Shadow Tactics: Blade of the Shogun (2016) review

shadow tactics

Rated: 3.5 / 5

I question how much I actually enjoy stealth games.  Aside from Thief I and II, I don’t normally go out of my way to play these sorts of games.  On the other hand, certain RPGs like Deus Ex, while not primarily a stealth game yet can be played as one, do end up causing me to take the stealth-tactic route.  Mainly because it seemed more logical to me to not try and be a one-man army, since games like those try to have a sense of realism.  Plus they subtly encourage you to try more pacifist tactics, lest you risk causing hostages to be butchered or something.  I don’t know, maybe it’s because of some subliminal shit that causes me to take the stealth approach in those games.  Or because I’m not that great of a shot (at least compared to online players), so I just play like a pussy.  But since this game was getting rave reviews, I thought I’d try it out.  And overall, it’s not too bad.

There are 13 missions in the game, each one getting progressively longer, complex, and challenging.  First mission is a great intro to the game system, the 2nd mission is a decent progression.  But from the 3rd mission and onwards, it doesn’t pull any punches with the difficulty.  You have to learn the capabilities of the characters inside and out, just as you’ll need to learn to utilize the controls for quick maneuvers to get the timing right, plus to utilize the ability to see the line of sight of specific soldiers/samurai/civilians.  Shadow mode for simultaneous character actions, each of their special abilities, knowing when to move by quickly, or crouch and move; when you should kill someone, when you should just try to avoid them, etc.

In other words, I strongly recommend using a controller for this one, rather than a mouse and keyboard.  This game seems more designed for control pads.

If it wasn’t obvious, this takes place in medieval Japan, during a time when the way of the samurai was ending.  So of course there’s going to be some challenge to their traditional ways, especially with the questions asked to or about the Mugen character (one of the five party members you’ll have through much of the game).  And, of course, they have to throw in a bit of women power (mainly with this one character who can disguise herself to blend in with the enemy), but they thankfully don’t go overboard with it.  It’s the same kind of thing you get with the film The Last Samurai, except the war-mongering samurai are given a more antagonistic light this time around.  Two significant events happen in the game to thematically represent this way of life coming to an end, signified by two major characters having their lives ended.

Theme aside, the game controls fine for the most part.  I found myself frustrated at points for not being able to pull off these plans I had in mind to get through a section, but that’s mostly on me.  Overestimating the capabilities of my characters, underestimating the number of enemies and their patrol routes (I needed to learn more patience, even if the whole thing seems like trial and error), and just getting angry knowing that, in hindsight, there was a better way to go about completing a portion of a level (if not the entire thing).  However, there were a few times where the NPC movement seemed glitched, with one or two guys being stuck together or to some object on the map and being unable to move.  This was rare, and I think it only happened at 3 points throughout the entire game, but it was noticeable when it did.  Nothing game-breaking, thankfully.

There are some caveats though, which I noticed during the last 3 missions.  Sometimes there’s a portion of the map that juts out just enough to stop you in your tracks unless you go around.  I’m not talking about a section of a cart or something, I’m talking about one or two fucking pebbles that your character should be able to just fucking walk/run across, but can’t, so you have to learn to go around these things and not hug the walls too much or else you’ll get stuck and then get caught by the asshole NPC you thought you were about to avoid until that shit happened.  So, you know, little frustrations like that, which again aren’t game-breaking, just irritating.

After the first 2 levels, I’d say each stage took me roughly 2 hours each to beat (on Hardcore difficulty mind you, I’m not that much of a pussy to settle for normal mode, especially when it felt like the game was pulling it’s punches, let alone beginner mode).  Which gives this game a playing time of roughly 25 hours.  A solid enough length for a game of this type.

And even after you finish a level, you can replay it again to complete challenges (of which there are 9 per level).  If you beat a level on hardcore mode, there’s a chance you will have completed at least 2 of the 9 challenges on a first try.  For the first level, I completed 8 of the 9 challenges (including a speed-run of beating the level in under 11 minutes).  I enjoyed them, at first.  But then I came to realize some of these challenges are just downright stupid.  For instance, one of the challenges in the first level is not to kill anyone.  You can knock them out, but they’ll come-to after about 40-60 seconds (I never timed it).  And it seems impossible to get through a level only by knocking people out.  But then I figured out the trick.  Knock someone out, dump their body in a well (I think there’s only 2, at most, in this level), rinse and repeat for everyone else in the way.  But this gets really fucking tedious when you realize there’s only 1 well that you can use for this purpose for a good portion of the level, so you’ll be knocking guys out, carrying their fatasses for up to a minute at a time trying to get back to this cocksucking well, dumping them, and doing it again and again, having to travel further and further distances while doing this.  When a challenge gets that tedious, I tend to stop giving a shit about them.  Seriously, don’t worry about the challenges, at all, during your first playthrough.  Don’t go back to those missions and repeat them just to do those challenges until you’ve completed the game.  These challenges have the potential to increase the amount of times it takes to complete a mission exponentially, sometimes for ridiculous reasons.

Or so I thought.  But then it turns out there was a way to do this quickly without needing to KO all that many people.  This hot shit Korean gamer (you fuckers and your god-mode Starcraft skills) makes me look bad:

So it’s watching this video that made me realize I’m nowhere near close to being a master at these types of games.  I may be capable of beating them, but I’m not capable of being great at them, at least not on my own without looking up how someone else “did it.”  This is one of those games that every stealth game ultimately ends being in a glorified sense: a puzzle game.  It’s not just about figuring out a way to progress though a stage, it’s also about figuring out the best most efficient way to do it.  And I will admit, I am not the best at figuring out that stuff on my own.  It infuriates me, but that’s on me, the game isn’t to be faulted for that.  You hearing me you asshole game journalists who bitched about the difficulty in Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice!?

But anyway, if stealth games like these seem right up your alley, I say go for it.  It seems like one of the better ones released in recent years that I’ve learned about.

 

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The Youth of the Nation: Suicide Club

Introduction

Over the past couple weeks, my drive has slowed to a crawl.  I have no one but myself to blame, for the most part.  I have a bad habit of taking on too many projects at once, from television series (attempting to make a review for Naoki Urasawa’s Monster, Babylon 5, Vietnam – A Television History, and perhaps a couple others), movie trilogies (mainly the Star Wars prequel trilogy so that I can re-address the newer Star Wars films), other various movies (thought about reviewing Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man, Made in America, and Redline), developing a fan-made expansion for a board game, creating my own original (somewhat) board game, and of course revisiting my Nostalgia for the 90s post by making the February 1990 sequel, which I’m having a hard time doing because I find it difficult to gain the willpower to track down and watch all the films/shows/games/songs from that month of that year (but I am down to a single film at least).  I try to keep myself focused on one thing, but rarely succeed.  Guess that’s the downside to having a bit of Attention Deficit Disorder.  So I usually try to finish these things in spurts.

But then comes situations that I know I’m going to want to address at some point, but try to avoid.  But then I just say, “Fuck it, I’m at my best when I spontaneously combust and go on spontaneous rants on something topical.”  So what set me off this time?  The recent school shooting (at this point it doesn’t really matter which one I’m referring to, consider it any of the shootings that involve school kids blowing away other school kids, and not in the sexual way [I don’t care how insensitive that joke is at this point]).

This isn’t going to be a single post.  This is going to be a series, where I not only review a film, but address how it’s themes address this ongoing “crisis” (if it can even be called that).  Because the problem with youth isn’t so simple that it can be condensed into just one topic.  And there isn’t any single film that can adequately address all those topics (though that one movie Higher Learning sort of tried; it failed, but it tried).  When it comes to something like this, people tend to try to make it as simple as possible, believing that the problem is something so simple that only 1, maybe 2 things need to be changed and then everything will be all better.  They couldn’t be more wrong.

 

Suicide Club review

Rated: 3 / 5

Let me get this out of the way, I’m not against suicide.  I used to be, in the past, mainly because all we would here is how suicide is bad, people shouldn’t kill themselves, we have more to live for, blah blah blah.  That’s all true, and one must also consider how selfish of an act it is and what consequences it would entail to those close to them, mainly family members and friends (assuming they have any).  However, what if one doesn’t have more to live for?  What if there is no one close to them who would be all that emotionally affected by their death?  What if they have no friends (or more importantly, what if they feel like they have no friends)?  Much of the downsides to suicide go away, and the only thing they would have to worry about is, “I really hope I don’t fuck this up,” or, “I really hope this is going to be quick and mostly painless.”  Basically whatever it takes to make the pain go away, whether it’s a physical pain from some disease or a physical injury; or mental pain from being bullied, from guilt over an action of the past, from thinking the future is too bleak, or from being alone and feeling isolated for too long.  All of those can start to look like very good reasons to off yourself regardless of what anyone else tells you.  Sure there are those who try to re-assure you that if you tough it out things will be alright in the end.  But what do they know?  They don’t know the future.  They don’t know everything.  They don’t know if your life will improve or continue to go into the shitter.

On the other hand, much of it could be applied to groundless paranoia, subliminal messaging, peer pressure, and the people you hang around with.  While there are good reasons worth killing yourself over, sometimes people are coaxed into it by people who don’t really give a shit about you.  Either way, good idea or bad idea, don’t take it lightly.  There’s no going back from something like that.  It’s a one and done thing, unless you fuck it up somehow and then you may end up a vegetable or a more miserable person than ever before who becomes less independent and less capable of killing yourself, living your life in an endless hell.  So either way you need to do things proper and with some amount of responsibility.  You know, like with living life.

Which brings me to this movie, known in the U.S. as Suicide Club, known in Japan as Suicide Circle.  It begins with a bunch of school kids jumping onto the tracks of a subway and they all get run over by the train.  A very gruesome scene of mass suicide.  Boy do those janitors have their work cut out for them.

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Barbarossa review

Rated: 3/5

Introduction (ie addressing some criticisms of the game)

So there are 2 versions of this game. One is the version which has anime chicks in scantily clad outfits doing some implied and ridiculous sexual gesture. The other version is a more historical version with black and white WWII photos. Regarding the latter, where’s the fun in that?

First of all, I own the anime-chick version, not the historical photograph edition. Some would ask why I would buy such a game. I bought it for a simple reason, spite. I despise all you easily offended politically correct gamers with all of my little black perverted heart. Some of which state that no one should play this game because it is vile, perverted, sexist (sexploitation), pro-lolita, pro-nazi, and glorifies horrible people in a horrible war. That revisiting/addressing WWII should be done in a serious/professional matter, and in no other way. And there’s also arguments along the lines of keeping your sexual fetishes in private. Subject matter like this should not be perverted.

“It amazes me that people who fancy a certain fetish can seriously be upset by the aversion displayed by people who don’t share this fetish.”Simon Mueller

I’m starting to think that political correctness is also a fetish.

You know, stuff like that. It’s less controversial to have a game with images of individuals getting their brains/organs blown out by knives/gunfire/bombs/zombies, but more controversial when there’s any amount of skin shown in any fashion, perverted or otherwise. That’s how it works here in America. Doesn’t help that the girls in this game are under-age.

All you SJWs scared off now?  Good.  This review is for everyone else.  Image by jpwrunyan.

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Ghost in the Shell (2017) review

Rated: 2/5

Introduction

The first half, minus a few minor quibbles (like the hacking into the mind sequence, which is laughable in it’s execution), was actually solid. Fantastic cinematography, great special effects, tremendous atmosphere (even though I think they overdid it with the holograms around the city), and it’s refreshing to experience a film that knows how to handle pacing again (take note 2017’s Beauty and the Beast). And even though I had recently watched the original 1995 anime film, I was willing to overlook some of the inferior thematic/metaphorical/plot qualities this film had compared to the original. It was a solid 3 star film, minimum, and I started to get my hopes up.

But then the halfway point comes and fucks everything up.

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King Kong Escapes review

Rated: 2/5

Just a mini-review this time. Been doing more hobby-time programming than watching films, and trying to finish playing GTA V so I can write a review for it, but Rockstar Games is filled with a bunch of cocksuckers who try to impede anyone from finishing the game if they either don’t have a good online connection or do any modding whatsoever (ie I’m having a hard time finishing it for reasons that have nothing to do with procrastination or gameplay difficulty). But that’s a story for another day.

So first of all, that poster is bullshit. Mechakong doesn’t shoot any lazers the same way Mechagodzilla does. Second of all, no, this movie does not have a moment that looks that epic.

Anyway, I’ve been wanting to see this for a while ever since seeing a short clip of this when I was a child. With the new Kong movie out in theaters, and with Brandon Tenold putting up a review for it, I figured now is as good a time as any to watch it, especially before seeing his review.

So…

…this movie is dumb. The plot doesn’t make much sense when you think about it, MechaKong has no real reason for existing. Plenty of it is a rehash of the original 1930s Kong movie:
* he fight a T-Rex, winning by ripping his jaws open
* fights a giant snake
* falls in love with a white blonde

There are natives on Kong Island. Actually that’s a lie, there’s only 1 old geezer native, because I don’t think they had the budget to afford more than one. It doesn’t surprise me that much honestly. Have you seen the fucking Kong suit? I was laughing my ass off for 5 minutes straight when I first saw that thing. The Kong in King Kong vs. Godzilla looked better than this, and that was made 5 years earlier!

King Kong vs. Godzilla
King Kong Escapes

And the main villain. His name is Doctor Who. I shit you not, that’s his name. At first I thought I was mishearing things and his name was Doctor Wu, and I just pretended I was hearing Who just for shits and giggles. But when the end credits rolled, my dreams were realized. The villain’s name is actually Doctor Who.

There were a few things I had to put up with which tested my patience and temper with this film. The pace gets very slow once they get to the North Pole (no I’m not going to explain that plot point). That white blonde medic got on my nerves to the point where I wanted her to shut the fuck up. Christ, she’s almost as bad as those annoying little cunt kids who showed up in all the old shitty Gamera films, and in every other 60s-70s Godzilla flick. Oh who am I kidding, brats like that showed up in just about every Japanese monster film during that time period. It’s like it’s some culture requirement to have one annoying mouthy whining character in their monster films.

I was waiting for some miniature destruction, and I had to wait until the last 20 minutes to see it. Kong makes it to Tokyo. A bunch of mini toy tank rejects from superior Godzilla flicks show up. Miniature buildings are everywhere. I got excited and was on the edge of my seat, waiting for the destruction to commence. But then white blonde bitch and her 2 male sidekicks show up to stop the violence before it happens. “No Kong, you mustn’t attack people and inanimate objects! Stop it army, you mustn’t attack Kong or he’ll destroy everything!” And sure enough, they succeed.

THAT’S FUCKING BULLSHIT! I want my goddamn miniature destruction in a Japanese monster film damnit! That’s the main reason to watch these films! Then comes MechaKong to save the day, entering into the scene by destroying a building. That’s pretty much the only building that gets destroyed in this entire city. The apes duke it out for a little while in a so-so fight, and the mecha’s destruction is decent, but there’s nowhere near enough epicness to this fight to make it all seem worthwhile in the end. That being said, Kong does go apeshit (pun intended) on this evil overlord’s (Doctor Who’s) ship during the last couple minutes to grant me at least some satisfaction for miniature destruction.

So it’s ho-hum on the destruction and fighting. What else is there? Well, the unintentional hilarity, obviously. The evil villain laugh that comes after he literally says he wants to rule the world. The monster suits. The “realistic” doll. The shitty looking miniatures. They all manage to provide enough laughs to get me through this thing. Plus I’d like to think Kong: Skull Island took a but of influence from Kong facing off against an army of helicopters and throwing trees at them. Except the new movie actually did something with that.

So all in all, there’s much better monster films to watch besides this one, with better looking creatures and better model destruction. That being said, if you’re in the right mood to riff on a film, you could do worse than this one.