Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Three things.


By now, you should have heard of Battle Royale.  Don't feel bad if you haven't - I'd certainly never caught a whiff of it until I saw an article a week or two ago which shed some light on it.  So dig this.

Y'know that Hunger Games movie?  Don't worry, I haven't seen it either - but you're aware of the premise, yes?  In a dystopian future, teens are selected from poor communities and forced to fight each other to the titular Hunger Games - it's basically the next Twilight.

Well, as it turns out, The Hunger Games (2008) is eerily similar to Battle Royale, a Japanese novel from 1999 which takes place in a dystopian future in which a 9th-grade class of teenagers are forced to fight each other to the death.

They're likely unrelated - but after I heard that Quentin Tarantino called the (2000) film adaptation of Battle Royale his favorite movie of the past twenty years, and that "if there’s any movie that’s been made since I’ve been making movies that I wish I had made, it’s that one," I decided it may be worth picking up.

And pick it up I did.

It's... weird.  And not nearly as violent as the whirlwind of controversy surrounding it would have you believe.

There's a great deal I like about it - and there's no doubt it's an entertaining yarn, which keeps one interested until the end - but I found myself agreeing with Tarantino's wish.  I think I'd rather see his Battle Royale than that of famed director Kinji Fukasaku.

As I was watching it, I couldn't help but think about how Tarantino's use of sound, of framing, of dialogue would have heightened this scene or made that one more watchable.

That being said...

I've often wondered out loud why South Korea makes so many fantastic movies (see: Park Chan-Wook), but Japan's modern live-action films generally... suck.

It's nice to watch a Japanese movie that doesn't suck. Or at least one that's not by Akira Kurosawa.


I finished the campaign on the Vita version of Plants Vs. Zombies the other day, and subsequently failed to write a review.

I'm not going to, either.  I don't feel I'm qualified to.

I own a few fighting games - Virtua Fighter V and BlazBlue: Continuum Shift - but I don't talk much about 'em, 'cause... well, I'm not Chamberlain.  I have no authority on this matter.

If you want to talk about first-person shooters, third-person shooters, brawlers, platformers, RPGS western and Japenese, I'm your guy.  I can expound on that shit.  I've been playing all those games since the mid eighties, and I can lay it down.

I can't lay a thing down when it comes to tower defense games - and that's what PvZ is.  I have no history with this genre - no internal catalog of established mechanics and norms to measure newcomers against.  PvZ is my one and only point of reference, and as such I'm not prepared to suggest where it may land in the history of its type.

That said...

  • great art direction - charming little animated sprites!
  • lovely music
  • tiny little levels - make it a snack, or a meal
  • touch controls work perfectly
  • an easy-breezy backstroking difficulty curve, entirely devoid of spikes
  • constantly throws new plants and tactics at you
  • it's adorable

  • um... hm.  There must be someth... no... Ah!  It sucks that I can't point to anything that bothers me about it. 
This is a perfect game for sitting on the bus.  Or the toilet. 


So after last night's post I opened my library and gazed upon its splendor.

This game and that game and the other... and I selected Resonance of Fate.  Many readers likely know me as the guy from the Penny Arcade forums who was part of the charge of post-release hype for Valkyria Chronicles - and it remains a favorite to this day - but I can comfortably say that Resonance of Fate is, in fact, my favorite JRPG of the current gen.

Heck, it may be my favorite JRPG period.

I fired it in and it's so... refreshing, compared to the norms of its genre.  It doesn't bludgeon you with extraneous exposition off the bat - it merely lays out a few hints of narrative (which are skippable!) and throws you right into the game.

There's no hour-long tutorial, there's no four-hour stretch of nothingness as the game introduces its characters and endears you to the protagonist before it reveals their universe-saving destiny.  It throws you right into control of your team and says "you gotta' do this thing out of town.  Or go brush up on combat at the arena.  Y'know, whatever."

And then you're free to enjoy it - and it's so enjoyable.

The combat - instantly accessible and wide-open from the first moments - is rich and tactical and vicious and brutally punishes you for any mistakes.  It smacks you so hard when you muck up that the only option is to constantly have your aggression meter cranked to maximum.

You don't just defeat enemies, here - you have to fuck them up - while being constantly aware of your positioning, their positioning, and the changing battlefield.  I've played turn-based RPGs, I've played action-RPGs I've played whatever you want to call Final Fantasy XIII, and I must admit Resonance of Fate has the most enjoyable combat system I've ever experienced in the genre.

The only voice of protest is that of Mass Effect 3, which so nailed the action-RPG ambition with its rich and well-realized third-person real-time combat.

Everything about this game is just yummy.

Exploring the game world, opening new areas with its inventive hex system, discovering lost loot... mmm.

Leveling up and slapping two scopes and three barrels on to your machine gunner's SMG... mmm.

The minimal, unobtrusive story... mmm.

The fact that cutscenes are actually entertaining..! (Skip to 0:19 - watch 'till 2:26).

Nolan North, Scott Menville and Jessica DiCicco.  Delicious.

God, I'd kill for a sequel. G'night!