Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Non-Review: Top 5 Foods You've Been Eating RIGHT All Along

It all started with the bananas.

That's not a sentence I ever particularly wanted to say before, but now that I have I'm wondering how I went so long having not.

For those not in the know, a video came out a while ago describing the way monkeys peel bananas, which starts at the bottom instead of at the top. While the video was new the method was not, it's been passed around on the internet for decades and no one ever cared because, truth be told, neither method is really any better or easier than the other.

But the internet doesn't care about sense, and as a result the video went viral. Stupid people all over the world watched and honestly believed they'd been peeling bananas wrong their whole lives. More importantly, semi-stupid people all over the world suddenly realized all at once that, holy shit, all you need to do to be hailed as a genius in this world is post a video of yourself opening fruit in a weird way!

Suddenly the internet exploded with terrible food advice videos, much like the explosion you would use to peel a banana in a Michael Bay movie. Also like a Michael Bay movie, all of these tips are stupid. I've looked at lots of them both new and old and come up with five of my favorites, as well as why they're wrong.

5. Cake
You know what's worse than stale, dried out cake? Nothing, which is why I don't feel bad about making human sacrifices to the gods of darkness in exchange for my cakes always remaining moist. But for those of you who aren't on speaking terms with the denizens of Hell, there's still hope! Enter Numberphile with his video The Scientific Way to Cut a Cake.

In case you're too lazy to watch the video, I'll sum it up like this: rather than cutting out wedges, which leaves the sides exposed to dry out in the fridge, you take a thin slice straight out of the middle, cut it in two, and then push the two halves together. It's so simple!

Of course, it does remove all ability to control the size of your slices for those party guests who may want more or less cake, forces you to mush your filthy hands all over the cake, and will utterly ruin any cake not iced with fondant. But that's a small price to pay for moist cake, right?

You know what else is a small price to pay? $1.72, which is the price of 200 square feet of saran wrap at Target.

...huh. Now I kind of feel like a dick for all those human sacrifices.

4. Peelable Fruits
If there's one thing I've learned from watching television commercials it's that most new inventions are useless, and that includes new methods for eating food. The second thing I've learned from watching television commercials, is that the only way to make these useless inventions look useful is to lie your ass off about the older, better products that everyone is already using. This video by Buzzfeed handily demonstrates this technique by decrying the old, outdated method of peeling fruit by lopping off enormous hunks of it with a knife, which is a technique I'm pretty sure has never been used outside of the fantasy land of TV commercials and internet videos.

Seriously, it's called a peeler. It's been around for almost 100 years now, and it's really cheap. There is no excuse for you not having one.

But the why isn't what's important here. If it was then I'd also question what sort of person peels a kiwi in the first place. What's important here is the method. Fortunately for us, the video also handily demonstrates its own worthlessness by showing us the leftover skin of their spoon-gutted kiwi, which just happens to still hold most of their kiwi on it. When your new method for peeling a fruit not only wastes more fruit than a peeler would, but it even wastes more than the exaggerated, idiot method that you're complaining about... you know you've done something wrong.

Speaking of wasting fruit...

3. Strawberries
Coming from fifty seconds into the same video, we get this brilliant advice for looking stupid while removing the stem from a strawberry. Just push a straw through the strawberry and the stem will pop right off, without the waste of cutting it off with a knife!

Except, wait, you're still wasting a significant portion of your strawberry, aren't you? I mean, just because the wasted portion is in the form a cylindrical core instead of a thin knife slice doesn't mean you're not still wasting it. I kind of feel like whoever came up with this just thought "strawberry has the word straw in it, and now I'm pushing a straw into a strawberry! Ha!" and then their brain died before it could figure out how stupid that was.

Also, speaking as a person who likes strawberries and also likes baking food items using strawberries I have to say, picking the stems off by hand is not only easier, it also doesn't waste any of the strawberry at all.

2. Tic-Tacs
In case you haven't noticed by now, one of the best parts about these videos is how they usually show, within the video itself, how terrible they are. This video by CrazyRussianHacker is no different.

According to this video and others, opening the Tic-Tac container and shaking one out is wrong. Instead, you hold it upside down, tap it once, and a single Tic-Tac will drop into the cap and then be "dispensed" when you open it. The reason I picked this video over the others is because of how beautifully it reveals the truth. As you see, the guy has to open the cap veeeery slooowly to avoid spilling, and he still screws it up most of the time anyway.

1. Apples
Everyone knows apples. They're tasty, they're usually red but sometimes green, and they have that inedible tough core, right? Not so, according to this video. It turns out that if you eat an apple from the top down or from the bottom up you get enough of the good part with each bite that you don't even notice the tough, awful core.

Also, you will apparently be a boss.

I almost feel bad about debunking this one, because chances are doing so will actually save a few stupid peoples' lives. See, apple seeds or "pips" actually contain cyanide, which you might recognize as that thing that the bad guys take in movies to keep James Bond from interrogating them.

Ordinarily, the amount of cyanide in an apple seed isn't enough to bother you. The seed's outer shell keeps most of the cyanide inside, and even if you chew on one your body can break down and detoxify the cyanide without too much trouble. Problem is, you're no longer swallowing a seed or two by accident, you're now eating the entire supply of them with every apple and you know you'll accidentally bite down on more than one of them. Eat a few apples worth of seeds a day and you can expect headaches and nausea at the very least, or coma and death at the most.

What's more, detoxifying poisonous compounds puts a strain on your body's organs, which will add up if you're a big fan of apples. It turns out if you eat them like the video suggests an apple a day will make sure your doctor remains very close to you... because your kidneys are going to shut down.

Also, most real people who have actually tried this report that the core is still totally awful even if you eat the apple from the top down, so there's that too.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Video Game Review: Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2

I'll be completely honest here. After playing through the mediocrity of Lords of Shadow and the crapocrity of Mirror of Fate I had basically zero drive to play another game in the LoS series, and I'm not the only one. There's a reason why game review sites were giving Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 ratings of 6 out of 10 before it was even released, and it's not because they were thrilled to dive once more into the cesspool of boring that is Lords of Shadow.

Still, I've always hated people who can't be bothered to get informed or form a legitimate argument for their opinions, so I did eventually get around to playing the game and I was actually happily surprised to find that the game really wasn't bad. In fact, I'll go a step further and say this: Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 is the game that Castlevania: Lords of Shadow should have been.

In my review of Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Mirror of Fate HD I mentioned how the original Lords of Shadow was not developed as a Castlevania game and instead had the name slapped on at the end in order to sell more copies, and in my annotation for the first game I talked about how the biggest problem with the first game was a lack of ideas, and how I thought that if they had developed it from the start with the intention of it being a Castlevania game then they would have had a wealth of inspiration ready and waiting for them. Well, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 is basically exactly what I was talking about.

The storyline is vastly improved from the first game, mostly since the writers actually had a direction for it to go in this time. Characters have also been vastly improved, both in writing and in artistic design, and again this is due primarily to them actually having inspiration this time. Even gameplay has been greatly improved. Enemies are more interesting which makes combat more interesting as a side effect, and the quick time events have been toned down with an option to play without them entirely.

That said, the game still has its flaws. While enemies are more interesting they're still not as interesting as they could be. They range in variety from "vaguely humanoid monster with a weapon" to "vaguely humanoid monster with a different kind of weapon" and again none of them look like they actually belong in a Castlevania game at all.

While I mentioned that the characters were more interesting this was both true and kind of misleading. Most of the characters are indeed more interesting and again this is due almost entirely to them having inspiration this time around which becomes abundantly clear when you see the new original villains, Satan's Acolytes. All three of them are boring, one-dimensional bad guys who look and act like they belong in DmC: Devil May Cry more than they do in Castlevania (though they would be bland and uninteresting in that game too). Well, except the second Acolyte with his Force Lightning. He belongs in Star Wars.

But here's the greatest sin against this game to me: I HATE what they've done with the music in the Lords of Shadow series, and this game did not do anything to fix this travesty.

One of the things Castlevania is known for is its iconic sountrack, ranging from classical-inspired pieces to gothic rock. Everyone knows songs like Bloody Tears and Vampire Killer, and Symphony of the Night's The Tragic Prince remains one of my personal favorites.

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 has none of that. I originally considered leaving this out entirely because I wanted to limit my comparisons to the rest of the series, but honestly it was a major sin against this game for me. Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 has one of the most boring, uninspired soundtracks from any game I've played in recent memory.

KR Rating: [4] GOOD

All things considered the music is terrible but only a small part of the game. The game itself is decent, even good, but it still isn't great. As I said, this is what Lords of Shadow should have been, but that's also kind of the problem. This is pretty much this new series at its best... and it's still flawed in fundamental ways that are impossible to overlook.

If you're really interested in the series then I would suggest you skip the first two games and come straight to this one. The opening narration explains pretty much everything and the things that aren't explained (like what the deal is with the mirror of fate) aren't really explained in the other games either, so there's no reason not to just ignore them.

At the end of the day, though, I wouldn't really suggest that anyone play this game either. It's good, but it's not a must play by any stretch of the imagination and has very few ideas that other games haven't already done better. If I want a game in this genre I'll go back to Devil May Cry or God of War, and if I want a Castlevania game then I'll play a Castlevania game.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

My Top 8 Picks For Super Smash Bros For 3DS and Wii U

It seems to me that I've done a great disservice by not bringing up this series before, even going so far as to overlook it in my 100 Posts Retrospective. While I've never mentioned Super Smash Bros on the blog before that doesn't mean I'm not a fan. Quite the opposite, actually. I've been a fan of the series since its debut on the Nintendo 64, I've been following the development of Super Smash Bros for 3DS and Wii U from the beginning, and I was even an off-and-on part of the largest Smash Bros fanfic in existence, Super Smash Stadium.

So, yeah, to say that I'm a fan of the series would be a bit of an understatement. So, in anticipation of the upcoming Super Smash Bros for 3DS and Wii U (God, I hope that game gets a better title before launch), I thought I'd join the crowd by listing my own personal top picks for the new fighters.

Also, note, I'm speaking specifically about NEW characters I'd like to see. While there are still plenty of as yet unconfirmed characters I'd like to see return, that's not what this list is about, so don't expect to see Snake or Meta Knight appear here.

And before you ask, no, this doesn't mean that I've forgotten my promise to review Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2. This is coming first, due to both being on my mind right now and because I still haven't actually beaten that game yet.

8. Kevin, Captain N the Game Master
Captain N the Game Master, for anyone who doesn't know, was a cartoon that ran from 1989 to 1991 about Kevin Keene, supposedly the greatest video game player ever, who was brought into the world of Nintendo to become Captain N and win the fight against all the villains of Nintendo.

Okay, so he's not actually a video game character at all, but so what? He's pretty much the perfect candidate for a Smash Bros character. He personifies everything that is Nintendo, he fights using a Nintendo Zapper and an NES controller, and his cartoon series was THE original massive Nintendo crossover, teaming him up with characters like Megaman and Pit against villains like King Hippo, Mother Brain, and Eggplant Wizard.

Unfortunately, there are two massive obstacles standing in Captain N's way. Number one: Nintendo doesn't actually own the rights to the character, DiC does, and Nintendo doesn't seem to be interested in getting said rights especially since, number two: Captain N the Game Master was only ever really a thing in the United States. Japanese and European fans would have absolutely no idea who the Hell Kevin Keene was, and Nintendo is understandably not so keen (pun fully intended) on spending the money to acquire the rights to the character just to please a few nostalgic Americans.

7. Phoenix Wright, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney
Phoenix Wright isn't actually a Nintendo character, though he is closely tied in with Nintendo as (not counting ports to iOS and Android systems) all of the Ace Attorney games have been exclusive to Nintendo handhelds.

People will likely point out that Phoenix Wright isn't really known for fighting. I would counter that first off, that didn't stop him from being a playable fighter in Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 and second, neither was Captain Falcon prior to Super Smash Bros 64.

It isn't very likely that we'll see him appear thanks to the inclusion of Megaman as Capcom's representative. If, however, Capcom is able to get two representatives in Smash Bros then I would love to see their number two be Phoenix Wright.

6. Simon Belmont, Castlevania
As much as I liked Snake being in Smash Bros. Brawl, I have to admit that when I think about Konami games that helped to put Nintendo on the map I don't think Metal Gear so much as Castlevania, so much so that I was honestly shocked when Snake was announced as Konami's entrant into the series instead of a Belmont.

Like everyone else I played the crap out of these games back in the day, and unlike Metal Gear, this franchise has remained closely tied in with Nintendo, with numerous games on their handheld systems, as well as Castlevania Judgment on the Wii.

The obvious choice for a character to represent the series would be Simon Belmont. Not only was he the first protagonist in the series, but his games were among the top games that helped make the NES a contender, far more so than Metal Gear ever had.

5. Ryu Hayabusa, Ninja Gaiden
Speaking of games that made the NES worth playing, nothing speaks to that quite so much as Ninja Gaiden. I personally didn't really play the game so much at the time, but I've developed an appreciation for it more recently, and I know a lot of people did play it back in the day. Let's face it: this series helped make the NES, period.

Since then, Ryu and his series moved on to other consoles, to the extent that they're now more commonly associated with the XBox and Playstation, though showing some love to Nintendo wouldn't be entirely unreasonable since Ninja Gaiden 3 got a rerelease on the Wii U as Ninja Gaiden: Razor's Edge.

There's also the fact that Super Smash Bros for 3DS and Wii U now has the pokémon Greninja, who is basically Ryu Hayabusa as a frog. Full on ninja battles between these two, or perhaps a tag team pitting them against the player as one of the challenge levels, would be just plain awesome.

Perhaps the biggest roadblock in Hayabusa's path is his series' violent nature. Snake had this problem too, but Ryu puts even him to shame. Ryu Hayabusa soaks in more blood than your average Evil Dead movie.

4. Black Mage, Final Fantasy
Square-Enix has historically worked very closely with Nintendo. They created an entire game, Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars, in cooperation with Nintendo, and prior to the seventh game in the series Final Fantasy had always been a Nintendo title. Of course, fans know that Final Fantasy 7 was where the two parted ways, thanks to Nintendo's decision to make the N64 a cartridge-based system instead of a disc-based one. If there was any animosity over this it seems to have evaporated, judging by the existence of Mario Hoops 3-on-3, a Square-Enix game for the Nintendo DS that included Final Fantasy characters including Black Mage.

Okay, so a Mario basketball game isn't exactly the best precedent, but it does prove that Square-Enix is not averse to the idea of their characters appearing in Nintendo titles, and Black Mage is a perfect candidate. He's a well known character with powers that would be interesting in the series, plus he's an FF character who doesn't use a sword - between Link, Toon Link, Ike, Marth, Roy, and Meta Knight we've got more than enough of those.

And no, idiots, they wouldn't be forced to use Cloud Strife from Final Fantasy 7 instead. That's a stupid argument and you should feel like a moron for using it.

3. Isaac, Golden Sun
That's enough of the greatest third party hits of the NES, because the truth is there are plenty of Nintendo characters and franchises that aren't represented well or at all. Nintendo's handheld-based RPG series Golden Sun is one of these sadly neglected franchises.

I'll admit that I don't know a whole lot about Golden Sun, having never played the games. Still, I do feel that this franchise deserves to get some representation, and Isaac seems to be the most popular candidate.

2. Geno, Super Mario RPG
Geno first made his appearance in Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars. He's a spirit from Star Road, who took control of a wooden doll in order to help Mario save the Mushroom Kingdom from the villainous Smithy. He became easily the most popular character in that game, thanks to his interesting and powerful moveset, despite being a completely new character to the series.

Sadly, that was to be Geno's first and only starring role, due in large part to the afore-mentioned falling out between Square-Enix and Nintendo. Still, there is a chance for him to reappear. His cameo appearance in Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga suggests that Nintendo does own at least enough rights to use his likeness, and he does remain a fan favorite even long after Super Mario RPG's release.

If he's going to appear again, the Super Smash Bros franchise would probably be the best place for it to happen. Smash has seen the return of obscure characters in the past, like Pit for example, whose appearance in Super Smash Bros Brawl not only re-introduced him to gamers, but also paved the way for a new installment in his long dead series, Kid Icarus Uprising.

1. Goku, Dragonball Z
Just kidding. This is a stupid idea and anyone who honestly wants it is also stupid.

The ACTUAL Number 1. Ridley, Metroid
Detractors are quick to point out that Ridley is too big for Smash Bros. I'll admit I used to say the same thing myself, but when you really think about it that's kind of a stupid thing to say. Size doesn't matter in this series. Kirby is officially listed as being 20 centimeters tall (just under 8 inches) which should put him up to Mario's shins, and Bowser is usually portrayed as being anywhere between two to three times Mario's size. That didn't stop anyone from including either of them

The point is, no one really cares how big Ridley is. Just as Kirby and Bowser were both altered in scale, they could easily scale down Ridley to make him the right size, like they did in the opening cinematic from Super Smash Bros Melee, where he's only a little larger than Samus. Ridley deserves to be a fighter. If you can get past the minor size problem he's a perfect candidate from one of the most underrepresented franchises in the series.

In fact, word of the developers states that he was originally going to be a fighter in Super Smash Bros Brawl before it was decided that he would be cooler as a boss fight in Subspace Emissary. Super Smash Bros for 3DS and Wii U could definitely see him become playable.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Video Game Review: Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Mirror of Fate HD

This review is the second in a series. Find the first here.

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Mirror of Fate HD. God damn that title. It's like something you would expect to see on a bargain bin game from some no-name company no one's ever heard of. For those of you wondering, Mirror of Fate is not actually part 2 of the series. It's more like Lords of Shadow 1.5, and its main purpose was to bridge a certain gap.

One thing I regret not mentioning in my first review (mostly because I didn't find out about it until said review was almost finished) is that Lords of Shadow was not developed as a Castlevania game. It was originally intended to be a completely separate IP, titled simply "Lords of Shadow." Then, at the last moment, Konami realized it was generic crap that would never sell without a big name like "Castlevania" attached to it. So they changed the name to Castlevania: Lords of Shadow and then put the least amount of work possible into a half-ass facelift for it. They stuck some Castlevania names to it, put some old school Castlevania music in the Baba Yaga's Music Box level, and added the end credits scene where Gabriel becomes Dracula.

That was the gap that this game was meant to bridge: taking Lords of Shadow and turning it into an actual Castlevania game. Insofar as achieving that goal it was moderately successful, though the fact that they needed an entirely new game to fix all the bullshit they broke with their first game makes me want to take another point off of the first game's review score (or another 5 points).

But about this game... one of the first things you notice is that this game's presentation is much, much worse than the previous game. The dumbest among you will probably say, "well, of course! It was originally designed for the Nintendo DS!" It is true that the DS version was grainy and awful, but that's hardly a flaw of the Nintendo DS, especially when you consider Dawn of Sorrow came out 8 years earlier and looked like this...

While Mirror of Fate looks like this...

The first is beautiful, lovingly rendered sprite work. The second is... dark. Very dark. And the entire game is like that, if not even worse. I had to turn my brightness setting all the way up and even then I could barely see what was going on.

The second thing you notice is that this game abandons the 3D adventure style of the first game in the series to go back to the franchise standard 2D platformer style of gameplay, except it's not nearly as much fun. It's short, there's barely any really noticable variety in the different areas, and somehow it manages to be even more linear than the first game in the series. What little exploration there is in this game never feels like it's being rewarded at all. At least in Lords of Shadow you could find the occasional Life Gem or Magic Gem. In this game your reward is usually a flavor text scroll, or the occasional bestiary entry. (Yeah, that's right. You have to FIND bestiary entries in this game, they don't unlock on their own.)

Oh yeah, and Alucard is in this game! Except instead of being a badass supernatural predator conflicted over his dark nature and determined to right his father's wrongs, he's an emo Trevor Belmont with gray skin. Oh yeah, spoiler alert except not because you'll see the "Alucard is Trevor" plot twist coming almost immediately after he appears. The point is, yeah, this game ruins Alucard too. And Simon Belmont, who is now a Scottish barbarian apparently. And Sypha Belnades, who is no longer a witch! And... possibly the pirate king Grant DaNasty too; I don't know, only his name appears in a scroll that talks about how dead he is. Ugh. At this point I would rather they just left the two series disconnected if this is how they plan on treating the returning characters. I mean, who's next? Seriously, who? Is Lords of Shadow 2 going to include Soma Cruz as Dracula's pet talking dog? Ugh.

KR Rating: [1] HORRIBLE

The one good thing that this game actually did was give us some more interesting enemies to fight, though they still don't give us anything that looks like it belongs in a Castlevania game, and the enemies aren't really any more fun to fight than they were in the first game either.

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow might have been a train wreck attempt at sticking the name onto a mediocre game in order to sell copies, but at least that meant it didn't ruin fan favorite characters like Alucard. At least Lords of Shadow looked good.

This game really has absolutely nothing going for it and I can tell you that I was honestly tempted to just give up on this franchise right here. Nonetheless, expect part three of this review, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 next week.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Video Game Review: Castlevania: Lords of Shadow

So it seems that very time I walk into my local GameStop store lately I'm assailed by advertisements for Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2. Play as Dracula! Fight Satan! Whoo! So on a whim I decided to give this series a try. I bought Lords of Shadow 2 and the Castlevania: Lords of Shadow Collection which came with the first game in the series, as well as both of the DLC chapters for said game and a download code for Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Mirror of Fate HD, and decided to play through and review them.

In the interest of fairness I should confess: I have experienced this particular game before. I watched my brother play this game years ago and was disappointed by the linear, simplistic nature of it. (I even eventually came up with a nickname for it: Casualvania.) But far be it for me to judge something based only on such a limited experience.

I should also mention that I'm a huge fan of the Castlevania series, but in the name of being fair, I'll hold off on comparing this game to its predecessors. We're going to be fair, here. Maybe too fair, honestly.

So, let's start with this game. Castlevania: Lords of Shadow set out to re-invent the Castlevania series, with a shift in focus away from exploration and RPG stylings and towards combat and storyline. Sounds good, so let's talk about those.

Right off the bat we see that combat in this game is a carbon copy clone of the combat from God of War, complete with combos and quick-time-event finishing moves. But hey, God of War was fun, right? If it ain't broke, don't... yeah, I'm sorry. I'm not buying this fairness act either. Let's start over.

Combat in Lords of Shadow is shit. It's drawn out, tedious button-mashing. This shouldn't be much of a shock; as I said before, this game's combat draws heavily from God of War, which was a very button-mashy kind of game. This problem is compounded by a lack of ability to upgrade your attacks and the fact that almost all enemies have enormous pools of health for soaking damage, turning every battle into a chore.

But what about story, the other focus of this game? The story is... not much better. It's melodramatic and cliché, and full of one-dimensional characters most of whom die horribly within minutes of you meeting them anyway. All of this will be introduced to you in boring narration and cutscenes that are entirely too God damned long. (It shouldn't shock anyone who is familiar with that series to know that this game was made by the same people who made Metal Gear Solid.)

And no, I know that story was never one of this series' strong points, but at least characters were cool in the other games in this series. Don't get me wrong here; as I mentioned in my review of Loonatics Unleashed I don't mind an alternate continuity story changing things as long as they do it in a way that's cool. So if they really wanted to re-imagine the hero of Castlevania 64 as a villain that's fine, but making him completely generic and one-dimensional is... less so.

It doesn't stop there. The game takes Brauner, the tragic villain from Portrait of Ruin, and makes him a generic, personality-free bat monster. Fan favorite villain Death is back as... a HUMAN SORCERER of all things. Dracula appears only in the end credits sequence (because this game is already trying its hardest to be a movie, complete with shaky-cam even, so it might as well have an end credits sequence too, right?) where it turns out (spoiler alert in case you've been hiding under a rock) the main character, Gabriel Belmont, was a pre-vampire Dracula all along!

Except, wait, why? The game ends with Gabriel saving the world, defeating his demons (literally), gaining forgiveness for his many sins, and most notably NOT becoming a vampire. This game has done absolutely nothing to earn this plot twist, and don't you dare bring up the two DLC chapters when you're defending this shit because this end credits sequence came BEFORE them.

KR Rating: [3] MEDIOCRE

To be fair, the game does get a bit better the further you get, at least insofar as learning more powerful combination attacks making combat a bit quicker. Unfortunately, it never gets to a point where it can be called good, and even more unfortunately, it doesn't matter.

I've tried to avoid comparing this game to its predecessors, but it really can't be helped. I won't sugar-coat it: Castlevania: Lords of Shadow is an unwelcome attempt at "re-inventing" a series that was, to be totally honest, just fine the way it was. The result is a mess of unoriginal ideas that throws away everything that made the series unique while adding little to nothing of value.

Gone are the imaginative enemies, replaced with generic bat-like vampires and snarling werewolves, several varieties of giant animals, trolls and goblins... yawn. The game does take a few brief stabs at giving us something interesting like burrowing zombies that throw their heads at you, or the giant titans which were clearly stolen from Shadow of the Collosus. Sadly these are too few and far between and only ever appear once each anyway.

Gone is the iconic gothic music, replaced with generic "moody" tracks that you probably won't even notice. There's exactly one moment where the game teases you with the old style music, in a level with a music box, and then never does it again.

Gone is the quick and fun combat, replaced with endless, boring button mashing.

Still, I do still intend on playing and reviewing the next games in the series. So look for part two, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Mirror of Fate HD next week.

Annotation From A Week Later:

As I mentioned in my review for the sequel, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Mirror of Fate HD, one thing I regret not bringing up in this review was that this game was not developed as a Castlevania game. I decided to mention it here both because it should be brought up, and to make a point about it.

The game was first conceived as a new 3D Castlevania game, but Konami didn't want it to compete with Castlevania Judgment so they quickly re-worked it as an original IP, titled simply Lords of Shadow. The only real carryover between this game and Castlevania was the whip-like weapon the main character uses, and the fact that it involves fighting monsters.

However, somewhere near the end Konami decided that the game wouldn't sell without a big name attached to it (probably because it's an awful game that's mediocre at best and shitty at worst) and so gave it a half-ass facelift. They gave some of the characters Castlevania names, threw a few Continuity Nods into the narration (like referring briefly to the Combat Cross as "Vampire Killer," the whip from Castlevania), and tacked on the aforementioned out-of-left-field end credits scene, and called it a day.

This information certainly explains a lot of the bad things with this game, but it doesn't excuse them. If anything, it kind of makes me want to take another point OFF of the game's review score, but I won't.

What I will say instead is that, if the game had been developed with the intention of being a Castlevania game from the very beginning, it might have been much better. I'm not just saying that as an underhanded way of saying "they should have given us another regular series game" either. No, I'm totally fine with them creating an entirely new alternate timeline for this game.

The biggest problem that Lords of Shadow had, I think, is that they just didn't have any ideas. As I said above, enemies are bland and characters are one-dimensional. If they had developed this game with the intention of making a Castlevania game, they would have had all the ideas they needed already waiting for them to draw from.

For example, let's look at two of the worst characters in the entire game: Brauner and Olrox. They're two brothers who became vampires and are lieutenants in the service of the vampire queen, Carmilla. You know what? I'm actually totally fine with that. What I'm not fine with is how generic they are. Their personalities can be summed up as "rar, I'm going to kill everyone because I'm evil" and their designs are just generic bat people with swords.

But those names carry with them a wealth of inspiration. In Portrait of Ruin, Brauner was a tortured artist who developed a magic that brings paintings to life. In Symphony of the Night, Olrox was a sophisticated former master of the castle who had powers similar to Dracula's.

Why not go with that? Give these two some uniqueness. You could still have them be brothers. You could still have them be servants of Carmilla. But they would at least have been INTERESTING servants of Carmilla.

But of course, the problem is that they just didn't have that inspiration. They didn't develop these characters as Brauner and Olrox. They developed them as Generic Vampire Lieutenant 1 and Generic Vampire Lieutenant 2, and then pasted the names on later.

If there's one thing worse than a terrible game, it's a terrible game that honestly had real potential that was just totally squandered. And if there's one thing worse than that it's a terrible game that has no ideas whatsoever, which never should have been made, and which had the name of a great game slapped onto it so that the creators could make a buck.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Movie Review: Iron Man: Rise of the Technovore

Iron Man: Rise of the Technovore is an Iron Man quasi-anime movie, made in Italy by a Japanese man for American audiences, and I hope that's not too confusing because that is the least nonsensical part about this movie.

Tony Stark, aka Iron Man, has just completed work on The Howard, an awfully named high-tech satellite that allows Stark Industries to link into and control any computer system in the entire world, from personal desktop computers to top secret military satellites, which for some reason is heralded as a great step in the advancement of modern society, as opposed to Tony Stark basically crowning himself King of the Earth. If that sounds stupid well strap in, because the crazy train is just getting started.

The launching of (ugh) "The Howard" is nearly stopped by Technovore, aka Ezekiel Stane, who is played here by Cliche Anime Villain #42, a moderately attractive teenage boy who wants to destroy the Earth for no adequately explained reason, and who spends a significant portion of the film's runtime half naked.

You'll be on the edge of your seat as Zeke Stane proves himself to be an extremely effective and frightening adversary for the first 30 minutes of the movie when he slaughters 300 people by himself, kills Colonel James Rhodes aka War Machine, and nearly kills Iron Man too. Then you'll be facepalming repeatedly for the rest of the movie as he proceeds to become one of the most incompetent supervillains in history.

It all starts going downhill as soon as we discover that Ezekiel didn't build the Technovore nanites himself or even find them in some alien crash site or something, he just bought them at an auction. Everything spirals out of control from there. Tony Stark tracks the kid down in about thirty minutes, and the only reason it even took that long is because of a ridiculous subplot about global peacekeeping agency S.H.I.E.L.D. deciding Tony tried to blow up the Howard himself and trying to kill him. Then Tony finally confronts Ezekiel and manages to defeat him with relative ease even though it's made clear that Technovore can disable and destroy the Iron Man armor with a single thought, because right when Ezekiel is about to kill Tony he randomly loses control over Technovore and gets blasted. Oh yeah, and this happens THREE GOD DAMN TIMES over the course of the movie. Seriously, the only reason Tony Stark even wins in the end is basically because Zeke sucks at his job. This is why most supervillains wait until they're at least old enough to drive before they decide to take over the world.

Oh, yeah, and the Punisher appears for what's basically a glorified cameo despite getting top billing for the movie, even appearing before Iron Man in the credits.

KR Rating: [2] BAD

I'm not lying when I say this movie is one of the most nonsensical things I've ever seen, and this is coming from a guy who once read the Time Cube website from beginning to end. This movie will leave you with nothing but questions. Questions like:

Why does Nick Fury decide that Tony Stark was the terrorist who tried to sabotage The Howard? He knows Tony way better than this. I mean, sure Tony's an asshole, but does Fury really believe that he would destroy his own greatest achievement and murder his best friend for no God damn reason? Sure, he says that he just wants to keep Tony in custody because he's their only witness, but then he publicly declares Tony Stark to be a terrorist and even goes so far as to order lethal force against him. Why?

Why does Ezekiel keep randomly losing control over Technovore whenever he's about to kill Tony? I thought that maybe Technovore didn't want Zeke to control it and wanted to destroy the Earth on its own, and Ezekiel even accuses it of betraying him at one point, but then he says he's still in control of it, and it even sits and reads to him in its human form when he's in his coma at the end of the movie. What the Hell?

Speaking of the villain, what the Hell is even his motivation? He says that he hates humanity for letting technology control them, but then he says that he hates Tony Stark because he's a "relic" and the Iron Man armor isn't technologically advanced enough. So... does he believe that technology is good or bad? And if he believes that technology is bad and that he needs to destroy it so that humanity can start over, which he claims he wants to do at one point, then why does he later say that his goal is to end all life on Earth? That doesn't seem like it would help at all!

For that matter, why does Tony Stark tell Ezekiel that there's "still time to turn his life around" after Ezekiel has already killed hundreds of people including Tony's own best friend? Are we supposed to buy that Zeke deserves a second chance just because he's a kid and his dad was mean to him? And why does Technovore bring Rhodes back to life at the end of the movie AND rebuild his War Machine armor? Why does Nick Fury suddenly believe that Tony Stark is a good guy after all as soon as they apprehend Ezekiel Stane? Why was Pepper Potts saying the word "vacation" the super secret password to let Tony Stark regain control of The Howard from Technovore, why did Tony randomly forget about it until the last moment, and why did he have to trick her into saying it instead of just asking her to do it? Why did Tony have to let himself be devoured by Technovore to blast it with that proton cannon satellite? Couldn't he have just had it lock on and attack Technovore directly? And how the Hell did he survive getting shot with a blast big enough to take out a creature that had grown to the size of an entire city? Hell, how did the city of Shanghai survive for that matter?

I'll be honest. The movie wasn't terrible. There were a lot of cool action scenes and it never left me feeling bored, but it was just so stupid. Seriously, this movie was even dumber than Ballistic, and that's saying something.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Movie Review: Sherlock Holmes (Asylum Version)

No, we're not talking about the Robert Downey Jr. movie. We're going to be talking about the OTHER 2009 Sherlock Holmes movie.

Oh yeah, and it's made by The Asylum, who also made Sharknado, Mega Shark vs. Crocosaurus, and Titanic 2. Yeah, this is going to hurt.

So let's say you're a lazy asshole wannabe movie producer who wants to get rich with only a modicum of effort. What do you do? Obviously, you buy one of the countless shitty scripts nobody wants that are floating around Hollywood, have someone go over it and insert elements from a major blockbuster, blow through filming as fast and cheaply as you can, then release your movie under a name just dissimilar enough to the one you're ripping off to avoid litigation and hope to trick confused idiots into watching it.

And no, I'm not calling myself an idiot. I knew exactly what I was getting into when I watched this. So no, not stupid just way too curious for my own good.)

Our movie opens in the year 1940, early on in the Nazis' bombing of England. An aging Watson, on his death bed (well, death chair), tells the random woman with him that this is the second time London has burned. The first, of course, was the Great Fire of London which destroyed much of the city in 1666. Ha! No, I'm just kidding because that would actually be factually accurate.

No, according to Watson the real first time London burned was in 1882, during the most amazing adventure of Sherlock Holmes' career. Watson left the story out of his journals, but now that Holmes is dead and Watson is soon to die as well he can finally tell the story of how a gigantic robot dragon attacked the city and burned it to ashes. Wait, what? How does no one remember this happening? 1882 was only 58 years ago, most of the people who saw it would still be alive! Seriously, how does no one remember this?!

Anyway, what follows is one of the stupidest stories you'll ever hear as Sherlock blunders his way through mysteries so simple they are literally elementary school level, acts like a total asshole to all of his friends, and screams like a baby when given basic first aid, until finally the villain gets bored enough of Holmes' incompetence that he gives up letting the detective figure it out and just reveals himself. Spoiler warning: it's Sherlock's brother. No, not Mycroft. I mean his other brother, Thorpe Holmes. (Don't bother looking him up, he's not in any of the books. You'll find that's something of a theme in this movie.)

Long story short, Thorpe is angry at having been accidentally shot in the back by his former friend, Inspector Lestrade. (Wait, a character who's actually from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's books? This must be some sort of mistake!) Thorpe decides to get revenge against Lestrade in the only logical way: by kidnapping a scientist and forcing that scientist to build an animatronic T-Rex, which will use its working arms and ability to blend in to human society to move unseen through the city (seriously, the thing is like a damn ninja) and steal mechanical components which Thorpe will then use to build a giant animatronic dragon to burn down London, and also an animatronic woman with a bomb inside her who will blow up Buckingham Palace. ...wait. That doesn't make any god damn sense, Thorpe!

Oh, and spoiler warning number 2: Sherlock wins.

KR Rating: [1] Horrible

It's been said before that a truly great mystery movie leaves you with just as many questions as answers. If that's the case then this must be the best mystery movie of all time, because it will leave you with nothing but questions. Questions like:

What was the point of randomly revealing halfway through the movie that Sherlock's real name is Robert Sherlock Holmes? (Also not in the books, don't bother looking.)

Why does the movie make a big deal out of how Sherlock shooting the villain at the end was "the only time he ever used a gun" when anyone who's actually read a Sherlock Holmes story could tell you that Sherlock Holmes used his revolver quite often?

Whatever happened to the tentacled sea monster that was destroying ships at the beginning of the movie? Did the filmmakers just forget about it or something?

For that matter, what happened to the animatronic T-Rex? It never gets destroyed, it just sort of disappears at the same time Thorpe shows up.

Seriously, how does nobody remember a giant black dragon attacking London?

Of course, the easy answer to all of these questions is that the narrator of the story is a senile 87-year old man and that the story is the product of his own delirium. The correct answer, however, is that this movie is stupid.

Bonus Information!

While doing research for this review I discovered two things. First, that I did more research then the filmmakers did, and second that in 2014 The Asylum is going to be making Sharknado 2. I can not frickin' wait.