Monday, July 16, 2018

Book Review: Accel World 8: The Binary Stars of Destiny


Review:  #761
Title:  Accel World 8:  The Binary Stars of Destiny
Series:  Accel World - 8th volume
Author:  Reki Kawahara
Read Before:  no
Comments:  Following on from the epic cliffhanger of the previous volume, the faceoff between Takumu and Haru is resolved in an average way here.  Naturally, equipping the Destiny armament, Haru manages to subdue Takumu and convince him to not sacrifice himself.  A huge part of this volume focuses on the Incarnate system, and you’ll hear the words “image” again and again and again.  It gets a bit cringeworthy in the end, especially when Haru starts learning more Incarnate attacks and naming them with the most embarrassing of names.  The lines start to blur significantly between the original rules of Brain Burst, and the Incarnate system which is seemingly overpowered and can literally rewrite all the rules of the program, making them pointless in the first place and leaving an uneven playing ground.  As the quest to escape from the Imperial Palace continues, once again, it shows how unbalanced the game can be with overpowered enemies for any normal player, taking several overpowered characters in order to defeat one of the enemies.  You start to feel that the author is seriously making things up to try and be more impressive as he goes along without giving much thought on the consequences (even more so than before).  The writing feels weaker but the plot is still interesting enough to hook you, there is still plenty of potential left.  It’s slight annoying but expected, that it ends on yet another cliffhanger.
Rating:  6.5/10

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Toy Review: Transformers Generations Power of the Primes Rippersnapper (Deluxe)


Review:  #454
Name:  Rippersnapper
Brand:  Transformers
Allegiance:  Decepticon
Line:  Generations - Power of the Primes
Year of Release:  2018
Size Class:  Deluxe (Wave 2)
Mold Status:  new

ALTERNATE MODE:


Rippersnapper transforms into a shark-like monster standing on two legs.


His tail can be adjusted so act as a third leg and make him very stable.


Above is a comparison against Titans Return Blurr, and Rippersnapper is average sized for a Deluxe.


As part of the Power of the Primes line, Rippersnapper comes with a character card.


The head looks great and the mouth can open to reveal silver teeth.


There's some poseability here, being the arms having shoulder and elbow joints as they double up as robot arms.  The legs only have hip joints as they are one piece.


The combiner piece can peg onto Rippersnapper's back and out of the way, it doesn't impede upon this mode much.


This is a really nice monster mode.  He looks great and has more play value than normal.

TRANSFORMATION:

While the transformation to robot mode is a bit simple, and shares a bit of engineering with the Combiner Wars line (particularly the legs), just by having him transform from a non-vehicle alternate mode makes him different and a lot of fun.  The monster arms form the robot arms, the head flips back to reveal the head and the torso forms the legs.

ROBOT MODE:


Rippersnapper's robot mode is a tad bit lanky but still looks great.


He has the monster's head as a backpack but since it is hollow and pegs in securely, it isn't a big problem.


The headsculpt is blocky, reminiscent of the combiner gimmick of his G1 toy.


Again, he is average sized for a Deluxe in robot mode.


One of the best things about the robot mode is how even without his ranged weapons, he still have melee weapons being the claws on his hands.


His articulation is great with wrist swivels, balljointed shoulders, elbows and hips, along with hinged knees.


The guns that used to peg on his back can actually be detached and held in his hands.


The combiner piece also acts a weapon here.


There is a separate piece of the combine piece that is shaped like a smaller gun.  Unlike the Dinobots, since it is cast in solid blue plastic, it looks a lot better.


The piece can also attach as chest armor.  Unfortunately, there are no other options to store this combiner piece if Rippersnapper is not holding it.


This is a fantastic robot mode, especially with the painted detailing on his chest.

OVERALL:

Rippersnapper is a fantastic toy.  He has two great modes and features a transformation that is slightly different to others in the line and thus doesn't make him as boring.  The paint applications are really nice in robot mode and he has so many weapon options, with a huge amount of play value.

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As part of the Power of the Primes line, Rippersnapper can either form the arm or leg of a combined mode.


The transformation into a leg or arm is very similar to other Deluxes so it's nothing to write home about.


Despite having a monster alternate mode, the arm and leg configurations don't have bits sticking out at odd angles.  That's all for this review, thank you!

Friday, July 13, 2018

Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls (1995)


When Nature Calls is the sequel to the first Ventura series, starring a returning Jim Carrey as the title character, this time around, the pet detective is tasked to find the sacred animal that has disappeared from a tribe before war breaks.  One thing that is changed here is that the humor is more crude than before, which sometimes works and sometimes doesn't.  Jim Carrey also lets loose with his craziness and weird actions, which again, sometimes works and sometimes doesn't.  There are a few scenes which are comedy gold however and on the whole, the film is enjoyable.  The plot is simple but has enough happening to keep the film going.  Ace will travel into the jungle, get into trouble with the local tribes while trying to track down the thief.  Even at only 1.5 hours long, there were numerous scenes which seem pointless and bloat the film up, almost as if the editor didn't what to do with those extra scenes and decided to put it in anyway.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Book Review: The World God Only Knows Vol. 20


Review:  #760
Title:  The World God Only Knows Vol. 20
Series:  The World God Only Knows - 20th volume
Author:  Tamiki Wakaki
Read Before:  no
Comments:  The 20th volume kicks off the Jupiters Arc which is great since it gives a grander objective than just another girl for Keima to win over.  That being said, it is effectively what he has to do this time.  Following the aftermath of the Goddess Arc (or which there really isn’t any, apart from the Goddesses now vying over who should be Keima’s true lover), Keima experiences some odd dreams that feels very real.  The first few chapters throw these various experiences to the reader, which ends up being mysterious since we’re not given any sort of explanation.  There is a big whammy in one of the later chapters as we find out the identity of one of the arc’s main characters.  At this point, it is hard to tell whether it will be a good story arc or not, but at least it starts off being intriguing and shows promise.
Rating:  6/10

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Koro-sensei Q! (2016-2017)


Koro-sensei Q! is a net animation comprised of 12 episodes at roughly 10 minutes each.  It is a spin-off from Assassination Classroom and is a gag anime, however, the animation quality is still top notch.  The series is set in an alternate universe of an RPG-world, complete with fourth wall breaking.  It takes the RPG theme to its max including pop up dialogue boxes, hilarious status effects and of course, the costumes that the characters wear.


The characters have deformed proportions with a small body and large head.  The plot takes place in a similar setting where Koro-sensei is the Demon King of the world but becomes a teach at Kunugigaoka Junior High School.  He teaches Class 3E, which comprises some of the worst students in the school.  He teaches them skills in order to kill him.  The students are heroes in training but each has "bugs".  These are unique disadvantages (or in some cases, advantages), this is why they are weaker than others.  Bugs can include Karma's extreme bad luck, or Isogai's poorness such that he can only afford half of his armor set.


The series tend to highly exaggerate the personality traits of the characters but it is done to great effect and feels like you get the in-jokes and how it parallels the main series.  The main side characters return in similar roles, such as the Big Five becoming paladin knights, Principal Asano as the Pope and head of the school, Irina as a seductive witch and Karasuma as the Royal Knight Commander.  The humor mostly comes from slapstick comedy with frequent anime references and being more daring in its sexual references.


There are plenty of random segments with running jokes that will unceremoniously be slot between scenes that break up the pacing.  Some of the gags carry over from the main series such as Koro-sensei dressing up poorly, the Pope docking Koro-sensei's pay, Nagisa's feminine looks and body, and the Big Five being beaten by Class 3E.  Most of the events it parodies are from season 1 and there are a few spoilers for season 2.


There are a few episodes where the class is just recruiting new members in their quest.  However, the spoilers are more of an in-joke in that you would only get it and understand the subtext once you've seen season 2.  The ending is a bit of a troll moment but it suits the theme of the series really well.  Overall, Koro-sensei Q! is a bit of stupid fun.  It's fantastic for those who are suffering withdrawals after the stellar ending of the main series.  The characters are still charming here and while some of the jokes fall flat, enough works that it is enjoyable.

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Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Valkyria Chronicles (PS3)


Valkyria Chronicles is a tactical RPG for the PS3, which was eventually remastered for PC and PS4, with all DLC bundled in.  The game features cel-shaded graphics, with a watercolor-styled shading.  It looks amazing and ages extremely well even ten years later.  Gameplay involves a hybrid turn-based and real-time battle system called BLiTZ (Battle of Live Tactical Zones).  There are phases for each side (Player and Enemy) and within each phase, you have a certain number of turns called CP.  You use one CP to move a unit, meaning you can use multiple CP to move the same unit consecutively.  Of you can end a phase prematurely and save up unused CP for when the next phase comes around.  When you select your unit, you can move, which uses up an AP gauge.  Once AP is used up, the unit cannot move for that CP turn anymore.  While running, enemies will be shooting at you if you are in their sights, this makes preplanning your path beforehand during the unit selection phase (which shows a 2D overhead map) essential.  A lot of the time, the movement range feels limited and you just stop short of where you were aiming for (an indicator on the overhead map to show their movement range would have easily solved this), and if you use a unit consecutively, then their AP gauge reduces each time, meaning even less range.

While running on the field, you can stop your unit and target any enemy within range to shoot them.  Time pauses for you to line up your shot.  Headshots are much more damaging and essential to victory.  You can change weapon types such as grenades and flamethrowers, leading to area-of-effect attacks.  Each unit can only attack once per CP.  Unfortunately, the game uses an accuracy system in that you have a reticule and the shot can land anywhere within that reticule.  This is mostly an issue in the earlier parts of the game when your units have lower-tiered weapons with huge reticules.  It can also get really annoying when enemies have high evasion rates and keep dodging your attacks completely, even at pointblank range.  Tactical elements come into play not only from positioning your units on the map but also that they can crouch and hide behind bunkers/sandbags to reduce the amount of damage.  This allows you to perform maneuvers such as flanking and slow forward advances.  There are other hazards on the battlefield such as mines which can be hard to see when you're busy plotting the most efficient route and have enemies firing at you.

Each individual unit has their own name and special passive abilities which can be positive and negative (increase or decreasing stats in certain situations respectively).  If they die on the battlefield and the enemy touches them or you cannot get one of your units to get to them, they are lost forever.  This permadeath doesn't really affect you if you play it smart and safe.  You are able to save and load before every CP turn.  While it feels like cheating at times, it is a lifesaver if you need to perform crucial attacks or when you need to retry on moving a character to get to the place you needed using what limited AP they have.  There are five different classes that units fall into:  Scouts who are weak in firepower but has a huge movement range; Shocktroopers who are damage dealers but restricted movement range; Lancers specialize in doing the most damage to tanks but are weak in both movement and infantry attacks due to their low accuracy; Snipers have excellent long-range attack power but will be destroyed in close combat; and lastly, Engineers are weak in both attack and defense but they are able to restore ammo to units and heal tanks.  Finally, there are tanks which have low mobility but is a beast in attack and defense power.

You gain experience and money after every battle.  You are also ranked with bonus points for achieving A and B ranks.  Ranks are only based on how quickly you finish a level though, not for player smartly, so in a lot of scenarios you end up rushing forward with your units to force your way through.  This feels counter to the slower tactical gameplay that the game seems to want you to experience.  You cannot repeat storyline battles once you've completed them however as you progress through the story, you'll open up "Skirmishes", which are repeats of storyline battles with some swapped elements.  You can replay these indefinitely for extra experience but they give a much lower experience rate compared to the story levels.  Leveling up troops are done on a class basis, therefore there is no penalty for swapping units in and out.  There's no need to worry about lost experience.  You can also upgrade your weapons and your tank.  Valkyria Chronicles has a heavy story focus and is told in the style of a chronicle.  It's engaging from the get go.  You'll spend a lot of your time watching cutscenes.  The story focuses on Welkin, who returns to Gallia, a neutral country on the continent of Europa.  A war has broken out between the two superpowers of the Imperial Alliance and the Atlantic Federation.

The Imperial Alliance has decides to invade Gallia despite their neutrality in order to get their hand son Ragnite, a substance that is used for everything and the reason for the war.  Welkin meets up with Alicia at their hometown of Bruhl and together, they help evacuate the town when the Empire invades.  They then enlist into the militia at the capital, where Welkins is promoted to the leader of Squad 7.  Along with his childhood friend Isara, they attempt to survive and win the war.  The game is not shy about the cruelties of war, including deaths of innocents.  It is a story filled with surprising twists and merges the mythical Valkyria into the story so it isn't completely rooted in reality and it's all the better for it.  The Valkyria in this game is a race of humans with what are effectively superpowers but by the time of the game, they are thought long extinct.  The story is definitely one of the best elements of the game, especially the ending where it throws even more surprises at you.  Complementing the story are side events that are optional.  These cost in-game money to purchase which slots them between the main chapters, so they are very easy to miss.  However, they give a lot of great background events which may be referenced in later chapters and serve to flesh out a lot of the characters.  These side events are definitely worth the time.

Due to the slower tactical gameplay and the high probability of repeating battles, or at the very least, constantly reloading, you're looking at 30 to 40 hours to finish the game.  The game can be quite difficult when you play it blind and only once you've tested out a level and know what is coming, can you devise an efficient strategy . Chapter 7 in particular was a tough mission and felt extremely cheap.  You get an invincible boss that can travel the whole map in one turn, one-hit KO your troops AND it is reliant on the enemy doing something before you can win.  In a lot of these battles, it is a heavy case of trial and error and can be aggravating.  Finally, once you've cleared the game you can initiate New Game Plus, where you can carry your levels over and unlock a new Skirmish battle.  Overall, Valkyria Chronicles is an amazing game.  You get a brilliant story (in either English or Japanese voiceovers), told in a beautiful aesthetics style and a unique battle system that we have not seen in any other game.  Valkyria Chronicles is well worth your time, whether it is the original PS3 version or the remastered PC and PS4 versions.

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Sunday, July 8, 2018

Toy Review: Transformers Generations Power of the Primes Battletrap


Review:  #453
Name:  Battletrap
Brand:  Transformers
Allegiance:  Decepticon
Line:  Generations - Power of the Primes
Year of Release:  2018
Size Class:  n/a
Mold Status:  new

TRANSFORMATION:


Battletrap is the combined mode of Battleslash and Roadtrap, two Legends classed figures.


The transformation into combined mode is pretty clever.  Battleslash forms the top half with the robot legs forming the arms, and Roadtrap forms the bottom half where his whole self splits in half to form the legs.

COMBINED MODE:


Battletrap himself looks amazing for a combined mode of such small size.


The rotor blade from Battleslash is neatly tucked away on his back and the feet are large allowing plenty of stability in this mode.


The headsculpt is perfects and looks fantastic with the two tones of blue and silver visor.  It is on a hinge swivel which allows it to turn from side to side.


Being the combination of two Legends figures, Battletrap is roughly the size of a Deluxe.  Above is a comparison against Legends POTP Beachcomber and Deluxe Studio Series Stinger.


Sadly, Battletrap lacks any sort of weapon, handheld or otherwise, and it feels like a massive missed opportunity.


Articulation is great, with balljointed shoulders, elbows, hips and hinged knees.  For a combined mode figure, Battletrap is very versatile.


There are still some issues though including a loose waist, and the fact that Roadtrap's arms are right behind the legs, getting in the way sometimes.


This is a fantastic robot mode that's very vesatile.

OVERALL:

Battletrap is a really good combiner.  He is comprised of two solid toys (Battleslash being better than Roadtrap), but the combined mode really is greater than the sum of its parts.  Battletrap is solid and packs in plenty of articulation that he can use to great effect.  Battletrap is well worth the full price of the two smaller toys.

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