Tag Archives: Reviews

A Companion Facebook Page to the CCA Comics

And now for something completely different:

Screen shot of Companion Facebook page

Screen shot of Companion Facebook page

We’ve created a “Companion Facebook page” to this website. If and when any new posts are published on this website, they “should” (if WordPress and Facebook are in a good mood and are talking to each other) automatically appear on the properly linked Facebook page! Ah, the modern marvels of technology!

This new Companion Facebook page is NOT a group. You do not “join” it, you “like” it. Sorry, that is one of the limitations of the WordPress “Sharing” plug-in. Can’t be helped…. Too bad, so sad…

Just in case you are interested in “Liking” the new CCA’s companion Facebook page (which means you would be notified of any new posts), you can click on the image of the Facebook page at the top of this post, and it will take you straight to that Facebook page! Hope you take a look, and hope you “like” it, too!

And, now, we’d like to challenge y’all to start sending us content to add to the website, we can’t do it all by ourselves! If you have content (comics, reviews, memes) you feel is worthy of the website, contact us by using this form below and we’ll get back to you asap:

Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge

By Boogie Knight:

There’s been a pattern going on at Team Ninja: release a Ninja Gaiden game then wait a while before releasing a new version with more content and boobies. The first couple times make sense because they were initially Xbox 360 exclusives which got ported to the Playstation 3 (thanks for beta testing it, guys). With Ninja Gaiden 3, the release of a remake is a little different as the original was multiplatform (though I think Razor’s Edge was made to port to the WiiU), but the principle motivation is releasing the game that Team Ninja should have made in the first place.

When Ninja Gaiden 3 was first put on shelves it went over like a streaker at a bar mitzvah: You only got one weapon (two others were DLC), the game was much easier overall (and not just because you could getaway with spamming Izuna Drop), and everything about the game seemed to scream to fans, “Identity Crisis.” Most of the gameplay problems could be explained with two words: motion controls. “But Boogie,” you might say, “Motion controls are the future.” They might be, but nobody likes to talk about all the screw ups and failures which happened before the Wright brothers got it working. Nobody requires a flying machine in your front yard either and charges for the privilege of not wanting one. Besides, normally Ninja Gaiden is a demanding and punishing ballet of death. It’s still an option in the new version, but playing Ninja Gaiden with motion controls is like trying to knit while wearing mittens.

Another problem the game has is the absence of Itagaki, the mind which drove (into the ground depending on who you ask) the Dead or Alive franchise and the new Ninja Gaiden series which share continuity. Never particularly cared for his vision, but in an age when game developers focus group test their games to cynically pander to twelve year old boys there is something pure about a game being designed by a man with the aesthetic sensibilities a twelve year old boy. Though it seems unlikely that there ever was a plan for the direction of the series aside from giving excuses for Ryu Hayabusa to kill enough people to make “Death by Ninja” an exclusion from insurance payouts like acts of war, Team Ninja probably made some bad decisions because they were trying to prove that they could make the franchise work without him or his male gaze vision.

The “plot” as it were kicks off with terrorists holding the prime minister hostage, of Great Britain that is not the Japanese one, and demanding Ryu Hayabusa to come over and murder them all. So Ryu does what he does best, and after ridding the world of surprisingly well armed and trained British terrorists he gets cursed by the level boss with the Grip of Murder. The general idea is that the hate, fear, and other nasty emotions of the bazillion people mowed down with his sword is festering in his body now and will eventually kill him. In and of itself, this isn’t a half bad idea. The bad guys aren’t very sympathetic as they’re up to no good and they’re damn stupid for even thinking that they are the ones to can kill a man who should be riding a pale horse, but a potential crisis of conscience for the man who massacres those idiots offers character development and could make for a strong finale.

We even get a couple characters in the mix that would go well with a retirement arc, including a career woman with a kid. However, I’m not sure if she’s there to step away from the usual shameless booby buffet or if she’s just a fetish Team Ninja realized they weren’t catering to. Keep in mind this is the same Team Ninja who also character derailed the original badass female heroine, so even if they wanted to do something smart it was highly unlikely that we would get it. Didn’t help that during the “stirring” end cutscene I accidentally found out the six-axis controls make the breasts of female characters move so that killed any sense of immersion in the drama.

The gameplay is very similar to the mechanics of previous titles, and overall this is a move for the better. First and foremost we get more weapons, which is very nice as I preferred the Lunar Staff myself while others preferred the claw weapon. Enemies are more aggressive and have more health, but you can abuse the autoguard feature in Easy mode to just clear the story though at harsh penalties to XP gained so the game has a nice balance of challenge while being finishable. Checkpoints seem to be decently placed so on harder difficulties you might be able to reach the next save point once you learn how to not suck. Though at times it feels like the camera is an enemy too, but this seems to have been a problem which will persist until those VR headsets become the norm and we can use peripheral vision.

Yes, there are times when QTEs play a part in the game, but this is a surprisingly less evil version. For starters, there are never QTEs in cinematics, so you can watch the cutscenes in peace. Secondly, the QTEs are almost entirely assigning buttons to perform regular actions. A guy tries to ambush you? Use the same command to dodge that you normally dodge with. Have to tear up the armor on an attack helicopter? Press the strong attack button. It’s hard to be particularly angry when the QTEs feel like an extension of normal gameplay.

Razor’s Edge also added a couple stages with Ayane bringing her fast and furious frenzy of violence and dubious plot support. Her stages were certainly fun to play as she starts out of the gate with a decent set of skills and leveled up abilities. To be honest, going from Ayane back to Ryu felt like being Megatron DeathKiller 3000 to the fat kid in PE struggling to meet the minimum requirements in physical abilities. However, it is possible to play Ayane in parts centered on Ryu due to the Chapter Challenge. You can also play as Momoji, one of the supporting characters, and of course Kasumi for no reason other than she gets shoehorned in to pander.

Remember when collectibles in games actually conferred in game bonuses? Pepperidge Farm remembers, and Razor’s Edge too. Gathering Golden Scarabs lets the player increase their max health, get new weapons and ninpo that isn’t unlocked through normal gameplay. Too many games these days throw collectibles at you which serve to fill in important plot details which the main story should be addressing, or to pad gameplay with no reward other than the achievement.

Then there is the multiplayer… while there is an appeal to tackling challenges beside an experienced player in the co-op trials, the game seems to want people in the Clan Battle mode. Team Ninja is no more guilty than other major game companies, but I still don’t quite see them anywhere near the top as their competitors and for that reason the online pass requirement is a boneheaded move. Ninja Gaiden already appeals to a smaller, more hardcore demographic and online passes generally exclude players who rent their copies. To me, a good competitive multiplayer mode requires getting as many people as possible participating so that there’s an ample pool of rank amateurs to battle each other for practice as well as be fodder for mid-level players. When the servers are already ghost towns, it’s not much fun to get your only matches with god tier players who savage you like a pissed off kitten with a ragdoll.

The final product is a game which should have been more awesome than it actually was, but the developers didn’t get when to be serious and when to have a sense of humor about the game’s over the top nature. Yes, people are gonna write it off over surface issues as well as Team Ninja’s reputation and ignore that there’s a decent action game with the sensibilities of a B- movie. However, I still think that a better subtitle would have been, “Die, Ryu Hayabusa, Die.”

Lollipop Chainsaw

For some time, when friends would complain that the zombie games need to go away I would add that they should go only after Lollipop Chainsaw comes out. The advertisements and trailers played up the raunchy parts, but the real appeal is in the sheer madness and unabashed old school fun. While the game itself doesn’t innovate, the game is a solid, albeit brief, experience.

The story revolves around a cheerleader with a knack for zombie killing and a giant chainsaw fighting through a horde of the undead. Her boyfriend gets bitten, so she removes his head to save him and proceeds to carry him around like a set of keys throughout the game. The player character with a bodiless sidekick sounds like the winning formula from Shadows of the Damned, and it works well. Nick, the boyfriend, makes a good Sancho to Juliet’s Don Quixote. As a rule of thumb, I don’t like stupid heroes, but Juliet comes off more as ditzy than oblivious. That she more often explains to Nick the way the universe works than others explain it to her is refreshing, and she is having a blast killing zombies which fits the goofy tone of the game.

Combat is straight forward, but it should be noted that the name of the game is getting a high score and lots of medals. The first time around, just winning will be the goal, but as you progress through the game and make sufficient upgrades, you’ll become quite a killing machine. Sparkle Hunting is when you deal the fatal blow to three or more zombies simultaneously, and this nets more points and medals compared to killing zombies individually. This will be difficult to do early on, but this is compensated for with a gauge you can fill up and trigger at will a special mode where Juliet is invincible and can smite zombies with a single blow, set to a memorable one hit wonder. Stage 5 has to be my favorite level in the game: it’s minigame free, all about putting the lessons and upgrades you acquired to use, and it culminates in an awesome boss battle.

Minigames and QTEs, these are ubiquitous in modern games and it’s no shock that they would be part of this one too. Overall, minigames are a nice way to break up the normal gameplay though to be honest I don’t think it ever gets boring. One stage is minigame heavy, but it works with the nature of the level. QTEs in general are a pain in the neck, but they are done at times that make sense, are practically telegraphed to the player, and you have plenty of time to do them. There are QTEs where failure means death, but they are very hard to screw up.

Seems like everyone can’t avoid talking about the risqué humor and pantyshots, so let’s get this nonsense out of the way. As upskirt action goes, you find it if you’re looking for it, if not then it’s pretty sparse. Yes, there is plenty of perversion in the scenes involving the elderly Japanese gentleman, but he’s a minor character. The alternate costumes are par for the course, and the one that managed to raise my pulse was the Shiro from Deadman Wonderland outfit hugging Juliet’s curves. I can’t help thinking about the time some friends got up in arms because of the sexual themes in the game Catherine because the ads overplayed it, but in the end it was a good game that simply had some grown up subject matter. Plainly put: If any talk of sex bothers you and you don’t care about playing good games, then don’t play it. If you want porn and you don’t care about playing good games, then don’t play it.

The one real defect of the game is that it’s too damn short. The first run could be finished in less than six hours, but there’s replay value in fulfilling objectives like beating the high score, buying extra outfits, or tackling the Ranked Mode. However, Ranked Mode should be challenged in earnest after getting all the goodies you care to get as those medals received don’t count for buying stuff in Story mode. The gun can be wonky between the autolock sticking to one enemy and you’re trying to pick off the explosive barrel behind him. Nick Tickets let you use a special move, but are of limited usefulness even though using those fit with the absurd tone of the game. All in all a fun game that is only hindered by being a little too short, but the crazy fun to be had is abundant though a frugal gamer might be better off renting or waiting for a major price drop.

Dragon Age: Dawn of the Seeker

Formulas are helpful, formulas save creative juices for where one can really shine. In the case of Dragon Age, a standard fantasy setting freed BioWare up to focus on the good writing and keep a player eager to see what happens next. Saw what you will about the second one, but at least it had good dialogue. The spin offs, being what they are, tend to not benefit from the same great writing and all you got is standard fantasy. So when a CG flick is released direct to video it’s with low expectations that one watches Dragon Age: Dawn of the Seeker. The Japanese version is called Dragon Age: Blood Mage No Seikon, which I would prefer to call it since I’m positive that on top of being lazy the English language subtitle is lifted from something else.

An info dump is par for the course in a fantasy movie which is thankfully brief. Wasting no time, as the film is feature length, the movie starts off with a foul ritual and a heroic rescue. There are conspiracies and the story expands of plot points brought into focus during the second game, but the real purpose of the movie is to give the backstory of a supporting character who was introduced in Dragon Age II. With this all in mind, the movie does what it sets out to do and does it competently.

Archetypal would be the best way to describe the cast of characters, especially since most of them are simply referred to by their title. Our heroine is a frightening ball of fury, difficult to identify with. I found myself liking the mage sidekick best. There was one part where he was trying to talk sense to our heroine and I felt like I could actually see the notice he had to pass a Persuade check. The overly powerful girl who is contractually obligated to appear in Japanese movies doesn’t even have a line of dialogue.

Visually speaking, the movie isn’t a Pixar production but the CG is adequate and the design is consistent with the aesthetics of the franchise. Blood flows freely and stuff blows up beautifully, and the action sequences are as good as they can be when a character is battling faceless hordes. Events lead to a big finale which brings together a number of plot points and delivers on some decent action. Sadly, the most legitimately awesome part of the movie is a battle that moves so fast you can blink and miss it.

As for the ending, the arc of our heroine comes to a nice close and perhaps the movie should have ended there. It makes sense to have that additional scene which connects the movie to Dragon Age II in “To Be Continued” fashion, but since the game has already been out a while and Samuel L. Jackson didn’t appear the cliffhanger doesn’t pull in the audience. But if you absolutely have to watch a fantasy movie or you need an excuse to make a bag of popcorn vanish from the Earth, then Dragon Age: Dawn of the Seeker gets the job done.

El Shaddai: On A Mission From God

Apocrypha is the catch all for texts which are not part of the biblical cannon, some because they belonged to esoteric groups which jealously guarded their secrets while others were of dubious value to the establishment while others still were considered bunk. The relevant text is the Book of Enoch, and within that text is the Book of the Watchers: this tale elaborates on the events of Genesis which lead to the Flood.

The Watchers descended to Earth and took human women for their brides. This results in their unholy offspring, the Nephilim, and to throw fuel on the fire the Watchers bestow humans with knowledge of technologies alien to mankind. In the original text, Enoch was a just man who went to plead the case of the Watchers when they realize that the jig is up. Enoch ascends to the Heavens and in time becomes more than a man, best known as Metatron. There’s also a Metatron who is known as the Scribe of God, but some debate about whether they were the same entity, or different ones by the same name. However, El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron makes it clear that they are one and the same, but Enoch started as a scribe and when the Watchers make trouble he is sent to Earth to drag them back for judgment.

So we have a game based on an unofficial biblical text, one can’t help but wonder if it turns out to be a dud like The Bible Game which has insipid minigames with vague biblical connections. Turns out the end result is one of the most visually striking and sometimes flat out bonkers game I have seen in a long time.

Combat is simple in concept, but can be demanding in strategizing. Among normal enemies you can steal their weapon, and the three weapons in their arsenal have a rock, paper, scissors relationship. However, on easier modes you can coast with the long range weapon and spam attacks. Interestingly, El Shaddai has weapons which degenerate over time, but with the push of a button the player can restore the function of the weapon. Also, I’m pretty sure if you time it right, the enemy will even back off as you purify the weapon in your possession.

Another big chunk of the game is the platforming, and to be honest the 3D platforming is something of a pain in the neck. On the other hand, your handler Lucifel will snap his fingers every time you fall and you’ll restart at a pretty generous checkpoint and enemies you already defeated will stay defeated so it can be sadistic without being damn near impossible. Where the game really shines is in the 2D platforming sections, and the imagination really comes out.

There have been overtly religious games which are too caught up in orthodoxy or being kid friendly to be any fun. El Shaddai sometimes takes a turn which makes me wonder whether or not they are being a little subversive in the subject matter. In the opening the player gets that Assassin’s Creed disclaimer, so maybe I’m reading too much into the reunion between Enoch and an old buddy of his.

As fun as the game can be, the dialogue can be a little too corny, and the characterization is befuddling. The central character Enoch says so little, so when he does speak it should carry weight. Yet, he has the single dumbest catchphrase ever. Then again, one Watcher throws an insult at Enoch that was so good I had to pause a moment to marvel.

An especially hallucinatory moment is when a Watcher will inexplicably challenge Enoch, but you’re not expected to win the fight. My guess is that this was included for the score attack mode in which the player is fighting for points rather than advancing the plot. This also reminds me of how the game gets started: Lucifel gets Enoch a suit of Greco-Roman armor, Enoch charges headfirst into battle, and in a confrontation with a Watcher I got the tar smacked out of me. Then I start a new game again and then the game proceeds as normal.

While it may not be game of the year material, El Shaddai is one of the most unique and quirky games I’ve played in ages and I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to try something fresh in a market oversaturated with imitators. Word is that a sequel is in the works, and I’m not surprised that was intended from the start. In some ways the ending was fulfilling, while on other points it was nonending. I can’t wait to see what they do with the gameplay, or in what completely insane direction the plot takes. So play the original and get caught up now.