TMNT goes down without a fight
By Nick Elmer
March 28, 2007
TMNT tries to recapture what made the original films so much fun while at the same time putting a new spin on the characters and world they inhabit. It fails in both attempts.
The movie’s main fault is that it tries to cover too much ground in the small amount of time it is allotted (roughly an hour and a half). The movie is freckled with way too many subplots. Raphael has started fighting crime with an alter ego, Casey Jones is having trouble settling down with April, Leonardo no longer thinks that he can lead the team and Raphael and Leo are bickering again.
The movie had far too many characters as well. Jones and April, although fun to see, were not essential to the plot of the movie and could have been done without entirely. This goes for the Foot Clan as well. The movie just seemed to be trying to win over fans by throwing in characters with nostalgic value.
All this may seem like nitpicking. After all, the movie is aimed at children, and they are certainly not going to get huffy about a movie’s terrible pacing. Then what could a child, a young’un, the future of our world, have to say while watching TMNT?
“Where’s the karate?”
I spent most of my time watching this movie of confusing and forced emotional dialogues between giant ninja turtles wondering why they were not acting like giant ninja turtles. The film had a pathetic offering as far as action goes. There were only two fights worth mentioning, the first one being the showdown between Leonardo and Raphael and the second the film’s final battle. Both fight scenes put together were probably under three minutes.
Then, even when the movie gives us some measly scraps of karate goodness, the action comes out feeling stuffy and strained. The action is fast and hard, but the camera is just too up in the fighters’ business for the viewer to grasp what is going on. Heads are cut off by the top of the screen, the fighters jump in and out of frame too quickly, and the fighting is so brief and cartoonish that no sense of excitement is derived, just a sense of car sickness.
To further one’s sickness, the movie offers a large quantity of terrible one liners. These would not be so bad if they were not so frequently and shamelessly thrown into the audience’s lap instead of some actual progressive dialogue. The writers were clearly trying to emulate the humor of both the cartoons and the original movies, but they overdid it.
One good thing about the movie is the beautiful CGI animation. The turtles look great close up, with detailed skin and character models that do a great job of displaying emotions. The human models, however, are not up to snuff in this aspect and look more like rigid talking toys than flesh and bone characters of a story.
There are many complaints to be had about this film, but one sticks out in my mind the greatest. It is a clear slap to the face of the previous films in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles catalogue. This one problem will surely crush the souls of older fans. That complaint is: Splinter did not make a funny.
And where the heck was Usagi Yojimbo?
Archive for April, 2008
If it ain’t broke, don’t Smash Bros. it
By Nick Elmer
April 9, 2008
Super Smash Bros. has a big place in my heart as the ideal sleepover party game. Back when I was awkward and pimple-full, my buddies and I would play into the night ’till our brains were fried. Now that I’m pimp-ward and awful, I still enjoy a good round of “Beat the $%@# out of Pikachu” and the Wii’s Super Smash Bros. Brawl is the newest holster of the $%@# beating stick.
Super Smash Bros. Brawl proves to be pretty much what everyone expected: Super Smash Bros. Melee with more characters and maps. Well, that’s not all this iteration of the series has, but it does not keep the game from feeling more like an expansion pack instead of a full-fledged sequel. Virtually no leap is taken from Melee to Brawl, unlike the move from the original Nintendo 64 version to Melee.
The only palatable link is the new singleplayer mode “The Subspace Emissary.” This mode works very much like Melee’s “Adventure” mode in function. Your chosen character goes through various levels filled with enemies and the occasional battle against another character. The kinetics of a fighter still does not work with the mechanics of a platform action game (which is sure to cause moments of red-faced frustration), but with tons of downright awesome CGI movies peppered through 10 hours of gameplay and the ability to unlock every character for the game, at least this “Adventure” does not feel as much like an insult as Melee’s.
Another new feature this time around is the Smash Ball. When this device appears onscreen, all players drop what they are doing and go after it with everything they have. This can cause a fun diversion mid-combat, but the reward is rarely worth the effort. I feel like the average player could always do more damage with a power star or the nightmarish hammer than with a Smash Ball.
The real stars of the show here are the characters. All characters, old and new, have been reworked into a menagerie of perfectly balanced warriors. The good thing about this is that now any player can comfortably try any character and be at least as good as their jerk friend who always picks Kirby. The bad news is that this removes a lot of the characters’ style. Your favorite character from the previous game has been tweaked so that all its advantages have been muffled in the pursuit of even play. It’s the same Nintendo philosophy that gives the last place racer in Mario Kart the best items.
As far as the new characters go, I think it’s clear that Meta Knight is the MVP. With his zip-zap speeding sword slashes and wings letting him flap his way back to the platform, he’ll quickly become your girlfriend’s favorite character. Imagine how excitedly she’ll announce what a great player she is as she floats safely back to the platform with 300 percent damage. Imagine her bragging as she dices you up with Meta Knight’s million sword slashes (WARNING: exaggeration) per button push. Imagine how much you’ll pout.
There are more maps in this game than there have been in either previous Smash Bros. title. Also, with the addition of the map builder there is a potentially limitless number of locales for you and your friends to visit in order to knock each other into orbit. Really though, I think most of us will be playing on Hyrule Temple until we’re sick of castle-tornados.
Nobody likes playing on Brinstar, though. The terror of falling into the rising chicken soup is stitched into all of us.
Online play actually exists this time around, but it sticks with Nintendo’s super-protective policy for its children gamers. You aren’t able to play online with anyone you don’t have the “friend code” for. I’m sure this makes parents happy (if they even bother to look this stuff up) but it makes the online gaming stuffy for everyone else.
Really, most Wii owners either already have this game or have decided to get it as soon as the opportunity presents itself. If you’re of the latter, I have a suggestion. Break out your old copy of Super Smash Bros. Melee. Put it in your Wii (Wiis can play those teeny Gamecube disks after all), and play a few rounds. Now see? Isn’t that fun? Are you feeling a bone-marrow-deep ache for a handful of new characters and some maps you probably will play only on the rare occasion? No? Then spend that Wii money on another game (Zak and Wiki, what-what!) Otherwise buy the game, enjoy the cutscenes and get walloped by whoever picked Meta Knight.
Visceral Video Game – Giants: Citizen Kabuto
By Nick Elmer
March 21, 2007
Nothing hurts a gamer more than when a great title goes completely unnoticed. There are two known reasons this happened to Giants: Citizen Kabuto when it was released for the PS2 back during the system’s starter years. The first reason is the game is actually a re-mastered version of a PC game, which was riddled with glitches and game play bugs. The second reason: Giants: Citizen Kabuto is a stupid name for a video game.
Yet with the game’s quirky, PG-13 humor and diverging modes, the title manages to fit. Giants: Citizen Kabuto is a game that actually encompasses three separated games with interlocked storylines. To some seasoned gamers this concept sounds like a recipe for a confusing disaster. Yet Giants: Citizen Kabuto manages to hook the player in with its easy enough controls, likable characters and solid plot.
The first third of the game has you playing as a commander of the Meccaryns. The Meccaryns are a group of futuristic British troops who love beer and women and are on their way to the proverbial planet of beer and women. However, they get stuck in the middle of a battle for the Smarties’ freedom from the evil Sea Reapers. This really only means you get told what to do for the mission via hilarious Smartie dialogue, and then you do it. “Do it” usually translates to “destroy everything,” though, so expect lots of shooting. The Meccaryns also have the advantage of numbers as your ranks grow from a lone soldier to a squad of five (yourself and four computer controlled allies). This makes the battles fun and cooperative.
Following the Meccaryns weapon-heavy missions are the missions of Delphi. Delphi is the princess of the Sea Reapers who has decided to rebel against her mother and free the Smarties. She plays differently from the weapon centric combat of the Meccaryns and uses spells to dispatch enemies in her levels instead. Controlling her after all the fun you had flying around with the Meccaryns jetpacks and blasting through objectives feels like a step back at first, but Delphi has a dash control, which adds new dimension to her combat.
Finally, in the last third of the game, you get to do what the title suggests. You control Kabuto, a giant three-story-high monster that hates and eats everything. There is an odd sense of Zen, a feeling that everything in the universe is cyclical as you control Kabuto while he chows down on the Smarties. Yes, the very same Smarties you spent the previous two thirds of the game trying to save. Kabuto controls much like one would expect a giant horned monster to—a lot of punching and belly flops.
Regardless of which character the player is controlling, the landscape takes part in how the game is played. The rocky terrain that dots most of the game leads the player to frequently search for the easiest way to get atop the high ground. The following swoop down upon the enemy targets is very fun indeed, even with the outdated graphics the game sports.
The game play is solid, but the real appeal to this title is the humor. The Smarties’ dialogue is almost always over the top and absurd. An elderly Smartie will demand you assist him because the decrepit state of his genitalia has left him helpless. This then leads to a mission. There are many other oddly funny cut scenes as well. All in all, solid game play, diverse game mechanics and a funny story all make this overlooked PS2 game an oldie but a goody.
Writer’s Note: This article originally appear in La Salle Univeristy’s student run newspaper The Collegian. It was an assigned Commentary article and features views and opinions I never held and no longer hold. It was part of several articles on the subject and I felt giving a strong opinion of this side of the argument was important to giving a broad spectrum of beliefs.
Backstory: Evesham elementary school students were shown a film featuring different types of families. One of the families shown featured a same sex marriage. This article was written to cover one of the many views on this event.
Think of the children
By Nick Elmer
February 21, 2007
A child is essentially a blank slate. Through my years of working in a preschool, I have come to realize this. Any input they receive from the outside world, any at all, can have lasting affects on their behaviors.
As kids, they have little to relate new information to. There is nothing to play it off of. So the new information becomes a form of data extremely close to fact. Show a little girl a Disney movie and she will want to be a princess when she grows up. This is an example of how something will imprint upon a little child.
Granted, the kids of the Evesham elementary school class were older, but they still were naive to many things we take for granted in the outside world. The video in question, then, would create lasting affects on the children. The list of possible affects from viewing the video does not include acquired homosexuality.
This is not The Ring, and you cannot become gay by watching a video tape. Yet the idea of a same-sex couple could have permanent effects on children’s gender identification, social aptitude and maybe even their sexual drives later on in life if the image is that strong to them.
This can be a problem since it is the elementary school years when a kid can actually start to learn how to appropriately deal with social situations. It is during these years they learn the foundations to social diplomatic behavior and how to handle conflicts that do not involve who got to the toy blocks first.
The smallest in disturbances within the child can leave him or her behind in development. This is not an issue of whether homosexuality is wrong (which it is not). Nor is it an issue on whether sex education should be taught in public schools (which it should). This is an issue about what is best for these kids and whether the video in question falls under that category.
The video also exposes the children to some ideas that the parents of the kids might not have wanted their children exposed to yet. Even if what they are shown is “reality,” it is also the school’s version of reality. It is the parents’ responsibility to ease their kids out of the cocoon of youth and into the fullness of reality as slowly or quickly as they want, not that of the school, especially when the school had not informed the parents of the contents of this video.
One can argue that the video was meant to expose kids to the large variety of families that can exist in the world. Through this exposure, hopefully the kids would develop a greater tolerance towards families that are different from their own and their classmates who are members of them. There must be another reason to show the video, if not for the benefit of the kids.
So, showing the video to the students of the school seemed to be an act with a single intent in mind: starting a ruckus. The video was a bad idea. Compare the good to the bad when showing it to the children and the results are pretty clear cut. The bad: some kids might get screwed up during some of the most socially important years of their lives, the parents’ trust is violated, and the wellbeing of the kids is lost in the shuffle of debate. The good: a few kids might not do a double take the next time they see a same sex couple in public.
Things certainly do not look so great for the video when the effects are stacked like this.
Final Fantasy turns out to not be so final
By Nick Elmer
January 31, 2007
In video games, there is no device more neutering to itself and its fans than that of the franchise. When a video game is amazing, fans will demand more. When fans demand more, video game companies assume they mean more of the same. Eight years later, we have eight versions of the same Tony Hawk game.
The developers of Final Fantasy have not allowed themselves to reproduce their past successes for 20 years. For better or worse, every new iteration of the series threw out the old game and started with a fresh slate in an attempt to make a new experience for the gamer.
No other Final Fantasy, ever, has deviated from its predecessors as much as Final Fantasy XII. It achieves this by taking some character leveling features of FF IX and FF X, outright removing random battles and adding a battle system change as jarring as when the series first switched from FF III’s turn-based system to FF IV’s Active Time Battle system.
As your characters level up, you gain License Points (LP) which can be used on the license board to purchase available magic spells, stat augmentations and the ability to equip certain weapons and armor. The system requires you to both own the spell or item, as well as have the character possess the license in order to use it.
The system sounds very intimidating, but once you start using it, it becomes second nature. The license board itself is very reminiscent of FF X’s sphere grid. A license becomes available only when it is adjacent to an already possessed license by that character, and the player has no real idea what license will turn up next. In this way, each license purchase follows with a mild commitment to purchase the newly available licenses later. It adds a nice layer of chance and personalization to each of your characters. It also makes sure you get to choose who the character will become. Instead of just a “white mage” or “warrior,” you can blend features to several different, previously static character classes to create perfect customizations for the player to work with.
No more random battles means you can now see every potential enemy off in the horizon before you need to face them. Not only does this remove the frustration involved in previous Final Fantasy games, but it also gives players a moment to prep their characters for the upcoming battle.
The battle system works. Ho boy, does it work. The implementation of real time combat had always sounded like the antithesis of all things that make a Final Fantasy game. Yet within a few hours of picking up the controller, the system feels more like the conclusion to the series. It feels as if every game beforehand had been leading up to this specific system. It feels that natural.
The game’s plot, a facet that is the foundation to any real role-playing game, is amazing as well. No longer do players take control of a group of misfits with coincidental connections to the evil force whom they must defeat to save the world. This time, the characters all feel like smaller cogs in a greater machine, making the story feel more realistic and like a true global conflict. There is political intrigue, strong personalities and a serious reduction on the sappiness many gamers have had to cringe through in previous Final Fantasy games.
Is Final Fantasy XII the greatest Final Fantasy game ever? Yes. Yes, it is. The game works on so many new levels, and feels nostalgic and fresh at the same time. Old school fans will be rewarded. New players will become hooked. The game works for everyone who enjoys the experience of developing their characters, the satisfaction of working with a battle system that is intuitive and customizable and the entertainment of an honestly good story. Play and be merry.