Comic Review: Generation X (2017-18)

While Marvel’s X-Line has generally revolved around some iteration of the Xavier Institute of Higher Learning and the various Mutant super-teams based out of it, what it normally hasn’t done is spent some time on the actual students attending the school, with some exceptions (like with part of Grant Morrison’s run back in the 2000s). Generation X by Christina Strain puts the focus back on the school side of things, instead of the adventuring super-team side of things – but without going into “Saved By The Bell” with superpowers. Continue reading → Comic Review: Generation X (2017-18)


Comic Review: Iceman (2017-18)

One of the plot elements to come out of Brian Michael Bendis’ last X-Men run was the revelation that Bobby “Iceman” Drake was gay, and firmly in the closet – this revelation coming in connection with the time-displaced Original 5 X-Men coming into the present. This lead to plenty of story opportunities with Bobby The Younger adjusting to the present day, when being gay is (relatively) more socially acceptable than it was in the past he came from. The older Iceman, on the other hand, by all accounts didn’t have that much time to get into that aspect of the story – especially with the major crossover events that came after, leading up to the death of Cyclops. Continue reading → Comic Review: Iceman (2017-18)

Anime (Video) Review: Carnival Phantasm

This week I’m taking a look at one of the few Type Moon anime *not* to come to the US.

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Film Review – His Girl Friday

His Girl Friday has aged poorly.

Let’s start off with the fundamental premise – Newspaperman Walter Burns (Cary Grant) has divorced from his reporter wife Hildy Johnson (Rosalind Russell) at some point prior to the beginning of the film. She’s stopped by the newspaper to announce that she’s remarrying, to insurance salesman Bruce Baldwin (Ralph Bellamy), and is going to leave reporting – having been burned out by the cynicism. However, this happens on the eve of the execution of a man named Earl Williams (John Qualen) for murder. Continue reading → Film Review – His Girl Friday

TV Special Review: Jesus Christ Superstar, Live

I’m not the biggest fan of musicals. I’ve liked some of them, but I don’t really get into the genre as a whole. One of the Musicals that has always worked for me is Jesus Christ Superstar by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice – with the musical probably being one of the two’s best collaborations. The musical recently got a new stage adaptation, performed live on NBC, and I watched the archive of the show on Hulu. Continue reading → TV Special Review: Jesus Christ Superstar, Live

Video Game Review: Binary Domain

Now that I’ve beaten Binary Domain, now is as good a time as any to give my thoughts on the game.

Binary Domain, at the time of its release, felt like a game that was deliberately designed to be a Japanese response to cover-based shooters like Gears of War, to show that Japanese game developers could compete with Western Triple-A developers on their own turf. Having played the game now, with a distance in time from my original impressions, I can say with a degree of certainty that particular perspective isn’t that far off.

Where Binary Domain really differs from Gears is that Gears puts a lot of focus on its visual esthetic. Epic put a lot of work into what they described as the game’s “ruined beauty” style – the idea that the game’s world was very visually beautiful, before everything went bad, but without too much worldbuilding as to why things went bad in the first game. Instead, Binary Domain puts more focus on the narrative worldbuilding and storytelling instead of visual worldbuilding.

The plot is based around the idea that the future humanity has developed semi-sentient AI, and the nations of the world have signed the New Geneva Convention to prevent research into truly sentient AI. When a group of synthetic humans who don’t know they’re synthetic (like the Final Five Cylons on New Battlestar Galactica), known as “Hollow Children” are discovered, the US government blames the isolationist Japanese government in general, and an industrialist named Yoji Amada in particular for their development. A group of  anti-robot hit teams called “Rust Crews” are sent to infiltrate Japan to find Amada, confirm the development of the Hollow Children, and bring him to justice.

On paper, this is an interesting narrative concept, as New Battlestar Galactica (nBSG) demonstrated. However, the game doesn’t quite take the time to do anything with it. The story has a few moments where it uses the concept fairly well – taking the idea that Amada is able to take control of any Hollow Child at any time, without the original being able to do anything to stop it – showing that the Hollow Children are a threat. However, however, the game’s main narrative drops its big story bomb very late in the game, and then absolutely proceeds to do anything with it in this game. It introduces the idea that the Hollow Children can have kids, and that they would be a sort of human-robot hybrid, stronger, faster, more resilient than normal humans – and that one of the members of your team is one of these hybrids.

This comes up extremely late in the game, and the reaction from most of the members of your squad is incredibly racist. Further, the governments of the world come to the conclusion that all of these hybrids must be hunted down and killed – in spite of the fact that these hybrids cannot be controlled by Amada. The repercussions of this decision are not explored or discussed, and outside of our immediate squad, we see no dissenting voices. This feels like something that was meant to setup a sequel that never actually got made.

As far as the game itself goes – it’s a fairly conventional cover-based shooter – with a few notes that make it different from Gears – some for the better, and some for the worst. Unlike Gears, killing enemies generates currency, which you can use to buy upgrades for your gun. By the end of the game you can get some very precise shots off with your gun, with some heavy damage, and lots of ammunition in the weapon, along with more power for the weapon’s alt-fire and more ammunition for that. Compared to the fact that your standard lancer in Gears pretty much operates the same way at the end of the game that it did at the start, that’s a rather nice shift.

Additionally, the game provides a lot of options for you to command your squad. While you can’t command your squad members to take cover behind particular points or to attack particular targets, it’s a good first execution. Related to this – in theory you can give your squad orders using a connected microphone and voice commands. However, as I was playing the game for a LP (which readers of my blog might have noticed), I was not able to experiment with this, so I can’t tell you how well it worked.

Binary Domain also uses a “trust” mechanic, where you build trust with your squad mates based on your responses to dialog prompts and your actions in combat. Being a prat with squadmate Big Bo will build your trust with him but may reduce your trust with female squad members, but mowing down a whole bunch of attacking robots in short order will give a massive boost to your whole squad. Accidentally attacking or firing on your squad members, however, reduces your trust. This is an issue, because your squadmates lack the sense of self-preservation to avoid stepping into the path of a firing weapon.

High trust may determine what ending you get, and apparently determines if your squadmates will follow your commands. I never got low enough trust to have squadmates who wouldn’t come to my aid, but I also didn’t actively attempt to reduce my squadmates trust either. There are a couple hinge points in the final boss fight that vary based on your trust level with a couple characters, but aside from one I had to find out what those were after the fact.

Otherwise, the characters are fairly bland. Big Bo is your bro-tastic Black friend who is large, boisterous, and kinda racist and misogynistic. Charlie is the overly professional Brit. Dan is your protagonist who has a reputation as “The Survivor”, and who tends to be put-offishly bro-tastic. Rachel is also British and Professional (though not as overly professional as Charlie). Faye is the designated love-interest and is Chinese (and is frequently shown from the view of the male gaze).

Binary Domain is interesting as a historical curiosity. Some of the narrative ideas are interesting but not executed on. The characters are handled poorly, the game mechanics are fairly standard, and while a few of the level environments are interesting, a lot of them are fairly generic, and the enemies often blur together outside of a few environments. I did enjoy playing the game, but I’m also glad that I rented the game.

The game is currently running around $15 on Amazon right now, which is probably the right price for it, considering the amount of enjoyment I got out of it.

RPG Book Review: World of Greyhawk Boxed Set

AD&D 1st edition and Original D&D started out without much in terms of first party setting support, with the first setting that was commercially published for the games being from a third party – the Judges’ Guild’s City State of the Invincible Overlord. Eventually, TSR got around to putting out their own first campaign setting, the World of Greyhawk, as an official setting – first as a small pamphlet, then as a larger boxed set with fold-out maps and several books describing the world.

The boxed set contains a variety of pamphlets describing the setting of the world, along with a country-by-country breakdown, descriptions of major geographical features and the perils that lie within (such as monster populations in those areas), and the gods of the world.

The country breakdown is less divided by geographic region, and more done in alphabetical order. The reasoning somewhat makes sense, but doesn’t make as much sense from a gameplay standpoint. As a DM, I want to know what countries are in contact with each other, and how they interrelate to each other. This is aggravated somewhat by the fact that Greyhawk is notable as a campaign setting by having multiple human ethnic groups within the setting. Further, the game does recognize the differences between the differences between these cultures by having different deities in the setting come out of different cultures.

Considering that clashes between cultures have been something of a big deal throughout human history, having an understanding of the cultural demographics of particular countries would really help DMs get the flavor of what life is like in the country, and how it relates to their neighbors – and in turn how those cultures relate to the other races (Dwarves, various flavors of Elves, etc.) within their borders.

That said, it is worth mentioning that of the various ethnicities within Grayhawk, something that isn’t called attention to and sadly is forgotten by the art in later editions is that the predominant skin color of the World of Greyhawk isn’t white. It’s various shades of brown – and there isn’t discrimination based on skin color outside of the Great Kingdom (which is one of the predominantly Evil kingdoms in Greyhawk – their version of the Late Roman Empire).

I can infer some cultural information about the various groups based on the deities within those groups, but it’s really up to the DM to figure out what those societies are actually like. We get a bit of this as well from the descriptions of the various countries, but that information focuses less on societal identity – as we don’t get human demographic information – and more on national identity. It’s still useful to a DM, but there’s a bunch of narrative options that are left off of the table.

The religious information is generally nicely done. Unlike in Deities and Demigods, we get some real focus on the “portfolios” of the Gods – what parts of life do they care about. None of them have real combat stats – though some combat information is reproduced from Deities and Demigods. The book gives some information of the vestments that clerics of the various deities have, and what their weapons are (and consequently what you can assume their favored weapons would be, if you’re using those rules).

The book doesn’t get much into the relationships between the various Gods though – whether particular Good Deities would be inclined to take an active role in fighting some of the Evil Gods like Iuz, or if certain acts would be particularly reprehensible to followers of those gods (do followers of Boccob find destruction of books reprehensible?) It comes up in a few occasions – Hextor and Heironeous are in conflict because of how they represent different perspectives on combat and war – but other deities generally come across as being mostly ambivalent.

All of that said, even in comparison to the game materials put out in the “Greyhawk Adventures” Orange-spine book, and the 3rd edition Greyhawk corebooks, this is still some of the most comprehensive rundowns of the society of Greyhawk that have been published. Its omissions are significant, but nowhere near as dramatic as the omissions from setting core-books in later editions, and there’s a lot of useful material from here that is missing from other later editions.

The boxed set is available digitally from DriveThruRPG and the Dungeon Master’s Guild site, and physical copies can be found on eBay.

DVD Review: Power of the Daleks

Power of the Daleks is one of the Doctor Who stories that has been lost. The BBC had destroyed all copies of the episode due to royalty issues and in order to re-use the video tapes, and none of the copies that were shipped overseas were found. Thus, the story only lived on through bootleg recordings made by fans off of over-the-air broadcasts, which in turn were made available to the BBC, who had re-released the story with cleaned-up versions of the audio recordings paired with tele-snaps and continuity photos of the show, with bridging narration by Tom Baker.

This past year, the BBC released an animated reconstruction of the story, giving viewers their first opportunity to see this in motion, and I’ve seen it. Continue reading → DVD Review: Power of the Daleks

Video Game Review: Mass Effect 3

Over the past few months, I’ve been doing a Let’s Play of Mass Effect 3. I felt this was the best time to do that Let’s Play, with the impending release of Mass Effect Andromeda. We also have some time and distance from the initial controversy over Mass Effect 3’s ending, and the second wave of controversy over the “Director’s Cut”, which meant that I could approach the game fresh, without any of that baggage. So, how does Shepard’s final outing fare? Continue reading → Video Game Review: Mass Effect 3

Video Game Review: Shovel Knight (3DS)

Having reviewed the Duck Tales games on episodes of the Nintendo Power Retrospectives, I’ve come to really dig (no pun intended) the pogo mechanic from that game. When Shovel Knight was released back in 2014, that game caught my interest, and seeing it at various Games Done Quick events just heightened my interest.

However, my finances were never quite enough for me to pick up the game, even when it was available on sale – and then the game got a physical release for the Nintendo 3DS, which was carried by GameFly, so now I had no excuse. Continue reading → Video Game Review: Shovel Knight (3DS)

Anime Review: Slayers Season 4 (Revolution/Evolution-R)

2015’s revival of Ushio and Tora by Studio MAPPA is not the first revival of an older anime and manga series in the 21st century. In 2008, JC Staff revived the classic fantasy anime series Slayers, with a fourth season after an almost decade gap. The series was was released as a split-cour show, with the first 12-episode cour being subtitled “Revolution”, and the second “Evolution-R”. When the show originally was announced, the big question that fans had was would this show come back with a Dragon Slave sized blast, or would it fizzle like a wet firework? Continue reading → Anime Review: Slayers Season 4 (Revolution/Evolution-R)

Video Game Review: Aquapazza Dream Match

Among the fighting games released last year, one that crept under the radar, but drew the attention of some of those in the fighting game scene was Nitroplus Blasterz: Heroines Infinite Duel. This was the latest of a number of various fighting games based on dating sims and visual novels, starting from Melty Blood in 2002 (based on Tsukihime), and moving on through Fate/Unlimited Codes in 2008 (based on Fate/Stay Night – the anime series of which I’ve previously reviewed). In 2013, we got Aquapazza Dream Match, a fighting game based on the various visual novels created by development studio Aquaplus. Now, while Melty Blood and Fate were based on visual novels with their share of action, Aquaplus’ bibliography (for lack of a better term), was built around less action focused work, such as Comic Party (which I’ve discussed in issue #10 of my Fanzine). So, the question becomes, how well do dating sims adapt to fighting games? Continue reading → Video Game Review: Aquapazza Dream Match

Manga Review – King of Thorn, Volume 2.

(Originally Published on Goodreads)

King of Thorn, Volume 2King of Thorn, Volume 2 by Yuji Iwahara

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This volume is causing the series to risk becoming cluttered, from a plot standpoint. Coming into this volume, the plot had the main driving conflict of “How do these characters, which are almost all infected with a disease that could kill them, survive in this post-apocalyptic world with massive thorny plants that have consumed everything, and freaking dinosaurs?” Continue reading → Manga Review – King of Thorn, Volume 2.

Book Review – The Rough Guide to Anime

Finding a “canon” of important works in any field is generally difficult to settle on. Do you go by popularity, artistic merit, influence on other works, early works of prominent creators, or a combination thereof?

The Rough Guide to Anime, by Simon Richmond – in Penguin Books Rough Guides series, probably has the best “canon” list of anime titles available, and certainly makes for the best English language primer to anime currently in print in the US, and makes for interesting reading for long-time fans and newcomers alike. Continue reading → Book Review – The Rough Guide to Anime

Comic Review – Ultimate Six

The Cover art for Issue 1 of Ultimate Six
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I’ve been catching up on my Ultimate Spider-Man, for reasons various and sundry. The volumes that haven’t been reviewed at Bureau42, I’ve reviewed here. However, this storyline – the introduction of the Ultimate Universe’s version of the Sinister Six, has been reviewed there. Thus, I’m taking my review of this storyline to my blog here, so I can kind of review it in my own little way, with a bit of an aside about the state of your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. This review contains some spoilers.

First off, I enjoy the Ultimate Spider-Man part of the Ultimate Universe, but it’s the only part of the Ultimate Universe that I like. Mark Millar’s work rubs me wrong in almost every respect. Ultimate X-Men turned me off the moment they decided that Ultimate Cable was future Wolverine (as if Wolverine wasn’t over-used enough). However, Ultimate Spider-Man has managed to balance Peter Parker’s angst with the more light-hearted face that Peter puts forward as Spider-Man in a way that the comics in the main Marvel U haven’t, for reasons that I can best tell are related to Editorial fiat. Continue reading → Comic Review – Ultimate Six

Movie Review – Troy (Director’s Cut)

Movie Poster for the film Troy
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Ever since the dawn of cinema, people have aspired to adapt the great myths and legends of history. The tales of the Arabian Nights, the legends of Heracles, and most significantly, the Illiad and the Odyssey of Homer. However, the technology required to tell the second to last has been a little lacking. However, the Lord of the Rings films, with the technological development of the Massive Engine, when was used to show the massive battles of the books, now the time has come where Homer’s works can be given the adaptation they so richly deserve, in a live action format.

This film is not that adaptation.

Now, don’t get me wrong, this movie isn’t bad. It’s just not the Iliad. The film attempts to hit the bullet points of the Trojan War – Paris flees Greece with the wife of King Menelaus of Sparta. King Menelaus is not pleased by this development (as you can imagine), so he contacts his brother Agamemnon asking him for help getting her back. He in turn contacts all of the kings of the various city-states he’s turned into vassal-states and tells them that it’s time for them to fulfill their end of the deal and bring along troops to go with him to Troy, and get his brother’s girl back (and also to get control of Troy). Continue reading → Movie Review – Troy (Director’s Cut)

Blu-Ray Review – Justice League Season 1

The cover art for Justice League: Season 1 on Blu-Ray
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If you’ve been following my reviews on Bureau42, you may know that I enjoy superhero comics, particularly judging by my reviews of DC: The New Frontier and similar works, as well as allusions to superhero comics in other reviews I’ve written. So, I missed Justice League when it first aired on TV. I missed it when it came out on DVD. However, now it’s finally out on Blu-Ray, and I’ve finally seen it. I’m pleased by what I’ve seen. My mind was not blown, but I did enjoy what I saw.

The series does what some of the best Justice League comics runs have done, such as Grant Morrison’s, and kept the league to a tight lineup: Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman (II – Diana Prince), The Flash (technically The Flash II as we see Barry Allen’s origin story, but we’re not doing prior incarnations here), Green Lantern (IV – John Stewart), Hawkgirl (I – Shayera Hol) and the Martian Manhunter. Continue reading → Blu-Ray Review – Justice League Season 1

Video Game Review – Burnout: Paradise (PS3)

The Cover art from the PS3 version of Burnout Paradise
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So, I’ve previously reviewed Need for Speed: ProStreet and Carbon. Both were pretty decent racing racing games, putting aside the very significant and major flaws I pointed out in my reviews of both games. Well, in my review of ProStreet, I said I’d give GRID a try. As you can tell from the title of the review, I haven’t. What I have tried is Criterion’s more arcade style, open world street racing game Burnout: Paradise. I’ve basically made it through career mode (I’ve gotten my Burnout License), so it’s time to give my thoughts on the game.

The Premise:

No particularly story in this game. You complete various racing events in the fictitious city of Paradise City. As you complete racing events, you upgrade your license. As you upgrade your license you unlock additional cars, as well as unlocking cars by taking them out (by which I mean force them into a wreck) while driving around the city. Continue reading → Video Game Review – Burnout: Paradise (PS3)