Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Sonic Forces: Apparently I am doing this alone

Relax, I'm not going to compare it to Super Mario Odyssey. Too many others have, I want to be somewhat original here.

Well, time to see if my thoughts on the game are still as high as they were when it was announced, huh? Back in that awful livestream when Sonic Mania was announced, Sonic Forces was also teased, and I remember saying I was looking forward to it (proof of that being in the Podcast episode with Marcus talking about the event). As time went on though, that excitement was quickly draining. The first big sign was how much of a promotion Mania was getting by comparison, and even after Mania was released, the promotion never really seemed to be there for Forces. In fact, I wasn't seeing any excitement for the game aside from the memes with the Avatar, and the cross promotion with Hooters of all things (I still don't get that either). If anything, most of what I was was negativity and hate, at least from what I saw. Is it really worth it now that the game's out? Well...

To start with the plot and, I know this is going to sound weird, but while the story is awful, the writing is solid overall with some great lines. The overall story is garbage and one of the worst Sonic stories because the tone is all over the place. What do you think of when you get a story that's about a rising revolution to take back the world from evil? Was your answer "anthropromorphic animals saying cheesy one liners that kill the grim tone the story is trying to do"? No? Well too bad as that's what's here. While that isn't a bad thing, as the character writing is some of the best the series has ever had, it just doesn't work in this setting at all. Sonic and co are on point with great writing in their dialogue, but that can lead to bad payoffs. For example, the little promotional material given was trying to build up Infinite as something mysterious. Wanna know his backstory? He was a hired thug that Shadow beat up and got pissed off. "Sonic was being tortured for six months", yet has Sonic act like nothing ever happens once we see him again. Heck, you know how the game was promoting the return of Metal Sonic, Chaos 0 and Shadow as villains along with that red guy for Sonic Lost World? Well, Chaos 0 and Shadow are beaten up in cutscenes, you only fight Metal Sonic, Infinite, Eggman and that reg guy from Lost World. It feels underwhelming by every stretch of the imagination due to the shifting tone.

In terms of gameplay, while I had fun with the levels overall (oh primus that Casino Level as Classic Sonic is awful), it still felt unrewarding, like the levels are just hitting their stride once they end. A lot of the Metropolis (no not that one) levels are really fun to play through along with the ones on the Death Egg for Modern Sonic and the Avatar, but I don't get the satisfaction from them that I got from something like Rooftop Run, Empire City, Starlight Carnival, and more, and that's with all the collectibles as a large chunk of the red rings I was finding without even trying, though there was an unhealthy mix of "ok, how the hell was I supposed to think to do that?" to get them. In terms of a gamplay break up. Classic Sonic and Modern Sonic do still play almost as they did in Generations. However there are some control changes (why is jump and homing attack mapped to the B button?!) and Classic sonic actually feels worse to play here then he does in Generations. I don't know if that's the level design, or an engine change, but I can't even say "No, he doesn't have the same "physics", but he's still playable" because he feels clunky and in levels like "Not Casino Night", I get genuinely angry at the game because I know Pinball physics (I like playing Pinball games ok?), and that felt awful. Shadow plays close enough to Modern Sonic that I think there should be a Shadow mode in boost formula going forward, as for the Avatar, like the Werehog, it was fun, but not needed.

The Avatar plays as a Modern Sonic without the boost and a few extra tricks. Which is fine as the new tricks lead to some interesting level design. The Grapple acts as both your homing attack and a way to use grapple points which sometimes leads you to new paths, while the Whispons let you use Whisps to attack and provide ways to get to new paths and secrets, along with new ways to defeat enemies. Only problem is that there's little reason to swap the weapon around. I just stuck with the Electric Whispon unless I needed to swap. The Character Customization is also solid with lots of combinations, but I found one specific limitation (combining chest and back as just "Body", meaning I couldn't wear a shirt and a backpack as an example) annoying while the UI quickly became a mess. There were times where I wanted to see the brand new stuff I got to quickly add, but lost the item in the mess of gear. I personally didn't notice if there was a way to sort gear into "new acquisitions" either which didn't help. Honestly the only reason why I think the Avatar isn't needed is the Avatar itself. I'd have preferred the gameplay be given to a character with a personality, like Tails. I can say that with some certainty because the Modern Sonic and Avatar levels just scream "Modern Sonic and Modern Tails gameplay".

Presentation is another mixed bag honestly. Visually, the game looks great on the surface, but some individual animations look really stiff, and these animations aren't easy to miss either. Worst offender for me is Shadow in the scene where the two armies clash. Soundtrack is a similar situation where some are good, but nothing's great, and even Fist Bump is just kinda "ehh" at best (I really hate the way its structured honestly). To be honest, overall the soundtrack felt like white noise. It was there, but it just there, it never stood out. I'm listening to the soundtrack as I write this and even on its own, it doesn't stand out, and I wish I didn't have to say that about a Sonic soundtrack.

 In fact, "ehh: is probably the best way to describe the experience overall to be honest. Nothing absolutely stands out, what good bits are in the game finish too soon, and the bad bits are abundant. Forces is not the worst Sonic game. Nowhere close to 06 or Boom. However it is the worst boost formula Sonic game beyond a shadow of a doubt and it shows the biggest problem plaguing Sonic Team right now, a lack of trust in their ideas. While I'm not going to compare the game to Odyssey. I will compare it to Mania. When you break down the differences

Sonic Mania: 2D game that plays like the original games with new levels and older levels getting new geometry, with a story akin to the older games where its there, but not the center of attention.

Sonic Forces: 3D game that plays like Unleashed with the 2D gameplay of Generations, and a avatar that's a watered down of the main 3D gameplay with extra gimmicks, and Shadow who's another slightly watered down of the core 3D game, with a story that feels more like a focus, but with nothing making it crucial to the game.

Notice how Forces sounds more complicated, more scrambled? There's no focus because instead of sticking to one idea, and designing ideas that compliment that one idea, they just threw everything in and hoped for the best. And it didn't work. At all. I get that a part of why this game feels rushed was the development of the new engine. But at the same time I don't see that as an excuse, because Unleashed was the debut of a new engine and that game felt complete, like it wasn't rushed at all. Here, they had to patch in Super Sonic, and even then he's still unobtainable in the game. If the engine was going to take that long to make, why not start making the levels in the old engine and then port them to the new engine to finish them? When a game four years in development still feels rushed, there's a big problem. From where I sit, Sonic Team needs fresh blood, and a focus. I don't care what that focus is. But Sonic needs to find something to stick to, to refine, to improve. Sonic needs an identity in the 3D space, or at least an identity at all. I don't want 3D development on Sonic to stop, but it does feel like a possibility based on how well Mania did, and how badly Forces is doing by comparison. Now, while myself and Marissa play Pokemon Ultra Moon (neither of us started playing Ultra Sun...), some smaller projects in the meantime. Such as Machinima's Combiner Wars, because I'll cash in on that Titans Return cross promo.

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Super Mario Odyssey: Time to go off the rails

Before anyone asks, I'll come back to Gumball, its just that I've been more focused on Odyssey. Sorry.

This year's been a pretty good year for platformers, hasn't it, and it was tied off with the tease that was Super Mario Odyssey. A return to the style Super Mario 64 helped pioneer, featuring a world adventure (am I the only one who's going to say that it ripped of Sonic Unleashed in that area?), and sporting an earworm of a song that got people excited from the moment it was announced. But, now that its released, while it has gotten an overwhelming amount of praise, its also gotten the "oh its been praised to much, everyone's lying" treatment too. So what do I think of it then? Forewarn, spoilers ahead.

Starting with the story, its a very, very, very slight variation on the usual Mario story, in that Bowser wants to marry Peach, and enlisted the help of five rabbits (one of whom could seriously go for either a diet or a new wardrobe because that dress does not look good on her), to plan the wedding by stealing priceless artifacts and treasures from many kingdoms all over the planet, so its up to Mario and newcomer Cappy (who's trying to save his sister Tiara who Bowser also kidnapped, remember, this is the Mario series, almost every time there's a problem, its because Bowser kidnapped someone or stole something, or a combination of the two). With a goal in place, and a ship to captain, it is up to Mario to crash Bowser's party. This honestly, for me at least, is the weakest part of the game. I don't know, I guess I was just hoping for something more. It does what it needs to do, and there are moments in the story that are great to see (seriously, who gave Bowser a dragon?!). The story gets you from kingdom to kingdom, but there's a part of me who wants more then just "it'll do".

Especially when the rest of the game seems to go above and beyond to entertain. Throughout the entire game I was enjoying every single moment, and like many, I had a smile on my face. It was fun to go through each of the kingdoms, and none of them (so far, I'm still going through post game), have overstayed their welcome. Thinking back, the two times I got genuinely annoyed with the game was a moment in Tostarena, where I couldn't get the Jexi to spawn at the ruins (until I went back to the village and there it was) and the Seaside Kingdom boss, because I wasn't a fan of the enemy you had to Capture in order to fight it. Granted, that was 5 moons out of the over 400 I have now, not even 1% of the moons in the game. That being said, I've heard horror stories about some specific moons, so it is likely that number will change. On the subject of the Power Moons though, they are everywhere in this game. On the one hand, their over abundance does make it easy to say to yourself "just one more moon", but on the other hand, I would have personally preferred less Power Moons, but all of them would have been more rewarding then just "ground pound here, go here to see it floating there to tease you, catch the bird, get to this female Goomba" and so on. To compare it to Super Mario 64, while there are far, far, FAR less Power Stars in that game (even the version I own, SM64 DS with 150 power stars), all the stars in it feel more rewarding to get. It is however a case of "to each their own".

To go into the presentation. I almost cannot fault it. At all. I've looked hard trying to find something, anything I have a genuine issue with, but almost nothing. Visually the game looks amazing, in every sense of the word. The kingdoms look gorgeous and so distinct from one another that they all stand out. From the rolling hills of Tostarena, to the giant skyscrapers of New Donk City, to the crystal clear waters of Bubblaine. Heck, even Bowser's Kingdom looks distinct from many of his other castles, going for a traditional Japanese theme to the aesthetics which looks and sounds amazing. The music itself is an absolute delight to listen to, and is up there as one of the best soundtracks I've heard this year alongside Sonic Mania and Splatoon 2. I love this soundtrack that much. While I don't like some of the individual songs, what ones I like, I love. Jump Up Superstar, the Sand Kingdom ruins, Lake Lamode's serenity, the Jazz of New Donk City, I could go on here with examples of how good this soundtrack is. The only fault I have with the presentation is that some of the Mario enemies feel a bit out of place in some of the kingdoms, but even then that's me reaching hard for something to say against the presentation.

I'm genuinely surprised this came out this year, considering as the system launched with Breath of the Wild, this could have easily waited until next year as it is another game of that caliber. It's such an adrenaline rush for the franchise because, while realistically, not much is different in aesthetics. A lot of these have been seen before in Mario in generic forms, the level of charm here is a delight and helps me ignore the fact that I'm in another desert themed level, or another beach, or another Bowser's Kingdom, as different as they may be to predecessors. While to many, it doesn't have the charm of Super Mario 64 (because that charm is just nostalgia), to me its not something to knock the game down for, because its not Odyssey's fault that people have been playing Mario games for decades. If you were on the fence about getting a Switch, this should be enough of a push to get it. From one platformer to another, I'll next be going to Sonic Forces, and no it won't be a video... let's just say Marcus hasn't seen the reports on the game I've been giving to him privately as a reason to go get the game.

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Mediaholics Cinema: Transformers 2007 (Bayformers 1)

The cold never bothered him anyway

Shout outs to some of the members of the Transformers Collectors Club Australia with more meme generator knowledge then I have for the pictures.

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

CNtober; Ben 10: No this is not the reboot, put the pitchforks down

Before anyone asks, no I have not seen the reboot.

How's this for a story idea. A grandfather and his grandchildren are on a trip around America for summer vacation. The grandson has a special alien watch that can temporarily change his DNA to other alien species, the granddaughter is learning magic from a spell book stolen from two evil magicians, and the grandfather is a member of a secret army (of sorts), knows a lot about alien weapons, and is always packing heat when it comes to weekly dangers from aliens, mutants, magicians and more, wanting the watch stuck on the grandson's arm. Would you watch that show? Well I did growing up, and now I'm going to review it because its something I've been meaning to for quite some time now, and so I'm going to use this marathon as an excuse to talk about it.

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

CNtober; Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends: A license to go nuts

Now we get into the eras of Cartoon Network that I grew up with, that I remember watching as a kid, or in this case the constant reruns of the same season 1 episodes, which probably explains why when I want to watch a show now, I until I can binge watch it. But, as we move into this period of Cartoon network, the eras kinda start to blend together a bit which is why this review, and next week's review from me could be argued either way for if they count as different eras. For me, I just wanted to do them because I've been meaning to review next weeks material for a while, and I wanted an excuse to look at this weeks. So with that, let's look at Foster's.

Thursday, 12 October 2017

CNtober; Dexter Laboratory: FOR SCIENCE!!!

Sorry this took so long, around four hours of travel for work can do things to you. As to why I don't do writing in travel... I actually get motion sick on busses...

Dexter's Laboratory, a very fondly remembered show from Cartoon Network... that I've never really seen before until now. I don't know why, but it just never appealed to me when I had Foxtel the first time. It may just be that it was never on at a good time for me. But, I have finally been able to sit down and watch it (it was why I wanted to do it for the marathon, the site was founded on trying new things after all). So in the midst of a busy week, how did Dexter hold up?

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Transformers; The Last Knight: Everything you think you know is a lie, a Deception, a Decepticon?

So... Live Action Transformers Cinematic Universe... this is a thing now... And this movie's only goal is to quickly get the lore in that's needed to make the universe work going forward... Bayformers' version of Batman in blue vs Batman in black: Dawn of the Jesus symbolism if you would... and Bay's in charge of the movie that'll do it... Can you imagine my reaction when I heard that news? I can assure you, others took it far better than I did. But, with this (hopefully) being Bay's last movie in this series, and going forward we might be able to better dissect the flaws of this franchise going forward. Well... I've gone this far, let's get this out of the way. Transformers: The Last Knight.

Saturday, 7 October 2017

CNtober: Tom & Jerry

Checkerboard Era: Tom & Jerry

                Tom and Jerry were one of the original cat and mouse chases. Popularized by Loony Tunes chase duos such as Sylvester & Tweety, Roadrunner & Coyote, and Bugs Bunny and...the rest of the world I guess. Tom and Jerry stands out because of their character dynamic, and the inclusion of familiar recurring characters that are on and off the show occasionally.

                The premise is simple; Tom the cat chases the mouse Jerry through some various scenarios. What make this show unique are the characters that show up from time to time. Tom and Jerry themselves are straight forward. Tom is a headstrong cat who tries various tactics to catch Jerry, and most likely eat him. Jerry is a cheeky mouse who is always one step ahead of Tom. The reoccurring characters are a bulldog that eventually gets a son, and he is protective of, Jerry’s younger cousin that is just adorable half the time, a bully alley cat that also antagonizes Tom, and a bunch of others.

                Tom and Jerry also go throughout different house owners. The earlier seasons had this mean spirited middle aged guy that always ended up threatening and beating up Tom. Later seasons usually have little to no owners at all. The most memorable owner was a black lady that was actually named Mammy Two Shoes, no joke. I never thought that Two Shoes was supposed to be racist; she was honestly one of my favorite characters in the show. Just remember that this show takes place in the “modern” 40’s to 60’s.

                Tom and Jerry weren’t always bound to the house. They go to other time periods and settings as well. They could get pretty creative sometimes when they go to the future or when they go to medieval eras. Sometimes the tone of the show is lighthearted, and sometimes it can be surprisingly dark. There was indeed an episode where Tom actually dies and needs to beg Jerry for forgiveness or else Tom would be sent to hell.

                Overall, Tom & Jerry is a timeless classic. The show itself went on for almost 20 years. Even at today’s standards, the show still holds up well both in its episodic storytelling and amazing animation. It’s still running re runs to this very day. There are still Tom and Jerry movies being made even as recent as 2017. However, I don’t think flash animation will ever replicate the same animation styles used traditionally.

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

CNtober: G.I Joe; A Real American Hero: Is there anyone here actually called Joe?

I'm back! I'm rested, hardware's not fixed, but hey, it can be worked around. And with me, we bring a marathon. With at least one exception coming this Sunday (because I hate myself), all the reviews this month have been aired on Cartoon Network during one of its many eras. Why? Because neither of us thought they'd do anything to celebrate other then more Teen Titans Go. Both myself and Marissa have a review a week planned out for this month, with both of us looking at one show per era. For this week, let's start off with the era where it all began, the point in time when Cartoon Network first launched, and all they had were the rights to other cartoons, development on original content hadn't started yet. Now while this might not have been one of the staples of that era, I feel the Hanna-Barbera cartoons are something best left for another day. So before jumping to another overly militarized bit of US entertainment, let's jump back to a time when a militarized show could be aired and not be called a racist show. G.I Joe: A real American Hero.

To get one thing out of the way first, these are some of the weirdest armies I have ever seen.

The plot for the show can be summed up pretty quickly. G.I Joe are the good guys, Cobra are the bad guys. The plot overall revolves around Cobra wanting to concur the world with some sort of super weapon, and its up to G.I Joe to stop them. Remember, this is the time period for cartoons where the priority wasn't making quality entertainment, it was selling more toys... the original time at least, even though that trend never really died... Point being, the story is pretty basic overall with plot really coming from the episode to episode story, there's no real continuity except for multipart episodes (which the show opens with two 5 part specials). Best thing I can compare it to is Generation One Transformers, where the overarching story wasn't a thing overall.

Another strong comparison to Generation One Transformers is in the characters and technology, as stories had to revolve around selling toys. But that's kinda where that "weirdest armies" line from before comes from. Granted, I'm assuming the hardware is faithful to the toys, but the military equipment for both the Joes and Cobra look really stupid seeing as they're supposed to be "realistic"  (kinda) for the time, in terms of the show. The vehicles do however have a level of charm to them, and look like they're animated versions of the toys, including cockpit windows being the point of entry for the pilots, and tanks with exposed drivers. As for the characters... you know how most depictions of armies have one or two key figures and then the rest are nameless grunts? Well while that's more of an issue for the Cobra grunts, it seems like they tried to give personalities to all of the Joes and... who uses spears and a crossbow in a modern day army? Who names themselves (I hope it wasn't there parents) Sergent Slaughter, Shipwrecked, Spirit, ect. Granted those names sound awesome, but its where I'd kinda like the setting to be more futuristic then modern day, separate it a bit more.

I think the constant comparisons to Transformers Generation One is actually the main reason why I find myself really liking the show. Animation and soundtrack is similar to G1 Transformers, and the stupidity of some of the plots have a weird charm to them. Is it good? No, there are genuine flaws here which will boil down to "Can you accept a cartoon that exists to sell toys?" If you can and you're looking for a show that's 100% army themed without making it depressing or realistic, then you'll like the show. If not though, then trust me, stay away. You'll save yourself a headache. From one army glorifier to the next. Come Sunday... ugh... I'll be tackling Transformers: The Last Knight.