Wednesday, July 6, 2022

My Hero One’s Justice (PS4)


My Hero One’s Justice is a fighting game based upon the popular anime My Hero Academia (not sure why they butchered the title of this game so that it cuts out part of the anime’s title and does not make much sense in English either). Like many anime inspired games, it is a 3D brawler arena fighting game. The roster is fairly good, covering most of the main characters up to, and including, Season 3 of the anime. However, it’s still only twenty characters which means you’ll end up quickly running out of new characters to try.


There is a story mode that runs through the events of Seasons 2 and 3 of the anime. It’s a weird decision to pick those parts, as it starts during the middle of Season 2 (but will end up quickly covering the start of it as well), with only a 2 minute summary of the setting and background of the story. So if you have never seen the anime before, then it is confusing, and if you have watched the anime, it’s told too quickly to build the same level of hype and emotions that the anime did. It covers up until the middle of Season 3, with an unsatisfactory climax cutscene, especially compared to the anime. All in all, the story mode is there because the developers needed to put some single player content, and truth be told, it could have been a lot worse.


The story is told via static cutscenes that mimic comic book / manga panels, which suits the source material perfectly. It’s completely voiced, with Japanese voiceovers only, and uses the same voice actors as the anime. There will be some scenes where it uses the 3D models of the game but those are rare. This is the part where it is understandable why the developers started midway through the second season, since it’s where the fights start to occur more frequently, and so can pace the story better.


The story mode is structured in such a way that you select the mission, watch a short cutscene before, play the battle, and then watch a cutscene after. It’s simple but it works. As a fighting game, the controls make or break the game. As a casual player, it’s very easy to pick up the game. From its roster of twenty characters, each character has your basic attack, block and dash. What sets each one apart are their quirks, the in-universe terminology for each character’s superpowers.


The cool thing with the game is that some thought was given in how to adapt each character’s quirks into their moveset. It does make everyone unique in their playstyle. We have Ida who’s built for speed, and then Kaminari who after using his ultimate move, will lose control for a while as he “fries his brains”, just like the anime. Each character has two quirk attacks mapped to two face buttons, with future Plus Ultra moves once certain gauges are full.


Furthermore, you can bring in sidekicks. There are gauges that charge and once it’s full, you can summon the sidekicks to attack before disappearing again. It’s a fun system even if you’re not proficient at it, although you have to get used to how the camera works. It doesn’t follow behind your character, rather it likes to follow behind your opponent instead, so it can feel weird. Once you complete a match, you get graded based on the variety of your moves, and other techniques that you’ve used.


You will need to be familiar with the characters that you end up using. Each character has a different attacking range and so can be really annoying when you fire off an ultimate attack, only for it to miss, or even worse, be cut short when the opponent hits you. Characters’ attack start up animations also vary quite a bit, you might be surprised when using a new character how slow they may attack and so get counterattacked relentlessly by your opponent. The AI also tends to like to constantly run around the arena, which is really annoying when most characters’ attack ranges are short. If you end up dashing towards them recklessly, you’ll get combo’d. It’s little things like these that makes the game rough.


The graphics are decent, it matches it’s source material fairly well. The stages are inspired by the events in the story mode, so you’ll get to fight in Gran Torino’s room, or in the alleyway against Stain, or at U.A.. Yes, the environments can look simple and drab, but this is obviously a lower budget game so you’ll have to end up giving it some slack.


The story mode isn’t too long, there are actually two sides of the story, the Hero Side and the Villain Side. As you can guess, it tells the same events, but from the different viewpoints of the heroes and villains. While it closely follows the anime, there are some minor points where it explores a little bit more, but it’s so minor that it’s not really worth playing through the whole thing just to see if you weren’t interested. Each side takes around two to three hours, so all told, it’s four to six hours of story content, which isn’t too bad, although you have to consider it is repetitive stuff (cutscenes and single battles).


There are a few other modes to try out once you’ve finished the story. The Arcade mode pits you against six CPU opponents. Completing it unlocks more cosmetics items to dress up the characters. Cosmetics are a big thing with the game, as they are the primary form of rewards. The Training mode allows you to practice moves against a CPU opponent. Local allows you to fight either CPU opponents or another player locally using a second controller. Online is self-explanatory, as you battle against others on the internet. You also earn coins for everything you do in the game which is used to unlock more items.


The Mission mode is the other meaty single player mode. It presents you a “map”, filled with “missions”. These are just fanciers terms for a chain of battles in order to progress to the end. You gain points in each mission and get a final grade at the end. It also includes some minor RPG elements, such as experience points and increasing the levels of the characters. This is where the downside is, as there are only six maps, but they rapidly scale up in level requirements that it is practically compulsory to grind levels so that you don’t die in one combo on the higher difficulties. Each mission may also have a different win condition like no guarding or the opponent have increased defence. You can use items to remove some of these barriers but it does feel too grindy in the end.


Overall, My Hero One’s Justice is a passable first attempt at a fighting game based upon the popular manga and anime series. You have to be a fan to fully appreciate the game, but you’ll still have some fun if you aren’t. Being a fighting game, it can get repetitive if you only play the single player stuff, such as the Story and Mission modes, however, the game does provide quite a bit of content, more than you would expect. The game mechanics are easy enough to pick up but will seem clunkier than expected at first, so you will require some time to get used to it. It’s far from being an amazing game but you will still have some enjoyment out of playing it.

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Sunday, July 3, 2022

Toy Review: Transformers Generations Legacy Dragstrip (Deluxe)


Review: 
#724
Name:  Dragstrip
Brand:  Transformers
Allegiance:  Decepticon
Line:  Generations - Legacy
Year of Release:  2022
Size Class:  Deluxe (Wave 1)
Mold Status:  new

VEHICLE MODE:


Heavily based upon his G1 incarnation, much more so than the Combiner Wars version, Dragstrip transforms into a six-wheeled race car.


It's a very rectangular vehicle mode, but this is done really well, there's really no flaws here.


In terms of size, he is actually pretty decent, approximately the same size as TLK Bumblebee.


The pair of robot guns can peg on each side.


One thing that's interesting is that there is an exposed cockpit with the seat.  The seat is actually the head, so this somewhat justifies the hollow head (even though it feels weird in robot mode).


All six wheels roll, but the car overall is close to the ground, which is what you'd expect of a race car.


This is a decent vehicle mode, it looks great.

TRANSFORMATION:

You would expect a simple transformation but Dragstrip has some interesting elements, while still remaining accessible.  The front splits into two to form the shoulders and arms, and there are pylons that help give him the shoulder width in robot mode.  While the cockpit lifts up and rotates to form the robot torso.  Finally, the back splits into two and extends to form the legs, with the spoiler halves flipping down to form the feet.

ROBOT MODE:


Dragstrip's robot mode is much more accurate to his G1 self than any Generations-esque toy released before this.


He has no kibble, which is pretty impressive, although the trade-off for this feat is that the robot mode is quite rectangular as well.


The head sculpt is good, as mentioned before, the back of the head is hollow.


He's approximately the height of a normal Deluxe, so he's pretty well sized all in all.


You might think that there is too much yellow, but it isn't too bad in hand.


He has plenty of articulation, with joints for his head, shoulders, elbows, waist, hips, knees and ankles.


He comes with a pair of guns.


Of course he can hold a gun in each hand.


Thanks to the ankle joints, he poses really easily.  There are some neat design elements too like the second wheel on each shoulder folder back to free up some articulation while still keeping the spirit of the original design.


The guns can also peg together to form a double-barrelled blaster.


If you don't want to use the guns, they can store at the back of his legs.


A fantastic robot mode, and much better than stock photos would lead you to believe.

OVERALL:

Dragfoot is a fantastic figure.  It's one of those that's just a solid allrounder.  He may seem boring and bland at first glance, but he contains enough quirks to keep it interesting.  Plus, he's a component of Legacy Menasor so you'll have to get him anyway if you want to form the combiner.

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Friday, July 1, 2022

Kiznaiver (2016)


Kiznaiver is a twelve episode anime, that started off as an anime and did spawn a manga adaptation. It follows a group of seven high school students, although the lead is Agata. Agata feels no emotions or pain, but he was chosen along with the other six and became Kiznaivers. Basically, all seven of them now share a bond, and the most tangible aspect of that bond is that if any one of them feel pain, the others feel it as well. In effect, they share pain.


Each of the seven has vastly different backgrounds and personalities. In a normal situation, they would never have grouped together or become friends. At best, they would have just tolerated or acknowledged each other. However, now they are inexplicably linked, whether they like it or not, and have to understand each other as they now work as a team. The anime has slow pacing though, as it doesn’t reveal what their objective is for a while after the group forms.


By the time the halfway point arrives, you might still find yourself in the dark on just what the whole thing is about. By this point, we learn more about the interactivity of the pain shared between the group, but for what purpose? They are placed into unusual “tests” that they have to pass, so that data can be collected. There is apparently an experiment city that somehow has a role in all this. Although it’s hard to see the common threads between them.


This anime is produced by Trigger, well known for their other works such as Kill la Kill and SSSS.Gridman (although the latter was a released after this). Therefore as expected, the anime has a distinct aesthetics and the animation feels slick and fluid. It’s normally bright and colorful and brings with it, its own certain charms. Although also being a Trigger anime, there are some odd things and random reactions that happen over the course of the season.


The more interesting aspect comes later in the season, where we start to see the characters’ emotions being toyed with. As more and more information comes to light, you can’t help but feel sympathetic at the characters’ plight, and disgust at the people that put them there. They are put into situations that causes them a lot of pain, ruthlessly dragging out memories and emotions that they wanted to forget or hide. It does feel like the characters have to experience their darkest hour before we can get the typical idealistic ending that we’d expect.


One thing for sure is that the relationships between the characters within the group is a mess. Due to this, they are taken advantaged of. Stemming from this is the backstory of Agata and his lack of emotions or pain. Since it’s revealed late into the story, it feels consistent with the events that happened in the earlier episodes, and so you feel like it does a lot to explain what is currently going on.


The high is not sustainable though as the anime needs to wrap up, and it does so in a quick and messy way. To be fair, considering the subject matter and how it approached it, it was going to have a tough time executing the conclusion anyway. As a result, certain bits of the ending can feel extreme, while other bits feel lacking. It wraps up all the lingering plot points, albeit in a clumsy and inelegant way at times.


Overall, Kiznaiver is average. It’s not amazing but it’s not horrible either, just very average. The anime has the aesthetics and animation going for it, but the storytelling can be much stronger. Currently, it can be too slow paced in the beginning, but then loses focus and becomes messier towards the end when the more interesting aspects start to show.

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Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Omega Labyrinth Z (PS4)


Omega Labyrinth Z is a roguelike dungeon crawler that is a sequel to the Japanese only Omega Labyrinth. This game was originally going to be released in English but was infamously refused classification in Australia and UK, before being blocked by Sony themselves. As a result, there exists an English translation somewhere… but officially, it is only in Japanese, Chinese or Korean. This is a dungeon crawler with an extremely heavy dose of fan service, it’s to the point where it is right on the boundary about to cross over to adult content territory. From the dialogue at the very beginning and when you get to the first CG (and it doesn’t take long), you’ll understand why it was refused classification and why Sony America and Sony Europe were hesitant with the game.


This game is actually a sequel to the first Omega Labyrinth, and the story continues on here. After the events of the first game, we’re introduced to Akanezaki Rio, who had just healed after an injury forced her to take a decent time off school. Upon returning to the school, she learns that the Holy Grail had broken. She meets a fairy who tells her that the Holy Grail can be made whole again, and thus Rio pursues that goal. On the other hand, the returning cast of characters lead by Akemiya Aina soon meets with Rio as a new mysterious cave opens up at the school.


The majority of the game has Aina and Rio being rivals of sorts. Then, as per typical of these types of anime inspired games, they get to know each other and become friends. There are a few misunderstandings along the way, and a lot of small talk that shows off the backgrounds and personalities of each character. Thus, there’s not much complexity to the story and is a bit too straightforward at times, which are just the characters running through the dungeons that appear in order to chase the Holy Grail (or basically prevent the antagonist from getting it).


The bulk of the gameplay revolves around the dungeons, which are randomly generated. Characters take on a chibi form as they explore each floor of the dungeon tile by tile. You always start a dungeon at level 1, and can gather new weapons, armor and items on the way. You do keep your equipment throughout each dungeon (in addition to the standard weapon and shield category, there is also the… bra and panty category). There are traps hidden on the floor, which are annoying as you cannot see them until you actually trigger it. You can only carry a limited amount of items which quickly fills up your bag.


Enemies roam each floor, and even if you defeat one, they will respawn. When you do encounter an enemy, it’s turn-based to a degree. You perform an action and the enemy will perform an action. Attacking is easy, it’s at the press of a button, and that’s pretty much it. You can use items that have different effects including ones that give you a ranged or magical attack. Defeating enemies provide Omega Power, which act as experience points (as well as increasing the character’s bust size…). There is a stamina bar that slowly depletes (but can be refilled via items), and if you die, you lose all items in your bag at that time and have to restart the dungeon again. At least there is the option of a suspend save if you need to quit mid-dungeon.


If the constant mention of breasts doesn’t tip you off, then the various other gimmicks will. The sexual references and innuendoes are the tamer aspects of the fan service. You’ll encounter your first minigame when finding an item that needs to be appraised in the dungeon. How to you appraise it? The character puts the object (coincidentally shaped as a long stick) between their breasts, and you must either use the analogue sticks or the touchpad to squeeze the object… If that wasn’t enough, when you save your first character at the end of an early dungeon, a CG pops up with the character in a compromised position and once again, you use the analogue stick to touch the character in various places to free them. Finally, you’ll encounter hot springs in dungeons that can heal and gives buffs. In its more daring attempt yet, the CG is pretty much the character naked strategically covered with wisps of steam, and you need to touch various places again.  Although as if the developer had the foresight that these gimmicks will wear off pretty soon, you’re able to skip them in the future.


As is the nature of dungeon crawlers, it can be brutal if the game ends up wanting to serve you a string of bad luck. You might step on trap after trap, or worse yet, fall into rooms filled with an overwhelming number of monsters again and again… while triggering traps as you desperately try to survive. You lose your items if you die in a dungeon (whereas if your partner dies, they’ll respawn at the next level so it’s not too bad there), but at least you get to keep your experience and levels. Still, it’s not fun though when it happens and it can get quite intense when you’re on the verge of dying.


There are several annoying aspects that are staples of this genre. Traps are frustrating, especially the ones that confuse you (so the character doesn’t go where you want them to go), and the ones that causes your items to spill out. Speaking of which, enemies whose attack can knock your equipment out are also annoying for the fact that you need to go pick up those items and equip them again, wasting a lot of time over the course of the game considering how frequent they are. Enemies that can phase through walls so they can attack you but you can’t attack them, combined with the corridor map layouts and you’re in for some frustrating times.


As you’d expect, dungeons get longer and longer to clear as you progress through the game. It goes up from 5 minutes in the tutorial dungeon to over an hour long midway through the story to nearly two hours in the final story dungeon. You’ll easily run out of bag space and become constantly bogged down by inventory management. This severe restriction wastes your time since moving items around takes a turn (meaning it jumps you out of the menu, so you need to open it up again and navigate to the next item you want to move). Despite this, it is an addictive gameplay loop that has the perfect difficulty balance, although it leans more towards the easier side.


The game takes around 25 hours to complete, which is the perfect length as it’s not too long and not too short. The difficulty of the game lies in the normal enemies and persistence in going through the numerous floors that gets larger and larger.  Random effects from enemies and traps also become more dangerous. The bosses at the end of a dungeon, and this includes the final story boss, are much easier by comparison and goes down in a few turns, especially if you spam moves. This can lead to an anticlimactic end, and doubly so for the story as despite the build up of the antagonist, they go down too easily.


However, finishing the story is only the tip of the iceberg. The game has a wealth of content, and most of it are optional. You start to unlock them as you progress through the story and the final pieces unlock after the story. There are several puzzle dungeons as well as high difficulty challenge dungeons. The loot and equipment upgrade aspects become more important and is your motivation for pushing forward. The challenge dungeons are no joke as you will eventually require top tier equipment in order to clear them.  You are also encouraged to replay dungeons to get higher scores, complete specific requirements to get bonus items and of course, grind for loot.


Overall, there’s no doubt that Omega Labyrinth Z is well known for its heavy fan service content, and rightly so. The fan service is constantly thrown in your face throughout the story, with some extremely suggestive CGs. However, look past this and the dungeon crawling gameplay is surprisingly solid. It’s simple to learn but has enough going for it that it doesn’t get boring even after you finish the story. There are some deliberate decisions on the gameplay mechanics that can bog down the player, such as the overly restrictive inventory management and the harsh penalties of dying from randomised events, but all in all, it’s a fun experience.

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