Sunday, December 31, 2017

Toy Review: Transformers The Last Knight Optimus Prime (Tiny Turbo Changer)


Review:  #426
Name:  Optimus Prime
Brand:  Transformers
Allegiance:  Autobot
Line:  The Last Knight
Year of Release:  2017
Size Class:  Tiny Turbo Changer (Wave 1)
Mold Status:  new

TRUCK MODE:


As part of the budget Tiny Turbo Changer line, Optimus Prime comes in a blind bag but with printed lettering on the packaging, you can tell which bag contains which character.


Optimus Prime transforms into a deformed truck, which is mostly blue with black painted wheels, and some red flames on only the roof.


The figure is made from soft rubbery plastic and the wheels are molded in only.


Above is a comparison against Robots in Disguise (2015) Legion Drift and you can see that Optimus is much smaller.


Given what the designers had to work with at this price point, this isn't too bad a vehicle mode.

TRANSFORMATION:

Like the rest of the Tiny Turbo Changers, the transformation is exceedingly simple.  The hood folds onto the robot's back and then you split the cab into two to form the arms.  Stand him up and you're done.

ROBOT MODE:


Most of the robot is hidden on the underside of the truck mode.  The sculpting is pretty intricate to be fair.


He has the hood on his back as kibble but thanks to the large heelspurs, Optimus isn't in any danger of falling over.


The headsculpt is fairly undefined and looks off compared to the movie designs.  This figure is based off his Age of Extinction robot mode.


Optimus is one of the shorter figures in the line.


Articulation is limited to only his shoulders.


A short chubby robot that honestly isn't too bad in person.

OVERALL:

As the cheapest transforming figure in the line, Optimus Prime honestly isn't bad.  This small line is strangely appealing and worthwhile to collect.

-------------------------------------------------

For other Transformers reviews, have a look at this page.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Book Review: The World God Only Knows Vol. 11


Review:  #712
Title:  The World God Only Knows Vol. 11
Series:  The World God Only Knows - 11th volume
Author:  Tamiki Wakaki
Read Before:  no
Comments:  This volume finishes up the arc with Hinoki, who turned into a giant version of herself and the spirit within her has gotten so powerful she is able to physically wreck havoc to the city.  Of course, you will put all your trust into Keima who will definitely be able to set things right.  However, we continue to get tidbits about the Goddesses and also the fact that there are traitors within the soul capturing squad.  Furthermore, Keima’s teacher has more than meets the eye.  We’re teased with these concepts so one would hope that we’ll get satisfactory answers in the near future.  The volume ends with some chapters that doesn’t really have many significant things happening other than the first that Keima is starting to become a better person and building the bonds with characters who now seem to be featured permanently such as Chihiro and Ayumi.  It’s not a bad volume but feels average at best.
Rating:  6/10

Friday, December 29, 2017

The Dictator (2012)


The Dictator produced by and stars Sacho Baron Cohen, of Borat fame.  The plot is about Aladeen, the dictator of fictional country Wadiya.  We're first shown the ridiculous things that he does, and only able to do, because of his oppression.  It's funny and tame by the rest of the film's standards.  Once he travels to America, in order to reject the sanctions of the UN, the humor becomes more racist and crude.  Some of it works but most of them, they're more exaggerated and outlandish than funny or clever.  Aladeen finds himself tricked and must somehow reclaim his position after being thrown out into the streets of New York.  The pacing of the film is uneven, which makes for stretches of boredom where nothing noteworthy happens.  A romantic interest is shoehorned in and of course, Aladeen will get some doubts in himself and his actions.  The ending felt like the film gave up, especially with the desperation actions of his adviser, Uncle Tamir, and what had happened to his double.  The Dictator is a mediocre film, the racist overtone is more to generate controversy than actually being funny.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Book Review: Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Old School


Review:  #711
Title:  Diary of a Wimpy Kid:  Old School
Series:  Diary of a Wimpy Kid - 10th book
Author:  Jeff Kinney
Read Before:  no
Comments:  Greg Heffley continues his commentary of his everyday life in Old School, where the theme is… old school.  As in, life back before electronics was available, or back in the day so farming, which makes for some hilarious commentary.  Old School does take around half of the book before its humor becomes the standard you would expect and it starts to get really interesting in what happens.  Greg’s siblings aren’t as annoying this time around, which makes for a nice change.  Also, Greg himself isn’t unfairly blamed too often.  There were even a few clever bits such as Greg putting forward the idea of sneaking out of the cabin via stepping on the footprints already left behind (there was piles of baby powder to track down anyone who escaped).
Rating:  6.5/10

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Tesagure! Bukatsu-mono (2013)


Tesagure!  Bukatsu-mono is a 12 episode anime consisting of roughly 11 minutes each.  It is animated using the program MikuMikuDance (MMD), therefore the anime as a whole can feel like it was on an extremely low budget (which it probably was).  The anime takes place in only a few settings (club room and assembly hall being the main ones).  Despite that, it still looks fairly decent thanks to the simple aesthetics and colorful palette.


The anime is not based on any existing works and starts off with three high school students, Yua Suzuki, Hina Satou and Aoi Takahashi during club recruiting.  They effectively force the first year student, Koharu Tanaka, to join their club.  However, they don't know what their club is about yet and thus the whole point of the series is for them to brainstorm every day, activities for their club.  It often goes onto a tangent as each person tells what comes to mind when they think of the chosen club activity for that day, then lists out the tropes within manga and anime that had used this activity as its plot.  The characters often pay out the clubs to humorous effects.


Their aim is to find a new twist to the tried and tested club activity, throwing out ridiculous ideas.  Finally, the four will then try it out, usually with a twist and eventually decides that it was a bad idea.  Activities discussed and acted out include baseball (combining it with watermelons splitting, thus they play it blindfolded), soccer (where each player must speak a haiku before doing something with the ball), shogi (combination of the board game and twister), tea making, astronomy and cheerleading.  There's a wide variety and covers off the most common club activities.


Tesagure!  Bukatsu-mono is unusual and weird, and can seem very boring since at the end of the day, it is basically four students sitting around a table discussing random topics.  There's frequent usage of puns, which obviously does not work very well when you are not a native speaker of Japanese.  Despite that, there are various moments where the jokes work.  The interactions between the characters are genuine, with Koharu often teased for not understanding Aoi's puns, and often at the end of jokes.


It's a good thing that each episode is only 11 minutes long since the content wouldn't have supported a longer format as it already felt stretched out at times.  Regardless, in the final episode where Yua and Hina graduates and leaves their legacy behind with Aoi and Koharu, it is fairly sad.  Considering that it is low budget and uses a freeware, the quality isn't bad at all in terms of the voice acting and theme songs (with the ending theme particularly good, the lyrics of both themes are meaningful and very literal).  Overall, Tesagure!  Bukatsu-mono has the potential to be a funny slice-of-life anime but unfortunately the jokes doesn't work enough of the time to keep viewers entertained for the whole duration of each episode.

-------------------------------------------------------

For other animation reviews, have a look at this page.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Mass Effect 3 (PS3)


Mass Effect 3 is the final game in the original trilogy that concludes the story on Shepherd and his fight against the Reapers.  The game has a fantastic opening where the Reapers arrive on Earth and Shepherd is tasked with finding help in order to repel the Reapers.  It raises the stakes and has a sense of grandeur and epicness which sets the atmosphere for the rest of the game.  If you've played Mass Effect 2 and have a save file ready, then you can import that character or if you wish, create a brand new one.  Importing an existing character has benefits such as your starting level being the same as the level you finished with in Mass Effect 2, and of course, all the major decisions you've made in the previous two games will carry over which is pretty cool.  Mass Effect 3 is a third persona shooter RPG hybrid.  Compared to the first two games, there is a stronger emphasis and improvements made to the shoot mechanics, but they still average out to be okay.  The handling does not feel as satisfactory as an actual third person shooter but once you get used to it, it is fun.

There is a cover system, however, the button used for cover is also the same one to run and vault over obstacles which makes it a bit awkward to use at times.  There are five different types of weapons:  sniper, assault rifle, pistol, shotgun and heavy weapon.  You can carry up to five weapons at once but carrying more will mean your powers will recharge slow due to the weight.  Each weapon can have up to two mods which improves the weapons in ways like reducing recoil, increasing the amount of ammo and higher damage.  You can find these mods throughout the levels or purchase them from shops.  In addition to shooting, Shepherd can use biotic powers.  The variety of powers that you can use depends on which class you picked.  Three powers can be hotkeyed to a button, or you can pull up the radial menu (which freezes the action allowing you to take your time) to select a power and enemy to use it on.  Awkward platforming sections are introduced which feels shoehorned in and completely unnecessary.  Levels have a lot more verticality added to them now.  There are also dream sequences that slow the game right down.

In each mission, you can take two squad members to back you up.  You will need to play some way into the game in order to recruit all characters which comprises of both returning and new characters.  While the game itself gives you a lot of freedom in when to do things and where to go next, once you enter a level, it is a linear path to the objective while blasting your way though enemies.  Sidequests are not as involved as Mass Effect 2.  They come in a few types, including ones where you "overhear" other characters speaking to activate a fetch quest.  There are Cerberus related missions which involves fighting waves of enemies on an enclosed map.  Then there are the meatier sidequests which add a bit to the story.  Some sidequests can be permanently locked out if you continue too far into the story.  Wrapped into the story is the Galactic Readiness mechanic where you need to complete as many story missions and sidequests in order to increase your readiness.  You need a certain amount in order to unlock the "best" endings.

Mass Effect 3 streamlines the Normandy mechanic but it still isn't perfect.  While selecting planets is the same as in previous game, it's still a chore moving the ship manually to different star systems.  Scanning planets for resources only takes once, however, before you can scan a planet you need to scan the system first . Doing this will attract the attention of the Reapers, who will turn up very quickly on the map and you need to exit the planet system otherwise it is game over if they touch the Normandy.  Afterwards, you will need to wait a while before the Reapers disappear and while it makes sense as a story element, it's annoying as a gameplay element.  The story for the most part is great.  You soon take control of the Normandy and characters join you.  You do get to see what happened to the characters from the first two games though it always feel like a contrived coincidence when you meet them during a mission.  Each character you meet will go through a life or death situation (or a sacrifice) against the Reapers but this is also where you have the freedom of choice in shaping the fate of several of the characters.  Shepherd will be travelling throughout the galaxy trying to unite the various races and forgive past sins.  In this aspect, Mass Effect 3 does a great job.

There are heaps of epic moments and expands on the backgrounds of a lot of the galaxy's races.  Things that were alluded to or briefly mentioned in previous games are fully fleshed out and it is engaging.  The storytelling and deep lore continues on the high note that the series is known for.  Unfortunately, the ending is where it leaves the player unsatisfied.  Even with the free Extended Cut DLC which fleshes out the ending a bit more, it felt truncated and the Reaper's motivation for killing all organic lifeforms is weak.  This isn't helped by an annoying final level where it puts waves upon waves of enemies against the player.  It felt overly long and dragged the ending out.  It ends up throwing multiples of the hardest enemies to kill in the game at the player, multiple times.  Sure it is the final battle but it just felt cheap.  The graphics are good but there are varying degrees of quality within the facial animations and features.  There are frequent framerate drops, during cutscenes of all places.  It's distracting and disappointing.  The framerate drops during combat isn't as noticeable but it is still there.  Overall, Mass Effect 3 is still a brilliant game.  The combat is satisfying and the story is fantastic (until the somewhat average ending).  It is an engaging game and frankly, a lot of fun.  The inclusion of multiplayer will increase the longevity of the game but the single player story alone is worthwhile.

------------------------------------------------------

For other game reviews, have a look at this page.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Toy Review: Transformers The Last Knight Starscream (Tiny Turbo Changer)


Review:  #425
Name:  Starscream
Brand:  Transformers
Allegiance:  Decepticon
Line:  The Last Knight
Year of Release:  2017
Size Class:  Tiny Turbo Changer (Wave 1)
Mold Status:  new

JET MODE:


As part of the Tiny Turbo Changer line, Starscream comes in a blind bag but with letters printed onto the packaging, you can easily pick out any particular figure.


Starscream transforms into a super deformed version of the Raptor jet as seen in the movies.


There is a lot of undercarriage kibble but that's to be expected at this size.  Note that he has his "tattoos" from ROTF here, as well as a gold cockpit.


Above is a comparison against Robots in Disguise (2015) Heatseeker, and you can see that he is a fair bit smaller than a Legion sized figure.


This isn't a terrible jet mode and for its size, it's actually quite good.

TRANSFORMATION:

Getting Starscream into jet mode is very easy.  You flip the legs down and moves out the arms from under the wings and you're done.

ROBOT MODE:


Starscream's robot is deformed as well, with a head that's proportionally larger than normal.


The robot mode is literally the underside of the jet but at this side, it's understandable.


The headsculpt is quite simple and the whole figure is made from a rubbery plastic.


The size difference is a lot more obvious in robot mode when compared to a Legion.


Articulation is limited to balljointed shoulders.  Due to transformation, he tends to lean forward a bit and can actually face-plant himself easily.


It is an passable robot mode.

OVERALL:

At this size and price point, it is quite good value that you get a transforming figure.  Both modes are okay and recognizable as the character.  Recommended if you like Starscream.

-----------------------------------------------

For other Transformers reviews, have a look at this page.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Book Review: Theophilus Grey and the Demon Thief


Review:  #710
Title:  Theophilus Grey and the Demon Thief
Series:  Theophilus Grey - 1st book
Author:  Catherine Jinks
Read Before:  no
Comments:  Theophilus Grey follows the titular Linkboy in the streets of old London, where he makes a living escorting people in the night safely to wherever they want to go.  In addition to that, he uses his position to gain intelligence to sell.  It is a lighthearted story, with some relatively darker moments.  While it mentions a few fantasy creatures, it never strays towards the unbelievable and there is always a rational reason.  Philo, as the protagonist likes to be known, is a charming and honest character.  His interactions with his team and also with the stranger he meets one night are the highlights of the novel.  While the writing can dawdle on things that are insignificant and doesn’t add much to the plot, it paints a vivid picture of what living in this London would have been like.  It is a solid story in the end and a happy ending.
Rating:  6/10

Friday, December 22, 2017

Mr Bean's Holiday (2007)


Based upon the popular TV series, Mr Bean's Holiday sees the titular character, winning a holiday to Cannes, France, in a raffle ticket.  Of course, it is not as simple as that because Mr Bean gets into all sorts of trouble along the way.  It starts off normally enough, with Mr Bean experience a host of new things, and reacting to it all in funny ways.  The plot then focuses a little bit more when Mr Bean is then tasked to returning a lost boy to his father and slowly, the multiple characters he meets along the way start to gravitate together and become clear they are all interconnected.  Despite that, there were times where it feels that the film is a series of random events strung together, just for the purpose of laughs.  While most of the humor works, you get the odd one here and there where it was plain weird.  Mr Bean is still as charismatic as ever and the film is short enough with enough humor to not outstay its welcome.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Toy Review: Transformers The Last Knight Soundwave (Tiny Turbo Changer)


Review:  #424
Name:  Soundwave
Brand:  Transformers
Allegiance:  Decepticon
Line:  The Last Knight
Year of Release:  2017
Size Class:  Tiny Turbo Changer (Wave 1)
Mold Status:  new

CAR MODE:


Soundwave comes in a blind bag although thanks to a letter printed on the packaging, you can pick him out if you wanted to.


Soundwave transforms into a superdeformed silver car approximating the alternate mode he had in Dark of the Moon.


He has painted black wheels and side windows... which just makes the unpainted windshield stick out all the more.


As a Tiny Turbo Changer, Soundwave is very small, above is a comparison against RiD (2015) Legion Heatseeker.  Note that the wheels are molded, Soundwave does not roll.


A passable alternate mode given his size and the simplicity.

TRANSFORMATION:

Transforming to robot mode is very simple but given the size, it's more than you would hope.  The front flips to form his legs, you then rotate the waist around, pull out the sides for his arms and then flip him over to reveal the rest of the robot.

ROBOT MODE:


Soundwave's robot mode is a massive shellformer but given the size, easily forgivable.


He uses the front of the vehicle as his feet, allowing him to stand solidly on the table.


The figure is made from a softer more rubbery plastic yet it still has intricate sculpting.  The only other paint application is the red on his visor.


While in vehicle mode, he seemed to just be slightly smaller than a Legion figure, in robot mode it is more telling that he is supposed to be tiny.


Articulation is extremely limited, while the shoulders are balljoints you can only hope to swing them forward and back.


Given the cheap price, Soundwave's robot mode is half decent.

OVERALL:

The biggest thing going for the Tiny Turbo Changers are the cheap prices yet still transform into two reasonably decent modes.  While the vehicle mode is weird with half painted windows (would have preferred none to be painted at all), the robot mode has excellent sculpting and instantly recognizable as the character.

-----------------------------------------------------

For other Transformers reviews, have a look at this page.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Book Review: The World God Only Knows Vol. 10


Review:  #709
Title:  The World God Only Knows Vol. 10
Series:  The World God Only Knows - 10th volume
Author:  Tamiki Wakaki
Read Before:  no
Comments:  This volume concludes the Yui arc which was one of the more interesting ones we’ve had.  It was funny to see Keima start to be affected when he has swapped bodies with Yui, gravitating towards otome games instead, and acting as the heroine instead of the hero.  The story arcs don’t seem rushed anymore, and characters are able to be fleshed out.  The next arc starts halfway but is left hanging by the end of the volumes thanks to a random filler chapter in the middle indicating that the series was going to be adapted into an anime.  The next target for Keima is the older sister of a previous heroine, Hinoki, whose runaway spirit causes actual physical change.  The search for the Goddesses is also in the background so there are actually quite a number of subplots going on.
Rating:  6/10

Monday, December 18, 2017

Miracle Girls Festival (Vita)


Miracle Girls Festival is a rhythm based game using the music from various anime.  It uses the same engine as the Hatsune Miku Project DIVA F games and is exclusive to the PlayStation Vita.  The game features two songs from each of the eleven anime:
- YuruYuri
- Haiyore!  Nyaruko-san
- Vividred Operation
- Kin-iro Mosaic
- Arpeggio of Blue Steel
- Tesagure!  Bukatsu-mono
- Wake Up, Girls!
- Go!  Go!  575
- No-Rin
- Engaged to the Unidentified
- Is the Order a Rabbit?


This means that unfortunately that there are only 22 songs within the song list, which doesn't seem a lot for a typical rhythm game (the Project DIVA F games have just shy of 40 songs and IA/VT has 60 songs).  The songs are usually the opening and ending themes from the anime but they can be insert songs or feature the openings of the second season.  The key common theme is that the songs have to be sung by the characters so that is the reason why something like the opening of Vividred Operation isn't included.


The game tries to pack in a story which is called the Tour Mode.  This is hosted by the characters of Go!  Go!  575 (which makes sense now that they are in the game since the anime was very short and the series was primarily a game) where they are travelling around Japan hosting the Miracle Girls Festival.  Between each tour there will be dialogue from the 575 team, commenting on the success, their surprise and satisfaction on the turnouts, and thinking the producers for helping make it a reality.  During each tour, you will play through a few songs per day in order to get the audience numbers to a target amount (and hopefully exceed it).  This requirement is actually very easy as the game is quite forgiving.


If you do really well in the songs in Tour Mode, the audience will require an encore and you will play one song again but will be the full length version this time around.  Unfortunately, the low amount of songs means that you will be repeating songs very quickly within Tour Mode.  The game somewhat gets by this as the songs have both a short version (i.e. just the chorus once, being the TV opening size) and the full version (such that when you play the full version, there are different lyrics from the second verse onwards, feeling fresh).  Plus, this is where you have to use the coins you earned playing the game in order to purchase the 10 extra songs which helps increase the variety.  That said, since it is anime music, the genre variety is high.


There are six tours in total and it will only take around 4 hours to finish them all.  Most of the fun comes from playing the songs again and again on different difficulties to gain high scores.  The characters are faithfully reproduced here, with their individual quirks and their original voice actors.  The characters keep the aesthetics from their own animes, and the cuteness factor goes through the roof.  The developers did a great job of including neat references to the anime, such as during "Miracle" segments, something like a Shantak balloon for Nyaruko or  UFO for Engaged to the Unidentified will appear.  It's these little touches that make the game great.


One of the best touches in the game is in Wake Up, Girls! case, their dance routine is the same as in the anime, which feels authentic.  Each character has one alternate costume, with DLC providing more.  These are other outfits that the characters would have worn in their respective animes.  Surprisingly, there are no DLC songs.  The gameplay is exactly the same as the Project DIVA F games except that there are no gimmicky prompts such as the one where you flick both analogue sticks.  You use the four face buttons, as well as a combination of the D-pad and face button.


Prompts will fly from all over the screen and you press it in time with the music.  It is heaps of fun and there is a huge sense of satisfaction and accomplishment when you get it right.  What makes it harder though is that the backgrounds are distracting, since it is set on the stages and characters are dancing, with heaps of colors flashing, hiding some of the prompts until it is too late.  That said, the game is easy overall.  Easy and Normal difficulties will be no challenge to players who have played rhythm games before.


Hard is a lot of fun and seems to be the most balanced while Extreme can be cheap at times and requires memorization, not to mention that it loves spamming patterns which require you to alternate the D-pad and face button quickly in order to make it.  There are "Expand" varieties of the songs, which involves some twists to how the notes come into the screen, making it harder by shrinking or growing them.  If you find the game too hard, you can use items during the songs to make it easier to keep your combos.  All the short versions of the songs initially only have Easy and Normal difficulty unlocked.  The Hard, Extreme and Full versions of the songs need to be unlocked by completely specific challenges like getting a rank or getting a certain number of combos.


You get ranked at the end of each song such as Great, Excellent or if you managed to hit all prompts perfectly, a Miracle rank.  Depending on your timing, each prompt will net you either a Cool, Fin, Safe, Sad or Worst in descending order of perfectness.  Some of the full versions of the songs run for over 5 minutes, which means getting Miracle in them can be tough as you're more likely to make careless mistakes which means repeating the whole song again.  It's a good thing all the songs are catchy and except for one song (Your Voice from Kin-iro Mosaic), the beatmaps are great and as such, the game gets very addictive.


You'll easily fall into the trap of playing one more song in order to get a higher score and before you know it, an hour has passed.  Playing through the game, it makes you appreciate the music of each of the anime a lot more and of course, makes you want to rewatch the anime again.  As the theme is the characters signing on stage during a concert, there are crowd cheering effects and chanting which adds to the atmosphere and gives a sense of a proper concert with the audience hyped up.


Miracle Girls Festival has surprisingly short loading, with only a few seconds at most.  Sneaked in here, and during menu selections, are shout-outs by the characters.  The voice actors have added in a lot of original dialogue, this is no cheap cash-in.  You are able to replay the PV without button prompts so you can enjoy the animation without worrying about gameplay.  Other collectables include statues of the characters, and display cases to put them in.  Furthermore, there are various different stages that the characters can perform on.  These are the only extras the game offers, so that it is a little bit disappointing that there wasn't a Diva Room available like the Hatsune Miku games.


Overall, Miracle Girls Festival is a fantastic and addictive game.  You can tell from the small song list and limited extras that the licensing must have cost a lot.  Nevertheless, the gameplay is solid adn you can tell a lot of attention has been put into the game.  Considering that for most of the anime that was featured in this game, that they will have no chance of appearing in a video game, Miracle Girls Festival is like a love letter / celebration for fans of those series.  Of course, it is highly recommended that you have watched all the anime first before playing this game in order to enjoy all of the references (the time investment is worthwhile as most of the anime are decent), Miracle Girls Festival is highly recommended not only for anime fans but also rhythm fans.  This is one of the best the Vita has to offer.

------------------------------------------------------

For other game reviews, have a look at this page.

Blogger Widget