Sunday, October 20, 2019

Toy Review: Transformers Generations Power of the Primes Elita-1 (Voyager)


Review:  #520
Name:  Elita-1
Brand:  Transformers
Allegiance:  Autobot
Line:  Generations - Power of the Primes
Year of Release:  2018
Size Class:  Voyager (Wave 2)
Mold Status:  retool of POTP Starscream

JET MODE:


Elita-1 transforms into a pink and white jet of varying shades.  As a retool of Starscream, this is a really chunky jet with way too much undercarriage kibble.


The robot feet are unceremoniously tucked as landing gear at the back which is quite horrible.


Perhaps the worst aspect of the figure is Hasbro's cost-cutting tendency to use a massive amount of stickers for detailing.  Elita-1 has too many separate stickers, particularly on the edges of joints which causes them to easily peel even straight out of the packaging.


Above is a comparison against Titans Return Optimus and you can see that Elita-1 is pretty massive, but hollow.


As part of the Power of the Primes line, Elita-1 comes with a character art card.


The robot weapons, which doubles as the combined mode's feet, peg onto the underside of each wing.


Despite its flaws, this is still a decent jet mode.

TRANSFORMATION:

As you can probably tell from the huge amount of kibble in jet mode, the transformation isn't too hard.  The legs extend from the back, the sides become the arms and the nose folds away allowing you to reveal the head.  It's almost too bland...

ROBOT MODE:


It's rare to get female Transformers, and even rarer when they're not overly slim.  Elita-1 is bulky but still pulls off the female aspect and looks really good.


She carries quite a bit of kibble on her back, being the wings and nose of the jet.


The headsculpt is nice and accurate to the G1 design.  It is on a balljoint so has a wide range of motion.


She's pretty tall here as well and while she may look bulky, the whole figure is hollow, from the forearms to the legs.


The hollow legs are more of an issue since it her center of gravity is higher than normal.  The multiple joints also likes to unpeg the panels.


Otherwise, articulation is decent with mostly hinge and swivel joints.


There are a few weaponry options, the first are the small red guns that she can hold in either hand.


The reason for the huge forearms is that they double up as combiner joints, it kind of throws off the proportions of the robot.


Elita-1 has the Enigma of Combination which is the same shape as a folded up Prime Master.


The other weapons are the combined mode's feet which appears as some sort of gauntlets or shields.


There are multiple places where Elita-1 can use the two pieces, the best place are her upper arms to act more like shields.


The Enigma can peg onto the pieces to "power" it up.


Just like jet mode, despite some flaws, this is still a solid robot mode.

TRANSFORMATION TO COMBINED MODE:

Combined mode is pretty easy in theory but ends up being quite a mess.  This is because there is a reliance on panels (mostly being the wings and top of the jet) but lacks solid connections.  The arms form the knees while everything else folds into a lump to form the torso.

COMBINED MODE:


Elita-1's combined mode is named Elita-Infin1te, which is a unique name to say the least.


The torso looks pretty good but as touched upon in the transformation section, it doesn't quite hold together as well as you would hope.


The headsculpt is similar to the core robot but with a bigger crown.


Size-wise, it is much taller than a Voyager and Deluxe as expected.


Poseability is good, the combiner ports all have ratchet joints which is able to hold the weight of the figure.


The feet now have ankle ratchet joints which is a boon since by being able to keep the feet flat on the table, the combined mode is a lot more stable.


The torso has a unique layered look which is really nice.


A good looking combined mode, if a little bit unstable.

OVERALL:

Elita-1 is a solid figure.  It's not the best Transformers in the line but it does a good job of being fun and versatile.  The biggest flaws are the usage of stickers, the hollowness and the slightly unstable combined mode.

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Saturday, October 19, 2019

Book Review: King Ottokar’s Sceptre


Review:  #873
Title:  King Ottokar’s Sceptre
Series:  The Adventures of Tintin – 8th book
Author:  Herge
Comments:  The plot of the Tintin books continues to improve and King Ottokar’s Sceptire has one of the best ones yet.  Tintin naturally gets himself involved in some sort of conspiracy yet again (and it feels that the whole reporter thing is not mentioned much anymore).  This time around, it is about the symbolic sceptre of a foreign land’s king being stolen.  Tintin feels more capable, able to stand his ground and rely a little bit less on luck in order to solve the mystery.  While the mystery never got too involved, by the end of it, it does feel satisfying enough to be worthwhile.
Rating:  6/10

Friday, October 18, 2019

The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya (2010)


The Disappearance of Harushi Suzumiya is a movie based upon the light novel series.  It adapts the fourth volume and is best to watch after you have finished the first two seasons of the anime.  Why?  This is because the movie cleverly integrates previous moments that happened in the anime into its plot.  While the anime had already shown this type of foreshadowing, it’s a lot more obvious here and satisfying as everything clicks and you realize what had just happened.  The plot starts off simple enough, it is Christmas and the SOS Brigade is preparing a Christmas party.  However, before that day could come, Kyon wakes up and finds out that the world has changed and Haruhi has disappeared.  Everyone else’s personalities have changed and it’s as if Haruhi had never existed in Kyon’s life.  This is an interesting premise and you know just something is up, particularly since Haruhi is involved.  As Kyon starts to unravel the mystery of how this happens, it defies your expectations again and again.  When one part becomes clear, it throws a spanner in the works and completely redefines the situation, it’s really interesting and you are eager to see how it all unfolds.  While there are slower moments, particularly in the first half, it is worth the patience (especially since this is an extremely long movie at 2 hrs and 40 minutes).  The resolution of the problem is a huge turning point for Kyon.  It is a critical moment for Kyon as he reflects on everything that has happened to him since going to high school and how he wants to continue.  The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya has a great film that is a lot deeper and significant than at first glance.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Super Robot Wars OG: The Moon Dwellers (PS4)


Super Robot Wars OG:  The Moon Dwellers is a spin-off of the Super Robot Wars OG spin-off series.  The OG represents Original Generation and means that the game contains only original designs unlike the main games which take designs from various other properties.  It was released for the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4.  It's a remake from a few previous Super Robot Wars games but with various changes.  The Moon Dwellers is the first for the series in a few ways including the first game to be released for the PS4 and the first game to have an English and Chinese translation.


The Moon Dwellers is a tactical RPG.  You'll be placed onto grid maps with a bunch of characters that you can move around.  During your turn you can move the characters, attack and use abilities.  Super Robot Wars had always had some of the best tactical RPG gameplay and it doesn't disappoint here with a lot of complexity and layers, even if you don't care for it all, it's still heaps of fun.  During each level, you can only send out a limited number of robots so you need to pick and choose your favorites.  Each robot has different stats and abilities.  During your turn, you can select from a variety of attacks which have different attack powers, ranges and limitations.  Each pilot has their own abilities (which doesn't take up the turn when you use it) that gives you a distinct advantage from a 100% accuracy to decreasing damage.


Placement of your robots on the field is extremely important.  Not only do their placements affect which attacks they can use, pairing up robots can have them assist you during assaults or defend during enemy attacks.  You have the option to pair up robots such that they take up one square, move together and attack together.  This adds yet another strategic layer as you can pair up a slow and fast robot for quicker movement, do some bonus attacks or supplement each others' weaknesses but at the cost of attacking once together instead of each one separately per turn.


Certain pairings gives you a chance of using Union Attacks where two robots in proximity with each other do a special high damage and flashy attack.  The game has animations on by default, which, while cool to look at, makes the gameplay slow.  Depending on your preferences, you may find it more fun to turn off animations as the pacing will be speedier and you get to see the results of your choices immediately.


Each level has a set of victory and defeat conditions.  The only negative is that in the early levels, these conditions are simple and makes the level end too quickly.  It lacks the epic large scale and long battles that you would want in a tactical RPG.  The game on the whole on Normal is fairly easy, even more so when there is a Quick Save function with no penalties whatsoever.  It seems to encourage save scumming and even on the off chance you lose, you retain all your experienced gained in the battle that you died at.


The game is presented in an isometric view with 2D-looking sprites.  It's what Super Robot Wars had always used, and the designs of the robots are in super-deformed style.  However, you do wish that they could have upgraded the presentation a bit more.  You have the option to move the map around to get a better look and also a 2D overhead view, which is extremely useful in the city levels since the varying heights of each square makes it difficult to see where you're going.


After every level you have the option to customize the various robots and pilots.  Each robot have a set of stats that you can increase using the money you gained.  Furthermore, you can swap weapons, accessories and change forms.  Pilots on the other hand gain experience via destroying the enemy and gain additional skills upon leveling up.  It's an addictive mix and this isn't to mention the swappable weapons, items and passive skills that you can equip.  There are so many things to customize that it's crazy and overwhelming when you first get to it.


As is customary for the series, there are heaps of robots and pilots to choose from, you get access to 20+ when you're one-quarter through the game and unlock more and more as you go.  Keep in mind that during each stage, you usually fill eight to twelve slots (granted, you can sortie in pairs, boosting it to 16-24 robots) so you have much than you require.  You end up using only your favorite ones since there aren't enough enemies to evenly level everyone up at the same time.  Although to be fair, the game is easy enough such that you can swap characters midway through the game and still be okay, especially since experience scales.


The story is told via a visual novel style.  The structure is predictable, there'll be a story segment, then the battle, then another story segment before going to the menu for you to customize your robots before repeating.  The story segments are quite lengthy and it heavily references the events from past games so it can be confusing for a new player.  It presents a glossary for the background of certain terms and events to help alleviate this.  At certain points, the story branches and you have to select a perspective to follow.


As you near the end of the game, there is a massive difficulty spike in one of the stages.  It's completely unexpected and you end up having to fight three bosses (one of which is an ambush that just suddenly appears), a slew of enemies with high HP and each of the bosses having special abilities that damage your whole team so you need to defeat them as soon as possible.  It ends up becoming a battle of attrition, taking upwards of two hours as you struggle to conserve and spend your SP, manage your ammo and EN for attacks, and decide when to use your items or return to the mothership to heal.  It's somewhat of a slog and can feel unfair at times, particularly since you've probably only focused on a few units and have a bunch of weak units that die in one hit.


Unfortunately, the game outstays its welcome in the final two episode bosses.  Not only do they have massive amounts of health but they have special abilities that allow them to always have the chance of evading an attack (so 100% accuracy means nothing) and periodically buffs themselves.  This is extremely annoying and frustrating when these abilities activate so frequently.  It doesn't feel challenging, just feels obnoxious, cheap, long and drawn out.  Nevertheless, when the theme song plays just as you're about to defeat the final boss, it gives a really great sense of accomplishment.  Perhaps it's more accurate to say that if you prepared well (as in, knowing what is about to come up) then you'll have a much easier time.  It's still possible to clear all stages on your first go but it may be inefficient compared to what you could do.


While you can select Hard right off the bat, after you clear the game and reload your save data, you can select Ex-Hard mode which is Hard mode but for an extra challenge, you cannot upgrade your robots.  It requires a lot more strategy and careful planning, as well as utilizing the skills of your pilots to the max.  Then once you clear this, you'll unlock Ex-Special mode which is a more chilled way as it provides many bonuses.


Overall, Super Robot Wars OG:  The Moon Dwellers is a great tactical game.  While the core gameplay hasn't changed much over the years, there are layers and layers of strategy, from assist attacks, to skills and upgrades, it's an addictive mix.  The plentiful amount of characters that you can use means that players are free to play around and determine their favorite team to use.  The only negatives are the damage sponge enemies in the last few episodes and no easy way to replay levels without starting a new game.  Otherwise, the game is highly recommended providing plenty of content.

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For the day one bonus, there are two keychains included.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

One Week Friends (2014)


One Week Friends is a 12 episode anime based upon the manga series.  The anime follows Hase Yuki, who is a normal high school student.  He develops a crush for a fellow classmate, Fujimiya Kaori, and works up the courage to speak to her.  His intentions were to become friends at first and get to know each other but as a big shock to him, Fujimiya outright rejects him.


The rejection is to be expected once we find out Fujimiya's reason.  As the title suggests, Fujimiya has a memory problem.  That is, Fujimiya can only remember one week's worth of memories if they involve people that she holds dear.  Except for family and people she doesn't care about, she will forget them by Monday next week.  It's a really specific sort of amnesia and one that you'll just have to accept.  Thanks to Hase's persistence, the pair do become friends but then Hase has to deal with the issue of building up a bond with Fujimiya, only to start all over again the next week.  There are some genuine sweet moments but also melancholy when you realize that the progress will be reset very soon.


It does get better though once Fujimiya starts to keep a diary and thus at least she isn't shocked of Hase randomly coming up to her to ask to be friends.  On the other hand, it's also sad to see her being bullied.  Thanks to her condition, Fujimiya has isolated herself from other classmates in order to not cause pain.  Unfortunately, this means that everyone else kind of views her in a negative and cold light.


The first half of the anime has slow pacing, as it tends to repeat the same beats in each episode.  Perhaps a bit annoying is the fact that some of the challenges that the pair face are resolved through contrived coincidences.  Seriously, Hase just finds something that Fujimiya lost through luck, because of all the places to lose it, he just happens to know to search that one unlikely area more thoroughly than others.  Hase has a tendency to easily get jealous whenever it involves Fujimiya.  Other people talk to her easily?  He gets jealous.  She mentions someone else to make conversation?  He gets jealous.  This feels melodramatic for no good reason since Hase shows it so obviously.


The cast is rounded out by Hase's friend, Kiryu, and another classmate, Saki.  Kiryu has a cold outward demeanor, and has an attitude that makes it feel that he doesn't care.  However, throughout the anime, we see that Kiryu does care for Hase, even though he frequently calls out his faults.  While Saki is a forgetful girl, so it feels somewhat of a contrivance at times considering Fujimiya's plight.  Fujimiya's memory loss isn't natural and we slowly get to know what caused it in the first place.  While it seems to be improving as the series goes on, it remains the core gimmick.


The plot moves forward at a much faster pace towards the end of the series, which is surprising.  Although considering it involves the late introduction of another character, it can feel hit or miss.  There is a tendency for the characters (in particular, Hase) to do some idiotic things which dampen the mood somewhat.  The plot may not take the direction you'd expect it to since it never create any tension between the characters.  The ending retains the status quo and doesn't provide too much closure.


Some of the redeeming features of the anime include sweet scenes involving the main characters.  Are they just friends?  Do they have mutual feelings?  Coupled with the beautiful backgrounds, art styles (which makes up for the more simplistic character designs) and serene music, and there are some truly gorgeous scenes.  Overall, One Week Friends has a good premise and executes it as well as you'd expect once the main gimmick is introduced and where it goes on from there.  The pacing is a tad bit slow and there's not much progress in the plot as a whole.  However, the characters are likable and there are some good scenes.

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