Wednesday, April 21, 2021

To Love Ru Darkness (2012)


To Love Ru Darkness is the sequel to Motto To Love Ru and is naturally based upon the sequel manga of the same name. There are twelve episodes in the first season plus six more OVAs. The OVAs, or at the very least, the first one, is a must watch. The first OVA, which is the prologue, sets up the arc for the sequel series. Darkness has a more defined focus compared to the original To Love Ru. Inspired by Rito, Lala and Haruna’s arrangement, where Lala proposed that Rito can just marry the both of them, Momo hatches a plan. She decided to help Rito gather his harem and sets about “recruiting” all the female cast into it. She does this by engineering scenarios where Rito and the target will be able to share a bonding or an intimate event to help bolster those feelings.


The prologue also sets up the tone of the series which is to push the boundaries of what is acceptable without turning into a full blown hentai. It is determined that at every opportunity it will push forward fan service, and these aren’t your average teasing. Rather, they are heavily suggestive in what it is portraying, complete with evocative poses, questionable fluids and heavy breathing.


There are breast shots even when it is unnecessary and done in an awkward way. There are way too many moments where it lacks tact and that defeats the purpose. Nothing is sacred anymore and if you’re a female character in the anime, then you can sure that there will be explicit romantic feelings and scenes. Rito just being clumsy and awkward as the reason for a lot of the situations that he’s in just does not cut it anymore. It is even more of a terrible flimsy excuse when the position he ends up being in cannot be explained this way and this kills the scene.


As a result of the “Project Harem” plot point, the focus swaps from Lala and Haruna to Momo, and Momo takes up a lot of screentime. Even if it the scene currently has Rito and one of the female cast, Momo will almost always have something to do with it. So it’s bad news if you don’t like Momo, who is way too manipulative and fake. Her more negative traits tend to be enhanced this season, and it highlights how much she acts like an innocent good girl on the outside but doesn’t hesitate to take advantage and is quite scheming in actuality.


The other major plot point in Darkness is what the subtitle is alluding to. Yami, aka Golden Darkness, has become accustomed to her life on Earth. She’s a lot more passive compared to her cold demeanor from when she was introduced as the assassin to kill Rito. It’s actually pretty sweet when she admits herself that she doesn’t remember or noticed how she slowly changed to wanting to live life like this and have started to branch out on learning more about Earth’s customs.


Unfortunately for Yami, her past comes back to bite her. With the introduction of the major character Mea, she and her master has a plan to try to convert Yami back into being a coldhearted assassin. In many ways, Mea is similar to Momo and Yami. She can be dark and sadistic like Momo, while naïve and inexperienced like Yami. One thing’s for sure though, and that is Mea is a force to be reckoned with, as she easily outclasses both Momo and Yami in terms of pure power. There is a clash of ideologies between Yami and Mea. Yami tries to teach Mea what she has experienced, learnt and now appreciate. Mea was like what Yami was before she arrived but lacks even the tiniest amount of empathy. The anime manages to wrap Momo’s plan and Yami / Mea’s plot neatly together though.


The anime can be very slow paced at times. It lacks the more innocent, yet teasing, humor of the original and it is the worse for it. There is a lack of creativity in terms of Rito yet again accidentally crashing or falling into a girl, and the two ending up in a sexual pose. It just feels too lazy and over the top to be enjoyable now. It ruins every single genuine touching moments between characters with fan service at the end of the scene, breaking the atmosphere. Coincidence was always the theme of the series and it’s even more so now. The city is very small since the characters will always bump into each other. There are way too many coincidentally moments for it to feel natural or acceptable.


The last part of the season focuses on the backstory of Yami. She had always been shrouded in mystery so it is an interesting concept. As expected, there are a few references to Black Cat (since Yami herself was based on Eve). It’s nothing spectacular or surprising, and feels tame as a result.


The season ends with an open ending as expected, it felt like it was just another everyday episode. One thing that stood out was that it had the boldest attempt in regards to the fan service scene between Rito and Momo. Everything in it was designed as a direct parallel to the sexual act so it was surprising that it made it to a normal episode rather than an OVA.


The rest of the OVAs are slice of life type of events as Rito has more of his normal shenanigans. Nothing too important happens and Rito gets into the same types of situations as he had done for the whole season, which is starting to get stale. An interesting point is despite how mature and manipulative Momo had acted for most of the season, deep down, she is still young and naive. It makes her character more likable.


Overall, To Love Ru Darkness tries to add some reasons for the things happening in Rito’s life. At its core, it had a good concept with the Yami focus (the harem project by Momo? Not so much), however it is marred by the extreme fan service scenes. Fan service isn’t inherently bad when done well, but To Love Ru Darkness has it dialed up to the point where it impedes and intrudes on everything. For every genuine moment there are five invasive fan service scenes, and when you have too much of one thing, you start to get accustomed to it or even get sick of it.

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Monday, April 19, 2021

Golf Story (Switch)


Golf Story is a Switch exclusive RPG with a focus on golf. It has sprite / pixel artwork that works well on the smaller screen but still looks good on your TV. The game has you playing as a person who has decided to go back to be a professional golfer. He had played golf as a kid with his father, showing promise but twenty years later, you finally decided to make the dream come true. He returns to the club only to find it having been run down and neglected. He will work hard to climb up the ranks of being a nobody to being a somebody and participate in the pro golf tournament.


The story starts off being serious, but it quickly shows that it is anything but. There are a lot of cheeky bits as you go around helping odd characters. You’ll be tracking mole rats and defeating the undead in one section, while fiercely competing against others in order to secure a spot in another section. Instead of combat, you play rounds of golf. The controls aren’t explained well in the tutorial but it is easy enough to pick up once you’ve had a crack at it. When it is your turn to hit the ball, it is a three step process. You aim where you want to hit it (changing your clubs based on distance), then decide how much of a spin you want to add, and the final step decides upon the power. During this process, you can fine-tune a few elements. You’ll have to factor in wind and slope, these effects range from negligible to severely pervasive.


The controls exclusively use only the joystick which can be kind of annoying. You’ll probably accidentally change clubs instead of adjusting the angle. Being able to use the d-pad instead would have easily solved this issue but that is mapped to additional abilities. As you complete golf matches and other sidequests, you gain both money and experience. The use of money is self-explanatory, while gaining experience will allow you to level up and improve your stats. These improvements will allow you to hit the ball harder and further, be more accurate and other factors that determine your shots.


There are other things to do to advance the story than just playing golf. It’s surprising at how much variety the developers have managed to pack in. You may have to collect some things, race and find hidden objects. There are mini-challenges that have you hitting the ball into a specific area, or have certain handicaps, these can be fun and while most of them are easy, some can be quite challenging. You’ll end up doing most of these sidequests, even though they’re optional, because they’re quick and fun.


While you kind of know what you have to do, there are times where the game doesn’t tell you *where* you need to go to do it. Or that it doesn’t show you a button prompt to actually start it. Sure, it has a screen to tell you how to advance the story but there will be some times where you don’t actually know where that person is. This can be quite annoying and a waste of time as you run around trying to find them. A waypoint system would have been nice.


The game can be quite addictive. Just like the real game, you can be doing really well in a tournament, and you just need to screw up one or two holes to put you behind. This can be annoying but it’s your own fault… There will be maps where there are annoying obstacles and if you hit a ball within their (large) area, it moves it to a disadvantageous place.


There is potential for quality of life improvements but none of them are dealbreakers. There needs to be a way to quit a challenge and restart it immediately. As it is, you are forced to hit until the end even though you know you will fail it. Doing a challenge again will force you to go through all the text beforehand. There are a lot of little annoying instances of the game that are required for progression but is not fun due to repetitiveness. There is a lot of boring dialogue too. The autosaves can be very far apart. You cannot just up and quit partway through a map, you need to trigger a story even or leave the map, otherwise you’ll lose a lot of progress.


The final course is of course the hardest, and it can be very annoying and frustrating. All the holes are close to water, or out of bounds. This makes it really easy to have one mistake that ruins the whole nine holes and forces you to restart again. It is a course that’s already hard enough as it is with its design but then the randomized (usually extreme) weather makes the predicted trajectory of the ball all out of whack. Considering how easy the rest of the game is, this isn’t just hard, it is a cheap and terrible game design that leaves a sour taste for its finale.


Overall, Golf Story isn’t perfect. However, it is a solid attempt and is a surprisingly successful mash up of golf and RPG elements. It’s not long game as it takes only 10 to 15 hours to complete, so it doesn’t really have time to outstay its welcome. The characters and the story are cheeky, so it never takes itself too seriously which allows the game to be a relaxing and fun experience.

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Sunday, April 18, 2021

Toy Review: Transformers Generations War for Cybertron Earthrise Runamuck (Deluxe)


Review: 
#648
Name:  Runamuck
Brand:  Transformers
Allegiance:  Decepticon
Line:  Generations - War for Cybertron:  Earthrise
Year of Release:  2020
Size Class:  Deluxe (Wave 3)
Mold Status:  new

VEHICLE MODE:


Runamuck transforms into a white sports car, but one that is noticeably an older generation.  Unfortunately, he is the only one to be released in the standard line as Runabout is an exclusive.


This is a decent vehicle mode, particularly since the rear doesn't have any exposed robot parts, AND has painted tail lights.


Runamuck is a fairly decent size for a Deluxe, he feels substantial in your hands at least.  The reason for the obvious panel seams is due to most of the white being actually painted on, rather than unpainted white plastic.


The gun can store in vehicle mode by pegging onto the roof, nothing special here.


A good, albeit somewhat bland, vehicle mode.

TRANSFORMATION:

Transformation is simple but it works well.  The front of the car splits into two to form his legs, with double jointed hinges near his knees to extend the legs.  The back folds onto the roof, then you flip him over to reveal the faux car kibble for his chest.  Split the arms from the sides and you're done.

ROBOT MODE:


Robot mode is pretty good.  Despite being all white, he doesn't look bland at all thanks to the sculpting which keeps him very busy.


Like the recent trend of figures, Runamuck is quite hollow in his limbs.  The thighs are chiseled out and the legs are little more than shells on three sides.  At least the plastic quality is strong enough to not make the figure feel weak or brittle.


The headsculpt is nice, with excellently painted purple eyes, and a face plate that covers just below the nose.


In terms of size, he's roughly the height of a standard (recent) Deluxe, above is a comparison against Siege Sideswipe.


Articulation is where the figure shines as he has joints for his head, shoulders, elbows, waist, knees and ankles.


He has massive heel spurs, interestingly, there are faux wheels molded in black in the heel spurs.


His only weapon is a handheld gun.


Naturally, he can hold the gun in either hand.


When not in use, you can store the gun on his back, the same place as vehicle mode.


Despite the faux chest, it looks like the real thing.  He also has plenty of 5mm ports around him so if you have spare weapons or any Weaponizers, then Runamuck can easily utilize them all.


This is a fantastic robot mode and one of the better figures of the line.

OVERALL:

Runamuck is a nice and long overdue update to the character.  Too bad that Runabout is an exclusive.  Nevertheless, this is a strong and solid mold, despite the hollowness (which is prevalent in all Transformers these days, unfortunately).  The robot mode at least still feels fairly solid and looks good on your shelf.

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Friday, April 16, 2021

KonoSuba: God's Blessing on this Wonderful World! Legend of Crimson (2019)


KonoSuba:  God's Blessing on this Wonderful World! Legend of Crimson is an anime film that is a direct sequel to the second season of KonoSuba.  It adapts the fifth light novel and as you can tell from the subtitle, it focuses on the Crimson Clan, which means that Megumin has a significant amount of screen time.  Both Aqua and Darkness have noticeably smaller roles but the film manages to make their scenes stand out.  Legend of Crimson feels like several episodes merged together to make up for the feature length and that is absolutely fine.  Yunyun receives a letter from home stating that their village is under attack from one of the generals of the Devil King.  Kazuma and his party offers to help and what they find is completely not what they expected.  It spends a fair amount of time giving scenes to tease Kazuma and Megumin's relationship.  The party is shown to be more like on a holiday than an emergency and there is a good reason for that.  Kazuma reverts to his normal antics and the (friendly) friction between the party members is the source of a lot of the humor.  If you are familiar with the light novel, then the film changes the climax around a bit in order to give it a more appropriate flashy finale.  It works well and resolves the issue of Yunyun and Megumin's reputation from the village inhabitants.  Legend of Crimson is definitely one for fans of the anime, and if you are, then it is a great film that fans have been waiting patiently for.

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Toy Review: Transformers BotBots Unreelz Dealz (Series 5)


Review: 
#647
Brand:  Transformers
Allegiance:  N/A
Line:  BotBots
Year of Release:  2020
Size Class:  BotBot (Series 5)
Mold Status:  new

ALTERNATE MODE:


Unreelz Dealz is yet another BotBot with a unique alternate mode, this time transforms into a fishing rod.


Naturally, both as a BotBot, and its choice of alternate mode, but he is very small with most of the bulk being in the reel section.  Above is a comparison against Legion Barricade and you can see how much less bulk Unreelz Dealz has.


Nevertheless, this is such a unique alternate mode that you can't help but think it's pretty awesome.

TRANSFORMATION:

Transformation is fairly involved for such a small figure.  The rod itself becomes one of its arms, while the handles form the legs.  You gotta rotate it from the waist, and handle on the reel forms the other robot arm.

ROBOT MODE:


With such a unique alternate mode, and given that the designer don't have much bulk to work with, it stands to say that the robot mode is equally unique.


It's asymmetrical and oddly proportioned.  Unfortunately, its biggest flaw is the fact that the footprint is not large enough with too much bulk in the upper body.  This means it is extremely difficult to balance Unreelz Dealz such that he can stand without falling over, and this can get very aggravating.


The head is basically just a painted eye.  It works fairly well though.


Unreelz Dealz is absolutely tiny, above is a comparison against Legion Crosshairs.


Since you can't even balance the figure most of the time, you can give up on putting Unreelz Dealz in a meaningful pose, not that it has any meaningful articulation either.

OVERALL:

Unreelz Dealz is a tough one.  On the one hand, it has one of the most unique alternate mode we've seen, even from the BotBots line.  On the other hand, the robot mode's inability to even stand up is frustrating.

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Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Motto To Love Ru (2010)


Motto To Love Ru is the 12 episode second season anime based on the manga series. Unlike the first season, it faithfully adapts the manga scenarios and thus the quality is a noticeable improvement. It is a comedy harem, focusing on Yuuki Rito, your “average” student who just happens to have attractive aliens living with him. There’s quite a bit of a time skip compared to the first season and even if you have watched the OVAs, there are events that had occurred that wasn’t covered so you may be confused about a few things. These things include Celine being a part of the family, Saki having a crush on Zastin and the general feel of the relationships between all the characters.


Lala, the Princess from the planet Deviluke, is in love with Rito, but Rito likes Haruna. This love triangle is further complicated with all the other female characters, from the tsundere type Yui, to Lala’s twin sisters Momo and Nana, and even to Rito’s own younger sister Mikan. It’s messy but this is where most of the comedy comes in. Rito will inadvertently accidentally find himself mixed into a situation where it is not his fault, yet will be in some awkward position with one of the other characters. Despite this, he has enough charm that all the characters fall for him and doesn’t mind it too much despite slapping or punching him away.


In a departure from the first season, each episode is comprised of around three shorts, pretty much in a slice-of-life aspect. This means that the filler is gone and we’re left with some funny and at times, clever scenes in which to see Rito slowly progress through his harem life.


There is a varied mix to the cast of characters, and each character has one distinct characteristic that defines them. While this may at first make them feel one-dimensional, it is handled fairly well and they have enough personality to give them diversity. We have Lala who is an airhead, Haruna the shy one, Yui the supposedly decent one, Momo the seductive one and Nana the tsundere. A bigger focus seems to be placed on Yami, who still uses the excuse of intending to assassinate Rito in order to stay around. Yami is a great character though, with her transform ability and inexperience of relationships, there are genuine moments where she bonds with the other characters. She discovers more about life on Earth and slowly gaining a better impression of Rito, who is portrayed as nice but way too oblivious.


Each of the characters expresses their love in a different way (whether they want to admit it or not). The result is a mixture of clichéd events with crazier things. So we’ll have Yui fretting about Valentine’s Day in one episode to an alien stalking Haruna in another. The surprising thing is that this format works really well, and while by this point, the anime has lost any resemblance of a proper plot or objective to aim towards, it’s actually fine. The teasing of various pairings means that there is good coverage for the whole cast and satisfy the viewer no matter which pairing they are a fan of.


As you can expect, there is fan service at every opportunity, much more than the first season but it is also done better. The cast will turn up in swimsuits and lingerie, while the camera will focus on certain areas such as up skirts, no character is safe from this. The fan service can be too frequent at times so it loses its impact and ranges from teasing to almost crossing the line.


The anime reuses a lot of plot gimmicks, swapping bodies being the most frequent. This means that there can be a sense of repetition whenever it turns up but the events that happen afterwards are different each time. Whether it is different enough depends on your preferences. The season final has a surprising confession but is resolved in a true Lala and To Love Ru fashion. As a result, it has an open ending, although significant progress has been made that even Rito acknowledged.


Overall, Motto To Love Ru is a good anime for the genre and if you don’t mind the heavy fan service at times, complete with compromising positions and moans. It is funny although at times it seems to reuse the plot gimmick too much. It’s just a shame that it is partially ruined by the first season forcing so many events to have been skipped between it and this season. As a result, it can get confusing as to why certain characters have appeared or are acting this way but it isn’t a huge deal since the anime doesn’t focus that much on story anyway.

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