done yet.

Last year, we had two major exclusives from Sony, both of which were so good that I had the hardest time ever picking which was my favorite.  My favorite and second-favorite games of last year, they were – Persona 5 and Horizon: Zero Dawn.  It seems that Sony is really banking on great exclusives now, and hot shit!  There is some of the best quality material I have seen in YEARS coming from them.  And more is coming.  This year at E3, we got to see three major gameplay demos from three of their biggest upcoming projects – Ghost of Tsushima, The Last of Us: Part 2, and Kojima’s latest project, Death Stranding.

I have no reason to believe that the first two listed are not going to be amazing.  This tactic of showing demos specifically to get people to see what the quality they can expect is brilliant, in my book.  Sure, fast-paced trailers with big, bombastic set-pieces are fun and all, but that’s not my jam.  I like a trailer that feels like I am diving in and seeing what I am getting for my money.  Already I can hear people typing, asking why I am taking Kojima’s shtick of giving very little substantive info in his trailers.  Well, that’s a different kind of charm.

Here’s the thing to know – anyone who knows videos games knows that Hideo Kojima is something of an insane perfectionist.  If a game doesn’t come out to the exact quality he wants, he won’t release it.  The only reason MGSV released half-finished was because of the fallout with Konami.  So his continual teasing, making the urge for nerdgasm so strong just titillates me so much. And with the most recent trailer, there is no doubt in my mind – this game is going to be unbelievable!  It will be a hallmark game that will define this latest console generation, along with the new direction Sony is taking.  While Microsoft scrounges in the dirt for exclusives, and Nintendo keeps remaking the same games, over and over again with the fewest tertiary changes, Sony is giving massive budgets to developers who want to do amazing things.  And it’s working!  It’s paying massive dividends.

At the beginning of the year, God of War smashed sales records.  Just recently, Marvel’s Spider-Man did as well.  Perhaps gamers are figuring out that Sony’s new direction of amazing exclusives is churning out some of the best games in generations?  A thought.  Meanwhile, in the case of Death Stranding, I am certain beyond any doubt that this game is going to explode.  Just explode.  The new trailer shows so much.  For starters, Troy Baker is back!  Anything with him in it, at his A-game, I immediately know is going to be amazing.  He is easily my favorite male voice actor right now.  He can pretty-much do no wrong.  But as the YouTuber YongYea figured out, Stefanie Joosten, of Quiet fame from MGSV is back as well!  The cast for this game couldn’t possibly be anymore set.  On name recognition alone, this game is going to sell.  We have Norman Reedus, who will appeal to Boondock Saints fans, and The Walking Dead fans.  We have Guillermo Del Toro who is only donating his likeness to the game, but that will appeal to fans of his films.  We have Lea Seydoux, who will appeal to fans of French films.  She’s a crazy talented actress.  We have Mads Mikkelsen, who will appeal to Casino Royale fans.  Lastly, we have Kojima himself as the creator, who will appeal to Metal Gear Solid fans.  With this much weight behind it, this game is almost certain to set some sales records.  It will premiere to massive numbers.

This couldn’t have me more excited.  Knowing that Troy Baker is back, as a villain who has a kind of asshole charm to him, this game is bringing so much to the table.  And the mysteries keep piling up.  So, what is this weird fluidic substance, and it’s connection to the other world?  How can certain people control it?  What are these monsters that wander the landscape, some of whom can be seen, and other can’t?  What is Mad Mikkelsen’s connection to it all?  The panel said that he is the main villain of the story.  All the questions I could ask for.

But the real beauty of it all is that the wait won’t be much longer!  Kojima has said that there has been no delay in the game.  Some time ago, he said that his game was going to be finished before the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.  At first I wondered if that was a reference to something I figured he might, but wrote that off.  But at the end of the panel, he confirmed my suspicion.  He said that the game is going to be finished to correlate with the date that the legendary anime film Akira was set.  Know what that means?  2019 confirmed!  I couldn’t be more excited.  I can feel it, the next trailer is going to have a release date.  This will be the one.  I cannot wait to get my hands on it.

Until next time, a quote,

“Well shit, I had a special surprise prepped and everything, but it looks to me like your hands are full.  It’s no biggie.  We can always tweak the rules a bit.” – The Man With the Golden Mask, Death Stranding

Peace out,

Maverick

Spider-Man Isn’t Political Enough! (A response to Kotaku)

Anyone remember when Far Cry 5 came out and all the SJWs were bitching about how it wasn’t political enough and didn’t make a caricature of conservative America enough for them?  Well, it seems that the new Spider-Man isn’t exempt from this intellectually-vapid “journalism” either.  Because now we have Kotaku writing another insipid piece where a game that was targeted at young people to put them into the role of their favorite superhero to beat up bad guys isn’t political enough for them.  Letting kids have fun?  Fuck that!  We have to put them into the political arena and tell them how to feel about things!  Because that’s what general audiences love – blatant political messages.  That’s not to say that Spider-Man doesn’t have themes and messages.  The problem for them will become apparently soon enough.  Here’s a link to the article, now let’s talk about it.

Spider-Man has taken on his share of street thugs and supervillains, sometimes teaming up with the police to face down foes and rescue the people of New York. While Spider-Man on PS4 undoubtedly shows Spidey’s allegiance to his community, it also casts him as a big fan of police and their tactics that sometimes conflict with that civic mindset.

So yeah, their problem is that Spider-Man isn’t making enough of a statement about the cops.  Ugh.  Of course, Heather Alexandra wrote this.  What a shock.  He’s a fan of New York.  He wants to take down bad guys and protect good guys.  So yeah, he is on the side of law enforcement.  But since the first part of the game has some dirty cops trying to kill him, it isn’t like the game is ignoring that things are complicated.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.  Let’s keep going.

One of the earliest things you do in Spider-Man is go around activating security towers, made by Oscorp but used by the NYPD, that make it easier for Spider-Man to track crimes as they happen. Narratively, these towers allow the police to better surveil citizens; they also give Spider-Man access to police frequencies.

Um, when does he use the towers to keep track of average citizens?  Nowhere in the game does that happen.  They are only ever used to track police frequencies.  Hell, there’s a bit on Jameson’s radio show where he makes that exact same argument, but you the player get to see it’s more of his conspiracy theorizing!  Man, Heather, it’s almost like you just heard that and assumed it’s true.  I get the feeling you would be a big fan of Jameson.  I love when a game attacks the arguments of it’s detractors directly.  Really saves me a lot of work.

Not to mention, I love how you gloss over the fact that Oscorp made the towers.  Because you have this chip on your shoulder, so fuck the ACTUAL context of the game – that Oscorp is a corporate monolith and is corrupt.  A theme that is central throughout the entire game.  The idea that corporate monopoly is bad.  Seems like you missed that.  Just putting that out there.

Meanwhile, Spider-Man’s enthusiasm for the police—from his stated love of busting drug deals to his cheesy “Spider-Cop” impersonation—had my coworker Tim Rogers calling Spidey a “narc.” While I found Spider-Man as good-hearted and heroic as ever, he was also way more accepting of state power than I expected from a hero with a history of being wrongly maligned by the press and police.

He’s trying to stop bad guys, moron!  That means that, by virtue of what he does, since he absolutely refuses to kill, he is on the side of the police.  Yeah, they malign him, but part of the thing is that he wants to be accepted by the public at large.  It really looks like you’re cherry-picking data points to back you up here, and it’s kind of annoying.  But I guess assisting the cops to any extent makes you a “narc.”  Wow.  Look, I have my issues with the police state as much as anyone.  But the idea that the police are, by virtue of existence, to not be trusted and a hero who wants to help people and save innocent lives should be against them is asinine.

In real life, the conditions at Rikers Island and the systems surrounding it are complex, but games like The Division and Spider-Man flatten that complexity in favor of giving you criminal enemies to overcome. The Division features “the Rykers” as an opposing force for much of the mid-game, and while its radio makes mention of how many prisoners are in jail for minor crimes like drug possession, your primary interaction is to shoot everyone. In Spider-Man, these prisoners function as generic thugs to fight in waves. Despite being a superhero who is on the side of the people, when faced with this element of his city, Spider-Man forgets his allegiances and just enjoys beating the shit out of them.

Um, no he doesn’t.  He fights back against people who choose to fight him!  The people busting out of Rikers aren’t the gentle lambs of the world.  They are violent.  They are choosing to attack cops.  Every single one of them that is in the riot is attacking the cops, attacking Spider-Man, or often both.  If Spider-Man went from cell to cell kicking the shit out of people, you might have some semblance of an argument.  But he doesn’t.  One of his quips is that he will be perfectly content to leave them alone if they go back into their cells and stop fighting.  More and more, it looks like you are just cherry-picking based on a narrative you like to spin.  I can’t imagine Heather Alexandra doing that.  Nope, not once.

Spider-Man’s simple presentation of crime and policing feels tone-deaf in the modern age, when more and more people are growing aware of the class and race dynamics of policing.

You wanna know what’s funny – so many people who think like this fail to understand that police brutality has a deeper problem.  Not the racism, though there’s that.  There is a lovely need in the SJW community to talk about how black cops in the inner-city can be just as violent as their white counterparts.  There is a deeper problem, one that might actually have a chance to be solved now that more and more states are moving towards legalization of marijuana.  The problem is the drug war.  It’s the thing that has destroyed so many cities.  And yeah, there are DEFINITELY racial components to it.  Like how white people and black people do drugs at a commensurate rate, but black people are penalized far more.

However, the solution to this isn’t to imprison more white people.  It’s to end the drug war.  Once that’s done, so much good can be done for the black community in this country.  More than Black Lives Matter will EVER accomplish.  What do I mean?  I mean that we can get non-violent drug offenders out of prison.  This would free up such a vast amount of prison space, allowing there to be some hope of rehabilitation.  What’s more, the legal market would CRUSH the illegal one in a matter of months.  Once the gangs are out of business, businesses would feel safe going back to the black communities.  This would mean more jobs, more income, and help income disparity.  Plus, it would help tame the racial stigmas.  Though the black community would then have to step up and help the police to crush the last vestiges of the crime that destroyed their communities.  Once that was done, what a wonderful world it would be.

This is contingent on mass decriminalization of all narcotics, but one step at a time.  Once the government sees how much money there is to be made with this stuff, it will happen.  The film Layer Cake made a great point about that.  But I don’t expect Heather Alexandra to get that.  She has hair dyed a color not found in nature.  I see such people, I just assume they have nothing of value to contribute.

Spider-Man’s portrayal of policing feels divorced from reality, to the point that it feels out of line with Spidey’s comic book heritage. Comics often speak to what’s happening in the real world. Captain America assumed the role of Nomad in 1974, the same year that Richard Nixon resigned from office in the wake of the Watergate Scandal. The X-Men have a history of allegorical representation of minoritized and persecuted groups. Spider-Man doesn’t seem interested in reacting to the real world.

I’m not aware if you know this, but comic books and video games are two different mediums.  Insomniac didn’t want to make a comic book.  They wanted to make a video game.  One that’s fun for as many people as possible.  One that would appeal to the fans of Spider-Man, with an emphasis on young people.  Kids who saw Tom Holland rocking the role, and then wanted to play a game as that character.  That’s who this was meant to appeal to.  But you want this to be some political screed.  I’m sorry (not sorry) you don’t like that.  You’re reporting on the wrong medium for that.  Video games are about being fun for the audience.  Sorry that bothers you so much.

Until next time, a quote,

“For every complex problem, there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.” – H.L. Mencken

Peace out,

Maverick