Month: June 2012

Soul Calibur V

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Well fans, sometimes you have to be careful what you wish for. Soulcalibur V is the sixth (yes that’s correct) game in Namco’s Soul series. It’s a 3D weapon based fighting game that began with Soul Edge in 1996 which was released in the arcades and ported to the Playstation. Every other game since has been released under the title of Soulcalibur. This review is based on the Playstation 3 version, though Soul V is also on the Xbox 360.

Like most fighting games, battles consist of two combatants facing each other and the aim is to attack your opponent until their health metre empties, thus a Knock-Out (KO). It’s also possible to win a round by knocking the opponent out of the arena, known as a Ring-Out. The characters are mainly differentiated by their different weapons such as the standard sword and shield setup, ninja blades, a Zweihander (large two-handed sword), nunchuks and an axe. The character play styles are designed with their weapons in mind so you can’t swap the ninja’s blades with the Zweihander. The controls are relatively simple, with a different button for horizontal attacks, vertical attacks, kicks, as well as guarding. Using a combination of these buttons, along with the control stick, allows for combos, throws and special moves. Newly introduced to Soul V is the “Critical Edge” system. Its main use allows fighters to fill up a metre which enables the execution of a “super move”. Like most fighters, it can take quite a while to learn the complicated commands for just one fighter, let alone the 28 characters available in the game. Of course, just like most fighters, if you’re new to the game, just button-mash away.

I haven’t played a Soul game since the outstanding Soul Calibur II on the GameCube. Ok, I’ll admit the main reason I bought it is because it featured Link from The Legend of Zelda series in it as a guest character. Oh, and yes I used him during the majority of my time playing the game. Despite this, I was more than happy to play a future instalment despite knowing that Link wouldn’t be in them. Soul Calibur III eventually came out, not on the GameCube however, so that plan failed. With Soulcalibur V on the release cycle this year, I decided it was a perfect time to pick up what I assumed would be the most updated entry in this series.

If you’re still reading this, you’re probably what I meant by the first sentence of this review. What I mean is what the Soul fans have received with Soulcalibur V is a step backwards for the series. With Soul Calibur IV rumoured to be the last in the series, it was said that another game would be possible if the fans wanted it. Sure enough the Facebook petition was a success. One of the main developers was even taking feedback and suggestions from his Twitter account. My question is did the fans ask for a barebones selection of modes, removal of several favourite characters and the worst story mode I have ever encountered in a game ever? What I fondly remember about Soul II was playing through the arcade mode and getting the story endings for each character, who all had fairly detailed back stories. I also remember spending a long time in the Weapons Master Mode, a story mode told through a lot of reading, but still a story mode nonetheless. Its main perks were different conditions in each battle, such as losing health slowly during the battle or fighting a team of enemies in one round. The multiplayer mode was great, but even the single player modes kept me entertained for hours.

The basic story of the whole series is over a pair of swords. The evil Soul Edge, and the good Soul Calibur. Each character has been affected by one or both the swords at some point in some way and some of them wish to find one or both of the swords for whatever purpose. Soul V takes place 17 years after Soul IV. Why? I don’t really know, but because of this, many of the characters have been removed and replaced by new ones with the exact same fighting style. Taki the ninja, who was one of the most iconic Soul characters, has been replaced by her protégé Natsu. Then there’s Xiba, the annoying one. He’s obsessed with food and is nowhere near as cool as Kilik. Some characters, such as Talim and Seong Mi-na don’t appear at all and have no replacements. Without good reason, some of the classic characters such as Ivy are still here and haven’t aged. Ezio from the Assassin’s Creed series is featured as a guest character and he’s a perfect fit for Soulcalibur.

The story mode focuses on new character Patroklos – by new I mean he’s just Sophitia’s son and has her moveset. The other important character is Patroklos’s long lost sister, Pyrrha. Sophitia has died by this point, cheers Namco for killing off popular series veterans. The story mode is really, really REALLY terrible in every way imaginable. It’s so short for a start – you can beat it in one playthrough, but considering how bad it is I’m not sure if that’s a criticism. It’s also really hard to make sense of what’s going on. I think Patroklos’s quest started because he wanted to find his long lost sister. Then I think it shifts to a quest to cure her of “malfestation”, a curse burdening those who come into contact with Soul Edge. There are about 20 stages, over half of them you play as Patroklos. He does acquire a new weapon that changes his playstyle completely, in other words just replacing another previous character’s play style. Then I think it’s 5 times you play Pyrrha and 3 times you play Z.W.E.I. Who’s Z.W.E.I.? He’s a new character I know that much but the game doesn’t really give him a back-story at all. Some other characters old and new appear during the story mode but the majority don’t show up at all. Pyrrha is the most annoying Soulcalibur character ever. Her voice acting, along with all the other characters, is painful to listen to, which is only made worse by the woeful voice dialogue.

I know why the game feels so incomplete. Apparently the developers were only given a year to work on the game. The director admitted that the final story mode is only one fourth of what was planned. This mode starts off easy, but the difficulty spikes up considerably at the end and that last fight took forever. I was not impressed, especially because the game encourages you to play the story mode to learn the mechanics of the game. Speaking of learning the mechanics, I went into training mode to try and figure out the new “Critical Edge” mechanics, but the game doesn’t explain things properly and I didn’t work it out until after I beat the story mode and Googled a few times. Oh and you how know most fighting game rounds start off with the characters saying a line of dialogue to each other? I noticed that some of the characters in the basic modes say specific lines to specific characters. For example, new character Natsu acknowledges veteran Maxi, but you’ll have no idea why considering Maxi doesn’t even show up in the story mode. Of course it’s not as bad as the dialogue in the story mode, with the absolutely horrendous writing and frequent use of the word “malfested”. There aren’t even character profiles, another feature that was in Soul II.

Of course the horrible story mode and character roster aren’t the only things disappointing with this game. There aren’t many modes and there is a lack of variety within the modes. Arcade mode has no story endings for the characters like the previous games in the series, so it can’t even fill the gap left by the lacklustre story. There is a quick battle mode where you battle random characters just to earn ranks for your online profile. There’s no battle conditions, like in Soul II’s Weapon Master Mode, so all these matches can be recreated by turning CPUs on in Vs. Mode. Even Soul II’s multiplayer has more depth than Soul V’s, what happened to Team Battle? A mode that you unlock later on is the Legendary Souls where you just fight really hard CPUs. I don’t know if this gets you anything cool because I couldn’t beat the second level.

There is a character creation mode. All the characters you make are based on other characters play styles. You can either start from scratch (choose play style, gender and then adjust the body, voice, clothes etc.), or adjust an existing character. Your created character can be used in all modes excluding the story mode. When you go online you can see the variety of characters others have created, which is very cool. It’s very possible for one to create all the characters that are missing in this instalment. Creating characters, especially freaks, is fun, but loses its novelty quite quickly.

The online mode is a mixed bag. Maybe it’s because I live in Australia, but I usually found it difficult to find opponents close to battle with. The most opponents I found in the Australian rooms were two. The American and Japanese ones would have over 50, so I would go there to find battles, often with a less than ideal connection speed. The game recorded 4 hours I spent online, but a lot of that was attempting to get a game going.

This review has been mostly negative, but Soul V is not a bad game. The battle system is very deep and rewarding if you invest time in it. The online play and the “create a character” modes are solid. What this sequel has successfully done is refine the combat system, expand on the “create a character” mode and the online play. While it does add new characters, it takes out some favourites in favour of some lame replacements. The selection of modes is a step backward, especially for a single player experience. I could go back and play Soulcalibur II and I probably would enjoy it more than this game. If you’re a Soul fan, I think you’ll be disappointed, and if you’ve never played Soulcalibur, I would recommend trying out Soulcalibur IV, which would be very cheap by now. Admittedly I haven’t played Soul IV but I’ve heard good things about it. In fact, I would recommend Soulcalibur II over Soul V. It’s disappointing to for me to say that the short development time prevented Soulcalibur V from living up to its full potential. You’ll have some fun with it, but there’s not enough quality content to keep gamers interested in the long term.

Rating: 3/5 

Prometheus

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Ridley Scott’s new science fiction film, Prometheus, is not necessarily a prequel to the 1979 film Alien, which was also directed by Ridley Scott. While it did start out as such, Prometheus became a new intellectual property, but apparently takes place in the same universe as Alien. The main connection between Prometheus and Alien you will spot during the movie quite easily. This has me concerned that an Alien Vs. Predator Vs. Prometheus film might be on its way. Though I guess that wouldn’t work because Prometheus is the name of the spaceship. With Alien and Aliens both being amazing and genre-defining films, Prometheus had a lot of expectations, but I’m going to attempt to put those aside.

Prometheus is set late in the 21st century. The crew aboard the ship follow a star map that was discovered on Earth that’s linked to some ancient human cultures. This leads them to a distant and advanced civilisation. The crew believes they will discover the origins of the human race, but as the whole audience watching this film would assume – they stumble onto something dangerous.

The first half hour of the movie is really boring. Nothing interesting happens. The characters are dull during this part as well and I was struggling to figure out where they stand in the story. The exception to this is the guy with red hair and with flags designs – or whatever they are – tattooed to the side of his face. He’s the guy that questions everything, but the actor who played him tried too hard because he’s really irritating. Just before something major does happen in the movie, suddenly we are treated to character based scenes, which was good, but was very sudden at the same time. I wish I could say it was building up to something better, but I really can’t. It’s just that it seems like during the writing of this movie, they were like “Hey, nothing has happened yet and the characters don’t have personalities yet! Better fix that!”

Past this point, yes, the film does pick up. The special effects are pretty good. It’s a shame that the plot and the characters aren’t strong enough to make this film stand out. The android character, David, was well acted. You do believe that he’s an android. The lead character, Elizabeth Shaw, played by the funnily named Swedish actor Noomi Rapace, performed well, but I’m not convinced by her questionable actions during the film. In fact a lot of the time, I wondered about the actions of the other characters. As for the plot, I didn’t really find it that interesting or clever. There were a few nice action scenes though.

Prometheus isn’t a good movie. It’s not a bad movie either. It’s just smells of mediocrity throughout. I can definitely tell that Ridley Scott directed it, because it reminds of the Alien movies in a lot ways, aside from the fact that Alien and Aliens were really good. While I never was much of a sci-fi fan I think that the lack of a good plot and characters are why this movie fails to impress. I recommend using your money to see something else this blockbuster season.

I give Prometheus 2.5/5.

Tenacious D – Rize of the Fenix

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Hi everyone! This is my first blog post – hope you enjoy it!

Tenacious D are a seriously awesome comedy rock band, consisting of Jack Black and Kyle Gass. Fans are used to waiting a long time for new material from The D. Their debut self-titled album came out in 2001 and was a hard hitting F-bomb filled delight, which became most famous for the song “Tribute”. Five years later, the band released The Pick of Destiny, a soundtrack album to the accompanying film of the same name that starred the band. Unfortunately, the movie was a box-office bomb, which is a shame but perhaps not surprising because it only appealed to Tenacious D fans. This year, the band is back with a vengeance with their third record, Rize of the Fenix.

I am pleased to announce that Rize of the Fenix will not disappoint fans, and will draw in new believers. The opening title track is…an absolutely perfect opening title track. It’s self referential in nature, and consists of three parts as the band describes its return and rise to power once again. This song will make any fan be glad that The D are back. The next track, “Low Hangin’ Fruit”, can be described as a delicious, innuendo-filled, classic Tenacious D track. It rocks hard, and one can even dance to it.

The next track is a skit, and there’s another skit a few more tracks in. Both skits are funny, but neither of them are as creative or as memorable as the skits on the first album. Many of the skits on that album were based on concepts such as “One Note Song” and “Inward Singing”. Of course it’s not the skits that matter, but the songs.

There are some more really good songs on Rize of the Fenix, such as my personal favourite, “Roadie”. “To Be The Best” is the best one-minute song I have ever heard, and is a fantastic nod to the 80’s. It reminded me of Joe Esposito’s “You’re the Best”. There are also some filler tracks, such as “Throw Down” and “They Fucked Our Asses”, which lack the creative spark of the other songs. The two bonus tracks aren’t anything special, though “Quantum Leap” is pretty catchy.

Overall, I highly recommend this album to everyone. Tenacious D fans will definitely love it. The album is better than The Pick of Destiny. While the skits are not as strong as the ones on the debut, the songs are just as good, if not better. If you have never gotten into Tenacious D and are unsure if you would like them, watch the music video below for “To Be The Best”. I think it will speak for itself, and I promise that if you like it, you are officially a Tenacious D fan.

I rate things out of 5, including halves. 0.5 is the lowest score. I give Rize of the Fenix 4/5. The bonus tracks did not impact the score. See the tracklist below, the ones in bold are my track picks.

1.

“Rize of the Fenix”  

5:53

2.

“Low Hangin’ Fruit”  

2:31

3.

“Classical Teacher” (Skit)

3:23

4.

“Señorita”

3:08

5.

“Deth Starr”

4:46

6.

“Roadie”  

2:58

7.

“Flutes & Trombones” (Skit)

1:28

8.

“The Ballad of Hollywood Jack and the Rage Kage”  

5:05

9.

“Throw Down”

2:56

10.

“Rock Is Dead”

1:44

11.

“They Fucked Our Asses” (“They Chucked Our Basses” on the clean version)

1:08

12.

“To Be the Best”  

1:00

13.

“39”

Deluxe edition bonus tracks
14. “Quantum Leap” 3:50
15. “Rivers of Brown” 1:23

5:16