Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Dynasty Warriors: Strikeforce

Let me clear this up straight away, I will be talking about the PS3 version.  I'm in two minds about this game.  First of all, as hard as it might be to believe (for some people at least), I am a fan of the Dynasty Warriors series since it's just something you can pick up, play for a bit without thinking too much, and relax for an hour or so by killing hundreds of soldiers.  Plus, there's something awesome about the fact that the characters you control have some outrageous outfits, superhuman moves and that you can hack and slash you way through to victory.  As it is, Strikeforce tries with some new elements, and I'm thankful for that, since it provides a nice twist to game play.  The inclusion of airborne moves adds a whole new dimension (literally I guess), and is quite fun once you master it.  However, it does get stale when pretty much every 'boss' fight requires these moves, there's just not enough variety.  And that's just it, the game doesn't have enough variety to keep my interest up.

There's a lot of stuff to do here, yes, but it gets stale real fast.  First, it's a port of the PSP system, and I understand the liberties taken for that, but I just wish they would take down the loading screens between each area, since we all know the PS3 is capable of so much more.  It's not as bad as I thought (the loading is fairly short) but still not that desirable.  The game boasts over 100 quests, or stages if you prefer that term, but there's only around four or five distinctive environments, yes, that means you'll be fighting in areas that looks the same as countless others.  Sure, it might be at night time, or some small elements changed here and there, but by and large, it's really noticeable how little difference there are between many of the stages.  Most of the stages require you to just beat a few guys to pass, I wouldn't mind this so much if the battle system was great.

I'm more used to the charge system used in the games before Dynasty Warriors 6 (although 7 goes back to this system), but Strikeforce doesn't use this system (it's based on Dynasty Warriors 6 which completely revamped the battle system).  It's still similar, but the triangle button charges your attacks a bit differently and in my opinion, not as efficient.  There's some strategic elements but it's barely noticeable.  The inclusion of 'chi' skills, essentially power ups, was great, and I loved the additional powers it granted my character, which made the fighting much more fun.  The AI is harder to beat, not because they are smarter, but because they have bigger health bars, which makes it really hard to get over 50 kills in a normal run unless you're really aiming for it (unlike the mainstream games where you can easily get over 300 kills without trying).

Airborne battle can be a bit hard and the lock on system can stuff up.  The voice acting was bland though, and it seems to use the same phrases over and over again. Then there's the story, since Strikeforce is more fantasy now with the Fury modes (essentially Super Saiyan forms), I wished they could have been more creative and made a better story.  Instead, it's the same old Three Kingdoms story which doesn't fit with some of the huge bosses (which aren't even fun to fight).  There's pretty much like three cutscenes for each Kingdom (there are three main kingdoms, each of which have a separate story mode), and the majority of the story (I'm talking 90% here) is told by showing a (crude) map of China, with a voice over, very disappointing and a major letdown.

I had fun... for like the first ten hours or so, by then, it felt like I was chugging it along just to finish a story.  I takes around 15 to 20 hours to finish one of the kingdom stories but I can't see myself finishing the other two when they share many of the same stages (and even with the stages unique to that story mode, it feels the same anyway).  It's not a bad game, but it seriously needs a lot more variety in the stages component, otherwise, it's the same deal, you'll like it if you liked Dynasty Warriors, and yon won't if you don't like Dynasty Warriors.  It's worth a shot though, at the very least, you'll have fun for around 10 hours, which is how long most game's story modes are nowadays anyway.


Other game reviews can be found on this page.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Book Review: Cardcaptor Sakura: Master of the Clow Vol. 4

Review:  #159
Book Review:  Cardcaptor Sakura:  Master of the Clow Vol. 4
Series:  Cardcaptor Sakura:  Master of the Clow - 4th volume
Author:  Clamp
Read Before:  no
My Comments:  The humour escalates a lot here, making this volume very enjoyable, a lot of laughs and page turners.  This volume has more emotional bits, sorting out the relationships and everything, it is such a shame that Toya lost his power, and surprisingly, he knows pretty much all that was happening, he just hadn’t said anything.  Sakura’s confession to Yukito was out of the blue and total unexpected (I was like wtf when I turned the page and suddenly there it was), but finally am glad to see this relationship drawing to a close and being wrapped up, now all that is left is Syaoran’s confession.  Syaoran’s reactions and care for Sakura is hilarious, but Sakura seems more carefree than usual.  Anyway, the suspense and mysteriousness about Eriol is killing me, I really want to know what his motives are.  All in all, even though not as much action in here, it’s more towards resolving the (fairly) complex relationships, and as such, it was still a great read.
Rating:  7/10

Monday, February 27, 2012

Toy Review: Transformers Movie (2007) Final Stand (Longarm and Bumblebee)

Review:  #71
Name:  Longarm and Bumblebee
Brand:  Transformers
Allegiance:  Autobot
Line:  Movie (2007)
Year of Release:  2007
Size Class:  Deluxe and Figurine (Screen Battles Wave 1)
Variations:  this was a minor repaint of the original version


Longarm here transforms into a Ford F-350 tow truck, and while he's fairly simple and low detail in sculpt on first sight, there are some really good elements here.  Obviously all four wheels rolls, and Longarm rolls very well mind you.

It is a very well formed truck, and the diamond grip molding on the floor of the truck is excellent.  He's lacking some paint in some of the more elaborate sculpted details like tail lights and the tow arm looks really bare.

However, the main attraction here is the actual working use of the towing arm and hook.  If you've got a suitable vehicle (one that has a gap underneath the hood so the hook can attach) Longarm can tow it around, this is an excellent feature and surprisingly really fun.

Funnily enough, there's a molded Mikaela in the driver's seat, to emulate the scene in the movie.  Also, you can fire the missile in this mold, there's a gap at the front that lets the missile go through, whoa...  The only complaint I have here is that the light bar is situated awkwardly high, and it looks really weird.

The final play feature here is the ability to attach the legless Bumblebee, to complete the iconic scene.  There's a dedicated slot for the hook on Bumblebee's back so he attaches very securely.  A brilliant vehicle mode, if easily forgettable since nothing really stands out.


Quite an ingenious transformation.  The hood of the truck unfolds (via a lot of hinges) into his legs, the cabin behinds the chest, and everything else at the back becomes the arms.  Yup, more than half the truck becomes arms (well, there's also the humongous gun).  Folding the legs back into the hood can be somewhat tricky the first time around and takes some guess work.  All in all, a simple transformation that's really fun to convert.


A figurine that feels like it's just the Robot Replicas with legs chopped off.  In reality, it's actually a brand new mold.  The plastic used is very rubbery and it just feels wrong.

He's jointed only on the shoulders, hips and head.  Not exactly the best, and is very limited in terms of poses.  He's also missing his iconic door wings, although there's holes for it, so maybe it was planned at one stage?

The head is detailed and accurate I guess, which means it's pretty ugly.  A pretty forgettable part of the set, I got this set only for Longarm to be honest.


Longarm's robot mode, just like the vehicle mode, at first glance, looks to be unmemorable, but the more you handle him, the more you'll find he has some nice hidden surprises.  Probably the first thing you'd notice is this huge gun on his right arm, it's screwed into place and so it's not removable.  This can make for some awkward poses for his arm though.

There's some kibble around the place, notably on his shoulders (which is the sides of the truck, folded together) and the cabin, complete with doors, on his back.  It's not as bad as it seems.  The legs have way too many joints in them though, sometimes making it hard to find a good stable configuration.

The fun comes in with the gun.  This is made up of the tow arm and hook, and the orange missile can be fired by a very tiny button.

There are some really nice details too, so it actually looks like a gun and not some random piece of plastic that doesn't look like anything.

What's cool is that Longarm is jointed enough such that he can hold the gun in both arms, which makes the proportions much better (it feels too big and unwieldy on one hand).

The head sculpt is excellent, and easily one of the best I've seen.  It has a distinctive Hoist feel to it, and the orange lightpiping works very very well.

Articulation is only hampered by the huge gun and shoulder kibble.  Otherwise he has an excellent range of motion and is a great figure to play with.


The dark horse of the movie line, Longarm does not get nearly as much recognition as he deserves.  This is a wonderful figure, that scores points in every single category, whether it's for transformation, articulation or play value,  Longarm is a well rounded figure.  The only reason you would not get this toy is if you don't like the aesthetics.


Various other reviews can be found at this page.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Book Review: The Book from Baden Dark

Review:  #158
Title:  The Book from Baden Dark
Series:  The Book of Lies (not official name) - 3rd and final book
Author:  James Moloney
Read Before:  no
My Comments:  A very engaging book, although the feel and direction of the plot is very different to the previous two books (The Book of Lies and Master of the Books), it is good in its own right.  Marcel isn’t a very likeable character anymore, he’s changed a lot since the previous two books, and it’s deliberate here.  However, being the protagonist, it is a bit disappointing when you get annoyed at him.  Bea was an excellent character here, as well as Fergus; I wished Nicola got a bigger role in the plot.  I loved how the author had used a lot of foreshadowing in the beginning, and it gave Baden Dark (a place) an ominous tone, however, it was slowly revealed that it wasn't what the characters (and readers) thought it was.  I got hooked into what was happening by around one third of the way (when they entered Baden Dark) and events slowly unfolded and things were revealed, I literately couldn't put the book down coz it was so good.  Whereas The Book of Lies had a great ingenious and intricate plot, and Master of the Books had a lot of action, I don’t really see anything Baden Dark offers that's as engaging as those two, it was more about Marcel’s thought process than anything.  The love relationship between Bea and Marcel could have been developed and brought to light better, but it was still done well enough that I cared.  Being the final book in the trilogy, there’s a wrap up in the Epilogue, and I thought it was a well done and satisfactory ending, it pulled the right strings, and generally a very worthwhile book to read.
Rating:  7.5/10

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood

I had heard of the Assassin's Creed series of games before but never really tried one of them, and never knew what made it so popular.  I ended up getting Assassin's Creed:  Brotherhood as a bundle to my PS3, and I've finally finished the story (still got some side quests left, but not much to go now).  In the beginning, it was really hard to use the controls, and it was tough learning and getting used to it.  Having never played the previous two games, I didn't know what to expect, and more often than not, I was frustrated at the complicated controls.  Fighting head on wasn't fun or as smooth as I expected (since I've been playing primarily hack n slash games, I foolishly just charged in attacking the guards), until I ended up learning how to counter efficiently.  Free running and climbing the buildings and structures were really fun, I spent many a minute just running around all over the place, and trying out the different assassination techniques.

I did not get the story though, not sure if it is coz I wasn't interested or (more likely) I didn't understand it coz i haven't played the second one.  I got some of the plot points, but to me, it felt like one thing chained after another, and I didn't get how everything fitted together.  All I know was that Ezio was out to get Cesare.  The ending of the game (in the modern day) was surprising.

I've mentioned the game play was fun and it is, there are so many other things you could do other than the main story missions.  Compared to all the 'side quests', the main story felt short and quickly finished.  A lot of the puzzle elements, particularly in the 'Lair of Romulus' series of missions, were very well thought out.  You have to stop and think about where you're going to leap to next before you do it.  Once you've sorted out your path, you feel a sense of exhilaration racing through that path, jumping and leaping.  That said, a LOT of the missions were annoying and not much fun to play.  I particularly hated the Leonardo's Machines set of missions, and the controls for those machines weren't exactly the best (to be fair, only the bomber plane controls were hard to master).

The music was great, and suited the game play very well.  The game has some of the best in game music.  The purchase of shops and landmarks to rebuild Rome was addictive, as was destroying towers in order to free that area of the influence of guards.  The city of Rome is huge and it takes a while to explore it all.  In the end, it was great fun playing this game, and now I understand what had made this franchise so popular.


Other game reviews can be found on this page.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Book Review: Cardcaptor Sakura: Master of the Clow Vol. 3

Review:  #157
Title:  Cardcaptor Sakura:  Master of the Clow Vol. 3
Series:  Cardcaptor Sakura:  Master of the Clow - 3rd volume
Author:  Clamp
Read Before:  no
My Comments:  The first chapter was a bit boring with nothing much happening in terms of the plot line, but it’s more geared towards Sakura’s relationships with everyone, and it wasn't too bad to be honest.  The rest of the volume has two main focuses, the first and major one is that Yue is running out of power (although Sakura remains oblivious to this), and I loved how it was resolved right at the end of the fourth chapter (only four chapters in the volume), it was ingenious, and it cleared a LOT of things up.  As in, Toya was acting all weird around Yukito, and I thought it was something different (thank goodness it wasn't what I thought it was), but I liked how he knew he had to give up his power to keep Yue ‘alive’, it just, somehow, fit.  The other focus is Li’s affections towards Sakura, which is sweet in a way, but in terms of helping her, he’s too weak to do anything nowadays, which is sad.  I loved the reactions of everyone at various times, it was excellent, and another spot on volume.  Eriol doesn't seem too evil in this volume, hidden agenda, yes, but it seems like he is training Sakura up (or at least I hope so).
Rating:  7/10

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Book Review: Cardcaptor Sakura: Master of the Clow Vol. 2

Review:  #156
Title:  Cardcaptor Sakura:  Master of the Clow Vol. 2
Series:  Cardcaptor Sakura:  Master of the Clow - 2nd volume
Author:  Clamp
Read Before:  no
My Comments:  The stories are very absorbing, I like the overarching story in this second ‘season’ than the first, as it is a lot more interesting.  Eriol seems like the bad guy here, it doesn't help that we don’t know what his motives are, its frustrating, coz he is the reincarnation of Clow Reed, which is supposed to be a good guy, yet Eriol’s actions seems like he’s an antagonist (although I guess you can see that his actions are what is prompting Sakura to create her own magic).  Kind of feel sorry for Li as well, as his affections are not being returned and Sakura has not clue about it, plus, his magic seems to be the weakest right now out of Eriol and Sakura, so even though he wants to help and has good hunches he can't really do much but fail.  Toya is also very observant, knowing more than what he is letting on, but how much?  Anyway, it was good volume; it keeps up with the humour and action.
Rating:  7/10

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Negima! Magister Negi Magi Volume 20

VOL. 20
178 – Summer!  Beach!  Confession!?

A fairly boring chapter, but it was funny how the others apparently gave up and then said they might just apparently meet up with the rest of the group later in Britain.  It was a standard story after that, and the pacing feels so slow now.

179 – She’s the One for Negi!?

Anya makes her full appearance here, and she gets pretty much everyone (except Negi) on edge.  They view each other as enemies for Negi’s affection, it sure does go over the top here, at least Anya is closer to Negi’s age than all of them.  It was a pretty good chapter and I don't think Negi likes Anya the way the others are thinking, since they are just childhood friends and Negi doesn't act like it.

180 – Explosion!  Negi Wars

A good chapter, although it’s another one of those where everyone fights for Negi, it was done well here.  Anya shows affection, but Negi is still quite clueless about everything.  What happened at night was quite funny when they tried to get next to Negi (can't believe he actually slept through the whole thing…).

181 – I Need to Tell You Something!

More mayhem as Anya is still here.  It was an okay chapter not as great as the previous one, but still pretty decent in and of itself.  It was funny seeing how Anya was surprised at everyone’s ability (and how powerful they have become).

182 – Negi Party, All Ready!

A chapter that doesn’t have much happening in it.  So, it was a bit boring to read, at least by the end of the chapter, the party is finally heading off to Wales (where hopefully, more interesting things will occur).

183 – Full of Memories

If you had expected Negi had arrived in Wales already in this chapter, you’re wrong.  The whole chapter is the ‘memories’ of what happened during the first half of the summer vacation.  It’s not that it’s bad, but it feels like a waste of time when other things could be happening.

184 – Negi Party Departs to London!!

A better chapter than the last; Negi and pretty much the whole class has arrived, and they meet up (of all things, they managed to spot each other even though Wales is such a big place, I initially thought they’ll never meet up).  The ending was good too, when it was revealed that all the villagers from Negi’s village during that night were kept there…

185 – Starting Point for the Future!!

A shaky chapter; I liked the first part where Negi visits all the villagers turned into stone.  The latter part where Ayaka and her group tries to follow Negi is a bit iffy and typical, and feels waaaaay too overdone by now.

186 – Welcome to Another World!!

*sigh*, as much as I wanted it to not happen, the other students that’s not in Negi’s party managed to sneak into the magic country.  It’s fairly annoying given that they’re probably going to cause problems, and so much for the ‘strict procedures’.  The ending was good though when Negi got stabbed in the heart…


I always get the feeling that Negima takes forever to get to the next point.  It’s like they reveal what’s the next objective, but then the next five or so chapters it taken up by a lot of preparation and other stuff that isn’t necessarily fun to read.  It’s the case with this volume, with everything before Chapter 185 being essentially irrelevant.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Book Review: Cardcaptor Sakura Vol. 4

Review:  #155
Title:  Cardcaptor Sakura Vol. 4
Series:  Cardcaptor Sakura - 4th volume
Author:  Clamp
Read Before:  no
My Comments:  A great volume with great stories.  It continues on from Volume 3 with the capturing of the Maze card, which was pretty nice, but wasn't spectacular, the way it was resolved felt a bit cheaty, but hey, it works, as it provides a sense of mysteriousness to Mizuki (who seems to be very powerful).  The next two chapters are where the volume shines, both in terms of what happens and the atmosphere, the personalities of the characters shines through, there is a lot of great humour, and the relationships between each character grows and develops.  This is also one of the more interesting Clow Cards too, the Erase card, where it starts to ‘erase’ everyone and make them disappear, I couldn't guess which card it could be when the students started disappearing.  The final chapter wasn't bad as such, the Clow Card is a boring one (since it has a ‘gentle’ personality’), but it really focuses on the relationships and rivalry of Sakura and Li anyway, and it was well played here.  All in all, I was hooked into this volume and enjoyed it a lot.
Rating:  7/10

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Toy Review: Transformers PCC Bombshock w/ Combaticons

Review:  #70
Name:  Bombshock w/ Combaticons
Brand:  Transformers
Allegiance:  Decepticon
Line:  PowerCore Combiners
Year of Release:  2010
Size Class:  Commanders with Drones (Wave 1)
Variations:  core robot repainted into Steelshot, while the drones were repainted for PCC Stakeout and Crankcase


Bombshock transforms into a twin-barreled artillery cannon truck.  It has a fairly realistic colour scheme but you can't help but feel the turret is to big, out of proportion with the rest of the truck.  All six wheels roll which is a really nice touch.

He is a bit disappointing from the back, with two bright blue combiner ports sticking out, it wouldn't be so bad if the colours didn't clash so much with the rest of the truck.

There's an unsightly gap at the back, you know, the engineers could have easily molded the elbow joint such that you can flip the arms around and hide the combiner ports, therefore filling the gap and making the back look better.

The turret itself is fully rotatable, but it might catch slightly on some stuff.  However, as you rotate the turret, you do reveal the legs.  The side panels also do not peg like they are supposed to, probably because of an assembly error that a lot of people have gotten.

You can pretty much see the whole of the robots on the underside.

Since this is a 5-pack robot, it's smaller than you would expect.  Still clearly bigger than a legends class, but as a scout, he's fairly small.

It's a good vehicle mode overall, the turret takes most of the bulk but considering this is effectively a triple changer, the compromises can be forgiven.


Now for the auto-transforming drone vehicles.  The first one which forms the right leg is an APC.  This is one of the better and more stable drones, but as an leg and as a vehicle.  The small gun on top is rotatable.  Some nice details, but fairly bland to be honest.

This armoured car drone form the left leg and is easily the worst of the set.  The twin missiles on top are rotatable, but the obvious seam lines wreck this car, as well as the cutesy proportions.  It doesn't help that this sucks as a leg.

The missile carrier drone is another mediocre drone.  It looks good but there are some heavy compromises for the auto-transforming gimmick.  Apart from which the missiles and the front plow being instantly identifiable, the driver's compartment is pretty much non-existent.  However, there are a lot of paint for such a small drone.

And lastly is the tank drone.  Another one where the transforming gimmick made some compromises, with a loose 'claw' at the back and a huge seam splitting it in half.  The turret is rotatable and he has four tiny wheels underneath for rolling.

Overall, a very bland set of drones, and there are flaws.  However, as a set, they look great together, both in terms of a military theme and their colour scheme.


A very simple transformation, yet it's very effective.  For such a small figure to do so much, forming a robot and a torso, the liberties taken are easily forgivable.  It's actually quite ingenious at how the turret folds over the normal robot's chest and head to form the combined mode's chest and head.  True, the combined ports get in the way, mainly aesthetically.  Terribly simple but this just means it's fun to convert between the two modes.


First thing you'd notice about Bombshock's body is that there's some unusual proportions, the legs are thick and chunky, and there's two absurdly long cannons behind his back.  You can tell straight away Bombshock has some Onslaught elements so it's a bit weird why they just didn't name him that.

The turret, once again, is one of Bombshock's shortcomings, it's simply too big and since it takes most of the mass the budget allows, it leaves the core robot being very small.  Size is another thing you'd notice about Bombshock straight away, he's tiny!  However, taking in effect how small some of the recent DOTM Commanders are, he isn't so bad...

Now, those bright blue combiner ports are very visible, and more often than not, a liability.  However, the ones behind Bombshock's legs can be used much more effectively, as heelspurs.  They greatly help him to stand out, as if you leave them stored in the legs like the instructions suggest, you'll have to lean him forward in order for him to stand up.

There are a few different ways to arrange the backpack, and you can compact is a bit more so the cannons aren't shooting straight up.  There's pros and cons against each configurations though, since they all have something about them that isn't 'just right'.

The cannons are on a hinge so you can point them forward, allow Bombshock to at least utilize some sort of weapon in robot mode.

The head sculpt is average, it's small though, and this, combined with the panel on his back, makes it hard to get a grip and turn the head from side to side.  Oh, and it's also pretty hard to get the camera to focus on it.

As mentioned, when compared to his brethren, he's fairly small, and this does work against him.

The poseability is okay, he's got the joints, but some are really tight, while others have things getting in the way.  Especially restricted are his knees, since they're so high up (a liberty taken for his combined mode), and his feet so big, you can't get much of a range for swiveling and bending.  Overall, considering what they had to do, it's a decent figure.


The combined mode is where Bombshock is stronger at.  It's supposed to evoke Bruticus and you really do see that here.  One complaint is that it seems too spindly to look menacing, couple that with the fact that one arm is longer than the other, and the awkwardly angled elbows, and it's not as good as it seemed at first sight.  The left leg, at least on mine (and I know there's this issue with some other pieces as well),has a hard time staying on properly, as far as I can discern, it's due to the fact that the spring is too strong, pushing the plug out.

I can, however, say this, the auto-transforming gimmick of the limbs are pretty cool to see in action.  They're not enough to compensate for the fact they don't transform into robots, but it's a neat little feature.  Bombshock can be a bit hard to balance in any sort of action pose, so most of the joints are wasted and his left 'hand' just flop, which is annoying.

The head sculpt looks really really good, and I like it.  The cannons are proportioned much better now.  The head can only turn from side to side.  All in all, an okay combined mode, and considering it was only the first wave, and latter waves improved upon this concept, it's a job well done (except for the pricing of these sets).


It's a decent set, but I wouldn't really recommend this unless you find it on clearance or at least a very good sales price.  It's not bad, but there are a lot of compromises taken to make sure that this works, and it kinda ruins the figure overall.  The engineering is impressive and it's a fun figure overall, but if you're only into these things for displaying, then steer clear from Bombshock and his Combaticons.


60+ other reviews await you here if you have the inclination to read some more.
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