Thursday, August 31, 2017

Toy Review: Transformers Generations Titans Return Kup & Flintlock


Review:  #400
Name:  Kup
Brand:  Transformers
Allegiance:  Autobot
Line:  Generations - Titans Return
Year of Release:  2017
Size Class:  Deluxe (Wave 4)
Mold Status:  new

FLINTLOCK:


Kup's Titan Master is Flintlock and cast in two plastic colors which helps bring out some of the detailing.


The robot head doesn't actually protrude out from behind the Titan Master when viewed from the front which is nice.


He has limited articulation being balljointed head and shoulders.

VEHICLE MODE:


Kup transforms into a futuristic pickup truck much more in line with his appearance in the 1986 movie.


He looks pretty good in hand actually, although the unpainted rear is a disappointment.


Something to note is that the wheels are cast from smokey clear plastic.


In terms of size, he is a quite small in this mode.  Above is a comparison against DOTM Jolt.


As part of the Titans Return line, he comes with a card showcasing artwork of his robot mode.


The pair of robot guns also peg onto his back for storage in this mode.


Interactivity with Flintlock includes the cockpit opening up for him to drive in.  Unfortunately, untabbing the windshield will make the front unstable since the windshield is the piece holding it all together.


You can combine the guns together to form a seat for Flintlock too, such that he can sit on the back of the vehicle firing at enemies.


A strong vehicle mode, the only negatives are the minimal paint applications and the smaller size.

TRANSFORMATION:

This is where Kup's surprise comes in.  While the torso and the arms is predictable, the legs are very interesting and clever.  They are formed by the sides of the vehicle as well as the back, and the way that they fold onto each other to form the lower legs was fun and unexpected.

ROBOT MODE:


Robot mode is faithful to the one from the 1986 movie, a lot more slender and minimal in kibble compared to the previous Generations version.


There is literally no kibble on him which is impressive.  You can see the pieces that wrap around to form his lower legs but they form an integral part of the body.


The headsculpt, while still not super friendly is a lot better than the previous Generations version and very evocative of the character.


A comparison against Jolt, you can see that Kup gains more height in this mode and being more in line with other Deluxes.


A quick comparison against the previous Generations Kup and each has their strengths (the previous for the sculpting, size, complexity while this one for its accuracy).


Articulation is fantastic with joints at the waist, shoulders, elbows, knees, hips and neck.


He is stable in all poses thanks to the minimal amount of kibble or pieces hanging off him.


Kup comes with a pair of guns which unfortunately to accommodate the Titan Master gimmick means that sculpting is only on one side, and is hollow on the other side...


He can hold the weapons on either hand.


When not in use, you can combine it together and store it on his back.


The detailing inside his torso looks great and even more clever when you consider it is actually the grill of the vehicle mode.


A stellar robot mode, Kup really turned out to be the surprise of the wave.

OVERALL:

While it may not look like it at first glance or even at the stock photos, Kup is a nice figure.  His transformation while simple for the most part, has an interesting twist for his legs.  He is accurate in both modes and ends up being one of the best from the wave.

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Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Book Review: Puella Magi Madoka Magica the Movie: Rebellion 2


Review:  #684
Title:  Puella Magi Madoka Magica the Movie:  Rebellion 2
Series:  Puella Magi Madoka Magica the Move:  Rebellion - 2nd volume
Author:  Magica Quartet
Read Before:  no
Comments:  Some of the questions raised in the first volume is answered here but the ending presents many more questions instead.  The first part has an intense fight between Homura and Mami but the panels are so busy that it’s hard to distinguish what is actually happening during the battle.  This is also where the plot starts becoming convoluted and the sections where it is supposed to have a big impact falls flat because it flies over the reader’s head.  As the reality of the illusionary city is revealed, the huge amount of information presented takes a long time to process and wrap your head around.  It feels like a mess in the end and could do with better pacing.
Rating:  6/10

Monday, August 28, 2017

Resonance of Fate (PS3)


Resonance of Fate is a JRPG developed by tri-Ace, most notable for their Star Ocean series.  Resonance of Fate is set in a steampunk world of the future, where Earth is nearly uninhabitable.  Therefore, humanity created a giant tower called Basel which was built to sustain life via purification of the surrounding land.  Eventually, humans moved into the tower itself, and throughout the game, you get to explore its various levels.  The graphics are passable.  Coupled with the dark gloomy colors to evoke a post-apocalyptic world, it can look quite drab and doesn't do much justice to the game.  The biggest highlight, and the most unique thing about Resonance of Fate, is the battle system.  Known as the "tri-Attack Battle System", there are three characters to your party, and presents a mix of action and turn-based combat.  During each character's turn, you can run around the battlefield to position yourself.  There are various environmental objects scattered from drums that can explode if you aim for it, bunkers to hide behind and protect yourself, and elevated platforms to avoid enemies.

The main form of dealing damage is guns.  There are two types of guns, the handgun is used to deal Direct Damage, and the machinegun is used to deal Scratch Damage.  Scratch Damage is not permanent, but when you mix it with Direct Damage, it will make permanent the Scratch Damage already done.  The caveat is that the handguns are much weaker than the machinegun and thus you need to alternate between the two.  While you can stay in one position and gun, this is not recommended and is a surefire way to lose.  Along the bottom of the screen are a row of Bezels, which allows you to perform "Hero Runs", a tactic where the character will run and charge their guns without interruption to gain multipliers and additional benefits.  However, once you use up all the Bezels, you will enter Critical Mode, which is something you want to avoid as you are severely crippled in this mode.  Performing "Hero Runs" where it cross the other two characters' paths will allow you to accumulate Hero Points, which is used for "tri-attacks", a devastating combo where the whole team perform Hero Runs simultaneously.

Additional abilities include knocking enemies into the air and smacking them back down for additional damage, stunning enemies and destroying specific body parts.  Your own characters can take Scratch Damage and Direct Damage.  Once the Scratch Damage is higher than your HP, then you lose Bezels and will eventually go into Critical Mode.  The battle is confusing at first, so doing the optional tutorial is a must.  If you just charge in without doing these tutorials, then you won't be exposed to any of the more nuanced mechanics.  Once you've mastered it, or at least have a good handle, it is immensely satisfying with the strategic element, yet with the blend of action.  The experience system is very interesting.  It is earned based on the damage from each weapon used.  Therefore, each of the three weapons (handgun, machinegun and grenades) has a separate level, which combined, is the total level for that character.  This means you often rotate the weapons around to gain levels quicker, benefiting from the boost in HP.

As you mainly just gain HP during level up, your increase in attack power comes from the customization of your weapons.  Each gun can be customized via connecting parts on a gridlike system.  It's a bit like a puzzle and very fun as you try and work out the most cost-efficient way to create the most powerful weapon you can using the parts that you have.  You can easily spend hours trying to create the perfect weapon.  It can be annoying when you need to farm monsters for their item drops to purchase specific parts, but on the whole, it's surprisingly well balanced.  The world map, which represents the 12 levels of Basel, are comprised of hexes.  All enemies drop hexes which you are required to place onto the world map to unlock a path to various destinations.  Dungeons are a series of rooms, where in each room you take part in a battle before going to the next.  This is a unique take on dungeons and can be difficult since you cannot swap weapons or equipment unless you exit from it completely.

The story feels unfocused.  It starts off with Zephyr saving Leanne after she jumped off with the intention to die.  Two years later, we are shown that they have joined up with Vashyron and became Hunters, which is basically a small mercenary group, doing odd jobs for people.  Although it tells the backstory of the trio, you don't know where the plot is going towards and as such, you feel disinterested by the story.  The story is easily the weakest aspect of the game, since the majority of the game doesn't advance the main plot, but rather each chapter focuses on each particular job the Hunters are completing.  We are treated to a slow reveal of Leanne's background in the last few chapters but the pacing is too slow and disjointed to make sense of the plot as a whole.  The characters are likeable from the beginning and there is great chemistry between them.  There are scenes where the atmosphere isn't too serious and so the dialogue can be very funny.

The story also likes to pull one or two characters out of the party.  When you're left with one or two characters in battles, it doesn't allow the same extent of strategic options or fun as you cannot perform tri-attacks, which is the crux of the whole battle system.  On the other hand, it means you cannot get complacent and must ensure even levelling of your characters.  While generally, Resonance of Fate has balanced difficulty, there are a few difficulty spikes, especially if you don't come in prepared.  You can always retry battles using money you've earned but later chapters have annoyign enemies who spam status ailments at your characters.  They do this mid-dungeon so you can't change equipment unless you jump out and then redo the dungeon again.  The game also gets tedious when you're forced to fight numerous enemies in battle after battle, since they aren't quick affairs.  Travelling between the levels is also time-consuming.  Going back to the main city is fine since you can set up instant warp points, but the problem is that these points are one-way only, you can't jump from the main city to other places instantly.

In total, there are 16 chapters plus a prologue, which can take anywhere from 40 to 50 hours to finish.  However, if you skip all the sidequests, you can probably finish in around 20-30 hours but it will be much more difficult as you'll be at lower levels.  There is no postgame since once you beat the final boss, the game ends.  However, there is an optional dungeon that opens up at the very end of the game which presents the toughest enemies there is plus some good equipment.  There's also an arena with 500 battles!  The arena is excessive and a tedious grind if you want to complete it fully.  There is a New Game Plus option with higher difficulty or if you play on the same difficulty, you get to effectively keep everything, which is sweet.  Overall, Resonance of Fate is a fantastic JRPG with a strong battle system and progression system.  The story is the weakest aspect however, the characters help keep you interested as they each have a lot of charm.  With English and Japanese voiceovers, you're given plenty of options.  Resonance of Fate is an overlooked JRPG gem for the PS3.

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Sunday, August 27, 2017

Toy Review: Transformers Generations Titans Return Sky Shadow & Ominus


Review:  #399
Name:  Sky Shadow
Brand:  Transformers
Allegiance:  Decepticon
Line:  Generations - Titans Return
Year of Release:  2017
Size Class:  Leader (Wave 4)
Mold Status:  new

OMINUS:


Ominus is Sky Shadow's Titan Master and is cast from three different colours of plastic (surprisingly).


The head is visible from the back, especially the silver face which makes it stand out more from the dark plastic.


The sculpting of the head is hard to make out due to the black plastic used.  Ominus has balljointed shoulders and head.

JET MODE:


The mode which we usually assign Sky Shadow with, the jet mode has a nice colour scheme of black, gold and red.


The jet mode is mostly good except the back which feels incomplete due to the gaps required for transformation.


In case you weren't aware, Sky Shadow's alternate mode is actually split into a jet mode and a tank mode, with both modes being approximately Voyager sized.  Above is a comparison against Titans Return Megatron in tank mode.


There are various points of interactivity with Titan Masters.  The first is that the cockpit opens up and you can place Ominus inside to pilot the jet.


The second is that the nose section can detach into a drone and you have Ominus pilot that as well.


As part of the Titans Return line, there is also a card showcasing the artwork.


A strong jet mode that looks great.

TANK MODE:


The tank mode is equally good.  Due to transformation, the turret is fixed into place.


This a solid little tank, the only negative is that there is a gap on each side which you can see through from above.  It's there mainly for transformation.


Size-wise, it is approximately Voyager sized.  It's a lot more compact than one though.


There is a slot on top for you to place Ominus into to pilot.


The treads are molded and there are small plastic wheels underneath which allows you to roll the tank on a flat smooth surface.


The tank has the same colour scheme as the jet.  The black, red and silver goes together well.


The jet can also peg onto a slot on top of the tank.  Note that this figure is a pretool of Overlord.


Finally, a quick size comparison against Leader Optimus Prime from Age of Extinction to show how big the figure is compared to a typical Leader.


A good tank mode which is somewhat basic and limited but nevertheless looks great.

TRANSFORMATION TO BASE MODE:

Transforming into base mode is easy.  You will need to combine the tank with the jet (the same place as for robot mode) but it is effectively the robot mode lying down.  There are a few dedicated joints for this mode but it is nothing much worth noting about.

BASE MODE:


As Sky Shadow is a Leader class figure within the line, he features a base mode.  This mode is effectively the robot mode lying face down.


To be fair, it is not terrible and looks fairly good and better than some other base modes that we've had.


There are a few places for Titan Masters to interact, in addition to the various pegs for you to put them on, on one side is a slot (the same place as in tank mode).


The other main place is to man the gun.


A nice bonus mode that makes collecting Titan Masters more meaningful.

TRANSFORMATION TO ROBOT MODE:

The tank forms the legs and the jet forms the upper body and arms.  In this respect, the tank's transformation into legs is simple yet elegant, involving a few fold out bits to expand the compact tank into long bulky legs.  The jet section is also simple since the arms sat underneath the wings, you really only need to fold the jet nose back.

ROBOT MODE:


The robot profile of Sky Shadow is a little bit different to what we're used to since he is very bulky and stocky now.


In this mode, you can't really tell that he's formed from two alternate modes.  He carries a fair bit of kibble on his back being the jet nose and the wings.


Without the helmet, the headsculpt just barely passes and still looks somewhat complete (unlike some other Leader classed figures we've had).


With his iconic helmet on, Sky Shadow looks great.  The head can swivel from side to side.


He is much taller than a Voyager class figure now.


Compared to another Leader figure, Sky Shadow looks much bulkier, although he isn't that much heavier since there's a few hollow pieces around (they're just not visible, which is great).


Articulation is fantastic.  Due to transformation, he doesn't have a waist swivel (as that is the section where the tank joins with the jet).


His feet has ankle tilts so he can always stand flat on the surface in most poses.


Sky Shadow's weapons is the gun forms from part of the tank's cannon, and a shield of some sort that was the jet's drone.


The shield can peg onto the outside of either forearm, and he can hold the gun in either hand.


On the packaging it is noted that the two pieces can combine into a bigger gun but it looks weak as a weapon since it is not bulky enough when it is like this.


The shoulder spikes can be moved to however you like and on the whole, Sky Shadow is flexible and poseable.


A strong robot mode that doesn't evoke the character at first glance but will definitely grow on you.

OVERALL:

Sky Shadow is a very fun figure.  He presents a lot of play value thanks to his two alternate modes, a base mode and a strong solid robot mode connected by a simple yet elegant transformation.  If you can find him, then Sky Shadow is a recommended figure to buy (although personally, the Generations Deluxe version is a better representation of the character).

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