Review: Yakuza 6: The Song of Life

If Yakuza 6 (available April 17 on PS4) is your first trip to Kiryu Kazuma’s world, fear not. As an option on the title screen, the game can fill you in with rundowns of the previous five entries with a series of cut scenes taken from previous installments. These cinemas not only get you well up to speed, they’ll very likely make you want to track down the older games at some point (well, you’ll also need a PS3 for three or four of the older titles). As for this latest installment, it’s brilliant, bittersweet and worth the time investment for plenty of reasons.

Kiryu’s journey takes him from Okinawa back to his old stomping (and kicking and punching) ground of Kamurocho with an eventual journey to Onomichi Jingaicho in Hiroshima. Par for the course, the many plot twists and turns he’ll face range from melodramatic to absurd, but the main plot is quite serious stuff. After his former pop idol daughter Haruka goes missing, Kiryu tracks her to Kamurocho only to discover she’s been struck and badly injured by a car. He also finds out he’s a grandfather as Haruka was hit while protecting her son who Kiryu knew nothing about until he has to take care of him. With all this happening, the poor guy has to deal with a Yakuza and Triad gang war where both sides also want him taken out and a few other matters you’ll want to check out.

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Random Film of the Week: ALIEN³

(Thanks, THX1968!)

 

Alien 3_bI think it was sometime in mid-to late 1991 when I first saw the teaser trailer to ALIEN³ and had my eyeballs pop right out of my head followed by my jaw hitting the floor way too hard in the theater I saw it in. Ladies and gentlemen, do you know how hard it is to clean sticky goo off your eyeballs after they’ve rolled underneath a movie theater seat? Trust me, it ain’t easy. That and yuck-o, stale popcorn and half an old hot dog have the tendency to rather easily get into a fallen jaw if you let it sit down there for more than a minute flapping away in shock mode. Hey, I was busy trying to find my darn eyeballs, thank you much.

Needless to say, I was kind of shocked by this news that we’d get a third film in the franchise and it was coming in under a year. I wasn’t sure I liked the “On Earth, Everyone Can Hear You Scream” tagline at all and yes indeed, I thought bringing that cranky xenomorph to Earth was a bad (not a bad-ass) idea for a few key reasons. Although at that point, I was kind of screaming myself.

It seems 20th Century Fox may have agreed (or at least was pulling a fast one on us because they didn’t really have an idea about the film they were planning to make), as a few months later, this was the follow up trailer:

 

(Thanks, Media Graveyard!)

 

After gathering up my eyeballs and jaw again and handing a few people in the theater their eyeballs that rolled under and around my seat (which was quite interesting as I had to wait until the guy who picked up one of my eyeballs by mistake returned it or today I’d be the Jane Seymour version of myself or something like that), I took time to take in the trailer. Bald Ripley. Bald bad men, some bald men screaming and running, NO weapons at all and a reused music cue from the previous film had me both puzzled and really curious as to how the helllllll Sigourney Weaver’s Ellen Ripley character was going to get out of this new mess. That said, the art direction and sets looked solid and that finale bit with the Alien getting too close to Ripley had me intrigued as hell, as did my wondering who the heck was this David Fincher guy directing the film.

There were other trailers and eventually TV spots that arrived before and after the film was released, but I was sold before that point to the point that even if I didn’t like the final product, I had the feeling it would be really interesting and maybe even impressive.  Let’s just say I kind of got my money’s worth more on the visual side of things and a temporary gumball substitute for an eye after I picked up the first round object that I could touch after they popped out again.

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Hakuoki: Edo Blossoms Is Eating My Free Time’s Lunch

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Okay, Idea Factory International, cut it out with putting out games that are too damn good. I’m still playing Hakuoki: Edo Blossoms on my Vita thanks to a few things like packed backlog and this follow up to Hakuoki: Kyoto Winds being such a solid visual novel that I’m trying to follow as many story paths as possible and failing miserably because they’re all so well localized. So, what should you do while you’re waiting for my verdict? Um, maybe read my review of the first game and get your wallets ready for more?

Well, that’s what I’d do, but I’m kind of predictable. Give me maybe two days, ladies and gents.

-GW

Just An Update Or Two

“When you wake up and the world hasn’t ended, that’s at least good enough for a second cup of coffee.”

Ah, senior citizen logic. No, not from me, silly. Some older guy in the elevator here spontaneously said that the other day and it made me laugh out loud. Anyway, it’s kind of busy on a few fronts these days, but yeah, yeah – more reviews are incoming.

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This one’s fun and weird so far, so heads up if you like those Idea Factory/Compile Heart dungeon crawlers that borrow heavily from the classic Wizardry series while adding a few interesting JRPG twists. There are a few other (mostly) RPG-related reviews coming as well, but we’ll get to them over say, the next week. It’s tricky to make it through some recent games where you’ve got cut scenes that feature a novel’s worth of text with a novella of lore to wade through and you want to read every word.

I’ve been plowing through a stack of movies as well so my to-do pile is now a comfortable collection I can stroll past without feeling like I have to watch a film or three I’m not in the mood for. Amusingly enough, I’ve been stacking by genre and country, so you may see a few too many posts in a row about Japanese, Italian, or French films I’ve received. Or not, as I’m playing this my ear at the moment.

Was that a Blue Velvet reference? Oh, I don’t know. I think I need a new nap or something. Back in a bit.

-GW

Some Kiwami Films For Yakuza Fans

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With Yakuza Kiwami out now and hopefully selling well for Sega as an evergreen title into the future, overall interest in the long-running series over the past few years seems high enough that I’m thinking some of you folks might be interested in a few of the many Japanese gangster films out there. If you’re new to them, this very short list of recommendations may pack a ton of surprises on a few fronts.

If you’ve played Yakuza 0, Yakuza 4 or more recently, Kiwami (which means “extreme” in Japanese), you’ll very clearly see cinematic influences in abundance throughout the series. Even though the games are set in a more modern version of Japan, most of these films have very similar scenes that show how in general, some criminal behavior never really changes and it’s quite a draw for some who choose to live that lifestyle despite the risks.

Anyway, just step into this alley over here and I’ll set you up right… or set you upright after setting you up, right?

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Cops Vs Thugs * – Prolific director Kinji Fukusaku made a number of great yakuza-themed films, but this 1975 gem is probably his best. Notable for a brutal interrogation scene where an actor playing a gangster is actually beaten by actors playing crooked cops (the rehearsal footage is included as one of the bonuses), that scene is somehow very tame once added to the assorted forms of other violence on display.

When crooked but loyal to a fault cop (Bunta Sugawara) and his equally crooked and loyal to a fault Yakuza pal Hirotani (Hiroki Matsukata) clash with a gung-ho young detective who wants all corruption purged from the force, plenty of mayhem ensues. There’s not a dull moment at all here and it’s also a case of seemingly minor characters having major roles as the plot twists pile up.

Fukusaku’s candid camera catches it all, sometimes tilting mid-action during certain scenes and freeze-framing during others for added emphasis. The imminent threat of random violence and no clear black and white heroes makes you almost root for both sides. But you’ll see that there’s no winners here when all is said and done. This one’s a must despite the kind of goofy title as well as a great way to embellish your Kiwami experience outside the game.

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Review: Rock of Ages II: Bigger & Boulder (PS4)

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Warning: This review may be full of rock puns or something. Or not, as I’m writing this on the fly between campaign missions. Rock of Ages II: Bigger & Boulder is a must buy right out of the game if you love your games surreal, physics-based and packed with artistic genius that might roll over the heads of some gamers who won’t “get” the all-out insanity here at all. Granted, developer ACE Team has always gone out of its way to lace their games with stylistic influences that are far from the norm when it comes to pegging them with a particular style. But here, you get the kind of mind-bending overkill that’s constantly making you smile or burst out laughing because pulling off humor so well in a game like this makes it a total blast.

There’s a single player mode as well as co-op and online play for up to four. But at heart this is a spin on a few genres from racing to tower defense, to bowling with a dash of puzzle elements thrown in for good measure than can be fully enjoyed solo. Imagine if Rampart, Super Monkey Ball, and Marble Madness had a child raised on a steady diet of Monty Python animation while reading art history books for fun and you’re about a tenth of the way into what’s going on here. The game is also quite challenging and definitely not a cakewalk on the more difficult settings. That said, prepare to let the good times roll as you rock on with Atlas as he engages in rolling combat with assorted foes in not at all historically accurate settings.

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Review: Yakuza Kiwami (PS4)

Yakuza Kiwami (Custom)While Sega could have done a basic HD remaster of the original 2005 Yakuza game and gotten away with it, they thankfully did a great deal more with a full-on remake running at 1080p and a pretty solid 60fps. Yakuza Kiwami is a total hoot that, while packing in a few old-school problems, makes for quite a hilarious and always entertaining game experience.

From over the top (and none to complex, thank you) combat to plenty of mature content snipped from the earlier North American PS2 version or added specifically to this version, it’s just good to see this game hold up as well as it does and remain mostly a blast to play. “Mostly” gets a point here thanks to the camera getting wacky in tight places and a few instances where the older game’s plot wonkiness step into the update and keep a few elements a bit confusing. Overall, though – the game is makes for a really great time from its opening moments.

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Review: Hakuōki: Kyoto Winds

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HAKU1_PackArtIf you or someone you love are suffering from FVN (Fear of Visual Novels), Idea Factory International has a great solution at an affordable price. Hakuōki: Kyoto Winds is a great introduction to otome games for Vita owners willing to try something different that’s well made and quite enjoyable.

Yes, longtime fans will recognize this as “only” an enhanced port of an older game they may have previously played. But they should also recognize the fact that every day someone might just want to try something out of their comfort zone they’ll probably like. Hey, an expanded fan base can be a good thing when all is said and done, right?

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Happy New Year (Take 2)

(Thanks, TroniCPol!)

Hey, my mood lightened! Ha. Anyway, I was trying to think of an appropriate New Year’s thing to post when it hit me that I hadn’t played the late Kenji Eno’s very offbeat D2 in about four years. It works as a perfectly bleak yet eventually hopeful holiday horror game experience for the period between Christmas and New Year’s Day. Thanks to just being too busy to unearth one of my Dreamcasts, make sure the battery is working so that I could start playing about nine hours before midnight so the end credit sequence ends with the onscreen game clock counting down to the New Year and getting a cheery message for all that effort, I haven’t gone near this gem. But that’s going to change.

Anyway, backlog or not I’ll finally replay this classic at some point this year just to see if I can speed through it a bit faster. Much of the game’s length is due to extended stretches of cinematic sequences that can’t be skipped, so it’s a pay attention game almost all the way through, lousy US dubbing and all.

Ah well. Anyway, Happy New Year, people – 2017 is going to be innnnnnteresting.

-GW

BUY IT! Bundle Stars Offers Up Sega Genesis Classics Dirt Cheap

SEGA Genesis Classics BundleSo, Bundle Stars is running a really nice deal on Sega Genesis/Mega Drive classics that can’t be beat.If you’ve got a Steam account, LOVE great deals and are into classic 16-bit games, this is a deal you cannot miss out on. You’ve just under five days to take advantage of this, so get on it, I say!

Although I have all of these (and more!) on cart, I ended up grabbing 20 for $4.99:

Gain Ground
Alien Soldier
Streets of Rage
Streets of Rage 3
Phantasy Star II
Phantasy Star III: Generations of Doom
Phantasy Star IV: The End of the Millennium
Wonder Boy in Monster World
Wonder Boy III: Monster Lair
Golden Axe II
Golden Axe III
ToeJam & Earl
ToeJam & Earl in Panic on Funkotron
Bio-Hazard Battle
Beyond Oasis
Light Crusader
Dynamite Headdy
Landstalker: The Treasures of King Nole
Shining in the Darkness
Shining Force II

24 cents each? A steal, I tell ya. Of course, getting to PLAY them with my backlog? HA! I may as well go adopt a few kids and leave them my Steam account for future reference.