Batman: Arkham Origins

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When Bruce Wayne was still relatively amateurish at being a vigilante, Gotham city was a corrupt mess. It was ruled by a number of gangs, those under the Black Mask in particular, who had also bought out the police, and hence operated without any fear. However, Batman was putting a major wrench into this whole escapade. And hence, the Black Mask put up a 50 million dollar prize to whoever could kill the Batman before dawn on Christmas morning, one that assassins from all over the world and even corrupt portions of the police came to pursue. And hence, Batman’s goes out to stop and capture these assassins, deal with the corrupt police, deal with other crime throughout the city happening because of the chaos, and look into a number of mysteries and inconsistencies surrounding this whole affair. It’s a long night. Merry Christmas.

***

For some background, I played Arkham Asylum and City and enjoyed both, city considerably more so. I should also note I played these a long time ago, both within a year of release, so fatigue at being too similar to it’s predecessors shouldn’t be an issue. Comparatively I would have to say that I enjoyed this more than Asylum, but less than City, the latter of which its very similar to.

In terms of story, the development of the rough unrefined Batman was very interesting. Just as interesting if not more so was the development of the Joker, from being someone lost and simply wanting to burn things down so to speak in a literal sense, to being someone with a purpose heavily linked to his relationship with the Batman. Watching that relationship developing, as well as watching the relationship between Batman and Gordon were the highlights story wise, and the core of the actual plot. There were also a whole bunch of other villains, but because of that it felt like a lot were underused. It felt somewhat like going through an amusement park with an attraction for each villain without much consistency and coherence throughout. Still, having such a variety was still pretty cool.  In terms of atmosphere, it felt very similar to City. Gotham was much bigger, but in part because of that, it felt dead, like Arkham City. While this fit with the world of City, it doesn’t fit as well with Origins, despite the story explanation given of a curfew, it still felt somewhat wrong.

The combat was solid similar to City, flowing well and having a good amount of depth with critical hits and the gadgets, though no where near character action game level. I feel I got much more into it this time than previous entries though, solely from experience I’m assuming, but I feel there might be a bit more polish here. The purely combat oriented bosses I’ve never felt have been all that amazing in these games, and this felt about the same. The more gadget and other mechanic oriented bosses were interesting though. The Predator encounters were also similar to City, with a couple additions, but that still felt incredibly similar to previous entries.

In terms of progression, the upgrade system was cool, and the Dark Knight challenges were a nice thing to go for throughout the game while playing. An issue that I have with this game, similarly to an issue I had with its predecessor, is that there are far too many Enigma data packs. I’m the type of person that will either plan to do all of something, or feel far less motivated to do any of it, so seeing how many there were I just didn’t even try. There was a lot of other side content as well, but despite being focused around different villains or groups, the majority of it felt incredibly similar.

In terms of sound and art, it was definitely solid, some moments such as Joker’s monologue definitely standing out as exceptional, but being great throughout. The character designs they chose were pretty authentic despite some novel choices. The graphics were also solid.

Very by the books Batman game that doesn’t innovate much beyond Arkham City in meaningful ways and has a few additional issues, but is a solid entry nevertheless.

8/10

Note that I did not play any MP or any of the challenge maps.

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The Martian

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Mark, an astronaut on the first mission to Mars, is separated from his comrades as they escape before a storm, and due to technical failures on his sensors is left for dead. He somehow manages to survive, and make it back to their command center, but is stuck in the unfortunate situation of being the only person on Mars, with limited resources and absolutely no way to communicate with Earth. However, with a tremendous amount of ingenuity by him and scientists at NASA, he works towards making it home.

***

The Martian takes a very different approach to Sci-Fi, being very rooted in reality, not dealing with events and aspects that don’t really seem to have any chance of happening without world changing break through, but rather something much more grounded, that may well happen in the next twenty years. It hits very close to home while still being tremendously amazing. A key aspect to that is that the problem isn’t light years away, its bringing a single man home, and the problems aren’t tremendous or overtly complex either, primarily revolving around maintaining shelter, establishing communications, and keeping up a food supply. It’s all about problem solving and using everything you know even under pressure. It makes astronauts look truly amazing, in that it doesn’t make them seem larger than life, but rather incredibly courageous scientists. The plot is essentially a series of problems that get solved one after the other, eventually bringing him home, all of which is paced excellently, with a great amount of suspense, though obviously everyone knows he’s going to make it in the end. Mark himself is also a great character, tremendously optimistic even in the most stressful situations, with great wit and humor adding a great lighthearted aspect to the film.

A film that conveys how amazing human ingenuity can be.

9/10

Give NASA more funding plox.

Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance

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After the fall of the Patriots and their System, Raiden AKA Jack begins working at a PMC that takes pride in not just making a profit but also being morally right. On an assignment that should have increased stability and peace in Africa, they are attacked by another PMC named Desperado, with Raiden being defeated by a swordman named Jetstream Sam. However, Raiden isn’t done yet. He survives and gets a host of upgrades to his cyborg body, which he then uses to go on the offensive against Desperado, revealing a massive conspiracy in typical Metal Gear fashion, but sticking to his morals and principles despite what comes his way.

***

Metal Gear Solid Rising: Revengeance was a character action game that was originally given birth to at Kojima Productions, but was eventually taken over by Platinum Studios who had a good amount more experience with character action. What came out was a game that had a lot of the elements of a standard character action game, but a lot of more unique elements carried through as well. The base combat is somewhat standard for character action, the main difference being that there is no blocking, and the only way to defend against attacks is to either dodge them or parry them. I felt parrying was rather finicky, as while the attacks are advertised adequately which makes the timing fair, you also need to be moving the analog stick in the enemies direction, which was a much more annoying, especially with the awkward camera. There are a lot of complaints about the camera in this game, though this was the only place I felt it really had an impact. Another key element is blade mode, where you can control the exact slice of the blade to cut enemies and if done properly with smaller enemies regain full health. This felt like a mostly gimmicky feature at first, but was put to very good use during some of the later boss battles, and hence something that due to it’s good implementation was very cool. The bosses were all pretty great as well, though the final boss having so many pointless stages was somewhat annoying. There were actually a lot of pointless QTE like moments, because while I’m willing to forgive the annoying blade time moments, the rest like climbing up walls and such were very much unnecessary, though I suppose expected for Platinum. There was also some other elements such as platforming, though just holding a trigger made most of it auto, as well as some simple stealth, as it just has to be there in some form in Metal Gear, and a super mode called Jack the Ripper where you can easily cut down anyone. Overall, the combat was solid as should be expected of Platinum, and better than any of their other games that I’ve played, but not exceptional for the character action genre.

In terms of story, while continuing off of MGS4, it felt very detached. While it still had similar themes, the tone and style were completely different, as were most of the characters. Raiden was tremendously different. He definitely made some progress from MGS2 to MGS4, but here he gets a major shift to pretty much an action hero, possessing an anti-hero element edge in the form of Jack the Ripper, which I thought was cool though it was also somewhat strange. His cyborg design was great as well, though it certainly makes you wonder how he can keep going back to being human. The new side characters completely supporting him for the most part were very flat and boring. The key exception to that being Blade Wolf, who is originally an enemy, but becomes a loyal and pretty awesome friend. Actually, compared to his allies, pretty much all of the major enemies in this game are rather colorful and interesting, from Mistral to Jetstream Sam. Armstrong especially was surprising and while somewhat insane was legitimately awesome. As for the other returning characters, Sunny was adorable and it was nice to see her doing well. And that’s pretty much it, in that there were no other returning characters as far as I can recall. Rose and their son are briefly mentioned as being safe in New Zealand, and that’s all we here about them. The plot was incredibly cliche and completely lacking Kojima’s signature convolution that I personally enjoyed a tremendous deal, but it was somewhat decent due to the interesting bosses.

The graphics were decent enough for the time, though the art style was somewhat generic and while there were a couple stand out designs most of them were pretty boring. The random Easter Eggs were quite nice though, in typical Metal Gear fashion. The soundtrack was tremendously different from standard Metal Gear, with a lot of vocal rock, but while it was certainly different, so is the game, and I felt it fitting and enjoyed it.

In regards to DLC: Jet Stream Sam was a pain to play as, his story felt lacking, and pretty much everything was reused. In regards to Blade Wolf, he was decent to play as but still lacking compared to Raiden, but had a decent story considering the size and had at least an original boss. Overall the reuse of old content combined with being too short to really be able to learn the characters without replaying multiple times were the biggest flaws of both DLCs.

A game that is very different from typical Metal Gear of course, but still sticks to many of the themes and is overall a very solid character action game.

8/10

Finding Dory

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After helping Marlin finding Nemo and bringing him home, Dory decides to continue living near them, with them occasionally helping her when she has issues due to her short term memory loss. However, she is suddenly triggered into remembering what she was doing before she helped Marlin find Nemo, searching for her family. She had been separated from them a long time ago and had continued searching for them without much success, but was hopeful that with Marlin’s and Nemo’s help she’d be able to finally do it. And hence, their journey to the California Marine Life Institute began.

***

Finding Dory has a very similar message to Finding Nemo, that you should trust in people and their abilities. It’s a little different though, in that Finding Nemo was directed towards a parent trusting in their child and finally letting them be free, and here it’s directed towards trusting in people that may seem strange or lacking at first sight, like those with disabilities, and that everyone including them is capable to doing great things when they give their all and are given the opportunity to do so. It’s a pretty solid message that’s told pretty well, though overall it lacked the impact that Finding Nemo does from an execution point of view. The film certainly had it’s moments, but in the end it still felt like it was somewhat lacking compared to the first, maybe because it was somewhat less relatable for me, and also because it never felt quite as desperate. In terms of the new characters added, most of them were interesting, and they all certainly had at least some character growth, though I feel that it was somewhat lacking for some characters, such as Hank, whose change of heart doesn’t really seem all that justified. The comedy was good. The animation and art were Pixar quality as expected, which is very high quality. The soundtrack was decent though not exceptional.

A film that stays very true to the spirit of Finding Nemo though with less impact.

8/10

Nagi no Asukara

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Hikari is a somewhat hotheaded boy. Manaka is a girl that generally goes along with others around her. Chisaki is a very level headed and mature girl that’s very kind. Kaname is similarly mature boy, though one that’s more distant. The four of them are childhood friends that live under the sea. The legend goes that long ago everyone lived under the sea, however, a group of people moved to the surface, and with time lost their ability to live underwater. Those that remained were known as the sea dwellers, and those that went to the surface came to be known as the surface dwellers. With time these groups came to develop a distrust for each other, and though still interacting on peaceful terms, a gap still remained between them.

The four friends are thrust into this gap when due to various circumstances they are forced to go to school on the surface. There they must face a number of issues ranging from discrimination from other students to Hikari’s sister, Akari, falling in love with a surface dweller. They also encounter a number of people that they grow close to, such as Miuna, the daughter of the man whom Akari falls in love with, or Sayu, Miuna’s best friend. But most importantly may be Tsumugu, the somewhat aloof son of a nearby fisherman, who Manaka seems to fall in love with. As a love polygon already existed in the group of childhood friends, this ends up making things even more complications and causing quite the conflict. However, before this can be properly resolved, an event occurs that tears up all of these relationships, causing all of them to confront each other in new ways, sometimes rebuilding old relationships, and sometimes building entirely new ones.

***

This anime went very different from how I expected it to. It starts out as a story featuring a simple love polygon that begins to get more complex. It also features various themes about getting along with others that are different as such in the background. This is for the most part nothing too unexpected. And that’s certainly not to say that it’s bad, rather it does a pretty good job at this, just there’s nothing surprising about any of it, and there’s a general feeling about where it’s expected to go. It goes nowhere near that however. At about the half way mark, a major event occurs, that forces a time skip essentially, but a pretty complicated one, that ends up changing the relationship dynamics entirely. And with everything reshuffled, that’s where things begin to get really interesting. It makes a lot of love related points that are very different from your standard ones, the strongest and most impactful of which is most likely that love always has value, both love that is eternal and love that changes. While doing this, it shows characters developing in incredibly interesting ways, with relationships that are just as interesting, with a fantasy story in the background that raises the stakes when necessary and leads to incredibly fast development. All of this comes to a solid ending, with a love polygon that ended up quite a bit more complicated than I expected, and that ended quite a bit differently than I thought it would, though it had me guessing to the end. I’m somewhat bitter about it though, as it seems the only character that didn’t find love was my favorite. There are some issues in that it feels somewhat forced and convoluted at times, and there are points that I felt it were moving too slowly, but overall the whole experience for lack of a better word was quite beautiful.

The designs in general are pretty good. How there were two design schemes, those underwater and those above, really added to that though, and combined with the animation results in it overall being quite eye catching. The animation was quite good. The soundtrack was great and OP/EDs were good, with all of this fitting the show very well, though I feel that there wasn’t any specific track that was exceptionally memorable.

A beautiful story of a love polygon that evolves very differently than expecting, resulting in something quite different and impactful.

8/10

Black Mass

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Whitey is the leader of the Winterhill gang, that controls most of the crime in south Boston. A friend he’s had from childhood, Connolly, is an FBI investigator in charge of the area. When a mafia family begins spreading their influence in Whitey’s turf, they find a common enemy, and form an alliance. However, their relationship continues past this first conflict, with Connolly becoming quite close to Whitey, and Whitey exploiting that to benefit him and his gang, greatly increasing his power and influence.

***

This is a movie based on a true story that seems pretty interesting, however the story doesn’t translate that well into a full featured movie. The movie is interesting in that it shows things escalating tremendously, which is quite thrilling, and it is quite well made. It is also quite good in terms of cinematography. However, it doesn’t really feel like the film has enough subject matter for it’s pretty long length, and hence it can get quite dull at times. There’s pretty interesting plot when looked at in general, but it doesn’t have much depth, at least how it was told here. Hence, it seems to veer off and do a variety of subplots, but they all also feel somewhat lacking in that they don’t seem to have much of a point. All of this ultimately comes to a conclusion that seems quite abrupt, and while it is based on a true story so they can’t vary it all that much, it still feels like an issue. The soundtrack wasn’t bad but it was largely forgettable.

A film based on an a reasonably interesting story that drags on way too long to the point it’s no longer interesting.

6/10

Bridge of Spies

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James B. Donovan is chosen to represent Rudolf Abel, a man charged with treason for spying on behalf of the Soviet Union. However, contrary to what people expected of him, which was just throwing something out there for the sake of maintaining appearances, Donovan actually does his job to the best of his ability, even managing to avoid the death penalty for Abel on the basis of future use as a bargaining chip to use in case any US personnel are captured by the USSR. This opportunity comes to arise when Gary Powers, a U-2 pilot, is captured. Donovan thought that his involvement with the entire affair was over, however he is the one that the Soviet Union ends up contacting, and hence despite having no involvement, he is the one that ends up going to Berlin on behalf of the CIA to negotiate the trade.

***

The movie features two phases, the first is the court case, which is relatively short and acts like a sort of prologue, and the second is the actual negotiations and prisoner swap, which is the core of the film. The court case actually felt somewhat slow despite its length, however the rest moved very fast. It was a good look into the history surrounding the period, especially highlighting the differences and similarities between the USA and USSR, and it was also pretty interesting in terms of watching Donovan step up to the plate and do quite a bit more than was expected of him. Beyond that, though the plot was told reasonably well with some solid tension at points, overall it was a pretty standard flick through and through lacking any especially interesting characters or plot elements. The cinematography and soundtrack were decent.

A film that is a good historical timepiece relating to espionage during the Cold War, but isn’t all that interesting beyond that. 

 

7/10