Lucien’s Review: Hitman: Season One

hitmanWhen I first heard about this game, I was annoyed.  Here we have a AAA title that is being sold in episodes.  What’s more, in order to play this game, you have to be online.  I was not going to stand for that.  I refused to participate.  Just like how I refuse to participate in releasing Final Fantasy VII remake in episodes.  However, when I decided on a whim to get the disc release of the game, and holy shit, I was impressed.  The wonders of what depression can do for a man.  Here we have one of the most fantastic stealth games ever made, with a few flaws.  All things considered, I am eager to see what comes next, even though I won’t be buying the episodes.

Have you ever wanted a game where you could actually feel like a secret agent?  If so, this is your game.  This game is at its best when you play it that way.  Agent 47 is back in action.  After the insane excess that was Hitman: Absolution, this is such a breath of fresh air.  However, much like that game, one of the biggest flaws of this one is the story.  To be honest, this game would have been so much better served if it nixed the story altogether.  Just have Agent 47 doing missions to kill people.  Play it like a Bond movie and have it be bad criminals doing bad things.  Hell, the game even frames one mission where it’s rich clients who are hiring the IDA to get justice that the legal system cannot give them.  They didn’t need another convoluted conspiracy involving some supranational entity who secretly controls the world.  This trope is so overused that I am genuinely sick of it.

The plot goes that Agent 47 is hired by the IDA as their newest operative.  They are a clandestine organization who works in assassinations.  Rich people, corporations, and even national governments hire them to do wet-work operations against very dangerous people, along with some people who slipped through the legal cracks but have some very violent retribution coming their way.  However, over time, 47 and his handler realize that they are being used by a dangerous individual to attack an organization who secretly controls the world.  To what end?  Wouldn’t you like to know?

As I said, this game is basically making you a secret agent.  Each mission has you infiltrating an open level so that you can take out a series of targets and occasionally take on an adjacent task.  The goal is to go through the level and be invisible.  The IDA values no collateral damage.  You are to be ghost, who kills with perfect silence, and never leaves a trace.  And the game gives you a plethora of ways to get the job done.  Each level has dozens of routes to get to the target.  You can take the direct approach, but shooting your way through a crowd looks bad.  The levels give you a good deal of freedom when it comes to dealing with individual targets.  Some of them have little side-missions associated with them.  Sometimes you can be a ghost and sneak around without ever having to change outfits.  There are tons of disguises and hidden goodies to help you get your mission done.  No one can say that this game is unfair.  The difficulty can be whatever you want it to be, but you are still being given as much opportunities to make the kill as you like.

The best thing I can say about this game is the levels.  Not only are the visuals fucking gorgeous, I mean holy shit, but the vast open spaces let you play around with how you want to get the mission done.  Since I love to make a kill in a way where I don’t even leave anyone aware that I was there, it feels so good when I am strolling out of a place and everyone still thinks that all is well in their world.  My personal favorite was in Morocco, where I got to walk out of the Swedish Consulate and have a massive protest outside, with me not having a care in the world.  I had just killed a guy from inside a TV booth, then dragged his body into a closet where he can rot in peace until some poor cleaning person gets to find him and the knocked-out security guard that I left him in there with.

Everything in the levels of these games plays a part.  If you get made, but are able to disappear, people will be talking about what happened.  If you kill one person in an area, other people will start to notice.  Take actions and you can see the results.  My favorite was in Paris, where I dropped a massive light display on a target and had the entire procession run screaming from the show.  That was cool.  A bit more flashy than I had intended, but sometimes flashy works.  How I dropped the guy’s lover was pretty epic.

The other flaw in this game, aside from the story, is how short it is.  With five missions and the training mission, there isn’t a lot of meat.  This is a game that is meant to be replayed.  To find all the ways that you can ice your target.  You can play each mission a dozen times and still be finding new ways to play.  Whether you go from disguise to disguise, slowly working your way to your intended target, or find a tall tower with a high-powered rifle to blow your target’s head off without anyone ever even seeing you, it cannot be said that this game doesn’t let you play your way.  Reminded me of that line in Leon The Professional, where he says that the best killer can get right up next to their target, while amateurs kill from a distance.

All in all, this was worth the wait.  It sucks that Square Enix has gone this route, but I can’t fault them for the final product.  This was one hell of a game, and I will impatiently wait to see what the next season brings us.

Final Verdict
8 out of 10

Peace out,

Maverick

Lucien’s Review: Kingdom Hearts II.8: The Final Chapter Prologue

Kingdom Hearts 2.8Alright, time to dole out some tough love.  Because this is a game that has some good parts, but some horrific and glaring flaws that REALLY need to be pointed out and analyzed.  It’s nice to have a final act to the plot as it’s understood now, however, the cruel truth is that for all the positive elements in this game there are some truly unpleasant realities about this three-pack that I think need to be accepted.  Let’s get down into this.

As with all the other culmination packs, this game is three games wrapped up into one.  Well, two games, really.  Actually, not even that.  One game, a piece of what should have been free demo DLC, and a long-ass cutscene.  That what it is.  Let’s break them down, one-by-one.

For anyone who says that Hideo Kojima has written some convoluted narratives, you don’t know what Kingdom Hearts’ story has become.  The first game is Dream Drop Distance.  In it, we have Sora and Riku taking a mastery exam to become true Keyblade masters.  They enter a dream world where they have to open seven keys that will unlock seven sleeping worlds.  In doing so, they will somehow prove that they are masters of the keyblade or some shit.  Yeah, the narrative is bunk.  This was a cash-grab game.  And as cash-grabs so…it’s pretty standard.

We have our two iconic characters reprising their roles.  We even have a ton of the extra case reprising their roles from the other games.  Really hoping that we get to have Axel’s iconic voice and tagline in Kingdom Hearts III.  Got it memorized?  Though, it seems that Hayden Penettiere didn’t want to reprise her role as Kairi.  Bummer.  I was really hoping that would work out.  Jesse Carter comes back as Roxas, which I love.  Dying to see him come back as Ventus in the last game.

Which brings us to the gameplay.  Anyone who has played Birth By Sleep will get this combat sequence pretty quick.  It’s not hard to follow.  We get these little spirit creatures that you can create who mix things up, but it really isn’t any different from Birth By Sleep.  Add to that more worlds that are so damn empty.  Why are all the worlds in these games devoid of npcs?  It’s so weird to me that in 2017, with limited level space, we have so little happening.  If that’s the case in the third game, I’m strangling a bitch.  This game widened out the areas a lot more, which just made it that much more noticeable how there is no one in these places but the main characters and villains.  Weird to watch Quasimodo at the center of the Festival of Fools and have it be nothing but empty space.

However, when the plot of this game rears its ugly head, it drags its ass so hard.  Granted, I am happy to see old chums from previous games coming together to kick ass.  Seeing Axel fighting against his old comrades is pretty sweet.  However, it’s not worth the painful exposition-dumping that this game has all over itself.  But the worst offense – the parts that shine of brilliance and go nowhere.

For example – anyone remember what I said would make for an awesome Kingdom Hearts III?  I said that there should be a world like Fantasia, where it’s nothing but music, without dialogue, and you get to just take in the visuals and gameplay with it.  They did it!  They fucking did it!  And I was in love!  Each of the areas themed after the areas in Fantasia were awesome!  For those scenes, I was enraptured.  But it’s so short!  Give me some Rite of Spring!  Give me some stuff from Fantasia 2000!  Go nuts!  Or even worse, you go to the world of Tron Legacy.  And they have one of the most fun segments in any of these games – light-cycle fights!  You alternate from the awesome energy ribbons to laser guns.  That was amazing!  More of that!  But then it’s done, and you can’t even play it like a racing game later!  What the hell?!

This game had a ton of potential, and there are a few moments that truly do realize it.  Then others that go fucking nowhere.  It’s such a shame.

Speaking of, let’s talk about Birth By Sleep 0.2, the second “game” in this collection.  Although, I am going to come right out with it – this isn’t a game.  It’s just not.  It’s a tech demo for how the third game will play.  And just on those merits, it is actually a lot of fun.  No joke, I had a hell of a time just going around and getting a wow out of the crazy awesome visuals in the game.

The plot goes that Aqua has been wandering the Realm of Darkness ever since Terra was taken over and Ventus’ heart was lost to the darkness.  Now she is trying to find her way to her friends, but time has no meaning in this place.  She’s been wandering for almost ten years, and it’s worn her down.  You can clearly see that she is tired of this endless drifting through shadow, and wants to go back home with her friends.  However, when the darkness beckons, and destiny comes into play, we get to see Aqua do random shit that goes nowhere.

As I said, it’s a tech demo.  A very pretty tech demo.  On visual and gameplay merits, it actually is a lot of fun.  If this is what to expect in the third game, then color me impressed.  However, the cruel reality is that this game clocks in at under 3 hours long, and the plot is weak as fuck.  This game should have been DLC for $5, or a free demo for the third game.

Which brings us to the final part of this game – Back Cover.  A cutscene that decides to fill us in on the events which led up to the original destruction of the world and the Keyblade War.  As well-voiced and beautiful as this digital film is, the cruel and honest truth is that it isn’t a game, and I could have watched this shit on YouTube.  Hell, most people will do that.

I am trying to be nice here.  I really wanted to like this.  However, the unfortunate truth is that this collection was INSANELY over-priced and not even remotely worth what they are asking for.  If you want, wait for the price to go down if you are truly a die-hard Kingdom Hearts fan.  For the rest of you, just skip it.  A YouTube synopsis will get you caught up the rest of the way if you have gotten this far.

Final Verdict
5 out of 10

Peace out,

Maverick

Lucien’s Best Game of 2016

This has been a very slow year.  After how amazing last year was, it’s to be expected.  This year has had a lot of delays, a lot of VERY cool reveals, and wonder about what will happen.  It’s looking like next year will be pretty quiet too.  I am working on my Most Anticipated Games of 2017 list, and my top entries haven’t been confirmed for next year, but it’s a decent guess that they will be released then.  I was so hoping that my favorite game of this year would be Final Fantasy XV.  After ten years of waiting, I was so stoked for what I believed to be the best display.  However, such was not the case.  That was a very good game that was being held back by a completely lackluster story and a third act that was downright boring.  No joke, everything after going to Altissia is dull a fuck.

With that said, the game that took the top spot this year was one that I didn’t expect.  When I first saw the reveal trailer, I was so certain that this was going to be a snooze.  I mean, how could this possibly be any good?  So glad to see that I was wrong.  It shouldn’t have come to me as any shock, considering that It was made by Naughty Dog.  After the reveal of the sequel to The Last of Us, I am so hopeful for what I will see next.  My pick for the best game of 2016 is…

Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End

Man did this game do it right.  So many truly great franchises crash and burn at the end.  Probably the most famous example is Mass Effect.  Right up to the very end, that franchise was so fucking good.  But then, in its final minutes, the whole narrative just falls apart.  Everything after the Victory Fleet goes to Earth is terrible.  You have no idea how depressing that was.  Perhaps the hardest thing for any franchise to do is end well.  I don’t deny, it is a tricky gambit.  But this game showed that it could be done, and done incredibly well.

First, this is the most beautiful game I have ever seen.  Bar none.  The visuals are a step above, which helps bring to life a story that has some fantastic depth.  Whether it be examining Nate and his inability to let the treasure hunter life go, or what it means to be married and have it be “until death do you part,” there are so many wonderful relationships that are examined, with the express purpose of bringing the franchise to a close.  Sure, it does bring up a plot convenience in Nate’s brother, but with Troy Baker doing the voice, along with an amazing introduction section, he fits right in.  Not to mention we are back with our main man Sully once-again.  Add in Elena giving Nate shit, and it’s like getting to go on one last adventure with a family that we have known for so long.

Then there is the fact that this game is so damn fun!  Whatever your play style, the game accomodates you.  Whether it be running and gunning, or doing what I do and getting your stealth on.  It is just so much fun to explore the beautiful landscapes and shooting up the place or picking the enemy off one by one.  We also get these wide open landscapes to explore, to take in the beautiful vistas and get to hear our characters play off each other.  There wasn’t a single level in the entire game where I was like, “wow, seen this before.”

Finally, the game brings the franchise to a definitive end with a perfect epilogue.  Nate’s place on that beach is fucking amazing.  Sure, it is a hipster house, but if I had the chance to live there, you bet your ass I would take it.  I loved this game, and it makes going through the entire franchise again that much better.  We get to see how it all ends, and that is why it is my favorite game of this year.

Until next time, a quote,

“Sic Parvis Magna, little brother.” – Sam Drake, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End

Peace out,

Maverick

Lucien’s Review: Final Fantasy XV

Final Fantasy XVAfter ten years in development, the final product that is supposed to breathe new life into the franchise has been released.  Sorry this review took so long, but I was working to make it through as much content as I possibly could, in order to give the best review possible.  To that end, my initial verdict is that this game is many things.  Some of them very good, others pants-on-head retarded.  Was it worth the wait?  Did it live up to the hype?  There is a LOT to talk about with this game, so let’s get down to it.

This game begins with one of the problems.  It just throws you out into it.  There is NO lead-in to this game.  There is no world-building.  It expects you to have seen a lot of the extended content, which is a real shame, because I get the feeling that there is a lot of really interesting narrative to sink one’s teeth into.  Noctis and his three friends are sent out by King Regis to go meet with Lunafreya, in order to get married and cement an alliance that could help them save their country.  From there, the plot gets all kinds of ridiculously convoluted.

Originally, this game was said to be a fantasy based on reality.  I took that to heart.  I really did.  Back in the days when this was Final Fantasy Versus XIII, Tetsuya Nomura wanted this to be a game about a fantasy world that you could believe exists.  Part of me is DYING to see what the game that he envisioned would have been like.  The cruel reality is that the game that I saw in those old trailers looked 1000X better than what we got here.

Let me put it to you like this – I have the EXACT same opinion of this game as I do Metal Gear Solid V.  When you are playing, it is so much fun.  The elements of exploring the vast, open world and chilling with your buddies, going on the endless side-quests, that part of the game is more fun than I have had with an RPG in a long time.  However, there is this retarded story that keeps poking at me to do what it wants.  And you know what, I wish it didn’t exist.

This game was marketed as a road trip game with Noctis and his buddies going from place to place and getting into all kinds of crazy fantasy hijinks.  And you know what, when the game is doing that, I am in love.  Everything leading up to when you leave the country to basically go on a completely-linear second half is truly special.  Why couldn’t this game have stuck with the road trip?  I can’t help but think that Nomura’s original vision eschewed a lot of the grandiose bullshit, in favor of a game that is more of a story about fighting to reclaim the prince’s kingdom?  Like, have him going around, getting allies, making some pacts with summons and gaining allies by helping people in various places?  Then, the game wraps up with Noctis taking the fight to the Empire to reclaim his home.  Sure, it isn’t the most epic story, but since when does all fantasy have to be about saving the fucking world?

I suppose I should actually talk about elements of the game, but I needed to get all that out there for when I make my last point.  First thing to know – this game is beautiful.  There’s a reason that getting to wander the countryside is so fun.  The landscapes are nothing short of spectacular.  Getting to travel around in your car (which is mostly on rails) is a wonderfully immersive experience, just getting to take everything in and listen to your friends talk.  Then you get to camp out, and each time you do, it feels like a new experience, partly due to the unique animations you get to watch as you level up.

Then there is the combat system.  Here is where a lot of people’s mileage will vary.  I loved it.  This isn’t the kind of game where you just press attack and win.  There is a ton of real strategy that you have to use if you want to do well in this game, from knowing when to block, how to react quickly to parry strikes, and moving around enemies to get the perfect strike on their blind spot, which can sometimes be very difficult to hit.  The magic is a bit different from other games.  Instead of having magic powers you unlock, you craft magic in this game from elemental gems that you can charge up magical energy from.  When you combine magic with items, you can make casting spells also have curative powers.  The mixing and matching of magic to items feels a lot like alchemy, and it is very fun.

For those who saw the summons in the game’s trailer and thought that you will be getting to play around with them, don’t get your hopes up.  You don’t.  The only time that you are able to use summons is at VERY specific points in the story.  But they are still fucking epic, don’t get me wrong.

Which brings me to the characters.  The four main characters who the game is centered around are pretty awesome.  At least for the parts that you can travel around the countryside.  They play off each other brilliantly, and it feels like four friends out on a road trip.  Noctis is a bit broody, but not to the point that it’s annoying.  Ignis is my favorite of the bunch.  He’s kind of a Mother Hen for the group, and his dry sense of humor just makes my day, every time I hear it.  Gladiolous is something of a meat-head and is brash, but you enjoy his company like the lovable big brother.  Prompto is kind of the reverse.  He is the scrawny little brother, trying his best to be a good friend and fit in.  Those four are the driving force, and for that much the game is fantastic.  You even get these little bonding sessions with each character, and all of them are fun and shed light on how likeable they are.

And then there’s the villains.  They are the driest, must under-developed video game villains I think I’ve ever seen.  Their motivations are…well, you never really know.  They are all gone because plot reasons and you never see them again.  Hell, the entire empire that you’re fighting crumbles all the sudden and that’s it, all for a REALLY forced message about saving the world can happen.  It’s bad.  Really bad.  Like, the absolute worst.  Ties back in to what I was saying about some parts of this game being awesome, and others being bad.

The reality is that this is NOT the return to form that Square Enix was hoping for.  Wrapped up inside a very bad plot is a very good game that is a ton of fun to play, up until you have to leave Lucis and the whole thing devolves into bullshit.  It’s such a shame that such a fantastic concept and some truly amazing gameplay is wasted on a story that I was rolling my eyes at the whole time.  Again, it’s just like Metal Gear Solid V in that regard.  What a shame.

Final Verdict
7 out of 10

Peace out,

Maverick

Lucien’s Review: Rise of the Tomb Raider (PS4 Port)

Rise of the Tomb RaiderWell, after all the stupid bullshit with Square Enix, the sequel to the very fun reboot has finally come to a console that I can actually play it on.  Given how they screwed the pooch with this game, it’s pretty clear that this is going to be the last entry in the franchise.  Square Enix felt that the original game underperformed even though it was hugely popular.  This game will be the death knell for the franchise since it was so mucked up with the timed-exclusivity and the release at the same time as a ton of other games last year.  I’m honestly sad to see the franchise end.  It had a lot of potential for interesting sequels.  So how does the franchise go out?  Not too bad, actually.  It’s not great, but it’s pretty good.  Let’s get into it.

The plot goes that Lara is now stuck living in her father’s shadow, trying to clear his name.  After what she saw in the previous game, she is convinced that everything her father believed is true and she has to set things right.  Now it’s off to Siberia to go hunt for the missing truth of the “Divine Source” her father had been after, all the while crossing paths with an overused plot device in gaming – a secret organization that is insanely powerful and wants to rule the world. Yeah, not a fan of that.  Who wins in the end?  I think you know the answer.

When I reviewed the original game, I said that it was a game that had a lot of flaws.  It was overly gory for no good reason, had a plot that seemed to be at odds with the mechanics and had really bad stereotypes as characters.  But I could look past all that because the game itself is so fun.  Here there are also a bunch of problems, and while the game is fun, it isn’t as fun as the last one.  I am going to take a different approach this time and talk about the good stuff first before talking about the problems.  I want this to be constructive.

The good stuff is that the gameplay here is just as fun as in the last one.  The stealth has been tweaked a bit, and you have some new weapons to play around with.  But the reality is that it is still as awesome and fun as I remember.  There is one new toy they give you that I spammed to no end because it made some of the bigger fights a cake-walk.  However, you are given a choice in how you want to play.  Since I am all about stealth, you probably know how I did.  My version of Lara Croft is a hunter who stalks her prey and takes them out.  No one escape her arrows, single shots to the head, or blade.

Next up are the visuals.  This isn’t the greatest-looking game in the world.  Truth is, it honestly looks about the same as the PS3 game last year.  But it still looks good.  Setting it in an arctic part of the world was awesome because it allowed the devs to have some fun with how you use ice and other such mechanics.  Since everything in this game is about motion and staying in motion, you learn to use all your surroundings.  That’s another thing that the gameplay mechanics give you to play with.  Not the greatest-looking game on the system, but I do like the look all the same.

Another nice touch was the crafting mechanic.  This game also has an emphasis on Lara being a survivor who has to make the most of whatever she has on hand in order to stay alive.  Sure, it means that you are constantly scrounging for materials, but I was doing the same thing in the last game, so it was fine.  If anything, it made me feel more like I was in her shoes because we had to put things to use in order to make pretty much everything for your weapons.  You are given very little in this game.

Here’s the part where we get into some of my problems.  For starters, making Lara a more confident character actually made her boring.  So much of her personality from the last game was sucked into oblivion for this one. I kind of liked the angry desperation she had in the previous entry. Here, even when there is bad stuff happening, Lara always seems to be in control.  There are only a couple stand-out moments where she gets genuinely pissed.  One of them was pretty badass when she’s yelling at someone who betrayed her and puts a bullet in them.  Which brings me to my next problem.

The side-characters in this game was bland and forgettable.  They bring Jonah back from the previous entry.  That’s cool.  What happened to the others?  Like Sam and Reyes?  One of the stand-out points from the last game was that diary entry Jonah made about his fear about the island and what he would do if he was the last one standing.  The characters in the previous game were stereotypes, sure, but the game at least had fun with those stereotypes.  This time around, pretty much all the side characters are dull as dirt.  I found two of the characters in the logs that I was finding more interesting than pretty much anyone in the main game.  Hell, I wanted to know what their story was more than Lara’s.

And then there’s the villains.  This guy is as forgettable as possible.  So is the secret other villain who had a pretty decent reveal, I will admit.  I didn’t care about this dude.  The game wants you to hate him, but even the voice acting is trying too hard.  The game also did this weird thing where it would cut to the two villains.  All of the major cutscenes are connected with Lara seeing what’s happening.  Here, we just take a break from the game to see two villains talking and it isn’t especially interesting.  I didn’t get why and it broke the flow of what was happening.  There were also these weird cuts that I guess were supposed to show the passage of time, but they come out of nowhere and linger too long.

Overall, this game is good.  It isn’t great.  In comparison to the last game, this one is the lesser.  But it is still good.  If you are of a mind to, I do recommend checking out, but maybe wait for the price to drop.  Sorry you had to go out on this note, Lara.  But hey, Agent 47 is doing much the same, since Square Enix decided to shit where they eat with that one too.

Final Verdict
7 out of 10

Peace out,

Maverick

Lucien’s Review: Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV

kingsglaiveFor those of you who know my thoughts on the film Final Fantasy VII: Adventure Children, you may see where I’m going with this.  Only this time, instead of a film that just assumes that we know all the characters and the struggles of the universe it is set in based on an established franchise, we get a film that assumes that we know all the characters and struggles of the universe of a franchise that hasn’t even been established yet.  If you went into this without knowing a single thing about Final Fantasy XV and the lore surrounding it, you will be VERY confused.  But it does looks pretty amazing.  Let’s talk about it.

The plot of the film is pretty much a prequel to the game, but this time with more extravagant outfits.  Okay.  We have King Regis, voiced by Sean Bean.  Make your “when does he die” jokes here.  This is weird, because as I understand it, he isn’t in the game.  Why have him in this movie?  Then we have Luna, voiced by Lena Headey.  This is also weird.  Partly because as I understand it, she is also not in the game, but then there is the fact that her voice does NOT go with this character.  She is clearly well into middle age, voicing a character who is supposed to be in her younger years.  It does NOT go well together.  You have Aaron Paul doing the voice of one of Regis’ soldiers, the Kingsglaive.  They are charged with fighting the invading Nifelheim army to hold them back.  It’s a useless battle, since the invading force is vastly more powerful.  Seeing defeat as inevitable, Regis is making an effort to sign a treaty.  However, this gets wrapped up in a very dull plot about betrayal and action.  Lots and lots and lots of action.

To this movie’s credit, the visuals are nothing short of incredible.  This film is a testament to the power of whatever visual software Square Enix is using.  It truly is incredible.  And this film is infinitely more colorful than the studio’s last work in Advent Children.  So the colors get more of a chance to pop.  When it isn’t so ridiculously over the top with fight sequences that never end, this movie can look pretty damn amazing.  Too bad I got so little chance to take any of it in.  Maybe because the film decided that it wants to be wall-to-wall action without end.

Now we get into my gripes.  For starters, why are they using voice actors that aren’t even in the game?  I know for a fact that neither Sean Bean nor Lena Heady are in this game.  Aaron Paul did his best to sell his performance.  Since none of the characters were particularly interesting, I enjoyed his role the most.  At least there I could tell that there was a genuine enthusiasm.  Sean Bean sounds bored.  As does Lena Heady.  The whole cast sounds like it couldn’t possibly care less about anything that was happening in the film.  There was this weirdly level thing about everything that everyone said.  Even when it was supposed to be very emotional, everyone is monotone.  Oh how I hope the game this is supposed to be a prequel for isn’t like that.  Otherwise it will get really old, really quick.

And that’s another thing – this movie took ZERO time to world-build.  They talk about refuges and parts of the world, none of which we get to see.  We don’t get why there is this huge intolerance of the refugees, or where their little catch-phrase comes into play.  I really would have liked it if we could have taken some time to get to know ANY of the world that Noctis and his chums get to explore in the game.  I mean, we are watching this movie to get a taste of the game, right?  Is the entire game just nothing but over-the-top action non-stop?  If so, then to be honest, I’m a little nervous.  But then I remember – Advent Children was much the same.  So hopefully I have nothing to worry about.

This film exemplifies everything that armchair film critics say about modern blockbusters.  There was hardly a quiet scene one.  In fact, the whole movie was basically just going from one crazy set-piece to another with only a minute or two of quiet time.  This film doesn’t give you time to breathe.  And since it wants you to care a great deal about these characters that we are stuck with, it would help if at least one of them was fun to be around, or if we knew them beyond a name.  The action went on WAY past the point where it should have ended.  There was this moment toward the end of the third act where I saw a perfect chance for the film to stop.  It was when King Regis died.  It was actually pretty emotional.  It had everything for a powerful and depressing climax.  We all knew that there wasn’t going to be a happy ending here.  So why not stop there?  Oh, right, we have an even bigger and even more insane battle sequence that never ends to go to.

All things considered, if you are able to completely turn off your brain and enjoy the pretty lights and watching things blow up (I mean more than with a Michael Bay film), or if you are the ultimate die-hard fan of the license, then I guess that this is the film for you.  For me, I was just really bored throughout most of it.  I was hoping to see some of these characters and get to know them better.  But nope.  It’s just endless explosions and fighting.  What’s more, they are hinting that the whole film is really just a story about an evil nation trying to take over the world.  So is that going to be the game?  I kind of hope not.  I mean, sure, I figure there will be some fantastic elements of world-saving, but I am also hoping that the central focus of the story is Noctis and his comrades fighting to reclaim his throne.  That was what I always thought it would be.  Am I wrong?  Let’s hope so.  This isn’t a bad movie.  It’s just boring.  Very, very boring.

Final Verdict
5 out of 10

Peace out,

Maverick

Lucien’s Review: Wolf Children

wolf-childrenI honestly should have reviewed this movie on Mother’s Day.  It is the most fitting time of year for it.  Alas, I ordered this movie now, and it arrived when it did.  If there was ever a film that will make you appreciate your mother more than this, I can’t honestly think of it.  Especially if she was a single mother.  Of course, it is from the visionary director of Summer Wars, a movie that made a big family feel like real people.  It is not only my favorite film by Mamoro Hasoda, but also one of my favorite films of all time.  While this isn’t as good as that, it is still a feel-good film that will touch your heart.  Take my word for it.

Just like Summer Wars, this is a film that combines surreal elements with very realistic family ones.  It tells the story of a girl who meets a boy.  The two fall in love, but the boy has a secret.  One that he passes on to their very special children.  But then he is gone, and now the mother is on her own to raise these two pups and try to maintain a normal life.  What follows is the tale of her very, very difficult life with these two young ones.  Not a complicated story, but it is ALL in the execution.

Talking about the animation in this film is a complete waste of time.  Anime films are almost-uniformly beautiful, and this one is no exception.  It is a gorgeous film to look at and every shot is near-perfect.  The voice-acting is top-notch as well.  The stand-out role is the mother.  I just love how subdued her performance is.  All of her best moments are subtle, and you have to be paying attention to find them.  Like where she is with her daughter and just has a line about wishing their father had taught her how to deal with things.  It’s powerful because it conveys how powerless and lonely she feels, having to stay away from all life except that of her two special children.  But that’s not to say that the rest of the cast isn’t fantastic.

Summer Wars was about family and staying connected.  Wolf Children is about community.  And the rest of the community are fantastic.  Just like the family in the other film, they all have their own personalities and getting to know them is part of the fun.  Plus, it helps show the growth of the mother as she comes to accept that there is a place in the world for her special family.  My favorite of the neighbors is the asshole old man.  He’s such a cliche, but man is it in how you execute it.  He’s such an asshole, but as you peel away the layers you find that there is a man with compassion like you’ve never seen.

Thing was, I never really got to know what this sort of life was like.  I grew up in a place where pretty much everyone around me was family.  For most of my childhood, I would go from one family member to the next.  My favorite one to hang with was my grandma.  Maybe that’s why I love Summer Wars so much.  But I have wondered what tight-knight communities are like.  When I get out of this state, perhaps I’ll find out.  City life is so damn lonely.  The jobs are here, but there’s no sense of belonging.  This city is such a poor place.  Jobs are here, but they don’t pay well, and poverty is rampant.  It sucks, and I honestly am growing to hate it more and more.  Once I am out of here, the goal is some little seaside community, hopefully on the west coast.  Man, there was a digression.

As I said, the biggest character you grow to like is the mother.  Everything about her character, from the animation to the voice acting portrays a woman trying so damn hard and having life often be very unkind to her and her tiny tag-alongs.  While we’re at it, let’s talk about the kids.  Child characters in anime often annoy.  And I’m not gonna lie, these kids do too.  But here’s the thing about these kids annoying me that other kids don’t – it’s because they feel like real kids.  And I don’t like children.  Don’t want any of my own, and it’s looking like I will get my wish on that end, since my personal life is a dead heap of broken dreams.  I actually dislike these characters because they feel like the kinds of kids who would be bothering me when I am hanging with the adults.  Kids like me.  It’s strange.  Maybe because I am a giant.  Yeah, I get the feeling that’s it.

All things considered, I do love this movie.  It isn’t one of my favorite anime films, but it is a movie that I can just put on to feel good with.  This movie will make you smile.  It will make you cry.  It will also make you want to call your mother and be nice to her.  Hopefully you all love it too.

Final Verdict
9 out of 10

Peace out,

Maverick