Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Backseat Gamer: Mortal Kombat X

We have a PS4!!  We can finally start gaming again and playing to new stuff we really want!
*cough*  Ok, now that that's out of my system...

Mortal Kombat has always been one of my wifey's true video games loves.  As a kid I didn't grow up with a game system, so I never experienced playing the game.  Still I knew of it and I absolutely loved (and still do) the live action movie that came out - in spite of all it's cheesiness.  I also enjoyed watching her play the last one, so needless to say we bought this with our new PS4 immediately.  This was a long time coming.

About 20 years after the events of MK9, most of the main characters are either dead, or trying to pick up the pieces.  Trouble starts up again, when a certain magical amulet goes missing and it's time for the newest team of recruits to take on the battle to save Earth Realm with a few old familiars.  

Back when this game was released, the PS3 version was delayed (and eventually got cancelled) so we were left with the choice to wait or find some other way to see the story mode.  This is the first game I can think of where we actually hunted down the full story mode online via Youtube because we really didn't want to wait.  I remember liking it at the time and loving the new characters.  And, when we finally got the system and the game, we happily played through the story mode again.

The new characters?  I love them.  I'll admit I was hesitant, because Soul Calibur also tried a jump forward in time with new characters and it was less them impressive.  However Mortal Kombat seems to have nailed it.  The new characters of Cassie, Jacqui, Takeda and Kung Jin provide excellent backstories, unique personalities and are easy to identify and associate the newest generation of fans with, plus they don't alienate the older fans.  Of that group I would have to say that Takeda is my favorite overall and favorite to play with, but I seriously love all of them (though Kung Jin is really hard for me to play).

There's also a whole host of new 'villains' from other realms that I really like.  Kotal Kahn is super interesting, taking a character based on Mayan and Aztec gods and adding him to the realm.  I especially love how some of the cultural aspects are part of his character, making him incredibly unique when compared to other fighting games I've seen.  I also really like D'voriah and Ferra/Tor more then I thought I would.  And Shinnok, while annoying, makes a pretty threatening boss.

Other well known characters are also back.  We get to see aged versions of Sonja Blade and Johnny Cage and others, while many of those who died in the last game come back as ghostly versions of themselves thanks to Quan Chi.  Added to that, there's several cameos of other lesser known Mortal Kombat characters worked into the storyline.  It's a bit of a disappointment that you don't get to play them and they aren't included in the DLC, but there's hope for in the future and it makes me excited to see the next installment, if they keep this up.  I continue to be impressed by how these new Mortal Kombat games have successfully rebooted things, without ignoring the previous source material.

The storyline is good, keeping the same cinematic scope as the last game and Injustice.  I really like this trend, where the fighting graphics and the cut scenes are so close to quality that you can actually watch it as a movie with very little adjustment.  The adding in of reaction commands was perfectly done.  Not too hard to interupt the story and create frustration, but instead they added to it in just the right way.

In the actual nitty gritty of the fighting game, there's a couple new mechanics worth note.  In this game, each fighter has three modes - which let the player pick what they want to focus on.  Fundamentally the character doesn't change, but the ability to choose if you want your character to lean a bit more toward magic, offense or defense actually makes the easier for players like me who are more of the button mashing type, and yet endlessly playable because now you have the option to master the same character in three different ways!

There's also the addition of challenge towers that change on a constant basis.  This reminds me of those endless iPhone games where there's just level after level and you can play to your hearts' content but translated for a console (without micro transactions, thank god).  There's a set of challenge towers that are normally with the game, but also a set of living towers that change frequently.  So, essentially, even after you've played through each character's story, you can always log in for a new challenge.  In that, I see this game having a seriously long life, even if the DLC doesn't continue.

The one thing we haven't tried yet is the DLC.  We plan on getting those next, but at the time of writing this review neither of us have tried the added characters.  Though I do love the idea of adding in horror movie baddies and making your own horror movie fighting game as time goes on.

The bad?  Hmmm, honestly I don't really have anything I dislike about this game.  I could play the whole thing, even with my minimal gaming skills.  I enjoyed many of the gross characters and fatalities and really don't have any complaints.  Other then why the heck didn't this come out on PS3? Damnit, that wait was agonizing!

How Much I Played:
I am proud to say that I played about half of the game with my wifey.  She and I switched the controller back and forth during story mode and I beat the personal towers with quite a few of the characters.  The krypt was all mine, thanks to the random jump scares that come up.  The only thing I didn't really play was the living towers, as those are stuck on medium and way past my skill level - but I am proud to say that I can beat the game on Easy and didn't have to use Super Easy the whole time ^__^;;;.

I do have to say, the most fun moment was playing one of the Test Your Might challenges and we had to work together, one of us holding the controller against the table and ready with the trigger, while the other mashed the buttons as quickly as possible.  That was a lot of fun!

Loved the hell out of this game.  It was a long wait and so worth it.  Now, I really really need that DLC.

Yep!  Back when the game came out, we threw together a quick closet cosplay for my wifey as Scorpion and here's some of the pix!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Review: Fate/Stay Night (Unlimited Blade Works)

With the ending of the convention season, I finally have time to catch up on some anime series, so I'll be doing more reviews like this, hopefully.  Any recommendations?

What is the show?

Fate/Stay Night is one in a series of stories about mages who summon historical figures in order to fight for the coveted Holy Grail, a mystical item that can grant the winning mage and servant any wish.

Unlimited Blade Works specifically is the remake of the series from the original (just Fate/Stay Night) which focuses on one of the many storylines and endings from the visual novel/dating sim game that started the series.  Yes, you read that right, this is based on a dating game from Japan, but honestly you may as well push that fact far from your mind, because this isn't a romance.

Shirou is the main character and he is the adopted son of a mage from the last Holy Grail War, which he knows very little about.  But when he accidentally summons one of the legendary servants: Saber, he's thrown into the storyline and the current Holy Grail War and must become the hero in the process.

I've known about this series for years and have always loved the premise of taking historical figures and bending them to fit as warriors in such a fantastic story.  When I attempted to watch the first series, I have to say I was less then impressed by the lack of character and personality Shirou had.  In this remake, I'm happy to say that's been corrected.  No longer is he a very lackluster character next to the exciting and new takes on well known historical figures - now he is very much a character who stands on his own and who you end up rooting for, no matter how tilted his ideals may be.

All in all, it's a really dramatic series, that made me love the main characters and quite a few of the side characters.  As it was based on a dating game, you can still see threads of pandering to the fans, but they really only left in the important plot related points, so I can't complain.  The character development is well written with everyone, the animation is gorgeous and the fight scenes really keep you on the edge of your seat.  In fact those fight scene are a beautiful marriage of computer animation and the traditional animation style, that you feel every blow on the screen.

I do highly recommend this series and it fits right in there with action series such as Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood, Tokyo Ghoul, Attack on Titan and other awesome titles.  The contained storyline gives you a complete series that you don't need to go hunting for history about (but it's fun to after the series has ended) and the amount of kick ass females who are woven into the storyline is a great bonus.  That and, without any spoilers, the storyline centering around Shirou and his personal growth is one of the most interesting I've seen in a long time.

There is a prequel to this series in Fate/Zero but you don't need to see it to understand this series.  Instead, it's more of a bonus and you'll recognize some characters who float between both storylines.  It doesn't matter what order you watch the two series in, there's just a few 'easter eggs' you'll notice if you take the time to watch both.

Watched on: Streaming on Hulu

Want some spoilers and in depth thoughts?  Just scroll past the image:

Spoilers below this point!

Lets talk about those servants - specifically Saber (least to start).  I love the fact that Saber is in fact King Arthur.  It's not stated flat out in the series, but they make it pretty obvious once you find out what her weapon is and with her flashbacks to the original reason why she wanted the Grail and her wish fulfilled.  The whole idea of mages summoning historical heroes in itself is really interesting, but the fact that they made one female with no explanation or excuses, really intrigued me.  I like that it's never really discussed that while the mythical/historical King Arthur would have been male, Saber is very much female.  There's no long drawn out flashback as to why, the audience is just told to accept it as reality, and I like that.  It allows me to extrapolate and search out my own fanfiction prone explanations after the fact and it doesn't hurt the story at all.  Yet, at the same time it's not too far to expect that had a female drawn the sword meant to pick the future king of Britain - then yeah, she would have probably had to pretend to be a male or simply live with being called a 'king' for most of her life.  It's a new twist on an old and familiar story that I really like.

And that is part of why I love this series.  Part of the fun is watching it and trying to figure out who each of the servants are.  Some are flat out named in the series, while others are not and it can lead to many hours of looking up information and discovering other story tidbits that keep you interested far past the actual series.  It's like a little puzzle book that just keeps giving you more and more information as you pull apart the pieces.

Gilgamesh was my only disappointment - and even then he wasn't really.  He's so arrogant and unforgiving that you can't help but laugh at his particular type of madness.  I mean a bad guy bent on world domination that is ok with killing most of humanity because they don't deserve to have him as their king?  That's some special thinking right there!  What they didn't tell you about his story, I know is revealed and expanded in Fate/Zero, so I really can't complain.  All in all there was far too little of him in this series and I wish there'd been more - but I understand why there wasn't.

The whole crux of the story, and the reason why it's called Unlimited Blade Works centers around Shirou and his relation to Archer.  I found that story to be really intriguing with how well it was written and handled.  It was almost a time travel story, to be honest, but not quite.  Since the heroes are timeless, the fact that Shirou and Archer are actually the same person from two different times (and possibly two different threads of time) is really interesting and their well thought out explanation worked better then most time travel stories I've come across.  It made Archer a really interesting character with oh so many layers and during their fight, I honestly couldn't tell you who I was rooting for, because damnit they both deserved to win and lose at the same time.

So yeah, like I said, I loved the series.  I do highly recommend it and I plan on finishing Fate/Zero soon here.  I hope they explore the other storylines presented in the visual novels and some of the other games in future series.  I would be quite happy to see these characters over and over again.

(With the exception of Fate/kaleid liner Prisma Illya - where they turn it into a magical girl series.  I really have no interest in that thread.)

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

2016 Conventions!

With the closing of the 2015 convention year, and the ending of the year as a whole, we've retreated into our warm house to restock our shop, write more books and plan for next year's conventions.  Luckily we already have a few we can announce, and some new products that we'll be releasing.  And there will be at least one more written piece on the way, and hopefully a few more.  Here's a preview of some things to come!

March - 2016
We have two conventions already confirmed: 

Anime Milwaukee - we'll have a table in Artist Alley, while Shuto con we'll just be attending and running some panels!

We will also - hopefully - be releasing the sequel to Seeking the Storyteller.  More news on this as we have it!

April - 2016

We're confirmed as Featured Artists at Anime Detour this year!  So you'll find our table up near registration and the dealer's room!

October - 2016

We're confirmed as Guests at Gaylaxicon!  Stay tuned for more info on this con as well!!

We have a lot of other things planned as well, but we can't quite share them just yet.  So keep an eye out.  And next week I'll return to my normal blog posts ^__^

If there's any conventions you'd like to see us at, feel free to comment and let us know!  Otherwise you can always recommend us as guests to your local con too!  We'd love to travel all over and meet everyone!