Capsule Reviews 2: A Few More Games? Okay, Let’s Go

More bite-sized review bits? Sure, why not?

Onechanbara Z2 gals 

Onechanbara ZII Chaos (PS4, $49.99) – Budget game developer Tamsoft gets its sexy ladies onto the PS4 in a game that’s going to be loved and hated by gamers for a few reasons. While it has a super smooth 60fps frame rate, the cheesy music rocks somewhat firecely and the action is nearly non-stop (and supremely gory), it’s easy to see the easily ticked off whiny westerners losing their minds over the skimpy costumes and all-out fan service on display. Bikini, schoolgirl outfit and other fantasy femme tropes get trotted out (and that optional Banana Split pack bonus costume is too racy to show here), but the ladies are far from the helpless princess stereotype at all. Aya, Saki and the rest of the crew have been zombie killing for about a decade since their introduction on the PlayStation 2 and later Xbox 360 and Wii Onechanbara titles, so this one’s just their best looking adventure to date. While the game seems a tad on the short side, the reply value comes from unlocking outfits and having at stages again so you can better your score jut like arcade games of old. Then again, every Onechanbara game is pretty much the same: kill plenty of zombies before they kill your gal of choice and have a BIG grin on your face while doing so. Score: B (80%) 

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Capsule Reviews 1: Some Games You May Have Missed (Me Yak About)

Well, 2015 zipped by too quickly (he typed, knowing that the year isn’t quite over but hey, everyone else seems to be doing year-end articles) and I while didn’t get to write as many reviews as I’d have liked to, I took a ton of notes on things so I could sit down and catch up a some point. The best laid plans of mice and men (and Bemis!) often go wildly astray, so instead of long form full reviews, I’m going to do a bunch of capsule commentary on games, films and books over the next few days just so you have a little something to read when you pop by. Anyway, some quickie game impressions to get started: 

Tales of Zestiria Cast 

Tales of Zestiria (PS4/PS3/PC, $59.99/$49.99 respectively) – Namco’s Tales Studio pulls out all the stops in this latest installment in the long running JRPG franchise (15 Tales to date!) with a game that’s part throwback and homage to the first Tales (of Phantasia) back on the Super Famicom while bringing in an all-new cast, storyline and for the first time, an open world map to explore. Although PS4 owners get the better visual end of the deal on console, the PC version should more than please those fans who pick it up looking for something to play and show off to friends. The game is consistently entertaining from the fast-paced combat to the usual humor found in character interaction and dialog choices. Yes, the use of classic literary references, myth and other tropes is piled on thicker than your mom ever spread mayonnaise, but it works well enough to keep the game fun. I’m actually still playing this one because there’s an extraordinary amount of things to do, stuff to collect and some 93 hours in, I’m close to the endgame but will probably dive in again at some point to revisit a few save files. There are enough divergent paths and interesting encounters (make friends with the Normin you meet!) to keep this one in the play stack for a while. Score: A- (90%)
 
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Like Freedom, “Free” to Play Isn’t Free At All

2015-12-25-152045 

See that screenshot above? That’s the otherwise fun Fat Princess: Piece of Cake locking up on my poor Vita for the fourth time in the middle of a tough board (Mission 42, to be exact). A big fat BOO to that nonsense. As a free to play game I haven’t yet spent a dime on, it’s not bad at all (random freezes during play aside). On the other hand, as I refuse to buy into the micro-transaction model and complete online connectivity to receive daily rewards the game has been designed around, I’ve hit a huge roadblock in my progress that shows the failings of the F2P model in nearly any game it’s implemented in. If you’ve played the game, you know that it’s around the Happy Hills map (Mission 54, to be more precise) where the game comes to a complete stop for anyone not willing to shell out for additional content or able to connect online for certain random bonus items.

Yeah, yeah. “Everyone “should” have an always online connection these days!”, right? Wrong, and even if thy did, the fact that far too many games, free or not, are linked to this model means there’s less common sense among game developers and publishers who aren’t paying attention to that “small”amount of their potential audience they’re not getting a dime from thank to the shady business model that’s taken over the industry. South Park nailed it perfectly:

(thanks, macyosos8!) 

Now, are there any decent “free” to play titles? Yes indeed. I’d recommend Rubicon’s spectacular and completely FREE Combat Monsters in a heartbeat, although the persistent online connection needed makes it not attractive at all if you live in an area with spotty connections or simply don’t want your data tracked. That said, the developer does F2P right because you can indeed play the game for ages and not drop a dime on anything. Stuff that does cost money is priced fairly, makes sense (as in there’s NO pay to win content) and the dev team has polished it all up with a pretty addictive and thrilling game experience.

That said, It seems that the days of buying a retail or online product, registering it and never having to hear a peep ever again about your purchase or have your gaming life poked into are gone for good… but they aren’t. As long as you can grab an older not connected to the internet console or handheld and play games you like without being prodded in the pocket for payment, you’re good to go. Of course, you’ll be missing out on the shiny, shiny draw of somehow spending money on something that was advertised as “free” to play. But that’s one of those things that probably needs to to a high court to decide what the heck that word actually means in this day and age.

Many Happy Returns? Yeah, Right

Pandora's_Box_(film)I don’t think I’ve ever returned a holiday gift as an adult. I do recall as a kid getting scooped up by one or both parental units and being taken to a big store (was it Alexander’s or Korvettes? Maybe both?) the day after Christmas to return stuff that didn’t fit or exchange that extra pair of jammies for something more useful.

As I got older and wiser (although that’s debatable according to many people), something smart in the squishy computer kicked in and I started asking people for EXACTLY what I wanted provided they were open to buying me a present. I haven’t looked back since. Hey, I’m getting old and life is too damn short to be running around like a happy headless chicken with a plastic smile glued on for all occasions.

Yeah, yeah. To some of you (and probably too many of you), Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Festivus or whatever (else) you celebrate is supposed to be chock full of surprises on the gift front. Me, I prefer the predictability of not needing to drag my lazy behind out of bed on a bleary day and huff-hoof it to the malloverse in order to stand in a long line just to swap a bad tie for another one or some stop ’em in their tracks cologne for a discounted set of equally smelly gift-boxed soap I’ll only use in a really dire emergency. That’s just not fun. “What do YOU consider fun?” you ask? “Fun, natural fun!”, I would answer (followed by “shut up and dance”). My suggestion is you who hate the grind of shopping and shipping only to have to lift and shift unwanted goods around the until you get what you want is to try being a little more forward when you need to ask for something. You’d be surprised at how efficient your life just became.

You’re welcome.

melon baller

Oh, and if someone gives you an unasked for melon baller as a gift, keep it and use that $#!+ as a coffee scoop. What you want and what you need are sometimes interchangeable, but in some cases re-purposing makes even the worst present a good deal more useful.

The QFX VP-113 Gets It Done With A Retro Touch

VP-113

Thanks to a friend sending me a few PAL format DVD’s earlier this year and my old laptop’s universal media player dying with the old laptop, I needed an inexpensive player of decent quality I could keep next to the console setup that wouldn’t take up a load of room and was a multi-tasker of some sort. While poking around at a few options (there’s a nice Samsung player under $30 that was my initial choice), I stumbled across the QFX VP-113, a budget DVD player that only caught my eye because it not only played DVD, VCD, SVCD, CD, CD-R, and CD-RW formats, it also had a built-in karaoke function, a USB stick reader and much to my surprise, played “games” of some sort. What sort of games, I had zero idea. But the price was right (under $35 where I found it) and my curious collector side was curious about those GAMES. Because, you know that’s what I like (and like writing about). Continue reading

A Double Shot of Retro Pop Box For Your Wednesday

RPB November Stuff (5)

Due to my dopey old laptop giving up the ghost around the time last month’s Retro Pop Box arrived and me running about doing the headless chicken thing for a bit, I’m just getting around to posting the goodies in that box now. Amusingly enough, this month’s box popped up in the mail as I was getting ready to write this post, so you get two (*smooch!*), TWO mints in one! Or something like that. Anyway, November’s RPG looked like this once opened:

RPB November Stuff (6)

And inside were the following 70’s themed items:

 

The RPB exclusive T-shirt made me grin and yes, it’s gotten some comments thanks to that funky retro design. That Silly String (which I’m saving for the proper occasion) came with a card detailing the product’s creation and rather cool usefulness as a means for soldiers to locate booby trap tripwires in war zones (and making me wonder how much the military is paying per can or if the stuff has to be shipped out by families who want their loved ones coming home safe). That Evel Knievel First Aid Kit made me laugh out loud because while it’s not vintage, I immediately imagined the stunt king of the 70’s packing one of these in every pocket of his star-spangled jumpsuit with a spare inside his helmet each time he made one of those death-defying jumps on ABC back in the day.

I hadn’t seen a Mood Ring in some years, so having one handy is quite nice (Current mood: Happy!). I’ll need to wear that CULT LEADER button with the Retro Pop Box logo one day when I’m out and about just so when someone asks about one, I can tie in the other without worrying about them getting the wrong idea. Yes, I’d say my cult is RPB and they NEED TO JOIN. NOW. (without an “or else!” on the end of that demand. We’re a nice bunch of nostalgia-heads. As for that Brady Bunch lanyard, my brain is flicking through its Rolodex to see if I recall anyone named Marcia because this would be a groovy gift for her. Hey, better a colorful lanyard than a football to the nose, right? Yeah, I thought so.

As for December’s RPB, read on for more on that one… Continue reading

Comin’ At Ya! is Well, Comin’ At Ya! in 2016 Thanks to MVD Entertainment

Comin at Ya BR Comin at Ya DVD

 

Hoo boy. If you’re old enough to recall the 80’s revival of 3D movies, like me, you paid your five bucks to see this one. Finally after years of fans clamoring for the cheesy classic Comin’ At Ya!, it’s back and much better looking thanks to distributor MVD Entertainment Group, writer/actor Tony Anthony (or Roger Pettito) and Sternco 3D. The 1981 R-rated spaghetti western helped set off the short-lived but somewhat successful venture by major and minor film studios into making 3D movies using newer polarized lenses that were light years ahead of the old red/blue (or red/green) anaglyph 3D from the 1950’s.

Set for a January 26, 2016 release on separate 3D Blu-Ray ($24.95) and DVD ($19.95) discs, both will also contain a flat 2D version of the film. A digital donload of the film is also in the works with a price point to be announced.

The new home video version of Comin’ At Ya! was supervised and produced by Tony Anthony himself and Tom Stern (In God’s Hands), through his company Sternco 3D. Sourced from a new 4K master, Comin’ At Ya! boasts a frame by frame digital conversion of the polarized over-and-under format of the original print, sourced from a brand new internegative into the MVC 3D format and new 5.1 surround sound.

While it may not spike another 3D revival on home video, it would be awesome to see the spectacularly goofball Raiders of the Lost Ark pastiche, Treasure of the Four Crowns also get this treatment. As usual, we shall see. But for now, expect your TV to get an eye-popping slice of nostalgia next month.

Working The Force Hard (For Better or Worse)

star_wars_episode_vii__the_force_awakens_ver3_xlgOkay, I can get behind a few product tie-ins for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, but others are both annoying and baffling once you take off the fan blinders. The obvious ton-plus of licensed toys based directly on the film and that Sphero BB-8 app-enabled robot that have been flying off store shelves? Yeah, those are givens any fan should run someone over with a landspeeder to get. I’ll even give it up for the assorted Star Wars food products from cereal to fruit snacks and beverages to the somewhat expensive Ample Hills Ice Cream I’ve yet to try because I can’t justify paying $36 for four pints and waiting almost a month to pick up or have delivered due to high demand.

Yeah, yeah. I’m not some major news network or big site, so I know I won’t get a shipment of free ice cream to try out like a bunch of local outlets have, so I’ll have to use my imagination (and the Force!) to get an idea of how well all those ingredients come together. Wait, what was I talking about? Ice cream thoughts lead way down the rabbit hole of distraction… oh, right. Continue reading

Blu-Ray Reviews: A Handful of Arrows for the Holidays

Ho, and Ho-Ho. It’s been quite a year here, but that’s not why I’m here babbling on my keyboard. You need some more movies to watch, I’m sitting on a stack of them that needed to get written up and this post is my way of attempting to get you to spend some of that disposable income you’re trying to hoard in that mattress. Anyway, I see your quiver is half empty there, Robin Hood. Here are six Arrow Video Blu-Rays of note to nab either direct from MVD Entertainment or your favorite video selling emporium. Lock up the kids for most of these because it’s the birds and the bees plus some bloody good and badness going on below.

Requiescant_AV022Requiescant (MSRP: $39.95): Carlo Lizzani’s 1967 spaghetti western (also known as Kill & Pray) gets a ton of mileage from its religiously-raised orphan turned dead-shot gunfighter (Lou Castel), but it’s also working a political agenda that’s somewhat fitting in this current climate of careless Trumpeting. Kicking off with a massacre of border-bound Mexicans (one of whom survives to become Castel’s priest/gunman), the movie switches gears to a rescue mission that doesn’t go exactly as planned before it drops back into weightier territory.

While mostly bloodless and only slightly comical, the film lets Castel carry the picture despite the presence of director Pier Paolo Pasolini in what’s an extended cameo as a revolutionary leader of sorts. He’s got a memorably manly visage, but Castel’s more innocent good looks and his ways with a firearm are going to keep your eyes on him throughout the film. You can choose from Italian or English versions of the film (both impeccable 2K restorations) with two interviews and a trailer rounding out the special features. Like Arrows other westerns released in the US in the past, this one’s a cult classic that comes highly recommended. Continue reading

Review: Earth Defense Force 2 – Invaders From Planet Space

EDF 2 VitaPlatform: PlayStation Vita

Developer: SANDLOT

Publisher: Xseed Games

MSRP: $29.99

# of Players: 1 – 4

ESRB Rating: T (Teen)

Official Site

Score: A- (90%)

As a longtime Earth Defense Force fan (since 2003’s Simple 2000 Series Vol. 31: The Chikyuu Boueigun, or Monster Attack in the UK), finally getting the chance to see the best game in the series finally arrive stateside and in its best incarnation to date is a great thing indeed. Granted, Earth Defense Force 2: Invaders From Planet Space may not convince some skeptics of how much of a must-buy title it is because at first glance it’s going to seem like less of a game than it actually turns out to be. But those of you who know the series who have yet to play this entry will be pleased to know that not only does it deliver the goods, it still holds up today as a stellar (and incredibly lengthy) game that packs in more action for $29.99 than bigger budgeted AAA titles that cost double the price. Continue reading