Nartuo and censorhip

Whenever anime get localized into English for release in America, they inevitably get censored. Well, not the "mature" stuff, but show's like Naruto and Dragonball Z certainly get put through the censorship wringer. On some level, its understandable because these shows, from their inception in Japanese, are meant for a broad "young adult" audience. Shounen anime's are made primarily for male teenage audiences, and have a large cast of colorful characters, with a very convenient plot device to facilitate combat between them all. 

This is nothing new, and is pretty basic in comic books such as Marvel or DC when you think about it. They're rarely groundbreaking and just feed the need for adolescent violence that get such good ratings (not to mention merchandising ventures). These shows always have people getting punched through buildings, only to emerge with a torn collar. These kinds of anime, in their original form, tend to have blood, murder, foul language, and mild sexual themes. 

When Naruto became localized for the US, the blood was all but removed, being replaced by seemingly cauterized wounds. Any blood that is visible is turned black and looks like oil. Instead, characters just get dirt patches on their skin to indicate damage. Even the adult female characters have their cleavage erased, which makes women with massive breasts (all too common in anime) look outright ridiculous. 

Left: Censored.                               Right: Original.
But I digress. Recently, my friend noticed something peculiar during a recent episode of Naruto. While facing a particularly dangerous villain who, after tasting the blood of his opponent, becomes invincible to their attacks. The villain is defeated by accidentally being tricked into tasting his own blood, leaving him vulnerable to others attacks. Yet when he consumed the false blood, it wasn't red, but rather, clear. During the typical exposition about how he was tricked, the protagonist refers to switching DNA, never saying the word "blood" once. 

I just cant fathom why they would skirt around the perils of fighting like this. If you beat someone up, they will bleed, and if they bleed enough, they will die. This is what makes fighting so dangerous. Instead, they've found another way to remove the threat of physical violence, in a cartoon that is 100% reliant on violence! 

That's supposed to be what makes Naruto such a great protagonist. He's quick throw the first punch as a hot headed buffoon. However, after numerous confrontations he learns that fighting won't solve anything in the grand scheme of things. In fact, his greatest skill is his ability to befriend his deadliest enemies, and turn them to the side of good/justice. But with the threat of danger consistently removed from the censored version, it makes his trials and tribulations far less impaction. 
Ok, rant over.

DeathSpank Review

 Video Game Review - DeathSpank

Sightplay - this game is simply visualized and it works to its credit very well. pretty much everything that isn't a character or monster is 2D. the monster design's are a  well done and simple kind of 'monster 101' for fantasy games. they don't take any risks and keep things familiar. i was a bit annoyed by certain lands having only one or two monster types, changing only in size. for example the young yeti, adult yeti, and elder yeti are the same character model, just in small, medium, and large sizes. this doesn't happen often, but when it does its notable. the whole game is delightfully colorful and the world changes through the typical video game settings. the forest (green), the demon/lava world (red), the arctic (blue), the fields (yellow), and the undead land (purple). Sure, they're typical, but since the game doesn't take itself too seriously, they're played for laughs and are constantly taking jabs at their well known settings.   
all the different weapons and armor are well crafted and look varied. nothing worse than new equipment that looks exactly the same. *cough* Dragon Age 2! *cough*

Soundplay - the dialogue is hilarious in this game, as the main character reminds me of Ron Burgundy, as the protagonist is convinced he's a genius, despite being openly moronic. the other characters are pretty ridiculous and deliver their lines with the same sincerity. the music is rather forgettable, but doesn't get in the way. it's good, just not great.

Gameplay - This game is essentially a diablo-clone. You roam a decently sized world, dispensing justice [literally] to any monsters you come across. the map screen could use some work, as you  can't switch between map segments at all, which can lead to some frustrating moments. the action is simple and well done. unfortunately most of the weapons pale in comparison to a certain few, especially when considering the special abilities some offer over others. you can use whatever weapons you like sure, but you'd be making things harder for yourself.

It's a load of fun, it just doesn't offer much in terms of experimentation. when you level up, you can choose one of three upgrades, and i think it's a wonderful way of simplifying the adventure genre gameplay. all three upgrades will eb nice boosts, so to choose just one actually requires thought and you will actually feel the affects they have on your character. i hate when games give you stat points to allocate each level, and after placing them in certain stats, you still feel like nothing has changed. luckily, such is not the case here.

Replay - Unfortunately, there isn't much reason to play this game after you beat it. there's the usual sequel bait, and since this review is 'really' late, the sequel has already been out for some time now, with the third sequel in development.

Score - 3/5. This is a great game, made only better by its sense of humor. i'm looking forward to reviewing the next entry in the franchise, and any future installments. Deathspank is a great new protagonist, in a gaming industry so over saturated with invincible space marines and gravelly voiced anti-heroes.

Big ups

I'm currently working on my Duken Nukem Forever review, big thanks to my friend Victor for letting me borrow that and the latest Medal of Honor, the review for that will come after I get a chance to play it. Also to my friend Mike for letting me hold on to his copy of White Knight Chronicles while he's out of town. Will try and play that eventually for a review. Big ups also go to Derrick for letting me borrow Dragon Age 2 (and origins). Shout out also goes to Andrew for letting me borrow Vanquish. If it weren't for these guys, I wouldn't have nearly as many topical reviews to write. Once I get through with these reviews, I'll be onto reviewing games from my actual library. Games like Sengoku Basara, and Dead Rising 2. 

There are some PC game reviews coming up to. They are easier to play and don't take nearly the time a fully produced $60 game would. And yet, despite being just a few megabytes in size and are armed only with charm, are monumentally better games than Duke Nukem. Deathspank, Who's That Flying, Atome Zombie Smasher, and Anomaly Warzone: Earth are all going to be reviewed soon. Not exactly current, but I gotta make due with what I happen to have at the moment. 

I'll get to these reviews, if I manage to tear myself away from Leauge of Legends. Big ups again to everyone for lending me their games.

My rating system explained & new Trophy Card!

For those of you curious about my rating system for video games, I shall explain. For each category one point is either awarded or withheld. Those being: 
Sightplay, the aesthetics of a game (not graphics) and the design of things like characters and environments.
Soundplay, the quality and believability of the music, sound effects, and voice acting.
Gameplay, the way the game controls, the user interface, and in general how fun the game is to play.
Replay, the replay value the game has to make you want to play more than once after completion.
And the last point is basically up to me wether or not I liked the game enough to give it that extra point (or not). Consider it a Luck rating that each game has. 

For instance, I'm drawn to bright and quirky colorful cel-shaded graphics, not a gritty ultra-realism of a modern setting. I would give that bonus point to a game like Katamry Damacy or Wind Waker for their charm and likeability. Games like Infamous or Call of Duty would be denied the bonus point, because I just don't find these styles of game to as poignant in a few years. Ok this example sounds like I'm talking about the Sightplay score, but hopefully you catch my meaning. 

Some might say this saps my journalistic credibility because I'm implementing bias into my reviews, but this is a bias filled world, and I can only inform you of the games that I want to play. What better service can I provide? If you're familiar with every over-hyped, over-priced, over-played, and over-rated video game titles that get scores way too high, while wonderful third party or indie game developers that get no attention at all, and are sick of it, you've come to the right place. My reviews will be honest, concise, spoiler free, and 100% American! Yeah I'm not sure what that last one has to do with anything either, so with that I want to thank anyone whose read my reviews, and anyone willing to come back for more.

Checkout my new trophy card, from lusogamer.

They're nice enough to have a self-updating trophy card, but its a shame the global/national ranking is absent. my current global ranking has slipped and am now roughly 3,000 globally. This means I'm not as good at time wasting as I used to be.

Vanquish Review

Video Game Review: Vanquish

                This is a hi-octane science fiction third person shooter game that is so fast paced and over the top and fun that it’s a real shame this game didn’t garner the attention it deserved. You play Sam Gideon, a gravelly voiced protagonist who wears a futuristic suit of armor, like so many lead characters in this day and age, but this game actually makes you feel like you have all the technological backing such a thing should bestow. Let’s get right into the review.

                SIGHTPLAY – This game looks pretty good. It’s not quite as colorful as it could be, but that’s not to say that it looks bland. There are just a lot of blues, reds, metallic’s, and a sampling of the rest now and again. The protagonist looks really cool, and the suit of armor actually looks like you could maneuver around in it. Instead of just being another regenerating health bar feature that most other video game protagonists have, this suit features an incredible amount of mobility. This is a very welcome change of pace in terms of character design. Seeing a character wear armor that seems impossible to even lift, let alone save the world while wearing is tedious. If you play this game, you’ll witness the sidekick don the kind of armor I’m talking about. He equips these silly looking boots that are wider than him (and he’s a big guy). He uses them to fly around, which makes him look even more ridiculous, despite the enormous mini-gun he hauls around. 
                The enemy design leaves something to be desired. There are less than five enemy types. If you count these enemies when they use a different kinds of weapon or armor or color palette, than the enemy count is just under twenty. Sparse, to say the least, and they’re recycled far too often. The same could be said of the good guys as well. Aside from the hero and the sidekick, the rest of the supporting cast (villains included) is entirely forgettable.  
                These gripes tend to be forgotten when you are actually in the midst of the game and everything is happening around you all at once. Although doesn’t have the graphical superiority of most AAA titles, but that doesn’t prevent this game from looking spectacular. Maybe I just have a weakness for a single missile pod, shooting hundreds of rockets, complete with smoke trails.

                SOUNDPLAY – The sound design in this game fare decently as well, which seems to be a recurring theme for my review so far. Hopefully it doesn’t come off that way. Most music in this game falls under the purview of electronica, and given the futuristic setting, it is fitting. If, for example, this game had a symphonic arrangement, or heavy metal playing during the course of a level, it would seem out of place. What does seem out of place is the voice actors, because they deliver some lines of dialogue that should be considered staples of the action genre. And yet lines like “let’s get the fuck out of here” as you make a dramatic exit just sound goofy. As if they spent more time practicing how to do a deep gravelly voice, than expressing the relief of survival. The protagonist and his sidekick suffer from some serious “Bale Batman” voice-work, and instead of thinking of these characters as hard-boiled they just come off as overcooked (and silly). The weapons sound really cool and the assault rifle gunfire reminds me of an old 8bit bullet sound, just being fired at hundreds of rounds a minute. 

                GAMEPLAY – There is a story about a U.S. president, and Russians, and San Francisco getting destroyed, umm, and science, and, the future? Ok the story sucks and is entirely forgettable. But they give you a really kickass suit of hi-tech armor and thousands of robot bad guys, put a gun in your hands and say “go save the world!” and that’s exactly what you do. I’m not about to hold a lack of compelling story against this game for one second, because this isn’t that kind of game. This is a fast paced third person shooter with very tight controls.
                The frantic pace of all the action is a sight to behold, and when you’re zipping about the battlefield tearing enemies apart one by one, it feels awesome. When all the gears of chaos are in motion this truly feels like a video game. Amidst all the explosions, bullets, lasers, and bits of robots, you still feel like you are in complete control of the game. You can dash through the legs of larger enemies, dodge enemy fire, take cover behind walls, leap over said walls, melee attack, and are able to engage AR mode (i.e. slow motion) at any time. This gives you the opportunity to speed around the battlefield, till you are able to size up a situation, get in position, and methodically go from enemy to enemy wiping them out in rapid succession. Or, you know, just tear shit up.
                Unfortunately there is a lack of weapon variety in this game. Apart from the standard shooting gallery of weapons like sniper rifle, shotgun, machine gun, rocket launcher, and grenades, there isn’t really anything else to get excited about. There is a homing multi-rocket weapon which looks cool, but does pitiful damage. There is a disc launcher which shoots buzz saws at enemies, but completely lacks the awesomeness that this weapon had in Dead Space. There is another weapon that shoots a large ball of energy that can go through objects and damages anything it touches. Save for this weapon being cool to use, the rest of the arsenal is an absolute snooze-fest. This game could have really benefited from taking the Ratchet and Clank approach to weapon design. Only two types of grenades in the future? Shameful.
                Vanquish is one of this really fast action games like Ninja Gaiden or Bayonetta, not in the sense that you have to perform combos. More so in the sense that at any given moment you’ll be pressing at least two or three buttons if you want to dominate your enemies. This means that if you hone down you’re gamer reflexes to their maximum, and enter that nerd Zen mode, you can play the game on its hardest difficulty and beat each level unscathed.
                Now that doesn’t mean that it’s going to be easy, and this is one of the more challenging games I’ve played this year, but just because you can’t pull off “God Hard” mode without losing a single life, doesn’t mean it’s impossible. This game has a challenge, and I LOVE it for that. It doesn’t hold your hand too much. After beating the game you unlock Challenge Mode, and this is perhaps the most fun I’ve had with the game, and I’ve only beaten 1 of 6 stages. These stages throw several waves of enemies at you in an arena with set weapons located all around. Think Mercenaries mode from Resident Evil, however the objective isn’t to receive a high score, simply to survive. At times these challenges feel downright impossible. But once you spend the time to learn how to best tackle each wave, and actually complete one of them, the sense of accomplish is nearly overwhelming. This game is a lot of fun.

               REPLAY – All of that said, as an experienced action gamer, on my first play through I was able to beat this game on Hard mode in roughly five hours. Five hours! This is unacceptable for a game this fun to play. Sure the challenge mode requires a ton of practice if you want to beat them, but once you have there is no reason to do it again. The same could be said of the main story. You unlock “God Hard” mode, which is indicative of most SEGA titles, and don’t get me wrong I’m glad they do it, but there is no incentive to actually do so. There aren’t any unlockable features. Not even concept art (which pretty much no one cares for). No movie gallery. No alternate costumes. Nothing.
                It is in this regards that I weep for what this game could have been. A single player story that doesn’t last as long as the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and I’m talking about the original cinematic cuts of the movie. If you want to talk the complete extended directors edition of those movies, they easily double the length of this game. Only kidding. But just barely.  

                SCORE – 4 out of 5. This game was a real treat for me, as these kinds of over-the-top action games are right up my alley, and was a real blast to play. Unfortunately it’s really short, and since its fun and you won’t put it down, the ride is over too soon. Without the incentive to keep playing, this game is the perfect rental title, which is disappointing to admit, but it’s the truth.