Monthly Archives: July 2015

Trump card

TrumpCard1No matter what has been said about Donald Trump, there is one thing no one can take from him: he knows how to get noticed. By making all kinds of outlandish comments like calling Hispanic immigrants “rapists” and criticizing Vietnam vet John McCain for having been captured by enemy combatants, he has motivated quite a response. However, he is also the top candidate (for now) in the race for the 2016 Republican nomination for President.

What was that saying about there being no such thing as bad publicity? First, that wildly successful Super Bowl to cap off a scandalous NFL season, now this.

The ironic thing is that Trump is no more than an attention whore and opportunist. He doesn’t believe a third of what he has said on the campaign trail. In 2008, for example, he called for then-President Bush to be impeached over the war against Iraq, which he knew would cause people to align him with the left. Today, of course, he is on the most extreme right. Not to mention that he used to be an advocate of that conspiracy theory about President Obama being illegitimately in office.

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About as believable as candidate Trump.

Serious candidate or not, he will make an impact whether he wins or loses. The Republicans wanted their primaries to be predictable and without the wild debates that turned the 2012 primaries into a circus act that forced Mitt Romney to the far right to keep up. Trouble is, Trump turns almost anything he’s involved with into a circus act. That’s fine for a casino, but an election?

Of course, it helps when your base, by all indications, wants a circus act. Among other things, the aforementioned “birther” theory used to have a lot of believers, most of whom, I’d guess, vote Republican. And, of course, the very fact that Trump is on top of the Republican field demonstrates the appeal of the warped things he’s said to this demographic. No, you can’t just blame name recognition. Not with Bush’s brother in the race.

But the Trump bubble will pop, right? I’m 85% sure it will. Why not 100%? Because he has given subtle indications that he may go third party if the Republican machine mobilizes against him like it did Mitt Romney’s intraparty foes in 2012. That would be every bit as damaging to the Grand Old Party as having Trump at the top of the ticket, rendering the whole purpose of destroying Trump moot.

The size of Trump's chances.

Still, this mouse is the same size as Trump’s chances.

Mortal Kombat X

MKXTitleThe latest Mortal Kombat game is a fun experience. It does martial arts combat (or is that “kombat”), story, and, of course, blood ‘n gore well. But like most of its kind, Mortal Kombat X is decidedly too limited in gameplay scope to be particularly great.

Plot: 8 out of 10

Some have criticized the Story mode of this game for its shorter length than the 2011 game. Thing is, that game only had a long Story mode because as a reboot of the series, it went over the plots of the first three games all over again. Besides, the Story mode does prove interesting in the about two hours that it lasts. In particular, I liked that they advanced time forward so that the mortal portion of the traditional cast is about forty and partnered with younger people who will presumably be the new generation of kombatants. Not unlike the younger gamers checking out this series for the first time.

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Yep, Cage and Sonya had a kid.

And if you prefer, you can get a good ending for the character you chose in the traditional Tower of computer-controlled opponents.

Graphics: 8 out of 10

While the backcgrounds and character models aren’t perfect, the Fatalities are the best they’ve been in a long time.

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In a word, ugh!

And let’s face it. This is a series that thrives on gore!

Sound: 7 out of 10

Music and voice acting are reasonably well-done, but not remarkable. There’s no particularly memorable music and while good, the acting isn’t great.

Gameplay: 7 out of 10

Like the 2011 relaunch of the series, this is a 2D fighting game. There’s special moves, runs, and combos. As usual, cheap tricks are everywhere, both to be used and fallen victim to.

Weird and scary as Quan Chi looks, you'd think he'd be the main villain, not Shinnok.

Weird and scary as Quan Chi looks, you’d think he’d be the main villain, not Shinnok.

I’d say the game plays well, but no new ground is broken. There is, alas, no revolution.

One warning for haters of downloadable add-ons bought from Xbox Live or Playstation Network: there’s some characters that you have to pay for to use with possibly more in the future.

Challenge: 4 out of 10

The difficulty is inconsistent. It’s easy the vast majority of the time until the last few fights, when it becomes fairly challenging. This is true even of the Story mode. You’d think that given its length, a gradual difficulty increase would be no problem but no.

No, I won't be making a lame ice joke. What am I, Arnold Schwarzenegger in Batman and Robin?

No, I won’t be making a lame ice joke. What am I, Arnold Schwarzenegger in Batman and Robin?

Overall: 7 out of 10

Good but by no means excellent. To be fair that makes Mortal Kombat X a typical MK. Fact is, this is not an excellent series. But it’s fun.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014)

NinjaTurtle2014TitlePete Ploszek as Leonardo
Alan Ritchson as Raphael
Jeremy Howard as Donatello
Noel Fisher as Michelangelo
Megan Fox as April O’neill
Danny Woodburn as Splinter
Tohoru Masamune as The Shredder
Will Arnett as Vern Fenwick
William Fichtner as Eric Sacks
Minae Noji as Karai

Some people I know have been surprised that I didn’t see the most recent Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film in the theater. While I, like most who were children in the late 1980s, was a fan back then, the promos left a sour taste in my mouth. When I heard that mediocre-at-best director Michael Bay was producing it, I became even more skeptical of this movie. Based on these past and present indications, I figured that you couldn’t expect much and gave this film a pass.

And yet, I finally broke down and rented it from Netflix when the home versions came out. How is it? Well, it’s not as bad as I expected. In fact, hundreds upon hundreds of films have been worse. At the same time, I can’t say that I had a good time.

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People always take notice of cameos, like this one of Whoopi Goldberg.

You can probably guess that this opener of a new series is an origin movie. What’s odd is that, in an attempt to create a deeper link between April and the Turtles, it is revealed that April many years ago(before the mutation) saved Splinter and the Turtles from being killed in a fire and freed them into the sewers of New York City. Some filmmakers go too far in creating these kinds of connections. Tim Burton making The Joker the murderer of Batman’s parents is a classic example of this. Thing is, it just seems too contrived by half.

Acting is fine as far as humans go. It’s bad half the time when it comes to the voices for Splinter and the Turtles. Sometimes they do their lines right. Sometimes they don’t. And it’s really unconvincing when they don’t, so the performances for their voices are weak.

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That shell must warm you quite a bit.

The biggest problem is the script in two ways. The first is the dialogue. With shades of the awful Batman and Robin, we’ve got lots of jokes intended to be cool that are actually just lame.

The bigger issue with the script is that the plotting isn’t the best in the world. For example, The Shredder kidnaps Leo, Donnie, and Mikey so as to get the mutagen in their blood at one point. Raph breaks into The Shredder’s hideout pretty easily. How does Shredder not figure out that Raph will miss and come looking for his brothers and beef up security? Logical fallacies like this have Michael Bay’s prints all over them.

This movie is not without its good points. Character development is quite acceptable. And the film does have some nice moments. All in all, though, I’d say that it gets more stuff wrong than right.

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Plus, we never get an answer to the age-old question: how do they get money to buy stuff like this van?

The new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles isn’t horrible, but it really could have been better. As something of a TMNT fan (although it’s not aimed at adults either, I do enjoy the show that’s on the air right now, especially compared to this), I have to admit disappointment.

Overall: 4 out of 10

Battletoads

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Battletoads was possibly the first supremely hard game I ever owned. Sure, I’d had some that took some time to get anywhere in, but this game stopped me at the third level for years. Of course, part of that was that it hard to maintain interest in this game for too long because the Super Nintendo was right around the corner.

Today? After memorizing patterns, I can make it pretty far in this game. Don’t know if I could beat it, though. It pretty much stands as one of the hardest games ever. If you youngsters out there think a Hitman or Borderlands game is in this category, you have no idea…

Before we get into the stats, I point out that there is a Sega Genesis version. It’s a rock-solid version in its own right, but I’m reviewing the NES version because it’s the one I played as a child.

Plot: 6 out of 10

It’s a kidnapping plot. If you don’t play right away, you are treated to a cutscene in which we’re told that Princess Angelica and the biggest Battletoad, Pimple, have been captured by The Dark Queen,so the remaining two ‘Toads, Rash and Zitz, make a rescue attempt, with their mentor, Professor T. Bird, coaching them between levels.

Beyond the unoriginality of the plot, humanoid green animals taking on a dark human antagonist? What’s familiar about that? Could it be (sarcastic pause) Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? Thought so. Rash is the kool kid and party animal, while Zitz is a serious, calculating field leader. In short, Michelangelo and Leonardo.

That said, the humor in the cutscenes and names of enemies like psyko-pigs and and Scuzz are effective.  However unoriginal it is, I do enjoy this plot.

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Plus, the Professor acts less like Splinter than Hollywood’s idea of a coach.

Graphics: 9 out of 10

One of the best-looking NES games ever, Battletoads Looks excellent all around. Everything is both animated and detailed superbly.

Sound: 6 out of 10

The music isn’t all that bad, with one exception. When you pause the game, crude fart sounds (I think that’s what they’re supposed to be) start playing. It’s nothing less awful. Worse, you’ve got to hear it every time you pause the game.

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That’s one way to deal with an infestation.

Gameplay: 8 out of 10

This game has a lot of styles of play. The first level is a beat-’em-up. But subsequent levels do different things like avoiding obstacles on a fast vehicle, riding wild snakes, and platforming on slippery ice.

Jumping is a bit floaty, but other than that, the controls work well. And the variety of styles give this game quite a bit of replay value.

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This game is not for those with a fear of snakes.

Challenge: 4 out of 10

And now for what Battletoads is best known for by far. The first level is easy and the second isn’t too hard. But when you come level three, the difficulty skyrockets! You are constantly given very little time to react and not allowed even a single mistake before dying. In fact, the life bar seems superfluous because there are so many one-hit kills.

Still, apart how suddenly the difficulty goes up, this game can be quite fun. Not only is there great action, the difficulty gives you a reason to work.

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Does that cable have its own air supply?

Still, I have to give this category a low rating for two reasons. The first is that you have limited continues. No game this hard should send you back the beginning. Secondly, the ending isn’t worth working so hard to reach. The Dark Queen gets away and the Professor congratulates you. That’s all there is. An ending should be more satisfying than this, especially for such an extremely hard game.

Overall: 6 out of 10

Battletoads got quite quite a bit of hype back in the day. Nintendo Power Magazine gave it some short comics and an excessively long overview that all but predicted the beginning of a monster series. That’s not quite how things turned out. There was a Gameboy game that I’d say was about the same as this game. The Gameboy also had a shortened port of the subject of this review. The Super Nintendo got a game that, incredibly, is actually significantly harder than the one I have reviewed. Then there was the crossover with Double Dragon but with the Battletoads style of play. Quite honestly, this one was really good. But I don’t remember any of these sequels being all that successful. The reason, in my opinion, is that mega-hard games have a limited appeal. The average player can’t get far in them, so they’re not likely to go back for more.

As for the original Battletoads, it’s fun, but the high difficulty, limited continues, and weak ending, detract from it.