Tuesday, February 28, 2012

I'm back bitches! or Fefi's Blazblue: Continuum Shift Extend Review

"What the fuck is a 'Rebel' and why are there more than one of them?" - fellow writer Loz upon seeing me play this game the first time.
Gah! The colors!

Ah, fighting games. Along with FPS's you have become the next cash-cow genre for game developers.
With your constant patches, updates, and new, mostly unnecessary characters, you make sure that you'll throw out three different disc versions of the same game and charge us an arm for every single one of them. Alas, I am not here to rant about the evils of contemporary game developers, I am here to review one of the many ways the clever bastards suck money out of my wallet. And holy fuck they managed to make me feel good about it.

For the uninitiated, Blazblue is the spiritual successor to the Guilty Gear franchise, which was developed by Arc System Works and enjoyed it's fair share of popularity in the fighting game scene as the more obscure alternative to your Street Fighters and MVCs. The games, both BB and GG, are animated in a trademark crisp, clean anime style that made other sprites look lazy in comparison, with the notable exception of the Street Fighter Alpha series, which were on par with them. And of course, the action is/was almost as fast-paced as the Marvel vs Capcom franchise. Sadly, Guilty Gear ended its run (though I hear rumors of a new game) a few years back, leaving many fans sad and heartbroken. Then along came Blazblue and people went apeshit. Mostly because they hated it. Of course, a few revisions later, the addition of around 6 new characters and four different console revisions of the sequel, the fandom calmed down and here we are now. My review will cover pretty much everything from the first game to this latest revision, since the changes are minor, anyway.
My first true 'fighting games' love.

So, as per usual, my standard criteria apply for this game: Graphics, Sound, Gameplay, and Story

Graphics: This being the latest, and hopefully final revision of the second entry in the series, I had hoped for the sprites to be as sharp as they could be, however, it seems that they toned down the graphics quality a bit on the sprites to allow for no lag during the very graphically intense combat. However, the rendered backgrounds are looking their best and do a good job of providing a lot of distraction for spectators should they tire of watching the players duke it out (seriously, every background has at least 7 different things going on at the same time). Still, I would have preferred no pixels on my sprites, but anything for the sake of smooth gameplay. Graphics: 8/10
Tell me it's not beautiful and I will smear crap on your door.

Sound: Daisuke Ishiwatari is back on soundtrack duty and instead of going for Guilty Gear's fast and loose style, which itself was his tribute to the classic rock and metal bands he's so fond of, he's taken a more character-centric approach to the tracks in the game. Seeing as this game's characters personalities are actually fleshed out in-game, their respective tracks are meant to complement them and once you get a feel for each character's motivations, you can see that Ishiwatari-san has done a good job at composing, once again. Certainly, there are still electric guitars and aggressive drums running rampant in the music, but he's added violins and organs where appropriate and given each track a coherent structure with each instrument having it's place in the track and not just throwing shit at the wall to see what sticks. 
As a side note, not sure if he took on this load again for this series, but I believe that when he wrote GG's soundtrack, he played most of the instruments himself. He might never write a rock classic, but I have a great deal of respect for this man's composition ability, at least for fighting games. Sound: 8/10

Gameplay: This is where the game really shines, as well it should, since it's a damn fighting game. The action is very fast-paced, placing somewhere right between MVC and SF. It's fast enough to make fights look flashy, even if it's just button-mashing, but not so fast that you'll lose sight of your character every time you're launched in the air. As for fighting mechanics, the first game did away with the old punch/kick/slash/heavy slash system of Guilty Gear and instead turned it into the three upper buttons being used for low to heavy attacks and the X button used for a 'Drive' attack that is unique to each character, making every character a very different experience (this was before MVC had the wonderful idea of using a similar layout, and possibly around the same time as Tatsunoko vs. Capcom). Some of these 'Drives' are merely combo aides, while others serve to hinder your opponent's mobility and others are additional attacks with status effects such as freezing, electrocution, etc. The game also has the more technical staples of fighters such as cancels and special guards, but that's not something the layman needs to be aware of. 
Almost forgot to mention the new characters (read: DLC that is now finally included with the game). As the latest additions to the roster, we have the squirrel-girl Makoto Nanaya, who plays an aggressive close-range game, and might have been, in fact, inspired by Marvel's own Squirrel Girl character. Valkenhayn R. Hellsing, a badass-grandpa butler who turns into a werewolf and has somewhat slow, if devastating combos and played an important part in the in-game history. Platinum the Trinity, probably my least favorite of the newcomers, whose character design is inspired by the 'magical girl' anime genre (Sailor Moon would be the best example I can give the non-anime fans) and has many nonsensical and cutesy attacks designed to keep the opponent guessing. And finally, Relius Clover, a mad scientist who uses a mechanical puppet made from his wife to do most of the fighting for him. A very technical fighter, and trickier opponent. All of these characters, save for Makoto, were a big part of past events in the story, and their newly-added story paths give a lot of insight into these 'legendary' warriors' personalities.
Final note on the gameplay, the rounds last about as long as an even match in Tekken or even Street Fighter, which is to say, it might actually run you anywhere from 40-99 seconds per round if the skill difference isn't monumental, or if no special characters are being used. All thanks to refined damage buffering, which won't allow you to kill someone in two combos, thus ensuring everyone gets a fair chance at a comeback. Gameplay: 8/10

Makoto, seen here about to engage in some magnificent wardrobe malfunction.
Valkenhayn. Probably about to prepare tea.
Platinum. Just, fuck.
Relius Clover and Fluctus Redactum: Ignis, AKA, his wife.

Story: This may come off as a surprise, but this game actually has  a detailed story mode, and you have no need for supplementary materials to find out things about a particular character. All the story elements are touched upon either through a character's path, or in little extra segments that are non-canonical where the characters themselves take a break from the fighting to explain every little aspect of the Blazblue world, from history, to social structure, etc.
I will say this much, however, the story is mostly character-driven, since the plot is a convoluted mess involving an infinite time loop and a lot of magical techno-babble, but it works, if you have the patience for it. I have played this game since the first one and I have seen the characters grow from trite anime stereotypes, to somewhat-respectable characters with motivations and very human flaws. Of course, it was still made in Japan, for Japanese animation enthusiasts, so don't expect a Pulitzer-winning piece of literature here. Still, if you've always wondered what would it feel like to play through a fighting game that didn't just say "You've entered a tournament to decide the world's strongest warrior, here's some people that you must now fight" (not that there's anything wrong with that), then I recommend you give this game a shot. Bottom line is, the world has a very extensive mythology ready to be perused by the player should they wish it, and that's more than most other fighters can say. Story: 6/10

Final Thoughts: I love this game. I love Guilty Gear. I love it when my characters are more than just mere caricatures or stereotypes. But above all, I love having a good button-mashing fest with my buddies. I think the reason why these games (BB and GG) weren't more recognized is because the characters aren't as wacky (which is horseshit, since these characters are the very definition of bizarre) or just don't fall into an immediately recognizable fighter type (like chick-with-the-huge-boobs, or Asian #1, or Bruce Lee clone, or guy who does that Hadoken-type thingy), or just aren't famous and there's no motivation for you to use that character. For example, MVC has some of the most recognizable characters today duking it out for the heck of it. Shit, who wouldn't want to see Ryu and Wolverine kick each other's asses? Or Megaman and Iron Man? And it's actually easier to get good at than most other fighters! My point is, the style appeals more to the anime crowd, but underneath all that is a fighting game that should be standing shoulder to shoulder with MVC and SF, but isn't. And that makes me sad.
Fefi Score: 9/10
Honest Score: 8/10 (for a fighting game, anyway) 
I leave you with Litchi Faye Ling, another playable character and token pair of tits.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Netflix Reviews #9

The crap fest edition.


I watched this movie one of those nights where there is absolutely nothing on and you just want to see some mindless action movie with some guns and some fists flying about.  Slow mo is required.  Seeing Bruce Willis was in this definitely threw me off, so I decided to give it a try.  The movie was directed by Mike Gunther.  He is a stunt man turned director.  I'm mostly surprised at the cast, though.  It seems Willis owed Gunther some sort of favor.  50 Cent is the "star" of this show and it is easily the worse performance of the bunch.  His character is devoid of anything interesting.  It's like a cloud of boringness follows him everywhere he goes.  There doesn't seem to be any passion that doesn't seem forced.  Bruce Willis was my favorite character as everyone else seems to be cardboard cutouts.  It was funny seeing Randy Couture in this thing as well.  Anyways, avoid.

2.5 out of 10   


Directed by mostly unknown director Jonathan English, this violent medieval action film deals with a Knights Templar (James Purefoy) who decides to join with aristocrats against the evil King John (Paul Giamatti) who has decided to forget about signing the Magna Carta and paid a bunch of vikings as mercenaries.  The movie fails mostly because the people casting this thing had no idea what they were doing.  Besides Purefoy, who did his job fairly well, Brian Cox plays a good guy... who came up with that?  Paul Giamatti hones one in with his performance here.  Its goofy and unbelievably bad.  I don't think I've ever seen him stink up the screen so badly.  Kate Mara plays the young wife of some other stuffy guy who apparently couldn't get it up or something so she falls for Purefoy's character in one of the most forced romances this side of Kim Kardashian and that basketball player no one remembers.  That being said, this is probably the best movie of this batch.  The action is gory and the battle scenes are alright.  By all means, don't rush out and see this, but its better than the other crap on this list.

4.5 out of 10

Cowboys & Aliens

Who would have thunk that this movie would be such dross.  How do you go from directing Iron Man to this movie?  The premise is really interesting.  Come on, cowboys and indians battling aliens?  I'm sold.  The movie leaves a lot to be desired.  First of all, Daniel Craig is completely uninteresting and seems just as uninterested at what is going on.  Olivia Wilde is there to be the only eye candy and hardly has anything to do.  The best character in this movie is Harrison Ford's Woodrow Dollarhyde.  He is crass, loud mouthed and just generally a prick, but we sort of like him.  Especially because everyone else is incredibly dull.  By the way... nice work in turning a great actor like Sam Rockwell into a boring mess of a character.  While the special effects looked pretty cool, the rest of the movie is plodding and uninteresting.  I'm surprised how much I disliked it, except for Harrison Ford.

4 out of 10

Friends With Benefits

I admit that I was incredibly skeptical that Justin Timberlake could act at all.  I'm glad I was wrong, because we get a young and talented actor that with some more work, could be a really good actor.  Not if he keeps picking roles like this one, though.  This movie looked interesting when I saw the trailer but it ended up being the usual rom-com bullshit that we are used to seeing all the time.  I think my biggest problem with it is that it starts completely anti-romantic and ends up being exactly what it was criticizing at the beginning.  Talk about a hypocritical movie.  I'm even more of a moron for believing for a second that this might be more than the usual dross.  Although I actually enjoyed director Will Gluck's previous film (Easy A), this one lacked any of the others originality or likeability.  Probably the best part was played by Richard Jenkins as Dylan Harper's (Justin Timberlake) father who has Alzheimer's.  I still think Timberlake could go on to do some great things while Kunis will probably stick to this type of role.  This one specifically is just not one you should watch.  Watch Love and Other Drugs instead.

4 out of 10

Detective Dee and The Mystery of the Phantom Flame

I have said here before how high I think of Andy Lau and his acting chops.  I think he is one of the premiere Hong Kong actors going at this moment.  That being said, this movie stunk of high budgitis.  Instead of going for an interesting story, we get talking deer and people bursting into flame from the inside.  Meh.  I just couldn't get to the story.  Maybe there was something that I was missing and the movie just didn't do enough to try to capture me and immerse me in this particular story.  The special effects also looked pretty cheap.  Now, I really like Hark Tsui, but I guess I just couldn't get this film at all.

3 out of 10

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Netflix Reviews #8

I watched a pretty funny movie, an incredibly endearing one, fuckin' Andy Lau, and a borefest, among others.

Horrible Bosses

Jason Bateman, Charlie Day and Jason Sudeikis star as the three bumbling goofballs who are being in some way or another harassed by their bosses.  Kevin Spacey plays a domineering and abusive boss that doesn't care about the people he supervises.  Jennifer Aniston plays a sex maniac who is trying to sleep with Charlie Day and wouldn't care about ruining his marriage to get to him.  Colin Farrell plays the son who inherits his father's business but he just loves to do drugs and fuck hookers.  Of course, when you have bosses as horrible as this, the first thing that comes to your mind is... "let's kill them".  The premise is all kinds of ridiculous, but the actors manage to make this a pretty funny comedy.  Jamie Foxx plays the hilarious Motherfucker Jones who mostly trick these three tools into believing him and playing him a lot of money.  I'm not going to ruin the movie for you, but let's just say that hijinks ensue.  The movie was directed by Seth Gordon, who hasn't really done that much of note except for the pretty cool documentary The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters.  This movie won't get everyone laughing, but the three leads do a pretty good job of playing off of each other when it came to the dialogue.  I would have liked to have seen more from Spacey, Aniston and Farrell.

5.5 out of 10   


I've always thought that Andy Lau was one of the best actors working in Hong Kong cinema today.  The fact that Jackie Chan was also in this movie was also a reason I decided to watch it.  The movie deals with a warlord that is looking to control as much territory as he possibly can, but others have different ideas and they conspire against General Hou Jie (Andy Lau).  His family is murdered and he is left a shell of a man.  It takes the caring and discipline of the Shaolin monks who he had shunned and mocked previously to make him understand the error of his ways.  It was a pretty movie.  The cinematography is never overpowering but its still pretty beautiful.  The music complements the film greatly.  The theme song is played by Andy Lau himself and its pretty great stuff.  The movie deals with redemption and does it very well.  While the last battle scene was a little over the top, it didn't detract from my enjoyment of the movie.  If you like this kind of movie, then you will really enjoy this one.

6.5 out of 10 

Super 8

I was really skeptical about this movie when I first started watching it.  It wasn't anything specific, just a feeling that it might not be that good.  I'm always glad when I'm proved wrong.  The movie is not perfect by any means, but I thought it was endearing.  J.J. Abrams directs this film about young kids who witness something tragic and then have to deal with the unexplained consequences of that event in their small town.  Truthfully, this movies strong point is the group of friends and the way they interact.  Props have to be given to both Elle Fanning and Joel Courtney who play Alice and Joe, respectively.  The two of them really shine here.  Really, most of the adults are all just there because they have to be.  I felt this movie was a little disjointed, though.  It felt like two different movies pasted together.  At one point the kids are running around while Michael Bay apparently took over the director's seat and there were explosions going of every direction.  I prefered the parts with the kids over the ones with the alien.  That's just me though.  In the end, it was still a nice movie which really embraces the magic and fantasy of film making.

7 out of 10

Win Win

This movie is definitely the gem of the batch.  Paul Giamatti is without a doubt one of the best actors working in Hollywood today.  Very few people can go from the lovable idiot, to the nasty and bloodthirsty villain to the damaged guy that you just want to root for as he makes mistakes.  That is what he does here most of the time.  Every time an idea comes to Giamatti's Mike Flaherty, you sort of want to wince and tell him not to be an idiot but you still wish that everything goes right for him.  I won't really get into what he does so as not to ruin the movie, but he ends up taking care of one of his clients grandsons who has a history of being problematic and is also an incredibly gifted wrestler.  I really enjoyed how Alex Shaffer played Kyle.  He never goes over the top with it and is almost like the character is apathetic about most things.  Amy Ryan is also really great as Giamatti's wife Jackie.  Everything about this movie just seems to fit perfectly and the result is a really good movie with really great performances.  Sure, this might not look like a movie that you have to rush out and see, but give it a shot.  If it doesn't win you over, you are wrong in the head.

7.5 out of 10

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

I can't explain how much I disliked this damn movie.  I had confused the director for some reason and decided to watch this sappy and annoying movie about friendship or something.  I'm sorry, but this movie was just incredibly boring.  The movie also touches on the tradition of foot binding which is pretty gruesome stuff.  Wayne Wang directed this movie and it should have been obvious as its plodding pace and its syrupy story weigh it down completely.  The acting is pretty mediocre from Bingbing Li and Gianna Jun, and these two alone are four of the characters in the movie... not good.  There is a reason why there are a lot more bro movies than women friends movies... bro movies are just freaking fun.  Not these.  All about binding each other forever or some such shit.  Ugh... I just couldn't stomach this at all.

3 out of 10

The Four-Faced Liar

Directed by unknown Jacob Chase with an unknown cast, this sort of romantic comedy about some 20 somethings trying to live life in New York City seems pretty earnest.  There is nothing new here that hasn't been seen before and I think that is one of the things that hurts it.  The biggest problem with this film is that the characters are not that interesting, so you never really feel the need to invest in them and their problems.  The filmmakers and the cast should be praised for making a movie that while flawed, still felt like it wanted to say something.  I can't really recommend it because its just not that great, but it was close.  I'm glad people like Chase and writer/actress Marja Lewis Ryan can make these kinds of movies and have the public watch them through a service like Netflix.

5 out of 10