Friday, May 30, 2014

To Love-Ru Darkness Vol. 10

VOL. 10

37 – True Character

So... instead of us seeing the events leading up to the malfunction of yet another of Lala’s inventions, we get to skip straight into the “disaster” phase.  Nowadays, it’s not so much Rito’s clumsiness that gets him into “awkward” situations but he’s just at the wrong place at the wrong time.  Still, that’s still no excuse to barge into a changing room without a thought when experience dictates something unpleasant will happen to him (okay, so he gets some very pleasant first so the punishment is probably worth it).

What was the whole point of this chapter?  Mea reveals her power to the school (and no one cares that yet another alien has appeared) and Yami spouts some cringe-worthy monologue recognizing Mea as her sister.  Oh well, it could be a lot worse.

38 – Clinic

Putting the focus upon Yami and her relationships, this time with Tearju, it wasn’t too horrible.  It could have been worse and the author could have put some more cheesy sentimental stuff in there.  As it is, there were some gags which were funny due to the irony since it involves Rito being turned into a female again.

It was good that the author resisted the urge to have Rito save the day again and with everyone hiding their feelings from him.  This chapter was also an excuse quite a few characters into nurse uniforms.  The events get very predictable once the chapter starts to near the end.

39 – The Beginning of Darkness

As you can tell from the title, the chapter will focus on Yami, Mea or Nemesis.  In fact, it focuses upon all three.  It starts with a bit of ecchi, as you do.  Then onward where Rito stumbles and Yami tries to kill him (of course, she does not succeed and it is all for show).

Then comes the reflective part in which Yami accepts her life here.  Then the twist comes where it pushes the plot marginally forward.  It will be interesting to see where this leads as it is something we have not seen before.

Nemesis ends up being able to “activate” Yami and Mea and I really hope that this doesn’t turn out to be some dud or anticlimactic.

40 – Release of Darkness

The chapter continues straight after the previous with Nemesis presenting an exposition on the events.  While it’s good and all, the chapter picks up around halfway when Yami transforms into a more powerful version, complete with a new outfit.  While the outfit looks nice with the horns and claws, it’s also much more revealing which will either sit well with you or not.

Personally, I would have preferred some black armor but this is To Love-Ru, we must have some fan service in here.  It’s hard to take the rest of the chapter seriously when it ends up being funny.  The gravity of the situation isn’t conveyed well; maybe this was the intention, maybe not.  Either way, it was funny with the fan service at the end and of course, it must end in another cliffhanger.

Extra – Moonlight

Celine grows up!!  This was somewhat hinted back in Chapter 35 but it was still a surprise.  At least the author resisted the urge to create some of the more... extreme fan service when it came to involving Celine (truth be told, there weren’t massive amounts here, which was good).  The ending was very abrupt though as you would have expected Rito and Mikan to wake up and do that whole shouting business.

Extra – Photography

Extras seem to have the trend of having more fan service than normal and so I was expecting the author to set a new record.  Combine this with the title, “Photography” and you have an idea of something pervy.  Rito ends up taking gravure photos of Run yet the ecchi never went overboard.  What’s more, there were a few chuckles along the way and it ended up being quite amusing.  It was actually one of the more funny chapters in a while that also didn’t feel forced.


The volume once again focuses upon Yami and her relationships with Tearju and Mea.  This is interspersed with Rito getting clumsy and smashed.  However, the final two chapters bring the fun on a trajectory upwards.  The fan service toned down, humour went up and things got more interesting.  Hopefully, this trend will continue.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

As with other book adaptations, the movie must make some concessions in terms of what to keep and what to discard.  This movie keeps most of the core and important plot points, enough to make the story coherent and understandable.  It does well transitioning the ideas and designs, making you want to see more of this world.  Hogwarts is huge and immense, just like it should be but the number of students during the scene in the great hall makes it seem that there are way too less students and the rooms seem smaller than they should.  Harry Potter's normal school life gets glimpsed over but the Quidditch match was exciting and fun to watch.  It's a shame that they couldn't fit in all of the trials at the end because they were some of the best bits in the film.  That said, by that point, the film was over the 2 hour mark and I don't think it would benefit from being even longer.  If you have read the book though, there's no surprises, yes, they are changes here and there but it can get a little bit boring when you know what's coming next (this is a common complaint with book adaptations in general).  Overall, one of the better and more enjoyable Harry Potter films (the latter films are too hard and complex to understand if you haven't read the source material).

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Book Review: The Carnivorous Carnival

Review:  #428
Title:  The Carnivorous Carnival
Series:  A Series of Unfortunate Events - 9th book
Author:  Lemony Snicket
Read Before:  yes
My Comments:  Not as repetitive as the previous books, the story was interesting.  It still does way too much teasing of revelations when it does not deliver.  This is getting tiresome, even though it is a trademark of this series.  Not sure why the population of this world is so stupid (M           adame Lulu, the freaks and the carnival patrons), it’s frustrating.  The ending was good, being a cliffhanger and it shows how evil Olaf is.  Other than that, the plot and writing doesn’t stand out too much.  Nothing important happens and you can safely skip this book and not miss much.
Rating:  6/10

Monday, May 26, 2014

Muramasa Rebirth (Vita)

Muramasa Rebirth is an enhanced port of the original Wii game.  It's mainly the same game with a few minor additions (obvious ones being Trophy support and slicker visuals).  One look at Muramasa and you can see the art direction is unique and different to the majority of games.  Strikingly beautiful, the environmental backdrops are stunning and amazing.  Angles and outlines are sharp yet the shading and vibrant colours used make the game pop out.  You almost want to a screenshot, print it out and hang it up on your wall, it is literally a piece of art.  The main characters' designs are equally good, Momohime looks elegant and able to dish out damage while Kisuke is wild and speedy.  The character animations are smooth and without a hitch, even when there are numerous enemies on screen, the frame rate doesn't drop.

In terms of gameplay, Muramasa Rebirth is described as an action RPG.  However, the RPG elements are like, restricted to gaining experience to level up and equipping swords.  The game is a sidescroller brawler, normal attacks are mapped to square while special attacks to circle.  You have your standard button combinations that lets you dodge, roll, combo and jump.  The twist here is that your character equips three swords at one time such that you can switch blades whenever you want.  This is an important gameplay element as blocking and using special attacks depletes a bar and once it's empty, you sword breaks, significantly weakening your offensive abilities.  Potentially, you can get into the whole routine of button mashing; this is especially true in the earlier sections where enemies are easier.

Later on, you tend to have to dodge and time your attacks, as well as watching out when to switch your blades.  That said, simply overpowering your enemies still works, especially when dodging requires an awkward button combination that takes getting used to.  Pulling off an awesome combo like knocking your enemy skyward, rapidly striking them while airborne and then slamming them back down into the ground is satisfying and presents a nice visual spectacle.  As mentioned, you fight on a 2D plane, there isn't multiple "planes" (i.e. not a 2.5D game) but Muramasa does have some verticality.  It's nothing major and most of the time you just go from left to right or vice versa.  While you can explore, there isn't any true rewards.

Uniquely, there are two stories to play through, Momohime and Kisuke.  Momohime's story starts off confusing.  Upon beginning a new game, you're immediately thrust into a tutorial with no cutscene explaining anything.  The first half hour can get confusing as you're trekking onwards fighting random enemies with no idea why.  As you interact with NPCs and the background starts to unfold, you understand more.  While it isn't the most addictive story, it's passable and gets better as it progresses.  Basically, Momohime's is about a demon taking over her body and the journey they experience, revolving around the Demon Blades.  The game breezes by and you feel as if you are advancing the story too quickly.  As a result, you feel as if the story isn't as fleshed out as it could have been.

You can easily finish Momohime's story in five hours the first time through, slowly taking in the sights, fighting all enemies and talking to everyone.  There's even a trophy for finishing the story mode in under three hours so that's saying how short the game could be.  The normal ending is a bit disappointing and after you defeat the final boss - which you might not even realize it was the final boss until the ending cutscene plays - you will be like, "is that it?".  Granted, the boss fight was exciting but it didn't feel like it was hard enough.  There are only two difficulties, a normal difficulty which feels too easy and a hard difficulty which can frustrate as you will only ever have 1 HP (one hit KO), there's no inbetween.  Kisuke's story isn't as interesting as Momohime's but still engages you by around halfway into it.  Kisuke's story is distinct and doesn't crossover with Momohime's apart from some brief cameos.  His story is about him losing his memory and saving the one he loves.

There were more closure in Kisuke's story which makes it having a better ending out of the two.  There were some sweet moments, although you could tell where it was going, it was still great.  Kisuke's bosses are more imaginative, allowing you to fight giant spiders, centipedes, dragons and the like.  However, the already easy difficulty was taken down another notch, making it super easy to breeze through.  I found it interesting that characters kept their Japanese voice actors and that the whole game has spoken Japanese dialogue.  It keeps an authentic feel to the game since it is set in Japan, all text are translated into English so don't worry about missing out on anything.  Everything is subtitled and the translation is fantastic.

One small hiccup in the control scheme is that you use "x" to talk to NPCs, this happens to be the button for jumping as well.  Therefore, you need to align yourself just right in order to engage in conversation instead of accidentally jumping.  It can get slightly annoying considering that the game doesn't even use two of the physical buttons available on the Vita.  The game employs random battles in that while you're happily running from one side to the other, the camera will suddenly lock and enemies appear, it's an interesting take.  The music has a classic Japanese twist but isn't too spectacular.  There are a few areas where it'll make you perk your ears but most of the time, you tend to zone it out.  Overall, Muramasa Rebirth is a fantastic game.  It's has plenty of eye-candy and while it may be a tad easy, the combat is fun and never outstays its welcome.


Feel free to have a look at some other game reviews here.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Puss in Boots

Surprisingly good.  It's easy to be hesitant after the questionable quality of Shrek the Third and Shrek Forever After but Puss in Boots hits all the right notes.  It is charming and has a solid story with references and jokes scattered throughout the whole film.  There isn't as many clever humour as you would have hoped since there are a some tired old gags throughout the film.  The story is engaging and presents a nice twist to the classic fairy tale, Jack and the Beanstalk.  There were a few scenes where it was predictable although I was surprised at how Humpty Dumpty turned out in the end (thought he was a rotten egg through and through).  The animation is slick, bright and colourful (very pleasing to the eyes).  I was surprised that the world in Puss in Boots is so unrecognisable and feels so much different to Shrek's world (in which this film is a spin-off from).  Unlike Shrek, in Puss in Boots, most of the characters we see are humans and there aren't any super fantastical areas or designs.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Book Review: The Hostile Hospital

Review:  #427
Title:  The Hostile Hospital
Series:  A Series of Unfortunate Events - 8th book
Author:  Lemony Snicket
Read Before:  yes
My Comments:  Once again, the author tantalizes you by revealing more pieces of evidence that the Baudelaires get close to, but never succeeding in getting it.  Thus you’re left in the dark, wondering what the big secret could be, once again.  It would be okay if some questions are answered but it just keeps building.  The story is better in that there are no annoying guardians of the Baudelaires that don’t believe them when Olaf comes along.  The bad news is that the plot structure feels very similar.  The Baudelaires go somewhere, Olaf follows, Baudelaires wreck Olaf’s scheme, repeat.  The ending was different enough to be interesting since it is a cliffhanger of sorts.  There were fewer events here that would make you roll your eyes.  There were still a few sections where you felt the author was padding it out and taking it on a tangent.
Rating:  6/10

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

True Lies

This film perfectly blends comedy and action together to create something, that while it's over two hours long, just goes by at the blink of an eye.  The dialogue was funny, and the stunts were visually spectacular.  The premise isn't amazing but it was clever in its execution.  There was a period in the middle of the movie where the terrorist threats had taken a back seat and it was all about finding out about the affair of the character's wife.  It was such a strong focus in that segment that you start to wonder if the threat was forgotten (it wasn't).  The same kind of feeling appears near the end of the film, where after the rescue you thought that the film must be near its end, but what about the main antagonist?  Nope, they hadn't forgotten.  That said, at the end, it did get to the point where they went from exaggerating to outright improbably, especially with all the collateral damage.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Book Review: The Vile Village

Review:  #426
Title:  The Vile Village
Series:  A Series of Unfortunate Events - 7th book
Author:  Lemony Snicket
Read Before:  no
My Comments:  A decent sequel in which the Baudelaires win some but lose more in return.  Once again, their guardians are too blinded to see through the disguise of Count Olaf, and once again, the world A Series of Unfortunate Events are filled with stupid people with weird traits.  The repetitiveness of some phrases, while one of the iconic elements of the series, starts to get grating.  You can’t help but feel that it is acting as filler to pad the book out.  The ending was good, breaking the mold from the previous six books.  There seems to be some missed opportunities here for some clever plot elements.  For example, Klaus could have thought up of an awesome argument to twist things to the way he wants but instead, it was just a simple event where he spouts out one line and that’s that.  It can feel frustrating with the unfairness the Baudelaires have to endure.
Rating:  6/10

Monday, May 19, 2014

Hungry Giraffe (Vita)

Originally for the iOS and later ported to PSP and Vita, this game is an endless "climber" in which the basic premise is that you control a giraffe whose neck extends as you stuff its face with more and more food.  The only reason that you get for doing this comes from the title, there is no story, no text and no cutscenes.  This is understandable considering that this is a PlayStation Mini.  That said, the mobile elements are still apparent, even when you pay good money for this game.  The gameplay revolves around using the left stick to move your giraffe left and right (alternatively, you can use the motion control, which is less accurate), aiming for food which will give you momentum to reach higher and higher, while at the same time avoiding obstacles.

These obstacles range from anvils (knocks you back down), poison (blocks part of the screen) and pills (weird effects such as mirroring controls or stops all input).  Now, the most annoying feature of this game is that once you hit an obstacle, there's something like a 15% chance of managing to get enough food to stop your descent and claw back up to continue.  Most of the time, you die and you have to repeat the stage again.  Sure, there are power ups that you can buy which lets you recover instantly but the fact that it's down to luck and not skill on whether there is enough food to regain your momentum is frustrating and evil.  There are ten stages in all, after which it loops back to the first stage.  Each level has a slightly different background (playing into the climbing theme, you start off in a forest and then eventually get to outer space.

As you'd expect, the higher the stage, the more difficult it is.  Be prepared to die quite a bit when you first reach Stage 10 as there are some areas with sparse food such that if you miss one, it's game over.  The obstacle patterns tend to repeat, this is a case where if you play the game long enough, you will be able to breeze through the level.  Of course, once it starts to loop, the difficulty starts to drop back down and slowly rises again.  You can finish all ten stages in around an hour if you keep dying and much quicker if you're proficient.  Now, you earn "calories" for each food item you eat and there are the in-game currency to which you buy upgrades or items which saves you.  This is also where the greed comes in.  You can opt to pay real money (on top on what you paid to get the game) to get more of this in-game currency.

The in-game currency accumulates so slowly and the upgrades are excessively expensive (and there's no multiplier that you can earn like other endless runners) that it makes it obvious the developers really want you to spend the extra dough.  The Vita version comes with Trophy support, which is always awesome except... the trophies are very grindy.  It is estimated to take 50 hours for one of them because you have to accumulate enough points through normal play with no way to fast forward this.  To those perfect 100% trophy completionists, have fun.  I am not going to waste my time doing that as Hungry Giraffe is nowhere near good enough to waste my time on.  That's the problem with it, you play one stage, you've played them all.  The gameplay is too simple and repetitive to keep your attention.

The developers should have added in some sort of objective system to keep it fresher.  The only other reason you would ever come back is to beat your high score.  The graphics are mediocre, I mean, this kind of game doesn't benefit from high-end graphics so what you get is what you would expect.  The music is also average, it seems to have this classical touch to it and it's soothing to listen to when playing (except when you keep dying for no good reason).  On the whole Hungry Giraffe is a simple and repetitive game that I would expect to get as a free app on your phone, not something that I would pay money for and definitely not something I would use even more money on in-app purchases.  Ignoring that factor, this is still a fairly bland game, save your Vita for worthier games and download better alternatives on your phone (Frogger, Temple Run etc).


More game reviews can be found on this page.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Child of Light - Deluxe Edition

Child of Light is a RPG with a striking artistic direction.  It is a digital only release but there was a Deluxe Edition produced which was sold in stores at a slight premium due to the extra bits and pieces you get.

Above is the promotional advert of the contents.  In a list, you get:
- Official Deluxe Box
- Code for digital version of the game
- Two DLC packs (Dark Pack and Golem's Plight Pack)
- A2 sized poster
- 24 page artbook
- Key ring

Photo of those items out of box:

Unfortunately, they had to fold the poster in order to fit it into the box.  It also feels somewhat weird not to have a physical copy of the game in this collector-ish edition.

Official Deluxe Box

For one reason or another, I always feel it lame that the box is specifically noted as part of the Collector's/Deluxe Edition like it is some special thing.  If it was a steel cover it wouldn't be so bad.  As it is, it's a cardboard box that contains everything.

The back contains some screenshots of the game as well as the contents.  It is actually a nice presentation and feels special.

A photo of the front cover which doesn't feel any special artwork, it's the same as the standard cover art for all promotions of the game.

Now a scan of the back which mentions exclusive content to entice the target market.

The Game

As mentioned, there is no physical copy of the game, Child of Light is digital only, which is a shame.  As such, you get a flyer which contains the code to redeem the game.  Of note is that if you purchase the PlayStation version (Deluxe Edition is apparently only available for PC and PlayStation), it is a cross-buy title and you get the PS3 and PS4 versions together, that's pretty awesome considering that you don't pay any extra.

Please check out this page if you want to read about my thoughts on the game.


Child of Light launched with seven Day One DLCs, of which two is included here.  The Golem's Plight Pack which is an extra quest and playable character; and the Dark Pack which is a new outfit and some items.  Buying these two separately would cost about $5 which makes up half of the extra money you pay over just the game alone.

A2 Poster

There is an A2 sized poster of the main character, Aurora.  While the art style might not be in your tastes, it's a good size and quality.  Only negative is that it has creases from being folded up.  The poster was way too big for my scanner so I'll have to make due with just the photo.


You get a 24 page artbook which shows off some "unrevealed" artwork.  The book quality is good, it's not hardback but made from stiff paper.  At only 24 pages, it does feel small and thin.  Overall though, it's still a nice bonus.  I have included a small 4 page sample below for your viewing pleasure.

Key Ring

The final item in this pack is also the most substantial.  It's an Igniculus key ring.  Igniculus is the guide in the game.

A sweet bonus I didn't realise until I had it in hand was that it can light up.  It uses three watch batteries though but very cool.


At only a slight premium, you get some nice extras which more than makes up for that price difference.  That's not to mention that the game is very good and the whole package is nice.  Definitely recommended if you can find this version at a decent price.


Game reviews can be found here.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

The Amazing Spider-Man 2

The international trailer for The Amazing Spider-Man 2 made the film look really good and hyped it up but when initial reviews came in noting with three villains, not enough time was spent developing them as characters, I was a bit wary.  In the end, Amazing Spider-Man 2 pulled it off.  Similarly with Spider-Man 3, it focuses on one villain, Electro, and the other two villains becomes more prominent at the climax.  The structure of the movie also comes off as familiar.  You start off with shots of Spider-Man swinging across the city, fighting crime and doing what he does best.  This part is fantastic and fun.  Next comes most of the movie in which Spider-Man does not appear and we get to see how Peter Parker's life breaks down.  A significant amount of time is spent on Peter's relationship with Gwen and while it isn't exactly boring, it's not like you can't tear your eyes away from it.  There were also more than a few... odd moments in which the film does some stupid things.  Not only is it improbable but sometimes you wonder if the writers were insulting the viewers' intelligence.

After all the romance (where it can be sad and you sympathize for Peter) comes the highly anticipated climax in which is does not disappoint.  A minor spoiler here but Spider-Man does not fight all three villains at once.  Anyway, they also pulled off something catastrophic and if you didn't see it coming, you would be shocked.  They kept it faithful to the source material but it's sad now that something is going to be missing in the sequel.  The emotional impact to Peter and Spider-Man at the end of the film felt natural and believable.  The ending was such a tease and I wanted more.  Once the film's finished, you do feel as though they could have cut some subplots out.  The mid-credits scene is disappointing in that it's a cross promotion with the new X-Men movie.  Anyway, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is a much better film than the boring one that came before, with witty remarks by Spider-Man and exciting fight scenes (even if the CGI can be really heavy at times).

Mr. & Mrs. Smith

The concept of the movie is excellent, in that a married couple does not know that their partner is an assassin, and their respective agencies end up forcing them to kill each other.  This is one of those times where the execution is a bit lacking, as the first hour is a drag.  The pacing was slow even when the characters found out the truth about each other.  It's only when they realize their love and team up that the chemistry and charisma between them bloom.  The dialogue improves massively in their jabs against each other, and the action explodes.  While the second half of the film was good, it comes too late as it does not feel worthwhile after the slog that is the beginning.  The ending was abrupt, they destroyed their adversaries but then it ends pretty much there.  So what happened afterwards?  Did their agencies just give up?

Friday, May 16, 2014

Book Review: The Ersatz Elevator

Review:  #425
Title:  The Ersatz Elevator
Series:  A Series of Unfortunate Events - 6th book
Author:  Lemony Snicket
Read Before:  yes
My Comments:  While the style of writing is starting to get tiring and overused, it wasn’t as bad here in this book.  Sure, the author used the word “ersatz” a lot, and a lot of events and writing felt contrived.  The overall plot was entertaining but it is missing some cleverness.  If Olaf’s plans had been cleverer instead of just a simple plot with the author masking it with a lot of exposition and monologue, then it would be easier to stomach.  The ways the Baudelaires get out of trouble is getting harder to believe or probable.  Either way, the story is still interesting enough to keep your attention although it sucks that the author keeps teasing what V.F.D. is and how the Baudelaires never truly win in the end.
Rating:  6/10

Blogger Widget