Tuesday, August 6, 2019
Saturday, May 26, 2018
Secret Wars - copyright: Marvel Comics, written by Jim Shooter and art by Mike Zeck and Bob Layton
When I am reading a comic book or watching a movie about superheroes, sometimes I start to reason “what if a different character would have done if he or she was there?” For example: imagine an action scene where Spider-Man is fighting both Dr. Octopus and the Lizard. In the final of the story, he loses the fight. Then, you could think: what if Captain America was there to help him? Would the battle final be the same?
If you know a little bit about how comics work, you will know that the Marvel characters (or many other comics company, such as DC Comics) live in the same universe, but do not interact very often. The reason is simple: characters like Spider-Man and Captain America have their own titles. Therefore, if you want to read Spidey stories, then you should look for his comics. Of course, they still interact in big crisis, in special stories or in hero groups like the Avengers.
|There is even crossovers between the Marvel and DC comics (but that is a story for another post)|
And if you think about the entire Marvel universe, then the encounter of all different characters and groups is even more difficult. And that one reason why the story called Secret Wars is so remarkable: it is considered one of the first comics to group such a large roster of characters. Secret Wars is able to satisfy (some of) the curiosity about how would it be if the heroes could help each other when facing a deadly menace.
|Secret Wars first issue front cover|
Written by Jim Shooter and draw by Mike Zeck and Bob Layton for Marvel Comics in 1989, the story had twelve chapters and lots of action scenes and cliffhangers. Secret Wars main plot is not astonishing nowadays, as it is regularly (re)used by different series and stories. Nevertheless, it was very interesting when it was released. It even inspired some sequels (that are not as good as the original) and a modern “Secret Wars”, released three years ago with many similar concepts.
The story is as follows. A group of superheroes and a group of super villains from the Marvel Universe were gathered by a super powerful cosmical being, called Beyonder, with a single purpose: to fight and show to him what means “good” and “evil”. They are left in an unknown planet, created in a region many light-years away from the Earth. The planet is full of war bases and technological devices, courtesy of Beyonder, which increases the possibilities of how the conflict can be settled.
|"The War Begins"|
The winners of the war will have all their wishes come true. The heroes rooster includes members of the Avengers, the Fantastic Four, the X-Men, among other “independent” heroes: Thor, She-Hulk, Spider-Man, Wolverine, Mister Fantastic, Wasp, Magneto among many others. The villains rooster is also respectable, counting with Galactus, Doctor Doom, Enchantress, Ultron, Doctor Octopus, Molecular Man, and others.
|The villains group is as strong as the heroes group|
The plot develops along each edition, always full of battles and surprises, like the discovery of new war bases and extraterrestrial people. The presence of a Galactus adds new possibilities to the conflict, as he is a very powerful cosmical being like Beyonder. Besides, more than just battles and cosmical threats, it is very interesting to see the how the each character deals with the situations in a personal way.
|The story is full of great action scenes|
There are many great examples of individual struggles: Reed Richards is very worried about his pregnant wife, Sue, that stayed at Earth; Magneto, put in the heroes side, must deal with the distrust of his companions; Doom sees the conflict as an opportunity to gain great power; Ben Grimm, facing many “blackouts” in his “Thing powers”, have to choose his actions carefully; Captain America tries to be a leader worth of his team; Hulk, that at the time was intelligent, slowly started to become irrational again. All these elements (and many others) create a unique and rich story, with many great cliffhangers and changes in the story development.
|A classical frame: Hulk saves the heroes literally holding a mountain on his back|
The series had some effects over the characters regular series, such as the Thing leaving the Fantastic Four, being replaced by the She-Hulk, and the end of Colossus relationship with Kitty Pride. Probably the most significant is the first appearance of Spider-Man black uniform, which later would become one of the most significant villains of the neighborhood friends, the deadly symbiote Venom. Other characters were also introduced, such as the second Spider-Woman and the villains Volcana and Titania.
|The appearance of the Spider-Man Black uniform|
Secret Wars has two (minor) issues: the art standards and the plot consistency. While most of the time the characters and environments are nicely drawn, there are a few frames with poor quality. It is like the artists had to draw these frames fast, lacking precision and even the proportion of the characters. And talking about the plot, it is good in general, but sometimes the story fells a bit stretched. This can explain some of the characters inconsistent actions that only seem to exist in order to justify more pages. Nevertheless, these facts are just exceptions in the saga.
|It is great to see all these characters together in the same story|
If you always wondered how Wolverine, Thor, Spider-Man and The Thing would work together, wonder no more. Secret Wars is a comic books series where the Marvel greatest heroes and villains are set in a cosmic fight, where the winner side can have their dreams come true. It has a great story, good art and added/changed many characters and facts to the Marvel canon. More than a great comic by itself, Secret Wars was a pioneer in great crossover events and deserves its place among the most classic stories ever.
Saturday, April 7, 2018
Resident Evil 4 - copyright: Capcom Co., Ltd.
There are few titles in the game industry that may be called "revolutionaries." These games influenced the history of the gaming industry through new game mechanics, great stories, beautiful graphics, or quality soundtrack and are public and critically acclaimed.
Among the lists and ranks available in many websites and magazines, a title that always stands among those which have revolutionized the game industry is the sixth installment in the Resident Evil franchise: Resident Evil 4, a game that revolutionized the third-person shooter genre. Released exclusively for GameCube in 2005, its success was such that Capcom game received ports for PS2, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PC and Wii.
|Wii version box cover|
The game story is focused in Leon S. Kennedy, an American government agent responsible for investigating the kidnapping of Ashley, the USA president daughter, in a remote region of Europe. However, the kidnapping is only part of the Los Illuminados plan, a mysterious and powerful cult that plans to dominate the world through the use of Las Plagas. This parasite organism is capable of producing zombies (called Ganados) and monsters with great agility and intelligence, raising the bar of Resident Evil franchise difficulty.
|Aim fast and do not waste ammunition: the enemies may come from everywhere|
More than a great shooting game, Resident Evil 4 presents a dark atmosphere, worthy of the best horror games. Combine this fact with sneaky enemies and scary scenarios full of traps and surprises, and you'll have a game full of adrenaline and challenges. Although the "horror" element is actually reduced when compared to the franchise's more classic titles (an often complaint of ardent fans), the title still offers several scary moments and big surprises to the player. Therefore, you must to pay attention to any noise or shout of the enemies (like the famous quote "Un forastero!").
|All the boss fights are really challenging|
Leon has (the traditional) medicinal herbs to recover energy, and can fight with weapons like shotguns, pistols, sniper rifles, grenades and even rocket launchers. The use of weapons through the third-person perspective (which even redefined the genre in the gaming industry by its fluidity and immersiveness, influencing many new titles), alongside the inability to shoot and run at the same time increased the thrilling during enemies attacks, who suffer damage according to the body part that received the blows. Hence, it is necessary to use the ammunition with caution, because there are parts of the game where it is scarce and must be saved (mainly for the boss fights). Other options include shooting explosive barrels, using knife attacks or the combos that Leon can perform on enemies unbalanced by other attacks.
|Remember to keep space for both guns and ammunitions in your inventory (PS3 version)|
Along with Leon's game mechanics, most of the game also involves control of Ashley, who (avoiding any major spoiler) is found throughout the game, and joins the adventure of escaping from the Los Illuminados. Other important characters include: Osmund Saddler, the leader of the evil cult; Ada Wong, a mysterious spy who has been involved with Leon in past installments; and Albert Wesker, considered the greatest villain of the saga. The two latter characters can be selected in The Mercenaries mode, which consists of an endless combat against hordes of zombies in order to achieve the highest score. This mode was released along with the main campaign in the last released versions of Resident Evil 4, which included other extras like the mode Separated Ways, an exclusive campaign of Ada Wong that presents a side story to Leon campaign.
|From the left to the right: Leon, Ashley and Ada surrounded by Ganados|
The game scenarios include abandoned villages, oil refineries, caves, sewers and churches. All of them are beautifully designed and depicted. In fact, this is a constant factor in the game: all Resident Evil 4 elements are nicely refined and work together perfectly, offering a unique experience. The game mechanics are fun and competent; the visual styles and effects are gorgeous; the soundtrack and the voice work are great; the plot is well written and developed; the battles, both against endless hordes of zombies or mutant monsters, are thrilling and challenging in the right measure. It is really an almost perfect game (except, perhaps, when you need to rescue an Ashley who seems to have a lower level of artificial intelligence than the zombies).
|Always keep an eye on Ashley, or she will get in trouble|
Although some say that this title started the “downfall” of the franchise, focusing only on the action and shooting genres rather than the "horror" factor, it is undeniable that Resident Evil 4 redefined many standards in the gaming industry. There are many qualities that make this title a constant presence in the lists of the best games. More than a revolutionary shooter, the game features a breathtaking plot, excellent gameplay and several hours of fun. A game that you must have in your library, regardless if you have a Microsoft, Nintendo or Sony console (or PC).
|I could not end this review without highlighting Leon "awesomeness" (from PC)|
Friday, March 16, 2018
Far Cry 3 - copyright: developed by Ubisoft Montreal and published by Ubisoft
Open world games become a regular category in the modern consoles. They can be settled in modern cities, ancient civilizations and even in outer space. These games normally share a main characteristic: the possibility to freely explore the game virtual world. Actually, more than just free exploration, open world games commonly offer non-linear plots and lots of customization, allowing the player to advance at his/her own pace.
Among many open world titles, one of the best titles is called Far Cry 3. Developed by Ubisoft Montreal and released on the end of 2012, this game is the third (not obviously, as some games have spin-offs) installment in the Far Cry series. It is set on a tropical archipelago called Rook Islands, where the protagonist, Jason Brody, must survive a war between the Rakyat, a native people of the island, and a group of invading pirates.
|Far Cry 3 game cover (in case you are wondering, Jason is buried and Vaas is staring at you)|
The game story begins with Jason and his group of friends enjoying their vacations in the region. After a skydiving trip, they were captured in the Rook Islands by a group of pirates, led by Vaas. Separated from his friends, Jason and his older brother Grant escape the prison. However, Vaas kills Grant, leaving Jason completely alone in the tropical island. After some struggle in the jungle, Jason is founded by Dennis, a member of the Rakyat. Dennis gives to Jason the Tatau, the tattoos that are the symbol of the Rakyat warriors. While helping the Rakyat in some missions, Jason discovers that his friends may be still alive in some part of the Rook Islands. After that, the plot is divided between Jason helping the Rakyat people and trying to save his friends.
|You and your friends before the game really begin|
One famous quote of the pirate Vaas is about insanity. "Did I ever tell you the definition of insanity? Insanity is doing the exact... same fucking thing... over and over again…” According to that, Far Cry 3 is a completely healthy game: it offers lots of different missions and things to do along the story, from completely destroying enemies’ bases to stealthy stealing secret information from the pirates and exploring lost civilizations temples.
|Assault an enemy camp with a sniper rifle is really satisfying (and safer)|
Moreover, the Rook Islands are full of wild animals, such as leopards and Komodo Dragons, which, summed with the large number of invading pirates, makes the game full of surprise encounters and fierce combats. Excluding some missions where you must act according to specific instructions, such as “use this weapon” or “kill the pirates without being noticed”, the game allows you to play freely, according to your own combat and exploration styles.
|The temples explorations are one of my favorite parts of Far Cry 3|
There is a large set of weapons and items to use during the game. Most of the guns can be upgraded and customized, adding extra bullets, special scopes and fancy paintings. Want to crush your enemies with rocket launchers, shotguns and assault rifles? Or do you want a stealthier approach, using snipers rifles and bows? Maybe you prefer a combination of machine guns and pistols? Far Cry 3 gives you freedom to buy and equip up to four different weapons, alongside with grenades and other interesting items, in order to explore and survive the tropical adventure.
|Shoot the vehicles to create explosions and put your enemies on fire|
As you progresses the game and receive experience points by killing enemies, saving the local people and finding hidden treasures, new tattoos are added to your Tatau. Each new drawing gives you some new ability, such as increased maximum health, improved gun handling, faster healing, longer breath for running and diving, among many others. Besides the tattoos, you can collect better weapons, hunt animals to craft new items and learn to medicine recipes from local plants. These crafted syringes can temporarily improve your health, breath, hunting abilities and even make you invulnerable.
|The Tatau is divided in three groups of abilities: the Heron (long-range moves and mobility), the Spider (stealth and hunting) and the Shark (health and takedowns)|
The plot goes nicely most of the time, with interesting surprises, such as a new bad pirate boss arise. However, the final of Far Cry 3 is the great con of this great game. Without any spoiler, you will need to make a hard decision in the plot end, which involves your new life as a Rakyat warrior and your “old” life with your friends. Each decision leads to a different ending: one is ridiculous and the other is just lame. I expected that the plot would not end with a simple “happily ever after”, but I believe that something better could have been planned to end an epic game.
Far Cry 3 is an open world game that makes you live a thrilling tropical jungle adventure. Help the local people to fight a group of bad pirates, and learn new abilities from their “magical” tattoos. Be aware of wild bears and snakes, and remember to explore everywhere for treasures. Collect and customize weapons and craft new items, in order to create your own personal arsenal. And remember: this is a game recommended only for sane people. Wait, did I ever tell you the definition of insanity?
Monday, February 12, 2018
SKET Dance - copyright: written by Kenta Shinohara (Manga) and Tatsunoko Production (Studio) / TV Tokyo
Imagine that you are watching one of your favorite programs or playing one of your favorite games. Everything is going as usual, when suddenly a character in the program quotes something that does not make part of that universe. Something like playing a Zelda game and finding a Mario’s game character, or when a movie has a character from another franchise.
It is thanks to Gintama that I discovered this amazing comedy anime that I will now talk about. Its name is SKET Dance, an anime that tells the story of a support group formed by three students: Bossun, the creative leader; Himeko, both the muse and the muscles; and Switch, the “know-it-all”. The support group SKET Dance main mission is to help all the students in its community and solves any problems taken to them.
|SKET Dance (from left to right): Switch, Bossun and Himeko|
As I said before, SKET Dance is a comedy anime. 90% of the series is full of jokes and crazy situations, always with great funny moments. Most of these moments are due to the anime characters unique personalities that create many lovely relationships. Besides the main trio, there are many fascinating characters: the samurai apprentice Shojiro, the supernatural Yuuki Reiko, the softball player Chiaki Takahashi (also known as Captain), the bully/voice actress/singer Momoka, the odd singer Dante, the tsundere Saaya, the mangaka Roman, among many others.
|SKET Dance characters (I am sorry, but there is not enough space to list them all...)|
Each episode is normally self-contained, which is good if you are not looking for those long plot sequences. The SKET Dance works are quite variable, from assisting teachers in their romantic lives to looking for missing items. Among them, for me the best chapters are when the trio must help its classmates in their personal problems, as dealing with love relationships (Bossun and Himeko are or are not a couple?) or accomplishing “impossible” missions (as win a Genesis Grand Prix or complete an action figures collection).
|Never forget the Genesis pre-game dance!|
The other 10% of SKET Dance are the background stories, which tell the origin of the main group. These singular episodes show how Bossun, Himeko and Switch met each other, and why they created a group to help their classmates. These stories are far more serious than the others chapters, but even so they keep the anime standards of quality. If it wasn’t for the familiar characters, we could think that it was a different (but also great) series.
|The anime has a good variety of great plots, such as when Bossun becomes a child again|
When talking about this anime, I cannot forget to talk about the Student Council, the SKET Dance “antagonists”. Obviously, the groups do not fight literally. The problem is that both are dedicated to solve problems and help the academic community, which makes them natural adversaries. Organized in five members, Agata, Tsubaki, Mimorin, Asahina and Shinba are responsible for some of the funniest episodes. And I have not even talked about Tsubaki and Bossun “rivalry” that hides a mysterious relationship…
|The Student Council (from left to right: Agata, Asahina, Tsubaki, Mimorin and Shinba) vs SKET Dance|
For me, the only con of SKET Dance is the series conclusion. Without telling any spoiler, the anime last chapter was a good one, ending with a big cliffhanger (for an inexistent sequence). Some people may consider it like those classic endings “and SKET Dance adventures will continue forever”. Even if this is the case, I still think that is a good series waste. The manga goes further on the characters stories, which could be perfectly adapted to anime (the manga end is really amazing, by the way).
|Thanks for presenting SKET Dance to me, Gintama!|
If you are looking for a funny anime, full of both silly humor and intelligent jokes, SKET Dance is a great option. It is impossible to resists Bossun’s silly inteligence, Himeko’s deadly charm and Switch’s scientific “otakuness”, besides the many others lovely characters present in the series. Most chapters have a single episode length, which is great when you just want to watch a good series without having much time to spend. So, don’t forget: if you are looking for fun, just call the Support-Kindness-Encouragement-Troubleshoot Dance group.
Tuesday, January 16, 2018
Wonder Woman - copyright: DC Comics (characters and original stories), DC Films (movie) and Warner Bros. Pictures (publisher)
Determining whether or not a movie is good is a difficult task. Besides many technical aspects, the personal opinion is always a key factor. That is why professional movie reviewers must (at least theoretically) ignore their own preferences and evaluate the film by itself. Obviously enough, the public opinion may under or overestimate movies using only personal convictions or personal tastes. Even specialized sites grades may be influenced sometimes.
One of the most recent movies that falls in this category of “exaggerated evaluations” is Wonder Woman, which is also the present review subject. As I just write about things that I like, do not expect a bad review here. On the other hand, I must be loyal to my opinion about fair reviews. Actually, that why I have written this text: to expose (or try) a neutral evaluation of a great movie, that is so full of exaggerated evaluations in the internet. The review summary? Wonder Woman is not near perfection, but it is far from catastrophe.
|There is many wonders in Wonder Woman|
Released in June 2017, Wonder Woman is the movie about the homonymous super heroine from the DC comic’s universe. Along the years, her origin was reinvented many times, which may create some confusion about his story. However, the main facts never change, both in the comics and in the movie. Diana was raised among the Amazons like a gift from the Greek gods. The Amazons were a group of women living at a mystically hidden island, aside from the rest of the planet. They received the gift of eternal youth, and should be always ready to defend the world when needed. One day, an American soldier called Steve Trevor lands in the island, running from Germans. After discovering the Great War in the patriarchal world, Diana decided to help the allies, being named Wonder Woman by the media in her first appearance.
|George Perez's Wonder Woman stories lent some ideas for the movie|
The movie was able to show this origin well, and develop a great plot in general. Considering the different changes in the character story over the years, the movie has some of the greatest elements from Wonder Woman’s universe. For example, the spirited Etta Candy (played by Lucy Davis), one of the first Diana’s friends in the patriarchal world, originally appeared in the year 1942 comics. Another great moment, without telling any spoiler, is a major plot twist that is based in the modern Wonder Woman comics from the New 52 series.
|Etta (left) and Diana (center) buying some "patriarchal" women clothes|
Wonder Woman has great abilities, even for an amazon, being very fast, skilled and strong. The action scenes were well designed and performed in general, for both hand to hand combats and war zones shootouts. Wonder Woman is a complex character by essence: she is naturally charming and lovely, a person who hates to hurt other people; on the other hand, Diana is a true warrior, and has no hesitation in starting a fight to defend the justice.
|Gal Gadot is really the Wonder Woman|
The actress Gal Gadot played a very convincing Wonder Woman, being capable of showing these two conflicting sides of the character. Besides Wonder Woman, the other characters are great, especially Steve Trevor (played by Chris Pine). They really look like a couple, just like in the comics. Trevor is like Diana: kind and fair, but also brave and merciless when necessary.
|Pine and Gadot make a lovely couple|
I just talked about the good aspects until now. Therefore, the movie is not perfect, even if many people and sites consider it “the best super hero movie of all time” or “a flawless adaptation of a great comic’s story”. I respectfully disagree on these evaluations, as they are strongly motivated by the “strong woman protagonist” and/or the “first good DC Extended Universe movie” effects.
For me, there are three main cons in Wonder Woman. The first are the Amazons fighting scenes, or the “dancing” scenes, as some called. I expected some unusual fighting style from an ancient isolated country, but their movements were just weird, like an exotic ballet. In the second place there is the CG (computer graphics). Sometimes, the special effects are really poor, as the movie was a low cost production. Besides that, some scenes, as the main villain battle, could be more physical, with real interaction between the characters.
The third con is the movie plot in general, full of different mistakes. For example, some parts of the movie, as Diana’s childhood, for example, are excessively long. Another problem is that she is, at the same time, naive and wise, which may be confusing in some scenes. Finally, the movie ending was completely obvious and frustrating. Even if you are expecting that final, I believe that the story could be more creative and deliver some (good) surprise in the end. There are some other minor problems, as the contradiction between Wonder Woman’ speech (she hates violence and loves peace) and her actions (she fights and kills her enemies). Although she always had this dual nature, the movie was not to balance them properly.
|The Amazon island Themyscira: some of its scenes could be better paced|
Wonder Woman is a respectable movie. It is really a difficult one to review, and probably that why it has so many different (and extreme) opinions. It has a lot of action, a decent adventure, some good jokes and a competent cast. Gal Gadot really is “Wonder Woman”, and I believe that she can become a better one after the feedback received from the public and with a better movie script. The plot has some holes, some scenes were confusingly filmed and the CG may be a bit lackey sometimes, but it is nothing that compromises the entire movie. If you are looking for a good movie, and not a cinema master piece, Wonder Woman is a great choice.
Tuesday, September 26, 2017
Kingdom Rush - copyright: developed by Ironhide Game Studio and published by Armor Games
Tower defense is a type of strategy game, where the player must defend a specific territory from enemies. The gamer typically can use troops or constructions, like towers (which name this game genre), in order to defeat or stop the enemies, varying according to the title universe. And when I think about a game that represents this category, I always remember one title: Kingdom Rush.
Developed by Ironhide Game Studio and published by Armor Games, the title was first released for PC as a free flash web browser game in July 2011. Only in May 2013 Kingdom Rush was ported to Android systems, and then, in May 2015, the game became a free app for Android. It is a game full of humor, action, strategy and many secrets to discover.
|Kingdom Rush main menu|
Set in a fantastic medieval universe, where there are might knights, powerful wizards, skillful elves, and genius dwarfs, Kingdom Rush is a huge adventure. The game mechanic is pretty simple: you need to build towers and place troops in the scenario, in order to stop enemies from reaching their goal. Each defeated enemy, as goblins and werewolves, gives you money, necessary for creating or upgrading buildings and troops.
|The first missions are good to understand how the game mechanics work|
Every level presents a different scenario, where the towers can only be built in determinate places. The enemies have different skills, as flying capacity, magical resistance, and area damage, among many others, so the towers strategy must be well-planned. For example, use archers tower to hit flying units, while placing a barrack tower to hold enemies and allow a dwarf bomb tower to deal area damage.
|There are scenarios in every environment, from wastelands to icy mountains|
The player starts each level with twenty hearts, and when an enemy reaches the goal, you lose hearts according to the foes power. The higher their power, the more hearts you will lose. There are more than thirty unique enemies, so you must be able to deal with different tricks and attacks. Even if you have only four basic towers, do not forget that every tower has its own special abilities, which can be upgraded with money anytime.
|There are many upgrades and achievements to unlock through the game|
Besides the towers, the player can make use of special items, reinforcements, and meteor attacks (called Rain of Fire), the last two being cooldown based abilities. You can also control a Hero, a special unit that has can battle using its special skills, and gain experience points to level up and become stronger. In the free version, there are only three heroes to choose (which is a bit disappointing), but they are good enough to help in your missions. And if the Hero dies, do not worry: in some moments it will revive and return to the battle.
|The Heroes are really useful during the battles|
Kingdom Rush graphics are very good, full of color and great cartoon like animations. The characters are interesting, and the scenarios locations are well-designed. The attacks and spells sounds are original and exciting, just as the funny phrases said by the character and heroes. It is great to play epic battles while listening to the game songs and the combat sounds, creating an intense game play. The controls are intuitive and the touch buttons and commands are accurate.
|The bosses are always challenging, so pay attention to any opening|
Some missions in the hard difficult level may be a bit frustrating. More than requiring well-planned tower layout across the scenario, these levels demand an almost perfect timing when using heroes, spells and reinforcements. However, as I have written before, the game offers so many challenges that you will have lots of fun before facing the tough ones. Unless you are one of those players that always aim for 100 % completion (which also includes many secrets), in this case I wish you good luck…
|The last mission is really tough!|
Kingdom Rush is one of the funniest games for Android devices. Its particular tower defense mechanics are simple, but also full of possibilities. From magical wizard towers to technological dwarfs shocking machines, passing by barbarian’s huts and archer towers, you have many options to stop the enemies from reaching their targets. The game cartoon graphics are great, and songs and sounds are very funny. Literally a “must have” free Android game, Kingdom Rush will give you hours and hours of fun (and even some of suffering, if you dare to play the hardest levels).