Sunday, April 22, 2018

Toy Review: Transformers Generations Power of the Primes Slug


Review:  #442
Name:  Slug
Brand:  Transformers
Allegiance:  Autobot
Line:  Generations - Power of the Primes
Year of Release:  2017
Size Class:  Deluxe (Wave 1)
Mold Status:  new

DINOSAUR MODE:


Slug transforms into a robotic Triceratops and looks really good here, particularly with the clear plastic having gold paint on the inside, to mimic the original toy.


This is a clean dinosaur mode with no visible kibble.


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


Above is a comparison against Age of Extinction Scorn, and Slug is a little bit smaller than previous Deluxes.


Unfortunately, this mode isn't very well articulated, he's best left standing on all fours in a neutral pose.  His mouth looks like it should open but as it is used for transformation, the joint is too far back for it to look natural in any way other than closed.


His gun can attach on either side of his legs, and the Combiner fist can attach on top as a type of missile launcher.


This is a pretty good dinosaur mode, if a bit static.

TRANSFORMATION:

Slug has a really simple transformation since he needs to double up as an arm and leg for combined mode.  The back unfolds to form his legs, the front legs become the robot arms and the head remain unmoved, you just fold the mouth down to reveal the head.

ROBOT MODE:


Slug's robot mode is very accurate to his G1 self and it looks good here too, albeit a bit lanky.


He has the dinosaur head and torso on his back... untouched by transformation, and so it is this huge block which feels lazy (it actually has to be like this for the leg mode).


The headsculpt is quite good but as the head is mostly surrounded the Triceratops' head, it is tricky to turn the head side to side.


Slug gains a bit of height in this mode and is similar in height to other Deluxes but is noticeably lighter and lankier, Hasbro has somehow managed to shrink the Deluxes yet again.


Articulation is excellent.  He has the full suite of joints including a waist swivel.


He has a large footprint and is fairly stable as a result.


His weapons are a gun and the Combiner fist.


The combiner fist can attach onto his chest as armor.  You can fit any Titan Master, Prime Master, Matrix or Enigma of Combination into the middle if you so wish.


Officially, Slug can hold the fist as some kind of missile launcher weapon, and the clear piece can detach and held like a gun, it features sculpting to make it look like a gun too.


His gun can be held in either hand and is a much better weapon than the Combiner fist.


Most of the paint budget went into the gold paint inside the transparent pieces and thus in robot mode, he is almost unpainted apart from his eyes, the Autobot insignia on his chest and his foot.


A better usage for the Combiner fist is as a shield.


You can also give him a bigger fist just for fun.  This is a good robot mode although a bit generic.

OVERALL:

Slug, like most of the Combiner Wars line, is simple and fun.  However, just like those toys, he ends up feeling bland and generic as he doesn't do anything new or interesting.  This isn't a bad thing, just that we've seen everything before and can be forgettable.  Still, an updated Dinobot is awesome no matter what.

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As part of the Power of the Primes line, all Deluxes can now combine with the Voyagers of the line.


Transformation to arm and leg modes are pretty simple, and he looks pretty good in both.


Both modes are stable although the leg mode is little more than just the Triceratops with the head jutted out and tail tucked away.


He uses the same joints as the Combiner Wars line so there are plenty of combinations available, significantly increasing his play value.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Ray Gigant (Vita)


Ray Gigant is a dungeon crawler JRPG for the PlayStation Vita and PC.  The battle system is unique in that your actions cost AP but your party of three characters shares the same pool of AP.  Each character can take up to five actions in one turn or skip their turn in order to regenerate some AP.  It is a turn based system and thus you can have your strongest characters attacking five times while you dedicate the weaker characters to regenerate AP to repeat the cycle.


The types of actions that characters can perform during battle are attack, spells, wait (to regenerate AP by skipping their turn), use items, healing, guarding and evading.  Each character belongs to a vague class such that they could be a great attacker while another would be great at healing.  In traditional RPG fashion, each character has a skill tree which dictates their stats, moves and passive effects.  There is a Parasitism Mode where characters use their HP instead of AP to perform actions.  This mode is initially involuntary as a gauge builds up automatically and once full, the characters are forced into this mode.


Finally the main characters have a super attack while utilizes the Slash Beat Mode.  This changes it into a rhythm minigame where you need to time your button presses to the rhythm and onscreen prompts for bigger damage.  Initially, this is a really awkward minigame since the rhythm mechanics does not feel as tight as dedicated rhythm games but after a few rounds, you'll be hitting all the prompts in no time.  The battle system definitely takes some getting used to but you will end up relying on the Slash Beat Mode super attacks to deal massive damage to quickly defeat bosses, while trying to just survive out of it in order to build the meter to do another special attack.


The dungeon crawling aspect is in first person.  There are no random battles since you can see the enemies in plain sight, and also on the map.  The enemies do not respawn unless you decide to manually respawn them at a checkpoint.  You can exit most dungeons at any time by returning to the entrance and there is usually a checkpoint right before a boss where you can save.  This is because if you die, you have to reload your last save, which is annoying during boss battles if you wanted to retry the boss immediately.


Once a character depletes their HP, they do not automatically revive.  The only way to get them back is to exit the dungeon or go to a checkpoint.  However, HP is automatically replenished to full health after every battle if they haven't died.  Ray Gigant does not have a conventional level system.  You gain materials/points after every battle and there are treasure scattered on the map.  You then use these items to unlock more power or boosting certain stat parameters.


Throwing some spanners into the works during the dungeon crawling aspect is the fact that enemies can be "Light" or "heavy", which means that actions during those battles will use less or more AP respectively.  It makes the game a little bit tougher in the beginning since AP doesn't replenish after battle.  Perhaps more annoying is the tendency for the dungeons to get larger and larger with multiple levels, heaps of enemies and various other gimmicks.  There will be traps which deplete your AP, false dead ends, warps, one way paths, hidden rooms and levers.


The traps and size of the dungeons gets annoying to the point where you cannot save for an hour unless you respawn every enemies along the way.  Note that in each dungeon, you uncover the map square by square.  The final dungeon ends up having so many levels that just makes the game drag on and on and on with its repetitiveness since enemies are no challenge and you're just going through the motions.  Then it takes the cake when it removes the mini map which serves no purpose except to confuse you and waste your time by pulling up the full map every so often, it's inconvenient and doesn't add much to the game.


Ray Gigant has a heavy focus on the story, which is told in a visual novel style.  It holds promise but ends up being fairly boring, it's such a shame that it makes you want to skip the story scenes.  There is a lot of redundant dialogue and repetition.  However, the two dimensional art for the characters and enemies look fantastic.  Interestingly, there are sudden changes partway through the game which forces the player to end up effectively starting from scratch, which is odd.  On the first run, the game is not a challenge.  You will end up utilizing the same strategies no matter which characters you are using or what bosses you are facing, making it more of a chore to finish.  The game doesn't give you any reason to play the battle system to your advantage other than that one strategy.


The final two chapters are so repetitive and boring where you are doing the same thing again and again with the dungeons repeating the same annoying gimmicks, it feels sickening and ruins any goodwill from the earlier parts of the game.  What should have been a modest 15-20 hour game is instead dragged to 20-30 hours when it didn't need to.  Once you beat the disappointingly easy final boss and get the ending, you can use the save data to start a new game which is on a higher difficulty.  You can choose to carry over your stats or not and also activate God Mode which causes enemies to do no damage allowing you to focus on enjoying the story if you so wish.


Overall, Ray Gigant is an average game.  It starts off strong, introducing neat aspects of the battle system and the dungeon crawling aspect being rewarding.  Unfortunately, by the time a third of the game has passed, you realize that you have seen every mechanic that the game had to offer and end up cruising along the rest of it with no challenge and a lot of repetition.  The story is flat but the design aesthetics are fantastic.  Ray Gigant is worthwhile to play if you want to start off with an easier, more forgiving dungeon crawler.

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Friday, April 20, 2018

Meet the Robinsons (2007)


Meet the Robinsons follows Lewis, an orphaned boy who is also a genius inventor.  Having given up on being adopted, he ends up meeting a boy from the future, and time travels there.  He meets the boy's family, the Robinsons and learns to leave the past into the past, and keep moving forward.  The film, while having some great visuals, is lacking in plot, and is filled with boring scenes that does little to keep your attention.  It is supposed to be whacky and creative, but comes off as cliched and trying too hard.  The villain is a typical slapstick useless person, although the backstory is conceptually clever, but comes too little too late into the film.  It distils time travel into a simple, easy to understand form.  Meet the Robinsons isn't a bad film per se, but is an average one with a slow start, but has a stronger ending.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Book Review: Neon Genesis Evangelion Volume 12


Review:  #739
Title:  Neon Genesis Evangelion Volume 12
Series:  Neon Genesis Evangelion - 12th volume
Author:  Yoshiyuki Sadamoto
Read Before:  no
Comments:  The end is near and this volume goes all the way in letting the reader know about the First and Second Impact, Gendo’s and Seele’s true goals, and finishes off a few characters’ arcs.  Shinji spends most of his time still sulking and refusing to get back onto the Eva as Nerv HQ is being attacked, which is more annoying this volume because people are dying due to his decision.  While the mental pain and psychological damage is nothing to be looked over and can be quite serious in nature, the fact that you know that he’ll get over it and go to save the day makes it a bit more unbearable with the amount of time he remains in his shell.  Seele is shown be cruel and unforgiving, truly painting them into the antagonist role, although Gendo isn’t much better, it’s just the amount of innocents that had to die due to their actions.  The ending was sad, which is starting to be a trend now but at least it has meaning.
Rating:  7.5/10

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

YuruYuri ♪♪ (2012)


YuruYuri ♪♪ is the second season based on the manga of the same name, again at 12 episodes long.  It is set in middle school, focusing on a group of four protagonists, Akari, Kyoko, Yui and Chinatsu.  Together, they form the Amusement Club where the aim is just to do whatever they want.  The cast is rounded out by members of the student council, Ayano, Chitose (and her sister Chizuru), Sakurako and Himawari.


It felt like the studio/writer was feeling bad for all the things that Akari had to suffer in the previous season and so the first episode made her dreams come true, at least in a way where everyone notices her, loves her and fights over her.  Afterwards, she retains her trademark lack of presence which is a bit unfortunate on the poor girl.  Kyoko not only retains her carefree attitude but dials it up, leading to even more gags.  She is as random as ever and the source of many humorous moments in the anime.  Yui is the ever dependable person being able to cook, am self-dependent and acts mature.


Finally, Chinatsu's awful artistic skills are constantly highlighted even though she's unaware of it herself.  It's funny seeing the reactions of other characters to her works and the more effort Chinatsu puts into them, somehow the uglier it is.  Being set in the slice-of-life genre, it focuses upon the daily activities of the characters with a few twists.  There's less focus on the activities of the amusement club (i.e. the setting is not as much focused during school anymore) but rather on the activities of the characters outside of school such as pool visits.  This is mainly due to the anime being set during the summer holiday.


YuruYuri ♪♪ covers events such as Valentine's Day, going to the hot spring and the pool.  However, it does repeat some scenarios from the first season such as the school trip and Comuket, which is explained as that one year has passed (kinda).  There's a higher focus on the other supporting characters, who each has their own charms and their own backstories on their relationships.  It feels like that these characters are much more fleshed out.  The student council members start showing their feelings more obviously such as Sakurako and Himawari.


Akari still gets the short end of the stick but rather than just from the writers, she is at the receiving end of pranks played on by other characters, or misses the train while everyone else gets on.  It's really funny and although it is not necessary cruel, you still feel sorry for Akari.  Chinatsu though is still as selfish as ever, harboring inside her the dark thoughts.  More often than not, it backfires upon her so she gets her just desserts.  Despite this, she and Akari are actually fairly close friends.  This season reveals more of each characters' families.  We're treated to actually seeing the faces of their siblings, and find out a few that we never knew existed.


Each episode is split into various smaller segments of individual stories so it never gets stale or outstays their welcome.  YuruYuri's strongest aspect is the humor, whether it be from exaggerated gags or just the perfect reaction and dialogue, it's even better than the first season which was already great.  To top it all off, there is a hilarious ending with a rendition of Snow White but of course with a YuruYuri twist.  This finally gives Akari justice as well as pretty much invoking all the running gags in the series into it and is just absolutely fantastic.  Overall, YuruYuri ♪♪ is a great following up to the characters.  It's funny, clever and a joy to watch and definitely worth your time.

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Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Book Review: The World God Only Knows Vol. 17


Review:  #738
Title:  The World God Only Knows Vol. 17
Series:  The World God Only Knows - 17th volume
Author:  Tamiki Wakaki
Read Before:  no
Comments:  The lift in the quality of the storytelling and events continues on a roll here.  Keima gets serious and after Chihiro’s surprise confession in the last volume, Keima has to quickly adapt his plans and pick either Chihiro or Ayumi as a gamble to determine who has the goddess within them.  Perhaps the best bit is the fact that Keima never completely throws all in, leaving just enough of a thread to pull out if need be.  This volume is probably the best in the series yet with some highly emotional scenes that’s gut-wrenching.  The twisting developments keeps you hooked in and you feel the pain even though you are just the reader.  This volume contains one of the most memorable scenes and the crushing moment when you realize that you must hurt the person in order to save the situation cannot be understated.  With the ending, Keima has gotten himself into a huge mess, especially with the shortened time limit that he has to work with.  A great volume and well worth all the time spent getting up to this point.
Rating:  7.5/10

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Toy Review: Transformers Generations Power of the Primes Grimlock


Review:  #441
Name:  Grimlock
Brand:  Transformers
Allegiance:  Autobot
Line:  Generations - Power of the Primes
Year of Release:  2017
Size Class:  Voyager (Wave 1)
Mold Status:  new

DINOSAUR MODE:


Grimlock transforms into a robotic T-Rex reminiscent of his G1 self.  This is probably the most accurate representation since the original toy.


It is not perfect though since his tail is too long and wide as they are the robot legs pegged together and the back of his lower torso is hollow.


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


In terms of size, above is a comparison against Age of Extinction Grimlock.  Power of the Primes Grimlock feels less substantial due to the significant usage of hollow parts.


The robot weapons, which doubles as the combiner mode's feet, attaches to the side of his legs.


This mode is also semi-posable.  He lacks a neck swivel but can look up and down, open his mouth, his arms are on balljoints and his legs have multiple joints as they double as the robot's arms.


A good mode overall and looks great even if he is a little bit unstable when you hold him in your hands due to its tendency to split apart at the bottom due to the transformation scheme of the gold chest piece.

TRANSFORMATION:

Grimlock has a simple transformation but it is quite interesting in how the robot torso is formed.  It is split in half and then pulled up to cover the dinosaur's torso.  Otherwise, nothing else is surprising with the head folding on his back, wings forming from the dinosaur torso and the tail splitting to become the robot lets.

ROBOT MODE:


Grimlock's robot mode is also very accurate to his G1 self, although the torso is proportionally really big.


He carries the typical Grimlock kibble being the dinosaur head on his back and his "wings".  However, they are small enough to not be a hindrance or feel lazy at all.


The headsculpt is really good but it is only on a swivel joint.


In terms of size, he appears bulky but once you have him in hand, you come to realize that he feels much lighter than you'd expect for something this size, and as a result, feels flimsy as well.


Poseability is solid, he even packs in a waist swivel.


His hips are on tight ratchets, so getting them to the right notch will probably move something else.  The tight ratchets are required for combined mode.


Grimlock lacks his iconic sword and this hurts.  Instead, he gets two combiner feet pieces to use as weapons, as well as the Dinobot Enigma.


The Enigma pegs into the slot for the combiner piece, and these pieces act as shields/gauntlets for Grimlock.


It actually doesn't look half bad since the sculpting for the feet makes it seem like claws when used this way.  Also note that the chest doesn't peg together too solidly and is prone to splitting apart when moving his shoulders.


A strong robot mode and despite having to incorporate a third mode, it doesn't compromise the robot mode all that much.

OVERALL:

Grimlock is a good figure overall.  He feels a bit light and flimsy due to the transformation scheme of having his robot chest split and attach again for each mode.  However, he is currently the best updated rendition of G1 Grimlock.

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Grimlock features the ability to form the torso of Volcanicus.


Transforming him into torso mode is really interesting and presents more surprises than the transformation from dinosaur to robot mode.


The biggest flaw in this mode is how wide the shoulders are, making it seem lanky despite having the advantage of having the size of a Voyager to work with.


There are still some issues in this mode, mainly pieces that are supposed to attached together but keeps coming loose whenever you move something.

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