It feels like this game came out forever ago. By now, most people have played through it, played the added content or just passed on it altogether. Early reviews were welcoming of the fifteenth installment in the long running Final Fantasy series. It didn’t score the highest accolades of the past iterations, but didn’t necessarily fail to enchant either. At best, the experience I had with Final Fantasy XV would be slightly higher than average when compared to the others I’ve completed (FFVI-IX).
The story of four young friends completely convinced me of their emotional connection to each other. Some of the secondary characters such as Noctis’s doomed fiancé Lunafreya, were impactful and provided the catalyst to explore deeper character development. The voice acting was surprisingly well done with the cinematic scenes flowing naturally between gameplay and storytelling. Watching the summons was filled with awe inspiring moments. Too bad they occurred too infrequently. I never quite grasped figuring out how to directly use them in the right moments. The world was thoroughly thought out, save for the forced driving between locations. For some travels, you’d literally be watching the four friends banter for several minutes while driving which became old quick. Where’s Cid’s airship when you need it?
Speaking of Cid, his granddaughter Cindy served as your mechanic point of contact. She was oddly over sexualized for a Final Fantasy game. The series frequently feature strong, capable female protagonists throughout so her scantily clad presence felt a bit out of place. No slut shaming here. I’m all for sexual empowerment and there’s nothing wrong with throwing in eye candy for an audience, it just felt a bit over the top in the context of this game. It wasn’t enough of an issue for me to ding the game for it however. I wonder how the female fans felt about it?
The game is gorgeous, in true Final Fantasy tradition. The fighting is fun and spot on with the perfect balance of modern action and traditional strategy. I thoroughly enjoyed playing through all the chapters. I’m excited for what the future of Final Fantasy can bring given how well SquareEnix married the traditional and modern take on RPG fighting mechanics. There were some epic moments from the game, my favorite being in Altissia when I met the Leviathan. The bickering amongst the main four was believable and didn’t annoy as much as I expected. Noctis, Gladiolus, Ignis and Prompto stand out with distinct (if not cliche) personalities who manage to almost sell me on the games finale.
For long time Final Fantasy players, while we can be impressed with the relational details explored in the four characters (in which only one is playable), there’s a bit lacking in the overall story narrative. Main problem I had is when I finished it, I didn’t really care all that much about Noctis’s fate. I just wanted to roam around freely and fight more. Is that bad? Ultimately, I was left feeling grateful that it wasn’t a bad effort and was really fun to play. The add-ons are starting to come out and I’m only interested because of how fun it is to actually play with the game mechanics. Yes, games are supposed to be fun but Final Fantasy is supposed to also have this epic scope that pulls you into this massive story. The cities were massive, the drama was over the top, the stakes were high, but the game failed to really pull the pieces together in a memorable way. I guess I’d concede that the game itself is indeed epic, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that it was all that coherent.
This wasn’t a disappointment at all. I honestly wanted to be pissed off at first once the end credits rolled. I sat there wondering at what point would the game truly pull me in emotionally like the Final Fantasy games before. Considering the quality of the overall production and the well executed play mechanics this ended up being a step in the right direction despite my issues with the story. SquareEnix has the mechanics working well in order to move Final Fantasy back into full relevance for the next generation. Now it just needs another Final Fantasy VI, VII or IX to do a mic drop on all the JRPG haters. With a remake of Final Fantasy VII on the way, maybe that’ll just do it. Either way, I look forward to more iterations of the series. Is this a must play for the series? Absolutely.
The Fate of the Fast and Furious arguably may have been the start of this years blockbuster event films, but Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 opening earlier this month inaugurated what should be a fast paced action pack summer movie extravaganza. Hot off the heels of an unexpectedly great first film, GotG2 picks up with the titular cast of heroes oozing pretty much the same chemistry and comedy that made the original a success.
A lot of the reviews praise the overall structure of the story and cast, giving ratings slightly below the first due to the repetitive nature of the film. For all the growth we see in the main cast of characters, there’s not much new explored in terms of comedic value or story direction. Oddly enough, I didn’t find myself bothered by that at all. The actors breathing life into the guardians share an obvious fondness for working with each other. Each scene, with either actor or CGI counter part, moves effortlessly and makes believable emotional impacts in key moments. If there are any faults I personally have, it’d be with Marvel’s general disdain for setting up meaningful villains or any sense of a real threat. GotG2 in and of itself is a great entertaining experience that is truly this summers first must see.
*Spoilers for Guardians below*
Baby Groot got a lot of hype coming into this. Yes, he was adorable, funny and participated in saving the galaxy, but overall the hype was a bit overblown. I came in thinking he’d shine but thought his storyline took a backseat to the other set ups in the film. Drax showed his usual amazingness, often stealing the comedic thunder from Chris Pratt’s ‘Peter Quill’ at times. I’ve seen Dave Bautista in some bit parts before, but I’d be interested to see how versatile of an actor he is in future works.
Zoe Saldana does a bit more with Gamora this time around, showing some layers in the relationship between her and Nebula. I appreciate the sisterhood displayed here and how compact it was within the story. It’s hard for Hollywood to get female leads portrayed as anything other than a love interest or cardboard villainess in bigger films. Marvel gets an ‘A’ for effort but it doesn’t always work. Letting the ladies figure out their own feelings and struggles with their father was a great step in the right direction and will hopefully continue a trend. Rocket gets some moments, upping his general angst and malice at Quill’s activities. Often the recipient of his jokes, Rocket begrudgingly bonds with Quill while raising Baby Groot.
Peter and the relationship with his father, played by the great Kurt Russell was fun. The de-aging technology in this film was amazing. Took me back to Kurt’s earlier film days. As a hippie god-like being spreading his progeny across the galaxy, everything seemed to be going fine. The dark turn towards the end felt obvious and left me wanting more of an emotional impact. Introducing Peter Quill’s father is obviously important to the story and requires valuable screen time. Despite my general liking of the plotline, it suffered from the more immediate and noticeable emotional weight of Michael Rooker’s ‘Yondu’. Yondu’s surrogate father role played an even bigger part in this film than the last. Yondu was absolutely every bit the star of this film despite the advertising.
From Sylvester Stallone’s brief appearance with Yondu as a former comrade, a mutiny on his ship and to the ultimate sacrifice made at the end, he proved his worth in every scene. I could see it choreographed early on. We all knew Quill’s anxious embrace of celestial dad would be short-lived. Yondu’s weary expressions and self-reflection were obviously pointing towards only one ending for him. It would’ve been great to see Quill in more scenes with him before the glorious send off. At some point in production, the filmmakers must’ve seen how important an impact this character would make. The last few scenes easily made you forget GotG2 actually had a villain.
All in all, a solid movie and not much off the mark of the original. I’m perfectly fine with rehashing comedic conversations amongst the GotG characters. Marvel’s winning strategy of gobbling up my movie dollars with no real meaningful villains for the hero’s to face still continues. But if they keep casting the likes of Kurt Russell or Cate Blanchette in the upcoming Thor Ragnarok, then by all means let them continue…
Alien Covenant is a solid action horror film for adults. I’d give it an average rating. It hits on mostly everything you’d want a ‘R’ rated film to hit on. Decent acting, exciting action sequences, gruesome scares, but an ending that may leave you a bit conflicted on your overall impression of the film. All in all, it’s a nice counter to the family friendly superhero films poised to flood the summer movie market. It also serves as a step up from Prometheus and should satisfy Alien fans at least to some degree.
*Spoilers for Prometheus and Alien Covenant ahead! You’ve been warned*
Prometheus left a lot of diehard fans of the Alien series divided on its arrival. Personally, I felt it was a thoughtful film which struggled with its own identity. It showcased a few poorly written characters who were mostly stupid or served to represent some sort of existential point of view. Idris’s accent and Charlize’s inability to zigzag were egregious to me at the time. There was a little sprinkling of Alien in there, but it was widely thought to be a missed opportunity at rebooting the familiar aspects of the franchise. At the end of that film, we’re left with Fassbender’s ‘David’ and Noomi Rapace’s ‘Elizabeth Shaw’ headed to the home world of the Engineers.
If you’re still reading, I’m assuming you probably have a good idea of what Alien Covenant is about. The crew of a colony ship is headed to a planet tagged for colonization along with a more friendlier version of Fassbender’s menacing robot. As ‘Walter’, Fassbender creates another interesting android who convincingly stands apart when he inevitably meets up with David.
After an accident aboard the ship, the crew with the exception of a recently widowed Daniels, played by Katherine Waterson, respond to a signal emanating from an alternate planet to colonize. We all know how well that works out. There’s been some folks who aren’t much happier with this ship’s crew than they were with the one in Prometheus. When they get to this paradise of a place, the crew do some exploring that’s a bit questionable. Because of the better pacing and more reasonable circumstances encountered in their mission, I found these human errors much more forgivable. After the first infection, things move in a deliberate and horrific way. Ridley Scott doesn’t show any signs of aging given the suspenseful action sequence which follows. He does in fact show his stubbornness in pulling away from the Alien motif in subsequent scenes to explore the lofty life questions this and Prometheus fail to give clarity to.
After meeting up with David, we finally get to learn Shaw’s fate, which oddly felt fitting given how stupid people acted in Prometheus. I mean, why not put together the robot that murdered your boyfriend, tried to kill you and was always a bit creepy? Better yet, take a nice cryo-nap while David takes you to a world filled with an alien race whose already demonstrated homicidal tendencies towards you and genocidal desires to humanity.
David’s been tinkering with stuff as expected. You get to see a glimpse at how the xenomorph came into being. We get a full on classic alien and face-huggers after the crew battles what I believe are being deemed ‘neomorphs’ earlier on. As with any Alien film, a female lead heroine is part of the fabric. Daniels is hardly a Ripley replacement, but thankful, Waterson’s performance is respectable. The role is largely lacking, of no fault of her own. The last bit of the movie required her to act counter to the smart, skeptical take she had kept up on until then. I get it was necessary for Covenant to have the ending it wanted, but it was a bit of a let down to see her be fooled by David so easily.
It’s hard to be angry with Ridley Scott for messing with the formula of a franchise he created. He did a good job minimizing most of the issues found in Prometheus. Ultimately however, Covenant didn’t really cover the ground it should have. I get that this is just part of a series of films leading up to the Nostromo and the events of the original Alien. This serves as a successful film overall for the franchise, but doesn’t bode well for its future.
James Cameron gave us a queen xenomorph, further explaining the life cycle of Ripley’s nemesis in a way that paralleled her own story arc in Aliens. Aliens proved a successful sequel because of the invested interest in the main character and the frightening new take on space’s scariest beast. If Scott sticks to a plan that only has David as the continuity in these films and nothing really “new” in terms of the xenomorph life cycle, it’s going to be hard to really care which random crew gets it in the next film. While I’m thankful to see new locations and get a bit of deeper contemplation out of a film, I just worry that his vision isn’t the right take at this point for the Alien franchise.
Scott is a legend and it feels blasphemous to think it, say it or type it. He improved Prometheus’s formula and if anyone can still get this franchise completely back in order, I got to believe he can make that can happen. Alien Covenant’s not a miss. It does it’s job and brings suspense and action. It’d just be nice to see another film in the franchise capture the magic of the first two before it fizzles out completely.
Walking Dead is done! The mid-season finale didn’t have me trolling away for spoilers or eagerly anticipating the conclusion of a plot-line. However, it did breathe life into a season riddled with some missteps, leading to a functional finale. The back half of season seven saw the Walking Dead crew slowly gathering the strength to finally confront Negan, or at least some inner demons still haunting them. The Walking Dead series is still one of TV’s strongest efforts after seven long seasons. That’s despite the depressing and slower pace of the first half of this season. At the end of the finale, we were left with a little bit of hope to lessen the burden the dark days ahead are certain to bring.
Things have been pretty chaotic on the show and season seven of Walking Dead proved divisive as ever. While I’ve been away raising kids, searching for Nintendo Switch’s and finishing Final Fantasy XV, Walking Dead seems like its been just as busy, trying to bite off more than it can probably chew.
Glen and Abraham got their heads bashed in at the start of the season, setting into motion much, if not all the action leading up into the finale’s last moments. Maggie’s poetic monologue at the end almost seemed like an apology for all the misery they’ve put us through this season. The unnecessary dragging out of various side stories and uneventful happenings proved frustrating to some fans. I was particularly annoyed with the one-off episodes and the direction the show decided to take to come to its conclusion. The contrived nature of introducing groups (the garbage folks being the most annoying) we were forced to learn about felt so uninspired as set up pieces. I’ll have to check out the comics to see if those plot lines were as clunky…
Unlike a lot of the critics, I don’t feel like the season was a total tank. It’s one of the weakest for sure, but that’s only because they stretched things out so much. I enjoyed the gore, the blood and the dark Rick Grimes. I just didn’t enjoy them taking their time setting up his inevitable turn back to normal. You do have to appreciate the intimate moments Michonne and he shared. As deliberate as some moments felt, it was also great seeing him and Darryl reunite after so long. Walking Dead’s strength is in its characters, portrayed by actors who can weather a bad script or two.
When Sonequa Martin-Green was cast as a lead in the new Star Trek Discovery show, we all knew her time was coming to an end. Throwing the whole logistics of her committing suicide with enough time to turn into a zombie and save the day, she was given a meaningful if utterly illogical end. I always liked Sasha as a character, but never felt she was as integrated into the “family” as others. It’s a big deal that she’s gone, but my goodness, no one else major died! No surprises this time around. It sort of pisses me off a bit to think that people peeved with the season premiere may have influenced how the show runners chose to end it. I guess I’d argue that whatever demented plot they want to throw at us, just give the audience a bit of closure or a complete arc. Ultimately, I don’t think its the fact that Glen and Abraham had to die that pissed most people off, nor the blood and brutality. From the poor decision to fake Glen’s death last season to the guessing game of who was getting the bat, the show runners just had some creative black holes earlier on.
It’s safe to say they found their way back into the story narrative that focuses on the characters we’re rooting for. Walking Dead has a solid cast and there is no need for gimmicky plot lines. Rick, Carol, Darryl and Morgan had some of the meatier moments this season and they shined, as often the story allowed. Maggie’s come full circle, almost nearer to her comic book counter part. The group fought Negan back, having joined forces with the Hill, a CGI tiger and the Kingdom. All out war is certainly next. Let’s hope they raise the stakes even further next season and not have to spend half of it building up to a meaningful conclusion. It would be a dream to let Rick and crew take out the garbage guys in the season premiere and sideline Negan mid-season finale. But who am I kidding?
Nintendo’s much anticipated unveiling of their next flagship console, Nintendo Switch, made a mostly positive impression for a company sorely needing some love. Nintendo Wii U was a far cry from the runaway success the original Wii saw prior. Streaming live last night from Japan, Nintendo emphasized a new focus on third-party support and online connectivity which are areas they’re frequently criticized on. Games hinted at in a previous announcement trailer were shown again, revealing more aspects of gameplay. We particularly were given a more extensive preview of Mario’s next adventure in ‘Super Mario Odyssey’. Nintendo saved its most anticipated game preview for last, showing off more of the story behind ‘The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild’.
Many of the games brought some excitement, but their joy-con controllers stole the show for me. Of course I’m bias in Nintendo’s favor, but it truly felt like they were finally listening and reacting to concerns many fans had about their questionable console decisions. The Switch seems to address their existence as a maker of family friendly devices and of being capable of innovative features that can capture the hearts of hardcore gamers.
So what’s on the inside? This is what we know for sure so far:
$299.99 console price with a March 3, 2017 release date
Graphics are run by a custom Nvidia Tegra processor (no further details confirmed)
6.2 inch screen (mobile component) 1280 x 720 resolution multitouch display
1080p full HD resolution when Switch is docked and connected to TV via HDMI
32gb of built-in storage expandable via microSD cards
USB-C connection for charging the mobile portion of the system
802.11ac Wi-Fi connection capability (USB LAN adaptor required for ethernet)
Nintendo didn’t really explain too much beyond what’s already been rumored or leaked regarding the guts of Switch. Graphically, no one was seriously thinking Nintendo would make a play to compete in that department. After an initial side-eye from me after they left out alot of the inner machinery details, the joy-con controller reveal calmed my nerves. Watching the first video of people playing games on Switch months ago, I knew there was a huge emphasis on portability. Not only can you undock the system itself and play in different locales, the controller can function as both a singular and multiplayer experience. It’s jam-packed with sensors to measure distance, read how many fingers your holding up in front of it, monitor movement the way the original Wii controllers did and has sophisticated rumble technology translatable to the gaming experience.
Say what you want about Nintendo, but don’t ever disrespect its legacy. There is no video game maker who can boast as many genre defining titles as Nintendo themselves can. Looking back at their large library of console machines, any other company would’ve sank with the Gamecube or the Wii U. Even as Nintendo seemed to ignore the technological trends in past times and the desires of their fans, the first party games kept them afloat through it all.
“We have these younger people in the company who are taking the lead on Switch development and it’s really been them that have put this forward and designed this system. They’re the ones that have really shepherded it through the process.” – Shigeru Miyamoto, from an interview at Glixel
Nintendo must have done some soul-searching following Wii U’s disappointing debut and agonizing existence. It showed how out of touch Nintendo was with the gaming community. Seeing them take a proactive approach, as evidenced in Mr. Miyamoto’s interview, they stand to reap the benefits of going through refining their identity. ‘Arms’, a new Nintendo property with franchise possibilities, directly connects the player with all the functions available with the joy-con controller. Button smashing is complimented with actual movement, demonstrated in detail during their colorful live showcase. The game itself looked a bit one-dimensional at first glance, but shows the potential for in-depth customization for the fighting game genre as a whole.
‘Super Mario Odyssey’ gives us Mario in the real world and another distorted world where King Koopa is at it again. Princess Peach, forever determined to be the bane of modern feminist, is once again the damsel in distress needing Mario and his hat of all things to save the day. Odyssey shows off some new features not seen in Mario games previously, where his iconic hat becomes a part of the gameplay as a weapon or platform to jump off of.
Videos of ‘Xenoblade Chronicles 2’ and ‘Elderscroll: Skyrim’ were also showcased, bolstering Nintendo’s claim of stronger third-party support for Switch than previous consoles. Despite rumors of a delay, ‘Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild’ will be debuting with the Nintendo Switch on March 3, 2017. The latest entry of the Zelda series looks like it’ll bring a darker more adult storyline than what I first suspected. The world in the game is colorful, rich in detail and appears fun to romp around in, but it seems Gannon may have had his way with Hyrule for quite a while.
It’s off to a good start for Nintendo. I was hoping Retro Studios would show up with another entry in the ‘Metroid Prime’ universe, but we can’t have everything at once I suppose. Honestly, Breath of the Wild will probably be enough for me right now. Nintendo’s online component is free until the fall. I’ve read there’s been issues with them allowing ports of paid virtual console games to move from console to console. That may become another issue they’ll have to figure out as companies continue to monetize their older game properties. In the meantime, I’m still looking forward to hearing more about Switch’s innards and will be supporting them come March 3. Check out what you missed at the live event here.
Nintendo debuted a few trailers to show off the power of the Switch. Some are rehashes of Wii U games, others show third party support but they all look very cool. Check out the trailers below and Nintendo for more games coming soon.
Walking Dead’s managed to move me to and from various emotions with consistency throughout the years. This past season, I’ve been a bit more on the annoyed side of things. There’s debatable issues regarding pacing, translating the comic to screen and effective storytelling. However, there’s no doubt it’s still one of the greatest shows on television right now. If you aren’t caught up on the show, you should stop reading right here.
Still there? One of the biggest controversies of the season were the deaths of too beloved characters. I didn’t take issue with that in particular. I was more pissed off with the cliff-hanger approach. Watching the first episode with everyone ultimately doing nothing but sitting in disbelief at the sheer horror of it all didn’t help either. Nonetheless, we lost some memorable characters even if we saw it coming.
Walking Dead doesn’t explore the soap opera-like elements of most dramas or casual romance as most do. I’m thankful for that. In a post-apocalyptic world full of zombies and other unbelievable scenarios and personalities, I don’t want it muddled in the meanderings of someone’s crazy love life. Glenn and Maggie shared a natural budding relationship that didn’t overwhelm or detract from the overall story. We’ve seen other growing relationships in the latest seasons, but Maggie and Glenn defined a certain kind of love for quite some time.
Mudslut offered a musical tribute of their relationship which was pretty cool. We’ll have to all reminisce on better times until Walking Dead returns in February. Until we all can enjoy watching Rick going Rick on Negan and extracting vengeance for Glenn’s brutal death, lets reflect on happier times!
The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas just kicked off after a few days of press only coverage. Typically, the show is open to industry professionals, invitees and members of the media. Many crazy and new technologies are often introduced. We’re often left wondering what exactly is going to catch fire and if anything shown is practical for commercial use. My interests this year will be in high-definition televisions and consumer technologies related to automobiles. Anything Amazon or Tesla has to share is fair game for my attention as well.
Given the dour political climate here in the states and all the looming conflict in the months to come, it’s exciting to see what innovative items may be coming our way in 2017. I think more than any time, its important to keep up with the latest developments in the tech world. As consumers, our demand is what will help drive these industries to give us their best.
Mass Effect: Andromeda, the fourth game in Bioware’s acclaimed Mass Effect series introduced itself for CES attendees. I missed the wave of hype and fanfare of the original three games. Now I’m looking forward to trying out this next entry. Their website has a release date of March 21, 2017. It’ll be interesting to play a highly esteemed North American role-playing game after beating Final Fantasy XV, a more traditionally based Japanese RPG. I feel like the latter game struggles with its identity at times while playing through it. CES introduced us to Nintendo (as Famicon) many moons ago, so I have high hopes for further cool game-related news to come with the show continuing on this week.
2016 is behind us and 2017 will see some great television ahead, particularly in the anime universe. Attack on Titan is set to premiere in April this year with an official season 2 trailer teasing things to come. If you haven’t heard of this anime yet, you’ve got to do some serious googling. This series has been praised by critics and fans alike. I haven’t seen enough to put it up there with my treasured Death Note just yet, but it’s definitely exciting and a fast paced story.
Titan tells the story of humanity struggling to survive in the shadow of colossal human-like beasts with an insatiable need to devour them. The premise sounds ridiculous, right? As far as being an anime lover, the story isn’t hardly as silly as it could be. Any of us anime heads can regularly vacillate from fantastically demented romance stories to post apocalyptic tales of tortured heroes without breaking a sweat. This series manages to perfectly show why anime is a geek catnip and why everyone who doesn’t partake is really missing out.
There’s a consistent thread in the storytelling that’ll help you follow along if you’re new to the series. The value in sticking it out through the subtitles and outrageous plot-lines is Titan’s ability to make you care about its characters and believe in the struggle they’re facing. The Japanese are masters at taking seemingly simple themes, turning them upside down and forcing you to truly consider the consequences of any action. The good stories, in all their melodramatic soap opera-ish flair at times, convincingly make you forget you’re watching a cartoon. Check out the trailer below and subscribe to whoever you need to in order to catch up on this great series.
Today I discovered another use for my AirPods – better iPhone experience when driving.
CarPlay was launched by Apple a couple years ago and is slowly being rolled out to more and more cars. I purchased my current car a little over a year ago, but sadly, CarPlay was not added until this model year. Now I have heard that CarPlay is no grand panacea but it would be great to easily respond and message people while keeping my eyes on the road and use my other iPhone apps through my car.
The AirPods won’t allow me to use Apple Maps (maybe a good thing) but they do afford me easy access to Siri while driving. Now, pre-AirPods, my car does connect to my phone via Bluetooth to play audio and make/receive calls. The Problem is that to access Siri while driving, I need to use the Apple Watch and that can be very cumbersome (pressing iPhone home button or using “Hey Siri” command are both non-responsive when connected to the car’s Bluetooth).
Now, when I drive, I can have one AirPod in my ear (only one so that my ability to hear ambient noise is not deterred) and simply use the double tap gesture to activate Siri. This gives me the ability to send or have read to me, text messages as well as control Apple Music with my voice.
This does not provide the complete or ideal CarPlay experience, but is definitely an improvement to my iPhone car experience. Just another reason to love my AirPods.