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Saturday, April 19, 2014

MadCap's Trailer Reactions - "Godzilla"

Godzilla.  Everybody knows the name.  Even if, like me, you've never sat through one of the long running Japanese produced daikaiju (“giant monster”, for those of you reaching for your Google) films.  But we all know the iconic monster.  A towering behemoth, with an iguana-like face and body, a cowardly approach to facing off against the military, and a bizarre fixation with eating a lot of fish…okay, yes it's a cheap shot at the 1998 film.

Needless to say, when stacked against the actual towering behemoth, “Zilla” – as he is called by both Toho and the fanbase – really doesn’t stack up.  After all, the real Godzilla was more like a force of nature than any sort of animal.  Bred and mutated by nuclear fallout, this wasn’t some Jurassic Park reject.  Godzilla stands tall, muscled and powerful, ready to crush any that opposed it with the weight of its own body, smash through buildings with its tail, or burn enemies to a crisp with his atomic breath.  Nothing can stop it…and for the last ten years, it had thankfully lain dormant…but now…



…The King of Monsters comes roaring back to the American movie screen, to be combated by the United States military, Heisenberg, Ensign Pavel Chekov, and the Scarlet Witch (the real one.  No, FOX, I don’t care if your movie has Jennifer Lawrence in it, it’s still going to blow…).   First off, and I know this seems like a weird thing to point out but bear with me, I like how you never clearly see the titular monster. 

Eh, well...still looks terrifying...
Unlike, say Batman: Arkham Origins where we already knew who the Joker was and there was really no reason to hide the fact that he was in the game from the general public (not that they tried, or anything…), Godzilla comes to us from a joint Legendary Pictures and Toho effort after the last Godzilla film ten years ago, allowing them to give an air of some mystery back to the character…provided they hadn’t plastered him on the front of Empire magazine, revealing the new form of the creature and…oh, oops.

Not to say that it’s bad, I really do like the design, I just almost wish they would have taken a page from the advertising of the 1998 film and not have it clearly seen until the film premiered.  That being said, again, I love the look.  This looks very much like the terrifying beast that the original film first brought to the screen and definitely something to strike fear into the hearts of the wee humans that will be caught in the path of its destruction, and that’s one of the best parts of the trailer:  humanity is clearly making some efforts to combat the beast, but we see a lot of shots of the human protagonists simply staring on in terror at things just off-screen – presumably Godzilla and/or the destruction it has caused -   reinforcing something that the 1998 movie had just been unable to.

The fact that, no matter how hard we try, we may be facing a creature that even all the power and ingenuity of humanity will be unable to stop.  A terrifying, gargantuan beast that can cause the very Earth to crumble beneath its feet, and whose roar can cause the very pillars of Heaven itself to shake.  Yes, Virginia, the King of Monsters is indeed back…and it looks like the summer has yet another excellent blockbuster coming up…

But yes, the teaser itself gives us very little and yet just enough to whet out appetites for that film.  Besides the beginning dialogue spoken by the leader of a military strike team dropping on what looks to be a Godzilla-wrecked Manhattan, there is no spoken dialogue.  Simply a few quick scenes to be seen flashing by that, without context, can only really be speculated at the meaning of.

Until we got the extended trailer…



Protip, America.  When Heisenberg is telling you that you need to stop what the hell you’re doing, you had best do it.  We get to see more of the film to come, as well as Bryan Cranston bringing some awesome prophet of Doom narrations over scenes of destructions as he warns about humanity’s inevitable return to the Stone Age because of the monster.  We also get the realization that the Bikini Atoll nuclear tests (which inspired the Gojira films to begin with) were not tests at all, but an attempt to kill the creature.

…oh, yes.

And, of course, more of what we got from the trailer.  More almost reveals of Godzilla – the closest full shot we get being of its head as what appears to be bay doors on some sort of vehicle as it lumbers forward to cause more destruction.  Even the dialogue itself within plays up the whole “force of nature” aspect, claiming that humanity’s own belief that it can control nature is entirely wrong, and that maybe it’s been the other way around the whole time.  Really, I like that they’re playing up that angle, because it’s definitely more fitting with what Godzilla is.

When the King of Monsters comes roaring back to theaters on May 16th, I think we’re all going to have an awesome movie to look forward to.

Godzilla is set to be released on May 16th, 2014 by Warner Bros., Legendary Pictures, and Toho Co.


For the latest from the MadCapMunchkin, follow him on Twitter @MadCapMunchkin.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Madcap's Game Reviews - "DmC: Devil May Cry"


Good God, this game…

So many people hate it, and I can understand why.  If you look at the original quadrilogy for Devil May Cry, this game is about as far away from those as you can get…at least in appearance.  In mechanics, it’s not that different from the first four games.  Dante hacks, slashes, and shoots his way through various levels of monsters and mayhem.  The only problems in this stem from…well, Dante…

I get that it’s a reboot.  I get that the development team, Ninja Theory were trying to do something new and original.  I honestly do.  But one of the big problems in this stems from Dante himself.  From how he looks to how he is portrayed, they really took too many steps too far in the wrong direction with him.  In the previous games, Dante was a good-natured half-demon who had taken it upon himself to continue his father Sparda’s mission to rid the world of demons.  He loved a challenge, was snarky and made quips as he did just what he lived for – and he was absolutely crazy about it!
Jesse Pinkman is your savior...bitch!

New Dante, though…he’s just…awful.  For starters, he looks like a meth addict.  Not from the choice of clothing, but just how his face looks.  I know they were going for an “emo” look, but he just looks like a strung out junkie who really is just about as cranky and psychotic as you’d expect.  Unlike the fun-loving and snarky Dante, New Dante is really just a nihilistic asshole.  He doesn’t care about anything beyond women, wine, and song.  And just to demonstrate this point, the opening cinematic details him going to a strip club and taking two strippers back to his trailer – yes, that’s correct, trailer – for a fling before the actual plot picks up.

Because, much like Hal Jordan in the Green Lantern movie, we couldn’t possibly respect Dante as the hero unless he woke up next to a naked hot chick.  Or, in this case, two naked hot chicks.  Suck on that, Hal!

But the plot picks up with the arrival of Kat, Dante’s sidekick/love interest who is able to warn him about a Seeker Demon sent after him literally moments before the thing actually shows up and pulls Dante into “Limbo”.  Not Hell, “Limbo”.  Remember when this series had atmosphere? And…y’know…balls?  I do.

However I won't be giving Ninja Theory grief for this as Capcom told them to get Dante as far away as possible from the classic version of him.  So, Ninja Theory, no grief for you.  Capcom, doing something to appeal to a younger demographic and pissing off your die hard fanbase is incredibly stupid.  Stop doing that.  Also, no, I don't care about the fact that he starts looking like classic Dante by the end.  It's stupid and so are you people.

But regardless, the story begins and Dante begins to learn of his heritage as a nephilim, one of the only two beings who can defeat the legendary demon Mundus.  Oh, that’s right.  Instead of just being a half-demon, all semblance of Dante being somewhat human - something, I remind you, was cited as a good thing even back in Devil May Cry 4 - has been removed thanks to the development team deciding to make him a half-angel, half-demon hybrid.  This would be an interesting change if anything was actually done with it, but nothing ever gets done.  Besides Dante receiving some weaponry that is claimed to be “angelic”, there is no real impact on the character in the least for finding this out.  No actual angels, and possibly not even a God...though considering the guy who thinks he's God, this might not be a terrible thing.

Also, I’d call BS on nephilim being half-angel and half-demon, rather than being half-angel and half-human, but since Darksiders did the same thing I’ll give it a pass.  This once.

It’s breathtakingly stupid, but I’ll give it a pass.

The storyline is mixed for me, though leaning more towards insulting in a big way.  It’s a mixture of the storylines of Devil May Cry and Devil May Cry 3 but flipped on its head and given a more Western influence than the Eastern one of the original games.  In some cases, this works well and provides with some interesting situations and developments.

Unfortunately, not often enough to save the whole.  I will say that I enjoy the parodies of both American commercialism and a certain news network that I won’t say by name, but everyone should pretty obviously make out what it’s lampooning.  I do enjoy the idea that Mundus and his demons control the human world through debt.  These are things that make a lot of sense.  After all, if you were going to corrupt the heart of man, why not do so through his vices and the excess created by them?

Angel power ups come from...this place.  Whatever the hell it is...
The problem is, again, that the game essentially boils down beyond the aesthetics to being Devil May Cry and Devil May Cry 3 in a mixed pile…and not really being as good as either of those games, just in terms of story.  And, to be fair, not being as good as a Capcom story is like not being very talented at the Yearly Marianas Trench Skydiving Competition, so let that sink in.  Honestly, the real problem comes from the attitude of the new Dante.  Again, he’s a nihilist and a complete and unashamed asshole.  A far cry from the snarky, sometimes smug, but loveable half-demon hunter with a flair for the theatrical of the original four games.  From the beginning, he’s thoroughly unlikeable and just doesn’t care – thereby taking away our ability to care.  And yes, while he does get better later, it doesn’t really seem all that concrete for me.  Even so, Dante is not even close to the worst-treated character from the original games.

That “honor” goes to Vergil.  If there’s any way to more quickly and efficiently not get a character I don’t have a clue what it is.  The game builds up Vergil to be a very reasonable human being (well, half-angel, half-demon being, but tomato tomahto), which he is for a while.  He loves his brother, wants to help humanity fight off the demons, and has set up a terrorist organization known as the Order to do so.  This is all well and good, but then we get a particularly jarring scene where he wants to leave Kat behind to die when the Order’s base is about to be seized.  Following this, we get a scene where he unashamedly shoots Lilith – the concubine of Mundus – through the back and killing her unborn child before putting a bullet in her head as well.

Why are these actions wrong? Because Vergil in the original games had honor.  Even when turned into Nelo Angelo in Devil May Cry, he refused to attack an opponent when their back was turned (something the player could exploit).  But there was a reason behind it, mostly that he held himself up to a higher standard than the demons he was trying to exterminate.  Leaving not only an innocent woman, but a woman that has been helping you (something which Dante rightly calls him out on) and shooting an opponent in the back?  Pretty damn dishonorable, really.  Though it really goes even beyond that.  In Devil May Cry 3, Vergil wanted to take the power of Sparda to help exterminate demons and assure that what happened to his and Dante’s mother, Eva, never happens again.  In fact, her death was a major driving force behind his motivations in that game.

Here, Vergil’s turn to the dark side is actually…done.  I won’t say well done, because classic Vergil was never exactly a nice guy himself.  But there, it at least made some sense for the sudden turn.  New Vergil could have been just an asshole as he’d been in Devil May Cry 3.  A misguided anti-hero, to be sure, but you could at least understand where he was coming from with his idea.  New Vergil, however, goes right from Well Intentioned Extremist to Eviler than Thou as soon as Mundus is pushing up daisies with virtually no warning, leading into a boss battle.  And that’s not even getting into his dishonorable and underhanded actions in the game itself.

Not that I couldn’t see a logical way for this to happen, but it goes way too fast for it to be remotely believable as a shift in character.  Really, for a game where he actually received more development and even something as seemingly simple as more spoken lines, DMC really doesn’t do Vergil any favors.

And then we have Kat.  Kat, a witch-psychic-magical girl with powers as the plot demands who serves as a supporting character and love interest to Dante.  She’s not really memorable, brings out a type of spray that involves squirrel semen as an ingredient (don’t even want to know how she got that) and pretty much is a pair of boobs to have running around during the events.  Out of Dante’s leading ladies, I rate her third behind Trish and Lady, and before Lucia.  Why before Lucia?  Kat didn't make me play the game twice.  Not to say that she's bad per se...just that her purpose is to sway Dante more towards wanting to protect humans and it just kind of falls flat...more because of Dante than her, however.  Had it been classic Dante and this had been a prequel, I could possibly see it working.  But with New Dante? No. Just, no...

Laziest.  Devil Trigger.  Ever.  And a poor attempt to appease the fanbase to boot...
Now for some actually good things I like about this game – the combat.  The box art for the game has a quote from G4 of all critics talking about “…the combat here is as refined and precise as ever.”  Which I think is accurate.  Dante gets an arsenal to rival all he had in the previous games put together, and unlike the classic games, Dante can use and flow between each one with the less delay.  Whereas in other games it required going to a menu to switch out weapons, now all it takes is the click of a trigger or the press of a button.  And the variety is really awesome too.

Dante can also use the chains created by his angelic or demonic weapons to either pull himself up to the level of his enemies or bringing them down to his, which is immensely useful against flying enemies and disarming enemies with shielding.  However, the firearms are a little lacking for me.  In previous games, Dante had variety from his classic Ebony and Ivory to a shotgun to a harpoon to a rocket launcher and beyond. Now…he just has Ebony and Ivory, as well as the classic sawed-off shotgun (always a classic) and a new gun called the “Kablooie”, which attaches little mines to enemies that Dante can then detonate…provided he does actually hit them with it, some enemies just have to deflect them.  Assholes.

But that’s all that DMC:  Devil May Cry boils down to.  Good mechanics, arguably the best that have ever been in a Devil May Cry game; but what keeps it down is the jarringly bad aesthetic choices, a storyline that a ten year old could be critiquing to the point of graduate thesis, and not even a single likeable character.  Even by the end, Dante’s conversion from nihilistic asshole to a defender of humanity isn’t exactly the most well done or even believable – though it’s closer to the original character and a damn shake better than Vergil got in this game, limping off angry and mortally wounded after his battle with Dante for his DLC.
This was just uncalled for, Ninja Theory...

Really, when it comes down to it, why did the franchise need a reboot?  Besides being of a higher difficulty, Devil May Cry 4 wasn’t a horrendous game and left the door open for Devil May Cry 5 easily…so what gives, Capcom?  Didn’t feel like you were fitting in with the young and hip crowd without some Combichrist, Jesse Pinkman without any likeability, and deliberately flipping off people who liked your games before?

What the hell is wrong with you people?

DMC:  Devil May Cry is now available from Capcom and Ninja Theory for Xbox 360, Playstation 3, and PC.


For the latest from the MadCapMunchkin, follow him on Twitter @MadCapMunchkin.

Monday, April 14, 2014

MadCap's Reel Thoughts - "Thor"

Thor is kind of an anomaly in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, or at least it was until it came out and was a big hit much like the rest of the set up films of The Avengers.  Out of all the set up films, Thor was probably the biggest risk due to Thor himself not having been very heavily featured before.  Sure, he’d been in some of the animated films and had guest spots on several of the animated series (as well as being sort of featured in The Incredible Hulk Returns, but we tend to forget that).  So, needless to say, there was a lot of risk here.  So, how did Marvel handle this?

Well, chiefly, they got a charismatic and relatively then-unknown Australian actor by the name of Chris Hemsworth for the title role.  This has worked out ridiculously well for them.

Rounding at the cast with some strong choices for Loki (Tom Hiddleston), Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), and Odin (Anthony “with some fava beans” Hopkins) also contributes to this going well.  And while I would get into Heimdall (Idris Elba), Sif (Jaimie Alexander), and the Warriors Three (Joshua Dallas, Tadanobu Asano, and Ray Stevenson), they…don’t really do too much in this film.  Don’t get me wrong, they aren’t bad by any stretch – particularly Heimdall – but the film doesn’t really give them much of anything to do.

But as for the plot, like the other entries into Phase One of the Marvel Cinematic universe, it’s an origin story.  Odin narrates about the defeat of the Frost Giants, a force from one of the Nine Realms that was a great destructive force in the universe in the distant past – even going so far as to invade Earth and lay waste until Odin and the forces of Asgard curbstomped them and took the Casket of Infinite Winters.  Many, many years later – Odin is preparing to pass on his crown to his eldest son, Thor.  Thor is a cocky, arrogant, war-hungry young man who is so very, very eager to be king.  In fact, one could say that he just can’t wait to be king, as when his coronation is interrupted by Frost Giants let into Asgard by his brother Loki, he wants to immediately mount up his armies and go kick some Frost Giant ass.

So when Odin reminds him that he’s not King yet, Thor and his friends head across the Bifrost to do it anyway.

For this, Thor is stripped of his powers and banished to Earth where he meets physicist Jane Foster, Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård) and Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings) in the deserts of New Mexico.  Mind you, only Thor is punished for this transgression against the throne of Asgard.

Not the Warriors Three, who not only followed Thor into this, but happily.

Not Loki, who nobody manages to remember was the one who actually manipulated Thor into going to the realm of the Frost Giants (silver-tongued devil, my ass).

And not Heimdall, who willingly left the door open so that they could go through the Bifrost in the first place.

…eh, Thor is the only one with a lesson to learn here, apparently.

But, in a little town in New Mexico, Thor will spend three days learning the virtues of…whatever that make him a worthy king of Asgard from Anakin Skywalker’s ex (by the way, Natalie, major step up…since, y’know, Chris can act).  This is actually kind of an issue with the film, as Thor goes from being a war hungry manchild to being a compassionate, wise young man over a three day weekend because he hung out with a hot chick in the desert…then again, it is Natalie Portman and she’s been um…inspiring to many.
Fine Dwarven Craftsmanship:  A Nokia on a stick.

In the end, through some rather funny scenes and some trials and tribulations, Thor willingly sacrifices himself to save his newly gained human friends, as well as Sif and the Warriors Three, from total annihilation at the hands of Loki and the Destroyer, then has what is one of the most awesome scenes of all time in which is hammer returns to him, his armor reforms on him, and he proceeds to lay a smackdown upon the Destroyer before going back to Asgard and giving a smackdown to Loki.

Loki who, by the way, is the one who really gets the most sympathy from me…at least for this film.  He learns that his true heritage has been kept from him and, naturally, doesn’t take that well given exactly what he is.  The manipulator has himself been manipulated and lied to about where he came from for his entire life.  So, the real villain of Thor? Definitely Odin.  The guy’s a complete dick.

Mind you, my view of Loki changes drastically by the time of The Avengers (as should yours, take note, fangirls!), but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.  For now, I’d even go so far as to saying he’s pretty much justified in his actions…except for keeping Thor in exile when he has the opportunity to bring him back to Asgard, but then Thor just has to learn his lesson, apparently.

All in all, it's a great movie.  It's minor problems can be overlooked and it can be a very enjoyable summer blockbuster, which it was.

And, of course, we get the post-credits scene setting up The Avengers, which was by then quickly on its way with the hype built up to an absolute fever pitch.  However, it is now that we come to a film that I’ve been dreading…not necessarily because it’s bad, though I wouldn’t necessarily call it good


....but we’ll save the adventures of the Not-So-Jolly Green Giant for next time.

Thor is now available from Marvel Studios and distributed by Paramount Pictures, and is available wherever movies are sold.

For the latest from the MadCapMunchkin, follow him on Twitter @MadCapMunchkin

Friday, April 11, 2014

MadCap's Game Reviews - "Devil May Cry 4"


And now we come at last to the final chapter in the original Devil May Cry series.  An unknown number of years after the events of Devil May Cry 2 (or possibly before it, remember, the timeline is screwy), we start the new game not with Dante, son of Sparda, but with a brand new protagonist entirely.  Enter Nero, a young man who took his steampunk demon fetish a little too far and has had his demonic arm – the Devil Bringer – for his entire life.  Oddly looking similar to Dante, Nero operates as a demon hunter for the Order of the Sword, a religious cult that worships the Dark Knight Sparda as a god.

And then Dante comes crashing down into a sermon and starts gunning around everyone in sight.

Nice to see that he hasn’t changed in all the time.

Nero takes exception to this, however, and is sent to track down and kill Dante for what he’s done to the Order…only to find out that something is not quite right about the organization that he works for.  In fact, it’s something downright infernal and he must get down to the bottom of it.  All the while, trying to save his beloved girlfriend Kyrie…who doesn't really do much of anything in the story…from being absorbed into the Savior – a demonic being that the Order is trying to artificially create using the power of various Devil’s Arms they've collected.

Uncle Against Nephew? There is compelling evidence...
So, basically, Dante is going from having to stop a powerful demon cult from wiping the Earth clean…sadly, you don’t get to play as Dante until about halfway through the game.  Instead, we’re stuck with Nero.  Nero, who is basically a mini-Dante with none of the comedic stylings or hilariously over the top nature.  Instead, for being the main character of Devil May Cry 4, Nero’s journey is one more about accepting his demonic heritage.  In some ways, it’s a callback to the events of Devil May Cry 3, when Dante first takes on his Devil Trigger ability and begins using the full brunt of his demonic heritage to battle the forces of darkness.  The game is about Nero accepting this and learning that, even though demonic blood flows through his veins, that doesn't mean he doesn't have a heart.

For Dante, it’s more about reconnecting with lost kin and – of course – kicking ass like he always does.

Hey, I never said he was the one with something to learn this time around.

Combat pretty much goes as one expects it to – while playing as Dante – so I won’t dwell too much on that.  With Nero, though, we get a few changes.  First, and more dramatically of all, is the Devil Bringer.  It’s a handy little piece of God-given (or, in this case, Devil-given) armor that Nero can use to pull enemies to him and deal out all kinds of hurt, as well as be used for puzzles and challenges to be faced in his journey – whether that be leaping between several multicolored orbs or pulling blue orb fragments to him from otherwise unreachable places.  Trust me, you’ll come to love it and miss it when the time comes to once again take on the role of Dante.

Nero’s handgun – the Blue Rose – operates very much like Ebony & Ivory do, save for being a single gun that fires two shots.  His sword, Red Queen, may be one of the most awesome weapons in video game history.  It’s a sword that has a motor attached to it.  The more you rev it up, the more damage you can put behind your hits with the Exceed system.

And, of course, for both of the Devil Hunters you can purchase combos from the God of Time statues to be found all over the place.  This time, however, it is not the Red Orbs of Demonic Energy that are used as currency for upgrades, but Proud Souls, an item obtained throughout the game that essentially serves the same function but allows the player to keep their precious Red Orbs for purchasing items, health, and Devil Trigger upgrades.

Many people have wanted to bash this game because it’s “hard”.  It’s not really hard, but it can be immensely frustrating at times, such as with the boss battles (the Savior itself, in particular, and Echidna the She-Viper).  This becomes more frustrating when you have to battle every boss three times.  Once as Nero, then once as Dante, and then once again as Nero leading up to the resolution of the story. It just serves to pad out the game and it’s really rather tedious…or at least that’s what I would say if it were like Devil May Cry 3 and it were just done as a special challenge part.  Twice? Yes.  However, adding in Dante actually makes a major problem with it.
....this after making penis innuendos with a missile cannon...

When you take over Dante, you take the exact same path that Nero did – in reverse.  Not even in a particularly clever way like Symphony of the Night’s inverted castle.  It’s literally a blatant and rather tedious retread of the previous levels.  Unlike, say, the original Devil May Cry – which had the benefit of the demonic corruption changing the atmosphere a great deal in the castle on Mallet Island – there’s really no excuse for this as the atmosphere doesn’t change all that much.  Of course, Dante’s sections are saved by his usual brand of cheeky humor and innuendo in the face of great danger.  Seriously, there is a reason why this guy is so beloved and it absolutely shines in his scenes - one in particular being a scene set in an opera theater, which I refuse to spoil, but it is so beautifully over the top that you have to love it.  So much ham.  So.  Much.  Ham.

The combat also slightly more refined, very little changed from 3 for Dante beyond being able to switch between the four combat styles available to him, and that is definitely a good change.
Huh...that ghostly figure looks familiar...

There’s also, just as a minor note, the recurring fan theory that Nero is the illegitimate son of Vergil.  From what I’ve been able to find, some people who have worked on the game have stated that that is in fact the case – however nothing in the game or from Capcom actually confirms this.  

Personally, there’s a bit too much evidence to really claim that it couldn't true – the shadowy figure that envelops Nero during his Devil Trigger (looking a lot like Nelo Angelo), his connection with Yamato and the fact that Dante lets him keep it at the end after saying it belonged with his family, the fact that he’s very cold, stern, and analytical much like Vergil was – so I would definitely say that it’s a theory I support.  However, unlike Vergil, Nero isn't lured by the dark side.  He embraces his demonic heritage and uses it, much like his uncle Dante, to fight the forces of darkness.

As for the game as a whole, it’s definitely good.  It really has a feeling of the end of Dante’s story and the beginning of Nero’s in taking over the main role…so it’s really a pity that Capcom decided to go and reboot the franchise with DmC:  Devil May Cry.  I know this game was ragged on for its difficulty, but was that any reason to derail the story completely and start with a new plot?

…who knows? Maybe DmC: Devil May Cry is just so good that it was totally worth doing that for?


…yeah, I have my doubts.

Devil May Cry 4 is now available from Capcom for Xbox 360, Playstation 3, Windows, and iOS.

For the latest from the MadCapMunchkin, follow him on Twitter @MadCapMunchkin.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

MadCap's Reel Thoughts - "Captain America: The Winter Soldier"


I'll go through and do a  more definitive and complete review of this film later on when I'm able to process the pure, concentrated awesome I have just witnessed on the silver screen.  For now, I have only one thing to instruct you to do, my Madmen.

Go. See. This. Movie.

...why are you still reading this? Turn off your computer, go to the movie theater, get yourself a Cherry Coke, a popcorn bucket, and some Raisinets  (they're optional no, they are not!) and sit your butt down in the seat for one hundred and thirty six minutes of what could possibly be the greatest film that Marvel has put out with just a single hero.

No, I'm not joking.  Go.  Now.

Captain America:  The Winter Soldier is now out in theaters from Marvel Studios.  Seriously, why are you still reading this? Go watch it now!

...no, you guys know what my Twitter is by now.  Go watch the movie!

Friday, April 4, 2014

MadCap's Game Reviews - "Fable: Anniversary"


Before the time of the rise of the Tattered Spire…and the unnecessarily dragged out game that is Fable III, there was a game that by all accounts wasn’t all that bad.  I wouldn’t know, I never actually played it.  Yeah, cardinal sin of gaming, blah blah blah.  But Peter Molyneux’s first offering from the world of Albion has been enough to get two sequels (not counting spin-offs), so clearly there was something to it that made people such diehard fans.  So what was it?  Apparently, Lionhead decided to bring out their answer with Fable:  Anniversary.

Eh, it’s alright.

You take on the role of the young Hero of Oakvale as referenced in Fable II and more indirectly at Fable III.  It’s the same storyline from the original Fable so far as I know:  young man gets birthday present for sister, young man gets village burned to the ground by angry bandits who were apparently in no particular rush, young man spends several years training to be a badass unhindered by the people who were after him in the first place.  However, instead of the gypsy camp of Fable II or the…running around in a tunnel of Fable III, the Hero of Oakvale gets to train at the Guild of Heroes before they were left as nothing but a dilapidated ruin....and unfortunately, you have to come back to it to level, which is breathtakingly stupid.  Something I'm rather glad was taken out of future installments.
Yet another guy who hasn't read the Evil Overlord List

Here, the player learns the basics of melee, ranged, and magical combat.  Melee runs exactly as it does in the other Fable games.  If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, well done.  Ranged can be done as in the other games in the series, as well as with an over the shoulder third-person mode that allows manual aiming.  I’m not fond of this mode and I rarely used it in Fable II to hit the gargoyles and never in Fable III where I think it was removed, and that’s definitely for the better.  The main problem with that mode is when you use it, you’re completely stationary.  The left stick, usually reserved for movement, goes into aiming your crosshair so you can shoot – which is a problem when you’re unaware of this and enemies get a little too close.  Also, another thing is the ability to charge up a shot, dealing more damage.  Another feature that was removed from later games, and definitely from the better.  Of course, with Fable II, firearms became the dominate form of ranged weaponry in Albion, so I suppose that would have just been overkill.

And then there’s magic.  Very much the same, though there’s a great deal more variety than in later games and spells are tied more to the “good/evil” karma meter so that only certain spells can be mastered by certain alignments…which in some cases makes sense.  No paragon of all that is good, right, and minty fresh is going to even think of using a spell that tears out and rapes the souls of his opponents, is he?  Naturally not.  It’s also clear with some of the spells that they were clearly working on ideas about what worked and what didn’t, and it shows.

Oh, and no area of effect yet.  It makes me sad.


Maze:  He's like Dumbledore...but gruffer.
Apart from that, it’s not bad.  Okay, really, but that’s just it.  It’s kind of strange going back and looking on the first game in the series, having started with the second.  Though it’s fun as a curiosity in seeing where the series has progressed from, that’s pretty much all the enjoyment one might get out of it.  There’s little else here.  I can’t really say what has changed between the original Xbox version and this one, but if it’s just a graphics upgrade, then I suppose it’s nice to be able to have the first Fable on the Xbox 360, but there’s little more that I can say beyond that to either it’s credit or detraction.

Fable: Anniversary is now available from Lionhead Studios for Xbox 360.

For the latest from the MadCapMunchkin, follow him on Twitter @MadCapMunchkin.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

MadCap's Game Reviews - "Super Mario Bros."

Mad props to Nintendo on the retro cover.
Now, I was surprised as everyone else when the news broke out about Nintendo drastically reinventing their IP.  Cancelling every single franchise and starting over with a fresh continuity.   It’s a bold move from the company that is most famous for sticking to what it knows and doing it very well.  But this may just be what Nintendo needed and I honestly can say with absolutely no hint of sarcasm that they’ve hit it out of the park with the first of their reboots – Super Mario Bros.

The plot begins with Mario, now fully voiced and narrated by Charles Martinet, attempting to save his girlfriend Pauline from the grasp of the evil Donkey Kong.  It’s a tutorial level that gets players used to the new style and gameplay of the series as well as sets the tone for everything that is to follow.  In a shocking twist that I’m sure will surprise everyone to no end, Pauline actually falls to her death during Mario’s first battle with Donkey Kong.  Distraught by her loss, Mario is unable to prevent the escape of the Great Ape.
We flash-forward several years later to meet Luigi, also fully voiced and narrated by Charles Martinet, who has returned from Italy to reconnect with his brother and resurrect their father’s old plumbing business.

When news arrives that Donkey Kong has been sighted in far off land of the Mushroom Kingdom – here reimagined as a tiny island nation off the coast of France – Mario convinces Luigi to go on another adventure with him to avenge Pauline’s death.  The two brothers find themselves biting off a bit more than they can chew, however, as they arrive on the island to find that Kong has completely locked the place down and stolen the Stars that power the Kingdom.  Joining up with the Toads and their resistance movement, the boys try to set things right.
One smack: Crushed turtle.  Two smacks:  Flatbread turtle.

In what is a nice homage to Super Mario 64, the castle of Princess Toadstool acts as the hub world and allows Mario and Luigi to move from world to world through a series of paintings and other objects.  From there, the game pretty much goes on as you’d expect a Mario game to, though I was amazed at the level of flexibility and detail given.  Crucial plot details have actually been made to crop up in different places depending on what order the worlds are played through.  In one play through I had a cutscene with crucial information show up during World 2-2, while in another I have the same cutscene play in an World 4-4 with no issue. I really do like the world’s open-endedness and how the game is easy to maneuver through in whatever order the player wishes.  Bravo, Nintendo!

The power ups have been scaled back to the basic three – basic mushroom, fire flower, and the invincibility star.  While - considering the wide range of powers up Mario and Luigi have had over the years - this might seem like a misstep, I see it as Nintendo getting back to basics and it’s definitely a good thing.  Though for those being worry-warts about it will likely no doubt love one particularly hilarious scene with Toadsworth in the Castle…but I won’t spoil it for you, because it’s really too funny for words.  Needless to say, any lingering fears you have about the new directions of the series will be alleviated from that, if nothing else.

Apart from the power ups, the mechanics are pretty much what you’d expect from Mario games.  You jump, you run from left to right, etc.  But this time, it has a few change ups with Mario and Luigi having the use of their hammers – a first for a mainstream Mario game – as weapons and to solve certain puzzles.  Yes,  some puzzles are involved including one that I'm almost certain was a subtle nod to the Water Temple in Ocarina of Time (have fun beating those pipes to the right water level, kids!) that was a particular pain in my plumber’s crack.

Voiced by Bruce Campbell, DK's new direction might be jarring to classic fans.
Eventually, but getting at least 80 of the Stars, Mario and Luigi are able to open the final chamber of the Castle and defeat Donkey Kong once and for all.  I’ll go ahead and tell you, it is one hell of a boss battle!  Donkey Kong throws barrels and it’s nearly impossible to get the pattern down to avoid them…until you realize that you have to send them back at him.  Once you use Mario’s (or Luigi’s) hammer to send the barrels rolling back at him, Kong eventually takes more drastic measures and engages the brothers hand to hand, resulting in a Super Mario 64-esque classic smackdown, this time swinging Kong around by his tie in order to defeat him.  Which, inevitably, they do.

In the ending cinematic, Donkey falls to his supposed death from the highest tower of the Castle, and Mario finds that the princess has, in fact, been in this castle the whole time as the Bros celebrate their victory with the Toad resistance.

Now, that’s the ending upon receiving 80 Stars.  When one retrieves 90 of the 100, there is an additional scene in which we cut back to Toadsworth’s lab.  Earlier in the game, there is a short line about his experiments on turtles which he has nicknamed “Koopas”.  In this ending, we return to Toadsworth’s lab late at night and witness a computer screen activating displaying the words “Subject ‘B’ has been released” and the shadow of a familiar nemesis of the Mario Bros is shown as lighting strikes and thunder rolls outside.  Sequel tease or…? No, it’s just a sequel tease.  And a pretty interesting one at that.  I’ll be interested to see what they do with Bowser in the already announced sequel.

Oh, yes, Nintendo is already banking on a sequel, and rightfully so.

And then, there is the ending with 100 Stars…which gets you both end credit scenes, and one other.  Now, this one is a particularly big deal, so I’m going to put up a spoiler warning.  I’m dead serious.  The details of the game are one thing, but this is one that is sure to have far reaching consequences for the franchise as a whole.

…okay, here we go.

Upon receiving 100 Stars, the first two scenes play, followed by the end credits, which in this instance cannot be skipped because of what follows them.  In a last scene, the Mario Bros return to their plumbing business in Brooklyn and find a government agent by the name “Game N’ Watch” waiting for them with an invitation to join the “Smash Bros. Initiative”, setting up a full, company-wide crossover which makes all of Nintendo’s rebooting make perfect sense.
"I'm here to talk to you about the Smash Brothers Initiative..."

After all, who wouldn’t want to follow DC’s fine example in the world of films?

Game N’ Watch quickly explains that the Mario Bros are not the only superpowered people in their world, demonstrating this by activating a viewscreen that displays several images that will no doubt be familiar to fans of several Nintendo franchises – such as familiar whip wreathed in flames, a red and white ball, a pair of red shoes…and in the possession of Mr. N’ Watch is a shield that will be very, very familiar to those who have taken some off-time in Hyrule.  This all going in well with the Legend of Zelda remake to come later this year, as well as the Castlevania, Pokémon, and Sonic reboots to follow in kind afterwards.

I have to reiterate that Nintendo just hit it out of the park with this one  and I hope to see it continue.  This game is perfect, it injects some fresh blood into a stagnant and ailing franchise and it’s just what the doctor ordered.  10 out of 10 easily, no contest.  I look forward to its sequel, and I look forward to taking on the next games to follow in this new inter-game continuity that Nintendo is cooking up.  Bravo, guys! Bravo!
A sign of things to come? I certainly hope so...


But anyway, I have to go.  I’ve got to get to work on the next “MadCap’s Reel Thoughts”.  It’s a positive review of Spider-Man 3.  I know, right? Really, will wonders never cease?

"Super Mario Bros." is now available from Nintendo for the Wii and WiiU systems.  Somewhere. Maybe.

For the latest from the MadCapMunchkin, follow him on Twitter @MadCapMunchkin.