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Cho, this is not a good moment for hesitation!!!

Zelda update! Still haven’t beat it, but I’ve put over 90 hours into the thing. Ugh, it’s like Skyrim all over again (except way more enjoyable, not that I didn’t enjoy Skyrim too).

I saw Logan! It’s GREAT. My first thought after it ended was “if only Rogue One‘s ending had hit me a third as hard as Logan’s…” I can’t even say I’ve been much of a fan of the X Men films because the powers on display are often so OP and inconsistently applied that the deus ex climactic moments are usually a big ‘whatever’ to me.

But Logan’s plot is so wonderfully understated! no one’s moving Golden Gate Bridges or football stadiums, or trying to wipe out all mutants/humans. It’s just a very small, contained story about a couple of grumpy old X Men and a kid they’re trying to help. It’s simple enough and the cast small enough that the characters can act their hearts out at one another and build up tension and drama in each scene. The effects are mostly seamless and very well integrated. I’m sure a lot of CG effects were used for the violent action scenes, but everything feels grounded and real, which is NOT COMMON in big action blockbusters, much less superhero films.

If I had one thing to criticize off the top of my head after only a single viewing, there are quite a few shots where dudes with machine guns stare dumbly as Logan (or other) leaps at them. It’s a silly trope that rears its head in nearly every action scene! But it did not detract from my good time. I would also complain about some continuity errors from the previous films, but since the X Men franchise seems to pride itself on not giving a flying fig about continuity, I will also allow myself to not care even a little bit. The movie is plenty consistent within itself.

So, basically, I love the pacing, I love the editing, I love the dialog. I cried like a baby a couple times, no joke. Sure, they’ll reboot the X Men franchise, or continue it or whatever, but I doubt any future films will top this one, for me at least!

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Hungry for a knuckle sandwich?

So can I talk about Breath of the Wild for a hot minute? Don’t worry, I won’t spoil anything that hasn’t been seen countless times in the trailers (I’m probably 35% through the story as of this writing). So I love Zelda games, sure, who doesn’t? I’d call myself a fairly big fan. I’ve played all the console entries from SNES onward, most of them more than once, and I’ve played most of the handheld games outside of those Oracle ones and that Four Swords multiplayer stuff. So when I say that BotW is hands down the best Zelda game without peer, I just want you all to know that this is based on a very solid helping of Zelda experience.

Why is BotW so great? Well, it’s really pretty. But even more important, it respects your intelligence. The ‘tutorial’ of the game is just as open and experimental as the rest of the world, just capped off in a smaller area until you complete a set number of objectives. Much like in a Dark Souls game, the only indication that you probably shouldn’t go somewhere is if the enemies one shot you to death with impunity. Luckily, unlike the infuriating Souls mechanic where you have to make your way back to your corpse to recover your XP lest you lose it all, the stakes for death in BotW are to just reset to the previous save, nothing lost but a short amount of time. This encourages you to explore to your heart’s content without concern for trapping yourself in an un-winnable situation. See something cool in the distance? Just go for it, no consequences! You can always fast travel back to the nearest discovered shrine if there’s some business left unfinished. You can even fast travel in the middle of combat, if, let’s say, you accidentally run into a giant cyclops and you’re armed with only a stick and pot lid.

I’ve played a lot of open world games; Assassin’s Creed, Phantom Pain, GTA, Skyrim, Xenoblade Chronicles X, and plenty more I can’t immediately recall. BotW’s world reminds me a lot of Xenoblade X’s, in that there is so much layered verticality, and perhaps too much to find and collect in every corner and crevasse. I’ve rarely found that exploring an interesting looking land formation revealed nothing of interest, so the desire to go off the beaten path and just poke around at every little thing that catches your eye is extraordinarily compelling. The game never demands you stick to a route or play a specific way. Considering the past several console Zelda games’ penchant for hand holding through their entire campaigns, it’s incredibly refreshing to just be given a Hyrule with no regulations attached. Having said that, I do have some problems that could be addressed…

Why, oh, why is there no option to re-map the button configuration? Only the camera can be inverted and the run and jump buttons flipped. I would love to be able to switch the ‘accept/action’ button with the ‘run’ button. I would love to flip the items L button with the shield LZ button. I would love to be able to Z-Target with a press instead of a hold. I have gotten used to the game’s control mapping, but they are awkward and far from what I’d prefer. I can’t think of any logical reason why they wouldn’t let the player change this, considering it’s a single player game and a standardized experience between players is not necessary.

There’s a weird balance with the weapon durability. Every sword, shield, and spear I’ve encountered so far will shatter after a variable amount of use. This seems to encourage you to hold on to your best weapons for big fights, but the thing is that, unless you’re actively going out of your way to engage every enemy, which is not particularly practical, you’ll end up with more great weapons than you’ll know what to do with. You’ll inevitably have to make some tough choices about which weapons you want to hold onto for ‘the next big fight’. I’ve found these choices among the most stressful in the game! You are eventually given a method to save some weapons outside of your inventory, but unless this option expands greatly as I play further, it is definitely not enough to compensate for the glut of sweet loot I’m forced to toss aside to pick up slightly better stuff. Being given the option to sell weapons at stores would greatly solve this problem, especially since gaining rupees in the game is mostly done through selling gathered materials anyway.

The difficulty in this game is all over the place. That’s pretty normal for open world games, though, so I don’t fault it too much. Still, I’ve found the first two main dungeons hilariously easy, while some of the trials I’ve faced and some of the random enemy  I’ve encountered in the open plains have been significantly tougher than the main quest (I’m looking at you, centaur dudes). I guess that’s fine, it’s much like how there are always optional super bosses in Final Fantasy games. Still, the main dungeon bosses in the game have been pushovers, and the dungeons themselves have been possibly some of the fastest and easiest in the franchise. That may change as I continue, but since you can go to the main dungeons in any order after the first one, I’m guessing they’re all roughly the same level of difficulty.

Although the open world is a real stunner and wildly varied, the many dozens of puzzle shrines you’ll play, and the main dungeons as well, all have the same aesthetic. It’s not a huge deal, barely even worth mentioning, really, but it would’ve been nice to see shrines’ interior decoration vary based on the region they’re located.

And lastly, it’s ANOTHER HUGE OPEN WORLD GAME, GAAAHHHHH!!!! Now this is also a positive, because it’s an EXCELLENT open world game, but there has just been a glut of these things as of late. Also, for those few people that have played Xenoblade Chronicles X, BotW has a similar obsession with encouraging you to collect every little thing in sight because upgrading your gear will inevitably require x10 Common Items, x5 Rare Items, x2 Obnoxiously Rare Items for each piece of gear. There will be scavenger hunts and your enjoyment of them will vary. BotW is also a NOTORIOUS time sink. I got the game on March 3rd. I immediately went on vacation, where I had very little internet access and spent a copious amount of time playing the game. It’s been 10 days and I’m 35% through the story (I’m guessing), and likely no where near what would amount to a 100% completion.

In many ways, Zelda games before BotW were like comfort food. They were a bastion of linearity, with clear goals and objectives so you didn’t have to think too hard on how to get from one dungeon to the next, barring the original NES game, which is where BotW draws a good deal of inspiration, and Link Between Worlds, which was kind of a tradition breaking precursor to BotW. I’m reminded of Metal Gear’s move away from it’s rigid linear based structure to the more open experimentation of Phantom Pain. On one hand, it was thrilling and new and gave you so much more to do in your favorite game franchise, on the other hand it was full of pacing problems and lack of focus (oh, and it was unfinished, but that’s un-related). Truth is, I LIKE linear games. I like a game I can beat in 12 hours or less, that are strung together with dramatic story moments and set pieces; video games based around movie style narratives, if you will. As much as I enjoyed The Phantom Pain, sinking over 100 hours into it, I’ll likely never play it again, while I could pick up and beat any of the other numbered MGS game in a week or even a weekend. It’s the whole reason I’ve beaten so many Zelda games multiple times, while I’ve never replayed an open world game from beginning to end. Luckily, if you stick strictly with the narrative threads, BotW is about a 20-25 hour game. which is generally in line with most Zelda games. But, damn, is it hard to just follow the plot when that weird rock in the distance looks like it holds some tantalizing secrets…

 

 

Final thought on BotW and Zelda in general. Ever since Wind Waker, there’s been this inexorable push toward post apocalyptic scifi stuff in the franchise. In Wind Waker there was a dungeon boss made up of a floating robot head and hands, in Twilight Princess there was the very scifi Twilight Realm, and in Skyward Sword there was a straight up AI companion and a mechanoid dungeon with time portals. Now I’m running around in BotW armed with a lightsaber and energy shield, fighting robot spiders for energy cores and co-opting giant animal mechs to fight Ganon. Nice.

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Well, it’s a good thing the Wu Tang bros don’t have a super powerful technique that doesn’t require any weapons!

So I’d normally talk about stuff here, but literally all I’ve done with my free time is play Nioh. I’m sure I’ll put it on the back burner once March 3rd hits and I’ve got the Switch and BotW in my hands, although we’ll see how long I can stomach degrading weapons and boiling apples before I rush back to my katana and kusarigama so I can wail on more yokai.

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Welp, now Ken’s on the case! (get it?)

I watched all the Netflix Voltron. It’s, you know, it’s pretty cool. Unfortunately, it never really breaks free of being a kids show, albeit one with awesome production value and beautiful animation. While Legend of Korra and the Avatar gave us some very complex character motivations and devastatingly difficult moral choices for those characters, Voltron has yet to match that more adult level of storytelling. I don’t dislike Voltron, but two seasons in and there is still no reason to see Zarkon as anything but an evil tyrant. Give me just a little bit of backstory on the main villains that makes them relatable and/or sympathetic, and Voltron could very well be my new favorite thing. Also, couldn’t they just toss the original 80’s theme music in there? Or at least get a more notable composer? The best thing I can say about the Voltron soundtrack is that it’s inoffensive.

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To celebrate the release of Nioh (which I’m playing too much of), I’m upgrading the comic to PURE ACTION. The plot is now incidental and under cooked, just like Nioh’s!

Real Art Talk; this page is probably not as readable as I’d have liked it to be, mostly because it lacks a panel showing both Wu and Tang in the same shot. So it can be hard to place their location in relation to Cho, especially since I keep reversing the ‘camera angle’. Just goes to show I need more practice framing complicated fight choreography. The only way I can think to improve that is to have more fighting in the comic. Like an endless stream of fights. Forever.

I saw the Lego Batman movie. It was entertaining, but not as entertaining as The Lego Movie, likely because most of the jokes are based around the fact that Batman just wants to be dark and gritty and everyone else wants him to be more open and honest with himself. There are only so many jokes that concept can sustain over the course of an hour and forty five minutes (yikes, this movie could’ve been 15 minutes shorter!). Also the editing moves at an incredibly fast pace and it’s PHYSICALLY EXHAUSTING. Ugh, am I just getting old? My favorite parts were whenever they lampooned the live action Batman films (frequently), and any scene that took place in the batcave (it is the greatest of all batcaves every put to screen).

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Dodging like a champ!

If I did sketch streams, would anyone want to watch that?

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The case has been opened!

I saw Hidden Figures, it’s good stuff! The theater was empty, which is usually a great opportunity to MST3K my way through a movie, but Hidden Figures leaves little to lampoon, partly because of the subject matter and partly because it’s just very good. I’ll probably pick up the audiobook.

Speaking of audiobooks, there are currently the first three volumes released of an English translation of the Legend of the Galactic Heroes! Joe and I love the anime series and consider it one of the greats, even though it’s never gotten an official state-side release (tragedy!). I definitely recommend the book series, and we’re both crossing our fingers hoping it’s successful enough that maybe the anime finally gets an official translation.

I’ve had Splatoon sitting in its plastic wrap since I don’t remember when. I finally busted it open and it’s a heck of a good time! The online community is certainly alive and well, which is heartening considering how often I hear about the death of the WiiU. Splatoon may honestly be the most fun I’ve had with a shooter! Granted the bar is extremely low on that since I’m not much of a shooter fan.

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Looks like it’s time for some water aerobics!

Okay, guys! Only two and a half more weeks until Nioh comes out! I fear that I won’t be able to pull myself away from the controller once that happens, considering they had a ‘last trial’ demo this weekend that I definitely played too much of despite having many other pressing matters to attend. I can’t recall another game action game that’s felt so good to play! There’s something about the precision of the controls, and the tension of managing the ki meter of both you and your enemy that makes each fight enthralling. Also, those authentic feudal Japanese weapons are just a killer good time to be had! When I discovered this ‘last trial’ demo added in the kusarigama I couldn’t supress a geekgasm. Tearing up yokai with the sickle and chain is a blast!

The Dark Souls games get called tough but fair, and yet in my experience with them, I always feel like I’m fighting the controls. There’s notable lag, uneven hit boxes, weird clipping issues, and strange physics going on all over the place. Nioh doesn’t put up with any of that crap. It’s surgically precise samurai action. I suspect Nioh will proudly sit along side the big boys of top tier action games like Bayonetta 2, Devil May Cry 3, Vanquished, and Metal Gear Rising (I may be a Platinum Games fanboy), while potentially being the best Souls-style ‘tough but fair’ games to date. It’s THAT GOOD.

. . .

Also, thank the gods they got rid of weapon durability, ’cause I hate that mechanic. I’m looking at you, Breath of the Wild!

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Thing’s are about to get real, guys! I’m super excited for this scene in the comic!

So how bout that Nintendo Switch?? I hear it’s gonna be REAL GREAT! It’s releasing with a total of four whole games, three of which nobody cares about! But that one game, the sole game that nintendo’s been talking about and advertising for the past year or two, THAT one looks FREAKIN’ INCREDIBLE. I think I’ve watched the newest trailer for Breath of the Wild six or seven times now, and it gives me tingles down the spine each time, filling me with incoherent glee. I haven’t been this hyped on a trailer since Rogue One and that turned out… well, not as great as I’d have liked. But maybe I just love to ride the hype train, even if it does derail 95% of the time. What I’m saying is that I preordered a Switch because I’m a hopeless Nintendo fanboy!

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In fact, Fumio’s pettiness is LEGENDARY status.

I was really jonesing for a puzzle game, so I picked up The Witness. I regretted it after about four hours because it is insanely obtuse and I started looking up answers to puzzles. I figure after you start looking up answers to puzzles out of frustration, you probably aren’t enjoying a puzzle game very much! The game itself treats its puzzles like a language, with the basic rules being imparted to you through simple puzzles, and then the rules for different sets of puzzles get compounded in to more complex puzzles.

It’s all great in theory, but I ran into a series of puzzles where I solved about four into the set having no idea how I solved them or what the rules were. After re-solving them about a dozen times while slowly and methodically trying to determine what exactly the patterns where to signify the rules of the puzzles, I gave up and just looked it up. I know there are a lot of people who love this game, and I tend to love puzzle games too, But THIS game, well, maybe you’re suppose to sleep on it a bunch when you get stuck, I dunno. I do like the philosophy on display in The Witness, though! Notably this short movie (which I came across early in the game, so it’s not really a spoiler.) Maybe I’ll just cheat-guide my way through the tough puzzles for my own sanity so I can finish the game. Life’s too short to get frustrated over video games, after all!

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